by Nate Desmond
In a world filled with frequent grammar mistakes and common vocabulary confusions, “manliness” is one of the most overwhelmingly misconstrued words.
Once a common term in everyday conversation, “manliness” is rarely used and still more rarely understood. “Now,” you might wonder, “is not the meaning of manliness simple?
After all, is it not simply the state of being a man?” Yes and no. While it is true that manliness is just the state of doing the things a man should do, the term has been expanded to carry other, incorrect, connotations. Here are the six common myths about manliness that I have noticed primarily.
Myth #1: Real Men Are Bodybuilders
In our modern society (and probably historically as well), strong men are generally looked up to and respected. However, contrary to popular opinion, bodybuilding is not always essential, or even useful, to manliness.
Although strength training does provide many manly benefits – such as discipline and increased ability, bodybuilding can be over-emphasized as a manly trait. If a man spends too much time working on exercise, he cannot help but spend too little time on some of the other – equally important – sections of life.
The keys to a manly life are moderation and balance, so, while bodybuilding can be important, it should not be allowed to take over a person’s life. Exercise should be a part of every man’s life, but it should not be practiced to the exclusion of the other parts.
Myth #2: Manly Men Are World-Saving Heroes
Another common misunderstanding centers on the uncommon: “Manliness is a trait of Superman-like people.” According to this idea of manliness, a man should always be rushing around saving the world or being the best at everything.
On the contrary, becoming the “ultimate” man does not necessarily require fighting alien invasions… or even being the best [insert your job title] in the history of the world. True manliness can be found just as easily in the unknown laboring man as it can be in the greatest businessman of the century.
Why? Because true manliness is simply the state of doing your duty to the best of your ability. If it is your duty to provide for your family by working an unpleasant job and leading an unsuccessful career, you can be manly by doing that. On the other hand, if it is your duty to save the world… enjoy!
Myth #3: Masculine Men Should Swear
Especially during the transition years from childhood to adulthood, swearing is often seen as a manly or “mature” activity. As men grow older, some continue the habit while others gradually stop. The manliness, and gentlemanliness, of swearing is a controversial topic today with many strong proponents on both sides.
This has been the same throughout history. George Washington, the Father of Our Country, wrote strongly about this issue: “The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” Though the morality of swearing will still be contested, it must be acknowledged that swearing is at least not necessary to true manliness.
Myth #4: Manly Men Are Drinkers
Like swearing, men who can drink heavily without becoming drunk often gain a certain respect for their unusual “strength”. In fact, heavy drinkers are often considered extra-manly. Drinking, however, is a dangerous habit that should not be considered manly for three reasons:
- Dangerous Consequences – Not only does drinking often lead to addiction and alcoholism, but it also causes dangerous health effects.
- Money Drain – Drinking is an expensive habit that takes money that could be better saved or invested.
- Bad Example – Even if you do not reap any bad consequences from drinking, your drinking will serve as a bad example to other men who quite possibly will become enslaved to alcohol.
Because of the many dangers and problems that come with drinking, it is a risky trap, not a manly habit.
Myth #5: Manly Men Are Popular
When we look at the many manly men who are respected and honored by all (George Washington, Robert E. Lee, etc.), it can be easily assumed that true manliness causes popularity.
However, that is not the case. As Aesop wisely explained in his Fable of The Donkey and The Man, pleasing everyone is an impossible endeavor. Besides, real men will have real convictions that will often clash with those of others. As Winston Churchill once said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
Although it is important to always debate issues with respect and kindness, it is impossible to avoid offending someone. Manliness is not a popularity contest.
Myth #6: Reading Is Unmanly
Just as people often unduly respect bodybuilders, they unduly disrespect intellectuals. Indeed the cultural picture of a weak, pale, sickly young man hunched over his books in a dimly-lit room certainly is not manly. However, as Josh is proving by combining strength and reading on this blog, intellectualism is not an effeminate activity.
Far from it, learning is an important part of the well-rounded man’s life. As with bodybuilding, reading and learning must be kept in balance with the other parts of a man’s life. The cultural stereotype of a weakly student is simply a result of an unbalanced life. In proper moderation, learning is a crucial aspect of masculinity.
As a result of these and other “manliness myths”, the epithet of manliness, once a high honor, has been degraded to the level of a rebuke. It is important that we stop the promulgation of these myths and return the ideas of masculinity to their rightful place. What myths have you noticed?
About the author:
Nate Desmond is the editor in chief of Practical Manliness, a blog with lots more of the type of stuff you just finished reading.
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