Is A|N mature enough for a discussion about the meaning and expectations of manhood? What is meant by "a man"? Is a man just a male adult homo sapiens? Is a "man" just someone with a Y chromosome and a male appendage, who "subjugates" women? Are there positive traits that can be identified as "manly" without descending into discussions of rape and wolf whistles and "privilege"? Is a "man" just a hetero guy who watches football and chugs beer and hunts deer? Can a masculine ideal be defined in such a way that there is something for men to identify with, and emulate, as men?

This is the essay that prompted me to wonder if A|N is ready for a true discussion of masculinity, or if all gender discussions must descend into rhetoric of "men abuse, women are victims". Linking to this essay is meant to inspire thought, and maybe discussion. My intent on posting this discussion in the general forum is not to bait, or incite endless arguments, but to ask what people think of when they think of "men"? Especially, "ideal men".

A correlary of "Manhood" is "Womanhood". That should be a separate thread.

Two weeks ago I would not have posted this topic, but there have been some changes that make me ask if we are ready for the discussion.

Tags: men

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From what I read on the article, it seems like "male" and "masculine" are frequently conflated with each other. One is a chromosome and the other is a set of behaviors; it's entirely possible to be in favor of one but against the other.

The ad looks like another attempt to get at "manly" men. Ever since metrosexuality has become relatively mainstream, there's also been another voice critical of it. Not that I consider people arguing for traditionally masculine ideals to be reactionaries, exactly - it's just that there wasn't much need to explicitly articulate traditional masculinity before the metrosexual "revolution", since everyone (the men, I mean) already did it.

Personally, I don't see why the two have to be at odds - if you're femme, be femme, if you're a bear, be a bear :P I wish heterosexual men could co-opt the terms (if the blatant cultural theft doesn't offend the gay community, of course).

There are plenty of good things about traditional masculinity - as the ad humorously put it, SOMEBODY has to walk those old ladies across the street :P I think masculinity has gotten a bad rap for the aggressive side of it, but to simply stop there would be the same as simplifying femininity to nothing but submissiveness. There's more to traditional femininity than that, and same with masculinity - there's an immense stress placed on fair play, on teamwork, on self-sacrifice for ideals greater than ourselves, on personal responsibility, on following a job through to its fruition, and so on. I think part of the backlash that we're experiencing is probably partly because of the low recognition that those positive aspects of traditional masculinity have, as well as the pressure many traditional men probably feel to conform to a feminist-approved version of androgyny. Not everyone's evenly balanced on the masculine/feminine spectrum and being criticized for not embodying some gender ideal is always frustrating, whether you're male or female, and whether you're being told to be more feminine or more masculine.
Men and women really do have the same sorts of characteristics, that are called different things or interpreted differently. The example of women being thought of nurturing, and men being protecting--to me that's basically the same thing. Providing for a family financially is also a form of nurturing.
My thoughts exactly PRG!
"Are there positive traits that can be identified as "manly" without descending into discussions of rape and wolf whistles and "privilege"? ...... Can a masculine ideal be defined in such a way that there is something for men to identify with, and emulate, as men?"

Good questions, Daniel.

Some of the positive characteristics that I see as masculine---and appealing to me as a woman---are:

courageous
risk-taking/chutzpah
gallantry
strength
patient
calm (as opposed to being emotionally volatile)
moral
chivalrous
persistent
protective
action-oriented
decisive
assertive
take-charge attitude
self-aware and honest with himself
funny (and sometimes shocking)


Some of the negative characteristics of some men can be:

competitiveness
aggressiveness (to the point of being abusive)
being out of touch with one's feelings (and others')
lying to avoid confrontation
withdrawing
self-indulgence

(Of course, a given woman can have some of the above characteristics, too.)
I told my ex to "be a man". This had nothing to do with being masculine--he could wear a dress and makeup and that would be fine with me. I told him to be a man b/c he lied to me, hid things from me and then gave me the excuse that he was afraid of how I'd react. And of course, I'd have the same expectations of a woman.
These are great replies so far. Thoughtful.

Aaron - " if you're femme, be femme, if you're a bear, be a bear " - in a way, I think that being unselfconscious about whoever you are, would be a positive masculine trait. Im not sure I can reconcile that being unselfconscious about being femme would be masculine... :-) but who says they have to be mutually exclusive or binary?

" stress placed on fair play, on teamwork, on self-sacrifice for ideals greater than ourselves, on personal responsibility, on following a job through to its fruition" - these are on my personal list of traits as well. It doesn't mean they can't also be feminine, because I don't think that one excludes the other. But they are positive traits that i think of as masculine as well.

Thisbe -
"Protecting others is also a womanly feature isn’t it?" - yes, I think so too. So being protective of those who need it would be on my personal list of important positive womanly and manly traits.


Dana-
Your list appeals to me as well. Some of the traits might be pooled together to say "maturity". Thanks for your comments on this discussion.
Hi there, I'm kinda new here, but I wanted to add my thoughts.
I guess I'm a feminist, but I really like men and these are some of the things I love about them:
Protectiveness is a positive trait in men that women who want to have babies look for. We also like passion and some recklessness, but you won't get me to admit that to my daredevil husband.....
Confidence; men usually have more of it and it is mostly a postive trait.
The ability to make decisions quickly.
Physical strength and endurance are helpful in many family situations. Ahem.
Penises. You have them, lots of us like them. I know it's not technically a "trait", but I had to put that in.

I remember telling my husband that I was the only one who got to decide whether he was a good husband or not; not his mother or his brother or his friends; he wasn't their husband, he was MY husband....
The "ideal" man? He is whatever the idealist needs him to be at the time.
Cheers
I have a lot of anger at the way men are portrayed in recent times. Double standard is putting it mildly. I don't find it at all funny when men are emasculated for a laugh, and honestly I don't understand what the feminists are on about. Women are no longer oppressed in this society and they haven't been for a long time.

For women to laugh at the endless sitcoms where men are weak and stupid while the women are smart and powerful is shameful. It's also one of the reasons I do not have a television.

I'm sure I'm going to take a lot of heat for this. A lot of men are called "misogynist" whenever they disagree with anything a woman says or does. I see it over and over again. It's a low blow and exceptionally infuriating to me.

I find some misogynistic humour funny, and I am not ashamed to say so. Often the humour is an exaggeration of a very real and ubiquitous persona.

If anything, I think men are in need of a confidence booster. I can't imagine what young men and boys are thinking when there are no strong and confident men portrayed anymore.

I have not been discriminated against because I am a woman, and it's not because of "luck". I have a sense of humour about myself and my gender. I like who I am and I put that forward, no one can use words to affect how I feel about myself. I have a lot of sympathy for men in this era. Masculinity has become something to be ashamed of and I think that is appalling.
I was accused of adding to the problem by being passive and not speaking up last night. Sometimes it is just not worth the energy.
That is indeed intensely annoying. The Dumb-Guy-with-the-sassy-wife cliche. I think it is almost over now though.
I also disliked those "I'm such a clumsy man" type paper towel commercials. Has anyone seen that type yet?
"Is a "man" just a hetero guy who watches football and chugs beer and hunts deer? "

Masculinity is none of those things, but homophobic men seem to embrace that characterization.

I like a masculine man. I like confidence, and a lack of vanity. I like intelligence, and humour, and strength. (and facial hair) I like a man who is comfortable in his masculinity to the point where he never has to consider it. One who would not think twice about going out for a drink with his gay friends, one who wouldn't pause about holding the door for a woman, but would also accept the door held for him. I like a man to smell like a man, feel like a man, and look like a man without trying. I like a man who appreciates the lines of a woman as well as her brain. (or another man if that is their preference) These things have nothing to do with beer, sports, or hunting. In fact I've never been so in love as I was with a British man who did not drink, was an animal lover and vegetarian, and was not much for sports. He exudes masculinity though. Brooding intensity, strength and logic, manly. Oh even thinking about him excites me... Hey, what was the topic again??

A list?

British humour. Pragmatic. Witty. Sharp. Fast in thought and intellect. Confident. Well read. Wise.

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