To Be a Man

This morning I had a really interesting conversation. Most of it centered around a good friend venting about relationship issues, but then I starting to think about how most of the problems centered around not having the notion of what it means to be a man. Then things got a lot more complicated in my head. What does it really mean to be a man… it could mean so many different things to so many different people.

My definition is pretty straight forward. A man is a provider and protector. His word is bond and he does not engage in childish behavior. A man has his priorities in check and plans ahead. A man has an open mind, but also clearly defined set of morals and values his integrity as well as that of those around him.

One of the situations that seems to be the most confused by people is that to feel like a man, testosterone has to be involved. Out-drinking someone, punching the lights out of someone, having a bigger car, being the ladies man are all things that simple minded people see as a mark of a real man. That is not to say that a real man cannot be or do any number of those things, but he is not defined by them or need to have them reaffirmed to solidify his manhood.

Nobody is perfect though, and we all make mistakes when it comes to wanting to feel macho by answering to nobody and just getting crazy. I know when I go to Michigan and hang out with some of my friends out there debauchery and childish behavior ensues. However, I don’t need to get drunk every single week and be out all night to feel like I am a real man.

So my question is pretty simple, and it goes out to both sexes. What is your definition of a real man if you are a woman. And dudes, what things make you feel like a real man? Do you need some kind of reaffirmation? Do you need a man-cave?

6 comments on “To Be a Man

  1. As with any question like this, there obviously isn’t a correct or incorrect answer. It’s all about the perception everyone has of a “real man”. Instead of defining what a real man is themselves, I think men tend to let women dictate the kind of man they should be. This is ok in certain aspects, such as: a real man should be a good husband, a good father, and a good role model. Those are givens, and should be used to define a real man 100% of the time. But on more judgemental things like how to act, how to look, how to dress (example: women who like cowboys might define a real man as a guy in a cowboy hat, wrangler jeans, rugged look, etc.), there isn’t a set of standards for what a real man should be. To me, the definition of a real man is someone who knows who they are, and they have embraced that 100%. A real man is responsible, knows right from wrong, and has integrity. I also agree with you that a real man is a protector, and should provide for his family. Actions, mistakes, and everything else that comes along with hanging out with your best guy friends, shouldn’t define who you are as a man. As long as these actions don’t consume your life and start interfering with the responsibilities you have (being a great father, husband, role model, etc.). Another thing that is associated with being a man is sports. For me personally, I don’t watch sports to be manly, I watch them because I love sports, plain and simple. Those are the kinds of things that are judgemental, and at the end of the road, don’t matter. The way you treat others and the impact you have on those closest to you is what will be remembered.

  2. You said “My definition is pretty straight forward. A man is a provider and protector. His word is bond and he does not engage in childish behavior. A man has his priorities in check and plans ahead. A man has an open mind, but also clearly defined set of morals and values his integrity as well as that of those around him.”

    Some of this I agree with, some I don’t. For instance being a provider and protector. This implies that to be a man you must have someone to protect and provide for. I disagree. I think a man can be a real man without a wife or family.

    I also take issue with the childish behavior clause. I’m 55 years old and I engage in very childish behavior all the time! In fact, I have a theory that in many, many ways, no man ever grows older than about 14. When you laugh at a fart joke or become hypnotized a pair of breasts, that’s your inner 14 year old. Nothing wrong with childish behavior as long as you recognize the time and place for it and have some degree of self control.

    And that whole planning ahead part…have we not met? Do you not even know me? I live completely in The Now. I don’t make plans. I don’t even know how his comment will end. I can’t tell you what I will be doing an hour from now, let alone next month or next year. Don’t get me started on making plans.

    Oh and “clearly defined set of morals”? Not so sure about that. If you asked me to write down my clearly defined moral code it would probably just be “don’t be a dick”. Other than that, morality to me is kind of like art. I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.

    Now I know how this comment will end.

  3. Another great post. I agree on some level with the simple definition of a man as a protector and provider. A man to me is someone who tries to do right by his family and friends everyday. The key word is tries. He may not succeed in this endeavor,but at least the man tries.

  4. XO,

    That part that you commented on was for me, what it means to me.

    A man can protect and provide for himself. There was no implying of a family there.

    I think most man do revert to an earlier age, for me is 16… some people revert to toddlers. I guess what I meant by childish behavior is stuff like tantrums in public or high school type of drama. I engage in as much childish behavior as you probably do, lol

    Maybe the only thing that we disagree on is the planning part. I think that as a man, one must have vision, and even the notion of not wanting to have a plan ever and just go with the flow could be considered a conscious decision to not have a plan. More than a plan I would maybe say conviction then.

    I think this is an interesting topic and I am sure there will be a lot more to come even from my own definition. This was just my first stab at it.

  5. I think what it means to be a man can only be defined by men. Women do not know what it means to be a man and they have no business telling us what it means to be a man any more than we have any business what it means to tell them how to be a woman. I mean, who needs to be told to be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen?

    All kidding aside, I think we’ve lost focus on what it means to be a man because of the feminist movement. I am a firm believer in gender roles. I think there are roles that men should be responsible for and roles that women should be responsible for. As soon as women broke those roles, we’ve had an identity crisis and society has suffered. Just look at the divorce rate since the 60s.

    All of a sudden, women wanted to be men. They wanted to do the roles of men. They wanted to behave like men and be treated the same way men treat each other. In a sense, they gave up their identity to take ours. But they did not do this without a price. Women automatically expected us to take part in the roles they left behind because those roles were no longer being performed by women. Men did not ask for these roles, but instead we were forced into them by a new society. Now as men we’re told how to think, how to act, how to behave, to explore our feminine side, all while being yelled at because we folded the towels wrong. It’s no longer the norm for a woman to be lady-like, but as a man we’re almost expected to be. As a result we don’t even know what it means to be a man anymore.

    However, women are still attracted to a man who is a man’s man. And when she gets ahold of us, she immediately starts modifying our rugged behavior to match her more feminine side. And the end result is a weaker man and ultimately a weaker relationship. Men feel useless because they no longer have to be strong protectors or providers. We are six foot tall Ken dolls that are dressed up in sweaters for dinner parties where all the men are on their best behavior so not to embarrass their women. Perhaps that’s an extreme position, but you get my point. Eventually, the relationship breaks down because the things that we are attracted to that make us individuals in our roles are no longer there. Thus half of all marriage ends in divorce and/or infidelity on both sides increase.

    For us to know what it means to be a man, I think we first need to remind women what it means to be a woman. Because men and women cannot play both roles. There’s nothing sexist about it.

  6. Travis – You’re joking, right?

    “I am a firm believer in gender roles. I think there are roles that men should be responsible for and roles that women should be responsible for. As soon as women broke those roles, we’ve had an identity crisis and society has suffered.”

    Who defines those roles Travis? I’m guessing you think it’s God because your concept of society suffering because women broke those rules sounds an awful lot like blaming Eve eating the apple for mankind’s fall from Grace.

    And yes, what you said was very sexist and, I’ll add, demeaning to both men and women.

    Two adult human beings should be able to negotiate their own roles in a relationship. If you want the kind of relationship you describe and can find a woman willing to go along with it, good for you.

    But what’s good for you isn’t good for everyone else or society at large.

    What’s good for society at large is everyone being free to do as they please without being stereotyped, judged, confined to someone elses views or value systems.

    There are no predefined gender roles that we are preordained to follow. Chaos will not ensue from people leading the lives they wish to live.

    Personally, I feel like a relationship is an equal partnership. 50/50. Financially, emotionally, housework, child raising, everything. There is no gender division. We both pitch in and live life together.

    I have some friends that defy your gender role theory.

    A man and a woman in a commited relationship. They are both bi-sexual. They have a Dom/Sub relationship. She is the Dom, he is the Sub. They sometimes involve other people in their relationship.

    They are one of the most stable, happy, well adjusted and perfectly matched people I know. They have a relationship that works for them and meets all of their needs. They’ll still be together long after I’m worm food.

    Do I consider him to be a “real man”? Absolutely! Because he is living his life the way he see’s fit, he is a loving and caring partner, he is following his own “moral code” and he refuses to let other people define him.

    That’s some John Wayne shit right there.

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