I am a staunch supporter of males and the females in their lives. I believe that we can do better, as a gender, but must step up and be accounted for. Some of you who read this might wonder if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed or took my politically correct vitamins in excess. Some passerby’s might wonder if I live in the basement of my mother’s home and spew comments in a an environment where anonymity is a given and gravatars act as i.d. badges.
Though this image might bring you joy it just isn’t true. I am a Normal, insecure, bold when I need to be, confident in waves, man who loves ESPN, the arts and yard work on any-ole-day U.S.A. And, yes sometimes I find it necessary to shed light on a social practice that isn’t helping males in their pursuit to be Normal…in an effort to reach personal greatness…and life satisfaction.
As a part of an online community, The Art of Manliness, I am often challenged to think, laugh, and cry at the experience of being male. The members are thoughtful and thought provoking which I applaud with all sincerity. Yesterday was a perfect example wrapped into a single thread. A member asked a question…he wanted to know how to Man-Up a 13 year old that he knew. He described this young boy as soft, squishy, an unmotivated sissy, and lazy. I, of course, commented and to his credit the author said he didn’t know of any other word to use other than Man-Up.
I was also given a review on the term and its usage on the site which said:
“Within the context of this site (AoM), “manning up” simply refers to “growing up” and coming to grips with yourself as a man. It’s not so much about toughening up as it is about maturing beyond boyhood.” -Jamie
To Man Up? The Urban Dictionary actually has 25 definitions and there is an organization, by the same name, that strives to end violence against women. Many of us have seen the phrase in reference to sexual enhancement and performance. We have seen it used at Little League games to dissuade emotions associated with females from being aired. Many of us have heard the phrase as a call to action; a rising up from self-induced-pity to a place of formidable stature and strength.
And, we have to wonder what is the impact on a generation of young boys without fathers, without male role models in schools, without heroes on the athletic field, governed by a society and educational system determined to squeeze the boy out of them, reprimanded when they become addicted to video games as a result, and told that success only comes to those who can effectively repress feelings and push on in the name of the American spirit.
I say with great confidence and sadness that our young boys are at a crossroads. Our boys are flailing in the wind with no direction, purpose, or sense of self.
Late yesterday afternoon as I was in the backyard I heard three young men talking and making a bit of noise. When I looked over to my neighbors house I noticed these three young men (approximately 18-21) crawling through an upstairs window. The house, you see, is in the midst of renovations and the owners are looking to rent the top unit out. I stopped them, at least the one young man who looked nervous, and asked them if they were with the work crew and found out they wanted a “peek inside.” Let’s just say they got my drift and headed out of my urban neighborhood.
You might say to yourself that this was a harmless act, but I am concerned at the lack of judgment. It concerns me that these young men were so apathetic to getting caught. I very easily could have called the cops and I would imagine a charge of breaking and entering could have been established. To them…nothing. They drove away quietly without verbal exchange.
Before we can ask young boys to Man-Up, we first need to establish what they are actually Manning-Up too. We need to provide a playground and environment that let’s them explore with guidance, tussle safely in the name of bonding, and believe what they feel inside. Just because we have generations of men, mine included, that were cast aside from the rational side of life doesn’t mean that we have to send them down the river as well.
If we, adult men, want a seat at the proverbial table of life then we have to set the example…together. We have to communicate our disgust for the medical system that limits access and respect during pregnancy. We have to communicate our needs with our medical and psychological doctors. We need to role model the great dualities of manhood…that we can grunt to our friends one minute, compose poetic stories the next, protect our children, cry with our children, love our spouse and most importantly ourselves all at a moments notice.
Apathy for ourselves is one thing…apathy for the next generation—shameful. Think about the language you use and the story it supports or erodes…young boys are waiting for us to Step Up…in the process we might just figure out what it actually means to Man-Up.
All the Best!