A lot of the concept of this online community is that we have lost something valuable in our society, and we have to go back to retrieve it. I feel this too; that's part of what draws me in here.
I was listening to the "Rules for my Unborn Son" podcast this morning. Brett and Walker were talking about the movement that we are really part of the backlash against-- breaking down of societal formalities, disappearance of gender roles, etc.
One phrase caught my attention: Walker said that in all that women's liberation and stuff, much of it good, that "they threw out the baby with the bathwater." This site is all about rescuing that baby.
But I wanted to ask you guys: as we throw out the bathwater of the last half century of men forgetting what it is to be a man, what are some things we need to be careful to retain.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about "the new manly," like how building your own computer is just as cool as other household handy-man-ly jobs, even though it wasn't done when our grandpas were young. But I'm also interested in the deeper issue: has manliness made any progress in the last generation? In any way? One huge thing is that it was considered questionably "un-manly" to talk about manliness back in the day. It was sissy to talk about one's feelings. And yet, here we are.
I think it is important to consider that if men were being completely perfect examples of men then there wouldn't have been this sociatal bent towards un-manliness we have been experiencing over the last 40-50 years. I realize that is a bold statement but let be try to back that up:
-If men had been less oppressive of their wives, they wouldn't have had the femminist movement. A man SHOULD be the king in his castle but the wife should be the queen, not the handmaiden. It is important for a man to cater to his wife's needs while still being the "man".
-Feelings have a time and a place. When men didn't show any feelings at any time, societies response was "men" who were controlled by feelings.
-There is a philisophical explanation for this, called the correcting rod "or something like that". What it says if when a rmetal rod is bent, you must bend it beyond the desired amount of straightness in order to make it straight. That is to say, you much over-correct. This related to virtues. If one wanted to be patient but was very impatient, he must become extremely patient to a fault, then he will fall into the pattern of virtue.
I totally agree with your comment "If men had been less oppressive of their wives, they wouldn't have had the femminist movement."
While we can all bemoan the decline of manliness over the past few decades, thankfully, many negative aspects of the old "male-centered" society have been severely weakened. The sexual, racial, and religious prejudices of our ancestors have mostly faded away.
We have an image of the "classic man" we aspire to be, but in reality, he was probably much more fallible than we think. There are exceptions, of course-- the best "classic men" really did stand up in the face of injustice and prejudice and led others toward righteousness, public opinion be damned. But in 1940's America, were all men like that? Not by a long shot.
But still, society demanded much more responsibility, chivalry, and sacrifice from its males. That, unfortunately, has faded too.
If we do take it upon ourselves to be a Man, there's no longer any pressure to subscribe to the BS of yesteryear. We can be that much closer to our best role models.
But then why doesn't everyone do this? Why is it so hard to be a Man? Because no one asks it of us anymore.
Great question. I'm with James in that we've made society more friendly towards women and that we can now be more open about our feelings. In addition, men of our grandfathers day were known for being at the very least slightly racist and homophobic. Most modern men don't hold those prejudices anymore either. Parenting has changed. Corporal punishment isnt what it used to be. That can be viewed either way depending on your views.
It seems that we had a wild pendulum swinging for a while. Extreme feminism emasculated men, men wanted to please women by being like them and instead became more confused, then tried to go back again through extreme measures of "manliness" (like various "sporting" ways of proving themselves). So we get men that mix, say, American football and then "expressing their emotions" like girls.
Now the pendulum is settling down. I believe some of the effort of regaining (what, classic? traditional?) manliness involves nostalgia. Shaving like the old days (even though our fathers abandoned the safety razor for what they considered to be more efficient and less painful), old after shaves and colognes, using antiques or items that are traditionally made — you get the idea.
Fortunately, there are men that want to get back true manliness through character and not just looking and acting like men from a generation or three back. I suspect that one reason sites like AoM attract men that are spiritual or religiously minded is that manliness in character is a spiritual quest in part.
Obviously I would agree that character is at the center of manliness but what we wear, use, and shave with can play an underrated part in feeling like a man. People dismiss those things as merely "cultural," but I would argue that culture has been very devalued. A part of manliness is cultural and the reason that men of previous generations felt like men was both because of their character traits but also because they had a distinctive set of clothing, rituals, products, and other cultural artifacts that gave them enjoyment, confidence, and the feeling of manliness.
-being able to express our feelings without being called a sissy
-being able to pursue more "feminine" pursuits without being called a sissy
-being a stay at home dad has become a legitimate option
-we can have relationships with women who are our intellectual equals and have interests and a mind of their own
-men are expected to have a bigger role in raising children
Good point, we can't be run by our motions we should be able to control them. Control doesn't mean destroy, though. There is something to be said of a man who has no feelings... Teddy Roosevelt and all other great men were men of passion, but they didn't let that passion control them. It isn't about being an emotional sissy, its about being a human with passion and substance.
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