There’s no easy definition of manhood.

Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

Maybe we don’t need a definition. When one of us gets out of our car in the rain to help change a tire, do we need to stop and invent a sociological definition of that before we can step into action? The problem with most definitions of manhood is they’re someone ELSE’s definitions, they’re not how we self-identify as men or think of masculinity. They’re limiting, not fluid—and that inspires narrow attitudes that we’re more than capable of exceeding and making irrelevant.

Men are capable of the full range of human possibilities. The restriction of those possibilities in the form of shrill woman-hater groups, violent tough-guy cults, crazy political theater and specious religious distractions, has created a vacuum devoid of actual masculinity. In short, THAT stuff isn’t manhood. We’re smarter, tougher, and better than that in our highest and best possible selves.

The problem with pushing toward a definition is, once you have it, someone invariably forms a ‘cult’ around it, and proceeds to undermine everything it ever meant. We’re going to resist that. Real men aren’t followers. Manhood isn’t a definition but a direction. It’s aspirational, not a box. It’s a thing to enjoy, laugh about, and admire, not to camp out on, obsess over, and prove.

If we’re not being dicks, that makes room for a LOT of people. And if our bet is right, there’s room for MOST people. Men have been around a long time. For as long as people exist, we’re also not going anywhere. Although whenever I used to ask my father where HE was going, he’d say, “Going to Hell if I don’t change my ways, son.”

Asher Black

Asher is a fabulist, maximist, humorist, and raconteur. By day, he works with companies to find and tell their story effectively. By night, he is a human bonfire.

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6 thoughts on “There’s no easy definition of manhood.”

  1. Manhood is NOT the opposite of womanhood, and it’s important to understand that. You’re born with either a penis or a vagina, and that doesn’t make you more or less of a man or woman. I’m not sure if this is a perfect translation, but it’s close enough. The point here is that we don’t have to try to become a man: we already are men. I know you want to protect your manhood. I know that the last thing you want is it to be challenged in any way, shape, or form. But it’s time to let go of that.

    1. Manhood is hard work, respecting others, following the law. Being a man means being a good citizen, having integrity and doing the right thing even when no one’s looking. A real man doesn’t break rules or laws. “As men, we have to be willing to be vulnerable and hold other men accountable. We have to be willing to say, hey man, that’s inappropriate and not okay. It’s important for men to be okay with being uncomfortable. Men are taught from a very young age not to cry or show any emotions, and that’s exactly what prevents us from being okay with pain and discomfort.

      1. It’s important for men to respect others and follow the law. It’s also important to be a good friend, husband, and father. A man who respects others will create a better community and build stronger relationships.
        Nazarian believes that manhood is standing up for those weaker than yourself. “Look at the definition of the word ‘manhood.’ It’s defined as strength, courage, and being a protector,” he said. There’s a lot that I would like to do in life, but I find excuses not to do it. There are many times when I’m uncomfortable, and rather than deal with that discomfort, I take the easy way out.

        1. Boys have to earn their manhood. It’s not something that’s just given to them by their fathers. Instead, manhood is something they have to earn and build for themselves. Manhood is defined by defending the less fortunate, whether it’s a person or an idea.
          The word “man” comes from the Proto-Germanic root *mann-. Masculinity is not the same as being a man. Being a man is about responsibility, and not being a burden on others. We need men like that in this world, to stand up and do what needs to be done.

  2. Many people, especially young people, think that being a man is the opposite of being a woman. We need to stop thinking about gender in this way. There’s a misconception that women can be empowered, but men can’t. But the truth is, we’re already there. We’re all capable of being strong and powerful in our own right. It’s something you don’t have to strive for. “Manhood,” by definition, is unassailable. Manhood will forever remain the domain of men, because manhood is not a feeling or an identity or a performance. It’s a fact. It’s how you’re born.

  3. The phrase “manhood” is unnecessary. The word man is fine on its own.
    When men are referred to as “men,” the implication is that we’re not fully grown, not yet complete. It’s a way of trivializing our existence by reducing us to our genitals. There is a lot of debate these days about what it means to be a man. The rise of the #MeToo movement has led to questions about masculinity, and whether it’s toxic or even worth defending.

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