The Weekly Dream: Let Us Make Man…
“Let us make man in our own image…”
What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a good one or a bad one? What kind of man am I becoming? These are questions I have grappled with and continue to grapple with. And at this age, it is something that looms in the mind of many young men (See Brandon White’s commentary). The rub is that we are aspiring to an ideal that has yet to be effectively defined and articulated.
In other cultures, there exist “rites of passage” ceremonies or initiations where the male is entrusted with the code for the culture and charged with protecting that code. However, in America, there is no identifiable process. Normally, it has to do with arbitrary characteristics or status (i.e. facial hair, losing virginity, etc.) This is further exacerbated by the lack of males in American households. As a result, males, especially minorities, have inherited a warped and piecemeal perception of what it means to be masculine ( e.g. the glorified role of the “thug” in hip-hop). There is a crisis of manhood in America.
I understand that gender roles and traits are influenced in large part by the society at large and its needs. I also concede that this is one of those concepts that cannot be locked in. However, I do believe that form fits function. There are some traits that we naturally exhibit, that you see in children that make us who we are. So this week, I invite everyone to comment on what is a man and how that notion formed. Next week, we will address the ladies.
My Patchwork Quilt
Growing up, I gleaned my ideal of manhood from my family. Looking at my examples, men were providers and protectors first and foremost. They sacrificed. They were strong, consistent and decisive. They were leaders and they were not careless. They never showed vulnerability or weakness. Whatever happened, you just “sucked it up.” They controlled their emotions and never cried in public. I remember my father telling me to “never let them see you sweat.” You had to always seem like you were in control and radiate that toughness. And your word was your bond.
As I entered college, still in my teens, my friends and I began to forge our own code, in relation to other men and in interacting with women. The “guy” code centered around commanding respect, knowing where your loyalties were and sticking to your principles. You did not speak about things you did not know about and you minded your own business. Your words and actions were always deliberate—thinking ahead about the consequences. This took a lot of self-discipline.
With women, things became complicated and they still are because it added yet another layer of expectations to be imposed. You couldn’t constantly assert yourself, and in relationships, you learned to pick your battles. However, a lot of men never learn how to be a man in interacting and dealing with women; that is another article.
It’s a Man’s World?
At this point, I have learned that aspiring to be your own man, counter to what is “en vogue” in society, can be a thankless job. By eschewing societal standards and the expectations of others, there is no benchmark by which to measure you by.
There comes a point where you just become comfortable in your own skin. I know my limitations and I am fine with those. I believe that is the essence of manhood: To know who you are and to be comfortable with that. Yet, we must strive to always be the best that we can be. By doing so, we can bring out the best in others. I disagree with those who might say that there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” man. I believe in good and evil. I also believe that men and women both reflect qualities and characteristics of the Creator. So a bad man is one who does not exhibit those traits. However, if you are a bad man, you are probably a bad human being also.
This is just the beginning of our exploration of our concept of gender and how it carries over into our behaviors and relationships.
As a man, all that is required is to do the best with the tools and information at hand.
Stick to the script, and eventually, someone will take notice.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M. DeVougas
Question of the Week: What does it mean to be a man? What shaped this ideal for you?