An Average Man

This method is a way of approaching knowledge and understanding how gender is created and what consequences it has. This method focuses specifically on men and masculinity.


Write “average man” in the middle of the whiteboard. Ask the participants, what would a hundred randomly selected people in the street say is typical for an average man (appearance, attributes, work ,etc)? Emphasize that it is about general notions in society – what we get if we combine a hundred randomly selected people. Make a list of the participants’ answers. To the left of the list, write “manly man” and repeat the same question. Make a list of the answers.

To the left of that, write “overly manly man” and ask for the answers from a hundred randomly selected people. This may need some explanation – it can be a “macho man” who might be going a bit too far. Then write “unmanly man” to the right of the average man and repeat the procedure. Point out to the group that what is listed under “unmanly man” often could be written under the heading “woman” – the foundation of masculinity being that it is the opposite of femininity. Also take the opportunity to mention heteronormativity – that the definition of masculinity includes a desire for a womanly woman.

Example: The view of different types of masculinity can be explained in terms of football. The “average man” watches football. The “manly man” is a football player. The “overly manly man” is a football hooligan and the “unmanly man” is not interested in football.

Then write “good person/good friend” and ask the participants to say what a hundred randomly selected people in the street would say about this. Jointly reflect on the list,

  • Which column resembles that of a good person/friend?
  • What are the consequences of men being expected to strive for something that is not compatible with being a good person?
  • How do expectations of masculinity shape men? How do expectations of masculinity shape women?
  • Which words in the lists can be connected or related to power?
  • Are there different expectations for different men based on age or ethnicity? What is the status between these different expectations like?
  • Can men live up to all expectations of masculinity?
  • Which ideals can be deviated from? Which are harder?
  • What might the consequences be for men deviating from the masculinity ideal?

The method was first used in “Ingen ser oss”, Amphi produktion, and was reworked by ESF Jämt.

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