Questioning Manhood and Masculinity

Eight men in a room, talking about what it means to be a man. The moderator: Andrew Schlesinger, a student at the School of Visual Arts, whose thesis explores gender identity, masculinity, stereotyping, parenting, education, and male culture. Andrew has been investigating the restrictive nature placed on men and the necessity many feel to conform to a masculine ideal – even if this is destructive to themselves and those around them.

Andrew asked to meet with GOSO clients to inform his understanding of how young men of color in NYC construct their own meaning of masculinity. It started with a simple question: “What does it mean to be a man?” A passionate and open conversation followed, in which GOSO clients spoke about the expectations they feel from society. Andrew reflected on the conversation:


What I found most interesting was the subtle confrontation between feeling that one can be open and emotionally expressive, yet perceiving emotional expression as a risk and therefore holding back. Many of the young men stated that of course they could express themselves in any form; however, they also highlighted the boundaries, limitations, and lines they would have to draw with their peers or partners to appear tough and in control. The notion of ‘pride’ was unanimously agreed to be a uniquely male trait and a necessary element of defining oneself … They talked passionately about their duties and obligations as men and their unwavering support for their families.


Clients shared more with Andrew than just their personal experiences. One guy, Carlos, pointed him towards a pertinent article (Sherry B. Ortner’s “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture”), which made its way into the final document as source material!

This thoughtful conversation about identity was a meaningful opportunity for GOSO Guys, and we’re thankful to Andrew for including our clients’ viewpoints in his work. To read more about Andrew’s research, and to watch his thesis presentation, click here.


Andrew Schlesinger presents his MFA thesis, “GENTLEmen: Challenging Adults to Raise Feminine Boys,” which was informed, in part, by conversations he shared with guys at GOSO.