So, what makes you a man? A nuanced take

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So for one of my weekly wisdom posts a few weeks back, I decided to write on this topic called “Man Enough…?” and got a lot of feedback and follow up questions on this topic so I decided that I would dig a little deeper and explore both angles to this a little more deeply.

I definitely landed in the “money don’t make a man” camp in that post, but I wanted to explore some of the variables that really muddy the waters, and (from a woman’s perspective) can raise questions about what kind of men we're surrounded by. I guess for me, I can relate to both sides of the fence in that I have been the guy in the past who has struggled with confidence, when starting out in my career and trying to make a relationship work.

I don't want this to be a retort to the ladies crooning “My love don’t cost a thing”, and to all the gents out there  I don't want you to  expect me to be an apologist for the occasions where bad behaviour clearly doesn't amount to manhood. Hopefully my nuanced take will land me somewhere in the middle... Lol

 

SETTING THE SCENE – HOW DID WE GET TO WHERE WE ARE NOW?

The evolution of time has seen the gradual transformation of family roles in a home and therefore the expectations on a man and woman in a home.

I’ve seen the “traditional” scenarios” where the man is the sole/main breadwinner play out in the modern world. I say modern world because the modern world comes with the “prenup”, alimony, 50% divorce share, child payment rights and many other legal levellers which have played a part in changing the narrative.

I have seen many families where the woman has been the main breadwinner and financial support (even where both parents are around) and seen the interesting dynamics at play in these scenarios.

Throw into the mix the historical impact of the sexual revolution in society, and the (mostly) transformed attitudes towards women in the world of commerce and business in the workplace, and what you have is a world in which although there is still a long way to go to attain complete equality, the shift towards that direction is inexorable.

What this means for how we perceive manhood, is that it is now in a context of the belief that (especially from a guy’s perspective) is in fact in a state of flux, because the expectations can be differing wherever you go. I think I write this with definitely my guy hat on because I have encountered different ladies who have different expectation.

Oh yes. I’ve heard the “if he ain’t making six figures I ain’t interested” one-liner.

I’ve heard the “he just doesn’t have ambition” complaint.

I’ve heard the “He’s ruthless and heartless, but he’s got a great job and great prospects” clamour about a guy who might have the resources apparently required to “be a man” but may not have the most redeeming qualities as a person. 

Three scenarios, three  avenues for discussion as to whether they are a man or not, but what I will try to do is address these 3 categories in turn and identify takeaways if any.

 

THE ASPIRATIONAL JUNIOR MANAGEMENT GUY – MAN OR NOT?

This guy is not earning the 6 figures who some ladies say is a pre-requisite for manhood. But he’s a good person, comes from a good family, sound values, devoted to his friends and loved ones and has the ambition and desire to better himself and better those around him. I can see some of you ladies screaming at your screen at me saying “OF COURSE THIS GUY IS A MAN!!!” Lol. Cool.

But why is it that this guy constantly gets short shrift or has been made to feel inadequate because he earns less than you or because he might not have things together the same way you know other people might?

What if he is one big break away from the leg up he needs to cross and surpass the arbitrary financial benchmark you have set?

What if a life experience changes him and makes him even more assertive and thus appear “manlier” than he appeared in the first instance?

But why is it that this guy constantly gets short shrift or has been made to feel inadequate because he earns less than you or because he might not have things together the same way you know other people might?

THE “MAN” WITHOUT AMBITION?

So with this guy, the assertion mostly levelled at him is that he has no desire to do anything with his life. He’s just content with the way things are. He has a regular job. Likes to do the same thing – he has no real intention to develop beyond the realms of what is perceived “progression” in the normal sense. He would be happy with the 2 point 4 children with a 25 mortgage, single holiday a year, 40 years marriage, retirement then die scenario from the get-go.

Some of you (guys included) have looked at this story and you’re bored witless. But here’s the thing. Does this make him less of a man or not a man at all? Could it be the case that there is someone out there who has determined that they would love to share a life with this guy and be proud to stand by this man?

Could it be that the defining feature of what is man enough for someone here is based on their perception?

It's true that this paragraph describes the “man without ambition” but could it be the case that to have no desire but to foster a family and support that family for however many years living a steady and not spectacular MTV cribs life is in itself ambition? Or what if he woke up one day and decided that he wanted more from life?

 

THE RUTHLESS SHARK WITH IT ALL

So we move onto the Ruthless Baller, Shot Caller. The one who has all the resources, who has means to provide anyone on his radar the life that they would want. He has the money, the houses, and the great job/business/conglomerate/empire. Everything.

But he is cold. Calculating. Ruthless. He literally will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He has no nurturing tendency, no inclinations to foster and build meaningful relationships and is quite satisfied with a hedonistic lifestyle. But hey – by many measures he’s a man right? Self-sufficient and reliant on nobody, he can’t be anything but, right? But what if he loses everything tomorrow and is rendered destitute? What if he suffers a stroke and is rendered paralysed? What if he had an epiphany about the meaning of life and decided to sell his all possessions and seek out a monastery?

 

SO WHO'S THE REAL MAN?

The last 3 paragraphs have a lot of questions in them right…? They do because the point to all the questions is in a way to highlight the futility of trying to pigeon-hole conceptions of manhood and manliness into linear scales of finance, emotions, character, ambition or lack thereof. The lives of all these individuals is in a state of flux which means that to take a snapshot of one’s life now and ascribe manhood or not is dangerous. The bible verse I used in the #Wisdom4Wednesday is where I want to sign off on this issue:

“A good name [earned by honourable behaviour, godly wisdom, moral courage, and personal integrity] is more desirable than great riches; and favour is better than silver and gold. The rich and poor have a common bond; The Lord is the Maker of them all.” Proverbs 22:1-2

 

Our perception of who someone is cannot determined by what the world thinks they have or don’t have. For me, man is but a name – it is the ACTIONS described in those verse that determine the validity of that name. If a man can try to live to the principles outlined above then for me he is a MAN. It does not matter how rich, or poor, or ambitious, or content he is, he is a MAN. And guess what? God sees them, rich or poor for what they are – A MAN.

 

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