What Makes a Man…a Man?

The blokes at MensStylePower give some serious thought to an important question.

Us guys over MenStylePower are in serious mode today. We’re thinking deeply. We’re tossing out (temporarily) our fashion related style notes and delving into the male psyche. We’re putting aside fluff and pulling off the gloves. We’re toughening up and we’re asking the big question: What makes a man…a man?

It all started after a long chat at the pub the other day, with a bloke I consider in good stead – a hardworking, self respecting young man whose initial impression on others is of quiet understated-ness. However the gloves come off pretty quickly once you get him talking over a beer.

And talk he did. The topic on the table? Men.

What makes a man? Who is a man’s man? And why is it that males today are struggling with defining themselves?

“They’re struggling?” I hear you ask.

Yes. They are.

In conversations with men around the world we’re hearing as well as witnessing a cry for help.

Websites such as Psychology.com reports that we are experiencing a male identity crisis in Western Society, brought into sharp focus by the global economic downturn. First, we are seeing a significant shift in the nature of education and employment trends which will have a huge impact on male identities. Boys are seriously under-achieving in public schools in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, according to several recent research studies. Men now comprise barely 40% of enrolled University and College students and graduates.

In a post-modern world lacking clear-cut borders and distinctions, it has been difficult to know what it means to be a man and even harder to feel good about being one. The many boundaries between men and women have been blurred, and men are groping in the dark for their identity. In Australia, around one in six men suffer from depression at any given time (Beyond Blue). In the States, depression reportedly affects about 6 million men each year (The Mayo Clinic).


Overwhelmingly, the portrayal of men and male identity in contemporary western societies is mostly negative. Men today are extensively demonised, marginalised and objectified, in a way reminiscent of what happened to women. The issue of the male identity is of crucial importance because males are falling behind in school, committing more suicides and crimes, dying younger and being treated for conditions such as ADHD more than females. There has been a rise in divorce rates where in most cases, child custody is granted to mothers. Continuous negative portrayal of men in the media, along with the feminisation of men and loss of fatherhood in society, has caused confusion and frustration in younger generation males, as they do not have a specific role model.

Back in 2005, a study spanning the globe – 13 markets, 45 focus groups and 2,000 men, conducted by Leo Burnett Worldwide, found that men in most parts of the world are unsure of what’s expected of them in society, with half of those surveyed saying they felt their role in society was unclear.

Which means we shouldn’t be surprised that drug addiction, alcohol or substance abuse, pornography, violent or abusive behavior, inappropriate rage, escapism, risky behavior and suicide are on the rise amongst men. It would seem that an alarming number of men are finding themselves, in one word, LOST.

The evidence is found, especially in the ‘macho’ intense culture of Australia (where MenStylePower resides), in the pubs, the watering holes, the backyards and the beaches…where men go to drown their confusion.


While gruff, tough, and hard yakka Aussie men may be the auteurs du jour in Hollywood (Russell Crowe, Sam Worthington, Hugh Jackman, Simon Baker, etc), the reality is that under that rough and tumble thick skin, many Australian men are floundering.

The so-called high priest of the Australian male confessional, Sam de Brito, has made a business out of giving away blokes’ deepest secrets. He pens men’s columns for Sydney and Melbourne newspapers, and runs a well-known blog called “All Men are Liars – Except Sam de Brito” and his book The Lost Boys, “takes the pulse of Aussie manhood”. In fact it does more than take a pulse. It is a fully invasive piece of investigatory surgery performed on all parts of the Australian male, most especially his ego. At the same time it stabs at woeful failings in the Australian culture to support the authentic male.

The idea behind de Brito’s work in general – including his nonfiction book No Tattoos Before You’re Thirty (2006) – is that the Australian male lives a life of duplicity…when he looks in the mirror, he never tells what he really sees.

Instead he delves into drugs, sex, driving at speed, cultural and racial attitudes, lying and cheating, loyalties and betrayals, laziness and masturbation.

In other words, he escapes becoming a man, because he does not know how to be one.

‘The Lost Boys’ is set in a Peter Pan land where boys never grow up. Bondi’s pub-defined Bermuda Triangle to be exact: “The Bergs, the Regis, the Rats. Three points on the map but blokes get lost in there for years.” Full of prawns, bread and beer, with chicks of all ages on heat at closing time, these boys never want to emerge. Feeling perfectly satisfied means they never see the need to take on adult responsibilities. Their lost-ness is their identity.

The Lost Boys is narrated by Ned Jelli, an ageing boy narrator binge drinking himself further into disillusionment. He’s a big drug user and alchoholic, a porn addict, a crook footballer, a moderately successful lover in his heyday, an OK surfer, a passable intellectual in his group and now he’s going to fat.

He is a 35 year old little boy lost.


Because no-one showed him the way.


Back to my friend at the pub. Himself a quintessential Aussie male, I asked him why he seemed to, unlike many of his floundering-into-manhood mates a la Ned Jelli, had his act together, kept his cool and had a history of making solid and wise decisions (the aforementioned man has his own business, bought a house, investing into business ventures and is highly respected by his peers, all before the age of 35.)

He thought about it a little.

“My father.”

“My dad – my hero – set benchmarks for me. He straightened me out when I was wrong, he counseled me on my life choices, he told me what a man of integrity looked like and he set high yet achievable expectations on me on what it took to be a man – one who was a great friend to himself – independent, risk taking, adventurous; a loving, loyal husband to his wife; a provider for his children; a mate who stands for his friends, shares mutual respect and provides unconditional assistance to them, a man who takes the tough knocks in life on the chin and still keeps ticking.”

“He initiated me into manhood.”

And therein lies what we, at MenStylePower, believe is the problem with manhood today.

Apart from good fathers, no-one, especially in Western Culture, is telling young boys and developing men what it takes to be a man.

De Brito himself says that “When a culture ceases to provide specific initiatory pathways, the individual male psyche is left to initiate itself.” In other words, many males don’t know what to do with themselves in the movement from boyhood to adulthood.

The “apparent” initiation rituals – being legally able to drink in a pub, get pissed (drunk) royally, drive a car and have sex – simply capture the boy, and stall him to remain a boy. This is the sad, hugely important issue de Brito raises.


What modern ‘initiation’ has forgotten to do, is to instil value into men, rouse within them adventure and wild abandon, yet inspire integrity and the power of choosing to do good and living a sacrificial life within them.

Unlike modern times, most ancient and tribal cultures (to this day) initiated their men into manhood, ensuring boys did not wander into adulthood confused about their identity.

The Maasai culture in Kenya initiated their young men by having them face their fears and overcome great adversity to kill a lion. Other African tribes like the Meru, gathered boys of similar age together (10-12 years old) in a group, circumcised them in icy river beds without pain relief, then sequestered them for 4 months at a time with the old, wise men of the village, to learn the mysterious business of becoming a man.

The truths these young men learnt were a large part of the initiatory rites that almost all men used to undergo in almost every culture in the world until recently.


Lament not. Author Stephen Biddulph provides help to those of us living in the West, in his rebuilt handbook for blokes ‘Manhood’.

Biddulph’s definition of good man comes down to just two words. “Backbone and heart

“Backbone is the ability to stand firm, endure, be true to his word and sometimes put himself last, especially under circumstances of great need or stress.”

“Heart – the ability to be counted on, possessing compassion.”

Biddulph then contrasts the failings of the ye olde world stoic fathers of the first half of last century, with the sensitive new age guys of recent decades and finds them both lacking – because they went too far towards either pole – too much backbone, too much heart.

Biddulph stresses the need for balance, and then for initiation. “Initiation centers on the most pressing spiritual task of any culture – making the young wise enough, soon enough, that they may join the tribe as superb and contributory human beings.”

He also reveals what he calls “five awakenings, five truths” that young men need to confront, grieve over, and eventually celebrate as ultimate liberation.

These five truths of manhood, are:

1. You are going to die.
2. Life is hard.
3. You are not that important.
4. Your life is not about you.
5. You are not in control of the outcome.

Note that these five truths are pretty much the exact opposite of what we tell our young men today.

“When we fail to accept these truths, we become a culture of perpetual childhood,” writes Biddulph.

There is hope for boys wanting to become men. Initiation cannot be done alone. In and of itself, it demands that you are surrounded by other men. So dude, if you’re struggling with what it means to be a man, find a man in your world that you respect and spend time with him. Initiation doesn’t always have to be stated, it can be absorbed via following a good example.

My pub friend gave the example of tradesmen on a building site who routinely give a ‘hard time’ to new apprentice builders. The teasing, jockeying around and pushing them to the limits/testing their endurance, is all about toughening up soft boys into solid men. It builds bonds of strength between men, ensuring they can count on each other and themselves if and when things get rough.


The men you surround yourself with will either mean you grow into a man yourself, or conversely, retreat into ‘lost boy’ territory. Think deeper than just ‘wine, women and song’ and seek the narrow, yet rewarding journey of becoming a man of high regard … ‘a man for whom freedom, comradeship, a wide tolerance, and a strong sense of the innate worth of man, count for more than all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory in them.’

So what else did my pub friend have to say on what defines a man?

His brow furrowed, his eyes went to a far away place, then he leaned in, and so did I, eager to hear one more tasty morsel of deep male wisdom.

He took a deep breath, then announced with male certainty. “A man’s man … doesn’t wear scarfs.”


Originally published at ManStylePower.com




Photo credits: menstylepower.com, viucsr/flickr

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  1. I don’t care about “being” a man.I care about being MYSELF.

    This whole being a men thing is actually about being a STRAIGHT man.

  2. Michael Rowe says:

    Alas, society doesn’t heap its expectations on people based on their “personhood,” it heaps them based on their sex (not even their gender, really, which is internal.) All of your points are excellent, but the problems and issues facing men are related to their sex.

  3. This whole effort to define what constitutes a “real” man is misguided insofar as it focuses on gender. A better question is, what makes a good (“real”) person, regardless of gender. Thousands of years of human ethical and spiritual practice have already been devoted to answering this question, so there is little to be added. The principles are clear. Follow the golden rule. Be present. Be compassionate. Don’t lie, cheat or steal. Be mindful of your mortality, and keep your ego in check accordingly. These principles apply with equal force regardless of gender.

  4. [i got fed up with it, so its draft form, so flow etc not correct]
    What is a man, my current thinking is that a man as defined by a western society is always tougher, more hardier than the equivalent woman of his social rank.

    I came to this by considering the charges of effeminacy in western history ive come across when reading about western clothing eg. Against varying richer eastern courts by the then poorer westerners, by the roundheads against the royalist cavaliers, by 18th century english men and french philosophers against the french monarch and aristocrats, by 18th century anglo merchant and professional class against the aristocrats.
    The men charged, were still more hardy than the women of their rank.

    young men (puritan in this case) in fashionable petticoat breeches. Moralisers accussed petticoat breech wears of effeminancy


    Things became increasingly gendered over the course of the 19th century.
    To show how complete and discreet the ‘ideal worlds for men and women’ came to be over the victoedwardian period. For middle class woman to even smoke! was to engage in masculine behaviour, and only ‘degenerates’ like masculine women, fast women, women of the lower orders( who were assumed to have greater degrees of masculinity to their social rank, behaviour and coarser facial features)
    (check out ruskin’s views of the japanese on p32 n 33. I burst out laughing at his idiocy. Gives you insight into the degree of pseudo’scientifically-rational’ nonsense that informed the creation of the victorian racial hierarchy, and the associated ideal men and ideal women)

    I see the real man ideal of today’s western culture as just a slight modification of the
    the late 19th/early 20th century imperial european masculinity ideal. As typified by those stiff upperlipped men and their gloriously granite moustaches, or the mythic lone cowboy in the old west – Granite exterior, granite interior.
    Man – new , modern, this version of stoical man is a ‘scientifically’ created mechanism, void of inefficient sentiment

    But even some of the victoedwardian neospartans eventually realised spartanism/ law of the jungle/social darwnism as with evolution, rarely produces civilisation-creating intelligence, but instead only faster, stronger, and more ferocious brutes eg. The 1905 american football reforms.
    The law of the jungle model of spartan masculinity, imperial euro masculinity doesnt seem popular amongst previous high-civilisations around the world.
    Im not sure it is the most common or favoured or correct form of masculinity, as still all over the world so few men are naturally sociopathic, naturally machinelike.

    In the early 20th century a man was easy to define, only in rare circumstances did he do what women did. But now women have passed through that ‘galactic barrier’, and do virtually all of the trad masc role ( apart from the bits they currently dont like, and the poopy bits). Holding to that definition causes confusion in men as to what is a man, as now a woman can do virtually all that a man can do .
    Men looking how to define what it is to be a man in view of this, could look back past the great victoedwardian contraction of western masculinity.
    This previous ‘way to define’ a man, men today are not familiar with – that men, no matter how refined (from todays perspective, seemingly overrefined, over luxuriously decorated) were still tougher, more hardier then the women of their rank. It would be interesting to know of exceptions to this, as my thinking is still evolving on this

    Ooo sir, such cute heels babie

    Note the symbolic armour nearby, (he died in war)

    With regard to how feminine a man can be today, as feminine as his fists can afford to defend.
    As an aside, in the increasing number of distressed communities in the West. The lack of, and the subsequent fight for resources hardens women as well as men. However the degree to which the men harden, goes offfff the scales


    This seems a more natural psychological fit for the majority of men (ignore the christian part if you like me, arent one), and i suspect is a more common form

    Two features of ideal masculinity are particularly significant. Firstly, the crystallization of a model of ‘Christian masculinity’ was influential. Religious tracts, sermons and pamphlets aimed at shaping male behaviour from c.1670 to 1800 reveal the ideal Christian man as forgiving, magnanimous, benevolent, virtuous, moderate, self-controlled, and a worthy citizen; hallmarks of manliness that were not distinctive to any one religious persuasion in the period examined.Secondly, the values personified in the ‘man of feeling’ were significant.He was imagined in a domestic setting, and embodied emotion, sensitiv-ity and gentleness.

    These qualities had widespread cultural power until at least the 1820s. Between 1785 and 1815, for instance, the Gentleman’s Magazine celebrated elite men’s domesticity and ‘connectedness’, that is the ability to sustain relationships with family and friends. These models of masculine identity overlapped since the religious objectives of Christian manhood fitted neatly with the traits of sensibility.The convergence of the two is especially noticeable, for example, in James Fordyce’s Addresses to Young Men(1777) which aimed to produce a man who was virtuous, gentle, possessed of sincerity, compassion, generosity,bravery, disinterest and magnanimity.

    The mix of ‘types’ of manhood is not unusual. For example, while feeling, genteel sensitivity andbenevolence were promoted, they were ideally combined with traditional admirable masculine virtues such as fortitude, stoicism and courage
    “A Very Sensible Man’: Imagining Fatherhood in England c. 1750–1830”

    My own personal approach to masculinity, is to cultivate both the hard n soft virtues, to bring them into a more perfect existence. To be like a Katana – a tough, light, and refined sword

  5. wellokaythen says:

    Wow. This makes me shudder, and not with glee.

    Those “Five Truths of Manhood” are like something out of the Third Reich or _Starship Troopers_. Just a cog in the machine with no control over your fate, no individual existence, and then you die. Preferably for the good of the collective, I assume? Follow the leader, peace is war, freedom is slavery, the group is the individual, etc. Brilliant for getting the more gullible men to sign up to run towards the machine guns.

    Number 5 seems inconsistent with the idea of individual accountability and individual agency. You will have SOME influence over the final outcome, or else what’s the point of right or wrong?

    • Yeah, it’s a little third-reichy-ish, if that’s a word. According to the author, men have been condemned to a bleak existence. It reminds me of a speech Stalin wrote. Wow.

  6. The Wet One says:

    What makes a man a man is a Y chromosome?

    Seriously? This is a question? WTF is this the Dark Ages?

    The question is what makes a man a good man. That’s the only question to bother with everything else is twaddle. The article gave a decent stab at it.

  7. MrsLADaniel says:

    Jack…I like what you said about women not having to create a unique identity in comparison to unique masculine traits. Women have the option to revert back to staying home and walking away from the high powered positions….whereas a man is seen as maintaining the role of leader, provider and any deviation from that role a man is not portrayed as a man in modern day society.

    • I don’t know if you saw my response to your other post, but I touched on this some more. I think there are some deep seated reasons for the need to try and define a masculine role. One of the theories I was talking about is that women have and always will play a much more vital role in the creation of and initial nurturing of life. In the past men in contrast to this defined their own role as being the strong breadwinners of the family. Like you’ve said though, the glass ceiling is now being broken. Women are taking on all the roles once held exclusively by men, leaving them without anything thats distinctly masculine anymore.

      Its an interesting idea and like you said in your other post, it may also tie into the need men have for power.

  8. As a man, I’m tired of being under the microscope. I’m tired of the same people who have placed men in this situation, now surfacing and trying to “qualify” who men were and are.

    “These five truths of manhood, are:
    1. You are going to die.
    2. Life is hard.
    3. You are not that important.
    4. Your life is not about you.
    5. You are not in control of the outcome.
    Note that these five truths are pretty much the exact opposite of what we tell our young men today.”

    You’re correct, this is not what we “tell” young men but is very much what society has staged and set for young men.

    • Tom – that’s too funny. I feel like I’ve been under the microscope my whole life with women telling me to stop being feminine, act like a wymyn, or act more like a man or girls can’t bake cookies because I’m reinforcing stereotypes. I’m not surprised I stopped listening a long time ago. Have fun with this…it bites and it’s patronizing, but men need their time in spotlight. I’m hoping for positive change in the important matters: family, school, and work.

  9. John Anderson says:

    One of the problems I find with the question what makes a man a man and related ones is that it tries to take a subjective question and make it absolute. We did an exercise in class. Everyone was handed a slip of paper and asked to write 10 qualities they would associate with what was written on the paper. A third of the class got the perfect or ideal man. A third of the class got the perfect or ideal woman. A third of the class got the perfect or ideal person. A section of the board was dedicated to each and we were asked to write our qualities / adjectives our section of the board.

    The teacher had us delete the duplicates and when we looked at the board. There were at least 20 items in each list. If you intersected the lists, you couldn’t find 10 things in common. The first question was why aren’t they all the same. FYI: there was only one comment referencing looks. It was yum written under ideal man. A female student fessed up to it.

    I’m still leaning towards each man defining what being a man and masculinity means. Even if the 10 or even 8 (of 10) attributes that define a man are universal, if we ordered them by importance or impact, we’d probably get some debate. Does treating others with respect or having the courage to follow your heart mean more to being a man. One other thing to consider is are these traits just plain people traits that could go under ideal woman or ideal person?

    • Use determines definition. A useful man is protective of his family and productive in his business dealings. A man protects and provides.

  10. Mrs LA Daniel says:

    What makes a man a man?

    This is strictly my opinion. Once the glass ceiling was broken and it allowed women to hold powerful positions and make six figure salaries the male ego was bruised. A woman as the superior to a man (what has this world come to). Men need to have a sense of power…you know the ‘me Tarzan you Jane’ kind of power. In many ways women are equal to men in the boardroom and in the home. I’m not good with statistics so I will leave that to the experts but the number of stay at home dads seems to be increasing. I work with 2 women that have husbands who stay at he because when they became unemployed and weren’t able to find jobs/salaries that comparable so they opted to stay home and the wives brought home the bacon so to speak. Although some men say they are fine with this it has to be a huge blow to their ego. Society and changing times has made a huge impact on a man feeling like a man. Is there a fix to this problem? Possibly, but it will be on a man by man basis and if women are willing to revert back to caveman days.

    • Interesting. I know certain feminist writers have said the need for a uniquely masculine identity comes from men’s uneasiness about the far more vital role women play in bringing children into the world and nurturing them. “Girlwriteswhat” said something similar in one of her articles as well, that the female ability to give birth made them more inherently valuable to ancient societies whereas men had to prove themselves as the strong breadwinners. Now, in modern societies, women as you say are taking on all the roles that used to be uniquely male, leaving men without a sense of identity. Theres nothing special or unique about maleness anymore. This also ties into why men generally don’t like seeing other men take on feminine traits. I always thought this was an interesting view and I wonder more and more if this is the case.

      • I’ve read articles on this kind of theory before. They called it male juju. The fact that women gave birth gave them a place in society because they brought about society. Men felt as though they were on the periphery while women were in the center. that’s why men were given special places in society to bring them to the center along with women. its an interesting theory and happens to tie in nicely with Pandora’s box, Men were given an inch and they took a mile, monopolized all resources and made all rules of society. It got out of hand and now the pendulum is coming back again. articles like these will hopefully keep that pendulum from swaying back to the other side and instead steady it to a middle ground.

        • Mr Supertypo says:

          More of a theory is a hypothesis, and it connects to female superiority, to day forwarded only by dominatrixes. A synthesis: women are superior and divine and one day, while drinking tea on their pink cloud, they decide suddenly (maybe because of boredom) they like to give some little power to men. But men are devils, and women are angels, right? let ‘s not forget that. So one night in a small dark room, lots of elderly smoking men (picture the smoking man from the X-Files) lead by Crowley from the tv show Supernatural in pure mafia and yakuza style, they plotted the great coup to finally overthrow the angels, and take the power and thus putting a end to the rule of the Matriarch’s.

          A Nice story, you can even make a good few movies and maybe a nice tv-show. But the reality is complex and while all this stuff seems good on paper it fails since it doesent take in consideration the socio-economical reality of ancient cultures. If somebody has to forward a “theory” it should come out from a serious research, made by experts. And Im not speaking about a fluffy research a la Gimbutas. But a serious one without ideological pollution, no more women good men bad. Otherwise its just….fiction 🙂

  11. @Willow: Oh , yes, the modern meme appears always doesn’t it. We can’t discuss men at all, even on a mens site unless with analyze how it effects women.

    This is how I feel about the world right now , at least modern western world.

    A scientist could some up with a cure for ALL male diseases , 100% for sure and if he asked for government money to fund it, he would be rejected because it doesn’t help women.

    Look at the recent recession, where approx 80% of job losses were men, YET, the stimulus package contained large sums of money to help women.

  12. @Willow…
    How in the hell does this article “wreak(sic) of men’s rights” ? are men not allowed to discuss anything about their gender without taking a back seat to opinionated females and their idea of what a man “should” be? the whole article is about the journey to manhood that is missing from alot of young males lives, a journey which is critical to creating understanding compassionate men. Are you saying trying to improve our understanding of ourselves and what it means to be a man should be completely ignored? Because any attempt to understand and improve ourselves is automatically us support old patriarchal systems? If so your pretty dense, because part of the massive confusion amongst young men is the societal view of what it means to be a man is very very different from previous generations, thats a change that has happened rapidly, leaving alot of young males with no real role model, in a society that men have actively helped to change. There are still areas that need to be changed to reach true equality, but overturning millennia of culture doesnt happen overnight, an active discussion is needed between both genders to step forward positively, and that cannot be done if simply discussing what it means to be male is branded as reinforcing patriarchy. Infact it is essential that men get to freely discuss the meaning of their gender in order to move society forward. Because I can tell you, things will be alot worse if we go forward with a generation of “lost 35yo boys” who never got a chance to figure out what it means to be a man. And that seems to be the way you want things to go if you are willing to brand any discussion of “maleness” as abuse of privilege.

    • Leon,

      I certainly did not mean to say that we shouldn’t talk about masculinity. (I also didn’t mean to use “wreak” instead of “reek”). All I meant was that the overall tone of the article seems to show men as victims only, and ignores the ways that (some) men benefit from hegemonic masculinity. I wish this article talked about how the harms that some men face are because of us devaluing feminine qualities.

      • Aha, I see your point now, I either missed it first time round (was pretty late when I typed my reply) or didn’t get what you were aiming at. Sorry if I seemed a bit agitated :S

        It’s a good point you make. But I think it’s a problem that can be dealt with, not by treating maleness and the search for masculinity as an inherently bad thing if left to itself, but by creating better men. I think society see’s the stereotypical alpha-male corporate types as the epitome or ideal of all men, and the hegemonic structure that those type of people create as being the vision of all men. People need to realise that those type of men are actually BAD examples of maleness, their often failed men because they have failed to learn some of the most basic principles that many of the articles here discuss when showing examples of true maleness, which are strength through compassion, Not domination through strength. These type of men devalue femininity, tbh they devalue just about anything that isn’t themselves. I personally don’t consider that being a man.

        And on the victimisation idea. I think men are just as much victim’s of the past ideology as women are, we wouldn’t be if we kept oppressing women because then we wouldn’t be admitting we were ever wrong in the first place, but in order to change society for greater equality it has required men to admit they were wrong, and as a result greatly question our own gender role, physiology and psychology. I doubt anyone from any walk of life if put into a situation where they had to question every single aspect of themselves wouldn’t be described as a victim.

        Men and women are both victims of “inequality” as a whole, women with enriched lives benefit us all, but so do men with enriched lives, the idea that men need to suffer or be seen as privelaged and have things taken away from them before we can have equality is a dangerous one, it will only breed resentment, which is why it’s important for both sides to move forward together on this. But men also need to discover a new masculinity, and thats a process that for a large part can only be done by men. And by doing so I think will create better men who don’t devalue others.

        *rant over* xD I cant seem to type short replies :S sorry

      • John Anderson says:

        @ Willow

        This comment makes a lot more sense. Many people would still consider it derailing or what about the wimminz. Some would disagree on feminine qualities being devalued, but instead differently valued. Men are not discriminated against in family court because raising children is considered a feminine attribute and considered beneath men. They are discriminated against because it’s considered a feminine attribute and so women are thought to be superior to men when it comes to raising children.

        You don’t even have to look farther than feminist blogs to understand that. They complain about how women who display masculine traits of leadership and control are often demonized as bitches or ball busters, by both men and women. At times their sexuality is questioned. Why would this occur if people were more focused on the trait instead of whether the person exhibiting the trait was conforming to their gender role?

        Motherhood has always been put on a pedestal. It’s as American as apple pie (I wonder who made the pie).

      • I wish this article talked about how the harms that some men face are because of us devaluing feminine qualities.
        There are more than plenty of places on the web where those types of conversations and posts are going on (check just about any feminist site under the sun in fact).

  13. “What makes a man?”

    I recently had this conversation with a family member. I think men have always had a need to define a distinctly masculine identity, particularly in contrast to women. As the article says various cultures have had differing ways of defining manhood and how you are initiated into it. I’ve read various writers theorize on why this is, but whatever the reason, I think any attempt to specify what a man “should be” will be problematic.

    If we throw out things like “treating people with respect, taking responsibility for your actions, taking care of your kids, etc”, then it doesn’t really mean anything because those are all traits that women should aspire to as well. In that case, you could just substitute the word “man” for human” and you’d be no closer to carving out a unique masculine identity. Defining a man by what he shouldn’t do is equally problematic. So what point is served by trying to do this, if what we expect of someone going into manhood is synonyms with what we expect of anyone going into adulthood?

    • *Correction: I meant, synonymous not “synonyms”

      • You make a good point, but what about physiological differences and the effect it has on psychology? Testosterone for example. Although men and women share alot more in common than culture would have us believe, there are genuine differences between the genders that effect how we grow as people. If there weren’t we wouldn’t be having this discussion, hehe. I think a large part of the discussion about what it means to be male/female is simply individual people trying to understand their own bodies, and since we are social creatures, it’s kinda natural that people bond together with others similar to themselves to discover and share what they know. And the interesting fact is that we can also discover a lot about ourselves by also looking at others who are very much different from ourselves. Which is why it’s so important going forward that men need to be able to discuss what it means to be a man, instead of the dangerous old idea that “a real man stands alone and just knows!” but to get the best knowledge about ourselves we need both genders joining the discussion, not to shape each other into the image one side thinks the other should be, but to shape themselves through understanding of their differences, and common ground.

        • I hear what your saying, but the article asks, “what makes a man a man?” and seems to imply that there are certain traits or values men should hold that are unique to them. I mean sure our biology is going to make men generally have similar experiences and effect how we grow, but are we saying that simply living through and understanding that makes you a man? If that was the case then simply making it into adulthood would mean “being a man” and I don’t think the article is saying that.

          I think the real reason we’re still discussing this is because the roles once thought uniquely male are no longer so and we as men want to define uniquely masculine traits, but I don’t know that there are any. I don’t see women struggling to create a uniquely feminine identity nearly as much and I think theres a reason for that.

          • Mrs LA Daniel says:

            @Jack…I like what you said about women not having to create a unique identity in comparison to unique masculine traits. Women have the option to revert back to staying home and walking away from the high powered positions….whereas a man is seen as maintaining the role of leader, provider and any deviation from that role a man is not portrayed as a man in modern day society.

          • Why do you think that reason is. this question has always bothered me. If I were asked what makes a man a man (which I probably wouldn’t be asked because I”m female) I would tell them a penis. Yes that is what makes a man a man. What makes a human an adult? a person of integrity? worthy or honorable? those would be traits that any person should strive for.

            I’ve never once thought or worried about what it means to be a woman. It just doesn’t make sense to me that there would even be anything specific that I must achieve to be a Woman. Why do men feel this need to differentiate themselves from others to feel like a man and what does that even mean? shouldn’t men be concerned about what makes them good people. (it almost seems like a struggle between balancing your spiritual and physical self).

            • -Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck
              Some nights I call it a draw
              Some nights I wish that my lips could build a castle
              Some nights I wish they’d just fall off

              But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
              Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
              What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
              Most nights I don’t know anymore..

              _fun. “Some Nights”

              It’s a fantastic illustration of how we as men aren’t even given the tools to be introspective before we’re bombarded by an endless line of people waiting to exploit our lives for their own ends. Street Gangs, Military Recruiters, Advertisers, Corrupt Employers, Priest, Women, all of them using the same tactics of holding the validation of our Masculine Identity in front of us like a carrot in front of a donkey. You go through life knowing that you must give birth to your masculine identity. You must play their game by beating down and maybe even taking the life of a poorer man. You must defending your woman’s honor and make money because a man has no tangible value outside of his ability to provide and protect.

              1. You are going to die.
              2. Life is hard.
              3. You are not that important.
              4. Your life is not about you.
              5. You are not in control of the outcome.

              Then you realize just how disposable you are in the grand scheme of things..

          • I think the real reason we’re still discussing this is because the roles once thought uniquely male are no longer so and we as men want to define uniquely masculine traits, but I don’t know that there are any. I don’t see women struggling to create a uniquely feminine identity nearly as much and I think theres a reason for that.

            Women dont have to, ‘traditional western (victoedwardian middle class) ‘femininity is still intact, ruthlessly enforced by them(as well as by men, but hetero men are trying to find woman partners). Woe betide you hetero men that enter ‘their turf’. While over the last 100yrs, women have unisexed the choicest cuts of ‘traditional western ‘ masculinity, while leaving you with the ‘inedible’ bits and the bones to chew on

  14. @Willow—
    So “Rights” is a zero sum game?
    I’ve never gone to the bank to cash my paycheck and had the teller slip me an extra $50 for being white.
    I have news for you 98% of the white men I know are trying to hang on to their jobs, make the rent and keep their wives & children happy while they wait to see if they die from an on the job accident, by heart attack or from prostrate cancer.

  15. This article wreaks of “men’s rights” garbage. However, while men are not the oppressed in our patriarchal society, we do have a lot at stake in resisting male dominance. While the stats and quotes used in this article may be accurate, the overall tone sounds a little victimizing. That would have been different if the author had addressed male privilege and the leadership of women in the struggle against it.

    • So, just because an article addresses the challenges men face from a perspective you don’t approve of, it’s garbage? Really? Yes, how male privilege plays into these issues would be a worthwhile article on it own, but this isn’t that article and it isn’t any less worthwhile because it isn’t.

      Everyone sees the world from a different angle, and everyone has their own sets of struggles and challenges to deal with. While the magnitude of those challenges may vary considerably, that doesn’t make anyone’s issues any less real. The one thing we should ask from people telling their story is that they do so as honestly as possible, not that they fit this or that ideological mold.

      Our culture, as it is, is a little messed up. Whether you want to call the problem Patriarchy or call it something else, it’s clear that there’s a lot of room to improvement. We’re going to need to work together if we hope to accomplish anything, and that work starts with trying to understand each others perspectives. It doesn’t start by demanding that everyone else see things your way.

    • John Anderson says:

      Yup, in an article defining what makes a man, the most important thing to focus on is how they can help women achieve their goals. In case you missed it, I’m being sarcastic.

    • Mr Supertypo says:

      This article wreaks of “men’s rights” garbage?

    • Men are oppressed as men in our society, by our society (its not men oppress women, its everyone oppress everyone else). Marxism doesn’t apply. Men are no more the 1% than women are.

    • Michael Rowe says:

      Then read something else, Willow. If there’s nothing here for you to learn, and you don’t have the first clue how to behave courteously, then check out a women-centred website. And you can be sure that men on that site will not be granted the same platform to complain as you have been very kindly granted by the editors of The Good Men Project here.

    • Bay Area Guy says:

      (Moderated for personal attack)

      If you want to read an article about “male privilege,” migrate over to Jezebel.

      This is purportedly a pro-male website. Being pro-male doesn’t involve haranguing men over “male privilege,” at least in my book.

    • This article wreaks of “men’s rights” garbage.
      I take it you meant that as a jab at the MRA crowd. I’m gonna need you to be more specific than just throwing up some quote marks. There’s reasonable MRAs and there are unreasonable ones. If we have to specify which feminists we are talking about when we are critical then at lest pay us the same consideration.

      However, while men are not the oppressed in our patriarchal society, we do have a lot at stake in resisting male dominance.
      I find it interesting that whenever someone starts talking about helping men or talking about the ways that men are harmed people are develop this overwhelming desire to try to make it all about who has it worse and make sure that the heirarchy of that is established. Does it really hurt that much to just acknowledge that there are ways in which men are harmed and they actually relate to them being men?

      That would have been different if the author had addressed male privilege and the leadership of women in the struggle against it.
      Then by all means go find a site that does that stuff because that’s pretty much what most feminists talk about when it comes to men anyway. Honestly most of them can’t even mention men without having to make it all about how they are oh so privileged (and the irony of women trying to tell men how their lives are?).

      • Michael Rowe says:

        Beautifully put, Danny.

        • Michael – I second that. Well put Danny. And I’ll further that by saying, women do not show much gratitude to men for helping women rise. We couldn’t have done it without men.

          So, I thank the men who have helped me…they bring honor upon themselves.

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