Original Research - Special Collection: Practical Theology

‘BIG, HARD and UP!’ A healthy creed for men to live by?

Stephan Van der Watt
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 2 | a3105 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i2.3105 | © 2016 Stephan Van der Watt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 July 2015 | Published: 10 June 2016

About the author(s)

Stephan Van der Watt, Department Practical Theology and Missiology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


The social construction of reality is influenced extensively by the mass media. Commercialised images of masculinity, including discourses to interpret it, are continuously reflected and/or created by sources of mass media, in a myriad of ways. These images are subjectively loaded, but still effectively communicate to us, and even entice and persuade us. It furthermore wields extensive power over men – especially over their self-images, passions, and egos. In this article, dominating images and discourses concerning manhood and male identity – particularly those displayed in men’s health magazines (MHM) – were critically examined. This was done through a thematic analysis of 123 issues (spanning more than 10 years) of MHM cover pages. The investigation showed that MHM is infused with traditional masculine ideology. Moreover, MHM fails to confront discourses that endorse hegemonic masculinity, for the sake of holistic health. It was suggested that a sober, precautionary, health strategy should challenge men to critically engage with MHM’s reigning creed: ‘big, hard and up’. This creed incites a utilitarian view of sexuality within a culture of performance-driven masculinity, which subsequently fuels anxieties that can lead to unhealthy issues, such as body image dissatisfaction. From a pastoral care perspective, it was asserted that (specifically) Christian men need to search for alternative ways to instigate their capacity to experience and facilitate authentic intimacy, in order to work toward the social construction of more balanced and healthy discourses on male identity.


Keywords:Masculinity/Masculinities; Men's Health; Male Sexuality; Embodiment; Pastoral Care Perspective


Masculinity/Masculinities; Men's Health; Male Sexuality; Embodiment; Pastoral Care Perspective


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