• SumoMe

Recently, the New York Times published a series of short essays in their “Room for Debate” segment (hat tip to Tom from Taun for sending me the link). The question for debate was, “Are Modern Men Manly Enough?” and, of course, I was intrigued. As usual, the writers had a nostalgia for the past, back when men were men, and not some modern frilly pansy, dang it. Here are some notable excerpts on both sides from the essays:

Most noticeably of course, men have become very interested in themselves of late – their profiles and their pectorals. Vanity, thy name is … Magic Mike. But the fake-baked triumph of male vanity is only one— very eye-catching— part of the metrosexual revolution. Men have also become much more interested in cooking and child-minding, sensitivity and sensuality. Young men in particular have become very touchy feely compared to the older generation – compared, in fact, to me. Let’s not kid ourselves here; “manliness” is, or was, largely about repression. And homophobia. (Mark Simpson, New York Times.)

The point about homophobia is very poignant, and not one that gets touched on a lot. If you think about stereotypical “manly” values or actions, it’s all about trying to present yourself as a tough, strong, loud, and boisterous person–not like those gays. Ridiculous. Breaking this way of thinking is perhaps the most important step towards improving the male gender as a whole.

In fact, I want to tell the modern man that he doesn’t have to look like a gold rush-era carnival worker or brew his own micro whatever to be considered a man in my eyes. No, it’s way easier than that. How about being a good guy, a good person. Just be honest, kind, tolerant, open, intrepid, self-aware, inquisitive, etc. — you know, all the things that have made our greatest men (and greatest anyone) great when we boil it down. Do these things and help others do them too, and you’re a real man as far as I’m concerned. Next time you’re out and about, walking tall, everyone might be focusing on the perfectly handrolled cigarette dangling effortlessly from your lips, but you and I will know the truth — you called your Mom just to tell her you love her, and you’re happy you did. (Lawrence Schlossman, New York Times.)

If there’s one thing that this website can’t impart enough, it’s that manliness is not a look but an attitude. Secondly, manliness is not inherent to men. Honesty, kindness, tolerance, openness, self-awareness and an inquisitive nature are what make anyone better, not just men. These qualities are “manly” in the sense that sensitivity, intuitive, compassion, discerning, and nurturing are all “womnanly” qualities, but not inherent in women. 

Millennials are the first generation in human history that would die without computers. (And not just die of broken hearts from losing all our Instagram photos; I mean torn to shreds by wolverines.) Our fathers tried to teach us the ancient skill set of self-sufficiency – as our grandfathers taught them, and so forth back to the sabertooth-threatened caves when manscaping equaled hypothermia – but we were too busy playing Nintendo to listen. And now it’s game over for the Y chromosome. (Marty Beckerman, New York Times.)

I don’t know if its “game over,” because I know plenty of guys who are still able to hold their own in nature. While we may not know how to restart civilization over from square one, I don’t think anyone at this point is really ready to do that (even those crazies who stock up for the end of the world, because they’re still relying on Cheerios from the old world at that point). This is not a failing of men, but maybe of society as a whole.

Frankly, a real guy needs to have something else going for him besides being a nonstop Commander-Badass, so why not have a designated Commander-Badass who raises his kids, hangs with his buddies, gets wistful about his ex-wife and admits when he doesn’t have all the answers?

I was born and raised in blue-collar Northern Canada, where there is certainly no shortage of flannel-wearing perma-bearded firewood-chopping men. Whenever I hear people claim that a specific discipline of manliness is dying out, all I can say is that the critics must not be looking in the right places.

This breed of man is still alive and well. But we shouldn’t get hung up on the idea that it’s the only form of manliness worth celebrating. (Kelly Turnbull, New York Times.)

This was one of the few essays that referenced manliness as more than a static quality. Manliness should not consist of work-sleep-work-sleep, but how about throwing in some spice of life in there? Work-painting-sleep-work-cooking-sleep. A man who deprives himself of fun in life is not more manly than their “metro” counterparts, but is simply more boring.

So if you ask me: are modern men manly enough? I answer (in a very law student way): it depends. It depends on what definition of manly you’re using–the old or the new. If you judge modern men with the old 1950s standard of manliness, then no, we’re absolutely not manly enough.

If, however, you’re judging modern men with the standard of manliness they created and grew up in, then absolutely yes. Modern manliness does not replace classical manliness. In fact, many of the same rules still exist: open doors for women, give women your seat on public transit, and always shake hands standing up. There are many new rules of manliness that we’ve created to exist in our own time: don’t text or take a phone call while with friends, turn your cell phone off during a movie/play, and don’t pick fights on the internet.

The definition of manliness has drastically changed over time, and this is good. It allows us to escape the homophobic undertones of classic manliness and become more well-rounded people in general. Cooking dinner used to be “woman’s work” and now men taking that initiative does not make them less manly but a more capable person. Grooming does not make you less manly, it shows that you want all your impressions and interactions with people to be the best possible.

While many modern men don’t even fit the new definition of manliness, many older men didn’t fit the classic definition of manliness, either. Men as a whole should always try to improve, and while we’re not perfect all of us have the ability and information we need to improve ourselves, especially with the prevalence of the internet. Are modern men manly enough? Yes, but in our own way.

What do you think? Are modern men manly enough? Discuss it in the comments.