An open letter to guys on “manliness”
Let’s face it guys, we’re not hunter-gatherers anymore, though some of us still like the sport of it. We do things like hunting and fishing, not to survive, but because it’s fun and connects us with ancestors that relied on these critical parts of life just to get by.
We look back fondly at these manly men we came from. I know I do. My dad was more man in his left toe than I am after 2 shots of Jack. I’m sure he felt this way about his dad in some ways, as it’s probably a natural part of life. We respect the struggle our forefathers had to bear so that they could give us our lives of convenience today. These were men. Real men.
Of course we’ve moved far from the more necessary gender roles of struggling times, and today’s society works to balance expectations and opportunities between men and women. In part of this, we guys sometimes feel we’re slipping away from our dads and how they defined manhood. We once romanced ideas of taming the Western frontier and fighting Indians like John Wayne (or as contemporaries would call it, “genocide”). Today, parenting has shifted from the harsh lessons of self-reliance to raising more emotionally aware young men who engage with technology more than the outdoors and hard labor.
Who killed John Wayne?
Yes, social roles have been changing for women and men, and it seems today’s dads are different from the fathers who’ve raised them. Some guys struggle with this trend, which on the basis of nostalgia makes sense.
Look, women didn’t kill John Wayne or create gentile fathers. How you act as a father is entirely a personal choice. There were loving, sensitive fathers back in the early 1900’s (when popular opinion was that affection could literally harm a child), just as there’s rough, utilitarian fathers raising children today. The roles you strike within a relationship are also personal, and can be as conservative as June and Ward Cleaver or as progressive as the hippiest, free thinking dream imaginable. The difference is, while at one time there were strong forces to divide labor along gender lines, now we have more of a choice.
The Women’s Rights movement was driven by legitimate justice, working to achieve voting privilege, access to education, and freedom to work as mothers and exercise control over reproduction. After a century of active work in the U.S., women still earn 4/5ths the pay of men in similar professions, they make up less than 20% of U.S. elected officials and only 14% of Fortune 500 executives. Even as far as women have come, they’re still limited in economic and career mobility.
By contrast, the Men’s Rights movement arose as a counter-movement, asserting Feminists have gone too far and that they desire ultimate power in a zero-sum contest. Started somewhat in earnest by former feminist Warren Farrell, it’s become a lightening rod for misogyny and male frustration in the 21st century.
One of their chief claims is that women hold too much control through sexuality. Without parsing the supply or demand side of this claim, what’s clear is that women receive the lion’s share of sexual assault and demands on personal attire. 92% of cosmetic surgery is performed on women, and studies show the biggest motivation is low self-image. Sure, some women may use looks to their advantage, but as much as some men undoubtedly shape and create pressure to fit the current model of beauty. But calling women “too pretty” is not an indictment of women alone.
Gender roles come from society (which includes you)
If you’re bitter about women because you feel jilted by some imbalance of perceived gender social roles, you have a choice. Men don’t have to bottle up emotions, tough out all pain or earn top salaries, just as women don’t require fawning, gentile attention, constant compliments or exclusion from manual labor. In truth, you’ll find no greater ally for changing gender roles than women. They know a thing or two about shitty social expectations.
If you’re dejected by failures to curry female attention, welcome to the eternal (straight) male condition, population: all sexual living organisms. Still, chances are you have at least a mother, a sister, a wife and / or a girlfriend that you love. If you do, you should understand there’s no good reason to fuss over a single chromosome (which — to be biologically accurate — comes from the male sperm). If you don’t have one of these, I highly recommend them; they dramatically improve life.
But if you don’t feel manly because you don’t resemble the masculine shadow cast by your father, then go out and fish for trout, hunt for deer, and / or fix a lawnmower. And above all else, treat women with respect. Because by old standards or new, that’s always been the manly thing to do.