My FIRST VIVA article

I was so excited when Laura Haddad contacted me through this blog and asked me to write an article for Viva’s June issue under His View section.

After some excellent editting from their part, here is the final version for you to read 🙂

Not that kind of man

One of the things that ate away at my popularity in school was trying to avoid getting into fistfights. The reason is simple: I’ve always been the kind of guy who thinks before he acts, someone who doesn’t like to imitate and doesn’t really abide by what others expect unless he’s convinced. Or maybe it was due to my mother’s overprotective nature. Being the good kid that I was, I would never think of upsetting her. Or maybe the real reason was just me not having enough courage – fearing humiliation if I were to lose.

While I was spared physical injury all those years in school, I didn’t get off that easily. Just one fight would’ve initiated me fully into the world of men. Without it, doubts about my manhood and masculinity ate at me when I entered university.

But then judgement day came during my second year at the University of Jordan, where I had my first fistfight with a guy who went on a rage after I complained to our physics professor about his singing in class. He followed me after class and asked to meet in the science faculty parking lot, where the fight would take place. I felt my masculinity confirmed. It wasn’t that I needed to show it to the world; I needed to prove to myself that I was man enough.

Even in 21st-century Jordan, men face rigid constraints. If one doesn’t fit the norm, he is ridiculed. From a young age, boys are shamed into fitting into a mould of masculinity. They are bullied if they don’t conform to this cultural norm, which robs them of developing into their true selves.

Boys are told not to be vulnerable, not to cry, not to express fear and to act tough, be in control and dominate others. Picking a fight or facing up to one’s aggressor is all part of the deal.

The major concern for young men these days isn’t their homework. It’s not fulfilling their sexual desires, as most of us think. It is in fact their own manhood, and their struggle to fit into the narrow ‘blueprint’ of masculinity that society has created. The sudden surge of teenage gym addicts didn’t spring from the blue. In an era where the moustache is no longer a sign of masculinity, the obsession with muscles that an increasing number of young men are developing has more to do with power.

In our culture, where dispute resolution through dialogue is still not fully realised, it’s only natural for men to resort to physical force to resolve conflict. We have little faith in our justice system, and no one seems all that interested in going to court to claim his rights. Yes, many people are ignorant about their rights, but a big part of it is our tradition of using power to claim them. Solving matters by hand is commonly favoured.

Young men gather in gangs. During their school years, those gangs are based on belonging to a certain class or school. At university, they’re formed based on family name or place of origin. Many fights are also fought for women, with their male relatives or boyfriends resorting to physical violence against their harassers.

The world is rapidly changing, and technological advancements are leaving little room for men to show their physical strength. Still, our society’s mentality suggests that physical strength is what makes a man stand out among his peers. As a result, men between the ages of 15 and 25 are in constant fear of not being able to prove their ‘manhood’.

Masculinity is a relative concept. What is considered masculine today might not be tomorrow. Having a stronger, bigger body doesn’t make you more or less of a man, but maybe having compassion and more insight on life do.


  1. Hmm good article in the sense of writing, though topic wise…i seriously think its getting better no more chilli sabe3 fights or atleast i haven’t seen or heard of any lately.Though maybe am not the one to say since i was detached from that experience (fighting) in my school years and it never effected me really


  2. congratulations on the article.I want to grab a copy of the issue. I never believed that mustaches, muscles or going to fights is the ideal way to justify masculinity. Its just one of the many stereotypes imposed by our society.I managed to avoid physical conflicts in my teenage years by building up respect and a good reputation. The sad part is that it makes it harder for me to fit into my social circle because of my different values and expectations


  3. Fadi, you did a great job!! Unpacking your topic, writing style, it was all really good.Hope to see more, and that others will be inspired!


  4. Hey mayte, really good article, alf mabrook on it being published 🙂Masculinity is relative not only to culture, but right down to each individual level. Al rijalo mawaqef, and I guess this is hands-down the best description of a man ever given. in my humble opinion


  5. Salam, thank you, I am glad you liked it 🙂No_angel, actually I think it is getting worse. I see my younger brother who is still at school and how much he has struggled in order to maintain a decent respect among his peers. They kept on bullying him till his fast growth saved him where they started fearing him after becoming the tallest guy in the class!Hamza, thanks, you should grab a copy of the issue 🙂It is true, those values are imposed on us by society. It is just sad that our youth still have to go through it! Kinzi, THANK YOU. You know how much I value your opinion :). It really means a lot to me hearing you saying that I did a great job.Kj, allah yebarek feek 🙂Sure masculinity is relative, but it seems that most of the people don’t realize that. They are bounded to a certain set of values that defines masculinity as they percieve it.Al rijalo mawaqef. What about women taking good stand? 🙂


  6. In Syria we call them “ekht el rijal” 😉 heheSociety (sigh) demands men and women do certain things, yes. It is something we have to live with or against in some cases.For example, my friend compliments me for being a “rijjal” after enduring the last year by achieving so much in my life and in the shitty situations I was in. Meanwhile, I don’t see myself as a man because of those achievements at all, and, in fact, I even think in some particular instances I was not a man to have done such and such. So like I said, what makes me a man is different from what my friend saw.I think a true man is one who is able to beat Ruby Weapon from FFVII 😛 yes that would definitely be a true man, and, in case the person was a woman, she is to be a goddess. Yes, all women capable of doing this feat should not be regarded anything less than a goddess.Yes yes.So I am a man 😀 Now I need a goddess, and we will bear lots and lots of god-mortal children.*goes off fantasizing in his own little Greek drama*


  7. Good topic and well written.I recall the only fight I had at school. I only got into it because it felt impossible to back out of it. Within minutes, and even as a 13 year old, I realised I was being manipulated. This wasn’t my fight but was more about that communities persecution of my opponent.We exchanged a few punches to the face and then I just felt ridiculous. I said something like “I think that will probably do” and we left it at that, much to the chagrin of our spectating crowd.I felt much more of a man for turning away than I did for landing a couple of blows.On a similar point I recently had to do a speech at a good friend’s wedding. I was gently teasing him as to his own masculinity – you should see him dance -but by the end of the speech I recognised and celebrated the fact that he is man enough, bold enough, confident enough to be just who he is. He got a lot of applause for that and that speaks volumes.regards.


  8. 7aki fadi, thanks 🙂Optimist, welcome to my blog :). You are right, I applause your friend as well. He is a man enough to be who he is. It does speak volume!


  9. Congrats Observer, you deserve it.I wish to read more articles for you in magazines and maybe you’ll be a columinist soon..who knows? keep up the good work.


  10. I must congratulate you on a well-written and thought-out article that describes our society’s view of masculanity in a nutshell. excellent work observer!


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