Monday, July 20, 2009

Where have all the manly men gone?

I promised one of my high school friends a few weeks ago that I'd write about this topic, so I figured it's about time to address it. It seems that this is neither simply a regional problem nor a cultural one, rather an epidemic sweeping our country: the disappearance of manly men. Where have they all gone?

Hyperbolic perhaps, but this topic has come up frequently with my female friends lately. No, it's not that we're looking for guys to be every stereotype of manly at all times. We appreciate that men are getting more in touch with their emotions, care about their interpersonal relationships, and are free to take on stereotypical women's roles (e.g. cooking, caretaking). Yet, there should be some manly traits to balance things, whether it be skill in a particular sport, assertiveness in your professional/personal life, the desire to protect those you care about, the willingness to stand up for what you believe in regardless of the cost. In short, particularly with women who are themselves athletic, ambitious, and/or strong-willed, it's the realization that we don't want to "out-man" the men in our lives.

This isn't an issue with all guys (I know of a number who have found a good balance between their masculine and feminine qualities), nor is it confined solely to men. To be entirely fair, there seems to be a growing trend of wussiness throughout our whole country, not just with our males. Parents are increasingly overprotective of their children, and the overall economic prosperity of our country minimizes the need to work hard in future generations. And entirely too frequently, it seems to play itself out in the guys we date, those who can't stand up to their parents on their partner's behalf, those who shy away from leadership and decision making in any capacity, those who have to be consoled more often than they console, those who avoid/fear taking any risks, not to mention those who can't get up the nerve to pursue women they're interested in. While I usually hate stereotyped gender roles, if you are male and all too often fit the descriptions above, it's time to grow up and man up (see above link for ideas). Wussy is simply not sexy.


Anonymous said...

I think I remember seeing an interesting article along these lines, lately...

In defense of men, though, I think that the roadmap from boyhood to manhood has become increasingly hard to decipher as proscribed gender roles for both sexes has changed immensely in two generations, most importantly because of effective birth control and the need(!) for dual income households.

To some degree, women don't know what we want from men or how that meshes with our own limitations or lack thereof.

There has been much emphasis on training girls for careers and independence that didn't necessarily exist that long ago (you know, when we had to be protected from being knocked up...) but I'm not sure that there has been much attention to training boys to participate in a redefined manhood or even roles in civic life. I think there are still stereotypes about what kind of careers or hobbies men are even *allowed* to have, just because they happen to have been born with a little more testosterone. As an aside, we have not truly reached a feminist equality until men can fully participate in what *used* to be known as "women's work" (teaching, nursing, running the home, etc) without having people question them.

Like you talk about in this blog post, our generation is much less independent as a whole than previous generations. Expectations of prolonged adolesence, almost mandatory post-secondary education (for which many are dependent on parental or outside aid), and electronic communication devices have all served to keep a tether on both males and females until we finally do break away and make others more important in our day to day lives than our parents. Both sexes are equally guilty on this level, though I think that men in particular are perceived as weak while women tend to be given more of a free pass. You know, because of our overly emotional natures and all...

It also doesn't help men (or women) that we have lost so many jobs in farming, manufacturing, and skilled trades to provide an outlet from service-oriented desk work. If anything, we need to be a less "efficient" and "productive" society (and stop outsourcing this stuff!!!) so that there are more manual labor jobs for us all. Sitting behind a computer all day is damaging to the psyche, and health, and is making us all "wusses".

So yeah, I've been rambling, but I think the issue your question raises goes a lot deeper than how genders form relationships with each other and that men should just work out more and be stoic.

Jen I N

Kirk said...

Most of the traits you described aren't so much about machismo as it is about strength and confidence. Which are traits that should affect both genders. But I agree that there seems to be a lack of people taking responsibility for their actions and fighting for what they want or what they believe is right.