questioning the western worlds rite of passage to manhood

what is a man? what makes a human male what one would define as a man?
i am currently reading a book called 'fire in the belly' by sam keen and it is the best physiological book on masculinity i have ever read. western society says that you can become a man by joining a fraternity, getting a letter in sports, having sex with multiple partners, being rugged & tough, never showing your feelings, drinking a lot, having lots of money, working hard, swearing, never crying, etc. but do these actions prove that one is a man?
i read a book called wild at heart and did not enjoy or relate to it at all. it made a list of traits that 'real men' possess and a list of what the common male can do but is somehow is categorized in a type of sub-man. the real men liked camping and auto repair, while the un masculine male knew how to install a computer program and program a DVD player. i honestly don't feel by buying a motorcycle that i am more 'manly' and i sure don't feel that it is likely to give me any more testosterone.
"the information necessary to create a male is encoded in our DNA, but it takes all the institutions of a culture to produce a man. The male body is the biologically given hardware, the myth that manhood is the software inserted by society through a series of formal and informal rites of passage."
-sandor mcnab
as boys we are taught in order to reach manhood we must repress compassion, guilt, and the sense of fear. the propaganda we are constantly bludgeoned with states that if we do not become dominant, sadistic, and cruel then we have not yet reached manhood.
but in our pursuit of manhood we have lost the sense of family and replaced it with the pursuit of power, greed, and money.
before world war I the average man would spend 4 hours with his children a day. between world war I and world war II it was reduced to 2 hours a day. post world war II it is now down to a 20 minute average a day the average working man spends with his children a day. what has been gained is the warped sense of "manhood" what has been lost is the relationships with his children. in turn the fathers silently are teaching their young boys that this is the way of the man. to much time spent at home, or investing into children's lives can be seen from the outside as lazy and in turn un-manly, since the sense of work satisfaction is the identity of the modern male.
in light of this men like rena cassin, who won the nobel peace prize in 1968, would not be 'man' at all. he was known for being a fragile man and a quiet speaker, unlike the extraverted, tough exterior expected by western culture. he set up the french ferderation for disabled war veterans and accepted the office of vice president of the hig council so he could work hands on with the childern orphaned by the war.
to me this was a man.
to me character, ethics, and social responsibility should be the point to which all men should be judged by.
"a man is measured by the expanse of the moral horizon he chooses to inhabit."
-sandor mcnab
i believe it is what we stand for and what we are willing to die for that makes us a man, not by the size of engine in his mode of transportation or ammount of alcohol he can consume before we are out of control.
i believe that it is what we do in secret that determines the character of the man, and it is character that is imperative and not the depth of his voice, or the ammount of women he can seduce.
i believe it is a males self control and self sacrifice that should be the western worlds rite of passage to manhood and not his social irresponsibility in front of peers that is the true test.
i am now questioning the western worlds rite of passage to manhood, and one day hope to instill character, ethics, social responsibility, and a sense of family in all my little boys; because those are the substance of a man.

Comments

BK said…
You're right man. Writing from a father-less nation, New Zrealand, there is a distinct lack of males growing into men of character and with the traits you point out.

The more boys are ncouraged to be real & sincere rather than a superficial masculinity, the more likely we will have male leaders worth following.
Josh said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kaila said…
You're right. Men who think they have to sleep with multiple partners, not cry, drink, etc are actually being "un-manly".

Everyone's heard the cliche "it takes a real man to cry" and there is a lot of truth in that.
sj. said…
i know amazing men.. men who believe otherwise. godly men who know better than to buy the ideas of the world. it's amazing what God can do for a man.. okay i'm rambling.

:)
Jon said…
amen.
Meg-a-roni said…
I believe that you are correct in that the western world puts both men and women into boxes saying that if they don't do this, then they are not their gender. Take for example the european men over here. They wear capri pants, which is perfectly normal here, but if men in america wear them, then they would be viewed as being gay. Or in other countries, men hold hands, which is a sign of friendship, but men in america would be gay if they held hands. I believe alot of it is cultural & that america's image of what a man is & should be is distorted.

A man is a man who loves and is loved by his family. A man is someone that is not afraid to cry, especially when humbled by God. A man is a man, who spends time with his family by turning off the tv & actually spending quality time with them. A man is a man when he shows his kids how to treat others with respect, especially the parents.

I work in a nursery with kids, who's parents would rather get off of work and go home to chill, than to go pick their kids up and hang out with them. The max amount of time the parents can put their kids in the nursery is 10 hours and some parents will leave their kids in there for the max of 10 hours so they don't have to put up with them. Don't get me started, but I think parents (including dads) should take parenting classes in order to have kids.

"Man is not what is seen on the outside, but what their character reveals when they are all alone."
Anonymous said…
A man is a guy that will fight for his family/wife/girlfriend through prayer and pursuit.
Kimberly said…
You're completely right. Many men today seem to be scared to release emotions and express family connections for fear of being rejected as masculine in the modern day's twisted idea. Children should be taught more by their fathers, and they should definitely be taught more values and ethics. My father values work above everything else and expresses love by what he gives me... only because that is the way he was taught. We need to break that cycle.
MH said…
Bravo.
Anonymous said…
Whoa, sweet, I'm glad you wrote about this, Stephen!! I am always pondering what makes us real men & women. I agree with you, that character is what makes the man ((or woman)). There is a quote I love: "Character is who you are in the dark." ...Who you are when no one else is watching determines the content of your character. I think the only men who are worth any real admiration, time, or respect are those who stand for what is right; men of character, integrity, & honesty. I come across so many different kinds of men everyday-- fathers, grandfathers, husbands, and bachelors. And I actually think that a man's character, or lack of it, can be easily & quickly determined with just the way that he carries himself or interacts with other people. I have seen some huge jerks, some loud-mouthed drunks, & short-tempered buttheads. But there are also men in my life who have never let me down, by their consistent example of what it means to be a Christian and just in the way they handle what life throws at them. Those kinds of men make the world go round!!
if you don't know him already, you should. go ahead and google bradley hathaway, this guy.

Bradley Hathaway, manly man.
Sarah Noel said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben2theEdge said…
I'd give you a standing ovation if I could, Stephen. I've been blessed with an amazing father but there are far too many boys in this culture pretending to be men.
Sophia said…
Masculinity is often the topic of converstion that goes back and forth on my porch.

I've learned from talking with my friends, that we all have more or less the same ideas/feelings on the subject. It has been a good thing to talk about it in the open. It helps relieve any pressures of american ideals or just total machismo bullshit. We are alble to be ourselves outside of constucted gender roles.

I am excited to see this discussion on Modesty. I encourage all of you to share your feelings on the subject with your dad, your brothers, your friends. Let them know they are loved outside of expectations, outside of fear, outside of perfection.


good day.
Helen said…
well said.
Anonymous said…
"to me character, ethics, and social responsibility should be the point to which all men should be judged by.
"a man is measured by the expanse of the moral horizon he chooses to inhabit."
-sandor mcnab
i believe it is what we stand for and what we are willing to die for that makes us a man...
i believe that it is what we do in secret that determines the character of the man, and it is character that is imperative..."
While these statements are indeed true, they are actually speaking of ideals that define the character of mankind, not of man as opposed to woman. These are universal values, not values that define a "man". Please understand that this comment is not in disagreement, but just an attempt to make clarification. There is a difference between what traits men should be judged by and what traits make a man.
Christopher said…
What an amazing topic to tackle. I recently had a writing class that focused on gender socialization and a lot of this was discussed. If you're interested, there's a book called "Pink Think" by Lynn Peril. It focuses mostly on the socialization of females, but it does also talk about that of males. It's pretty intersting.
deb said…
living in the world that rejects those who doesn't conform (occasionally rejecting those who do) doesn't help either. i think we are all called to be different and the further you are from 'normal', the harder it is to cope in this place we call life.
deb said…
oh, and just because men are wired differently than women doesn't mean they aren't allowed the same emotions and its outbursts as women are.
Random Rambler said…
I'm stoked that you wrote that... it's really encouraging to know that there are a few guys out there who are actually challenging what society says to them about 'man-hood' it needs to be done more often!!!! Awesome thought provoking stuff...

Come check out my blog... I think you'd like it!
Brianne said…
Have you read To Own A Dragon by Donald Miller? The book is by a man who grew up without a father and the shortcomings he has felt because of that. It seems to hit on a lot of the same stuff in your post, which was great!
my name. said…
absolutely. a man is defined by his character and integrity; his soul.
Christopher B said…
Yeah today our society measures manhood by tying a string to his foot and seeing how far he can run from any morality before he trips. I like your blog and how you don't sit and wallow over things, but always want things to progress and question the way things are.
Josh said…
That is one of the most inspiring blog posts I have ever read. Ever.
Anonymous said…
Wow. That's really true, and I totally agree with you. Thank you!
Richard said…
this is truth spoken from a man who has done so on more than one occasion.
"Long time reader, first time writer" if I could use that...I have a question for you that I don't know how you would like to answer (or if you even would care to): I would kind of like to know the beginning of your (amazing) musical endevour...how you guys met Nate and thoughts around his age, how you scored with T&N after roughly a year and what not. An autobiography of sorts...if this can not be done that's understandable. I'm just curious as a cat...keep your heart, head and sanity during this time.
Justin said…
amen man. i just found this through a friend of mine, and you're right on target. keep it up.
Anonymous said…
oh stephen- how i wish i could sit down and have a conversation with you
Anonymous said…
your words have so much truth in them. growing up with a father that didn't spend much time with me, we had a very strained relationship. work became his number one, and family came as his second priority. this caused a rift between my mother and him, leading to divorce because he cheated on her. my father was always the type who never showed his emotions, and i think he felt like he had to prove something to himself and everyone around him by how much money he made, and his status in society. there has been too many days to count where i wished i had a father to comfort me through difficult times, and would just sit down and have a conversation with me. the one positive thing that has come from this is that i have learned to rely on God as the father figure that i currently do not have. a real man of God does not fear of his manhood--he loves his family first, and from that, a true, pure character will grow.
Van. said…
hm if you wonder if it's the same "rite" in europe ....it is! and I think that's so wrong! ....but a guy who respects the Lord is a REAL man!
God bless you!

Vanze
Anonymous said…
I have been reading over some of your blogs and you have some really wonderful insight. I think in todays world that a lot of guys think that they are men just because they have the parts. But as a woman, I have yet to come across a real man. My grandfather is the closest I can think of. He was an emotional man and he always showed his feelings. He cared. And he showed it. Family was everything. My father on the other hand is nothing like that. So I don't know if it can be taught. I think that peers may have a lot of input into how a boy becomes a man. Who they are friends with will count a lot as they grow.

I hate to think lack of emotion and muscles and never crying make a man. I have two little brothers and they are caring and loving and they show emotion, but sometimes I still worry that their friends will push the asthetic of what man is onto them and that will be how they think they have to be.

Gender stereotypes are hard to break. Hopefully mine and the next generation will have a mush easier time breaking free of them and just being whoever you are.
Elizabeth said…
I wish things could turn out that beautiful when I blog. I write poetry, but none of it could ever compare to this.

Thank you for having an affect on me, even if it is only for tonight.
Anonymous said…
so im a girl, and as i read this, i was thinking taht i would much much rather be with a guy that thought the way you think than a "manly man." cuz honestly, all that foot ball and car crap doesnt interest me in the least. however, i am interested in someone who knows how to watch a sunset and treat people with respect. i wish more people could see that expression of feelings, sincerity, and sensetivity of other peoples feelings are so much more important than superficial masculinity. i was inpressed with this blog. i agree whole heartedly that we should question the western worlds rite of passage to manhood. okay, this is way too long, but i just needed to get it out.
Anonymous said…
for men and women alike-

i feel it imperative for individuals to be able to stand on their own. the substance of a man, i think, can only truely be recognized when he can honestly say he is able to be on his own. when he can look within and know who he is and what he's about. popular belief would say you aren't complete without a significant other, when really we shouldn't be turning to that to be whole.

i know too many people who can't go more than a couple of months without being in a realtionship and its heart wrenching to see. its hard seeing that they think they need that other person to feel "together." either that or its all about lust. either way...

this comment may be some what tangential, but its what i thought of
kt said…
So you didn't like Wild at Heart? I've heard it was really good, but haven't read it. I liked Captivating, which he and his wife cowrote for women. I thought it was real and insightful.
Kris said…
we talked about this is in my women's studies class yesterday and all i could think of was your comments on boys and crying. in short thanks for givng me something intelligent to contribute to a discussion on gender roles!
Anonymous said…
Well, I know that what you are saying is true. Most men feel that thier contribution to the family is based on how much they can provide for them. Unfortunately, the children would rather have the father to read to them, or play with them then all the money in the world. Our society has lost the whole "Family" attitude and is all about "Self". Our children are suffering and most boys being raised mostly by the mother are very feminine which in turn they get called things that they arent and it is very sad and heartbreaking that this whole society judges you on how you are suppossed to be and not on how you are.
You are doing such a wonderful thing by reading and preparing to become a father, something which all men should do. Being a father involves more than donating your sperm and providing finances. It involves your heart and teaching and being an example. Hats off to you and other men like you who actually take the time to learn and plan on what kind of father they are going to be. Your children will benefit greatly from this, And their children as well, you are going to plant a seed in your children that will carry on from generation to generation. To me no amount of fame, money or anything can come close to the impact and influence we have on our children....that is the true success in life....to raise Godly, moral and loving children who in turn will do the same, that is our immortality and the greatest mark we can leave on this earth.
:)
Anonymous said…
I'm sorry, but you're completely mistaken. It may be true that American society superficially prioritizes certain actions: ie drinking heavily, having large muscles, and lacking emotion. But the majority of society does not expect men to act according to these characteristics to the extent you explained, as evidenced by 37 posts that agree with your position.

Furthermore, your ideal of what it means to be a man falls in line with the same stereotypical bullshit that has troubled the modern man and placed him under a heavy amount of what is known as gender role strain. You say that men shouldn't drink heavily, but they should be willing to sacrifice their lives for an ideal? Why?

The idea that men should be superiorly ethical and willing to sacrifice their lives for an idea is just a propagation of the same gender stereotypes that have gotten us into trouble in the first place.

What you've got to realize stephen is that it takes a Y chromosome to be a man, and that's it...

What you and the rest of society think makes a man a man is a socially constructed ideal that has helped repress those who do not fulfill the stereotype. You're idea of a man may be constructed by schooling, parents, or religion, either way, you're stereotypes are likely to exclude many people who are not necessarily ready to die for a cause, or ready to gauge themselves by how much they are willing to sacrifice...

Taking a gender psychology class right now, and decided to call you out...

-Aki

By the way, see you at Toad's on saturday

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