The other day I followed a friend’s link to a site called something like “The Good Men Project” or something along those lines. I’ve not yet been back, but I intend to go check it out in depth sometime. Based on the one article (not a good sample, I know), it seems to be a site dedicated to supporting a balanced definition of manhood. I’m not sure I entirely agree with their angle, but it’s a start.
Just what a man should be is much in debate these days. Many women writers seem to want men to be women with chest hair. A lot of women on Facebook want men to not be clueless Neanderthals. A certain subset of men (possibly as a counter-movement to the former group of women) wants men to be self-consumed users of women. My particular church encourages men to be focused on providing for and being actively involved in family above anything else.
The particular article I read discussed how a father can best be there for his daughter. I can see some of the points raised as provoking outrage from some feminist groups, insisting that the writer is saying that women need protecting. I think they’d be wrong. I think what the author is saying is that a good father helps his daughter learn to not need him anymore—but be there anyway, just in case.
But in light of all these things I can’t help but decide that a real, good man must learn to tell the world “Shut up and leave me alone.” I think that could go for women, too. We’ve got a lot more groups and sources insisting they know what we need to be—and how to get there—than any of us have time to listen. And much of what they have to say is total dreck, frankly. Free advice is usually worth everything you pay for it, and so much advice these days is not only free, but completely unsolicited. Even Camille Paglia, who recently bemoaned the cultural effort to stamp out manhood, probably should not be relied on to give a solid definition of what men should be like. It’s like the Aesop’s fable of the man, his son, and their donkey: If you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one.
Manhood seems to have adopted the same anecdotal definition as pornography: “I know it when I see it.” But perhaps that’s the problem. Do we really see it anymore? Is there a clear definition of manhood we can look up to, emulate, and pass on to our sons or teach our daughters to expect? No one knows how to be a Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart any more—and a large portion of society would step forward to denounce them if they tried to show their style of manhood these days, not because they actually put down women with their gentlemanly ways, but because a whole generation has been trained to perceive that intent in every act of graceful manners.
So I say to heck with them. Why should we let women own the definition of manhood? It’s not too late to re-establish manhood—not the fake, metrosexual man-child version rapidly gaining ground today, but real manhood: Men who love their wives and children, value fidelity, integrity and hard work, think for themselves, and believe in doing the right thing.
To heck with television and its continual portrayal of men as either bumbling, incompetent, laughingstock fathers or sly, smooth, womanizing libidos-on-legs. Enough of Hollywood and its stream of foul-mouthed, gross-out, semi-primates and bicep-bulging, bullet-proof super-soldiers who are fast with a gun and faster with a woman. There are so few role-models to be found in modern entertainment that it’s not even worth the search.
It’s time we men searched our souls and our history and recaptured all the good about manhood that got thrown out with the bathwater. It’s time we stopped apologizing for not being more like women and instead learn to value who we are. Like it or not, men and women are different, no matter who tries to insist otherwise. Enough with those people who try to shame us all for appreciating the differences that unite us.
Listening to those people will never allow us to be happy. Being happy is not what they want for us, anyway. It’s not too late to recapture true manhood. There are a lot of real men still around. They’re just keeping quiet, going about their business, and trying to figure out if they still fit in somewhere.
I think Rudyard Kipling may have held up too lofty a vision, but it’s not a bad goal:
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
(I’ve posted this before, I know. Some things are worth repetition.)