What is manhood(or ˈmænhʊd if you’re an English dictionary enthusiast) and what does masculinity consists of. Manhood has many synonyms: machismo, macho, manliness, masculinity, virility. But what does it mean to live as a man?
Brett McKay at Art of Manliness did a series on this a while back, looking at how societies throughout the world and throughout history thought about what it means to be a man. His series was a summation of David Gilmore’s book Manhood in the Making, which is great reading for those who want more depth. He summarized manly qualities as what he called the 3 Ps: Protect, Procreate, Provide. My condensed summary of his take:
- Protect. Physical strength and endurance, skill in weapons and strategy, courage, physical and emotional stoicism, acceptance of one’s expendability, public demonstration of one’s aptitude as a protector.
- Procreate. Initiating with women, virility and potency, the ability to sexually satisfy a woman, fecundity, and having as many children as possible.
- Provide. Contributing the lion’s share of sustenance to one’s tribe/family, resourcefulness/cleverness (ability to maneuver around obstacles), becoming self-reliant, being generous
He also lists various shared attributes that underpinned the definition of manhood that an adult male needs to be a man.
- Earned Status – manhood must be earned
- Autonomy – “Autonomy involves the ‘absolute freedom of movement’ — ‘a mobility of action.’ It means being able to make your own decisions, call your own shots, create your own goals, set your own pace, carve your own path.”
- Energy – “A man is expected to overcome passivity, to always be up and doing, and to ceaselessly strive to achieve.”
- Danger and Risk
- Public Affirmation – “When it comes to excellence in the 3 P’s — talk doesn’t matter, results do. You have to put your money where your mouth is, and thus competence in all the manly pursuits must be demonstrated in the public square and affirmed by others. You must be willing to sally forth into the fray, to compete with other men, and show how you stack up against them. A man must be ‘in the arena.’ For this reason, a man who is a homebody, who avoids public contests, and desires to spend most of his time with wife and children is considered effeminate.”
- Create More And Consume Less
If you are a man, these are the things societies have always defined as the meaning of manhood. It’s more than just a euphemism for male genitalia.
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If we look at these historical manhood criteria and rank Donald Trump against them, it is immediately obvious that Trump, the New York billionaire, has all the qualities. In fact, Trump scores extremely high on many of these criteria such as being “in the arena.”
It is possible to be good at being a man, without also being a good man. For example, a mob boss has a dangerous job, supports his family, and is highly resourceful. He also whacks people on a whim. He’s not a good man, but he’s good at being a man. He does actually live the 3 P’s. This is why, even though we might not want to emulate him, we still can’t help but think of him as pretty manly. Think Walter White [the protagonist in Breaking Bad] for a modern pop culture example – audiences still wanted to root for him in spite of all the horrendous things he did (and wanted to lambast Skyler White for her desire to seek the truth and turn in Walt). The moral side of our brains tells us that he’s not a ‘real man’ but at the gut-level we feel a degree of ancient, amoral respect. While it’s possible to be good at being a man, without being a good man, as we shall see next time, the reverse is not true. [emphasis added]
Godliness and manhood are two separate things that are too often conflated. Trump can thus be good at being a man without being a good man. This is often referred to as being macho or having machismo.
The Speedy Decline of All Manhood
This contrasts with the speedy decline of all manhood we see in society. Seven million prime working-age men between 25-54 are unemployed and not even looking for work in the United States. Labor force participation has especially plummeted among young men with only a high school diploma. And the time spent not working isn’t being filled with school or training; it is being replaced on a nearly one to one basis with video games (though one presumes pornography also looms large). Young manhood is in crisis.
Only 26% of adult men are of normal weight, with the rest overweight or obese. Diabetes diagnoses are up. Only a quarter of men meet government standards for aerobic exercise and strength training. Grip strength among young men, one of the key indicators of overall strength and even health, has declined significantly. In the last 30 years, the grip strength of college-age men has declined from 117 pounds to 98 pounds and is now about the same as 30-year-old women. Men are even chemically less masculine today; testosterone levels are in decline, falling by as much as 22% in recent years.
Young men entering early manhood are woefully behind their father’s and grandfather’s generations. This is a problem that will affect all human beings. Women are looking for men to marry and there just aren’t that many eligible bachelors. Going forward this site and the newsletter looks to create a path for men. To learn more about manhood check out Masc #5.
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