Manly men, Girly men and Peter Pan

I’m seeing pieces of a puzzle, but I’m having a problem discerning a larger pattern (maybe there isn’t one). Here are the pieces, and I’d like it if you’d chime in with what I’m missing.

It starts with Marines. The first piece of the puzzle is that Marine show I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. This was the unexpected PBS show that presented Marines as people of incredible training, strength and resolve. They’re mostly men (sorry, ladies) and they are men who get things done. As one of the talking heads on the show said (I’m paraphrasing), “Marines aren’t like other people. They’re trained to run to the gun.”

Somehow, having seen that show, I got Marines on the brain, and I started noticing things. First of all, I remembered how, in Iraq, the Marines are constantly sent in to clean things up, with Fallujah being the obvious example. You can rely on them to do the jobs others can’t do.

Next, I heard a small piece of a Dennis Prager show that focused on maturity. As the Townhall blurb sums it up:

Guest Dr. Steven Marmer, member of the clinical faculty at the UCLA School of Psychiatry and psychiatrist in private practice in Brentwood, CA outlines what it means to be mature. He asks three key questions of his patients: how much anxiety can you tolerate without having to do something destructive to yourself or others; how much are you able to live in the present; and do you like undertaking obligations.

I tuned in just as Prager and Marmer were talking about reliability. Prager mentioned that when he once had a call-in show asking women to state what they most value in a man, the number one answer was reliability. “Hmm,” I thought. “A mature man is reliable, he handles stress well, he’s willing to undertake obligations, and he lives in the moment. Sounds like the Marines on that PBS show.”

And the last thing in the Marine strand is something I’ve recently noticed about the contemporary romances I read. (And all of you who have stuck with me for awhile know that I have a weak spot for romance novels.) One genre of romance novel is the romantic thriller. I cannot tell you how many times, in a romantic thriller, the reader learns about halfway through that the mysterious hero who partners with the spunky heroine is either a former or current Marine. Marines are just shorthand in these novels for handsome, strong, reliable guys on whom you can always count in an emergency.

In other words, Marines are manly men. This doesn’t mean, of course, that every individual Marine is a manly man, or that other men, whether in the military or not, aren’t manly men. It just means that Marines seem to exemplify the mature male.

The thing is, I’m a little confused about where Marines stand generally in terms of educating our young men about male maturity. While we know that Marines stand for those virtues, and we know that women like the qualities Marines seem to embody, the world outside my door seems to be preparing two different kinds of man: Peter Pans and Girly Men.

The Peter Pan thing, I admit, is an observational thing. I think the way young suburban men (age about 16 -24 ) dress is infantile. They wear unlaced shoes, baggy pants that fall down, oversized t-shirts, and have their caps on backwards. It’s bizarre watching a bearded slacker wearing precisely the same clothes my son wore when he was 2 (minus the diaper, of course, unless the guy’s an astronaut). I wasn’t too surprised, therefore, to hear on that same Prager show the observation that young women complain that men in their own age group are exceptionally immature.

What’s most bizarre about this current fashion is that it originated with gang bangers — guys who pride themselves on being tough, cool and deadly. DQ thinks perhaps the original statement is that these guys were so bad, they didn’t need to worry about functional clothes that would enable them to run from enemies and law enforcement alike. If you can strut around with your shoes falling off and your pants falling down, rendering you incapable of escape, you’re not scared of anything. That toughness, of course, is totally lacking in the young men in my neck of the woods. They’re tough only in the fantasy world of video games, where toughness is a matter of running through a cyberworld and bashing people.

My last puzzle piece is the metrosexual. Actually, I don’t know if that’s a real piece at all, or just a chimera. As you may recall, last year (or maybe two years ago) the New York Times did a big article about metrosexuals — men who claim to be straight, but who preen like women. Yes, I know that’s nasty, but these are men who are pretty boys (what Ah-nuld calls “girly men”). As someone who has her haircare and make-up routine down to 10 frenzied minutes, I have my doubts about the pleasure I’d get out of a male company who likes luxuriating about with a cucumber face peel, clear nail polish, and eyelash dye. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but my instant response is “ick.”

You’ll notice that I’m just pointing things out, but I’m not going anywhere. The fact is, I don’t have anywhere to go. Are the above types of American guys just three strands in a huge modern society, strands that don’t intersect, and that really don’t portend anything? Are they the difference between red state and blue state? Are Marines the past, with the Peter Pans and the Girly Boys the future? I’d like to tie everything into a neat package, wrap a bow around it and draw a wonderful conclusion about male maturity in America, but I’m not sure I can. Do any of you have any ideas? I’d like to hear them.

UPDATE:  Maybe it does all start with Mom.  Check out this post about who raises a Marine.

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  • Oldflyer

    If you find any answers be sure to pass them along. My 20 year old grand son (Californian) is an outdoor rec leader. In othe words he is adept, if not expert, at white water rafting; trekking; cross country skiing and wilderness medicine. Yet his dress and demeanor still mimic almost perfectly the Peter Pan style you describe.

    I blame it on the girls. If they did not tolerate the behavior it would change quickly. There was one reason, and one reason only, that the boys of my generation put on a coat and tie on the weekends (a tux on occasion); went to the door to meet a date; opened car dooors, etc. If we didn’t we had no chance.

    I am constantly amazed as I observe how young men today treat young women in public–and get away with it.

  • http://infidelphialive.blogspot.com Jauhara al kafirah

    Another thing about the young men of today is the effeminate way that they speak…especially the college kid…He almost sounds like a Valley Girl, with his voice going upwards at the end of a phrase, as if to emphasize his uncertainty, and his sentences punctured with “like” and “you know”, etc. Oy, gevalt..and the lisp!
    Strangely, I am dealing with suburban middle class girls…mine, and her girlfriends, mainly. White, middle-class, and talking like urban welfare queens, heads bobbing and shaking of the finger. Does no one have an individual identity anymore? If I were in the market, I would be as hopeless as some of these young women are. I can’t imagine going to college these days, with all the hostility towards the male of the species. No wonder the effetes are the way they are.

  • SugarDog Fox

    Since the 1970s our public schools have met with considerable success in turning little boys into little girls. Why then, are we surprised when they don’t grow up to be men? In our feminized, juvenilized culture, Marines stand out because the Marine Corps is one of the few institutions to have thus far largely escaped feminization (less so) and juvenilization (more so).

    Perhaps overbroad, but not without a kernel of truth.

  • Ron Larson

    Peter Pans: That “gangsta” dress code is based on prison clothes where belts and shoelaces are not allowed, and the clothes you get are often too large.

    I’ve always felt that this “gansta” dress code that seems so prevelant is actually a defense mechanism. Just like male animals strutting around with the plumage out. Failure to appear tough is a sign of weakness by their peers, which will be exploited mercilessly.

    Girly Men: Have you noticed how all the male presenters on NPR all sound like women (or very gay men)? They have high pitched nasely voices. They all sound neurotic Woody Allens to me. Why guess real men don’t become NPR journalist.

  • highlander

    Some random thoughts for a random — and thought-provoking — post:

    Robert Bly, the American poet, reckons that the decline in manly manhood resulted, not from the feminist movement, but from the industrial revolution. Prior to that time, most men worked in or near their homes where their sons could watch them and learn from observation how to be men. After the industrial revolution men increasingly worked away from home, and their sons lost the opportunity to learn about manhood first hand. Incidentally, now that more women are working outside the home, we can probably expect a similar thing to happen for young girls.

    My own father was a dedicated scientist, the kind who would have an idea at 3:00 am, get up and drive into the lab to work it out. My brother and I saw very little of him, so we learned about manhood from television and the movies. Our heroes were Superman, the Cisco Kid, the Lone Ranger, and later, Paladin. Who are the heroes and heroines of our young people today?

    Now that I’m an adult, my hero is the character of Atticus Finch as played by Gregory Peck in the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird”. He was a man whom you might not notice on the street, a man unlikely to be highlighted in any of the media, but a man of immense courage, integrity, strength and compassion. I hope and believe that for every Peter Pan and Girly Man there are a hundred — perhaps a thousand — men who, though they may fall short of the ideal of Atticus Finch, still strive for it. Probably many of them are Marines — many are just ordinary men.

    Finally a thought on maturity: A friend I once worked with had a small sign on his desk which read, “The ball must be played from where the monkeys dropped it.” I think that accepting the truth of that statement is what growing up is all about — for both young men and young women. Do we still teach our young people to take responsibility for what happens to them?

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    More, more, more! I knew there were threads out there that I wasn’t picking up. I have to agree with what each of you has added to my musings.

  • http://seraphicpress.com Robert J. Avrech

    I learned to be a man from:

    1. My father, a Rav and a Chaplain, Col. Ret. US army, Rainbow Division.
    2. The Torah.
    3. The movies of Akira Kurosawa, specifically “The Seven Samurai.” John Ford, “My Darling Clementine,” Howard Hawks “His Girl Friday” & Preston Sturges, “The Lady Eve.”
    4. Living in Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Losing friends. Heroes all.
    5. Ignoring every single college professor who droned on about about gender. Morons all.
    6. Finally, and most signifigantly, the love of my life, my wife Karen, finally put the finishing touches on me, and turned me into a full-time man—by returning my endless love and agreeing to marry me. The responsibility of marriage is the finishing touches to turn a boy into a true man.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar
  • Jose

    I think most young men of today are not encouraged to develop masculine traits. As mentioned above, most spend less time around their fathers, or other men. I watch my colorless nephews (and nieces) sit around the house and play video games, hang out at the mall and absorb consumerism, or get a service sector job wearing a paper hat. What opportunity do they have to learn individualism, self-reliance, and responsibility?

    Conversely, when one of them does join the military it must be a world shaking event, and perhaps they grasp the new and invigorating lifestyle more strongly. It may explain the surprising toughness currently demonstrated by our troops in the field.

    I think many masculine traits are developed out of doors, and the decline of rural life in this country is affecting our culture. There are life lessons to be had in getting kicked by large animals, bitten by small ones, and overcoming, or at least tolerating, any situation where you cannot control your environment.

    The increasing urbanization of our society and growing consumerism gives young men fewer opportunities to go outside and wield a hammer, shovel or fishing pole. Instead they stay indoors and are exposed to extremes of behavior and appearance by the media and marketing industries, vying for their increasingly jaded attention.

    Life, by default, is not always pretty. It can be “nasty, brutish and short” outside the mall and mcmansion. Those who can deal with the ugly side of life are mature men and women. Those who, if given a live chicken and a knife, would starve to death, are children.

  • http://infidelphialive.blogspot.com Jauhara al kafirah

    Of course, in some societies, the so-called “macho” ones, there seems to be an abnormal fear of the female of the species. I wouldn’t call such men manly, either. It seems to me, that really manly men are such by choice, often standing against what may be popular. Would anyone conclude that tyrants are manly, or are they merely brutes? In the same way, men who are honorable and masculine are manly, rather than men who are masculine but without honor.

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    Excellent point, Jauhara. There is a huge difference between manly men, whom I see as virtuous, and mere strong brutes, who are evil. Getting back to the Marines, one of the things the PBS show emphasized is that, while the Marines are the only branch of the armed services that admit that they’re training men and women to be killers, they’re also the only branch that emphasizes morality and responsibility.

    By the way, why aren’t any women chiming in on this one?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    http://thomaschronicles.com/2007/03/12/relativism-and-freedom/

    I found that to be a nice analysis of certain relevant traits we see going on.

    Cowardice

    For our grandparents and generations preceding them, they knew that the sudden lunge to attack, the hair-trigger temper and the endless posturing toward violence is cowardice. This mentality bespeaks of a person so weak, insecure and uncertain a character that he/she needs to resort to violence as the first and only response to validate themselves.

    For example, the prototypical schoolyard bully is a person so excessively weak in character that he must lash out at every apparent slight to his august person. I say “apparent” because it does not need to be a slight in fact but only a slight in the bullies’ emotions, which makes everyone hostage to his oh-so sensitive feelings.

    In fact, what used to be one of the defining difference between the Occidental civilization and Oriental civilization is how their values are inverted from one another. What the West used to call cowardice, the Orient raised up as the ideal, as evinced by what they considered to be a “strong man”, which had more to do with fear and intimidation than character and respect.

    And without a doubt, our grandparents would consider the Islamofascists cowards, just as they considered Adolf Hitler a ridiculous “paper-hanging sonofab**ch”.

  • Zhombre

    Warriors have a code of honor and conduct, and serve some purpose greater than themselves, brutes don’t; brutality for its own sake is nihilism.

  • expat

    Sigmund, Carl and Alfred has a wonderful post on a man he knew. Maybe in the end it comes down to character and the wisdom to recognize the important things in life.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    The Marines aren’t the only branch that tries to instill ethics into their soldiers. In fact all branches of the military has an ethics and military values program starting from boot camp. Their effectiveness is proportionate to the amount of reality their members have to go through. If there’s no war, no punishment, and no existential reason to obey… then you have trainers not believing in what they are teaching and a break down in discipline (sort of like the Navy academy right now).

    You may have noticed this Book, but there seems to be this Hollweird pop icon belief that the best soldiers are conscienceless killers without remorse, fear, or humanity. You see it a lot in their movies, minor as well as major. Fear is sort of like the reaction of any product of an evolutionary system, to the danger of having their life force extinguished, since presumably such products are neither immortal, invulnerable, nor were always at the top of the food chain. So… if you extinguish it in soldiers, then you might actually get automatons. But then the question becomes… do you really want automatons to do your fighting for you? And the answer, is no. Automatons and myrmidons and whatever the Left likes calling the military, are not all that good fighters and soldiers. If all a soldier did was charge when he was told to and kill when he was told to, then he would only be as effective as his chain of command. So if you just happened to put a virus in his chain of command or disrupt it, he becomes useless.

    That’s why the US military wants to promote initiative. Which is translated as, doing things without having being ordered to.

    Morality and restraint is proportionate to the amount of firepower you wish to wield. So the US Marines, being what they are, is tasked with many challenges that require not only superior firepower, but superior emotional and intellectual stability, wisdom, and guts. You can’t have those if their individual soldiers do not have initiative, and yet you cannot have it either if they have initiative but are beasts and murderers. So, control.

    After all, remember back to the age of nuclear submarines always being ready to exterminate half the world with MIRVs? The selection process for submarine skippers was intense. You wanted men who could act under pressure, make the right decisions, and do it for the right reasons. That’s much more rare than you might think. That means they cannot hesitate to push the button (since DC might be a crater), and yet they cannot get it wrong and push the button (false alarm) when there was no need. Neo wrote some nice stuff about near misses due to some good initiative by a Russian officer, who was of course punished by the Soviets. The Russians always hated initiative, it is why the Russian trained Arabs were… sub-par against the US.

    By the way, why aren’t any women chiming in on this one?

    Probably for the same reason that Holly Aho didn’t chime in often here.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    It’s blocking the blackfive.net link that I tried to post afterwards.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I think that many women are confused and conflicted on this issue. Their societally programmed brains tell them one thing, their hearts tell them another.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Please just go to http://www.blackfive.net and do a ctrl+f search for “podcast” and you’ll get to the post pretty quick. That way, poor Bookworm won’t have any reason to search through gigallions of akismet spam.

    To sum it up, there were like 5+ milbloggers, all male. So they were talking “shop”. And Holly’s specialization is SA so, it is like, she just let them take the point position.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Man, I just rememembered that Salamander had a great post up about boy A/B whatever models, because of a youtube vid of a guy who got dumped via text message.

    Then there was that blackfive post about the 300, lots of enthusiastic comments. And a lot of women were, you know, lobbying to go to see that movie and to make their husbands/family go to the movie. I found that a little bit weird. 300 isn’t a chick flick, and it is rather brutal after all, psychologically if not blood wise. Even though it had an R rating, a lot of familes go to see it from the bf 300 thread… weird. I’m going to try to post the 300 thread link with some variations after this.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar
  • JJ

    I agree with Oldflyer’s initial comment.

    Ladies, if you don’t like the way this “Peter Pan” and “Metrosexual” behavior stuff is going, (and certainly no one does) don’t be so accepting of it! You can put a stop to it in three minutes.

    The Marines have always struck me as a bit of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” situation. They “teach” you to handle anxiety, yes; but not really: that can’t be taught. You come in hard-wired with that. That’s a type they actively look for. (And it’s why they don’t like the draft: they want to choose these people.)

    Part of what the Marines – and others in related fields – look for, is not so much an ability to tolerate anxiety, as it is an ability not to be anxious about it. If you don’t get anxious about it, but see it as a problem to be surmounted, then you quite possible have the right stuff.

    Hopefully that makes a little sense. It isn’t that they seek people who can handle a lot of anxiety – what they seek are people who aren’t anxious about things that normally do cause anxiety. “Anxiety” is a waste of time, and gets in the way of rational thinking. You incorporate it into your warning system, so it makes you careful and keeps you on your toes, but you don’t waste time or energy being worried. Worry impairs function.

    The “manliness” aspect is interesting too. Jose mentioned that it may be a function of time spent outdoors. In my day there were still a lot of farm kids, (I was one), and though their skills were different than city kids, they did seem to have deeper reserves and quicker pick-up than the latter.

    Now – why? Part of it may be beacuse farms are absolute, and run to schedule. The damn cows have to be milked twice a day, no excuses, no kind of weather is too bad, nothing, repeat NOTHING abrogates this responsibility for you. So you learn responsibility young. Then there are things that need to be done in seasonal order. And (again: young) you find out this is not a democracy, and it isn’t up for debate or discussion.

    (All of this feeds in very well to the military ethos, note.)

    And you are somewhat better acquainted with some harsh realities than many city kids may be, too. I was six the first time I whacked a chicken’s head off (if you do it right they don’t run around) for dinner; and that gave me a little different slant than a kid who never saw a chicken outside of a shrink-wrapped package in the supermarket.

    But nothing’s absolute. Take a look at an old Audie Murphy movie – have you ever seen such a twinkie in your life? Talk about girly-men and metrosexuals… but then take a look at his war record and see what he did when he needed to. He was a good killer, one of our best, when the occasion arose.

    Which brings me full circle to the initial thought: it doesn’t matter where or how or if you were raised: it’s in you or it isn’t. The Marines have been in search of a “Marine gene” for as long as I can remember, and they even think they know what some of it’s characteristic markers will be.

    Wearing clothes that fit may well be one of them.

  • swampacreage

    The renewed warrior masculinity (ooh la la for the ladies . . save me my hero . . don’t worry we will) debate.It is all propaganda(ladies can save too),always has been ,always will be, (not that there is anything wrong with that) . . yawn . . it’s gotta get done).As it was for Hitler, Mussolini and now the Islamic terrorists and marines ( the good guys . . somebody has to be ) war is carried on in the name of a warrior past(caveman or Geico Man onward) when men were truly men(made of the right stuff . . the last best generation . .kinda like our WW 11 veterans) . . or at least a lot of people think so.Civilized male identity . . hmmmm what should it be ? The war with the terrorists is not only about oil but also about how men should be and behave.
    To the Islamic terrorists the enemy is the West,where gender is a continuum(hetrosexual,metrosexual,homosexual . . I could conitnue the spectrum but not enough time and space) rather than the absolute diferences between male and female.I’m cheering for the marines. Save me you big handsome hunk of hero from the rapists !!

  • AndyJ

    “Men will rise or fall to the level of behavior expected by women” or so said my Grandmother. Women enforce/withhold the rewards for societal behavior. What you get is what you rewarded. To change the boy and shape the man withhold or apply the rewards. Everyone benefits. My daughters dislike the role but they even more dislike stupid behavior. Someone must set the tone.

    Marines are America’s darlings. We love the “Devil Dogs”. They are trained, disciplined, and willing to do anything for their fellow Marine. We need these people. we do not need a society with only Marines.

    The examples cited for praise have self-discipline, self-restraint, delayed gratification as the core virtues. Metro-sexual, even feminine men can have these same traits but display them differently. We all prefer a society that has respect for each other and shows it via disciplined behavior. Doing the “right” thing takes more knowledge, patience and perspective than doing “something” in a display of hormonal masculinity. Gang-banger/Thug dress and behavior is a display for other men not women.

    We want “men” to do the “right” thing and enforce certain behaviors. Men need to receive “rewards” for stepping forward and taking the risk. It is easier to do nothing and let situations develop than step forward and stop it early.

    Good Subject with lots of tangents to round-up…

  • highlander

    Good points AndyJ.

    Reading the comments so far, it hss struck me that the core values we admire in manly men are pretty much the same values we esteem in womanly women — expressed in different ways, to be sure.

    I differ with you slightly, however, in that the people whom I admire the most are those men and women who stick to their core values even when there are no “rewards”.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    It was funny how Spartans handled the entire situation with their men and women.

    ‘In order to the good education of their youth (which, as I said before, he thought the most important and noblest work of a lawgiver), he went so far back as to take into consideration their very conception and birth, by regulating their marriages. For Aristotle is wrong in saying, that, after he had tried all ways to reduce the women to more modesty and sobriety, he was at last forced to leave them as they were, because that in the absence of their husbands, who spent the best part of their lives in the wars, their wives, whom they were obliged to leave absolute mistresses at home, took great liberties and assumed the superiority; and were treated with overmuch respect and called by the title of lady or queen. The truth is, he took in their case, also, all the care that was possible; he ordered the maidens to exercise themselves with wrestling, running, throwing, the quoit, and casting the dart, to the end that the fruit they conceived might, in strong and healthy bodies, take firmer root and find better growth, and withal that they, with this greater vigour, might be the more able to undergo the pains of child-bearing. And to the end he might take away their overgreat tenderness and fear of exposure to the air, and all acquired womanishness, he ordered that the young women should go naked in the processions, as well as the young men, and dance, too, in that condition, at certain solemn feasts, singing certain songs, whilst the young men stood around, seeing and hearing them. On these occasions they now and then made, by jests, a befitting reflection upon those who had misbehaved themselves in the wars; and again sang encomiums upon those who had done any gallant action, and by these means inspired the younger sort with an emulation of their glory. Those that were thus commended went away proud, elated, and gratified with their honour among the maidens; and those who were rallied were as sensibly touched with it as if they had been formally reprimanded; and so much the more, because the kings and the elders, as well as the rest of the city, saw and heard all that passed. Nor was there anything shameful in this nakedness of the young women; modesty attended them, and all wantonness was excluded. It taught them simplicity and a care for good health, and gave them some taste of higher feelings, admitted as they thus were to the field of noble action and glory. Hence it was natural for them to think and speak as Gorgo, for example, the wife of Leonidas, is said to have done, when some foreign lady, as it would seem, told her that the women of Lacedaemon were the only women in the world who could rule men; “With good reason,” she said, “for we are the only women who bring forth men.”

    These public processions of the maidens, and their appearing naked in their exercises and dancings, were incitements to marriage, operating upon the young with the rigour and certainty, as Plato says, of love, if not of mathematics. But besides all this, to promote it yet more effectually, those who continued bachelors were in a degree disfranchised by law; for they were excluded from the sight those public processions in which the young men and maidens danced naked, and, in winter-time, the officers compelled them to march naked themselves round the marketplace, singing as they went a certain song to their own disgrace, that they justly suffered this punishment for disobeying the laws. Moreover, they were denied that respect and observance which the younger men paid their elders; and no man, for example, found fault with what was said to Dercyllidas, though so eminent a commander; upon whose approach one day, a young man, instead of rising, retained his seat, remarking, “No child of yours will make room for me.”

    It sort of combines the Hollywood Left with US Marine Corps… weird hybrid in more ways than one.

  • AndyJ

    “Rewards” are not always sexual. Companionship is greatly sought. There are many rewards that come from a male-female relationship. Men and women form friendships on a different basis.

  • Lissa

    Speaking as a woman with a serious boyfriend and who has helped raise two younger brothers, I think it’s hard as hell to learn to be a “manly man” nowadays. To borrow an idea from Diana Gabaldon, it was simpler — not better, mind you, but simpler — to be a man in the olden days: it came down to your ability to draw a line in the sand between the bad guys and the good guys. The good guys, which side certainly included your wife and the munchkins, were your responsibility; it was a man’s job to defend against the bear, the wolf, the occasional claim jumper etc. What makes a man a Man today? How are they supposed to know? What are they taught? Even without the industrial revolution driving fathers away from home, too many boys (and girls) grow up without a (role-model) father at all. As Dr. Helen is fond of pointing out, we’ve been told for years that single-mother families are at least as good, probably better, than those with a father, that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. So, being a dad/husband/protector is out, or at least old-fashioned and unfashionable. Not too many wolves and bears wandering the streets of Boston nowadays. Peer competition? That’s strictly verboden, involves fighting in the playground and other socially unacceptable physical confrontations. The really academic-minded males can have intellectual pissing contests to establish dominance, but there’s not much else. And we wonder why our young men think that the ultimate test of manlihood is Grand Theft Auto?

  • http://infidelphialive.blogspot.com Jauhara al kafirah

    Jauhara is all female, all the time, Bookworm. J’adore le masculin! Which means I speak French for no apparent reason.

  • Lulu

    I was reading a book of American tall tales with my kids recently. The stories were wonderful on many levels. All the stories were the story of America; Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry, Davey Crockett; all were immensely strong men of common origins who accomplished amazing feats by their strength and determination. I loved comparing these American tales to European fairy-tales. These men built America in these tales- they didn’t get rich, they didn’t have fairies, or talking cats, or witches randomly bestowing on them their good or bad fortunes. They saw challenges and individually set out to conquer them through hard work.
    Americans loved these stories because it gave them strength to keep at the superhuman tasks that they had set out for themselves as pioneers. Back then, the strength of men was seen as an asset. There was no place for metrosexuals on the frontier.
    Now life is sooo much easier. Men don’t face these challenges of survival anymore, so many young men try to look tough or act tough (as in gangs) but it’s all an act. I do believe our society has lost something precious by becoming so affluent and comfortable. Grandma Moses spoke about the satisfaction she felt as a farmer, going to bed satisfied with her day’s work. Though life was hard before, there was something tremendously satisfying to go to bed at night knowing that what you had, you directly worked for. People created- they built furniture, repaired things themselves, problem solved- and saw direct connection between their survival and their actions. Time wasn’t wasted. Young men couldn’t spend 12 straight hours playing video games (even if they had had them then) because it had serious survival consequences. So, laziness was not tolerated and strength and endurance were qualities admired and not just to get killer abs or tight buns.

    My heart breaks for many kids I see today in middle and high school. Girls are objectified. They objectify themselves. They are permitted to wear revealing clothes to class. The girls don’t demand that their men be “civilized” anymore, as Oldflyer said. Instead, guilt free pointless “hookups” reduce both genders. It’s not just the guys who have to learn to admire again what males bring to the table. This generation is terribly confused by the continuums they face with no direction or model.

    Who to admire? Johnny Depp? Brittney Spears?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    gofugyourself.typepad.com/go_fug_yourself/2007/03/fug_break.html

    Modern thug dress. Guess who was in it? A thug? A criminal? Nope.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar
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  • http://thomaschronicles.com/ Thomas

    Hello Bookworm,

    I just wrote a long comment about your post.

    http://thomaschronicles.com/2007/03/15/men-in-the-modern-world/

  • John

    My boss is a girly man; “he” has the personality of a insecure envy-riddled, vicious 13 year old bitch. What a drag.

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  • Elenor

    Here’s a woman’s report. When I went to the Navy’s Officer Candidate School (back in the 70s, so I’m old!), there was 1 squad of the 7-8 squads of candidates that was (and had been for many classes/years) the “pipeline” to Marine officer. Out of the six of us coming up from Long Island, one of the men was put into alpha squad. He was not a metrosexual and not a Peter Pan (we were all in our early 20s, so he was not yet a mature man either). Had he been put into any other squad, he would not have ended up dropping out. But he was not “Marine material.” He would have made a good solid Naval officer, but to make it as a Marine requires not just the training to be a Marine, but a certain type of man. (And I believe a huge part of that is genetic, not ‘upbringing.’)

    The Marines weed out those who will not do. The Marines are out on the tail end of the Bell curve of truly masculine men; but there are many men (not so many as before, alas!) who are not close to Peter Pan or metrosexual or wimp or girly man, but make up the upper portion of the Bell curve.

    If you watch the media today you will see that “males” are being brainwashed – constantly – to be shiftless, irresponsible, inconsiderate, and … well, dumb and dumber! Boys who would grow up to mature into lovely men who would provide for, protect, and cherish their women and children are prevented by the constant din of “stay a selfish boy-child.”

    Pat Allen (of http://drpatallen.com) says something like this:

    A boy (including a Peter Pan) sees women, children, animals, and the planet as the source of his personal gratification. A mature man – a real man – is a generous protective, cherishing person who GIVES to women, children, animals, and the planet.”

    Elenor