Redefining Masculinity//

How to Pursue Love and Purpose While Still Being Kind

The Co-Founder and CEO of Fatherly, Michael Rothman, shares how his understanding of masculinity has evolved.

Changing gender roles are key to accelerating the culture shift around changing the way we work and live. Redefining Masculinity is an editorial package that investigates what it means to be a man in 2017—and beyond. As part of it, we’re asking a wide range of men across industries, ages and background to answer 6 questions about what masculinity means to them. Read more about the project here. Here’s Michael Rothman, Co-Founder and CEO of Fatherly.

Thrive Global: How would you define masculinity?
Michael Rothman: It’s performative, it’s culturally inherited and it’s generally understood by what it used to mean, which is a collection of traits — strong, stoic, deliberate — that have no business being gendered.

TG: Who in your life shaped your view of masculinity?
MR: When I was younger, it meant action stars, titans of industry and Navy SEALS, documentaries about whom I watched obsessively. It was men who kept a stiff upper lip and enjoyed stiff drinks.

Exposure to the wider world outside of the northern Jersey cocoon of my youth provided a healthy, expansive perspective. It allowed me to meet people who no longer looked, spoke and dressed like me and confirmed my suspicions that the measure of a man was not necessarily tied to how many 45 pound weights he could load up on either side of the squat rack.

TG: Was there a particular moment when you felt you’d become a man?
MR: Ironically, the one ceremonial moment in which Jewish tradition tells you that you are, in effect, a man — my Bar Mitzvah — was probably when I felt most confused. I was a pimpled teenager with braces who had a huge crush on this one girl named Lauren and now I had to sing to her and my grandma and the entire congregation, in Hebrew, in a squeaky voice. My finest plumage wasn’t exactly on display.

That said, there have been multiple inflection points since then where at each juncture I felt that I had leveled up in terms of physical and emotional maturity: from surviving a medical scare to biking across country to starting a business.

TG: How has society’s view of men changed since you were a kid?
MR: I’ll defer to the great Dr. Michael Kimmel, who was one of the first professors to make the study of masculinity his life’s work.

TG: Does masculinity influence your work? If so, how?
MR: I’m the CEO of Fatherly, the leading digital brand for parents and as the name suggests, we make a deliberate effort to speak to men who now happen to be dads. We recognize that being a parent is as much a part of guy’s identity as anything else and that as families have more than one working parent and there are more diverse notions of family generally, there should be a platform for insights, advice and product recommendations that provides a bigger tent for more of today’s parents.

I’m also the co-chairman of Career Gear, a non-profit that provides employment opportunities to low-income men who are trying to reinsert themselves into their families and communities. Much of the work we do at Career Gear is about educating men about how to take care of themselves so they can have the confidence to be better fathers and contributing members of society.

TG: What should children be taught about masculinity?
MR: It’s less about masculinity than it is about living a life of confidence and integrity: saying what you mean, keeping your word, running headlong into challenges and pursuing love and purpose while being kind to the people around you. I’d want my daughter to live with that same inner compass.


Mike Rothman is the Co-Founder and CEO of Fatherly. Rothman previously led First Money Media (FM2), a firm specializing in monetization, operations and strategy for early-stage tech and digital media companies. Starting in early 2006, Rothman was one of the founding employees at Thrillist, responsible for all sales and revenue operations. Under Rothman, Thrillist’s business team grew from zero to a staff of 20+ and a Fortune 500 roster of clients. Rothman is also an avid supporter of The Moth, a MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and Peabody Award-winning organization that promotes the craft of storytelling via live events, podcasts, radio shows and community outreach programs. Mike was also named one of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 for 2016.

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