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. 121


    lol I’ll jump on that love train! Dinner and drinks??

    But i can pay for me because I whole-heartedly want to go 😉



  2. 122

    Nicole 118 – I don’t disagree with any of your examples. I just don’t think most of it needs to be gendered. Yes, the majority of the time, it’s going to be men lifting heavy things and not the other way around. However, with a lot of this stuff, it’s really things anyone can do. So again, why can’t we just be kind and helpful to each other, and drop the men should do X, women should do Y commentary?
    As for the who pays for the first date bit, Evan advices men to do it because (a) it’s practical and (b) it avoids all this back and forth. I think it’s hilarious that Helen called it an “ideology” to be a man against paying for the first date. For women, the common ideology is “men should pay for the first date.” Many of us are blinded by views. This discussion is a classic example of that. In my own dating life, when dinner or drinks are involved early on, I pay probably 60-70% of the time. The rest of the time, the check is split. You all can take that how you want, but I don’t put much stock in money spent on dates. There are more important things about a person to look for early on in my opinion. I already said enough about all that, so I won’t repeat it here.
    Hope 114 “Would you really feel right to let a woman ask YOU to a romantic dinner, pick up the bill, and drive you home?   And call you a few days later to invite you to a movie followed by a romantic drink?”
    I have no problem with the situation in the first question. None at all. I know that a lot of men do. And frankly, I think they’d do well to loosen up a bit about all of this. As for the second part, if a woman took me out and paid for dinner, then I’d be the initiator for the next round. That’s how I approach dating. In the rest of my life, I spend much of my day leading. I have a leadership role in multiple organizations, and am a consultant for another. I have enough people looking at me for answers, direction, and the rest. When it comes to a relationship, I want to share the power. And by that, I don’t mean be the guy who talks a big game about equality, and then sits in front of the TV with his good friend Mr. 12 ounce, while his partner does all the cooking and cleaning. Obviously, it’s not always easy to translate this desire to those early dates, where you don’t know each other. I’m guessing a lot of the reason people cling to these old stories about who does what on first and second dates is to stave off confusion. Which I can understand, even when I’m in disagreement.

  3. 123

    @ Mia
    “Paragon, what do you mean, stay in your ltr league? It can be difficult for a woman to figure out her league”
    That’s why you have to experiment, make observations, and make adjustments for error when observing patterns of failure.
    And yes, it is difficult.
    “as leagues are not determined solely by looks.”
    They aren’t?
    That’s the conventional meaning of the term.
    “Pretty young women get screwed over all the time, just as much or more so than dumpy, older ones.”  
    Pretty young women can still be pursuing men outside their league.
    “Women should simply go with men they click with personality wise who are relationship oriented. For many years I went for  men less attractive than me because it gave me more security, but I have gotten screwed over or not gotten a second date with  many of those average joes.”
    Being pumped and dumped, and not getting a second date are two different things.
    But again, there are patterns in your relationship history, that only you are likely to in a position to observe.
    “I am friends with a lot of average dudes and hear them talk about women and, news flash, those types can be just as jerkish  as more alpha types.”
    Men talk shit all the time.  
    “I have had far better luck dating men of the same attractiveness, about an 8. I recently started dating such a man, and he  is tall, muscular, and handsome, but pretty much a nerd, like me.”
    Just out of curiosity, are you tall(ie. ‘leggy’), lean, and athletic(like many of those hot female Olympians I’ve been  watching)?
    I’ll bet you are not(which goes back to my point about disassortative mating).
    “We always have a million things to talk about. At first I almost wrote him off because I was intimidated by attractive men  and assumed the worst, but I gave him a chance. He is a hell of a lot nicer to me than that short, bald guy I was hung up on  all last year, or the gangly, nerdy-looking hipster I got screwed over by this spring.”
    Hey, that sounds great!
    Good luck to both of you.

  4. 124


    You’re not accounting for various tastes.

    Some men like big boobs, some like asses, chubby, skinny.

    I don’t know if it’s like this everywhere but there are a lot of african men where i’m from (no i’m not ignorant I DO mean men who moved from africa) who LOVE heavy set blonde girls. These guys are smokin hot.

    They do only go for the beautiful ones who dress nice, smell good, wear make-up, jewelry etc.

    Meh. I guess it’s cultural. I’m questioning my rebuttal.

  5. 125

    I have to say I agree with Fiona # 109.

    Where I live, it’s convention. Everyone knows and understands the convention. A man and a woman trying to split the bill on a first date is socially awkward, to say the least. To be honest, on the one occasion that it has happened to me, I felt as bad for him as I did for myself because it was so awkward, I just didn’t really leave the date with a good feeling at all. And I can honestly say I’m a non-materialistic woman.

    Oh and Helen & Rachael, please invite me too! I’ll even fly up! 😀

  6. 126

    Paragon, I’m a tall, young, athletic size 2, but I do think that’s besides the point.

  7. 127

    @ helen32 #112:

    Where can a guy meet one of these very attractive, educated, cultured  women who know how to fix their own cars?

    @ Laya #113:

    IMO the reason the US Olympic women are outpacing the men is Title IX.   The rest of the world just doesn’t have that driver for womens sports.

    @ Nicole #119:

    You sure do get that privilege.    The not-quite-as-hot girl who’s fun to be with gets a lot more  2nd dates  than  the hot girl who isn’t fun to be with, just like the slightly short or balding guy who’s chivalrous gets more 2nd dates than the tall a-hole.

  8. 128

    @ Rachael
    You’re not accounting for various tastes.
    Some men like big boobs, some like asses, chubby, skinny.
    I don’t know if it’s like this everywhere but there are a lot of african men where i’m from (no i’m not ignorant I DO mean  men who moved from africa) who LOVE heavy set blonde girls. These guys are smokin hot.”
    Yes, but are we talking LTRs or baby-mommas?  
    @ Mia
    “Paragon, I’m a tall, young, athletic size 2, but I do think that’s besides the point.”
    On the contrary, Mia.
    Research surrounding the ‘self-seeking like theory’ of assortative mating, observes a correlation between long-term mates and  assortative mating.

    Clearly, this is an instructive observation for any woman looking to maximize her liklihood of finding a long-term mate.
    So, what you have related is, in fact, a favorable indication for long-term mating.
    I am hoping it works out for you.

  9. 129

    @ Paragon, sorry for taking soo long to get back to you but I hafta write on my computer to avoid some of those nasty but sometimes amusing typos. FYI, I am 5’7″, 120 lbs (thats “fat” winter weight, btw) with long black hair, dark skin, and exotic looking light eyes. I have three college degrees, am fit (170 ultramarathons thus far), am serious about social justice and the environment (and walk the talk).  I clean up well, look like a girl, but also can build my own buildings and split my own wood. So, pray tell, what IS my ltr league?! I would think that it’s someone also fit, educated, and cares about our planet and others. Like  works best with  like which is basically what that article stated. Lowering your expectations (and yep, I have tried to “settle”) can be a disaster. you are with a man you do not want; not fair to either party. Tis better to know what works for you and what does not, if  what works is  unattainable in your area, either leave or stop dating till you are in a position to leave. Right now, I am doing the latter. Sad but necessary. I agree with  many of the other posters, treating people well is not a function of looks, attractive men can and do treat women well and I had encounters with unattractive and average  men who were veritable founts of negativity and invective. Real manly men treat women well.

  10. 130

    Let’s break this down.
    “FYI, I am 5’7”³, 120 lbs (thats “fat” winter weight, btw) with long black hair, dark skin, and exotic looking light eyes.”
    Cool. If you can catch his eye, you can catch his heart.
    “I have three college degrees.”
    While you might be impressed with a man’s three degrees, he cares not one whit about yours. In fact, you might come across as an unpleasant know-it-all.
    “[I] am fit (170 ultramarathons thus far)”
    Kind of a bonus but you seem rather obsessed by it. 170?! How can a man compete with that? How is he your priority when you’re out training and doing yet another ultramarathon?
    “[I]am serious about social justice and the environment (and walk the talk).”
    Completely and utterly irrelevant to him.
    “I clean up well, look like a girl.”
    The feminine attracts the masculine and men are visual. You get brownie points.
    “…but also can build my own buildings and split my own wood.”
    A bonus, but not required.
    “Real manly men treat women well.”
    Only if the women are feminine and deserve it. Welcome to Dating 2.0

  11. 131

    @ Sheyna # 49

    I ADORE your description of a manly man. Someone who loves women for all that they are (occasional irrational emotional moment and all) and is gentle to them.

    To me, it takes a real man (or woman) to look at the opposite sex and respond with tenderness rather than criticism.

  12. 132

    “If you’re a typically masculine woman, you’ll have a better fit with a typically feminine man”

    LOL!  I can imagine a makeup wearing,  wispy  little metrosexual guy in a room with some bodybuilder Amazonian woman HAHAHHA~!

  13. 133

    I was thinking of this earlier after reading about this man who had a problem with a female stalker. Everyone treated it as a joke whereas in a situation reversed, it would have been the opposite. And the same happens with men who have abusive partners – always told to man up. Ah that’s a bit serious but my point is that people have the wrong ideas about what makes a man, and that causes men a lot of harm.

  14. 134
    Liz Tailor

    Great post!!! Love it.  

  15. 135

    I think being manly and womanly are very similar.   its knowing your domain and responsibilities and sticking with it, and not blaming others (your spouse) when its not working well.

    men can be super manly stay at home dads.   women can be womanly breadwinners.   In both cases if we acknowledge the other gender and give credit where credit is due, not second guessing one another, they will feel (and act) more “whateverly.”   I think the problem has arisen because people are taking on domains that aren’t traditionally theirs, so then they get second guessed and socially judged a lot, which leads to self doubt and anti social behavior.

    Women enter the work place and get second guessed instead of being permitted to make their own mistakes and find a path, which leads in turn to being (in some cases) overly agggressive, defensive, pushy, things people define as a woman “acting like a man” but could actually be a woman just responding to how people respond to her in her unusual role (and then women taking that on preemptively).

    Men take on household tasks or parenting and then women second guess them, or tell them how they “should” do it, and then they respond by being defensive or irritable, giving up their power in that domain, and then the lack of power feeling is translated as feeling “not manly.”

    Both men and women have power in their traditional domains, and being either manly or womanly is associated with behaving with integrity and responsibility in either domain–a woman a good home maker, a man a good breadwinner (traditionally) and so we associate their power with those domains.   Its not that men must be strong and women must be helpless.   Either gender usually has to help the other one out if one moves out of his or her domain of comfort.

    If we could let people establish lives in different domains and bring their natural power with them, and still accept that they will make mistakes (because they are people, not because of their gender), and not second guess them, or make them question themselves, I think both men and women could continue to feel manly or womanly whatever they are doing, assuming they continue to act with responsibility and integrity.

    Its how we view/judge/treat them that causes the problems–the woman who is a plumber is viewed as non womanly, despite approaching it with the same dedication and careful thought she might put into being a great mother, so she feels non womanly, and takes that on.   The man who is her husband, despite being responsible and a great and organized homemaker (much as he would be as a breadwinner), feels viewed as less manly, so he feels less manly.   He begins to wonder what he is, and what he needs to do to “feel manly,” when really its what we as society need to do to allow people to feel good, positive and confident about what they are doing.

  16. 136

    Also, Don Draper was not manly.   matthew weiner and jon hamm have both talked about what a “weak” and cowardly character DD was in many ways, despite having a facade of handsome control.   Manly dudes don’t serially cheat on their wives (imho) and take regular refuge in alcohol abuse.   The idea that we view a guy like don as manly is part of the problem.    We shouldn’t confuse manly with charismatic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *