Are Men Manly Enough?

Are Men Manly Enough?

Recently, 8 authors, bloggers and comedians participated in a discussion in the Room for Debate area of the NY Times called “Are Modern Men Manly Enough?” The New York Times asked:

Are men spending too much time at the spa and the gym in lieu of grittier, manlier pursuits? And if so, is this making them less masculine?

The debate includes short pieces that advocate a return to manliness. A few excerpts…

“Rediscover the Don Draper Within” by Joel Stein, columnist:

We can’t solve this man-crisis by sitting on a couch watching “Ice Road Truckers.” We’ve got to start fixing our own toilets, exercising outside at 6 a.m. and hunting the meat that we cowardly eat from far crueler factory farms. Otherwise, the tribe down the street might raid us and pillage our apartment.

“Where are the Meat and Potato Men?” by Natasha Scripture, blogger and author:

Come to think of it, I haven’t met a manly man in quite some time. Maybe because most of them live in Montana. Or Texas. Or Sicily! They’re certainly rare sightings in New York City because here the abundant local species seems to be the metrosexual.

Lot of jokes at men’s expense, many of them funny. But what is there to really learn from this? How did men get this way? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

If you prefer a world where men are the he-man type, then you must advocate for a world where women are the docile and helpless type.

Not surprisingly, I’ll say that it’s both.

What’s bad about men – and, well, women as well- is that we’re completely not self-sufficient. I’ve long ago accepted that I’d be the first person kicked off Survivor island. The lack of air-conditioning alone would spell my demise. I own a wrench but can’t use it. I have a very active subscription on Angie’s List. I hire a handyman to hang big picture frames. And I’m not really ashamed at all. Because really, who said that you’re more of a man because you can use tools, fix computers, or hunt for food?

We’re fortunate enough to live in a world where I don’t have to do these things. If I DID have to do these these things for a) survival or b) to be attractive to women, I’d be at a disadvantage. But I don’t. I have a plumber and a gardener and a handyman and a pool guy. And my wife has a nail woman and a monthly cleaning lady and a daytime babysitter to take things off of her plate that she either couldn’t or wouldn’t want to do herself. We’re lucky. But we’re not lesser men or women for it.

To me the one guy who really got it right in that NYT piece was Lawrence Schlossman, blogger:

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.

When women say they want a “man, not a boy”, I’m pretty sure that this is the crux of it. Sure, it’s a bonus if you can build a deck in your backyard. But really, what separates the men from the boys? It’s integrity. Honor. Responsibility. Sticking with your word. Knowing how to sacrifice. Putting loved ones first. It’s certainly not about manual labor, ability to survive in the wilderness or fighting for your honor. Those are remnants of a 19th century world. Many of us don’t want to return to that world.

To be fair, I’ve heard the lamentations from women about men losing their masculinity; those same women better take a good look in the mirror about how they’ve lost their femininity. You can’t have it both ways. If you prefer a world where men are the he-man type, then you must advocate for a world where women are the docile and helpless type. And if you think that’s silly, I would ask you: why? Why should men continue to embody ancient stereotypes but women shouldn’t?

That’s right: they shouldn’t.

What we need to do is recognize that many men have become more like women – helping at home, believing in monogamy and pacifism and community. And many women have become more like men: direct, challenging, ambitious, driven. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging these original stereotypes, or admitting that the lines have been blurred between the genders. What I hope to offer to you, as a reader, is a knowledge that if you’re looking for a typically masculine man, you’re better off being a typically feminine woman. If you’re a typically masculine woman, you’ll have a better fit with a typically feminine man.

As for me, despite my lack of traditional manly skills, I’m still a man. I’m the traditional breadwinner and my wife is the happy stay-at-home mom. And I can assure you that, by abdicating responsibility for home improvement, I am doing what’s best for everyone involved. I don’t have to get frustrated with my failure to wire the lamps in my backyard, my wife won’t be widowed because I haven’t electrocuted myself, I have more time to spend with my family, AND I’m contributing to the U.S. economy!

So to all you Do-It-Yourselfers: you want to be a better man than I am? Great. Hunt me some chicken and I’ll give you $10 before I cook it on my George Foreman grill.

Read all of the entries in the discussion here. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what makes a man into “a man”.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Julia

    My dad was a man, in every sense of the word but I don’t really need a man like him but what I do need is a man who will offer to help me move if I am moving, will help me carry up bags from the grocery store rather than playing Halo, etc.
    I might not be the stay at home mom type but I still do my hair, put on my makeup and dress and try my darnedest to be feminine. 

    Oh and honor, integrity everyone needs to have that, those are just traits good people who can see beyond themselves should have, so those are mandatory. 

  2. 2
    Annette

    I enjoyed this blog post…I remember reading one of yours where you said men don’t go both ways, meaning if you want a traditional ‘manly Marlboro-type man’ don’t expect him to enjoy talking about his feelings and cry at sad movies. How true that is! I am currently in a relationship with a guy who’s pretty ‘manly’ and I definitely have my moments where I wish he was more sensitive and in-touch with his feelings. But then I have to remind myself that I have dated guys like that in the past and they drove me nuts. I’m an ex-cop and know myself well enough to know that I prefer the man to be the man.

    I don’t think you can have it both ways most of the time. Or at least, I haven’t found a guy yet that has it all. My guy does tell me he loves me everyday so I save the girl talk for my girlfriends.

  3. 3
    John

    Are men spending too much time at the spa and the gym in lieu of grittier, manlier pursuits? And if so, is this making them less masculine?

      Who the heck wrote this gem? When is working out in a gym not considered manly? I dare anyone to deadlift, do pushups on Olympic rings and do some walking lunges while carrying weights and not call that manly.

  4. 4
    Heather

    I think this is pretty right.  I appreciate the fact that my guy can fix cars, worked on an auto assembly line in college, knows how to help with household and yard stuff, etc.  He’s definitely a “guy.”  But what also makes him a man, is the fact that he has integrity.  Honor.  Respect.  He doesn’t treat me like crap.  He’s not abusive, nor mean-spirited.  And also, he doesn’t need mama’s approval for every damn thing.  I dated someone like that, so for me it’s a dealbreaker if a guy has to get permission to date someone.

    Men stand up and take care of business.  Another prime example is my father.  He is my Mom’s primary caregiver right now, her being really sick with cancer.  He helps her around the house if she’s too weak or sick to do much.  He drives her to and from appointments, to and from work.  He shoulders the load and doesn’t bitch at her.  THAT, to me, is a man.  Anything else is just overgrown frat-boy material, to me.  My ex husband was definitely a boy, expecting me to clean up after him and never supportive when I needed help.

    This was a great article.

  5. 5
    Ellen

    Imo Evan has just barely scratched the surface with this issue. (Sorry for the double post but not busy at work today! lol)…. I have a self-described “beta” platonic friend who is so upset about the change in the genders and the “decline” of men that he not only talks of it often, but frequents a couple of websites devoted to this issue.

    Imo the lines between the genders have blurred so much that it got hard for me to get excited about too many men online after a while. Luckily I found a great boyfriend who is gently alpha, CAN actually (seriously) fix just about anything (and takes great pride in that fact), but still manages to be very in touch with both his and my feelings.

    But I’m a boomer so all this fantasy male=protector and female=nurturer crap lingers with me maybe. Actually I don’t require that a guy be able to fix everything, only that he tries. That he makes an effort to learn how to at least use a few tools and is at least somewhat knowledgable about how a car runs, etc. That he recognizes I don’t have his upper body strength and comes to my rescue once in a while when I need it…. ‘Cause I’ve been very busy the last 59 years holding up my side of the bargain, i.e., made it my business to learn how to be the best loving and supportive Mom/daughter/sister etc. I can be.     

    But yeah, the true definition of a “real” man is, and will always be, the guy who always does the right thing. Who is honest, responsible, and doesn’t blame others for his mistakes. Who friggin PROVIDES ’cause isn’t that what men are supposed to do? And at the rate Republicans and others are trying to drag women back into the 19th Century, men had BETTER take that part seriously ’cause it is being challenged (various women’s rights) at every opportunity by these Neanderthals.  Also on their agenda are minorities’ rights…..

    If we aren’t vigilant they will strip us of our rights- reproductive are just the beginning imo- ’cause, to me, Republicans just play dirtier than the Democrats. I no longer believe in either party though.

  6. 6
    Selena

    I think we’ve become less self suffienct -both genders – generation by generation. I’m surprised when someone doesn’t know how to sew on a button. I don’t have a clue how to grow food. Or can it.

    Our definitions of what’s “masculine” and what’s “feminine” may come from the days when most folks were expected to do for themselves instead of relying on others to do/provide things for them. Since that has changed, perhaps our ‘archetypes’ will change as well.

  7. 7
    Rachael

    Good stuff evan!!

    I agree with julia….Where women will ALWAYS appreciate manliness is in chivalry. 

    Offer to lift the heavy stuff, or even better just take it from us! Open doors and ask us if we want or need anything occasionally. Take the trash out! Come on strong every once in a while in the bedroom…

    I guarantee no sane woman who loves the man she’s with will say she doesn’t like it when her man does those things!

  8. 8
    Rachael

    The more I think about this the more I realize how honour, respect, integrity etc. Are key for men who just act manly naturally. 

    The dis-honourable, disrespectful, wishy washy man is never going to offer to carry the groceries! He won’t take out the trash even when asked nicely. He doesn’t open doors and he’s so rarely dynamite in the sack.

    I just described my ex! hah ;)

  9. 9
    Andrew

    Our society has sucked the testosterone out of men starting with Ritalin in the public schools to the current (and well-accepted) social expectations that men are incompetent boobs incapable of tying their own shoes without the help of a strong and independent woman (TV sitcoms, anyone?). Frankly, with such lack of respect, what is the motivation for any young men to step up and do his masculine responsibilities by wifing up some young woman and raising a family? Between video games and Internet porn, a young man doesn’t need to participate in a society that both denigrates his masculinity but schizophrenically demands that he sacrifice his very life working in dangerous yet invisible jobs. “Man up!” is the hew and cry. Men are smart, they know that such exhortations have nothing to do with masculinity, and all to do with unwise and unnecessary sacrifices that don’t have sufficient rewards. 
     
    Some men are turning to Pick Up Artistry (PUA) so they can learned the skills to attract women solely for the purpose of seduction, the pump and dump. These men have embraced a darker form of masculinity and practice it with pride, not caring one whit about their impact on a woman’s emotional state. These are the players, the men who leave women breathless and wanting more but still, they leave to slay another woman’s soul, leaving her bitter and incensed at all men. “No players!” they shout in their online dating profiles. Yet those two words are the siren call for the next player because the woman has just advertised “I’m attracted to players!”. These men share their knowledge and resources very much behind the scenes, unknown to most, so that more and more players emerge onto the dark and difficult dating landscape that is Dating 2.0.

  10. 10
    Selena

    I’ve never understood the door opening thing. If I get to the door first, why the hell wouldn’t I open it, instead of just standing there waiting for the guy to open it?

    And I’ve yet to have a man throw his overcoat over a puddle so as not to risk my dainty feet getting wet.

  11. 11
    Joe

    Dude, you’ve become so feminized that your grill is a George Foreman?

    1. 11.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Joe - I wrote that so some jackass like you would write to me. Thanks for taking the bait.

      Yes, Joe, I have a barbecue. In fact, I have two because we have a big backyard. We use them in summer and for larger parties.

      But when I’m making grilled chicken for my baby girl at 7:30pm in January, George does the trick just right. I certainly don’t need to go outside to prove I’m a man.

  12. 12
    Heather

    Rachael, I agree with you about the chivalry.  It seems to be a dying concept.  I’ve watched guys let doors slam in women’s faces.  Not get up when they see a pregnant woman standing, on a bus or train.

    I appreciate my guy, or ANY guy, who will hold a door for me, or say “thank you” if I hold a door for THEM.  (That’s rare, getting a thank you out of a guy, let me tell you).  I appreciate any man who doesn’t call me “dear” or “sweetie” who doesn’t know me, or talk to me like I’m stupid.  It’s nice to see the real men, when they do show themselves. 

    My guy is very good about stuff like that, he always carries things for me, holds doors, helped me do laundry when I could barely walk after I had surgery.  He treats his Mom with respect. And like my Grandpa told me, any guy who isn’t respectful to his mother, won’t be respectful to you, so dump those and keep the respectful ones.

  13. 13
    DinaStrange

    I think what’s meant as being manly is a guy taking control. Confident and in control of situation, not nec. handyman or a plumber.

  14. 14
    Ruby

    Andrew #9
     
    Wow, feminism at fault again, it’s even the cause of men being players! These days, more and more women are working at jobs that don’t pay the bills, supporting their children as single mothers (despite deadbeat dads), and trying to break into those “invisible”, dangerous jobs that just happen to pay more money than the pink collar professions do.
     
    Women aren’t attracted to players, since players aren’t interested in settling down, having children, or even being boyfriends. Any player worth his salt knows how to hide his player tendencies in the beginning. How else could he succeed at attracting women?
     
    OTOH, you could always join your brethren who are who come to this site to kvetch about Western Women, and and get yourself a subservient, dependent mail order bride from a 3rd world country.

    1. 14.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Ruby – I’m not on Andrew’s side here, but he’s right about one thing: many women ARE attracted to players. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have a business.

  15. 15
    Fiona

    Do many women really care about this? I don’t care much about DIY skills so much as problem soving skills although I must admit I do like it when men offer to help with my heavy suitcase and things that they can do more easily than I can. On the other hand I know they like that I always make an effort to dress in a very feminine way and am a reasonable cook.

  16. 16
    AndThatsWhyYoureSingle

    I don’t see men becoming less “manly” in the physical sense. More so in the emotional sense. They’ve become more petty and bitchy. . Lots of whining and complaining and name calling. I do think that a  lot of men are thrown by how assertive women have become, both interpersonally and sexually. We had a letter the other day from a guy who – in my opinion – was completely thrown through a loop because a woman wanted to sleep with him on the 2nd date. I definitely see men who are intimidated by assertive women, and that’s not something I’m used to seeing.
    The shift in gender roles, mostly due to the economy I think, has created a great deal of confusion in identity amongst many men and women.

  17. 17
    Ruby

    Evan #16
     
    And you think that the players are completely honest about themselves from the get-go?

  18. 18
    Andrew

    Actually, I care not about feminism or complaining about western women in general. The strawman argument of the “mail order bride” is as old as Methuselah and just as irrelevant. I am merely commenting about the current state of masculinity. Younger men are quickly learning the social landscape and adapting accordingly. I absolutely support that. For every younger man electing not to participate in a culture that clearly has no use for him except as a work-animal is a man who is voting with his feet. The social trend in higher education is already well-established with almost 60% or college graduates being female. Good for the girls. Better for the young men who figured out that there are viable alternatives to the rat race.
     
    “Women aren’t attracted to players, since players aren’t interested in settling down, having children, or even being boyfriends. Any player worth his salt knows how to hide his player tendencies in the beginning. How else could he succeed at attracting women?”
     
    As Evan said, plenty of women are attracted to players. His business depends on it. So do an upcoming generation of guys learning the skills of the player and about to be unleashed into Dating 2.0.

    1. 18.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      And basically, Andrew, my business depends on warning women against guys like you. Anyone who identifies as a player or a PUA is someone to avoid. Thanks for reminding women what NOT to look for in a partner.

  19. 19
    Joe

    @ Evan: OK, I’m the jackass, Mr. “In fact I have two grills”? :-P

    @ Fiona: but aren’t DIY skills really problem solving skills?

  20. 20
    Rachael

    @selena

    I don’t wait for a man to open a door for me, but if when my bf skips ahead to do it i’m not gonna get my back up about it “I am capable of opening a door tyvm!”.
    Or when he offers me his jacket “I’m an independant woman I don’t need your warmth!!” 

    Give me a break! I do need his warmth and that doesn’t mean I delicate or incapable.

    I do many nice things for him and he reciprocates. Pretty simple. Very nice and refreshing.
     

  21. 21
    Fiona

    DIY problems can also be solved by knowing who to call. I have nothing against me with DIY skills but it isn’t a priority for me.

  22. 22
    Heather

    @ ThatsWhyYoureSingle,
    Spot on.  I’m noticing that too.  Alot more bitchy, nasty, bitter men are coming online, calling names, etc.  I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how many guys I blocked/reported to the site administrators/cursed out in return, for being so nasty, when it was not warranted.  I was called “boozhie” (sorry for the misspelling) because I didn’t write back to an African American guy who clearly sounded scary in his profile.  Called “a bitch” for not writing a novel to one guy who clearly was stalker material.
    To some of those, my reply always was: “Well I am sorry that you feel you have to be such an asshole.  Let me enlighten you.  I don’t date assholes, therefore you and I don’t even have a chance.  You have yourself a wonderful day now, mmmkay sweetie?”

    It really made me think holy shit, all I’m seeing online anymore are carbon copies of a few ex-boyfriends, and an ex-husband, with anger/rage issues that might be one comment away from shooting someone, and I don’t want that to be me. 

    I’m not saying that all women are perfect, absolutely not.  And I’m sorry that we’re not.  But at the same token, leave the bitching at the door, because I’m not going to tolerate a minute of that crap, and that, I will stand up and say to any guy, any time, and if they think I’m a bitch for it, well then there we go.  I’ll be a bitch that’s not dating that guy. Heh. :)

    1. 22.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      This is a great reminder for all of our readers: EVERYTHING you experience as a woman, MEN are experiencing as well (except for maybe sexual harrassment). All the flakes and liars and crazy people and rude people and selfish people – there are JUST as many women doing the same things. Which is why you should attempt to be more tolerant and understanding of men. The good ones go through just as much shit (and more, in my instance) as you have.

  23. 23
    Joe

    Fiona, almost any problem can be solved by knowing who to call!

  24. 24
    Selena

    Gee Rachael, I meant that comment as tongue-in-cheek. It amuses me when women go to *door opening* as a sign of chivalry, gentlemenly, manliness, what-have-you. Shoulda applied an emoticon. :P

  25. 25
    Andrew

    @Evan
    While I know and understand all that PUA stuff, I do not personally identify as a player nor do I incorporate much of that into my dating life. For the most part, that’s a young man’s game and I’m on the wrong side of 50 years old to be “negging” girls in nightclubs or wearing ridiculous hats trying to draw attention to myself.
     
    I was simply commenting on the current state of masculinity and how PUA is a route for some guys, porn and video games for other guys. It’s interesting how Moxie and others have noticed that the level of “discourse” in online dating has declined with far too many men getting emotionally ugly when faced with rejection. Sure, I understand that a generation of men has been encouraged to be more emotional and “in touch with their feelings” but really, getting ugly online? That’s just ridiculous.

  26. 26
    Fiona

    Heather, I don’t even bother respond to those emails any more because I don’t want to waste time and energy and some of those guys are getting a kick out of the response. Best just to block and forget than let some wacko rile you.

    I agree that women are attracted to players but they are easier to spot than Andrew thinks. I was invited out tonight with an obvious bunch of US camera crew players at the Olympics today but respectfully declined because I don’t need a night out with players competing with each other and I am going to watch events again tomorrow so a quiet night it is. I just chose to see it as flattering that they still try at my age but they are only a threat to me if I let them be. 

  27. 27
    Steve

    I hereby pronounce this thread a “brouhaha”

  28. 28
    nathan

    ” If you prefer a world where men are the he-man type, then you must advocate for a world where women are the docile and helpless type. And if you think that’s silly, I would ask you: why? Why should men continue to embody ancient stereotypes but women shouldn’t?” This is so true. I wish more women would recognize that the changing gender landscape is bringing more freedom for people to be themselves, instead of fit into some pre-formed mold. It’s not always easy to figure out how to act when the scripts are less clear, but I’ll take that over feeling like I have be one way, or be considered a doomed member of my gender.
     
    It’s always curious to me how some people act as if specific jobs, tasks, or skills are almost biologically linked to gender. I can paint a garage and sew torn clothes. Both skills picked up out of of necessity. Doesn’t it make more sense to learn skills you need, or jobs you need, rather than limit certain things to one gender or another?
     
    As for chivalry … why can’t we just be kind to each other, and stop expecting that it’s one persons job to do something because of their genitalia? You want a guy to hold the door open for you, start holding doors open for others, including the men you date. There’s often a whiff of entitlement in chivalry laments.
     
    Good men will simply be kind to you because that’s how they are. Stop expecting certain actions, and start looking for kindness in it’s many forms. It’s pretty easy to spot the players and selfish men if you focus on things like kindness.
     
     

  29. 29
    Robyn

    Hey Evan,

    Choosing not to do your electrical repair work yourself is not abdicating responsibility. Far from it – I think it’s entirely sensible to NOT run the risk of electrocuting yourself!
    You’ve still retained overall responsibility for getting the work done - by hiring an electrician, making sure they get the job done on time & on budegt, and by paying for the job.

    Sub-contracting/out-sourcing jobs that you don’t have the time or expertise to complete is more than “manly” – it’s the smartest and most efficient thing to do, be you male or female.
    Especially if you earn a living being paid by the hour (as in professional services, consulting etc.).
    If you earn $100/hr in your chosen profession, it makes a lot more sense to use an hour to earn an extra $100 and pay some one else $25 to do a chore / perform a task for you that would otherwise chew up an hour of your time.

  30. 30
    Dawn

    @John #3

    I  can do all those things too…does that make me manly?

    I can also use a saw hammer screw driver and drill.

    I think on the deepest level what it means to be manly is more basic
    We want to know he will be able to take care of things (deck, sink, toilet, finances)
    And men want women who can nurture and take care of their basic needs ( food comfort sex)

    So I guess those can come in a variety of packages. 

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