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”.

Join our conversation (143 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 21

    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.

  2. 22

    @ 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.

      1. 22.1.1
        Joe Niceguy

        Hi, I have been sexually harrassed by a female coworker. I think the reason that you believe,that it cannot happen is that this harrassment by a women toward a man is viewed as humorous because of gender role bias in which man could not possibly have the same emotional capacity as women. This woman would run her fingers through my hair at work and say ” your hair is sticking up.” I had previously told her to not touch me at work. Because I pushed her hand away and reminded her that I have already told her not to touch me; she then “complained to female coworkers that I had “hit her.” She once say me talking to a 17 year old coworker and angerly confronted my and said ” I am going to tell your boss that you are sleeping with her.” She walked up to me and took a picture of me and ran off. I later learned she put the photo above her fireplace and told her family I was her boyfriend. Once, when I refused to give her my phone number, got it out of my supervisor’s file cabinet and crank called me several times. She joined my gym which was several miles out of her route home. Get the idea? My coworker’ s found it all so funny, but if was extremely upsetting and stressful. When a woman employee makes an complaint against a male coworker about harassment;even if the man has done nothing wrong, he then is always viewed badly. A male employee making a complaint against a woman is just laughted at and ridiculed. Sexual harassment can really hurt a woman, damage her career, her health, and self esteem, but she has recourse……. Just ask Gloria Allwood. The same behavior against a man causes the same amount of harm and there is no recourse because sexism is a one way street.

  3. 23

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

  4. 24

    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. 😛

  5. 25

    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.

  6. 26

    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.  

  7. 27

    I hereby pronounce this thread a “brouhaha”

  8. 28

    ” 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.

  9. 29

    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.

  10. 30

    @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.  

  11. 31

    Implicit in these articles and some of the comments is that men are becoming less “manly.” I would say, very few of us are qualified to offer an opinion on that. Which men do we really know except the men in our own generation? We may think older men are more manly because of chivalrous behavior, but that could be confounded by the fact that they’re behaving this way because of the age difference, not the gender difference.
    Moreover, every disposition in every generation has its good points and its bad. We may admire an elderly man’s chivalry, but when he was younger, he may well have been the type to assume his wife had to change all the diapers and would never lift a finger to help her. It should not surprise us that changing one aspect of how an entire gender behaves (gradually, over time) will result in other changes that may leave us feeling nostalgic for something we never knew.
    If anything, I think men are MORE self-sufficient today than they were in the past. More men now can cook, sew, raise children, and tidy a household. Our abilities change just as our societal needs change. It’s silly to shame men for not being able to hunt if there is no need for them to do so. Can they do what they have to do, all nostalgia aside? That is all that matters.

  12. 32

    sorry selena after I wrote that I though it may have seemed overly aggressive! I didn’t really mean it that way…I just didn’t bother to explain lol I should have also applied and emoticon or a lol myself 😉

    I really just meant to express that allowing those actions doesn’t lower us as women or take power away from us. But some women do have that opinion…  

  13. 33

    Is it sexy if a man can fix a broken window or change the oil in my car?   Sure.   I also find it sexy if a man opens my doors; can whip up a mean spaghetti carbonara; reads fiction; knows how to lay hardwood floors; uses correct grammar; gets a 25+% return on his investments; volunteers at the local food bank; has a hairy chest.   And guess what: none of these is a “must-have.”   Being kind; being steadfast; living within his means while also saving for the future; having no major chips on his shoulder; being able to accept and give affection: these are absolute “must-haves.”    
    I care about a man possessing qualities like honour, integrity and fidelity.   But I would also advise all my guy friends to look for women who possess those traits, as well.   What’s the point of a kind, receptive woman who makes you feel good and cooks well if she’s also a liar and a cheat?   Most qualities of being a desirable mate are neither male or female but are instead tied to being a thoughtful, good human being.

  14. 34

    Guys who read for pleasure are so cool.   I’ve met very few.

  15. 35
    David T

    @Evan   I can assure you that, by abdicating responsibility for home improvement, I am doing what’s best for everyone involved.

    @Joe – I wrote that so some jackass like you would write to me. Thanks for taking the bait.
    LOL.   Thanks.   Needed the chuckle.
    @ Steve 31 I hereby pronounce this thread a “brouhaha”
    Concur. Time to wade on in myself.

    @ Dawn 34
    I have never heard of food comfort sex, but it   sounds messy.
    @ Helen 35
    It’s silly to shame men for not being able to hunt if there is no need for them to do so.
    Really?   Didn’t you know the whole “losing” the car keys thing is intentional so we can hunt something down even if it is in our own house? We can’t stop ourselves. It’s instinctual, I am telling you, and Paragon would agree.

    (Ssh! I think I hear something jingling in the sofa cushions. . .pounce!)

  16. 36

    Joe, yes most problems can be solved by knowing who to call – not everyone can manage it.

    Nathan, you are right in that I do expect men to be chivalrous but I don’t see that as   a big ask and is a point of pride for most English gentlemen. Any guy that is going to make a point of not holding a door open (which we all do for everyone else anyway) or not helping with heavy luggage is just showing that he is capable of boorish and mean spirited behaviour. I find that most men here love doing those things because it makes them feel useful and they like being thanked for it.


  17. 37

    When I think of what makes a manly man, the masculine qualities which attract me, I don’t think of He-Man, the Lone Ranger, the lumberjack or the hunter. I don’t even think of those men who “handy” around the house.

    I think of my boyfriend. If I am in trouble or need help, he will always come and sort out the problem for me with as few words as possible. He always tries to keep me safe. He always reaches for the lunch and dinner bill, even though he knows I don’t mind paying my own way. He always makes sure I’m provided for. He’ll never let me carry the heavy grocery bag. I know that he would never cheat on me. He adheres to his own code of integrity and honour unwaveringly, and is so  consistent you can set your watch by him.

    He doesn’t like talking about feelings, but I know he cares deeply. He expects me to follow him, but I know he wants to make me happy. He has faults and a few rough edges, but he is a man, through and through. (Maybe I will let him read this, I don’t know if he knows what I think of him 🙂 )

  18. 38

    @ Nathan,

    Ummmmm, actually I don’t see expecting chivalry as “entitlement” at all.   Whether it’s politically correct or no, we women cannot always do the same physical tasks as you.   So to hope that a guy would recognize that, and be compassionate and respectful and kind, I don’t think that’s “entitlement” at all.   Not in the least.   And yes, I DO hold doors for guys if their hands are full.   I DO offer up my seat on a bus or train if I see a guy who is on a cane, crutches, etc.


    Absolutely, there are lots of rude, nasty women out there.   Trust me, about 95 percent of them out there are my patients. 😉   My commentary was based upon what AndThatsWhyYoureSingle’s comments about guys getting emotionally ugly online.   It just throws me.   If a guy that I’m interested says, “thanks but no thanks” and treated me kindly, why the hell would I go off on him?   That makes zero sense.   But I am seeing a whole lot more of it these days, alot of guys asserting some kind of “machismo” online and being rude and hurtful and just plain old ugly.


    Most ugly responses if it’s just dumb, I’ll ignore.   But call me names?   Oh no. That’s my hot button.   My ex husband called me names all the time so I have zero, well less than zero, tolerance for it anymore.   Not from anyone, online or offline.   Those are the ones I chew out, then report, and block too. 🙂     The way I see it, you teach others how to treat you.   And by standing up and saying, “Screw you, you will NOT speak to me like that ever again” online, helps me feel more empowered to do that in person too.   Kind of like training wheels.

  19. 39

    @ Selena “Guys who read for pleasure are so cool“. I’m sure you’re referring to fiction type novels? Most men (and a lot of women) just don’t have time in this modern world to read books. They read the a million pages a day on the internet for work/pleasure etc…. I myself read non fiction self help stuff most of the time like Evan’s and Christie’s books etc….. because that’s what I enjoy as well as the occasional autobiography of someone interesting. I’m lucky enough to have time to do it. If I read one more women’s online profile that says she’s reading 50 Shades Of Gray I’m going to die….LOL Is it “manly” to sit around reading? I love to read, just not fiction.

    On another topic “Manscaping”……There’s a whole generation of men right now waxing their entire bodies because they’re being told that’s what women under 40 find attractive. I’m not talking about a “trim”. I’m talking about chest, arm pits, arms & legs so they look like 8 yr.old boys. So I know that’ll make men more “manly” in the future….LOL Henriette #37 must be over 40?

  20. 40

    I’ve noticed a shift in men’s relationship behavior. It seems harder to find guys who take charge, step up to the plate and take the lead in relationships. I am definitely not an alpha female, so I doubt I’m intimidating anyone. I appreciate a man who takes initiative, but many guys (I’m in my early 50’s and date men in that age range) are not willing or able to really take the lead. Very annoying and to be honest, disappointing as well. Men claim to want to pursue, but many seem to lazy to do so.

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