On Manhood

Opinion by Chris Herries
April 16, 2013, 10:09 a.m.

For the rest of the quarter, I’m going to focus on my conception of manliness in the modern world. The title of the column is going to be “The New Man.” Essentially, I’d like to express my opinion about the changing dynamic of masculinity in the modern world and what it means to be a man.

For all the ladies and LGBTQIA-identified individuals about to put down the paper: Fear not! People are people, and most, if not all, the values I’ll outline in “The New Man” will be mores I think all people can aspire to. This column will not be about buffalo wings, MMA or scantily clad women – because, as far as I’m concerned, they have little to do with true manhood.

Defining manhood is a seemingly impossible task, and anything put forward here will be solely my opinion. The first point I want to make in this column is that manhood is in apposition, not opposition, to womanhood. The qualities that make a great man are, generally speaking, the same qualities that make a great woman. Manhood is not lifting heavy weights, resorting to physical violence, putting oneself in needless danger or even growing a sick beard. Real men deal in the honest truth, despite the pain that brings. Real men respect people from all walks of life, despite differences. Real men are flexible, despite holding true to their core values. Real men are on time, committed, focused, quick to help and slow to anger. The same is true for real women.

Undoubtedly, people will wonder why I’m writing about manhood and not adulthood. The fact: I’m a heterosexual male. Therefore, I feel I can talk with authority about current conceptions of masculinity and my qualms abut it, whereas I can’t talk about traditional femininity in the same way. A lot of what this column will deal with in the future has to do with the self-discovery of manhood. At no point, however, will I be contrasting manhood to womanhood in a negative light, because, frankly, most of what I value in men are qualities I value in women as well.

Ultimately, manhood and womanhood stand opposed primarily to childhood. The qualities I listed before – honesty, respect, flexibility, values, commitment and discipline – aren’t things I’d expect to see in a child. Children are dependent creatures. Either they haven’t learned these qualities or they choose not to exercise them.

For some people, the latter point – choosing not to practice certain qualities –  extends far beyond adolescence. Laundering money, corruption, bribery, pursuit of self-interest, abuse or generally being a dick are all things I’ve seen “adults” do that, in fact, are just plain childish. It shows an inherent selfishness, an unwillingness to play by the rules and a disregard for the well-being of others. Adults personify, or try to personify, virtuous behaviors. Children do not. I’m not trying to hate on little kids – they are, after all, less responsible for their actions – but I will hate on people who are too old to act childish.

Less extreme examples exist on campus too. We often fail to put friends and people before our studies; we neglect, willfully or not, people who are in crisis. We put too much work on our plate and let the quality of that work slide, where a true man would recognize his limitations and be fully committed to any endeavor. We’ll show up late, get lazy, party recklessly and be, or pretend to be, apathetic to important campus issues. On a personal level, I’ve seen friendships end, and I’ve ended friendships, for childish reasons. The takeaway about manliness from this first column: Men need to be mature.

I’ll end with a personal anecdote. I received a ticket for rolling through a stop sign on my bike. Rather than be a man, accept the citation and go to the class, I choose to be sour to the officer and bitch about the ticket to my friends. That’s just immature. I ended up going to the safety class, which was fantastic. They gave me two free lights, a helmet and a greater understanding of bike safety in less than an hour – all while expunging my citation!

If I had been more of a man about it, I wouldn’t have given lip to an officer who was doing his job, and I wouldn’t have worked myself into a fit about such a minor infraction. I’ll be more mature in the future.

Be a man – email Chris with your thoughts at [email protected].

Chris Herries is a sophomore majoring in Latin. His interests include rugby, crossfit, weiqi, and public service. Please shoot him an email if you have an issues with his articles.

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