What is a 21st Century Man?

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Welcome to the 21st century, where in the West, lines are blurred and black and white are titles that have been shot to grey.  In one sense, the disintegration of boundaries has been beneficial to the slow crumbling of our society’s obsolete confines. (e.g.:  allowing women to be more than mere housewives, showing care to others regardless of ethnicity, etc.)

However, the disappearance of these walls has left a void in some, particularly—though not excluded to—men.  Before, it was cordial for a man to open up a door for a woman.  Now, one has to cross their fingers that the woman won’t be offended and call him a “chauvinist pig.”  Before, it was expected for the man to be the breadwinner.  Now, there are many women who make much more money than the man in a relationship. [monetarily:  nursing > construction worker]  Before, to be a man meant to work hard—typically in a physical way.  Now, that image of male strength is mocked upon as it is typically synonymous with male stupidity.

The fact that men aren’t restricted to these roles has its pluses.  Certainly movies like Dreamworks’s How to Train Your Dragon celebrates this liberty as main character Hiccup certainly isn’t particularly a “manly” man.  However, for some men, this results in an identity crisis.  Some might say “just follow your heart,” but as stated in our previous blog “The Pendulum Swings Again,” emotions are fickle, ebbing and flowing like the shoreline.  It’s hard to trust merely your emotions.  We have no role models of men, either, as many of their attributes are rather irrelevant in today’s era.

I recall a dishwashing soap commercial where the husband and wife are choosing between chores:  to do the dishes or to mow the huge backyard.  Since the dishes look horrendous and mowing the lawn is a “manly” thing to do, the husband chooses the latter.  The wife then “simply” places the dishes in the dishwasher and daintily places the detergent into the washing machine and has a commercial-perfect smile.  The advertisement timespans to much later and the husband walks in like a beaten dog and is surprised to see his wife pleasantly drinking a cup of who-knows-what as she did her chore with ease.  While the commercial is about soap, the ad clearly uses the image:  WOMEN= SMART.  MAN=STUPID.  WOMEN & BRAINS BEAT MAN & MUSCLE.

How is it not confusing and demoralising when you see movies of strong men receiving renown while reality and other media images portray a man with strength as brainless or unrefined?

Historically, we are the crux of change.  While conventions have changed, men don’t have to feel irrelevant.  The definition of “man” is evolving, and while it may be different than “when men were men,” maybe there are still things we can gather from historical role models.

  • Cowboys of the old west told men to be courteous to those who were weaker.  Today, while we ought not to define one as weak—especially not women as former generations did—a good 21st c. man should help those in need.
  • President Abraham Lincoln was a man among men.  Traditionally, he is known for his honesty (“Honest Abe”) and I don’t see why that should be taboo today.  A good man never lets his word falter, for when he is stripped away of all possessions, he still has his reputation.  If that is tainted, so is his manhood.
  • While I can’t say he’s the best superhero, Batman definitely is up there on the man scale [without the nipple suit].  Despite having wealth and power, he strives to help Gotham.  When he puts on his suit, his responsibility is to the people—a very manly trait that transcends any century.

There are some things that don’t change despite the erosion of societal conventions.  When new winds blow, new paths must be paved, and perhaps in the process we can still hold onto a few nuggets from the old era of manhood.  Manliness doesn’t have to be obsolete—it just needs to be redefined.

About Jonathan Seligman

Jon is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of NWYT. While his main profession is in education/music/history, he has a deep passion for philosophy, theology, ice cream, and everything else that life has to offer. See All of Jon's Posts

Comments

  1. WELL SAID coming from the right person to comment on this subject. What I don’t see mentioned enough however is how there’s a lack of respect towards manly gestures from both men AND women. You mention crossing your fingers that chivalry is met with kindness and not an insult, and that’s all on the woman not the man. Just because “doing the right thing” ends up in a negative manner doesn’t mean that thing was not right. Women have been brought up to be more tough and men to be softer and this is sadly not going anywhere anytime soon. I just hope that if I end up having a son that he grows up with a man who can show him what’s right and wrong respectfully and shows him what it means to be a REAL man no matter how many pussies of either sex surround him.

    – Mandy

    I have a post on chivalry here: http://www.whatmandythinks.com/2013/05/the-wimpy-mans-guide-to-chivalry.html

    • Jonathan Seligman says:

      Thanks for responding, Mandy!

      Yes, there were many aspects I left out. Definitely the rudeness from both sides of the sex fence is an issue that should be addressed—perhaps in another blog! I think courtesy is a trait that should not be restricted to one gender.

      That all said, thank you for your thoughts! I’ll be sure to read and comment your blog within the next two days 🙂

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