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. 81

    I agree with SS.   A man who pays for a first date (and subsequent dates) is not necessarily a keeper – but for sure, he has a much better chance of being one than the fellow who asks the woman out then refuses to pay for her.    A guy who has no interest in showing chivalry from the beginning is emphatically not a keeper.   Experience has borne this out again and again.

    Where’s Lance, who used to post here?   I can just imagine him writing a post  in his blog directed to those guys  who argue up and down that they shouldn’t pay for the woman  – some nice round rejoinder about how to man it up.

  2. 82


    I did not compare bj’s to chivalry. I made reference to how we are on a blog focused mainly on advising women how to behave. All I said was that a woman wouldn’t dislike chivalry and suddenly we’re going off about expectations.  

    The comparison is in expectations. I don’t want to be told i’m acting “entitled” to state some nice behaviors I appreciate.

    When the purpose of this site is to tell me what nice behaviors men appreciate.  

    I don’t have my head in the clouds gentlemen. I’m not about to get played and I don’t have an epic expectations list. I have 1 ex-husband and 1 current boyfriend. No other exes, but I have dated plenty. I have no problem seeing people for who they are.

    I am here to learn how to be a better partner and that’s it. It’s just irritating to be lumped in and at this point, used as the example for expectant women.

  3. 83

    I consider myself a manly man. I fix anything and do everything myself. From lawncare and gardening to home construction, from fixing cars to making a cat tree, there isn’t much I’d hire out. Here’s the rub though, I don’t want a dainty wimpy chick, I want a damn real woman. If you can’t stand being out of the A/C for 15 minutes, or getting dirt under your nails, then I don’t want you, you would be better matched with one of those “metrosexuals” as you call them. Don’t get me wrong, I clean up well, but if a woman whines that I’m always working on the car or doing other projects, she can hit the road.

    Want a real man? Be a real woman.

  4. 84

    There has to be some regional, class, and perhaps political differences going on here. I don’t run into the level of emphasis on men paying and chivalry amongst the lower middle class, liberal/ progressive Midwestern women I know and go on dates with. Not to say that it never comes up, but certainly not to the level I see online – especially with New Yorkers and some big city Southerners.

  5. 85

    Nathan, thank goodness there are men out there like you who realize the fallacy in trying to be with a girl when there’s a major amount of chasing involved. It’s one of my biggest frustrations with men – I’m pretty independent minded and have a full life, and don’t chase men down or anything, but at the same time I don’t like the idea of having to be some “challenge” for a man to appreciate me. I’m also pretty mixed about this whole “let the guy do everything” attitude. I really do like and need that in the first couple weeks/month   … after that, I know that there is something wrong if I don’t feel comfortable calling the guy once in awhile and falling into a more natural back and forth.

    I’ve also come to understand that it’s perfectly fine for a woman to initiate contact with a guy she’s seeing but isn’t yet her boyfriend – as long as a.) there is no below the belt fooling around/sex, and b.) as long as it’s clear that she has a fun, active, full life and isn’t desperate. I think I’m also done with guys trying to woo me over bar and dinner dates – it’s just so stilted. I’ve started hanging out with a guy who so far has invited me to go rock climbing, kayaking, and to the shooting range, and I can tell you it’s a huge relief to be with someone who doesn’t date the stereotypical way and shares my interests. He didn’t call me for a few days, so I just called him up, he was happy to hear from me, we talked for awhile, and when I mentioned this random weird work thing I had to do at a downtown club at 1.30 in the morning, he asked if he could go with me and we could make a fun night out of it. This kind of dynamic feels a lot more likely to lead to something real than the traditional guy-makes-all-the-moves-and-wines-and-dines-girl-over-dinner-to-try-to-get-in-her- pants bullshit.

  6. 86

    Maybe my idea of chivalry is off?

    I don’t consider paying a bill chivalrous…I consider it very generous. I’m happy enough to pay for my own damn self. I prefer a home cooked meal anyways. Eating out is too expensive. Blowing money is not on my “to do” list. I’m more of an adventurous experience kind of girl. Not a wine me and dine me type.   I want to know if a man is my kind of person, not if he’s willing to pay for my company.

  7. 87

    @ Heather
    “@ ThatsWhyYoureSingle,
    Spot on.   I’m noticing that too.   Alot more bitchy, nasty, bitter men are coming online, calling names, etc.”
    I agree with your assessment that they are bitter.
    But, why do you suppose that is?  
    @ LC
    “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.”
    Would there?
    Any woman who has early/easy sex with an attractive prospect, can’t genuinely claim to be hindered by rational foresight.
    @ Nathan
    “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.”

    I have observed that this merely tends to be a pretext explanation, for rejecting men for whom they feel no sexual chemistry.
    – @ John
    “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.”
    High intensity cardio has given me a new appreciation for rigor – an hour of max intensity stairclimbing(apparently impossible for the  majority of male gym-rats, who appear to be ecto-mesomorphs whose physiques resemble competitive swimmers, only  with chicken legs), 5 days a week impresses me more than any feat in the weight-room.

    My 400 lb bench press, and 500 lb shrugs seem trivial by comparison.
    @ Helene
    “For sexual attraction to develop, (a necessary prerequisite to bonding, relationships and marriage)”
    Mutual sexual attraction, traditionally, has not been a requirement for long-terms relationships.  
    Rather, sexual chemistry was(and in many cultures still is) a frequent trade-off that women were expected to make, in  securing a long term mate – the reason being, that women are so selective in terms of sexual chemistry, as to render an  insoluble scarcity of males to satisfy this requirement under assumptions of a monogamous mating system.
    Female sexual liberation(where they are no longer economically dependent on their mates), has engendered in  effected female populations a kind of romantic ideal, that, for many, will be impossible to realize.
    And it is these kinds of unrealistic expectations that form the basis for much of the prevailing conflict between  the sexes in the Western world.
    ” It occurs to me that in a strange way this may be why we have become overly obsessed with physical appearances in recent  years- the man with great abs, the woman with huge barbie boobs — the ambiguity over societal roles has led us to seek  SOMETHING to classify each other as “manly” or “womanly”.
    The difference, of course, is that boobs are a secondary sexual characteristic(of the female sex), while six pack abs are not a uniquely male trait(have you been watching the olympics – plenty of females sporting six pack abs there).
    In fact, rather than as a reliable indication of fitness, the ability to display six-pack abs signifies one quality alone – a  tendency towards lean body mass(which can be a distinct disadvantage in many evolutionary contexts, where energy requirements  are high, but supply is low).
    @ Rachael
    “My original comment was only to say no woman would DISLIKE chivalry. That’s pretty clear, and still true. I never once said  it was required or expected. Just that no sane woman would not like it. *knock knock* are you there guys?”
    I think it is obvious that women appreciate chivalrous behavior.
    What is not so obvious, is how they encourage that behavior – if they can be seen to be privileging unchilvalrous players,  above chivalrous nice guys, then they are communicating a very clear message that ‘chivalry’ is not a strong  determinant in their mating/relationship choices.
    It occurs that the kinds of men women say they want, and the kinds of men they choose, are frequently different quantities(these differences have seen the ascendance of the game culture, which observes that chivalry has been devalued, not  by men, but by women ).
    In this sense, women are selecting for ‘unchivalrous’ behavior.
    Am I personally chivalrous?
    But, I am also selective in reserving that chivalry for women are are not representative of a female culture that devalues  it.

  8. 88

    Nathan, the only two times in my life that a man made me pay for my half of a first date they later turned out to be really mean with money. If they were struggling financially this would have perhaps been understandable but one earned three times   my salary and the other was the son of a millionaire so I agree with Helen. It is a big alarm bell.

  9. 89

    Nathan, I am also wondering if some women are rejecting you for second dates in your region because you don’t pay. If that is the case, she is unlikely to tell you or create a scene. She is likely just to decide she doesn’t want to see you again.

  10. 90
    David T

    @ Mia81
      Men also get to “choose,” they get to win someone over,
    Men get to set their hearts on someone and then be rejected (and then someone else, and then someone else, etc.) This is no picnic.
    they get to have sex with no consequences,
    Women can too…it is called the diaphram or the birth control pill.

    [Men] can build a great life and not worry about settling down, ever,
    Why can’t a woman do this? If a man does not want to have children, he does not have to. If a woman does not want to have children, she does not have to.
    and they’re less emotionally needy

    I see the word “needy” used so much in so many different ways that its meaning here is not clear. Do you mean men don’t become lonely or frustrated when a woman they are interested in does not reciprocate?   They do.   Just some don’t let it wreck their lives.   I think there are many women who do the same.

  11. 91

    Yeh that’s what I do Fiona; its just now and again I meet someone there I’d like to see again — that’s when I have to go through the whole dating rigmarole (don’t worry I don’t date innocent women I meet in libraries).  

    In general I find it amusing the way women pick and choose what their definition of equality is, and define “manly” as being chivalrous or some other behaviour reminiscent of men from a previous era. Hope (#83) earns a lot less than her boyfriend so he pays for most of their dates, whereas Helene (#66) earns a lot more than her new man but he still pays for most of their dates, just so he feels manly? Come on ladies, this has nothing to do with being manly or not.

    Most of the women I meet are actually more than happy to pay their fair share, so I’m surprised with some of the comments here. Nathan’s right; it must be a regional thing.  

    Yes Mia, being a man is great (although not so much when we’re younger).

  12. 92

    I certainly have my head screwed on and I wouldn’t fall for the wrong man because I’m impressed by chivalry. All I expect is for the guy to pay on the first date and to hold doors open for me and to carry heavy things I cannot manage on my own. I am definitely very real about this   – holding my seat out and walking alongside the kerb is extra and unexpected.  

    I’m British and I’ve noticed that most British men do not practice chivalry, at least not in the way Americans do. The American men I know are much more into chivalry. I read Evan’s tips and I wonder how likely it is that they’ll apply across the pond.   

    I would like the guy to be respectful. Most men who’ve bought me dinner and drinks have done it in a vain effort to get into my knickers. But I can’t be bought. On the other hand, one of my friends is into chivalry and he is nothing less than very respectful around women. He’s actually one of the most respectful men I have met, and more respectful than the guys I know who claim that they don’t do chivalry because they respect women. Some men dislike chivalry because they hate the idea of making an effort to woo a woman and think that equality of the sexes entitles them to sit back and wait for women to ask them out. That says more about their insecurities than it does about women. Unfortunately those men are everywhere.

  13. 93

    @ Tom # 77

    “I can safely assume that when I date a woman there’s a 90% chance it could go further if I wanted — for women the chances are surely lower.”

    I’m pretty sure I’ve rejected just as many guys as have rejected me. I think it’s been said on this blog that men and women reject each other in more or less equal proportion.

  14. 94

    Seems to me the issue of paying for dates works itself out early on. If someone invites you to join them at the venue of their choice – you either accept or decline.   If they make it clear when the bill is presented they expect you to pay your own way –   you know right then what they are about. If you are comfortable with that arrangement, you continue to accept their invitations. If you are NOT comfortable with that arrangement, you decline any subsequent invitations from them.

    Not sure why we get so riled up about this on the internet, when in practice we all know what we are and are not comfortable with and  proceed accordingly.

  15. 95

    Nathan and Mia: You’ve both made interesting points here, so let me respond to each.

    Nathan: My concern is that you’re beginning to take this personally, although our comments (at least mine) certainly aren’t meant personally, because we don’t know you. My comments are based on observation of the people I know. It isn’t a regional thing as you posit. I am from the same part of the US as you, although  I’ve lived in large  west-cost and east-coast metropolises.  

    What I have found, consistently, is that a guy who will not pay even when he asks a woman out is not a keeper. He can claim all he wants that it’s because he believes in equal rights for women, but seriously? Give me a break. When he decides not to pay for the woman, it is NOT  to benefit the woman by “equal rights.” It’s to benefit himself –  to save himself a few bucks.

    Evan has advised men to pay for first dates  here, giving the reason that it’s more effective to secure good relationships. He doesn’t go further than that; his advice is practical rather than philosophical.   If I could try to explain  WHY a non-paying man is not a good bet for woman (and not a good bet for friendships or leadership either), it’s because of selfishness.  Whether you’re skimping on paying on a date or in a group setting, it gives the clear signal: “I don’t care about you. I’m not going to put myself out for you. I’m more interested in myself. My rights. My resources. Me.”  

    Why isn’t a woman attracted to that?   Because a long-lasting relationship requires A LOT of putting oneself out for the other person and for family members.   Constantly, ungrudgingly, year after year.   If a  guy can’t be arsed to do it on a first date, he’s just not a great candidate for this sort of self-giving that is required of both parties in an LTR. He is also not a great candidate for friendship or leadership, for these same reasons.

    Mia: I, too, wish it could be the sort of world where the women who enjoy pursuing can be free to pursue in the way men do. I think you can, but that  it will be more difficult; because there may not be that many  guys who are willing to be pursued, and because society has given multiple messages about how the men should pursue and the women should not. Let’s face it: pursuing IS fun. Not just to win over a guy, but to get anything you want. But always keep in the back of your mind that the best way to get what you want is to be effective, not pursuing in the way you necessarily want to.

  16. 96

    @ Helen #99

    Not very comfortable being the “trouble-maker” here, but… Evan actually has written, “If she doesn’t INSIST on paying on the forth date – DUMP HER”.

  17. 97

    Helen, this insistence on men paying for the first date is going to fade, at least to some extent. It’s already dying amongst certain segments. Given education trends, changing work patterns, gender role shifts and the rest, the idea that a man proves himself through money spent isn’t going to hold water. Might be practical for many folks now, but I don’t believe that will be the case in the future.
    Secondly, men are expected to ask women out, and do so probably 90% of the time. The whole who asks, pays thing is a trope women use to justify not sharing the bill.  
    Thirdly, I notice that when men push back on some subjects, especially money, they get accused of all sorts of things. including being cheap, uncaring, ungiving, and unromantic. All these judgments based on a single date. Women routinely complain about being judged harshly, and dealing with all kinds of nonsense from some men on and after first dates. But some of you seem to dish it out just as much, if not more. You might not do it to our faces, but the digital world is filled with scathing comments and articles by women about how terrible, weak, whiny, cheap, and unromantic men are these days. Having spent a bit of time trolling MRA and PUA sites, the men that come here are far and away more reasonable and respectful. I’m all for a good debate, and sometimes I am flat out wrong. If you actually read through my comments, it’s fairly often the case that something in a rebuttal makes sense to me, and I shift accordingly. But when something as simple as paying or not paying becomes grounds for all sorts of speculations about a man’s character, I call bullshit. I like the way Selena 98 puts it: do whatever arrangement is most comfortable to you. No unfounded judgments. No need to agree to continue something you don’t want to do.
    Fiona, I honestly don’t go on many first date dinners these days. Some of it is simple economics, but more of it is actually the fact that I think other ways are more conducive to getting to know someone better. Coffee dates. Going for walks. Visiting museums. Outdoor festivals. There are so many no cost or low cost ways to meet up, many of which allow more freedom in terms of what you are doing. I get plenty of second dates. I have had my share of short term and long term relationships. In fact, I spent most of my 20s trying to fulfill that “traditional” male role. And ended up single and chasing for over half that decade. Whereas, in late 20s and 30s, I’ve done a more mixed approach and have had much more success. That’s why I offer the ideas that I do because I don’t believe there is one way – or even a best way – to approach dating these days.
    People like to think they’ve got the truth pinned down, but that’s just a fantasy. All we have are guideposts and markers that help us weed out certain people, but really aren’t the things that determine who’s a best match. Evan wasn’t 100% sure about his wife when he decided to take the plunge. I think that’s the case for most of us, in dating and in deciding to stay with someone, whether we like it or not.

  18. 98

    My background is completely Midwestern (born in one Midwestern state, now live in another). I grew up in a large urban blue collar city and now live in a smaller urban blue collar city. I’d probably be considered middle income, but not lower income. I consider myself centrist, although leaning more left than right. I was probably more liberal in my younger years, but still 95% likely to vote for the D over the R.
    I dated across the political spectrum, but found I had the most in common with center-right types rather than staunch liberals or staunch conservatives, Husband describes himself as a centrist leaning more right than left. He’s very progressive on social issues (gay rights, etc.) and more conservative on fiscal ones.
    Don’t know if any of that has to do with my opinions on chivalry, but that’s my background.
    And I will co-sign Helen’s point in #99. She expounded more on what I was trying to say. The interesting thing is, when I was dating (again, in the Midwest), every guy but one who asked me out paid for the date. Even if the date was just coffee, the effort was appreciated. The one who didn’t pay didn’t ask me out again, and I didn’t bother to contact him again. That was about six years ago, and I see him on Facebook a lot… his writing comes off as very “progressive,” liberal and open-minded, but I remember the date being a disaster (long before the check came) because all he did was complain about his life, his family, his mental health and other things. I wasn’t at all surprised that he then began to split the check down the middle when it arrived.

  19. 99

    @Helen99 –   Like you, I agree with parts of Mia81’s post; I sometimes find myself envious of men in the dating world.   However, it’s not bc I long to be the pursuer.   I just wish that I were of the gender where the fact that I have stayed out of debt, paid for my house in full and give 10% of my charity made me more desirable than if I were 20 pounds lighter.   I wish that being hilarious made me more attractive than a person who sits back and only laughs at others’ jokes.   And I wish that having fine character counted for more than having a fine tush.    
    When I look at the kind of qualities I most admire in people (of either sex) – courage! integrity! personal responsibility! intelligence! – they are the traits that win men points in the dating world and don’t help women’s success one bit.   This is why I sometimes find myself envying guys.
    However, I know that the reality is very much as Evan tells it: that men look for hot women who are receptive and make them feel good about themselves.   And, I even see it in long-term partnerships; the marriages which seem happiest decades in are the ones in which the wives keep their girlish figures and make their husbands feel needed rather than just wanted.     The woman’s character, accomplishments, mental health and even ability to speak her husband’s language fluently are secondary.   I am trying to learn to resign myself to this truth rather than simply chafe against it.

  20. 100

    @ Helen # 99

    You put it beautifully. That is exactly what I was going to say in regard to the whole chivalry debate. Chivalry, like manners, doesn’t come naturally, it’s a learned behaviour that is for the benefit and comfort of the other person. It is somewhat superficial, but that doesn’t mean it has no value. Much like the girl who smiles warmly and laughs delightedly at her date’s  jokes.

    As time goes on  and you become more comfortable with one another, much of this will fade and give way to more substantial demonstrations of caring.

    In the early stages of  dating, it’s *all* superficial.   But the whole of a relationship is about some self-sacrifice and the comfort of the other person. Chivalry does show, albeit superficially, that you’re willing and able to do this. Being too wrapped up in equality and every man for himself does, I fear, miss the point a bit.

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