The role of man and the nature of “manhood” is changing. And it should be defined and determined for men by men, as women so successfully did for women.
A recent article by Ann Friedman at nymag.com explores this issue from the point of view of a woman. Being a man, I thought I might have a go from the point of view of a man.
The article presents four data points, to which I will reply in the order presented:
According to Bryan Goldberg “Women have complex desires and interests, some of which conform to classic feminist stereotypes, but many do not…men? They like sports and financial markets and … not reading books.” I guess by that enlightened view I am not a man. Obviously this view is not based in the reality of humanity and its history and accomplishments past, present and future of men who actually can and do read and also write, invent, create, lead and manage and are capable of the full range of emotions of all humans, male or female. A few names to mention: Freud, Shakespeare, Mozart, Hemingway, Roosevelt, Jobs, Dickens, Michelangelo, Chaplin, Renoir, da Vinci, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Welles, Picasso, Pasteur and the list goes on. These are just a few from history, now gone.
Not to take anything away from Goldberg’s simple and uninformed views, Hanna Rosin gives feminism full power to define and “keep male dominance alive” and concludes, “Without such power, man is over.” To that I would say that the news of “man’s demise” is slightly premature. The changing roles of men go hand in hand with the changing roles of women, and the issue of “dominance” is becoming less and less important. We are moving from a patriarchy based culture to one that accepts and thrives on households headed by a single parent, men or women, same sex couples as well as heterosexual couples who all increasingly share responsibilities formally divided by gender (men work outside the house and provide, women manage the household and raise the kids). Although we are not fully there yet, we are increasingly enjoying the freedom of choice for both individuals and couples to share responsibilities based on talent, capability and desire, and not on gender.
Esquire, in its “Life of Men” project, actually got it right. In their attempt to “create a living portrait of the American man right now” photo gallery and questionnaire, they discovered what is evident to those observers who pay attention, “some of the most accomplished men in America name their children as their greatest achievement, their best day… day they met their wife. A man is a nurturing partner and father.” These roles guide and motivate us and determine our priorities, as well as fuel our determination and passion. They are just as “manly” as the role of “Hunter” (anthropologically important) and “Provider”.
Reports from JWT and a Pew study, both outline a change in male priorities which now put “emotional support for the family” just behind “financial support for the family.” We have yet to change the stereotypical perception of men and women that a mans’ main role is that of the “Provider”, in spite of the fact that women are fast closing the education and earning gap, and sometimes out earn their partners. The day is close when men and women will have the complete choice and freedom to strike any role sharing arrangement, including with the woman as the “Provider,” and having it be as valid a socially accepted option for a couple as the reverse.
I would argue that the roles of both men and women are changing. They are evolving to allow for more choice and more freedom, both to strike individual balance and couple/family arrangements. It is our job as men to break away from the masculinity (stoic boss man provider) and femininity (homemaker child barer behind her man) stereotypes, and evolve into modern definitions and individual choice, which allow for both old and new to exist comfortably side by side as one wishes.
Photo: Marina Drasnin Gilboa