The New Definition of Manly

Re-Thinking the Virtues Men Aspire To

Close your eyes and imagine the quintessential man. A man who embodies the characteristics that all men should aspire to. What is he wearing? What is his build? What does he like to do? What are his priorities in life?

Depending on who you ask, this image might vary quite a bit. We might picture something of a He-man, stern and protective, broad shouldered and square-jawed, embodying the strength and fortitude that a man should. Bringing home the bacon, fixing anything that’s broken, smoking a cigar, and grilling some meat out while throwing back a beer. A man who doesn’t show signs of emotional vulnerability, a man who doesn’t cry. A man who doesn’t apologize for trifling matters…because men don’t do that kind of thing.

But where did this image and definition really originate from and does it really reflect what true manhood entails? From an evolutionary standpoint, men were genetically predisposed to excel at tasks of a physical nature— hunting, gathering, building. Thus, it does make sense that these physically oriented activities are grouped into the “manly” category.

My question— when did emotional stoicism become integrated into the definition of manhood?

Being indifferent about emotions, about pain, about feelings in general is something that has inherently been associated with manhood over at least the past century. As young boys, we are told to ‘suck it up,’ ‘be a man,’ ‘stop crying,’ etc. TV shows, movies, magazines, and the media in general seem to have reinforced this concept. Thus, we tend towards overly shelled up dispositions, never really opening up and developing true emotional connections with our peers— male and female. Our priorities are focused internally; aspiring to be true “men,” we lose touch with the external cares and emotions that are indispensable to developing a healthy relationship with the world around us.

So, how can we shift this paradigm of emotional indifference and more importantly, what does it mean to be truly manly? 

I believe the shift starts with every single one of us and the actions we choose to engage in every day. Stop being selfish, closed minded misogynistic individuals. Start:

  1. Being open and honest about your faults and shortcomings and making a conscious effort to get the help of your peers when and where you need it. If you don’t know how to change that car battery, ask someone who does! Don’t struggle through it alone to exemplify your manhood.
  2. Addressing emotional issues/tensions between friends, family, and loved ones directly with open, emotionally neutral (as much as possible) dialogue. Don’t let issues linger because you want to be “manly” and act unfazed because “you’re supposed to.” By the same token, being open with others about your emotions and how YOU truly feel; though you may feel vulnerable, this is how you truly foster your connections with those close to you.
  3. Choosing to take actions that are beneficial for not only you, but for all those around you. Being selfless in your actions.
  4. Treating EVERYONE with the same level of respect— when you’re with them and when you’re not. By the same token, being empathetic of all others, because we are all human and we all deserve to be understood. Real men recognize that everyone is unique and that different motivations govern everyone’s actions.
  5. Carving a path through life that aligns with YOUR desires and expectations; not being afraid to contradict any stereotypical expectations others might have of you as a man. Who cares if you’d rather go read a novel in your room then watch football and grill meat every Sunday? By the same token, if these “stereotypically manly” activities (i.e. hunting, grilling meat, watching football, fixing cars, etc.) ignite your passion, then by all means pursue them!

By creating an example for others, we can serve as a source of inspiration for those men around us. Surely, but slowly we will eradicate this obsolete definition of manhood and replace it with one that is truly beneficial for all of mankind.

Title Photo Credit: flickr