What Does it Mean to Be a Man? And Why Is Masculinity “Bad”?

Let’s dispense with the inevitable criticisms up front.

I am a man whose entire life is spent advocating for smart, strong, successful women to have happy relationships.

I am about as liberal as they come.

I am furious about Donald Trump, Brett Kavanagh and the new Alabama abortion law.

I recognize that a lot of our world’s problems are caused by “old white males.”

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

And yet, I’m citing an article about masculinity by David French of the conservative publication National Review for one key reason: he’s right.

We’ve become so tribal – so eager to attack our enemies, so blind in defending our own – that common sense has gone out the window. I won’t let that happen here.

We’ve become so tribal – so eager to attack our enemies, so blind in defending our own – that common sense has gone out the window. I won’t let that happen here.

I can be a white male liberal feminist and still point out the blind spots of liberals and feminists, just as easily as I point out the blind spots of the MGTOW, anti-feminist right.

But enough about me. 🙂

Enjoy this piece by French, which is worth thinking about and discussing below:

“It is interesting that in a world that otherwise teaches boys and girls to “be yourself,” that rule often applies to everyone but the “traditional” male who has traditional male impulses and characteristics. Then, they’re a problem. Then, they’re often deemed toxic. Combine this reality with a new economy that doesn’t naturally favor physical strength and physical courage to the same extent, and it’s easy to see how men struggle.

As I’ve argued before, acculturation into healthy traditional masculinity used to be a far more natural and inevitable act. Even upper-class men had to learn to work (at least to some degree) with their hands; to earn a living, working-class men often had to be strong; and with more intact families (and male-dominated work spaces), men did not lack for role models.


That does not mean that men were perfect. There is already too much nostalgia in our society for a past that had virtues but also had terrible vices. But it does mean that it was easier for a man to have purpose, and meaningful and sustainable happiness is elusive without purpose…

We do our sons no favors when we tell them that they don’t have to answer that voice inside them that tells them to be strong, to be brave, and to lead. We do them no favors when we let them abandon the quest to become a grown man when that quest gets hard. Yes, we do them no favors when we’re not sensitive to those boys who don’t conform to traditional masculinity, but when it comes to the crisis besetting our young men, traditional masculinity isn’t the problem; it can be part of the cure.”

Like most rational debates, this isn’t a matter of either/or, it’s both/and.

For far too long, men have been violent, insensitive, sexist, and controlling – as part of both their nature and as part of societal expectations. Thankfully, that is starting to crumble as these conversations take place in the media. But the answer, as French points out, is not to destroy all things masculine but to teach men to temper their nature as fighters, conquerors and seed-spreaders and channel the best of masculinity into a better product. Women who are down on men would be well served to acknowledge this nuance instead of throwing all “old white men” under the bus as part of the problem.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.