When I was growing up, boys were raised to become manly men. When my father and grandfathers were growing up, this was even more of a focus. In today’s day and age, I feel this is still important. Before people get offended by this statement, let me define the term “manly”.
If asked to define what it means to be manly, many people, myself included may think of the following attributes:
- Big, strong, and tough
- Not afraid to get hands dirty
- Ability to fix and build things
- Does not cry or show emotion other than anger
- Attractive to the ladies
So, where did all of these attributes come from? Well, when you think about it, we humans are all just animals. It is ingrained in us through nature that males protect their family and females bear/nurture their family. Males instinctually yearn to be the alpha male; the biggest/strongest/toughest in the pack. We are no different.
When I was growing up, if you did not have these attributes, you were deemed weak, wimpy, and not a man. Those who lacked these attributes were also likely to be bullied by those “manly” boys who did have these attributes.
Somewhere in the course of history, the attributes that define being a man started to identify with those who bully others and use their attributes for personal gain at other’s expense. Just look at many of our political leaders and celebrities. Many look up to these “manly” men and want to be like them despite their lack of ethics and morals.
While all this is true, I also feel it is true that we have evolved as a species. Rather than think of the attributes I mentioned, I feel it is better to think about the reason these attributes came about when defining “manly”. That reason is to protect one’s family.
This definition has nothing to do with being male or female. While traditionally protecting one’s family is a male responsibility, in today’s society gender does not matter. From here on out, please forgive me for using the word “manly” as it does not necessarily apply solely to the male gender.
In addition, the attributes I mentioned at the beginning also do not necessarily apply to protecting one’s family in today’s world. Having these attributes have no bearing on whether or not boys are considered manly.
Now, all this being said, I will raise my son to be “manly”. However, I will be using the definition of “manly” as protecting one’s family. It is also important to note that family includes friends, community, and even self. The attributes that I deem important in raising a manly son are as follows:
Compassion and Empathy
Understanding that other people feel and act differently than you is important. The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to try and understand why they feel or act a certain way is an important attribute to have in order to help others.
Honor and Integrity
Standing up for what you believe in even if others disagree with you is another important attribute. Being a bully or doing something just because it is easier or because everyone else is doing it lacks honor and integrity.
Manners and Values
Different cultures have different manners. Some people shake hands, some bow. Some people take their shoes off in the house, others could care less. Whatever the culture’s manners may be, they all have the same underlying purpose: thinking of and helping others. Whether it is saying please/thank you, holding the door open for someone, or taking shoes off in the house, it is important do things to help others and recognize when it is needed.
Health and Wellness
While being tall and muscular is not that important, being healthy is. This includes mentally and physically. You cannot take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. Eating well, exercising, and taking care of your mental health are important attributes.
Confidence and Strength
This includes physically and emotionally. Be confident in how you look, your physical skills, and how you act. Don’t hold back the tears. You need to cry, go for it. We all need a good cry now and then. Do everything to the best of your ability and be proud and confident when doing it. Stand up for yourself and for others who may need it.
I intend to raise my son to be “manly” using the above attributes. It does not matter if he is gay or straight, can’t change a light bulb let alone change a car’s oil, can’t run fast or bench press a lot, play sports, or is a nerdy book worm. As long as he treats others with respect and strives to help/protect his family, he will be manly (until another, better word is coined).