Making masculinities: the other side of gender equality

Aaron Jaffe
Advertising Manager

The last 40 years have been a triumphant leap for the women’s rights movement. Women have gained more respect and pride in their own culture.

However, did this leap into the concentration on women’s rights and respect turn heads away from the issue of fleeting manhood?

The virtuous, courageous, bravado that comes with being a man has been ever fleeting in the past 20-30 years and it is curious as to why.

This article is not to state that the progression and advancements made for women in society have taken away from the manhood culture. Equality is nothing short of an opportunity and accolade for everyone.

Over the last 20 to 30 years, the practice and cultural definition of manhood has changed drastically. Years ago the definition of being a man was made clear in self-presentation, role models, and something that is as tangible as the first edition of the Boy Scout’s Handbook. To give an example of what manhood was thought of can be found clearly on page six of the Handbook:

“… a good scout must be chivalrous. That is, he should be as manly as the knights or pioneers of old. He should be unselfish. He should show courage. He must do his duty. He should show benevolence and thrift. He should be loyal to his country. He should be obedient to his parents, and show respect to those who are his superiors. He should be very courteous to women. One of his obligations is to do a good turn every day to some one. He should be cheerful and seek self-improvement, and should make a career for himself.”

Where has this meaning of being a man and being chivalrous gone? That righteous feeling to be unselfish and show benevolence to everyone you meet? These characteristics are not prominent in society today and it has become heart-rending to know this to be true for most of the “boys” in today’s society.

Today’s man, or should I say boy as to rectify the cultural meaning from its original source, has fallen into a way that cares more about himself and being an emotionally distressed boy than knowing what’s right, standing up for his opinion, and respecting all those around him, especially those that are his elders and superiors. He (we) have fallen into a brand-covered group of people that doesn’t understand what it truly means to have a penis.


One large part of this brand-covered misunderstanding of manliness is that understanding how to dress is not a “gay” or “feminine” thing to do. Knowing how to groom and maintain an image of yourself is acknowledging that presenting yourself well means that you will be respected by peers both professionally and personally.

When did taking care of yourself fade away from existence and get bartered for sitting on a couch, eating hot-wings, and yelling at a TV over a football game while wearing your favorite jersey which hasn’t been washed in weeks? That might have been an extreme example, but hopefully it becomes understood that even today the respect that comes from both others and self when you take care of yourself is not around anymore.

It is despondent to me to see that men do not care enough to take care of their personal image. To see boys walking through campus in moccasins and sweat pants that should only be worn in the privacy of your own house and seem like they just rolled out of bed without giving a second thought to their own appearance is something that should be looked down upon. Understanding and practicing how to look good is not something that requires money, it merely requires effort.

Another aspect of fading manhood is that role models have changed drastically. In the early ages of television and comics, boys were able to view superheroes as someone that they can become in their own lives. They stressed respect for others, to always be kind and chivalrous, and to show courage in the face of danger.

Where have these heroes gone? Though they may not have been able to fly, boys growing up then could emulate those characteristics and see themselves as their own superhero.

Today’s hero, however, is one that relies on how much they can destroy and how big of an enemy they can beat up while making it look as epic as possible.

When did chivalry and benevolence stop being an admirable trait in our role models?

It has become far too common to see these instances of fleeting manhood in our society. Blame can be cast in many directions, however I believe the most prominent is the failure of “passing the torch.” Passing the torch refers to when a father or personal role model would pass their traditions of manliness to be an adult, like shaving, throwing a baseball, how to “get the girl,” respect for others, and even the dreaded “talk” onto their predecessor(s).

Years of runaway fathers, 2nd wave feminist mothers, and increased interest in technology versus family time have all contributed to the failure of passing the torch of manliness onto the next generation. Boys are not learning the key aspects of being a man and in turn are not learning to embrace masculine culture.

I see constant scenes of abuse and uncaring for others in my fellow men. How can we ever hope to strive for this mission set forth by the Boy Scouts if the good number of us do not know how to act civil in order to be a true man? Chivalry is near death and it is the duty of all men to resuscitate it back to life. I hope that masculinity is not dead and that all men can once again embrace their penis and what it represents: a culture, a statement, a promise, and a duty.