Masculinity, Strength, and the Disabled Man

The other day, a comment on a Facebook post pointed out that I haven’t talked about something I should have.  You see, in all my talking about physical strength and its importance to masculinity, I’d neglected to talk about how that impacts a disabled person.


Photo by Honza Soukup
Photo by Honza Soukup

The United States Census Bureau states that 19 percent of the American population is disabled in some way, shape, or form.  This is about 56 million people.  Of these, 19.9 million have difficulty lifting or grasping things and 30.6 million have difficulty walking or climbing stairs.

While there is some overlap between those two groups, it’s important to note a few things.

First, if you have difficulting lifting anything, you’re not going to be in the gym pumping iron.  You’re just not. This is something beyond your control, and I understand that.

Does that make you less of a man if you’re one of these people?

Of course it doesn’t.

While one in five Americans has some kind of disability, many of them are either non-physical disabilities or they’re older Americans who are really just dealing with the process of aging.

That still leaves a lot of people who may not be able to hit the gym and get stronger physically.

When I was writing The Essence of Man, I had to think about disabled males and how the fit into the world of men.

Jack Donovan’s The Way of Men makes no mention of disabilities that I can recall, but it’s also a look at men in a certain situation.  If society collapsed and we had to revert to tribal social structures, what would men need to be?

The disabled have always faired far worse in such times, in part due to a lack of medical resources, but also because mobility is essential for survival.  The physically disabled are at a disadvantage.

Luckily, we don’t live in that world.  Not by any stretch.  We live in a world where someone like Stephen Hawking is a household name despite not being able to move pretty much anything under his own power.

Is someone like that less of a man?


When someone is disabled, however, I believe it’s imperative that they personify the other virtues of masculinity even more.  They should be more courageous, more honorable, and more competent at their trade…and we’re fortunate they can.

I have a friend on social media who is in a wheelchair much of the time.  His body won’t let me get up and walk around like you and me.  However, he’s also one of the most intelligent men I know, and that’s saying something.  He’s articulate, logical, and it’s awesome to watch him in online debates because he will smack someone down in a heartbeat.  All indications are that he’s also outstanding as an editor, which is his chosen vocation.

Of course he’s a real man.

In fact, someone facing disability and not becoming a whining little twit over it is proof that there’s real strength at work in that individual.  They’re the real deal and should be applauded.

But what about the disabled person who is whining?  What about the one who wants your sympathy and expects to live off of that?

Sorry, but no.

You see, my friend is independent.  In fact, he’s been helping take care of his family–meaning his mother, father, and sibling and not his spouse and child.  His family is capable of taking care of themselves, mind you, but he’s been doing what he could for them while asking nothing in return.

Someone who expects the opposite?  No.  Just no.

They’re using their disability as a cudgel, seeking to beat people into submission and to get pity…to say nothing of money.  They’re not necessarily interested in being brave, or honorable.  They’re clearly not interested in being competent at some kind of career since they want to make being disabled their job.

They have failed.

When I talk about physical strength, there’s an implication that needs to be read into those words.  It needs to be understood that I’m talking about if someone is physically capable.

Masculinity doesn’t hinge on things outside of your control.  If so, then the mere possession of a penis really would be sufficient for one to be masculine.

Instead, it depends on what you do with the tools you have.  You’re unable to walk?  Then it’s ridiculous to expect you to be doing squats.  You suffer from fibromyalgia?  Then we get that you’re in a lot of pain.

What matters is what you do, and how you do it.

Being physically strong is important, yes.  For most of us.

If you’re doing the best you can, though?  So be it.  We all understand.