Recently I’ve heard masculinity described as something that’s not necessarily associated with men. It’s been described as violent, toxic, problematic, outdated, and responsible for sexual deviances. We’ll discuss how these are products of evil and not characteristics of a whole man. Does America need the traditional gentleman today?
Aside from some asserting the benefit of male privilege, you get the feeling manhood is not a gift, but shameful, a curse that needs to be exposed and exorcised. As Michael Kimmel points out how some men (specifically white men) might feel,
Once men were kings even outside their castles, and now they are walking on eggshells lest they be blamed for all the world’s problems.”
Some have described a crisis in masculinity, but does a crisis exist? Two schools of thought govern viewpoints on masculinity: one traditional and one progressive. Traditional thought believes masculinity is attributed to biology. Progressive thought believes masculinity is in the mind so anyone can attain it. No doubt, Western masculinity was remodeled in the Victorian era, and we’ll likely see a new revision emerge. But we’re also likely to hear women, like writer Peggy Noonan, lament the loss of the traditional gentleman:
All the stories we’ve read the past few months about predators—not those accused of rape and sexual assault, which are crimes, but of general piggishness, grabbiness, manipulation and power games—have a common thread. The men involved were not gentlemen. They acted as if they’d never heard of the concept. We have lost track of it. In the past 40 years, in the movement for full equality, we threw it over the side. But we should rescue that old and helpful way of being. The whole culture, especially women, needs The Gentleman back.
Some believe conventional masculinity is the problem. Not everyone wants the traditional gentleman, the good man, or the hero. Some want him to disappear for good. Intercept writer Peter Mass took aim at war movies like 12 Strong, stating they are filled with traditional masculine cliches and “devoted to martial narrative of men-as-terminators that should have been strangled at its birth a long time ago.” The ethos of the hero has become the problem. He writes, “Boys and men develop their notions of masculinity from a variety of sources that include the films they watch.”
And this might be true.
On the back of my book Black Tie, I write,
“As boys, we often mimic our fathers or the men we want to be like. Perhaps you wore a superhero costume for Halloween…Not much changes when we get older. When we see a man we admire, we might do like they do, look like they look, talk like they talk, or buy what they buy. But, who is the man within you?”
Some believe hero infatuation just furthers “man up” mentality. And even though Peter believes “good and evil” is a Hollywood cliche, it’s also a concrete truth. The heroes were never the problem, it’s always been evil.
Who is the man within you?
That’s a choice and a mindset both the traditional and progressive masculinity faction can agree on. I choose to be a good man. We’re not in a battle of the sexes. We’re not in a battle or crisis in masculinity. We live in a battle between good and evil…as trite or Hollywood cliche as that may seem.
We can take the models of masculinity we’ve been given and choose what we want. My dad is the epitome of manhood, but no one is perfect. Keep the meat and spit out the bones. This is the new model of masculinity. At the end of the day, we still need men who hold on to the great traditional gentleman ethos.:.men who will say YES to making the world a better place and NO to injustice.