The Truth About Universal Masculinity

Mark Manson questions the universality of masculinity, its various expressions throughout cultures, and the birth of a new manhood in Western society.

Beginning about a year ago, I became obsessed with the question of whether a universal masculinity exists or not. Are the traits which we consider “manly” hardwired into us as a species? Or are they socially constructed for some specific purpose? Or maybe some combination of both? And how does this relate to being attractive to women as well as psychologically sound as men?

You may think this is a funny thing to start obsessing about. But in hindsight, it wasn’t odd at all. For one, much of my social experience the five years prior, and this very website, were rooted in my experiences within the pick up artist (PUA) movement. One could easily argue that a large component of the PUA experience, if not the defining component, is helping men discover and get in touch with their masculinity in order to attract and sleep with more women.

The movement focuses on cultivating conventional masculine behaviors: being socially dominant, leading, establishing strong boundaries, pushing one’s will onto others, objectifying and achieving progress. Non-coincidentally, adopting these new behaviors often leads these men to greater success with women.

Therefore within the PUA movement, it is tacitly accepted that men are supposed to behave one way and women another. When men deviate from this defined behavior, they’re referred to as pussies or “AFC’s”. When women deviate they’re derided as bitches or feminists. (I kid, I kid… OK, not really.) PUA’s justify these gender roles by butchering one evolutionary psychology theory after another. Now, I’m not disagreeing with the idea that there may be some sort of biological basis for gender behavior. I’m just saying the PUA’s butcher the hell out of it.

But, I too, took these gender roles for granted as predestined fact. After all, back when I was meager, passive-aggressive and whiny, women were repelled from me. When I began to behave in a dominant, assertive and pushy manner, women began sleeping with me, people began listening to me and internally, my behavior felt right on a deep level.

♦◊♦

Then in late 2009, I began to travel all over the world. And within a few months it became impossible to ignore: masculinity and dominance are culturally relative. In America, most women consider me to be cocky and aggressive. In some Asian cultures, women even found me to be brutish and intimidating. Yet in many countries such as Argentina or Ukraine, I came across to women as sensitive and respectful. Hell, many of the women in Brazil are more sexually assertive than I am. And in Russia, when I told a girl I was seeing that most women in America find me to be too aggressive, she began to laugh in my face.

“You? Are you serious? The reason I like you is because you’re so sensitive and attentive compared to Russian men.”

Well shit. Not only was my conception of masculinity not even that masculine in many parts of the world, but I was attracting women because they perceived me to NOT be masculine. In Latin America, a girl I dated said she loved my lack of machismo and how well I listened. Great… Yet, back home women wanted to date me because they perceived me to be so crass and aggressive. What’s going on here?

One of the beautiful yet horrifying aspects of traveling all over the world is that every time you step off the plane you set yourself up to have your assumptions shattered. It happens regularly. This was one of them.

♦◊♦

The first lesson of this experience was what is known in social psychology as assortment theory, or what I refer to in my book as “Demographics.” The concept is a scientifically observed phenomenon where behavior by one person will naturally screen out and only attract people of that similar behavior.

For instance, a recent study found that men with misogynistic beliefs (women belong in the kitchen, women shouldn’t talk back, etc.) naturally attracted women with similar misogynistic beliefs (I belong in the kitchen, I shouldn’t talk back, etc.) and turned off most other women (for obvious reasons).

Assortment theory can be subtle and hard to notice. But when you travel it’s impossible to ignore. If you walk into a room and only 10% of the women there speak English, then you’re immediately going to be at a major disadvantage with the 90% who don’t, and a major advantage with the 10% who do (they’ll find you exotic, interesting, etc.) Back home this plays out in less obvious ways: behave like a crazy party guy and you’ll attract crazy party girls; behave like an intellectual snob and you’ll attract hipster intellectually snobby girls; dress like crap and stop showering and the only women willing to overlook it will be women who dress like crap and don’t shower.

In my case, back when I was a meager, passive-aggressive, whiner, I only attracted women who corresponded to those traits: i.e., not very attractive women. When I began behaving in a dominant and assertive manner, I began attracting women in the US who sought out those dominant and assertive traits — which tended to be the hot, feminine women who were sick of dealing with wusses all the time. But then, when I went to Russia and was suddenly considered passive and sensitive, I attracted women who sought out those more passive and sensitive traits — who coincidentally also were hot, yet well-educated women who were sick of the Russian men acting like drunken pigs.

The point of assortment theory is that there are no (or very few) absolutes: no matter how you alter your behavior, that behavior is always going to naturally attract one subset of people and repel or simply not interest the majority.

(Sidenote: I would say that perhaps the only absolute for men in dating is that they’re expected to initiate. Whether you’re passive or aggressive, intellectual or ridiculous, casual or fun party guy, the responsibility is still going to almost always fall on you to initiate.)

♦◊♦

I toyed with assortment theory a bit when I returned to the US. I decided to be more sensitive and vulnerable around women. And sure enough, I began attracting sweet, sensitive girls who appreciated those qualities in me. Crazy. And even though my PUA instincts thought that I’d be attracting far fewer women by acting this way, it turns out that wasn’t the case. In fact, it seemed like I was attracting the same women, just instead of them behaving in a crazy party girl way around me, they were behaving in a sweet and vulnerable way around me.

(Sidenote: this was not merely a social experiment on my part but a conscious desire as well. I had been getting tired of the typical aggressive, overly-sexual one-night-stand-type interactions I had been having regularly and was looking for something more intimate and substantial.)

Throughout all of these experiences was the implication that not only may there not be a universal masculinity, but that conventional masculinity is not universally attractive, something feminists have been saying for decades.

In fact, when I posed this question to a feminist writer earlier this year, she responded with exactly that: it feels like typical masculine traits are universally attractive because every woman I’d been with had been attracted by my masculine traits. It doesn’t mean that women couldn’t be attracted to me for other reasons. In short: assortment theory.

But if masculinity is culturally relative, then why are so many people (both men and women) lamenting the seeming loss of masculinity in our culture? Why are sociologists putting out books about how we’re losing generations of men to “guy culture?” — men who don’t want to commit themselves to anything but playing video games and drinking beer? How does that explain the disaster that’s become the dating and marriage market in the US?

And cultural relativism can’t completely explain it. If it did, men would simply adapt with new norms and move on. To a degree we are. But developmentally, we’re not. We can’t ignore that we ARE biologically different. Men have ten times the amount of testosterone pumping through us, which makes up bigger, stronger, urges us to take more risks, be more violent, less empathetic, want more sex, and achieve greater feats. This all on average of course, and there are exceptions. But the point remains. Everyone seems to agree with the sentiment that western men have lost something in the past few generations.

I saw, and still do see, a lot of the nascent men’s trends (everything from PUA to Maxim-type magazines to shows like Mad Men) in the west as a struggle to reclaim some sort of lost masculinity of the past 50 years. But what is the nature of that struggle? Is retaking a masculine identity a matter of shifting cultural norms? Or is it biological destiny?

The answer it turns out, is a little of both (as usual). And I’m not the first person to ask these questions. Anthropologists and psychologists have been digging into this one for decades.

♦◊♦

Rites of Passage

Camille Paglia once wrote, “A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman, and it is confirmed only by other men.” Say what you want, but both Freudian psychologists and many anthropologists back this up. Whereas a woman’s femininity is implicit by simply being and birthing, a man’s must be proven through action.

(Another Sidenote: I realize that women struggle with their own feminine identity issues. I don’t mean to downplay them. But they’re different. And we’re talking about masculinity here, so deal.)

Modern Freudians believe the defining emotional struggle for men is of emotionally disassociating from the safety and care of the emotional (sexual?) attachment with their mother. This disassociation plays out sub-consciously through various life experiences that establish emotional and sexual independence. Men who succeed in establishing their independence are free to fully function as men, whereas the men who never completely escape their mother’s grasp flounder endlessly and ineffectually throughout their lives, struggling to act independently, eluding success, and many times failing to move on to establish a family of their own.

Examples of this disassociation process include masculine propensities for competitive achievement, sexual conquests, professional success and wealth, political power, etc. Anything from one man talking shit to the other guys in his bowling league, to two friends bragging about their car engines, to the middle manager who ignores his family to work 90 hours a week, to the nightclub promoter who sleeps with five new girls a month. These are all common, culturally-normal ways that men have expressed their emotional independence and masculinity in the past.

Anthropologists have found that this process of disassociation plays out in men in every culture. What changes is how the process plays itself out, and to what degree. For instance, indigenous tribes in Eastern Africa require adolescent boys to be tortured and maimed publicly to certify their masculinity, whereas Spanish men are forced out of the house at an early age and expected to become breadwinners early on. Japanese men are put through excessive schooling and expected to achieve a certain academic standing.

What’s interesting though is that any one conventional expression of masculinity is not universal. Tahitian men lack any sense of machismo and are considered quite lazy by comparison to other cultures, but the men there still express their emotional disassociation in other ways, primarily through social groups and organization. In Trukese culture, it’s accepted that men will be come drunks and excessively violent with each other in their early 20′s. Many hunter-gatherer societies tie masculinity to the ability to hunt and catch food. Our society, up until recently, usually attributed manhood to a man’s ability to accumulate and provide wealth and resources.

So the conclusion is that the psychological development of masculinity is universal, but the way it manifests itself is different from culture to culture.

After surveying dozens of cultures on their beliefs and practices of masculinity, anthropologist David Gilmore came to many of the conclusions mentioned above: that there seems to be a universal drive of autonomy among men worldwide, but the way they express that autonomy differs from one culture to the next. Also, this autonomy seems to always be up for debate and has a need to be confirmed by other men in each culture.

But Gilmore went further. He wanted to know why masculinity is so hardcore in some places, and considerably tame in others. Why do some African tribes literally whip and cut young boys publicly to test their manhood, whereas other communities in Malaysia judge manhood by who can carve the coolest looking stick?

Gilmore’s theory, set out in his book Manhood in the Making is that the severity of masculinity in a culture — and the chasm between gender roles — is proportional to how treacherous the environment in which that particular society exists is. Cultures that are constantly warring over territory, who have limited resources and have to battle the elements or nature have some seriously hardcore conceptions of masculinity. And rightly so. When you’re constantly defending your only sources of food from invaders and wild animals, you need men to step up and be warriors and protectors. Men are more biologically suited for that, so deeper gender roles become established.

Meanwhile other cultures which are isolated, have plenty of resources, and not threatened, the men are usually comparatively passive and relaxed. Again, there’s a lack of economic need for diverse gender roles, so society adapts.

The idea that social norms and culture are influenced and created by environmental conditions and economic realities is not a new or controversial one. It’s an idea that the scientist Jared Diamond recently popularized in his acclaimed books Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. We don’t make up our ways of life in a vacuum. They develop and evolve out of economic necessity.

♦◊♦

The Crisis of the Western Man

If you’re reading this site or even remotely taking me seriously right now, you may be one of the many who has the sense that something’s amiss with Western men. Sociologists have been fretting about it for an entire decade now. Entire self help industries for men have sprouted up. Demand for men’s dating advice has surpassed women’s dating advice. Communities such as the PUA movement have formed and thrived. In a celebrity-scape of Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake and “The Situation,” there’s not a legitimate masculine role model to be found anywhere. Hell, even feminists began fretting about 10 years ago, with writers such as Christina Hoff Sommers and even Naomi Wolf lamenting that boys have begun falling behind in school at every level. US universities are currently 55% female. Girls are outperforming boys in almost every subject and have moved to being even with them in the math and sciences. In 2010, for the first time in American history, women out-numbered men in the workforce.

Feminism has often been blamed for these changes. And indeed, in a society where men used to derive their self-worth from making money and establishing good careers, suddenly having women as their competition (or bosses) can sabotage that search for meaning. After all, the point of men pursuing achievement and success so much was to assert their independence from women — now, with women as their peers, it kind of undermines the developmental effect.

But I don’t think feminism is the root cause for modern masculinity’s turmoil. In fact, I think it’s just another effect of a deeper underlying cause. Remember, Gilmore asserted that gender roles break down in societies which experience greater security and resources. They’re no longer as useful.

A lot of feminism’s triumphs can be attributed to just that. Beginning in the mid-20th century, technology had largely taken over the role of homemaking. Cleaning the house, washing the clothes and cooking dinner took 1-2 hours whereas in the past it had taken an entire day of hard labor. Women had access to pre-heated ovens, electric stoves, dishwashers, toaster ovens, vacuum cleaners, etc. There was no more need for them to stay in the home all day. In fact, one could argue that modern women went through this same identity-level crisis generations before the men did. What had defined them as a gender for centuries was suddenly rendered unnecessary. Between technological advances in the home and birth control, women were able for the first time in history to exercise complete control over their bodies and their time.

These same economic realities are now applying to men. Historically, men attached their entire identities to their careers and professions. That’s who they were. That’s where they derived their sense of self-worth. And that’s how they asserted their emotional autonomy.

But in recent decades, the career-man is almost a myth. People often spend only a few years at each job. Many jobs have been outsourced or automated. The economy has tanked a couple times. And now women (or the wife) are working just as hard (or even harder) than you. That’s no longer a very stable sense of identity. And not a reliable way to express emotional autonomy.

Take a man who works a standard corporate job and makes a decent living. Let’s say this man is totally reactive to his environment and the people in his life. He did well in school because others told him to. He got a nice job because his parents wanted him to. He did what his bosses said to get promoted so he could make more money to provide for his wife and family.

In 1950, this man would be considered a raging success. He’d actually be celebrated as a proper example of what a man should be. The fact that he doesn’t like his job is irrelevant. The fact that he’s his boss’s whipping boy wouldn’t matter. He brought home the bacon and had a proper, respectable identity.

But today, there’s a strong and powerful cultural under-current that this man is considered a jailed failure. He’s stuck working a job he hates for people he doesn’t like for money he doesn’t need, just to give it to a woman who doesn’t need it and is likely to divorce him anyway. Whereas it used to be enough to simply get a paycheck and bring it home, that doesn’t cut it anymore. That’s not good enough. Anyone can do that now, so it’s not a viable way for a man to disassociate, to declare himself independent and powerful. In fact, it’s the opposite. He’s taking the safe route. The route that no longer validates his masculinity or helps him assert his autonomy.

So what’s the result? Generations of financially successful men who are pushovers, who don’t assert themselves, can’t get a date, and end up obsessed with sex and/or embroiled with mommy issues. Sound familiar? Our society has evolved to a place of more luxury and security, and therefore the previous rites of passage men utilized to establish themselves have washed away and left a muddied, incoherent masculinity behind.

♦◊♦

A New Masculinity

One thing that surprised me when I sifted through a lot of feminist writing this year was how often feminists would wish that men would step up, shake off the shackles of their failed gender roles and shape new identities for themselves. I have to admit, it bridged a lot of apparent gaps for me. I think feminists miss the fact that we’re trying; we’re just not trying to do it in a way that they expect or necessarily like. But they are right. Men need to step up and define a new masculinity for themselves. We need to stop floating aimlessly through our lives, reactive to the world and what’s happening in it.

I spent most of the last five years operating within a men’s movement full of men obsessed with asserting their emotional independence. Sure, the motivation and inspiration behind it was sex and women, but it had long been clear to me, that at the core of it, the PUA movement was a method for men to vicariously find that emotional independence and validation from other men that they had missed growing up — whether it be because they grew up without a father around, because their career path turned out to be stifling and unsatisfying, because their relationships consistently fell apart due to their neediness, or whatever.

Feminists were often (and still are) perceived to be “the enemy,” scapegoated for the tattered state of modern masculinity. But if you take the time and side-step past the rape culture paranoia, some of the patriarchy lunacy, and a lot of unnecessary soap-box speeches, then you get to the heart of that movement: economic and social realities forced women to confront and transcend what defined them as women, and now it is time for men to do the same thing. And right now we’re sucking at it.

Most current men’s self help movements are rife with “woe is me” pity parades, and bizarre forced rituals (drum circles, sweat lodges, etc.) that are painfully anachronistic and ineffective. The pick up and dating industry indirectly leads a lot of men to establishing powerful and independent identities, but it’s also weighed down by misogyny and men fixated on superficial sexuality. Magazines such as Maxim, GQ, FHM, and others prey on men’s most immature impulses by plastering half-naked, airbrushed women across their pages, while hocking overpriced shit down your throat in a constant attempt to re-establish the failed-state of masculinity’s past: that a real man buys expensive crap and fucks hot girls. Hit it or quit it… broski.

Television shows and movies have seen a throwback period of masculinity with powerful male characters in popular shows such as Californication and Mad Men. But men such as Hank Moody and Don Draper are caricatures — idealism sketched onto a screen, with deep flaws. Draper exhibits an independence and strength that leaves male viewers in awe and female viewers in lustful shivers, but at the end of the day, he’s ruthless and gutted of any deeper empathy. The sexual chaos and wit that permeates Hank Moody’s life would make any man envious for a moment (myself included). It’s impossible for a man to watch Hank and not immediately desire the same kind of boyish freedom he exercises around the women of Hollywood. Yet, Hank too, is a complete emotional fuck up: substance abuse, an ex-wife he can’t stop cheating on, a daughter he sucks at raising, a career scarred by underachievement.

Don’t even get me started on Jack Bauer.

The point is, as a culture, there’s a void where our masculinity used to be. Created by the absence of our fathers, the futility of conventional career paths, the inundation of a feminized pop culture, this generation of men is floundering and has been for a while. It’s no wonder we’re staying unemployed, single, having more casual sex and playing more video games than any generation of men before us. It’s no wonder that feminists are writing 20-page articles in places like The Atlantic freaking out that all of the single men are either “deadbeats or players” and that many women are actually consciously choosing to stop hoping for marriage.

So what are we supposed to do?

Remember, the key universality is defining an emotional independence for ourselves followed by validation from other men. Simply making money isn’t enough anymore. Buying nice things isn’t enough anymore. Achievements and conquests by themselves aren’t enough. Perhaps you’ve done many of these things, and you have felt it. Having money and nice things is nice, but it doesn’t make you feel like a man anymore. Something’s still lacking. We live in such a culturally relative post-modern world that all of these things are only as valuable and recognized as those around us make them.

What I offer is the idea of a post-masculinism, an idea of masculinity that includes conventional masculinism (dominance, achievement, sexual pursuit), but is not confined by social roles or expectations. One man’s right of passage may be building his own boat and sailing across Lake Michigan. Another man’s rite of passage may be writing and publishing a novel. Another man’s may be living in on a beach in Cuba and volunteering with starving children. The common denominator is that we set out to establish ourselves as emotionally independent through our actions. The common denominator is taking action as individuals.

Since there’s no longer any socially universal norm for masculine achievement, we are the first generation of men that must create our own. And what’s more independent or emotionally liberating than that? It’s a true expression of your individual power and your masculinity.

But this isn’t easy. And in many ways, we’re ill-equiped for it. Just as women were ill-equipped to supersede their roles in society, we are as well, just in different ways. Striking out on your own path and creating your own rite takes courage, ambition, technical skill, all conventional masculine traits. But it also takes introspection, emotional awareness, vulnerability and a willingness to fail — traits most men are not accustomed to.

Entrepreneur and business writer Gary Vaynerchuk often speaks of the idea of personal brand. He claims that in the coming age of social media, our most important asset is going to be our own personal brand that we present to the world. I see the concept of post-masculinity in similar terms: it’s not enough to simply be a bread-winner, to be a provider, to be a walking paycheck anymore. It’s like Tyler Durden says in Fight Club (the perennial movie of post-masculinity if there were such a thing): “You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis.”

Our canvas is ourselves and we’re all artists. The developmental blueprint is that there is no blueprint. There’s an individuality and eccentricity that we must all cultivate and contribute back to society. Throughout human history, men always had a clear a concise path laid out before them. We’re one of the first generations that doesn’t. You can do or be anything you want in any capacity that you want. So create your own standard and then surpass it. Psychologically that’s where we derive our worth and our value. Right now simply following the path our fathers and grandfathers laid out before is not working. It’s time to blaze our own trail.

Originally appeared at PostMasculine.com.

—Photo Brett Jordan/Flickr

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Mark Manson

Mark Manson is a dating coach, writer and world traveler. He writes on how people can improve their emotional and dating lives, as well as social commentary and various life experiences at MarkManson.net.

Comments

  1. I think your idea was expressed a while back.

    “Birds of a feather, flock together”

    ;)

  2. OK so let me get this straight. Feminine is something that women just are (thank you Camille P). Masculine is something men have to become. They do this by defining/creating themselves in opposition to women, and how they do it is different in different cultures.

    I like that you are questioning what being masculine means. But I think that by buying into female = feminine you are doing everyone an injustice.

    I wonder if loosening up some concepts might help.

    Try this. (i) We are born into bodies, which for most of us are clearly identifiable as male or female (and for some of us are ambiguous or in between). (ii) We live in societies in which some types of behaviour are regarded as being appropriate to women (feminine) and others as appropriate to men (masculine). What masculine and feminine look like may be different in different times/places/cultures. So (iii) growing up in a girl body I learn that if I behave in ways regarded as feminine I am rewarded and if I behave in ways regarded as masculine I am not. Growing up in a boy body I learn that if I behave in ways regarded as masculine I am rewarded and if I behave in ways regarded as masculine I am not. If what I like to do matches what’s expected of me, that’s fine. If it doesn’t, I have to choose – whether to suppress what I really want to do and be so as not to be disapproved of, or whether to behave as I want to and deal with the consequences. These are real choices for all of us.

    You are claiming an entitlement to question what it is to behave appropriately as a man and to behave in different ways if you choose to. That’s great. But at the same time you’re categorically denying the same opportunity to women! Is that really your intention?

    I have to say I did find your assumptions about women tremendously offensive, and I’d like to respond by inviting discussion rather than by closing it down.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      ;) I too have a few issues with the piece (being passive aggressive and whiny attracts physically unattractive women? Well, maybe. Or maybe it just puts women off in general. I know hot women in America who don’t like PUA “dominant” type men. I hate the idea that to get laid you need to bend people to your will. Ugh. Such a battle like paradigm instead of a pleasure based model. But my issues with PUA culture and the rest can wait).

      On to the stuff I really want to talk about.

      1) Women are not “just ” female with no work done to it. I just saw a site recently that promised to help women be less masculine at the workplace and lead with their authentic feminine. What the hell does that mean? How am I anything less than authentic just as I am, so long as I am determining it and willing to live with the pushback others might have. Why is my assertiveness a form of inauthenticness just because I am a woman. I have to determine through trial and error what my authentic femaleness is. It isn’t just because I have periods.

      We all have “yin and yang” we all can express it in various ways.

      2) Assortment theory. Brilliant. Yes. Masculinity and femininity are culturally mediated. They are different based on the environments they are created in and I’m quite glad you noted that. What a great thing to offer this forum.

      3) Finally, I’m very very very glad you tied in issues from industrialization/technology and women’s (and men’s) identity issues.

      People love to blame isms for the war between men and women (not that I am in a war mind you), but one should probably look back to the turn of the century and take roles and gender issues from historical constructs. Just as you said, in the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s women went through intense existential issues the more time they had to fill. If the house is clean by 10 am and the meals are prepped, but you have nothing to do? What then? You read. Books. You study. You think! Thinking’s what gets you into trouble ;)

      Well, look, on a basic level people get bored! And women are people! So they quite literally had to find something to stimulate themselves (no dirty pun intended).

      If you want to destroy feminism, I supposed you’d need to destroy industry and all the gadgets that keep women from scrubbing sheets at the river on rocks. And if you want to feel like an “authentic male, perhaps men should lose the gadgets too? Have to chop trees down? Are we willing to go back or are we willing to figure out what going forward means?

      We are and have been undergoing intense social, cultural and technological change over the past century. The speed at which this change has occurred is profound. We all feel the anxiety and tension from that change and its the easiest thing to blame each other. Blame the poor, the rich, the race, the gay, the women, the men. That’s not where the actual genesis of the tension is though, in my opinion.

      Humans have spent what, 50K years changing slowly. We are changing faster than is likely we’ll integrate it into our operating systems, so to speak. And there are so many of us and we can witness the change on our media creating a mirror ball of anxiety. Violence is going down, for example but we see more and more of it in the news because we CAN see it.

      Thanks very much for writing this piece and I look forward to discussing with you.

      • DavidByron says:

        My favourite feminist says,

        If the house is clean by 10 am and the meals are prepped, but you have nothing to do? What then? You read. Books. You study. You think! Thinking’s what gets you into trouble ;)

        It’s an irony that the early feminists were objectively among the most privileged people in their society. More privileged than their husbands who had to go out and work for a living. They enjoyed the wealth and lifestyle of the new middle class without having to do the work. Industrialisation had made the traditional work of women (ie textile manufacturing on hand looms from hand spun thread) obsolete. The wealth of the middle class allowed them to hire lower class women as servants to help look after their kids. Feminism was born of privilege.

      • Agreed with everything except for this: “Humans have spent what, 50K years changing slowly”. It’s really more around 1700 years that has really happened (because *sigh* Roman culture and Christianity). Still there have been similar times of speed (like out time) throughout human history. Babylon is one instance, Greece is another, even Muslim Berbers, Arabs and Persians had a time of brilliance too. It is a pet peeve of mine when people say or I get the feeling they believe this way.

    • “You are claiming an entitlement to question what it is to behave appropriately as a man and to behave in different ways if you choose to. That’s great. But at the same time you’re categorically denying the same opportunity to women! Is that really your intention?”

      That’s not my intention. In fact, my point is quite the opposite: that women, by and large, have already begun to achieve that conscious decision (whether to act “feminine” or not) in the west. Men, on the other hand, are still stuck in the stone age of confining ourselves to the roles of provider/protector/owner. By imploring men to overcome those cultural-constructs, I am by no means implying that women shouldn’t.

      And yes, I’m aware that “sex is not the same as gender.” But the article is dealing with broad populations, and considering that 90% of men generally pursue “masculine” behaviors to varying extents, and 90% of women pursue “feminine” behaviors to varying extents, I chose to treat the concepts in a more general manner. Obviously, there are exceptions all over the place. But those exceptions weren’t as relevant to the article.

      • I have two problems with this mostly anecdotally-driven post and its rather vague conclusions.

        1. Where’s the data?
        For the issues at hand here, some citations other than Gilmore’s book might have been helpful. You toss out the percentage, 90%, in this comment without citing a source and as if it were not problematic. Who decides what are masculine and feminine pursuits? What studies are you referring to, if any? Any serious study of this type that I’ve read indicates that most folks fall along a continuum rather than being divided into 90-10 majority-minority blocks. You fudge here by using the “varying extents” but that’s just not going to fly as being serious data upon which to base an opinion or course of action.

        2. Where are the gays?
        I can’t take seriously any article that doesn’t even mention the obvious and profound effect that the visibility of gay men have had on all men’s concept of their own masculinity.

        • 1. This isn’t an academic article. Concepts of “masculinity” and “femininity” are obviously arbitrary, and arguing where one begins on the spectrum and where one ends is neither here nor there. I threw out those percentages to make a point, that I’m speaking in general terms, and not because they’re actually backed up by data.

          2. Masculinity is masculinity. Gay or straight has little affect on it in my opinion. And considering this article is cross-cultural, the fact that homosexuality lacks a stigma and is actually practiced by many straight men in some other cultures just even furthers that point.

          • 1. Well, let me just say that I love the line claiming that those figures are “not actually backed up by data.”

            Exactly.

            So why throw them out there? It’s fatuous.

            2. If you read your own post again, it seems like your article is saying exactly that: Masculinity is not masculinity everywhere for all cultures, at all times, in all contexts. So you’re contradicting yourself. But I agree with that anyway and I think those “cross-cultural” sections of your post are the strongest. But, again, no mention of male sexuality being anything except heterosexuality. At least, not until I commented.

            But, further, lots of work has been done about the categorically straight men’s concept of masculinity as compared to the categorically gay man’s concepts of masculinity — how they concur, how they collide, how they intersect, how they mirror or determine one another — in the academic world, in cultural studies, in more mainstream essays and books — Mark Simpson’s Male Impersonators, for example.

            Gay-appearing kids being bullied and in some cases, being shot and killed because they don’t conform to straight male concepts of the masculine certainly seems to indicate that the borders of masculinity are still being carefully and forcefully guarded.

            There’s lots to uncover there but I will just say that claiming that “gay and straight men are the same” is just another way to disavow the queer subject. It’s certainly avoiding *something*. But it’s seems a very common avoidance on GMP.

            • I have to say I’m amused at how often commenters on this site post complaining that their pet cause isn’t addressed even if it is not part of the author’s experience, or stated purpose. In fact, 90% of the time, it’s not even relevant.

  3. Really enjoyed the article. A number of thought-provoking points. Especially liked the stuff on demographics, the impact of technology, and masculinity being defined differently in different cultures, but most cultures having an idea of who they wanted their men to be.

    Nice stuff

  4. Ive read your piece before, Im glad it has been published here
    It’s a great read.
    I agree that environment is one of the main drivers in the creation of a masculine ideal for a society.

    The economies in the West decline, so I think we will see a contraction of masculinity, if we see long term structural unemployment of 20 or 30 %. A reflection of, from our perspective, the ”hypermasculinity” found in the underclass of the West, would become the dominant form of Western masculinity in masculine-identifying men and masculine-identifying women

  5. everydayjam says:

    Yeah, I’m just going to respond in my own mind, because, after typing several paragraphs of heart-felt thoughts, the auto-refresh deleted it. There are things I really appreciate about this site, but the choice to force that truly sucks. It doesn’t forward the conversation, but kills it.

  6. Really interesting article.

    But it seems the question you end up answering in your conclusion is not “what is the new rite of passage that will turn us from boys into men?” but “what is the rite of passage that turns children into adults?” Becoming an adult — a Man as opposed to a boy or a Woman as opposed to a girl — means coming into self-possession and taking an active role in defining one’s life.

    For both sexes the following is true: “You can do or be anything you want in any capacity that you want…create your own standard and then surpass it. Psychologically that’s where we derive our worth and our value. ”

    While your discussion is engaging and very informative, I don’t think you’ve successfully redefined rite of passage toward masculinity, just rite of passage toward adulthood in an era that lacks the clear road maps of our parents generation.

  7. DavidByron says:

    Let me see if I can summarize that.
    (1) nerdy guy – no gf
    (2) PUA – pick up hot girls
    (3) found out you could pick up hot girls anyway without PUA techniques
    (4) theory: PUA was actually acting as a passage to manhood
    (5) conclusion: instead of PUA guys need to find their passage to manhood

    Is that about it?

    OK, the problem is your suggested rite of passage sounds just like any life enhancing sort of bucket list type of stuff. Broadly anything that could appear in a commercial for a retirement fund. So how does that differentiate men? Women do that too don’t they? Well they sure ought to.

    I wonder if you are correct in this statement:

    Gilmore asserted that gender roles break down in societies which experience greater security and resources

    Breakdown? Or just that the male rite of passage was fairly easy and laid back?

    Because if it is the latter then you might just as well do it by going around with a bunch of guys and getting drunk or cow tipping or something. You don’t need some amazing life altering plan like sail around the world.

    While you were claiming to define (or fail to define) masculinity in searching for what got you hot chicks in different countries it just sounded to me like your PUA experience gave you confidence approaching women. As in 90% of success is just showing up. Or do you think something about you changed that made you more of what hot chicks (or any other woman presumably) were looking for? If that is the case it seems more like the issue here is what women are looking for.

    Instead of framing this whole thing as more “men need to do something” it seems you could just as easily frame it as something women need to do. Most obviously they need to stop trying to find a husband who earns far more than them now that women are earning more than men are (because of the huge anti-male bias in our education system).

    I think it is much harder for women to change than for men (because women are the more conservative sex). I think it’s hard for women to get attracted to men who they can’t respect in some way as being better than them (either as a protector or provider or something). The crisis in masculinity is actually a crisis in femininity but because women control the media of discussion men get the blame of course. When will women step up? When will women step and say it is dysfunctional to demand equality and also demand a spouse who is more powerful than you are?

    • Julie Gillis says:

      I think it’s dysfunctional. But then I’m happy with a spouse that seems relatively equal in power. I mean he’s taller, but I’m a better cook. He has a PHd to my Master’s but I earn more money and have for many years. He’s better with fixing things, but I’m far better with social planning. I won’t go into bedroom activities but we each have our particular skills and dominant traits which we share and appreciate. Somehow we’ve managed to stay in love, sexy, and fun for 18 years. I like nerdy smart men. I don’t like frat boys. I like artists, not football players. I’m turned on by brains, wit and critical thinking Thankfully my husband is turned on by brains, wit and assertive personalities and accepted my first date offer, when I asked him out. I was annoyed by the PUA section most of all but I am not feeling in the mood to piss about it.

      I don’t think there can be equality if one member of the relationship is fully dominant over the other (male or female). I think equality comes in pieces and varied skills and hopefuly evens out into a mutually fierce and loving collaboration, a team of passionate partners. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

      • Well I’m not a woman… on the other hand you’re only one woman so you’ve only got +1 on me… but I don’t think a guy has to be “fully dominant” to be sexy. But I do think the guy has to do something impressive, or dominant or powerful or protective. Women need to recalibrate their expectations that a man be dominant in mostly financial terms.

        As The Tao of Steve says,
        “do something excellent in her presence, therefore proving your sexual worthiness.”
        http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/the-tao-of-steve

        • Julie Gillis says:

          I’d add the Tao of Jules, “ditto for the chick” I think it’s got to be more than money and it’s got to be more than hotness. But I am rarely fully impressed by either (in terms of taking off my nether garments).

    • I disagree that women are necessarily looking for a man who is more “powerful” than they are. Women ARE looking for men who are interesting and fun to be with. If PUA skills, or any other self-improvement method, can make a man more interesting and fun to be with, he will have more success with women. Nerdy guys can be interesting and fun, or they can be passive and hard to connect with. Every person has to bring something to the table. Sadly, most people (men and women) are extremely judgmental and don’t have much patience to try to get to know someone right off the bat. Personally, I like nerdy guys, if they are passionate and interesting. It’s not about being more “powerful” than me.

      • Just Google some research / polls on what women and men want in each other. Beyond the ubiquitous “good sense of humour” it’s basically men want someone who is good looking and women want someone with money. Now I’m not going to say that order should be reversed because my step daughter is very good looking and has (as her mother puts it) “zero personality” and she has a hard time with boy friends. But equally, you shouldn’t try and pretend that women don’t look for power in a man.

        I am not trying to tell you guys don’t like boobs and a pretty face so why do women get all defensive about them wanting a fat wallet? Or some other symbol of power? Here’s the thing: if you are young and a woman and have a pulse you more or less qualify. But young men have to actually work to get power. So when the system is rigged so that women go to college 60% more than men, then young men’s position goes from hard to impossible. But it isn’t their fault, it’s the fault of women simultaneously demanding more money than men their age and at once demanding men have more than them so they can feel protected by a powerful man.

        Where have feminists done or said anything about stuff like this? Instead we get articles blaming men as usual. Oh where are all the good men? All we have is boys. Where are the knights in shining armor we ordered? Men suck. There’s a “crisis” of masculinity.

        • Julie Gillis says:

          I never ever looked for money, cause I am a frickin romantic that way. My husband, bless his heart, I pursued him, and then he reciprocated with some of the most amazing writing, directing and filmmaking. We worked together, created art together. Won my soul. We’ve each never earned much, but we have so much more than that.
          All women don’t “demand” money. I never did. And yeah, I’m one woman. I know say….500 women in my FB circle of 1100 not married to money. I have no doubt there are women marrying wallets and men marrying tits, but I don’t envy them. Not one bit. Seems an empty way to live.
          one can be a pretty face and also poor. One can have a decent salary and a nice ass. It doesn’t have to be this weird frat boy/corporate/silicone consumerist ideal.
          Maybe I’m one in a million, but I’m damn glad of it. There is so much more to love and companionship than “does he have enough money to pay for my dye job and vacay in tahiti.”

        • The system is not rigged. You didn’t have competition before. You have it now. You just can’t compete. Free markets… gotta love ‘em… except when you lose, amiright?

    • How are women the more conservative sex? That is hilarious. We changed RADICALLY in under 50 years. Less than generation sees major sea changes. We don’t even VOTE conservative on the majority.

  8. Very interesting article.
    People must choose their own paths.
    Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Stallone in his old days, The Shamrock fighter family, Mas Oyama, Chuck Norris, and similar are my masculine set of figures.

    Does it fit in with the modern looser version. Nope.
    Does it make me comfortable and allow me to live with myself. Yep.

    We are assigned our genders by nature and our gender roles by nurture.

  9. codebuster says:

    So much of what Mark Manson writes makes sense, but right from the start of reading his article, I was anticipating the bit that he wouldn’t get… and I was right.

    Throughout human history, men always had a clear a concise path laid out before them. We’re one of the first generations that doesn’t. You can do or be anything you want in any capacity that you want. So create your own standard and then surpass it. Psychologically that’s where we derive our worth and our value. Right now simply following the path our fathers and grandfathers laid out before is not working. It’s time to blaze our own trail.

    Affirmative action denies men these imperatives. Affirmative action, as state-sponsored sexism against men, contrives womanly “success” at the expense of manly achievement. Affirmative action (AA) denies men the very freedom to respond to the environmental pressures that Mark acknowledges is central to sorting gender choices. AA compels women into watered-down roles that most of them don’t really care for, driven by feminist fantasies regarding work as a hobby, something you do if you like, something you do if your fancy takes you. Oh I suppose work has some practical utility for women, even if they would never do it without the AA freebies and incentives… it provides women with independence from the disappointing partners that they want to escape from after divorce or breakup. But I digress.

    Once affirmative action has been dismantled and a new equilibrium established, then we can talk. Until then, all we have is state-sponsored sexism directed against men based on unsubstantiated poppycock driven by feminist agenda. But do we really need to wait to observe the outcome? Surely the answer is obvious… the gender for whom work is an option will opt for not working when financial needs are being met. Motherhood provides an escape-hatch for women that men do not have. The stay-at-home mom is only exercising the priority that motivates every living organism… which is to choose the path of least resistance, least pain and suffering.

    Affirmative action is an abomination. I think that it is the worst of all the injustices that is being perpetrated against men because its effects go under the radar. Where only 30 years ago it was sufficient for a man to be skilled, competent and qualified, these days men have to go through female-dominated HR hoops to sit silly tests and subject themselves to humiliating interview regimes that render their qualifications irrelevant. And in conjunction with privacy laws and other legislation, transparency and the right to test results is denied. HR departments are free to do whatever they want… and we know in whose favor that is most likely to be, given that we know in which direction government AA incentives apply.

    Time to blaze our own trail? Sure. Here’s a solution. Get rid of AA. Have women compete on equal terms with men on a level playing-field. That will be the only blazing required to re-establish a more efficient, truer natural order. So long as the AA abomination persists, there will never be any justice or natural equilibrium of any kind, and what we are left with is pure, unadulterated totalitarianism.

    • AA doesn’t hurt just men but white people in general. My fiance and I had the same amount of relevant work experience when applying to Wal-Mart and answered their stupid survey the same way–which we made sure of. I figured I had a better chance than he did because I had a high school diploma and was actually able to hold down jobs longer than he could WITHOUT getting fired. Guess who got it? He did. And guess what race he is? Mexican. So any advantages I had over him didn’t matter because of AA. So this is a case where being a woman didn’t get me anywhere. And I notice too that whenever I walk in that same Wal-Mart there is nary a white person around.

      So the premise of getting rid of AA is still the same, but don’t think it works just in favor of woman. It works FAR more in favor of those who aren’t white. If you have a black man and white woman applying for the same job, AA is far more likely to give it to the black man.

    • Boo hoo… We don’t have male crony networks to rely on for our piss poor ‘qualifications.’

    • ” Motherhood provides an escape-hatch for women that men do not have. The stay-at-home mom is only exercising the priority that motivates every living organism… which is to choose the path of least resistance, least pain and suffering.”

      You’ve clearly never given birth.

  10. This was and interesting an well-written article which, however, is kind of sad as an insight into the PUA world and their extremely limited view of women as primarily status objects or trophies. I realize women are also guilty of objectifying men for status, but I find the whole thing rather depressing.

    • I don’t think he said PUA see women as trophies. I think he said they want to have sex with attractive women. Therefore the women remain the essential goal and not a thing of secondary concern (for whatever that’s worth). Is there such a thing as a trophy husband or are all husbands trophy husbands? It seems that for a lot of women, they are in love with the idea of being in love and having a wedding — the subjects of much female pornography of course (ie romance novels and so on). That makes any husband a trophy to those women as they are a secondary goal to the white dress itself. That is not the same as objectifying a man for success where the man remains the object of desire.

      • Well, women are absolutely objectified within the PUA movement, to varying degrees. But often that objectification is a side-effect of other purposes rather than focused on itself. For instance, a guy who feels an extreme amount of anxiety approaching women will objectify temporarily in effort to overcome that anxiety.

        To be fair, there is a lot of misogyny and objectification in that movement, but there are also a lot of genuinely well-intentioned men who are just trying to connect and meet amazing women. So it’s hard to make a blanket statement about them.

        I have a long piece on my time as a PUA that should be published here in the coming weeks.

        • Feeling social anxiety does not excuse anyone from acting civilly and decently. Objectifying people is neither. Buying into that idea with the justification that one is “overcoming” some personal deficiency is arguably worse than the guys who openly do it just to get laid.

          “there are also a lot of genuinely well-intentioned men who are just trying to connect and meet amazing women.”

          People who manipulate, even ineptly, are not well-intentioned. At all. The pick up artist thing is not about having good intentions. If you have good intentions you’ll be a decent person, and being a giant faker, objectifying people, and playing mean little games with people’s feelings is not being a decent person. I wish men would understand that. They really do seem to buy into the idea that you’ve got to be an asshole to be attractive; however the ones who buy that idea really do seem to be assholes. If you buy into the idea that you have to “play” and “pick up” and manipulate to get what you want out of women, you’re a manipulator, not a well-intentioned person.

          • Julie Gillis says:

            Yeah, I have to say I agree with this. If I met a man, fell for him, but learned his entire persona was built on PUA techiniques instead of being himself? I’d feel cheated. You may (someone may) argue that make up and pushup bras are similar factors of fakery. Sure thing. So I don’t wear much of those. I wear minimal make up and have a small chest. No push up bra in the world could change that.
            I can’t speak for all women, but what I find sexy is authenticity, genuineness. I’m not sure that can be sold in a book. Maybe it can, I don’t know. I’m open to conversation about it.
            I thin the variety of things people seek in a mate can’t be codified in an easy self help book. The only people truly benefitting from that are the booksellers and writers.

          • I think you don’t understand what PUA is about. It’s true that many PUA’s do the things you say. But many do not. There’s a wide spectrum of practices and techniques that they implement to improve their results. Some of them are manipulative and unhealthy. Some of them are benign and more or less simply exercises of self-improvement.

            • A 12 step saying about ‘fake it til you make it’ comes to mind. If someone hasn’t the assertive skills to go meet women, maybe practicing until they feel comfortable is a good thing. IF that is their goal. Manipulative people will manipulate, no question, and not for the benefit of the one being manipulated. Garbage in, garbage out I guess. Too bad sometimes it takes a long time for really skilled liars and manipulators to be outed. Yet I feel I am playing devil’s advocate, for I do believe that if someone is so insecure to learn PUA, then perhaps they aren’t capable of entering into a respectful relationship with a woman. And the comment later about living for external validation? Absolutely. If being able to pick up women is the way to measure success, then the man may be living far too much in the mirror of a woman’s expectations, and far too little in his own value.

            • The problem with the whole “PUA” method is that the language it uses very specifically betrays its misogyny. If you talk about women as “targets” who are so confused that they don’t know what they want (but you, as a “PUA” man, obviously do), then it’s not really a leap to go from that to the sort of full-on namecalling misogyny you see on “PUA” message boards.

              Still, while the overall method strikes me as pretty unhealthy, it doesn’t mean that every single element is. If it were presented as something like, “Here are topics of conversation/things about yourself that might be interesting to other people, including women,” it wouldn’t be misogynistic or harmful at all. I could get behind something like, “Here’s a list of 10 ways that people like to flirt. Try some that fit your personality.” I get that there are certain skills involved in meeting people, and some people need more help developing those skills than others.

              I’m comfortable saying that, when you meet someone new in almost any context, it’s better to project confidence than no confidence. I can also accept that learning “PUA” methods could imbue someone with confidence in a non-creepy way.

              The problem is the other stuff, the gendered assumptions, the silly game playing like acting aloof/waiting to return calls, and the outright scummy stuff like advice for picking women who already have boyfriends.

              Also, as far as the “be aloof/women like assholes” kind of stuff, it’s true that fawning all over someone in an early stage of a relationship won’t get you very far, but not for the reason the “PUA” playbook says. For most people, that much interest that early is a red flag because you barely know each other. If you come off as super into someone right away, it can raise some relevant questions. Put another way, if someone is being a “nice guy” because they think it’s the quickest way to get someone to fuck them, they weren’t being a genuinely nice guy in the first place. If they adopt the “PUA” methods, they’re just replacing one disingenuous tactic with a different set of disingenuous tactics.

  11. Just as a general note, for what it is worth, it seems like whenever the guns are turned so that women or feminists are the object of some accusation, instead of men being the target as so often seems to be the case in these threads…. some women seem to react to that very personally. And what I mean is they answer with a non-sequitur like this…..

    Inquisitor: Women eat too many lollipops which is causing all the geckos to die
    Woman: Not me! I don’t eat lollipops ever. I love geckos.

    Instead of let’s say,

    Inquisitor: Women eat too many lollipops which is causing all the geckos to die
    Woman: I don’t think eating lollipops is what is killing off geckos

    Or maybe I am just wrong about that observation… at any rate I just don’t want anyone to feel personally attacked by the lollipop thing or feel they have to justify themselves or their own personal private business, or how they feel about geckos. At least not if they don’t want to.

    • Dear Santa,
      for Christmas I want an edit button :)

    • Julie Gillis says:

      I saw some amazing baby chameleons yesterday, as an aside. :) We have amazing little geckos here in Texas running all about.

    • I think it’s because of the sweeping generalizations made about women and what we are like. I don’t think anyone really appreciates that kind of thing.

      Man: “Women love to date assholes!”

      Me: “Uh, I am a woman and I don’t like to date assholes.”

      That’s not a non-sequitur, it’s a valid point. Both men and women have people telling them what they like and what they do, when every single person is an exception to at least on of those big generalizations. It’s only natural to defend oneself against the argument regarding “all women are X” or “all men are Z.”

  12. First let me say that I found this article very insightful and much in line with my own experiences as a middle age gay man — thus proving once again that men are men and that we all generally rely on the same logos, the same need for masculine rituals, and the same inclination to see fucking and making love as two distinct and (often very) different things

    Secondly, one gets frustrated with women responding to an article written by and for men without consideration of the male logos (AKA: “Dude Jargon”) and how it differs from the female. There are many aspects of the male experience that do not readily lend themselves to a woman’s analysis (outside, that is, of her own personal understanding of the man / men in her life.) I think women readers need to understand that a man’s logos will differ (often dramatically) from a woman’s, and that when men discuss our experiences or emotional lives, it will be with different language than women might use, one that reflects our understanding of ourselves as men first.

    • “thus proving once again that men are men and that we all generally rely on the same logos”

      Not really. It just happens that you, a man, identify with this one article. There are men who don’t identify with it it all.

      “I think women readers need to understand that a man’s logos will differ (often dramatically) from a woman’s”

      Except when they don’t. You’re making a generalization and kind of a dismissive one. That a woman can’t possibly understand a man’s language because men are men, and the men’s club is closed forever to the understanding of a woman….? Do you honestly think that you can’t understand a woman fully, simply because you are of different genders?

      Every single person has a different life experience and we all speak from that perspective. It doesn’t mean we can’t understand each other and it certainly doesn’t mean that men and women are innately separate in our understanding.

      • Tyler: I see your point but I don’t think my comment is dismissive, rather it’s just a realistic assessment of the inherent psychic differences between men and women. Your comment, however, seems to me to be an over-reading of what I wrote. Because male and female logos can differ dramatically does not infer that will never overlap or that there will never be times when men and women can understand each other clearly (I will not say perfectly, but perhaps so). While human emotions are universal, how men understand and describe their humanity and experience will be with different symbols (words being limited) than a woman will.

        This does not mean that men and women cannot understand each other, only that women need to make the effort to understand the male logos on it’s own terms and not through a feminist filter.

        [Caveat: I was/am the classic male feminist (even taking one of the first Women's Studies courses taught at the high school lever in the early 1970s) but have always understood that while men need to expand their vocublary to better understand women and women's issues, women will need to do the same to understand men better.]

        Having said that, however, and being a lit geek, I think immediately of Virginia Woolf who did understand the male psyche of her era and social strata. The way she described their psyches, however, was different than (I believe) a man might write about the same events and personality. This is conjecture, of course, since Woolf was a genius and too unique to compare effectively to most other writers, male or female.

        One doesn’t want to get lost in intellectual masturbation (always a danger for me), and even less to engage in a pissing contest (as men are reflexively wont to do) but just to heard with an open mind, not one that seeks to find fault when disagreements (however valid) arise.

  13. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    PUA would seem to be the pathetic, ideological anti-masculine. PUA is the faux alpha. It might appeal to drunks. So, like Barbara Ehrenreich’s middle class job seminars, it holds out mainly ideological hope to guys who are trying to overcome loserness, or something like that. Probably works in bars, but who wants any of the people found there.

    I think that there’s a biological template under gender. See Brizendine’s male/female brain books. I admit that culture way varies. I agree that men often learn to separate from it. To be instrumental, we have to say no to norms sometimes. That’s a biological gender separation.

  14. I do not think men need to find a new masculinity so much as we need to find different ways of reaching masculinity to begin with. The only ways we have now are the laughable macho “traditional” caricatures and the woeful, sexist feminist stereotypes. I have no desire to pretend I only eat meat and cannot read anymore than I want to be a doormat for women to step on to feel good about themselves.

    I do think that feeling unwanted is part of the problem, and in that regard I think the criticism of feminism is on point because the ideology does tear down men’s identity. This is done under the guise of “challenging social constructs,” but attacking someone’s identity, let alone tearing it apart, has a disastrous impact on the person. At our core, men want to be valued, so when our society decides that we are worthless it hurts.

    I also think that the lack of clear, positive male role models is the biggest problem. Boys cannot become men unless they have men around them to show them how to do it. In Western society we not only have fewer men showing boys how to become men, but we have fewer men who want to teach boys anything. It is hypocritical for those men or for women to hold that against Gen X of Gen Y men, as if we were supposed to happen on masculinity by ourselves.

    • Henry Vandenburgh says:

      Great post!

    • If ideology can tear down your identity… maybe you need a new identity. I’m serious.

      There is just about nothing you can do to me to make me not feel like a woman save physical mutilations. And even then, I’m sure with some therapy and self searching I could find my way back to feeling like a woman.

      • Julie Gillis says:

        That is the very essence of the difference between sex and gender expression yes? you feel how you feel on the INSIDE, no matter what society tells you you are. if you put me in complete drag and told me I could never speak of being a female else something terribly would befall me, I’d still feel female INSIDE. I dont’ know how ideology could change that.
        Boys can become men in all manner of ways based on social constructs and culture. What is “male” in one country might seem foreign to another.
        I realize Tom isn’t into talking theory but this is where my dander starts to get up. If you were raised in a world where “to be female” meant you had to cover all your limbs, then could you feel female here in the US?
        If you were raised male in a culture that demanded you kill at a certain age in order to pass into manhood would that fly here?
        No. We are capable of as many forms of masculinity and femininity as we are capable of creating. What really gets us into trouble is believing we know the “one true way” to be one or the other and expecting all boys or all girls to follow that path.

  15. “Whereas a woman’s femininity is implicit by simply being and birthing, a man’s must be proven through action.”

    Hmmmm. I would argue that women are described as “feminine” only if they allow themselves to be oppressed into that role. When I change a tire or use a chainsaw those aren’t considered “feminine” acts but I, a woman, do them. Why can’t a chainsaw be feminine? It’s a pointless argument. This leads me to conclude that “masculine” and “feminine” are worthless, antiquated concepts that should best be abandoned in favor of that other old saw, “be yourself.” No one person can appeal to all other people, why worry which women in what country find you attractive for what reason? Why get tangled up in femininity/masculinity issues when you can just be who you are and not worry?

    “I decided to be more sensitive and vulnerable around women. And sure enough, I began attracting sweet, sensitive girls who appreciated those qualities in me.”

    Changing your personality all the time isn’t making you more attractive, it’s just making you fake. Won’t it be hilarious when you fake a personality, attract someone who likes it, then find that she’s faking hers, too.

    I’m sad that you brought up the pick-up artist thing, because that whole deal is so pathetic that even mentioning it reduces your article’s good points, as does your discussion of Maxim and Mad Men. Who cares what happens on a TV show? It’s not real. I am led to suggest, as I do to women who get all upset over the hangups they develop after reading supermodel-laden women’s magazines, that if you have a hard time equating yourself to things you see in magazines and TV shows, maybe you should just stop watching them and live in your own reality.

    • Tyler, I really wish comments like yours weren’t a rarity on here. I get so frustrated when I read essentialist nonsense like this. >_<

      No one has brought up that the sweeping generalizations the writer/comments are making a/b gender roles & feminism only apply to white people (if anyone). "Feminists" as a whole were not just lying around post-dishwasher invention, done with the daily grind and reading books all day; women who were privileged enough to live on a single-partner income MAY have been…

  16. Jacobtk and Daniel did excellent jobs of articulating my feelings on the issue. Sidenote: Julie g has a sexy mind…hehe (what? over the line?). ;)

  17. Daddy Files, You said Amanda Marcotte accused you of ‘policing’ women and cast aspersions on your marriage. I’ve read through and I can’t find where she has. She makes comments about some people and their relationships but I can’t see where those comments are directed personally at you. You point those entries out? I read the whole conversation and I can’t find it.
    I also don’t see in that thread where Tom was ‘pelted’ by feminists saying he didn’t get it. Perhaps he was receiving other tweets that aren’t listed and has unfortunately mixed the sentiment into what reads as a very good natured debate from jennpozner and Amanda? I’d like to see the pelting if it can be found.
    In fact I would say that at exactly the point Tom claims feminists are telling him he doesn’t get it, I would say it’s pretty obvious that Tom doesn’t get it.
    In my view the whole conversation goes wrong immediately after the fifth post. Tom clearly doesn’t understand what Jennifer Pozner means by essentialism or the her comments about the disciplinary effect of rigid gender assumptions. It then progressively spins out of control.
    What I would really love to see is a good solid piece on GMP that explains those effects and how (a) people who have those rigid ideas of their own identity tend to become aggressive (claiming some kind of violation/oppression) when people start to challenge what that person sees as part of their essence and (b) people tend to try and declare anything they want to project as being part of their essence in the belief they can be justified in aggressively defending it.
    I can’t speak for Amanda or Jennifer (don’t even know them) but GMP mostly reads to me like a lot of low brow ‘real men don’t eat quiche’/’men are from mars’ essentialist b******t.
    http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-truth-about-universal-masculinity/ is at least a step in the right direction.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Persixty, I was with you until the second to last sentence. Why did you feel the need to include the words “low brow” and “b*****t” when talking about The Good Men Project and what we are trying to do here — which is talk about these issues honestly and in a way that makes sense to us. Is that not name calling? You start out your comment by seeking to understand, but then by the end of it appearing to throw you hands up at our intentions.

      That said, a “good solid piece” that explains exactly what you are talking about would be welcome here. When you talk about this from an abstract pov, it is hard to “get” but does seem important, that “people who have those rigid ideas of their own identity tend to become aggressive (claiming some kind of violation/oppression) when people start to challenge what that person sees as part of their essence”. It would be great to have something that talks about that in a very grounded way — that is not in the abstract, but from the point of view of real men, real stories.

      Are you volunteering to write such a piece or do you know of someone who would? Please email me at lisa at goodmenprojct dot com. Thank you.

      • Lisa, I approve of the intentions. I’m just disappointed by most of the execution.
        It just reads on the level of ‘Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche’ which itself a 30 year-old parody of the material.
        I’ll think about what could be written and it can be illustrated but it would inevitably involve some abstract ideas.

  18. Did you consider, that you’ve actually struck that natural balance, that can be defined universally masculine, and that women all around the globe keep finding you attractive, despite all the deep-rooted cultural stereotypes, exactly because masculinity IS universal?

  19. What I have gathered from my Life Experience is that old school mentality is “competition” and the new school mentality is “cooperation”. Where competition lies, (All) these questions arise, where as there is no need for this in cooperation mode.

    Think also about the balancing out of Men in general; gay men and single mothers. (talk about changing the archetype and the way we are brought up from back generations).

    My conclusion is that we are evolving as we speak, we are getting an update. It is obvious that the World can not continue in this direction on competitive mode. Nature like always is just balancing itself out.

  20. Or, you know, you could just give up on defining yourself by external validation. Just sayin’.

  21. I very much enjoyed this article. I am intrigued that you found your way to a broader perspective of masculinity via a PUA model. I am impressed that you took that initial experience into a larger arena, and learned a great deal more than just pick up skills.

    I agree with most of the information you presented. I find myself concerned about the model wherein we filter out and end up attracting people with similar root biases. Not that I don’t think this is the case, but I am disheartened about what that indicates about my own internal script which is leaking out into my life in ways I really wish it wouldn’t. I keep trying to find a loophole in that argument, since I find the conclusions I am left with painful and confusing. Oh well.

    As far as ‘finding man via sweat lodges’ approach, yes, I think I know from whence you speak, I do believe those have a valid effect for many men to find a safe, bonding space with other men. Is that a path for all men? Of course not. But I hope you don’t dismiss the value many men find in recapturing ancient traditions in an era where the bonding force of ritual and common experience has left men and women floundering for a common ground from which to speak to each other, as well as rebel against.

    I disagree that being born woman is enough. I have read this in previous texts, and this precludes the numerous womanhood rituals that initiate and differentiate a girl into the society of woman. ‘Coming out’ has an older meaning, menstruation rites, and even rituals which are just as vicious as those you described for young boys are common throughout the world. I think much of our initiation rituals have been left in the hands of the young upon the young, and this has created more of a ‘Lord of the Flies’ subculture of man-boy/woman-girl hood. My personal bias for a more balanced childhood system would be the system where the boy’s most important man is not his father, but his mother’s brother, wherein the Oedipal complex is circumvented, as well as where the birth parents are not the primary caregivers, more likely grandparents, that community system rather than the modern ‘ideal’ of the ‘nuclear family.’

    Would love to say more, because this article was, in my opinion, written with full acknowledgement that it came from a personal viewpoint with which I don’t have to agree, but without bashing anyone, either.

  22. “Camille Paglia once wrote, ‘A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman, and it is confirmed only by other men’… Whereas a woman’s femininity is implicit by simply being and birthing, a man’s must be proven through action.”
    While I don’t agree totally with this contention (a lot of women struggle to, and are chastised for, deviating from traditional femininity), Manson and Paglia do raise an interesting point about modern masculinity.
    Anyone who knows me (or anyone who reads my blog) knows that I’m a feminist through and through, and that the idea of a “post-feminist” society is spurious. But, provided the right infrastructure and support is in place in an individual female’s life, she does have the opportunities to be anything she wants to be. Sure, she’ll probably be judged for it by misogynists and traditionalists, but does she have as hard a time as a man does stepping outside of the rigid stereotype we’ve put in place for him?
    I can’t stand poor-straight-white-wealthy-male problems, but should we diminish the individual struggles to “be a man” men face today because they’re not deemed as “worthy” as the struggles women or people of colour or gay men and women or the poor or the disabled or transgender people face? Who are we to say that someone’s inner demons aren’t as bad as the next person’s?
    Now is as good a time as any to be a man but, I think, once everyone realises that gender is just a performance, we’ll all be able to get on with our lives in a way that’s right for us, regardless of the body parts we were born with and what society expects from us because of said body parts.

    • Thanks for this. Was not crazy for the implications about women within this article and I’m glad you got to the comment button first.

  23. Scientifically, there HAS NEVER BEEN any direct link, whatsoever, between AGGRESSION and TESTOSTERONE. Stop peddling pseudoscience to back up your own behaviours. Also, you got your testosterone from… oh yeah, from WOMEN!

    If men are hard wired to need more sex, then how come its pretty much universal in the animal kingdom that FEMALES are more likely to have sexual encounters than males? Many males die as virgins, but most females don’t. Again, more pseudoscience to justify yourself. It’s pretty ironic that you wrote an article about gender stereotypes, whilst pushing your own pseudoscience stereotypes on others.

    P.S. Try being forced to play with just dolls while your male peers get proper toys, or every toy you own being pink, or being told having an opinion of your own isn’t “ladylike”, or wearing high heels or shoes you can feel the floor through, or having just a skirt covering your privates, or wearing a mask of make-up every day just so you’re pretty and feminine enough, or tight, clingly clothes, revealing half your body, having to hide anything to do with periods from men like the plague, or not being allowed to discuss or openly enjoy sex, or having it be practically law that you have long beautiful hair, having to style such hair else you will be seen as “unkempt and unfeminine”, not being able to be openly competitive or sweat, not being able to fart, to burp, to be dirty, to smell, to have an off day without being judged for it, to be forced into a role whereby approval is only achieved by being a victim, subordinate and uncompetitive, to have to take responsibility for your own AND mens behaviour, knowing that if a man offends against you, YOUR behavior and clothes will be the first things to be analyzed, to have both men and women bully and control your behavior from birth.
    Only when you have experienced all of this, can be qualified to say that feminine identity is inherent from birth. But I’m sure if you yourself had to experience a day as a woman, you would learn to have more than a single sided perspective. We women have to fight every single day to no only be seen as clean, attractive, feminine, in control, but also to ward off cat calling and other such behaviours from men and keep ourselves safe. On top of that, women do MOST of the worlds housework AND childcare, AS WELL AS holding down jobs.
    All this while being treated by society as an hysterical child, incapable of making big decisions because of “our emotions”. Also receiving pocket money instead of wages because all the decent paying jobs are “male” careers.

    P.S. you complain of the “responsibility” of men having to initiate intimate encounters… But have you ever, ever, thought of the “privilege” of being ALLOWED to initiate intimate encounters, instead of just hoping the other person notices you? because trust me, it’s fecking annoying to be seen as a slut just because you dare to talk to a member of the opposite sex.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The Truth About Universal Masculinity — The Good Men Project [...]

  2. [...] “The Truth About Universal Masculinity” by Mark Manson on The Good Men [...]

  3. [...] Friendly Universe – Law of Attraction in Action  Day 161 of 2011: "Rebels With Impact" by Jerry Waxman Edgar Zivanai Tekere was an activist who foug…e minority rule in Rhodesia. Having been imprisoned with Robert Mugabe, and having fought alongside [...]

Speak Your Mind