It’s considered fairly common knowledge the ideals that make up masculinity. Manhood. Being a man. To name a few you’ve got strong, independent, assertive, chivalrous, rugged, etc. Put all these things together and you’ve got your James Deans, your Robert Redfords, your John Waynes, your… who the hell is relevant these days? Jude Law? Whatever. Unimportant. Anyway, a lot of people look to the past for examples of manliness because they don’t agree with the aggression and violence that is associated with masculinity today. Yes, being a man also apparently means being tough, crude, and a womanizer. There are loads of definitions. But those bad ones can’t be right, because we’re all sensible individuals here. That list with the nice adjectives has to be the proper definition.

What about if a woman exudes those qualities? They’re fine qualities, we’ve already established that. But we’ve limited them to half the population. If a woman wants to be those things, does she have to give up her gender in order to do so? If you’re male and want to “Be A Man” and have it mean something, ask yourself to define what it means to “Be A Woman.” Is it meekness? Daintiness? A penchant for getting a case of the vapours? No, like I said, we’re sensible individuals here. We look to the past for manliness, but we look to the future for qualities that define women. So let’s make a new list: strong, independent, assertive… It’s starting to look exactly like that first list of what it means to be a man. Basically get rid of ruggedness and you’ve got what most parents are trying to teach their daughters.

Maybe being a man isn’t as traditional as I’ve made it out to be. Maybe Real Men are actually compassionate, stylish, generous, and love to cuddle after sex. It’s a brand new day, and people are coming up with lists upon lists of new ways to define what it means to have a penis. Here are a couple of examples:

Again, very nice qualities. Leaning a bit on the traditionally feminine side, which is a nice touch. But the answer isn’t to feminize masculine attributes and to masculinize feminine attributes. For one thing, it is too easy for someone to dismiss these softer attributes as being “for fags” and go back to their rough and tumble definitions of beating up those smaller and lording it over them. When the definitions of “what makes a man” are so overbearingly numerous, people can pick and choose what they like and find plenty of evidence to back up their assertions, and then dismiss the ones they don’t like.

So why is this a problem? It’s mostly just an argument over semantics, and those are the funnest arguments to have. And it’s not that hard to adapt society to believe that girls doing boyish things and boys doing girly things is okay. That’s relatively close to where we’re at right now. However, what about the little boy that wants so badly to Be A Man? He’s got his heroes that he looks up to, but for the life of him, he can’t be strong, he can’t be assertive, he lives at home with mom and dad, he’s overweight… He’s teased by the other kids at school, and he feels less than. He knows that he should be able to be all those things, because the evidence is there each time he takes a piss. That kid has so much telling him what it means to have that penis, and that it’s a “good” thing to Be A Man, but this boy can’t measure up. He feels as though he’s betraying himself, that he’s incompetent because he can’t do the things his penis is supposed to allow him to do. This child’s problems are exacerbated, simply because he has a dink and that is apparently supposed to mean something.

So what makes a man? Let’s ask the Dude:

A pair of testicles. That’s what makes a man, and even that is debatable. So if you like an attribute, just say that it’s a good attribute. There’s no need to attach it to your junk.