8/17/15

Constructing A Better ‘Be A Man’



Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
Albert Einstein
Last month I ran into a rather interesting video in my social media fee. The people at Cut Video asked boys and men, from age 5 to 50, a simple question; what does it mean to them when someone says “Be a Man?” It’s a rather interesting video where you get reactions from every aspect of the spectrum of opinions. Go ahead to the bottom of the post and watch it before we continue. Don’t worry, I’ll wait till you finish.

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Interesting, right? We see all kind of reactions and comments, from the men inspired and elated about the idea of being a man to men disgusted by the social constructs of manhood and the expectations placed upon them by gender stereotypes. After initially watching it, I was left wondering why we have such diametrical reactions to the idea of ‘Be a Man.’ Why are some men’s reaction so positive, while others so negative?

The easy way out to answer that question would be to take my own perspective as the right one and place judgement on each men; condemning or applauding their answer based on my own opinion, using their reaction to justify my own experience. This being a social media site, that would be easy and every like-minded reader would just follow suit and say that I’m right and anyone who disagrees is wrong. Everyone’s happy, we just trolled the bad guys, and we go on with our happy diluted lives.

Life doesn’t quite work like that. Notice that this attitude doesn’t really answer the question of difference of opinion, but rather becomes self-serving and egotistical. The real question is, why is manhood a positive thing to some and a negative thing to others? The answer is quite simple. Those who have a positive attitude about manhood are because they have dealt with positive examples of manhood. Those who have a negative stance on manhood have usually been at the receiving end of a toxic manhood.

All too often we are bombarded with the idea that manhood IS toxic or that phrases like ‘Man Up’ only serve to perpetuate social constructs. I can’t agree with either mentality for several reasons. I have spoken already about why we need to Stop Not Saying ‘Man Up.’ As for the second one, you are right, manhood IS a social construct, but so is any idea you have about social interaction! Do you think that your vision of how you should handle gender, social justice, or simply everyday interaction isn’t a social construct you have made for yourself?

We all build an idea of what manhood is, usually thanks to our own personal experiences. We do this with EVERY SINGLE CONCEPT. Just ask 20 people to define love. You will probably get just as many definitions, all based on each person’s individual experiences and relationship history. Out of those experiences, each person build a definition and expectations of what ‘love’ is. The same thing happens with Manhood.

So what does this mean to each of us? That you have a double role within your obligations as a Man. The first is to create an ideal worth aspiring. Look and learn from men worthwhile. Look at what empowers you about being a man and what makes great men, well, great. Then work towards that goal.

The second? be the kind of man who inspires others to have a positive image of what Men are. We have enough bad examples out there and enough people attacking manhood, as everyone has met an asshole at one time or another in their lives. Prove them wrong. Become the example a young man needs when wondering how a man of character should behave. Become the example a young woman needs when wondering if all men are the same.

It’s simple. Be a Man and Man Up. Just make sure it’s to become the right kind of man.