A Discourse On Manning Up

14 Dec

Jeff Perera has a great article on The Good Man Project entitled The Invisible Gun of Manhood about how traditional definitions of being manly hinder and hurt all men. I recommend everyone read it and wholeheartedly endorse its main premise. There is one niggling problem I have with it though, and it is the following sentence.

What I am suggesting is that we can no longer ignore or minimize the searing impact that taunting and reinforcing “Man Up” philosophy has on men.

Mr. Perera is conflating two issues here. The idea of manning up and the notions of what being a man entail. Men need to “man up” to be men. Yes, we need to embrace our whole humanity but at the end of the day we will still be men. Manning up is part and parcel boys of growing into adulthood. They need to be accountable for their actions, take on the responsibilities of being an adult and knuckle down and accomplish things. Unfortunately, “Man Up” philosophy is very much entwined with traditional and cultural notions of what constitutes manly, and even worse, increasingly conflated with the adult boy culture exemplified by the atrocious “man card” Miller Light commercials.

As men, we need not discard “man up.” Instead we need to expand the definition of manly. All of the issues that Mr. Perera talks about are important and very much on the minds of every man whom I talked with at length. I have the same issue as he does with any sort of automotive issue. I understand where he is coming from. I also can’t cook worth a lick. These two are equivalent to me. Actually, that’s wrong. I would rather learn how to cook than learn to care for my car. It would be more useful to me and my family.

The traditional distinctions of men’s and women’s realms are increasingly illogical. As men we are supposed to toil away all day so that our children will be provided for but then do nothing to provide for their emotional growth at home. We are supposed to ensure our wife’s safety and happiness while we sit on the couch and watch the game as she cooks, cleans and cares for the children, frazzled and exhausted. We are supposed to love our wife but never say it, show it, or in any way communicate that bedrock fact.

Are we really supposed to do next to nothing at home and still call ourselves men? No, we are not, we cannot. As traditional definitions incoherently clash with what we know our responsibilities to be, we need to take responsibility in nontraditional ways. And when we do take on these responsibilities we need to claim them with pride. We need “man up” and cook dinner. We need to “man up” and change the diaper. We need to “man up” an vacuum. We need to “man up” and fully express ourselves and our emotions.

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