The measure of a man

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It’s time we had an honest conversation about what it means to be a man.

I find that discussions of gender tend to focus on women and our perceptions of womanhood, and forget the other side of the coin: our skewed perceptions of manhood.

I’d like to see more attention directed towards the concept of manliness. Manliness, to me, implies dominance, strength and single-minded pragmatism.

Men who build bridges, drive fast cars and lift heavy weights are manly. Men who do household chores, write poetry and practice yoga are not.

When you aren’t manly, you are weak. You are effeminate, emasculated; you need to “grow a pair” and “man up”. It’s about confidence, but more than that, it’s about comparing ourselves to a feminine “other”.

If I were to tell a woman that she is less “womanly” because she doesn’t wear makeup, that would be offensive, yet it would be perfectly acceptable to say a man is less manly wearing it.

It’s the same type of repression, yet it’s rarely discussed among us men. As women reject traditional gender roles, we desperately cling to them.

It’s almost a taboo subject, which I believe stems from the insecurity and constant comparison the idea of “manliness” encourages. Questioning your own masculinity is not an easy task.

The modern woman can now, theoretically, fill the roles of both the “masculine” and the “feminine”. She’s encouraged to raise a family and pursue her career dreams. Why don’t we ask the same of men?

We talk as if working mothers are the only people balancing career and family. Where is the father? Why isn’t he responsible for caring for the children when his wife doesn’t have the time?

Why is it less manly to care for your children than to log hours at work?

We need this discussion. Women can’t discuss it for us any more than we can discuss what it means to be a woman.

Push through the insecurity. Ask questions. Don’t take “boys will be boys” or “that’s how it is” as an answer. It’s simply not good enough anymore.

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