Man Up!

by Risa Green

 

I was standing in line at the market this morning when the cover of Newsweek caught my eye. Man Up! was the headline, with an image of a well-built, shirtless man facing away from the camera, holding a little boy in his arms. The subtitle was The Traditional Male Is an Endangered Species. It’s Time to Rethink Masculinity. Isn’t it though? I thought to myself, and I bought it, hoping it might be interesting, or at least that it might give me some fodder for my post this week.

 

Let me start by telling you what I was hoping the article would be about. I was hoping it would be about how men, at least the urban men where I live, seem to me in the last few years to have become more and more like women. And by that I mean that they just seem to be not so concerned with doing – or even knowing how to do – things that were, traditionally, done by men. For instance, I don’t know a whole lot of guys who mow their own lawns anymore. Which I get, because mowing the lawn is a drag, and because it’s a whole lot easier to just pay someone else to mow the lawn. But still, if all of the gardeners suddenly decided to unionize and go on strike, I think there’d be a lot of houses in LA with really, really long grass. Same thing for knowing how to hook up speakers, or how to fix a leaky faucet, or how to caulk a shower. (For the record, my husband is standing over my shoulder and demanding that I disclose that he knows how to do all of these things).

 

Aside from my husband, however, most of the men I know have “guys” who do all of this stuff for them, and in doing so, they’ve ceased being guys themselves. Which is fine, I guess. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with a man being emasculated and helpless and unable to do things for himself. I’m not really passing judgment. It’s just, you know, not all that hot. Like, imagining a guy calling another guy to fix his roof is not exactly the stuff of sexual fantasy. Or at least, the sexual fantasy isn’t going to be about the guy making the call. Anyway, I’m just sayin’. It’s what I thought the article would be about.

 

mfelter
09.29.10

Great post! But would they then be too tired? After I help with the raking and weedwacking and other such hateful things, I just want to sit on the couch and drink beer and watch football!

mfelter
09.29.10

Where and why did vasectomies come into the discussion? I don't think Risa said or implied anything about "emasculation" by vasectomy. It makes no difference what someone (man or woman) wears when they are doing yard work. For goodness sakes, they are sweating their brains out for the good of their little piece of earth! Be kind! Also be careful with that head-shaving and tatooing. Sounds a little scary. Would love to see your enormous earrings, as I do love jewelry. I think probably 80% of boys under the age of 15 prolly want to be paleontologists at some time or another- thank goodness they don't ALL want to be computer game designers. You sound just great - maybe a little more kindness to others may be in order, though. Ciao!

momsguys
09.29.10

Yes, men are becoming less "manly" just as women are becoming more masculine. In years to come (probably sooner than any of us think) there will be no difference at all in the genders, since all species adapt and change according to environment and behavior.
How often do you actually see a very feminine woman any more either? And being feminine is in behavior, not in how much makeup you use.
Women now are the ones in charge of most relationships. Men have learned that they must NOT be very manly in order to be accepted, as traditional "manly" behaviors are no longer acceptable to most women in our society.
They're forced to learn it quickly because laws are in effect now that may have gone too far in persecuting any male behavior at all, such as VAWA, which makes it illegal for a male to even LOOK at a female the wrong way, and other ridiculous laws along with the protective ones.
When 5-year-old boys can be charged with sexual harassment for hugging their female teacher (which actually happened) males need to learn very quickly to suppress any instincts that may be construed as manly.
Feminists have fought long and hard to knock out all of the traditional male behavior in males of all ages, so why aren't they happy now that they've nearly reached that goal?

dorieh
09.29.10

A real man knows what needs to be done and finds a way to get it done. Who cares if he pays someone to do it or does it himself. He handles his business.

As far as him thinking like his wife, I don't want my man to think like me, I need him to be different and have strengths that I don't have so we can be a strong team together.

Men are emasculated because society for years has gone on this kick of thinking it is fun to depict the man as the bumbling idiot and the woman who has all the answers.
Our favorite sitcoms- "Who Loves Raymond" or "King of Queens" for example tell us that men can't do anything right and we have to tell them how to do things. I see Facebook statuses that moan about how spouses don't' make enough money or little jokes about if you want something done ask your husband and if you want it done right, do it yourself. The list goes on. You want a man to "man-up" treat him with a little respect. Embrace his masculinity and the fact that we are different and have different roles, whatever they might be.

lengeft1
09.28.10

The males in Mad Men remind me of my father. He was a reasonably good dad (too often absent), but I knew at a very young age that I would never want a man like him in my life. Likewise, I would never survive as a Mad Men woman, in restrictive clothing necessitating a girdle, and hose, and stockings, and a wash and set once a week...all the while fully aware of my submissive place in the world. No thank you.

If you see caring, nurturing, respect, allowing for the fact that women can be just as logical, analyze just as critically and effectively, and that they can hold down a job that depends on strategy, intellect and common sense as emasculating...then you really ought to find a time machine and return to the 1950's, or some decade previous. My husband has all of those qualities, and recognizes all of those abilities in women. He does not share my lingerie, his genitals are fully intact, and our sex life, after 16 years of marriage is passionate, intimate, more than just regular and sometimes rowdy as hell. Whether he mows the lawn or not.

Personas. I couldn't hide my gender effectively if I tried. In warm weather I am strictly a maxi sun-dress woman, with Teva sandals. In cooler weather, Dr. Martens or Grinders, jeans (no mom jeans though), t-shirts or sweaters. No cutesy characters. O, I have a buzz cut...for now. Come December, I'll be shaved bald and have a full scalp tattoo. My husband is broad shouldered, narrow hipped, has a five o'clock shadow at 2 pm, is bald on his pate, and hairy everywhere else, and dresses conservatively (which fools all too many people). Yet no one doubts that we are husband and wife, or that we are partners, or that I am female and that he is male.

You are not speaking of traditional gender personas, or even roles. You are speaking of stereotypes. If you want to talk about castration, let's do discuss Promise Rings, then Pre-engagement Rings, then Engagement Rings. Then we can move onto Push Presents (diamond rings rewarding women for birthing babies...something I simply can't understand as we are the only gender that is biologically equipped to do this), Past, Present and Future Rings, Journey Pendants, up-grades on that Engagement ring...and all of the Anniversary Rings. Men as sources for bling, because women deserve it. We can freely discuss the Myth of the Superior Woman (Google this, it is fascinating).

When I use "we", I am referring to a conversation between myself, and you, or those who think as you do. When you, or the author of the essay use "we", you are freely, and somewhat arrogantly assuming, that all women want exactly what you do. I certainly haven't gelded anyone...and I know precisely what I want, as I've been with him for a long time, and have no plans to leave. The confusion, slogirl, is all yours.

cpacctg69
09.28.10

I know that I want a partner that can be both sensitive and "manly". I definitely don't want to know more about fixing cars and house stuff than my man. I am happy to say that my boyfriend needs a bit of work on the sensitive stuff, but he keeps my car with gas and working great and does what I "ask" him to do around the house. I'm happy! I think women have to realize that no matter how many degrees and positions of power that we have, WE are still the center of the family.

slogirl2
09.28.10

It's an intriguing topic. Are we at risk of blurring the lines of gender differentiation altogether? If women can do anything men can do, and vice versa, how do we maintain traditional male or female personas? Should we even try?

Maybe this is an example of "be careful what you wish for". Women want their mates to be their best friends, their partners in housework, parenting, shopping, etc (okay, maybe not shopping), but our definition of sexy is still tied up in them being "manly". Just as most men find "femininity" sexy (that and short skirts). Let's face it, most of the characters on "Mad Men" - like it or not - have pretty defined gender roles. And there's a certain sexiness to that.

In learning how to do it all ourselves, as women, maybe we've played a role in emasculating our men. We tell our men we want one thing, but maybe we don't always know. I bet if most women told their husbands they'd have more sex with them if they mowed their own lawns, I bet you'd see a whole bunch of gardeners fired. Just guessing.

Justine417
09.28.10

Oh, I'm betting I'm in the minority here but I personally have had my fill of 'manly' guys but maybe that's cause I'm from a more rural area..honestly if you're looking to find them that's where they are lol! I prefer a sensitive life partner (yes, I mean partner) who can actually smell good and take care of themselves....Sorry but I just want equality for myself and also for my children and I think that type of thinking really holds back both sexes and doesn't allow them to flourish...

lengeft1
09.28.10

I am hoping for two things as I finish this essay. The first is that you are using the royal "we" when referring to what women find sexy about men. The second is that is supposed to be humorous, in some way that I am missing.

Allow me to explain myself. I am not a feminist, or rather, I should probably say that I have never identified myself with any movement, including Feminism. All of the things that you have listed as things men should be at least moderately skilled at I am completely capable of doing myself. I can also rewire an electric socket, change door-knobs, hammer a nail in straight, do minor, emergency repairs on pre-computerized cars, change my own oil and tires, lift heavy objects...well, you get the picture. So can my husband. He can also change diapers, make perfect formula, rock a fussy little guy to sleep, wash dishes, dress a toddler and really, truly cook.

He Doesn't mow the lawn unless he has to. Neither do I. For him, yard-work every week usually results in fearsome headaches and ubiquitous sinus infections due to severe allergies. Our neighbor's kid does it for now, until our son is a little less easily distracted. I don't do it because I don't want to be covered in oozing blisters on my arms, neck, feet and legs. Outdoor plant-life is not my friend, and insect bites become enormous welts, while our arachnid friends leave me with great, glorious open sores.

But this is all beside the point. My husband is sexy because he has curiosity, and burning intelligence. Because he has a slightly evil sense of humor, and a wonderful sense of the absurd. Because he is not a follower, and has no inclination to control people either. Because he is strong enough to be my partner as a human being, not just a man. Because he respects me, is honest with me (he'll even tell me that, yes, those jeans make my butt look big), he listens to me, and he loves me exactly as I am...all masks off.

I would not want someone incapable for a husband...but I also would not want someone incapable for a friend, male or female. My dear female friends are all strong, confident, resourceful women who manage very well without men, or with them...and those who are married would be just as bemused by your words as I am. Because they are much like me, and their spouses are much like mine.

I loved seeing my husband with our tiny son propped on his shoulder (our little person had reflux, and had to be upright for 30 minutes after a feeding, which had to be formula, as he could tolerate no milk at all), with a book in his free hand, both perfectly content. I love watching him play Risk or chess with that same son, 13 years later. He built very fine book-shelves in our game-room, and it was wonderful seeing the smile of accomplishment afterward. But he relinquished the task of installing a new shower to professionals, and a good thing too, because it was no job for an amateur.

We are non-traditional people who live an unconventional life. He wears gym shorts and plain colored tees and gym shoes and hasn't a single body modification. I wear Dr. Martens, and enormous earrings and am getting my head shaved and my scalp tattooed this December. Books, reading and music are far more important to us than TV and toys. My son doesn't want to be a lawyer, or a CEO...he wants to be a paleontologist, and has held on to this plan for 10 years.

As for that completely out-of-line about men being emasculated if they are incapable of doing repairs for themselves, precisely what decade are you living in? What other things do think disqualify males as men? My husband had a vasectomy because he thought it was too risky for me to have tubal ligation. His dad, who was in the Air Force for twenty years, served in Viet Nam, was a long haul truck driver, and whose main hobby was hunting, also had one to keep my mother-in-law safe from hormones or a tubal. Were they emasculated? I'm sorry, dear, but men doing yard work doesn't turn me on, especially out of shape, fish belly white guys in wife beaters...with calf socks and mandals. Nor does some male who thinks he knows it all cursing and flooding my kitchen while he vainly attempts to fix the U-pipe under the sink. Uh, no. Masculine and sexy is intelligent, confident, knowing his limitations and not being embarrassed by them, loving me, loving his kids and not being freaked by a son's tears or kisses, loving our cats even if they are useless, occasionally going shopping with me, letting me ask questions about football so that I can watch it with him...being human.

You can live in 1955 if you so desire. I think I'll remain in the present, when no one has to define themselves, or anyone else, by stereotypes.

AmyF
09.28.10

I read this yesterday and at first I was afraid it was going to say men had to be more like they used to be "the breadwinner who deserves respect" like some stupid fatherhood class going on at my kids' school right now. WTF? I was prepared to be angry. I ended up getting caught up in how much better other "western" countries are about paternity (and maternity) leave, how many guys in Germany and Sweden take paternity leave. I think men spending more time with their kids is a win for all parties included and that includes their employers.

amy
www.sofiabean.com