Doug Zeigler looks at the “hilariously stereotypical” images of masculinity, compared to what is happening in 2013. And he likes what he sees.
Some of the more iconic images of masculinity that come to my mind are hilariously stereotypical. Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. Arnold as (insert any of his action movie character names here). George S. Patton. Frank Sinatra. Mickey Mantle. Michael Jordan. Teddy Roosevelt. The towel-wearing dude from the Old Spice commercials. Lumberjacks. Firemen and policemen. Don Draper. And of course, this guy.
What do all those men have in common? They’re all virile, chance-be-damned, confident, Type-A personalities.
The old-school version of masculinity for most of my life has been linear. Act tough, exude confidence and never waiver. Face fear in the eye. Be intense. Look physically imposing. Say quips when all looks lost (“Yippee-kay-yay, motherfucker!”). Get through difficult situations by sheer force of will. Succeed against all odds. Be a man!
Thing is, being a man now is not at all a straight line. Men these days are expected, rightfully so, to split household duties. We are actively involved in our kids’ lives. We share our feelings and thoughts with our spouses. Imagine Frank Sinatra, for example, being told by his wife to do dishes? How about telling Michael Jordan to ease up on the criticism on his son and listen to his needs? I certainly can’t see either of those happening. Because they seem like things wimpy men would do.
Which raises the question: What is masculinity in 2013? Can it even be defined?
The old archetype of what it means to be a man has evolved drastically in the last 50 years. A Gallup poll in 2012 found that only 14 percent of married women with kids were stay-at-home moms. That means keeping a house running involves us guys pitching in and doing our part. It’s no longer possible to come home and plunk your ass on a recliner like Ward Cleaver and expect your wife to bring you a martini and have dinner ready. More than ever men and women have to be a team. By and large, the image of masculinity is that of the lone wolf, doing it all on his own and saving the day. I can just imagine telling my wife that “I’m the man of the house; and you’re the woman. Know your role.” She’d chuckle incredulously, then say, “Here, MAN…go clean the toilet.” And I would!
I really do love being part of the fabric of our house and our lives. Jill and I are intertwined in making sure our kids are cared for and our house is in order…well, as much in order as it can be with 4 kids. I wash and fold clothes because she hates doing that and she does dishes because I REALLY hate doing that. We raise our kids together, backing each other up and being there in unison. We face family, bills, work, pets and life together. We make decisions with each other. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Does that make me less of a man? I certainly don’t think so. The sense of love and accomplishment I get being who I am, how I am and who I’m with gives me joy and happiness far more than I ever had trying to realize the elusive goal of being a man by the classic stereotypical definition. I’m a man, and I’m certain of that.
With how rapidly and radically for the good masculinity and what it means has evolved, I can’t see how we can ever really define it. Not anymore. I reminded of something Tyler Durden said in Fight Club: “I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”
Sounds good to me.