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45 honest, heartbreaking, and heartwarming responses to 'Be a man'

They start at age 5 and go all the way up to 50. And every one has a different idea of what "Be a man" means.

45 honest, heartbreaking, and heartwarming responses to 'Be a man'

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase "Be a man"?

When I hear it, the feminist in me can't think of it as anything other than a really limiting way to think about gender — and, because it's usually used to shoot down someone acting in a way that's perceived as "feminine," it strikes me as kind of insulting. But as this video from Cut Video illustrates, not everyone sees it that way.

Here are 45 brutally honest responses.

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The concept of "manliness" is both complex and flawed. That's why every response to "What does 'Be a man' mean?" is so vastly different.

I expected to hear: "Be tough," "Stop acting like a baby," and "Don't show emotion." Instead, this video showcases a deeply personal and honest collection of introspective answers that range from proud, disappointed, insecure, angry, optimistic, and, yes, even feminist. Here are a few of them:


Some found it "kinda sexist."

All images by Cut Video.

"I find it kinda sexist. Someone says 'Be a man,' well, there are strong women as well."
— Kyle, age 15

"Stupid. It's almost a sexist phrase too, like, if you're not being 'a man' it's kinda saying you're being a woman in a way too?"
— Cole, age 17

"Sexist. It's a very accepted form of sexism. 'To be a man' implies that you need to be something specific."
— Sillias, age 42

For others, being a man is about courage.


"Unafraid."
— Solomon, age 8

"Take responsibility."
— John Jr., age 18


"Someone who can be a hero to someone."
— Aaron, age 24

Many saw "Be a man" as a call to action.

"Focused. 'Cause to be a man you need to be focused and strong and have a good understanding of the world around you so you can be a better person."
— Sam, age 20


"To stand up for what you believe in."
— Dan, age 34

"Trust your instincts. Be strong. Don't let people push you around. And be kind to women."
—Thomas, age 50

The lessons: Gender is complicated, and so are the ways that we talk about it. Being a man doesn't mean one thing. It's up to every individual to define it for themselves.

Did watching this video expose any of your own prejudices about manhood? It did for me! And that's not easy to admit. Without realizing it, I projected my own ideas of how the men would respond before I even hit play. As we grow in our understanding of gender and identity, we should think just as deeply about how the phrases we use and hear every day might mean different things to different people. It's a lesson I'm going to remember.

When the "Me Too" movement exploded a few years ago, the ubiquitousness of women's sexual harassment and assault experiences became painfully clear. What hasn't always been as clear is role that less overt, more subtle creepiness plays in making women feel uncomfortable or unsafe as they move through the world, often starting from a young age.

Thankfully—and unfortunately—a viral video from a teen TikToker illustrates exactly what that looks like in real-time when a man came and sat down with her while she was doing a live video. He asked if the chair at her table was taken, and she said no, thinking he wanted to take it to another table. Instead, he sat down and started talking to her. You can see in her face and in her responses that she's weirded out, though she's trying not to appear rude or paranoid.

The teen said in a separate TikTok video that the man appeared to be in his 30s. Definitely too old to be pulling up a chair with someone so young who is sitting by herself, and definitely old enough to recognize that she was uncomfortable with the situation.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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