“Man Up” proclaims the cover of the September 27, 2010 Newsweek (www.newsweek.com) and it is accompanied by a very interesting article on the missing element of true manhood in our nation. I recommend reading the article—it was interesting if not amusing. There were two premises to the authors call for a more modern masculinity. First, men should spend more time in paternity leave when their children are born. The government should pay for this, the authors argue. Second, men must be willing to engage in more ‘girly’ jobs. Note—girly was their word, not mine. By girly they mean social workers, teachers, nurses and nurturing careers in general. (Note—I wonder if they would include pastoral ministries in that list of ‘nurturing’ careers?)
I feel particularly empowered to comment on this article and their claims because of my status as a bona fide Gen X’er. It is our generation of men that these guys are writing about, not our fathers. Gen X men have been told from the time we were boys that we should get in touch with our feelings, express ourselves, let it out, be nice, and always, no matter what else you do make sure you put the toilet seat down.
For the record, my father has probably never, ever put the toilet seat down.
Let me be clear—I am not against being nice or putting the toilet seat down nor am I against women! By all means, I am probably one of the most progressive minded people on the issues of women in the church. I have a wife and two daughters and I want a good world for them too. But as a man thinking about the world and how I see other men I perceive the authors of this article have missed the boat on what men need in order to recover true masculinity. They point to economics and careers as if the recession has ended masculinity. Well, I call bull on that. Our tough old grisly grandfathers lived through the depression and not one of them that I can remember ever painted their fingernails.
How about we start with key words that are lacking from men my age and younger today. One word would be responsibility. Too many men are not held responsible for taking care of their children; either by being dead beat dads or by simply neglect. There is nothing more manly than taking responsibility. Another word would be competency. Competency has a brother called education. When I write competency, I do not mean formal education, but the concept that there are things to be learned and skills mastered. I suppose what I am referencing is that often I see men my age turn to their wives whenever complex issues are discussed as if to say, “I’m only a man. I can’t understand these things.” That’s crap! Our fathers and grandfathers might not have known physics, but they read the papers, studied their craft, and learned how to do things. They were competent. A third word would be work. Put the video games down, stop hanging out at clubs, get off the couch and turn off the DVD and work. Work as in get a job even if the job is underpaying you. Work as in mow the grass or read a book. Do something productive for yourself, your family, and your world. A fourth word—identity. Real men understand the words of Shakespeare—“to thine own self be true.” Carve out who you are. This may involve discovery and time but you can only be the person God has made you be.
I could keep writing a while, perhaps I will revisit this after a while. Before I leave though, one more aspect to being a man’s man. Stop trying to look feminine! Leave the metrosexual garbage for those who don’t know who they are. Dress and look like a man: Wear a hat, grow a beard, tuck your shirt in from time to time, and buy a suit and one pair of nice trousers. Yeah, I said it, T-R-O-U-S-E-R-S, not pants, not Dockers, not slacks but a pair of man’s trousers! You’ll feel better about yourself.