July 11, 2011

Being a Man in This Day and Age

How many men do you know who are overgrown children? They never marry, spend their days playing, and don’t have much real responsibility. Or they are fathers yet don’t lend much of hand with the kids or around the house. Or they run out on their responsibilities. My husband and I have been talking about this lately. Not because he’s one of them ~ in fact, I am so lucky because he is an equal partner with the kids and with the housework. I am so so lucky. “Where did I go wrong,” he jokes.

He’s one of those guys who gets things done. He sent me a great quote a while back:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein
I have complete faith that he can do all those things, perhaps with the exception of conning a ship. He’s someone who, if he doesn’t know how to do something, he figures it out. He’s someone who’s physically confident. I’ve always said, he’s the type of guy who inspires confidence in others. He’s got a lot of common sense and he’s very tall with a deep voice. (Did you know that most captains of industry are taller than average?)

What we realize more and more is that he may be the exception, rather than the rule.

What my husband and I talk a lot about is that men on TV sitcoms are the butt of everyone’s jokes. They are often incapable, lazy, dumb, and all those other stereotypes. It’s as if the stereotypes of the women in the 50s (ditzy blonde; here little lady, let me take care of that) have been reversed and now it’s okay to make fun of men.

There’s also been a lot references to Hemingway in the news lately. For example, on wired.co.uk and USA Today. There’s a lot of talk about his relevance, or irrelevance. But, what these articles point out is that Hemingway lived life, that he had an ideal he desperately tried to live up to.

I guess what I’m getting at is that where are the role models for our boys? Heck, for our men? If all they see around them are images of laughingstocks, if they’re allowed or encouraged to be little boys their whole lives, if they don’t have things to be proud of, how in the world can they be happy and functioning adults?

That’s why I love sites like The Art of Manliness. It’s about taking back pride. It’s not about denigrating women. It’s about being the best husband, father, and citizen that you can be. It’s about pride and being capable. This is not at the expense of women. When will we begin to think of the world as a land of abundance, where one is not at the expense of the other?

Why are capable men like Hemingway considered throwbacks, instead of role models? I say this as a feminist.

PS Perhaps I am oversimplifying, but I worry about the future for my son, just as I worry about it for my daughter.

4 comments:

Walt Giersbach said...

You may have conflated two dissimilar things: The perfect man and Ernest Hemingway. I wouldn't consider Papa a role model, him with four (?) wives. And, it's a little edgy to think that slowing down or avoiding risk is metaphorically "cancerous." But I admire him for another reason.

Before he shot himself in Ketchum, he was paranoid that Hoover was tapping his phones and covering his mail. Friends told him to stop being so skittish. Yet all these years later, a FOI request reveals that Hoover was tapping and covering because Hemingway appeared to be sympathetic to the Cubans.

Tamara said...

Walt -

Thanks so much for your comments!

"Just because you're paranoid does not mean someone isn't spying on you." :-)

You're absolutely right: the perfect man - not equal to Earnest Hemingway. He's gotten a lot of grief over the years, especially from women. I'm a defender of his, if you can't tell. No, he's not perfect, but I think he serves as a kind of antidote to snarky passivity, you know? I empathize with the position men are in nowadays - like everyone, they need ways to be proud and to have agency and power. You could say that I'm a masculinist, just as I'm a feminist.

What reason do you admire him for?

Shelly I said...

Hi, Tamara. I'm also fascinated with the shifting meanings and expacations of manhood in our society, our families, and our intimate relationships. How, after all these years of feminism, can we not wonder about "masculinism," especially with husbands, fathers, brothers, nephews, and sons we love? My fiction series deals directly with this. I can't wait to read more of your posts on this here and on Google+. Thanks for posting!

Tamara said...

Shelly,

Oh Cool! What's the title of your fiction series? Isn't it all so fascinating?

There's a great academic textbook on masculinism that came out a number of years ago - I forget it's title, but very interesting. Something short like "On Men."

Thanks so much for looking me up! Can't wait to skip on over to your pad and check out your writing. :-)

Tamara