Friday, February 13, 2009

Art of Manliness - Is Manliness Obsolete?

Have the traditional values associated with manliness (a man should be brave, economically successful, responsible, generous, sexually capable, procreative, and sociable with other men) been thrown overboard in this new era of metrosexuality? Maybe, but need that be so?

From that always interesting blog, The Art of Manliness:
Is Manliness Obsolete?

manlinessobsolete Is Manliness Obsolete?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Will Briggs. Will frequents the AoM forum and from what I can tell, is one of the nicest and most sincere gentlemen around.

Some years ago I read a book (Manhood in the Making, by David Gilmore) which surveyed the concept of masculinity in civilizations all over the world. The author found that almost everywhere you went, people had the same expectations: a man should be brave, economically successful, responsible, generous, sexually capable, procreative, and sociable with other men.

I commented on this remarkable similarity of ideas (from such different people as Spaniards and New Guinea highlanders), and a friend said, “Fortunately, we’re in the modern world, so we can get rid of the whole silly idea.”

Was she right? Is manliness old-fashioned and silly, best replaced with a new post-masculine ideal, in which we don’t admire courage, procreation, or the old manly ways?

It’s an easy question to answer, isn’t it? Reverse the list of manly qualities above, and ask yourself: would the human race be better off if each man were an irresponsible, impotent, stingy coward who couldn’t hold down a job or keep a friend? We can tinker with the ideal of manhood, but throwing it out entirely would be a disaster.

But let’s look further anyway. To keep it short, let’s consider one example each from three classes of manly virtues: those that only men can do; those that either sex can do equally; and those that either can do, but are more characteristically male.

Read the whole post.

I don't agree with all the examples given. Certainly, fathering and raising healthy children is a manly thing to do, but it should not be essential characteristic of manhood. The Earth is over-populated, and the Western developed world, where birthrates are lowest, is also the biggest consumer of natural resources. A dropping birthrate is not a bad thing, and in the scheme of a worldcentric viewpoint, it might even be the responsible thing to do.

His next example, pertinent to both gender is responsibility - we certainly need more of that in the world.

His final example, not restricted to men, but where men tend to be most at home is bravery.
Bravery can mean daring to open up to a friend or sweetheart. (We need more of this kind of bravery.) But there is also the bravery of facing physical danger. Maybe that’s the part that’s obsolete, no longer needed in the modern world?
I'm more down with the first type than the second, although when faced with danger (and sometimes injustice), physical bravery may be called for. However, I tend to think that in most situations, aggression or violence can be avoided with intelligence and compassion (obviously, this isn't always true, and for that reason a man should be physically able to take care of himself and those he loves, which means being fit and strong).

So what traits would you use to define masculinity? Is the traditional viewpoint sufficient, or do we need to revise the list for a new and more wolrdcentric culture?

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