Illustrating, advocating and/or contributing, if not outright exemplifying the maturation of capacity, morality and willful conviction in matters unique to, or from angles concerning the male gender, and its nature as delineated by said previous capacity. That is at least, my attempt to say so in a single sentence rather than getting entangled in multiple paragraphs of analogy, parable, and citations.
My dad hung Rudyard Kipling's poem "IF" on the wall near my bed when I was 5 years old. IT has always had a special place in my heart on this subject:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!
Not to take away ANYTHING from the previous posts here, but we have to consider the term, in order to consider the definition.
Thus, anything "Manly" has to be a quality that is generally considered particular to Men. Thus, Honesty, integrity, and many of the other things mentioned here, while all clearly and definitely GOOD qualities one should strive towards and for, are not Manly, qualities.
All that having been said, I want to qualify what I am going to say here with the thought that I approach this from a point of view of very traditional gender roles.
So, Manly is:
Being Head of Household. You take your responsibility to your family very seriously, with both hands. Your priority is the well being and happiness of your family, your authority as Head of Household exists to facilitate that. Even our Constitutional Republic has a President. Someone has to be the "go to" guy on the team, someone to make the decisions and take the responsibility for it when things go to crapola. In this capacity, the Man is also the Moral Compass for his family. He needs to "nut up", and see to it that he and his family are setting an example of what a family can be when they, as a family, have made their peace with Deity and conform to the precepts of the ultimate truth, that death is not the end and we are beholden to something larger than ourselves.
The lead singer and bass player for the goth/metal band Type O Negative recently said during an interview, when he was asked about his recent reconversion to Roman Catholicism, "I cant believe that when you die, that is it. That you just dissipate into nothingness. But at the same time, I refuse to buy the idea that Hitler and Mother Theresa met the same advent upon dying."
If you are not taking the responsibility as clearly articulated as the head of household, for the leadership of the family you agreed to build when you got married, placing them first and yourself second, and making sure that your children have the exposure necessary to be prepared for their own spiritual path in life, then you aint Manly.
Manly is, a sense of adventure. A sense of wonder at the vast world around us. A desire to get out there in it. To kill the Dragon, climb the mountain and see what kind of weird critter is living under that log. A full and healthy appreciation and respect for Mother Nature, as well as a desire to participate in the on goings of nature with her.
Manly is, conservative. (The hell did he just say?!?!? I think that jerk just said Manly is being conservative!!! ) I damned sure did.
It means self reliance. Holding the value that a Mans' home is his castle. That YOU are the best mediator of your life, NOT the government. Ingenuity, not bail-out. Hard work, not hand outs. It means charity for the helpless, and tough love for the clueless. It means that if I earned it fair and square, I get to KEEP it, fair and square. I have no right to lay claim to your good fortunes, and you had best keep your hands the hell off of mine. It means the Manly Man considers the outcome and effectiveness of an effort, not the intention.
That was one thing I made sure to include in my overly ambitious single sentence definition: that though there are virtues which are positive for a man to hold, they are not distinct to being a male, they are not tied to being a male, and honestly I think women should strive for those same virtues (I read that list of nine virtues off to my wife, and she agreed they are general virtues that both genders should strive for). Manliness needs to take the gender and its unique situations, capacities and opportunities into account, or otherwise we are merely discussing positive personhood.
The qualities of a father, a son, a boy, a brother, are male qualities, and though in tough times a woman may emulate them to fill a need (a strong mother with a weak or absent father), these are aspects unique to being male. In a similar fashion, I can only at best emulate, and only in the absence of and great need of, for a short duration, motherliness, sisterhood and similar. We act as a band aid in those respects, but when extending out from our own gender, we can be a support column, and a true example.
A way to phrase it that might have fewer political connotations (largely unintentional, an effect of the commonly taught one-dimensional political spectrum) is that manly is traditional. A man may appreciate and love gadgets and technology, but they usually love them in a manly fashion by appreciating how they truly work and why they can be relied on in what circumstances (geekery, some might say) but they would also appreciate the power of being able to do what one needs for one's self; that individual capacity, which comes from the same love of technology through understanding as the own healthy love of self through understanding of self. A man should hold on to the tradition of knowledge, capacity and action. In his will to survive he may use a compass to navigate, understanding the elements of magnetism making such possible, or he may use his understanding of the earth's place in the galaxy, and navigate via the stars and the sun. This capacity of personal action and self-reliance is traditional, making it on one's own when necessary and not truly relying on others (though willing to accept their grace when needed), which extends just as much to the concepts of personal ownership, property rights, and the relationship to external powers. No man is an island, but he may have a moat of personal skill and love of freedom.
"The qualities of a father, a son, a boy, a brother, are male qualities, and though in tough times a woman may emulate them to fill a need (a strong mother with a weak or absent father), these are aspects unique to being male."
To me those are roles, as opposed to qualities. So then we are back to having to define what qualities are unique to men. Besides self-reliance/tradition, what do you think are the qualities of a father, boy, brother, that are different from mother, girl, sister?
I understand your point, but consider what kind of head of household you would be without one of those nine virtues. A father without sacrifice or personal responsibility? A husband without loyalty or integrity? A provider without industry, self-reliance, or resolution, How about a family leader without courage or resiliency? They my be universal virtues but how could you truly be a Head of Household without them?