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).
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  1. 41

    Women don’t like players, but it’s not like the guy is honest with you and says, “I’m just going to pretend to like  you until sleep with me.   I’m going to pump and dump you.”   If women were informed that his buying flowers, drinks, taking you to dinner, spending time with  you, calling  you on the phone, texting, etc. were just a means to get you into bed and then disappear, there would be a whole lot less sex going on.   Once a woman has sex with a guy, she’s pretty much hooked emotionally due to oxytocin, and then the guy either leaves or starts acting like a jerk.   Then he sees how much he can get away with.   Women stick around because they’re emotionally invested and it hurts your soul to be rejected by someone you thought cared about you.   Both sexes are to be blamed in what we have going on in this society.   People treat each other like disposable diapers.   It would be easy for me to be really mean towards men, as that’s what I’ve encountered from all of the men in my life starting with my father, but I continue to hope that someday there will be a nice man somewhere who isn’t playing this awful “manly” game.

  2. 42

    I like a good hairy chest, but nothing wrong with a little grooming if you’re a bear.

    Full wax takes it way too far.

  3. 43


    In my own mind chivalry isn’t an expectation. It is something I admire and appreciate.  

    I hold doors open for ANYONE who is coming through before or after me so it’s not fair to make assumptions. I will still smile and appreciate when my bf makes an extra effort to do those things for me. I admire him when he offers to return carts for elderly ladies at wal-mart. It’s not just all about me…It’s about the natural tendancy to want to help people. It’s a good quality to have in a man.  

    You don’t have to make appreciating a good quality into an expectation.

  4. 44

    Heather, Fiona, and the rest who are “into” chivalry: be honest. This isn’t about men carrying heavy things for you, holding doors, or getting up for pregnant women. Good men will do these kind of things, usually without prompting. No, it’s a whole set of behaviors and attitudes that are expected. Like the man asking you out, making the first move on everything. Men constantly paying for dates. Deciding what to do and where to go. Being the breadwinner and provider. Having a “take charge” attitude generally. Always projecting confidence and strength, so that you can always feel “protected.” Individually, some of these things are just fine, but what I notice is that a fair number of women seem to lump them all together and expect that men demonstrate them all, or most of them anyway. That’s entitled in my book.
    Note about projecting confidence and strength: The above is different from wanting a generally confident man. That makes total sense. What I’m speaking about here are the subtle and not so subtle ways some women expect men to suck it up, “be a man,” whatever that means, rarely show weakness, never complain, etc. Men reinforce this in other men. And so do some of the women we date. And what’s interesting is that there is often this gigantic contradiction present. Women say they want men who are more vulnerable, open about their emotions, willing to share the household chores, etc. Yet, when men step up and embrace some of this, they’re labeled unmanly, weak, and sensitive. Many women who lament about chivalry seem to also peddle these contradictions. And then wonder why they can’t make a relationship work. Not realizing that the man they seek is a fictional character, inspired by romantic comedies, television shows, and pulp novels.

  5. 45

    @ ThatsWhyYoureSingle — increasing bitchiness in men, totally!

    In my dating life, the guys I’ve considered the manliest are the ones who were kind of gently bewildered by my mood swings or just well to be a stereotype, maybe slightly irrational emotional outbursts. They just get kind of a puzzled, slightly sad look instead of flinging the bitchiness right back at me times 1000.   They walk next to the street, open doors and always insist on driving.  

    It’s not doing those things, though they are charming and sweet, it’s what doing them is or should be, or could be, indicative of…that they’re going to protect you or at the very least help out in an emergency and not save themselves while leaving you and your babies in danger.

  6. 46

    Nathan, I hate that women have to wait for men to ask them out. That isn’t entitlement. That’s just how it is. I don’t expect men to pay beyond date one which, given that he asked me, doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

  7. 47


    I see what you’re saying. You didn’t mention my name so I don’t know if you’re referring to me but you did say “and the rest…” so i’m safe to assume you are.

    There is no specific “set” of behaviours I feel entitled to other than reciprocations of respect, support, loyalty, and communication.  

    There are many behaviours I admire. And are you saying i’m not supposed to admire or be “into” those behaviors and tendencies simply because “any good man will do it without prompting”? Well I say to you that’s exactly why I should be “into” those behaviors! Because all of them (together or separate) would be a decent indicator of the character of a man.

    Many of us have an abusive or painful past and we need indicators and behaviors to pay attention to to be sure we are making the right decision on the right man. It’s hard for me to swallow what you’re saying on a website (and I do love this site) that promotes women changing behaviors to show a man they are a good and safe bet! Talk about entitlement!  

    As if we just want to throw ourselves at the first man that comes along, marry him and just EXPECT that he acts a certain way. Because we are entitled…

  8. 48

    @JB #43

    Yeah, I’m talking about guys who will read fiction. I had a partner who liked reading the same novels I did. When we  both finished a particular book it gave us something to talk about. Which was cool compared to guys who watched tv  in their limited spare time.

    Haven’t read 50 Shades of Gray. Don’t think I’d appreciate it, given the reviews I’ve read. I like mystery/suspense stuff – not bad romance novels.

  9. 49

    LC #45
    Yes, your comments are what I was alluding to in my previous posts. I’d have to say that most of the men I dated before meeting my boyfriend were getting over an ex, and weren’t ready for a new relationship, rather than being out-and-out players. But maybe that is more of a younger man’s game. Yes, there are some women who are attracted to bad boys, but the idea that women are attracted to men who mistreat them is false, any more than men are attracted to women who don’t care about them either.

  10. 50

    Calling the modern man as not being “manly” enough is just another one of those complaints you always hear from the same types of people…

    Those who always have something to complain about…

    Let’s imagine that we’re all “manly” now…

    Those same people will now be bitching about how men are not “emotional and sensitive enough”

    And the whole cycle starts again…

    Gotta love it.

  11. 51

    Being honourable, and you being able to trust him on his word; looking out for people around him and making sure that they feel included   – those are the signs of a good man. I like it when a man can take charge. I want to know that in an emergency, he’d be able to step up and protect me. I don’t want to feel like the man in the relationship.

    If I’m conscious of thinking that he is not enough of a man, then I can’t have enough respect for him, and everyone deserves someone who respects them.

  12. 52


    Of course I dont think a girl is manly if she does those things.  All I was  saying is that the quote from the NY Times article  lumped  a guy going to the gym in the same bucket as a guy going to a spa. One is a manly thing to do, the other is not.

    Now I must say I am impressed you can do those particular exercises. Besides the good shape you must be in to that, I am equally impressed with the fact that you know how effective those exercises are. So many people waste so much time in the gym doing the most inefficient exercises. If people focused on the bigger bang for your buck exercises like I mentioned, they workouts woul dbe far more productive. SInce you figured that out, it impresses me.          

  13. 53

    Rachel, if you can’t see the difference between “admiration” and “expectation,” you’re in trouble. Furthermore, if you choose to read my comments as saying you should “throw yourself at the first man that comes along,” there’s not much point in us having a conversation.
    Go back and read my comments more closely. I’m not dismissing looking for good qualities in men: in fact, I’d say it’s always wise to pay attention to the presence or absence of such qualities. Furthermore, I think the baseline qualities you offered are sound: communication, loyalty, mutual respect, and support. I’d add honesty and openness to that list myself.
    What I am dismissing the fairy tale that some women have about finding a man who is totally chivalrous, always in charge and yet treats women as equals and is emotionally vulnerable, does all the things men of previous generations did and yet also cooks, washes dishes, and takes care of children. Again, it’s not that any of these things individually is a problem – they all can be good qualities in the right situation. It’s that some women expect them all, or most of them, and then pick apart men in general as being not “manly” enough, or “lazy,” or whatever negative descriptor you want to add here.  
    The funny thing is, though, that although some women have these long, contradictory list, they tend to get fixated on things like actions that appear chivalrous, like a guy who always holds doors open or drives you around on dates, or whether men are willing to pay for all the dates and/or schedule and direct all the dates – things that are fairly superficial in the long run. Some men have similarly long lists, but also get similarly focused on superficial issues like super-model quality physical appearances, or whether a woman likes the same music, games, or sports as they do. I actually think the majority of people spend years of their adulthood, even lifetimes, missing out on the most important qualities that sustain a relationship because they’re so focused on less important things their dates or partners lack. Or they are so intoxicated by the presence of them, that they can’t see the lack of the most important qualities, like mutual respect, communication, loyalty and the rest.
    There are plenty of guys out there who are chivalrous and take charge, and also are terrible communicators, cheaters, and abusers.

  14. 54

    Well, this is my take: We all have a right to have things of our lists that we want our potential partner to have even if they don’t “make sense”. I am attracted to a certain physical type and even though I know this rules out plenty of wonderful giving women, it’s what I like. So I can get that women being attracted to a guy who is manly in the traditional sense. It is what it is, and there is no point in trying to justify it out.

  15. 55


    I guess where I take issue is I do not see myself in your words, and I have found a man who embodies all those qualities and more. He is manly, take charge, and resposible. Yet he is loving, affectionate and emotionally expressive. Even better he encourages me to be expressive.

    And the misunderstanding comes from where I say “as if we should throw ourselves….and expect…because we are entitled.”

    I wasn’t really saying YOU said we should do this. More saying you imply that women do this.

  16. 56

    I can see my own miscommunications.  

    The difference between admiration and expectation is a lack of disappointment in the absence of those behaviors.   

    I can honestly say I never thought a man like that existed so I never expected it. But was rather blown away to find it. And it’s not faked to get in my pants that’s for sure. I just happen to have been lucky enough to meet a very good, well rounded man.

    I got defensive. Your posts read as prejudiced…As if those men are imaginary. Created in the minds of expectant, entitled women, and those imaginary ideals ruin it for good men.

    Not so. Men like that exist. Take it or leave it, but they do.

    Doesn’t mean the men who aren’t so well rounded are bad or lesser. Everyone has flaws and acceptance is key.

  17. 57

    Whether a man pays for his dining companion is not a “superficial” thing.

    It is a signal – a signal that is important in every aspect of social life, not just romantic relationships. I dated a lot before I got married. Even now I frequently have business meals and meals with friends.  If I am the one who initiated, I will always offer to pay everything, because that is only fair. But, with the exception of those cases where I clearly initiated,  what I have found is that  if a man will not pay – or even worse, when he tries to stick the bill on the  woman or pay less than his fair share  –  that often speaks to a bigger flaw in his character that reveals itself in time.

    Can other people here back me up on this? Let’s count the examples. The project leader who rounds up his group to go out for a meal, orders two entrees when everyone else has just one, and insists on splitting the bill evenly across everyone. The  boss who asks out a subordinate, orders far more than her, and then tries to split the bill down the middle with her. The guy who asks a  woman out for any reason, and won’t offer to pay for her, or worse, will come up with an excuse to make her pay it all. The guy who resents that he paid for a woman’s meal (despite asking her out) and tries to force  her to pay for something else like his after-dinner drink.   The guy who goes out with his friends and is mysteriously never around or looking around aimlessly when it comes time to pay the bill.   The guy who argues till he’s blue in the face about why he should never break out his wallet for a woman – it’s all about “his rights” and “equality,” after all.   Almost without exception, these are the guys who will screw over  their colleagues and companions or shirk  their duties in  some way.

    It’s not just women who lose respect for men like this. It’s men, too.  If you think this is not true, go out to a group lunch or dinner. See who offers to pay. Unless the rules have already been  set about who’s paying, the true alphas, and the truly decent individuals,  will always step up to the plate. The betas will shrink back and never so much as pull out their wallets. Who does everyone respect more? It’s not a female entitlement issue.   It’s a very human, very universal, signal.

    Also, it is a false dichotomy  to place “men who don’t pay” in the same category as “men who help with housework,” because I can tell you I am married to a man who always  pays and does his fair share of housework. Alphas in the boardroom can be perfectly awesome domestic companions. Sure, it doesn’t always  work out that way, but based on  all the  relationships I’ve seen,  there is absolutely no relationship between the degree of alphaness in a man’s character and the extent to which  he helps or shirks duties at home.

  18. 58

    “one is a manly thing to do, the other is not”
    I disagree that going to a gym to do a deadlift or walking lunges is necessarily particularly manly. As Evan said, being a man is more a function of character rather than an ability to do a particular activity. I’m not particularly strong, I can hardly open a car to look at an engine never mind fix it, yet I consider myself extremely ‘manly.’ Where I perceive injustice I will fight it to the nth degree. I have stood in court and testified against those who have wronged me without hesitation — I will not be cowed by intimidation from any individual, institution or state. If I had children I would fight to ensure that they received the best education, health provision and services possible. I respect men who know what they want to achieve in life and then pursue that ambition with dogged determination whilst helping those around them: this is what being a man is about (in my humble opinion).

    I find it bizarre that you find a man sexy for reading fiction – maybe that’s because I’ve never read a novel for pleasure in my life though!

    Regarding Heather, Rachael and Nathan discussing chivalry I think we should differentiate between common decency and chivalry. It is fully reasonable for Rachael to feel entitled to “respect, support, loyalty and communication.” I think we all are. Holding doors, helping older people etc. are not behaviours indicative of chivalry rather just common decency and should be done for everyone not just women.   Like Nathan I feel that chivalry (if we assume it in a modern sense of helping women or treating them differently, rather than the traditional code of conduct associated with being a knight!) is an antiquated concept. Women are now our equals and should be treated as such (including paying their fair share Helen; half).

  19. 59

    Helen, I fully agree. Being recognised as an equal means treating someone like their view has equal weight and recognising equality of opportunity. It does not mean treat a woman like you treat another man or vice versa. A man who won’t pay for a first date isn’t getting a second because he has shown me that he doesn’t think I am worth much.   I have no control over where we go or what he orders and therefore no control over the cost. Men should also realise that I might not be buying the dinner but I have probably gone to some effort and expense to look nice.  

  20. 60

    Geez it seems like everyone has differing opinions on what is manly and what isn’t manly. Can we all agree that at least peeing standing up is manly?

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