“Real Men Work”

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of rap music by a variety of artists. One of my favorite rappers, Wax, has a song called “I Ain’t A Real Man.” The catchy hook qualifies the title:

I ain’t a real man, real men work
Digging, digging, shoveling dirt
The kind of work, that when you get home your back hurts
Blood stains cover your shirt, that’s real work


The rest of the song goes on to explain how Wax doesn’t consider himself a “real man” for working in the music industry as a rapper when there are firemen, soldiers, plumbers, migrant workers, coal miners, truckers, and even McDonald’s employees who are laboring under worse conditions for worse compensation. I thought it was an interesting perspective, considering most rappers take pride in boasting about their masculinity and degrading that of any competition in the industry.

We learned that masculine identity is often expected to include certain elements of success and self-reliance in one’s field of work, but in spite of this, Wax admires laymen who work more labor-intensive jobs for less wages. Listening to the song is helpful in understanding the dynamic logic he offers, so I encourage you to check it out!

15 thoughts on ““Real Men Work”

  1. Deanna,

    This is an interesting post! I have never heard that song but just the lyrics that the artist sings displays gendered norms. He is basically saying through his song that you can only be a “real man” if you participate in masculine activities and do work that leaves you dirty or exhausted. Of course, we all know men can partake in jobs that isn’t physical labor and still be a man. This is a really good example of how today’s media can reinforce gender norms.

  2. Deanna,

    I love this post. I find that a lot of men feel like they have to have that manly job so show that they are a man. Such as working in the yard and doing the hard labor intensive work. When in reality that isn’t the case at all. We have been shown that men can be stay at home dads and the women can do the hard labor intensive work as well. People just automatically assume just because of their gender they have to have certain jobs.

  3. Deanna,

    This post is very interesting. It seems like he is trying to bring attention to the issue of our society glorifying entertainers while ignoring those who actually make a difference. I am not saying that entertainers do not make a difference, as Wax is trying to make a difference by putting out this song. However, I feel like our society needs to recognize those who do bust their asses. I also really liked how he highlighted the issue of our soldiers salaries compared to those of singers and performers, and how backwards it is. Really interesting and unique post, great job!

  4. Hey Deanna! Wow. This post was actually really interesting and quite entertaining to watch in my opinion. It was refreshing in a way to see a man not give himself credit for his hard-work, just because his hard-work was going towards music. Many people within society think that real work for men is hard labor work, but in reality it isn’t. Take football players, they are out on the field working hard and they choose to make their career this way. Many people think they don’t deserve to be getting paid as much as they do just to be playing a sport. Many tend forget how hard these men worked to get to this point. I think that Wax can be considered to be a man working hard just like anyone with a hard labor job because he is working hard at what he does and loves. This song was actually very good and it’s awesome that he came up with this on his own so he could present his message in a different, effective way. Great post!

  5. I find this to be very interesting. I too am a fan of hip hop music and culture and I also am an aspiring artist who loves to write lyrics. This post resonated with me due to me also being a male who finds solidarity through music. I also think that it is really cool how Wax chose to frame this song, because it stay consistent with hip hop’s origins. Hip hop was originally created in the projects of New York to be a medium for an historically oppressed group of people to finally say what they had to say. Early hip hop music was very similar to Wax’s song because it initially focused on empowering others and uniting people behind a common struggle or cause. That’s why I respect any contemporary rapper who choses to take a break from the bullshit that we hear on the radio, and actually rap about something that’s relatable and that tells some type of narrative of the “common man”. So good for Wax for keeping it OG.

  6. Deanna,

    I enjoyed this post because I think that this idea of masculinity being directly related to the type of work is not always the first thing that comes to mind. As mentioned in another comment above, it is usually thought that masculinity is related to whether a man is working at all. I like that Wax brings attention to the fact that some people are working harder for much less compensation than he does for his occupation. I think that it even makes him more “of a man” in a way for staying humble.

  7. Hey Deanna! I found your post very interesting because I, too, hadn’t thought of men working in the way this rapper has. In my personal opinion, I think that as long as a man IS working, then he is a real men. Of course there are special circumstances, but in general I find it very respectable to see someone working hard — that goes fro ANYONE, male or female. Thanks for bringing this too my attention!

  8. Hey Deanna, I really enjoyed your post as I have never seen or heard of this artist or song. I think it’s really interesting that he is giving credit to other men while discrediting himself and his occupation, which is typically out of a masculine norm. Though, I do think it is a courageous statement by him. I think it could let other men (and women) see that work is work; Just because one doesn’t work in the blazing heat or building things from the ground up doesn’t make them lesser. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Hi Deanna! Great point to bring up for discussion. It’s interesting how until today some men feel like they are expected to show their masculinity by excelling in contexts where they have to use their physical abilities. Dr. Wood said in her book Gendered Lives that men have to demonstrate to be “breadwinners” as an aspect of the elements of masculinity. But it is incredible how even though men have to put up with satisfying this “rule”, they have to also try to appear masculine by showing off physical strength. While it is true that some labor intensive jobs appear to be more masculine, men should remember that masculinity is about so much more than physical strength. Just as femininity isn’t just about acting “like a lady” and appearing to be dainty or delicate, masculinity can take so many more forms in men.

  10. Hey, Deanna!
    You were right this song is pretty catchy! You were also right about his portrayal of what it means to be masculine. In every situation he describes the “real man” has to push past physical and mental conditions or his labor and “suck it up”. I think the most prominent pattern among each circumstance would be the self-reliant aspect that you mentioned. As a rapper he is dependent on others for sound checks and producing his work. I was thinking about this and I’d be interested to know what his father’s line of work was. I would suspect something physical. Perhaps his parents rewarded him more after he did something physical like yard work rather than when he wrote song lyrics. Their influence most likely played a role developing his concept of masculinity and his masculine code. I consider it to be more a more “traditionally masculine” like we have talked about in the past.

  11. Hey Deanna,

    Wax’s perspective on true masculinity isn’t interesting mostly because that’s what a lot of people think. BUT what is interesting is the fact that he doesn’t view himself as a man or his industry as manly work. In my opinion, masculinity is fragile. Rappers always rap about getting women and being the “big dog” but he took a new view into rap music and used it to identify issues in the world, that is not fragile. I think the rappers that do this (i.e. some mainstream ones – Eminem and Mackelmore) are the most talented and worthy of listening too.

    Thanks for your input!

  12. Deanna,

    I also found this song intriguing to listen to! One of the most interesting things I found about your post and the song and video is the use of male generic language.Male generic language is the language such as firemen that only refers to men. Although it does this I think it is appropriate in this case but was just interesting to point out. I wonder if there is a song out there about a “woman’s work?”

  13. Hi Deanna!
    This post was definitely an interesting one for me. I don’t typically listen to a lot of rap music, but I do listen to some, and a lot of rap that I’ve heard on the radio talks about how these rappers have this lavish lifestyle, and because they have all these girls/guys around them then they are “the real MVP” so-to-speak. So I’m really glad that you shared this song, I feel like it’s a really good example of how no one can really fit into one stereotype, and that everyone’s ideas of masculinity differ.

  14. This is a great post (damn good song too). Brings up a huge issue with some guys. There’s a clear stigma about men who don’t do physically demanding work. My father has the strongest work ethic I have ever seen (did NOT inherit that) yet he’s been mostly an office jock his entire life. The deifying of physical work or the vilifying of office working is a weird grey area and is important to talk about!

  15. Deanna,

    Well you had me at “rap music”. So, of course since I love rap music, I had to continue reading this blog post! That is unusual that a rapper is almost degrading his own profession because it is not manly enough in comparison to the other popular man jobs. You are right too, that a lot of rappers, if not all of them, try to boast their profession of putting words into sentences and putting them with beats, and considering themselves “the man of the hour” or something like that. When in reality, they aren’t putting in the same hours of labor or helping others that the more “normal” manly careers do. This was a cool article. Short, sweet, and really on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to gender norms within careers!

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