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13 Things I Would Tell My Son About Being a Man

I am plagued in my life by an ever-expanding line of people obsessed with the idea that "manliness" and "masculinity" are under threat, maybe even extinct. I can't comment on a single issue involving sexual assault or women's rights without some shining example of my gender leaving a 300-word comment talking about how feminism has turned men into, I don't know, men, but the kind that were in cages in the first Planet of the Apes flick.

Change can be a scary thing, I understand that. I myself need a strong shot of vodka to take any new operating system on head first. That said, the true definition of manliness has not actually changed at all. What you're seeing is the death of cowardice disguised as strength, and control masquerading as protection.

The art of being a man is still alive and well, and if it is to survive into the rest of the 21st century then it will require applying traditional principles to an ever-shifting world of new paradigms. What is a modern example of manliness?

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13. A man produces something. Preferably, he produces more than he consumes, but regardless of his circumstance he creates something for others to enjoy and be thankful for. This can be monetary wealth, child-rearing, home maintenance, artistic work, anything as long as he refuses to lay idle and only consume. A real man knows the meaning of worth because he is intimately familiar with being the source of it.

12. A man knows that men have traditionally held power in society; therefore it falls to men to be ever-vigilant in noticing wrongs that must be righted. A man does not allow misogynists, racists, bigots, rapists, or other hateful folk to operate without rebuke. Those things should not be, not within the reach of his hand. A real man seeks fairness and justice in all things.

11. There are areas where society is unfair to men, such as America's lack of paternity leave for instance. A man seeks to emulate the brave struggle of other groups by fighting to end those unfair practices through lobby, petition, protest, and court. A real man does not seek his due by insisting that the rights of others be ignored, or that their complaints are imaginary or manipulative. Yes, Men's Rights Activists, I'm talking to you. Rent a bus and hit Michael's for sign supplies instead of calling women bitches if you want unfairness in child support or custody laws to get more attention.

10. A man celebrates the march to equality by all who seek it, because to fight and to refuse to stay down when society knocks you to your knees is the essence of integrity. A real man knows that more rights for others does not mean fewer rights for himself, and that even when women are fighting oppression they are often fighting to lift men with them along the way.

9. A man is comfortable with his own sexuality, including quirks, kinks, hang-ups, and fetishes as long as these things are legal and between consenting adults. He acknowledges these openly, and does not allow any vague societal sense of shame to twist his own desires into a form of hate. He also understands that others may be different from himself, but that it is not his place to judge another person's preferences in this regard. He does not mistake what is evil, rape and pedophilia and the like, for desire but recognizes them as sickness and wrongness.

 

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8. A man does not see a woman or a minority or another group achieving excellence in his field as a threat. He views it as an incentive to do better. The world is only improved by mutual excellence, and undermining the accomplishment of others is a sin because it impedes that improvement.

7. A man knows how to take care of himself, and does not demean any basic daily task as another's job. Everything from cooking dinner to minor repairs should be within each man's metaphorical toolbox. No aspect of general living should be beneath him.

6. A man does not earn respect from others through fear of physical pain. Fear does not teach respect. A child fears an electrical socket. A real man can harness electricity to do wonders. The first is fear. The second is respect.

5. A man can sit in public wearing a plastic tiara while a three-year-old girl serves him imaginary tea, and not give a good god damn what anyone thinks of him. A real man knows that childhood games are so fleeting, and that to miss a single one over a worry about pride is like giving away moments of your child's life.

4. A man sees the world around him as a series of problems to be fixed, and proceeds to get on with fixing them. Bridges not up to code? Get them up to code! Texas trying to shut down all its abortion clinics for no good reason? Start yelling until the people in charge cut it out. A real man does not complain, he offers a solution.

3. A man does not define himself by how well he controls others. He defines himself by how much those over whom he has no control respect and love him enough to listen and be with him even though they don't have to. A real man commands admiration, not demands admiration.

2. When a man sees someone or something in pain, he does the best he can to make the pain stop.

1. A man never forgets his privilege, and refuses the temptation to use it. A real man refuses to allow other lesser men to use it either.

All those things that embody manhood like strength, integrity, the desire to protect, and the will to fight, all of those traits are required for this modern code of manliness. It is a lack of those traits, and a desire to use the aforementioned privilege rather than acquire the traits that is the true threat to manliness.

Unless that cowardice and sloth are eliminated, a modern male will be defined by his petulance and fists. Don't be that. Be a real man.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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