Tough Guise

Tough Guise is a documentary that draws attention to societal pressures placed on males to be a “real man”. It’s not only women feeling the pressure of societal expectations as far as appearance, attitude, beliefs, etc. Men feel the pressure too and they feel it strongly. What exactly is a real men? Men are taught by society to be domineering, controlling, violent, immovable, stern, emotionless- and the list continues. If men do not adhere to these expectations, they risk ridicule and slander, being called very derogatory names.


Unfortunately, this tough guise does come to affect women. Women are encouraged to lose weight and slip into the background while men are encouraged to become built and take up as much space as possible. Tough Guise expresses that this encouragement of men to take up space is in response to the threat of women coming into formerly male domains such as the professional workplace, etc. Everywhere a male looks he sees idols depicted as gun slinging, violent, tough, “respected”, built, heartless, etc. If a male is sensitive, he must hide it. If a male is insightful, caring, or embodies any other seemingly “feminine” aspect to his personality, he must hide these aspects as well and compensate- morphing himself more into the concept of “male” that has become the norm.


A way to compensate for lack of muscular size and physical breadth is through guns. The documentary illustrates that over the years, guns have become larger in the media both in prevalence and actual size. Guns are seen as a “great equalizer”between a man who is not physically large and one who is. Guns have made their way into videogames, shows, music videos, etc. and boys/men are exposed to these images of violence constantly. They are taught that in order to gain respect you must be violent- that fear earns respect over being a respectable person through other qualities of one’s personality.


It is no doubt that men experience much anxiety in trying to maintain this tough guise. They constantly feel they have something to prove in public- they must walk, talk, respond, and act in certain ways to ensure that their manliness is both acknowledged and unquestionable. Unfortunately, this tough guise has promoted a bit of misogyny through the media and figures such as comedians as well. Ever famous Limbaugh is one such example of a misogynistic influence that was bred of this patriarchal fixation on masculinity. If men can put down women, their dominance (at least in their minds) cannot be threatened and they can continue to believe and feel that they are the head of society.

What can we do about this tough guise phenomenon? Encourage men to be themselves. Place more real and positive male role models in the media. Draw attention to the males who commit crimes rather than to the victims of these crimes. Stop playing up violence as something “cool” to be emulated. Place real male bodies in magazines. Encourage equal treatment of women. This tough guise is a dangerous thing to perpetuate and no doubt damaging to individual males who find themselves lost in internal conflict when who they are does not match what they are expected to be, not to mention damaging to the women or men that find themselves victims of those playing out the societally fabricated role of the “real man”.



  1. Hey Sarah!

    I really like what you’re saying about the Tough Guise. My favorite part of your definition is when you talk about how men are portrayed to take up a lot of space where women are supposed to take up as little space as possible. It’s a pretty accurate depiction of how our genders are portrayed. I was wondering why you think that, to fix the tough guise, the media should portray the criminals instead of the victims? I don’t know if it was a typo or not, because I could see arguments for both sides.

  2. Do you think that the need men feel to be “tough guise” could also stem from the lack of a positive male figure in their lives who could teach them how to be a man and take some of the power away from the media and society?

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