Be a Man Project - Carter Rodriguez

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Be a Man

A portrait project redefining masculinity for today and tomorrow.

Carter Rodriguez

I’m not quite sure what to do with “masculinity.”

Traditional masculine values have less and less utility in modern society every single day. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I could get in a fight at my age. I don’t need to be physically strong to excel at my job. I think we have collectively agreed that burying emotions to be the stoic father figure is a failed experiment. Men who can’t communicate their feelings and share affection with others feel are increasingly becoming obsolete.

My logical brain knows this. I am sensitive. I am caring. I am affectionate with my friends and family. I look to de-escalate conflict, not jump into the mire. I tell my daughter I love her, and dance like a fool in public to make her smile. I love to sing. I love the cathartic release of a good cry during a movie that finds a way to pull my heartstrings.

My logical brain knows this. What is masculinity but a social construct that we can mold to mean whatever the hell we want it to mean? Why shouldn’t “masculinity” mean being a stable backbone of your family? Somebody who is a safe haven for people who need them. Somebody who helps keep the peace, not by force, but by empathetic engagement.

My logical brain can handle that kind of reframing. It makes sense. I have a wealth of self-esteem. I think I’m a good husband and father. My career is in good shape, and I have a great support system of family, friends, and hobbies that make me feel like a valuable and contributing member of society.

I didn’t stumble upon this. I grew up in a family that valued these things. They didn’t just say it, but they practiced it.

My logical brain may know this, but damn if my animal brain can’t quite sever those ties. Our conventional ideas about masculinity may be a construct, but they’re hardwired.

When I fail at a physical task, I feel the pangs of insecurity. Whether it’s rolling a gutterball at the bowling alley, or screwing up a home improvement project, I immediately am set on edge. All the self assuredness and confidence in the world can’t get past this single thought:

This makes you less of a man.”

This is an emotional quandary for me. I know that it’s hardly a rational thought, but it doesn’t invalidate the feelings. I primarily cast aside the trappings of masculinity, but they haven’t quite let me go just yet. The reality is that it’s more complicated, and I don’t have the answers.

All I can do is my best. I can value what I think I should value, and not run from my deepest insecurities but engage with them thoroughly without succumbing to them.

If that’s not being a good modern man, I’m not sure if there’s a better path.


One of the best parts of this project is seeing participants as dads. What we've been fed by television, movies, and music over the years gives such a narrow vision of what a dad should be. Carter is anything but that narrow vision. He exudes love and pride for his family. The sweetness with which he hol