Men Are Tough

"The greatest joy for a man is to defeat his enemies, to drive them before him, to take from them all they possess, to see those they love in tears, to ride their horses, and to hold their wives and daughters in his arms."
—Unknown, but often attributed to Genghis Khan

An Omnipresent Super Trope and Sister Trope to Women Are Delicate. It can be assumed to exist in every form of media unless otherwise stated. For a number of reasons, fiction tends to treat men as the stronger, hardier, more reliable, and more resilient of the two genders. In most forms of human society, the assumption is that women are the more delicate of the sexes or are more suited for nurturing than the more aggressive roles undertaken by males of the species. This creates the assumption that every man is a natural Badass, or should be. This may be because Most Writers Are Male, or the implication that Men Act, Women Are.

This Stereotype has two forms:
  1. Unilateral: Men are naturally tough, strong, competent, capable, aggressive, stubborn, blunt, or dominant.
  2. Bilateral: Men are stronger, tougher, or more blunt, dominant or aggressive than women and/or "inferior" men. In this form, even if a man shows more passive, submissive, or weaker qualities, he either shows less of them than his female peers, there is a weaker man to juxtapose him (unless he is the weaker man), or he compensates for it in some other area.

Regardless, a man being in a dominant, physical role is seen as natural while a woman in the same role is treated as exceptional. Even if a woman does take on a physical role, there still exist tropes which portray her as less tough than her male counterparts such as Guys Smash, Girls Shoot or She-Fu.

However, the Double Standard has a negative effect for men, too. Men are often treated as the expendable gender or the only ones capable of being abusive. Further, because the toughness bar is raised for men, a Non-Action Guy will be more harshly criticized than a female counterpart. He will also have to take greater risks and perfom more physical forms of combat. In Guys Smash, Girls Shoot, he'd better be the one smashing even if he's more skilled at shooting.

Further, men are often portrayed as not being capable of anything BUT physical force to make their points. Often despite the target audience being themselves male, guys are portrayed as dumb, childlike, blunt instruments who can't do anything right if it involves becoming "domesticated". When that happens, a former Badass will turn into a Jaded Washout, and possibly a Fat Slob. His only means of domestic problem-solving will involve Percussive Maintenance or Tim Taylor Technology with marginal degrees of success. When it comes to their own children, domesticated men will often be bumbling wrecks, over-compensating in aggression, or completely disinterested altogether. In short, these domesticated men are portrayed as having something "wrong" with them, due to being removed from fields of violence, power, or non-domestic achievement.

Also, please keep in mind that the word chosen to represent this trope was "tough". In addition to physical force or power, "tough" also means resilient, stubborn, slow to change, dense, and inflexible, which are also ways men are stereotyped.

No Examples Please. This should be an index of tropes, and nothing else.

Played Straight

  • White Male Lead: The most common Protagonist template in Western media, as a consequence of men being considered the generic "default". It may also be a WASP. It falls under the "men are dominant" aspect of this trope. Part of the dominant/centrist attitudes toward men comes from how normalized it is to see them as the center of a story or the person who drives a story. White Male Lead specifically does that, and has become so normalized that trying to get rid of it creates hostility and backlash
  • Women Are Wiser: Men are merely blunt instruments, while women do all the thinking.
  • Women Prefer Strong Men: The implication that women are always attracted to shows of power and dominance—especially physical force and musculature.
  • World of Muscle Men: A trope that almost always has a Double Standard where every man is heavily muscled but the same never applies to women.
  • World's Strongest Man: This trope taken Up to Eleven. While all men are tough, this one is the toughest of the lot!
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: A woman feigns injury or weakness to frame someone else (typically a man). As the page explains, "If you saw a wounded gazelle and a lion in a clearing, who would you believe?" Because men are tough and brutish, they are typically seen as the lion.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Because he's tough and she's delicate, a real man refuses to hit a woman, no matter the reason.

Aversions, inversions and subversions

  • Action Girlfriend: A girlfriend who is more badass than her boyfriend.
  • Agent Peacock: When an effeminate man is also an Action Guy.
  • Bishounen: When a man is just as beautiful as most women.
  • Bromance: When men avert Real Men Hate Affection, and show an emotional side toward their fellow man. But not in THAT way.
  • Camp Straight: When an effeminate man, typically an example of Camp Gay stereotypes, is heterosexual.
  • Distressed Dude: A man needs rescuing—a role that women usually play in fiction.
  • Gender Is No Object: A true aversion of this trope. For example, a boy who is just as much a Fashionista in a movie/show about clothes. This trope becomes less of an aversion in media where toughness is a virtue, such as a Fighting Series, because of the different styles mentioned above.
  • Househusband: A man who does the housekeeping while his wife is the breadwinner. This is considered atypical of gender roles.
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: A man gets in touch with his inner delicateness. Depending on how many feminine traits he posses, he could range from a Gentle Giant, Bruiser with a Soft Center, an Emotional Bruiser, a Warrior Poet and other types.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: When a more masculine, tough, or butch girl is matched up with a more feminine guy for contrast.
  • Mistress and Servant Boy: A woman who exudes power, prestige, or professionalism over a submissive male servant.
  • More Deadly Than The Male: Because women are typically portrayed as more delicate or weak, situations where men are the dangerous sex are considered odd, quaint, or scary.
  • Mr Seahorse: A man carries a child the way women do, encountering many of the same delicate problems and issues.
  • Non-Action Guy: A man who is not combat, action, or adventure adept. It's common in Real Life but considered odd for fiction.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Pink, the color associated with girls and femininity, is worn by a dude whose cool with it. The point is that he is so innately manly that he can pull off stuff like this without looking effeminate as a result.
  • Uke: This man is the more feminine and submissive lover in a gay relationship.
  • Weakness Turns Her On: A woman is attracted to men who are weaker than herself.

Zig-zagged (neither played straight nor averted)

Tropes in this section tend to showcase a man with both tough qualities and more delicate ones, or two or more characters with juxtaposing characteristics.
  • Action Hero Babysitter: A man is cast in the nurturing role of caretaker, but using tough, badass skills to get the job done. Played for Laughs.
  • Beard of Sorrow: A manly way of showing emotions, usually used to show that he's lost touch with society and let his appearance slide.
  • Bromantic Foil: A raunchy, headstrong, and often perverted male friend or companion which makes another male (usually the Protagonist) look well-adjusted or normal by comparison.
  • Casanova Wannabe: A man who believes he's a ladies man, but has substantial flaws in his approach.
  • Compensating for Something: A man who lacks a stereotypical component of an ideal man (usually penis size) compensates for his lacking in some other stereotypical manner.
  • Cuckold: A man whose woman is having sex with another person(s). The "Bull" (her lover) is almost always another man because otherwise the effect is lessened. Her infidelity is played for the humiliation and emasculation of the cuckolded man, the sexual depravity of the wife, and to portray the Bulls as "superior" men. The scenario is used for the titillation of the audience. The cultural implications is that any man who fails to satisfy his wife, and "tame" her, is less of a man while the men that succeed are "real" men.
  • Emotional Bruiser: A badass who fights with his emotions on his sleeve. It's considered unusual for pragmatic, stoic and tough males.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: A man who is both educated and adept in culture. He may be a Non-Action Guy, but he is also rational, stable, and elegant.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: A man reminds everyone that he is not homosexual, because that would be "terrible".
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: Being beaten by a girl is considered insulting for a tough guy.
  • Manly Tears: Men crying or showing tears. However, these men are usually not shown as emotionally broken or distraught, and only as a moment of "weakness" or irrationality.
  • Noble Male, Roguish Male: A contrast between a more socially-adept and proper man, and a rebellious, roguish outsider. The idea is to compare two models of masculinity.
  • Non-Action Snarker: A man who is not physical tough, but compensates for it in abrasive or cynical attitude.
  • Papa Wolf: A man who fights to defend his younger charges or children. Usually the go-to portrayal for a fatherly role in an action setting.
  • Prince Charming: A dashing, handsome man who arrives to romance and/or rescue a waiting female.
  • Prince Charming Wannabe: He's not as dashing/handsome as he believes. The woman may scoff at his rescue.
  • Prince Charmless: A prince that has no tact, social skills, or charms whatsoever.
  • Real Men Cook: Manliness is paramount to being able to use fire to prepare food. Cooking is is usually associated with feminine traits, but in this case, the ability to master such a skill is considered manly. (For example: in fiction, maids and housewives can cook, but a Master Chef is usually male.)
  • Samus is a Girl: A tough and badass character appears and, to everyone's shock, reveals that they are a girl.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Two men that contrast each other in regards to toughness.
  • Teeny Weenie: A man's worth is measured by the size of his genitalia.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Parodies of manliness meant to draw laughs instead of awe.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Hitting a female is considered reprehensible, no matter the reason, but not hitting a guy. This character would hit both.

Played With

Tropes in this section are tangentially related to this trope, in that they likely would not exist if this trope was not the default assumption. These tropes are typically "exceptions" to this trope—but with some sort of baggage that examines the negative consequences of men failing to be tough, or the benefits of measuring women that have the same capability of men. However, the relation has become woven with so many societal complexities that they cannot directly be considered subtropes or aversions.

  • All Women Are Doms All Men Are Subs: Women are typically portrayed as dominatrices in fiction, because it's considered less uncomfortable than a man dominating a woman.
  • Badass Family: Similar to Battle Couple, but with every member of the family being just as awesome.
  • Badass Gay: With the assumption that homosexuality is weak and unmanly, a homosexual character that is unquestionably a Badass is a significant aversion.
  • Bastard Girlfriend: An abusive, creepy, or violent woman is played for fetish.
  • Battle Couple: In heterosexual relationships, having both a man and woman that are tough is treated as remarkable. In a homosexual relationship, it overlaps with Badass Gay.
  • Bumbling Dad: A man is portrayed as incompetent at a domestic task like raising children.
  • Camp Gay: An effeminate man who is attracted to men.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: A Nice Guy who is interested in a female companionship, but is stuck in the Friend Zone.
  • Dominatrix: A woman dominates a man, but solely for the sexual fetish.
  • Effeminate Misogynistic Guy: A misogynist who hates women despite displaying the stereotypical characteristics of one. Perhaps to show that he can do it "better".
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: A man missing his genitalia who is portrayed as evil. The association can imply that those traits go hand-in-hand.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: No matter how evil he becomes, he still cares for the woman who nurtured him.
  • Fat Slob: A man who is uncultured, slovenly, and overweight.
  • Henpecked Husband: A husband who is nagged, abused, or derided by his wife. It implies that the man is weak-willed, and/or that his wife is irrational or bitter.
  • Jaded Washout: His glory days have passed long ago, and he cannot adjust to a new life.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Being a Casanova comes at odds with finding a One True Love. Again, it carries the connotations that a sexually-aggressive man is unused to more delicate or romantic feelings.
  • Lazy Husband: A man is portrayed as a do-nothing while his wife does all of the work both in home and out.
  • The Slacker: Men in a domestic or social setting are shown as do-nothing layabouts. Has become a more reoccurring trope in modern fiction, as the Everyman has gained popularity.
  • Teeny Weenie: A man with a small penis is considered to be "less manly".
  • Unlucky Everydude: An Everyman who does not know his way with women and generally incompetent in other areas. It's usually implying that this is the typical male condition. While it demonstrates a discomfort with women which is far from the idealized manly man, the "unlucky" portion also implies that this is a bad thing.
  • Magical Girlfriend: A man who is normal or unremarkable meets a powerful supernatural woman. She may or may not become subservient to him.
  • Momma's Boy: A man who is either subservient or extremely protective of his mother.
  • My Beloved Smother: A son who is nagged, abused, or derided by his mother. It's implies that the man is weak-willed, and/or that his mother is irrational or bitter.
  • NEET: A college-aged male who is portrayed as a Butt Monkey, due to being a do-nothing layabout with no ambitions.
  • Sissy Villain: A villain who is campy, effeminate, and evil. The association can imply that those traits go hand-in-hand.
  • Straw Misogynist: An extreme misogynist that goes way over the top in bashing women or femininity. Used to push the point that misogyny is really, really bad, but lacks any sort of ambiguity.
  • Unmanly Secret: A man who strives to be manly has a secret which reveals him to be In Touch with His Feminine Side.
  • Useless Boyfriend: A man does nothing to assist in day-to-day life with his far more pragmatic and forward-thinking girlfriend.

Alternative Title(s):

Men Are Tougher Than Women