Saturday, May 25, 2024

A Manliness Crisis – Fact or Fiction?

July 10, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( It’s an interesting theory – a manliness crisis in America.

Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield asserts that premise in his book entitled “Manliness.”

He defines manliness as “confidence in the face of risk.” And he believes that manliness is losing its place in a society that has moved away from placing emphasis on gender roles in favor of gender neutrality.

Mansfield points to feminism as the reason. He believes feminism and our gender neutral society has essentially “hijacked” manliness. And in the words of the late comedian Rodney Danger, he believes that men “don’t get no respect” for being manly because women don’t appreciate manliness, and they don’t know what to do with it.

In my conversations with men throughout the years, they have echoed these same sentiments, more or less though never as clearly and pointedly as the author.

While I believe Mansfield’s assertions are a bit extreme and a little stagy, I have found that many of the men of today are a distinct departure from the men who shaped my early beliefs about the value of men in our society and the whole concept of manliness.

Today it seems men are much more homogenized, pasteurized and even sanitized than those that have predated them who were less urbane and more rough around the edges. The age of Aquarius has ebbed into the age of the metro sexual. Now many men revel in their strong aesthetic sense and appreciation of finery. It’s not unusual to find a man who spends an inordinate amount of time and money on their appearance and in embellishing their lifestyle, from fine food to fine furnishings.

Call me a troglodyte if you’d like, but I still twitch when I hear men speak “matter-a- factly” about their manicures, pedicures and spa treatments. Some are just as pampered as I am.

I don’t think you can blame their evolution on the Women’s Movement. I just won’t give it that much power. But I do think that what it has done is given men permission to be more “self centric” since women have become less reliant on them. The role of men has evolved from “life support” to “life supporter.” I believe women are more inclined to align themselves with a man who supports their efforts rather than one who directs them because they feel empowered to direct themselves.

There’s no doubt that it’s a tough balancing act for men, one layered with mixed messages and double entendre about the role women want men to play in their lives. Women say they want a man who is sensitive, yet strong. Understanding, yet decisive. Fearless, yet acquiescent. It can all be so very confusing for men since all of these attributes are opposed to each other. And maybe, just maybe the confusion has eclipsed their mainlines, just a little. I might buy that. But it certainly has not high jacked it.

In all the brouhaha about this alleged manliness crisis in America – and that’s what I believe it to be – the bottom line is women want men who have a secure sense of themselves. And it’s important because women look to men to be a safe harbor in their lives, someone they can seek refuge and respite in at the end of the day, whether literally of figuratively. They’re just old-fashioned that way and that will never change.

While women yearn for a life’s partner who can fulfill the traditional role of provider, they also need someone who respects and understands their needs and ambitions. When they find this, that’s manly.

Written By Veronica Hendrix

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