Are there too many mixed messages?
Modern day man can easily find himself in a perplexing place when trying to understand what it really means to be a man. With three chief schools of thought – culture, science, and philosophy – vying for our sympathy, we are regularly bombarded with conflicting ideologies and guidance as to what we should do to be good at being men. So how do we know how to separate what is best for us, let alone what we should give as advice to our boys looking into the future?
Culture and tradition hold long-kept ideals and stereotypes that maintain what it means to be a man. Within my cultural upbringing, it was explained to me as a child that men had to be brave and protective of women, they like fast cars and sports, and hated Barbie and the color pink; boys were blue by birth. In fact, boys who liked pink were broken and needed fixing. Although the cultural definition is ultimately subjective and differs wildly depending on which continent you reside, it finds commonality in its tying down of the essence of what it believes manhood to be. But can it be trusted?
Unlike cultural tradition, science is far more academic in the way that it defines men. Simply, the ownership of a penis of any shape or size defines a man while those without penises are categorized as women. There is little space in science to dilute the conversation with anything further than the observational presence, or lack thereof, of a penis.
It is within this objectivity that philosophy finds objection to science. As the pursuit of a truth that exists beyond solely what can be observed, philosophy holds many more rational and irrational standpoints as to the nature of masculinity. Even whilst remaining at the tip of the philosophical iceberg, we find that the argument surrounding the definition of manhood soon escalates into a meta-debate surrounding the nature of humanity, the association of the body and the soul, and whether we can even be objective from our fixed internal perspective.
So where do men even start when trying to understand what they are?
A progressive society can help. Cultural tradition, within progressive cultures like the one I was born into, is growing more and more obsolete as education surrounding the fluid nature of sexuality and openness to self-definition becomes more widespread. This is great news for me as a, scientifically verified, six-foot-five-inch bearded and tattooed man who shares more personality traits with a Disney Princess than G.I Joe.
Discounting cultural tradition, we are left with a choice between science and philosophy. One cannot dismiss that science’s argument is compelling. That is until you speak to someone who is transgender and realize, through the depth of honesty within his or her words, that perhaps their disassociation is entirely true even though it flies entirely in the face of science. Philosophy can also offer a real alternative. That is until you want to objectively prove something.
So, what does it mean to be a man?
In my humble opinion, it is a much more valuable use of our time to live removed from the preconceptions defined by what the big three tell us and instead focus solely on becoming good parents, respected educators and genuinely decent men who people will remember long after our body, penis included, is reduced to dust.