Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

Our Dangerous Definition Of Manhood

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While performing a couple of my daily tasks at EBONY this morning, I came across two extremely tragic news stories. The first was out of Detroit, where a 27-year-old mother of three was killed recently after rejecting a man's advances in a bar.

From My Fox Detroit

A mass shooting killed one person and wounded five members of the same family Saturday, A confrontation led to fight, which ended in gunfire, killing Mary "Unique" Spears.

Afraid to show her face or to go outside her residence, a relative of Spears says that night, she and Spears had just left the funeral of another family member to celebrate his life inside the Joe Louis Post on Sherwood and 7 Mile on Detroit's east side. A 38-year-old man inside who her family says they've never seen before, began harassing Spears, 27. "He said, 'Can I get your name, your number,'" Spears' relative said. "She said, 'I have a man I can't talk to you.'" But her family says the harassment continued until 2 am when on their way out, they say the man grabbed and hit Spears. Her fiancee confronted him as a fight broke out. Then suddenly the man began shooting.

"He shot her one time," Spears' relative said. "And she tried to run. And he shot her two more times in her head."


The second was from Alabama, where a high school football star committed suicide.

From The Grio

One of Alabama’s top high school football players has died of an apparent suicide.

Hazel Green High School junior defensive end Julian Jones, 16, died Monday morning according to WHNT-TV.

Unfortunately, these types of stories are not uncommon. Hundreds of people are killed in this country every day, and a little over 100 commit suicide each day. But certain circumstances make certain stories stand out. In Spears' case, it's the fact that her death allegedly came about as a result of her telling a man "No, I'm not interested" and the man not accepting the answer. From what I've come to understand, this is a very real fear many women possess, and hearing about a man who actually killed a woman because of a rejection is chill-inducing. In Jones' case, he was a young, popular, handsome, talented, and Black athlete — basically the type of person we'd assume was least likely to take his own life. Obviously, those types of assumptions are misleading. Dangerous, even. But there is an element of shock when someone who seems to have had the world at their feet decides to leave it, and this news was shocking.

As I thought about what could possibly be going on in a man's brain to make him want to murder a woman just because she said "No" and what could have possibly been going on in Jones' head that convinced him suicide was the best option, I came across another story. An interview, actually. New York Times columnist Charles Blow spoke to Gawker about his new memoir, Fire Shut Up in My Bones. In it, Blow explores what manhood and masculinity means, and he shared some of his thoughts in the interview.

Gawker: The book challenges static representations of what manhood should be or look like or talk like. I'm curious, what does being a man mean to you?

Blow: I believe that we have drawn masculinity in this incredibly narrow, rigid, dangerous way. We think of it as a peak, and I think of it as an ocean.

Gawker: Dangerous in what sense?

Blow: Dangerous in the sense of—writing a note to a song so high only a few people are meant to hit it, and nobody is meant to hold it. And so, boys are constantly confronting this notion of failure because they cannot live up to idea of people saying to them, Man up! Be a man! And they don't know what that is because they're just trying to be human. And being human is sometimes fragile. I believe we have to redraw our collective concept of what masculinity is so that it includes the possibility of difference and variation. And once we do that we free these kids up to be kids, and to be human beings. Also, allowing them to be honest about things they are experiencing, things people don't traditionally identify with masculinity. Because there's no way to be a real man without being an honest man. So when we force these boys to lie and suppress, we're robbing them of truth and honesty and all the real things we would like an archetypical real man to be.


After reading Blow's interview, I couldn't help but wonder if and how these societal expectations of and constraints on malehood — Black malehood, particularly — contributed to the two tragedies I read about earlier. I wonder if our expectations of what men are supposed to be able to do helped craft a mindset where a man felt so entitled to a woman that her death was, in his mind, the only rightful response to her "insult." I wonder if the pressure of meeting a certain societal standard of malehood led Jones to suicide.

And while I know what I've learned and what I've been told, I wonder what being a "man" actually means.