Man Up

There seems to be a movement lately, specifically opposed to phrases such as “man up”. The assumption behind this is apparently that saying a man should be strong, confident, responsible, ambitious, etc. somehow implies that women are the opposite of these things. While I’m all for gender equality and believe women are capable of matching men in most of these categories (with physical strength being the only exception), this seems to be leading to young men being taught that these values are bad. Due to this, the vast majority of young men either fit into the category of “nice guys” (read emotionally weak) and “bad boys” (emotionally abusive) with a growing segment in between of pick up artists (nice guys pretending to be bad boys for the purposes of getting women to sleep with them and corollaries in the workplace and among non-romantic relationships).

The concept of traditional masculinity as somehow harmful seems to be based entirely on the brutish outliers who may beat their wives or commit rape. I find this equation of anyone displaying masculine traits to such depraved examples deeply offensive. Honorable, manly men have always been the ones to stand up to defend women from the threats they face as a result of their inherent physical and economic disadvantage. To say those men are no better than the ones who would do the same women harm is unconscionable. Men come in all types, of course, and there will always be some who use their advantages to cause harm, but there will doubtlessly be more who condemn the brutes and even a few noble men who actively fight against them. That is, of course, assuming those noble men aren’t trapped in the mentality of the nice guy.

Thankfully, there’s a small, but growing, population of men trying to man up. Some came by this naturally but I imagine the majority, myself included, are reformed nice guys who’ve found a better approach to getting respect (from others and themselves) than those who are just playing at being bad boys.

These men are working to improve themselves rather than follow the same old routine while blaming the world around them for their shortcomings. Those who aren’t happy with their physical strength commit to a dedicated weight lifting routine. Those who are shy around women make it a point to talk to women who intimidate them without following a formula handed to them by some morally bankrupt pick up guru. Those who are unhappy with their knowledge or mental acuity read thought provoking books and engage in mental games. Those who are completely happy with every aspect of their being recognize that happiness as a sickness and work to identify their flaws so they can then work to improve on them. This is what it takes to be a respectable man.

While I’m reluctant to blame feminism for the degradation of respectable masculinity, the new wave movement is at least a suitable marker for the time things started changing. When my father, born in 1952, fell off a building he was painting, temporarily losing the use of one arm (I actually forget which as this was about 25 years ago) no one had to tell him to man up. He stood up, lit a cigarette, and waited for the boss to check in later on in the day so he could get a ride to the hospital (cell phones being few and far between in those days). If I were in the same position, I likely would have cried for a bit before breaking the customer’s window so I could go in and use their phone to deal with the emergency situation, causing a horrible blow to the company image (though that wouldn’t actually happen as I would have quit my job rather than put myself in a position where falling that far was a possibility in the first place; just the idea of falling terrifies me).

Like myself, men today (at least the under forty crowd) don’t seem to be out in the world being men. Instead, we find a job with a decent pay level (or the best we can get) and reasonable job security and spend our forty hours a week there so we can then spend the remaining 128 sitting at home, watching TV and maybe eating, drinking, and smoking too much. I’m endeavoring to change that myself, though I’ve struggled with the difficulty in altering one’s mindset, and I encourage others to do the same.

Whether your failings as a man are due to the influences of feminism, overly cautious parenting, or just too much time spent in the emotional escapism of watching TV, it’s up to you to fix it. Read daily, join a gym and commit to a dedicated training program, learn new skills, pick up a hobby that involves being productive (and maybe even profitable) and take a moment to say hi to that pretty girl (or that pretty boy, your position as a man is in no way predicated on your sexual preference) that would probably never give you the time of day. Take steps to make yourself uncomfortable so you can become better. Coddling is for children.

Be a modern, enlightened man, concerned with gender equality and ensuring that women have the same opportunities as men, but also look back at men of the past to see their strengths and emulate them. Standing up for yourself and others is not a personality flaw. It’s what makes us men.

Basically, man up.

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2 thoughts on “Man Up”

  1. Let me start with, I read all your stuff. Big fan. =) I often agree with a lot of your points. And I know you. You are never one to shy away from discussion. So….

    Devil’s advocate time….

    You say coddling is for children. Then, why should I care about gender equality? Would not ‘ensuring women have the same opportunities as men’ be coddling? Were I to assume women were equal to men (I’m not assuming the opposite, I’m just saying) and did not require coddling, then wouldn’t I assume that they would resolve the issue on their own? Are they not capable? Do they need a male hand out to provide them with the base integrity of self to give themselves the self worth that their fathers’ failed to give them? You speak of gender equality, but do so from a very male privileged position. If women are equal, then they do not need your help. Do not presume yourself in a position to dictate things for their benefit.

    All of this is the precarious predicament that men find themselves. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. For every moment that you think yourself a hero of the minority, you are equally the villain.

    ‘Manning up’, to me, is about acknowledging the task that needs to be accomplished and getting it done, no matter your personal desires or the judgments that might be placed upon you. Whether that’s putting an animal down, putting your personal desires aside for another, or accepting personal loss for the benefit of another; you learn to simply get the job done. You are right, you don’t have to be male to fit the situation. But, finishing the job so that others don’t have to, is the task at hand.

    Masculinity, to me, is understanding that. Understanding that I give up the ideals of love and sympathy to accomplish the tasks that are complicated by emotional liberation. As such, I associate myself into a relationship with an individual that is more capable of emotional understanding to mirror and equal my own apathy.

    I guess, I’m saying that I feel that masculinity is logic and apathy. Male or female can have it. But, it is best served tempered by its opposite; not diminished for the sake of ‘equality’.

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    1. This is a bit more involved than the end of the night check I was planning, but I’ll give it a quick shot.

      With regard to gender equality, I believe that we, in the western world, have gotten there and by the time new wave feminism came around only needed to strengthen the matter with regard to protections concerning domestic abuse and rape. Women now have all the opportunities that men have (though many men do still think less of women). The only point where I feel a woman may need my help (in my position of being superior simply by being a man) is situations where the woman’s inferior physical strength is a concern. I’ll stress, however, that this only applies in societies where the feminist movement has run its necessary course. There is a great need to improve the difference in legal standing between men and women in other nations.

      With regard to the logic/emotion dichotomy, I’ll agree that it is a part of manning up, but I’d also caution that shutting off from emotion and sympathy completely is a mistake. When the need for action in the face of fear, pain, etc. arises, the manly course of action is to shut down what’s holding you back and get things taken care of. When the situation comes to an end, however, you should take a moment to have sort of a mini break down if necessary. Freak out a little, maybe cry, embrace the emotion that you denied yourself while you had to. Don’t necessarily do it in public as you might expect from the feminine side, but certainly do it in private and acknowledge the emotional turmoil with a close friend or spouse. Not doing so is the stuff emotional disorders are made of, most notably evident when you look at soldiers (manning up despite greater fear/pain than civilians tend to face in our day to day lives) suffering from PTSD.

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