The world needs better men, not more gentlemen

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The age-old concept of “gentleman” describes a courteous man, specifically in his behaviour toward the opposite sex. 
 
But in the midst of the #MeToo movement exposing men who think their power overrides sexual consent, society should integrate kindness toward women into our understanding of how a man should act.
 
Most people think of a gentleman as a tuxedo-clad man whose treatment of women is equal parts suave and considerate. Tuxedo or not, being known for exceptional manners and respect for women is extremely positive.
 
If gentlemen are what society calls nice men, it appears the other, worse-behaved category we can identify as is simply men.
 
The New York Times reported on a study last week which found an overwhelming majority of boys believed strength and toughness were the most valued masculine characteristics. Further, most respondents believed society expects them to express anger through aggression or silence, and to conceal feelings of sadness or fear.
 
Another disturbing disparity in our distinction between men and gentlemen is the treatment of women, a subject currently examined at large by the #MeToo movement.
 
In the aforementioned study, 50 per cent of boys said men in their families had made sexual comments or jokes about women. These boys also reported feeling increased pressure to “play along” with the sexism they witnessed. Additionally, 82 per cent of boys said they’d heard someone criticize a male for “acting like a girl.”
 
The perception of women as both sexual objects and the weaker sex gives credence to patterns of men sexually abusing women. The problem is that this is only now coming to the public’s attention.
 
The way society is raising its future men doesn’t correspond with how we consider gentlemen. 
 
Gentlemen aren’t aggressive or emotionally closed-off; they treat women with care and aren’t afraid to speak honestly about how they’re feeling.
 
An opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal declared, in the face of #MeToo uncovering hordes of power-abusive men, the world needs “more gentlemen.” To me, it makes a lot more sense to define what it means to be a man with gentleman-like qualities from a young age.
 
The male population should take the current social climate as an opportunity to think about how we’ve conditioned ourselves to view manhood. We need to listen to women’s stories, reflect on our past behaviour, and show our allegiance through actions that lift women up to the same standards of respect we’ve always had.
 
To create more compassionate masculinity, we need to start treating gentleman-like behaviour as the norm. It’s time for society to retire the “gentleman” archetype so men don’t have to be anything other than men to respect women.
 
Josh is The Journal’s Lifestyle Editor. He’s a third-year film and media student.
 

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