There have been a lot of articles written lately, I have noticed, on the subject of manhood—specifically, the dearth of what the writers fondly call “real men.” A few days ago someone I know shared an article citing Ray Romano as the embodiment of what’s wrong with modern men. Just this morning I was linked to another article about “Why Men Aren’t Really Men Anymore.”
These are just instances in a long line of recent articles about how the paradigm of manhood is changing. I find the topic to be absolutely fascinating, and I’d like to take this opportunity to see if I can contribute in some small way to the conversation. So with that in mind:
Dear people who write articles calling for a return to the “real manhood” of the old days: Fuck you.
Articles like this infuriate me, because they’re so close to hitting on a fundamental truth…and at the same time, they’re so far away.
The fact is, there are two critical, necessary ingredients to being a “real man.” The first is power, confidence, potence, badassery, Alpha. The manhood that makes you somebody that nobody fucks with. This is the aspect of manhood to which so many people seem to be calling for a return.
The Coldbomb article above identifies Don Draper and Tony Soprano as alternatives to Ray Romano. But the same article goes on to say, “Still, if you get past Tony’s tendency to murder loved ones and friends as a matter of convenience, and Don’s massive identity theft that has rendered his whole life a lie…” as though these are not critical parts of these characters’ identity. This doesn’t work. It’s definitely unfortunate when modern men seem to emulate Ray Romano, but murderers and thieves aren’t exactly ideal archetypes of masculinity either.
There is a second characteristic that is required to be a “real man,” and that characteristic is kindness, sensitivity, compassion, Beta. These qualities are typically mentioned in the articles, but only ever in passing—and some articles specifically cite them as signs of weakness, things to be looked down upon.
The fact is, no matter how much of a pathetic sad-sack of a man Ray Romano’s character may be…he’s a compassionate, sensitive, loving husband who genuinely cares for his family. He’s not a masculine ideal—I get it. But neither is Tony Soprano. BOTH of them are incomplete examples of manhood. The Coldbomb article acknowledges this—lamenting the lack of any kind of complete masculine ideal in media.
To be a real man, you have to be BOTH of these things—compassionate and powerful, confident and sensitive, Alpha and Beta. That is the ONLY way to be a real man, and anything else falls short of the masculine ideal. Having power and confidence without compassion and sensitivity makes you a douchebag. Having sensitivity and compassion without power and confidence makes you a sad-sack.
The reason why we keep seeing all of these articles coming out lately is because we’re undergoing a slow shift in the paradigm of modern manhood, away from Alpha and towards Beta.
Whenever a shift like this happens, you always see people who lament the direction things are going and wish we could go back to the way things were. That’s exactly what these articles are doing. But reality check time—the way things were was seriously fucked up, and we’re STILL massively wrapped up in it. We’re still deeply enmeshed in misogyny and patriarchy. This tiny, slight move towards a more “Beta” archetype of modern manhood has people so freaked out that they’re desperately writing articles about how to bring back the way things used to be.
But that’s not the way it works. We’re moving away from one flawed model of manhood, and towards another. The All-Beta sad-sack is a broken archetype of manhood, and not one we should be holding up as an ideal…but so is the All-Alpha douchebag.
What makes me angry is that as a society, we’re moving away from being douchebags and towards being sad-sacks…and all anyone can write about is how we need to go back to the good old days of douchebaggery.
Fuck that. That’s not what being a Real Man is.
A “real man” has the balls to go up and talk to a woman he thinks is attractive…but a Real Man has the balls to politely leave her own when she indicates she isn’t interested. A “real man” won’t back down from a fight…but a Real Man knows how to end a fight safely, and knows how to leave his opponent a way to exit gracefully. A “real man” has power…a Real Man knows how to exercise it responsibly.
Let’s see some articles about that, hm?