Newsweek on Manliness

So AoM got mentioned in Newsweek today……..

Unfortunately, it was mentioned in connection with a  “musty script of masculinity.” I don’t feel so bad though, as we’re included with good company: apparently Shop Class as Soulcraft and Dirty Jobs are in need of a de-humidifier as well. I’m not entirely sure that the authors have ever visited our site; they certainly never asked for my input on their article (and from the looks of it-any input from anyone other than themselves).

After re-hashing the well-known problems with men-the lopsided number of women getting college degrees and the dropping proportion of males in the workforce- the authors set out to “reimagine masculinity.” And like many of who have attempted this project before, their proposal is simply to make manhood look more like womanhood. The authors argue for a “New Macho,” in which men take more paternity leave, spend more time with their kids, do more housework, and pursue traditionally female-dominated professions like nursing and teaching. There’s nothing wrong with these proposals-I’m certainly in favor of more-involved dads and if nursing is something you’re interested in as a man, then great. But I fail to see what doing these things has to do with manhood and masculinity. The article concedes nothing unique about men, nothing unique about what motivates and animates us. It mentions nothing of what to me manhood is-the substance of the inner-man-the values, actions, and mindset that make boys into men. Any attempt to reinvigorate masculinity by completely blurring gender lines is ultimately doomed to failure.

But I’ll cease my rant and open it up to you all….what do you think of the article and this proposal to reimagine masculinity?

Read the article here.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

dave September 20, 2010 at 7:31 pm

What’s wrong with Old Macho? I’m not sure that I like all of the New Macho.

Dennis September 20, 2010 at 7:41 pm

I admit upfront that I didn’t read every word of the article. It was an incredibly long-winded and opinionated piece, and I resorted to skimming it after it became repetitive (I did click through and skim all 6 pages). The article attempts to be authoritative and have the answer about something the authors really don’t understand. You can tell by their attempt to discuss the “problem” and the proposed “solutions”. When discussing ways to bridge what they call the “gender gap” of professions, they propose “To hasten this transition, schools that train ‘nurturing professionals’ should launch aggressive, male-oriented advertising campaigns and male-to-male recruiting drives…” So they recognize some sort of vague concept of masculinity, but don’t even come close to defining it. “Male-oriented” means what? All they say is to focus on “technical expertise, career-advancement potential, and beyond-the-bedside opportunities.” So all men are interested in is being skilled, growing their career, and not doing bedside work? and on the opposite end, women aren’t interested in skill, career growth, etc?

The article makes the same mistake a lot of people do; they associate the concept of masculinity and femininity with what they can do, rather than who they are and what they value: “Skeptics will argue that men are “designed” for some gigs and not for others. But while no one would claim that men and women don’t have their differences, women long ago proved that gender essentialism doesn’t determine what kind of work they can do” That statement is a straw man; it’s not about what men and women can/cannot do and have been able to achieve, it’s about who they *are*.

It’s obvious they view any search for authentic masculinity to be nothing more than head-in-the-sand fantasy games played by weak men who can’t face the authors’ reality: “We’re not even averse to decorative manhood, or the kind of escapism that men have turned to again and again—think Paul Bunyan, Tarzan, and bomber jackets—when the actual substance of their lives felt light.”

Their conclusion is equally weak; “Ultimately, the New Macho boils down to a simple principle: in a changing world, men should do whatever it takes to contribute their fair share at home and at work, and schools, policymakers, and employers should do whatever they can to help them” If that’s all they believe masculinity should be, or all they value to be as a man, they sell themselves and everyone else far far short. Those things are always good things for men to do, but they aren’t the foundation of all a man is. With proper a proper grounding in morals, values, beliefs, goals, and understanding, a man can do all of that properly and much, much more. Deprived of that foundation and any man will fail. That’s what this masculinity movement is all about; desiring to be the best man we can be to ourselves, our loved ones, and the rest of the world.

Bryan Cook September 20, 2010 at 7:42 pm

There was a big part of me that always thought “war on masculinity” was subconscious, or a result of culture shifts and ideals that weren’t really aimed at belittling masculinity. This article shatters that opinion.

Nick September 20, 2010 at 7:44 pm

They really should interview more everyday women on this topic, and ask them what they really want. I really feel like nobody really wants men to act more like traditional women…aghhhh…just writing that gives me douche chills. I think ideas like this are actually making men less desirable to women, and adding stress and confusion to our relationships.

Liisa Lee September 20, 2010 at 7:47 pm

I think they’re hung up on the word ” macho” – what’s exactly “macho” about paternity leave?

I as one lady’s opinion. Love and adore a Masculine Man. That encompasses a wide pendulum swing of balance – not equality (thank you very much you emasculating feminists – ugh, but that’s another rant)
It has everything to do with being man enough and gentleman enough to take paternity leave, finish the dishes or leave for your tour of duty (thank you troops , all of you).

As I like to remind gents, ” being a gentleman means being one when you least like to be”

I don’t want a watered down version of a man to fit into some gentler societal warped ideal. I don’t need a joey roast beef either – intellect is sexy. ditto grooming and manners.

This also means caring for your lover in hospice and giving him decency of care.
That is also a Man in my book. Gender preference has nothing to do wit being masculine in my opinion.

Confidence, charm, wit, intellect, interest, curiosity, manners, chivalry, dominance when it’s called for, hard working and hard playing, style and charisma …….these are the Men I love and adore.

And to you all I say – Thank You, for making me glad to be a lady.

Haydn Deal September 20, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Quite frankly after reading the article, it is a poor article. It disregards these forms of “masculinity” in media as merely coping mechanisms for men who are confused about their role in society. The article doesn’t seem to hit on anything fresh, or original and seems to rehash old male stereotypes, while (as you pointed out ) suggesting manhood should become something more like womanhood. Also, what’s wrong with the “romanticism” of manual labor? It’s an unappreciated form of labor, and should be respected, because without manual laborers where would we be? Ideas don’t build houses on their own, or harvest fields, or craft tools.

Matt September 20, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I think if they’d actually READ AoM instead of just taking a peek and saying “look, retro. Bad” they might have found a lot of material. Interesting that they look at the “three archetypes of manhood” from another source as well.

Sara at Keeth Ink September 20, 2010 at 7:54 pm

From the Newsweek article:
“it [the musty script of masculinity] encourages them to confront new challenges the same way they dealt with earlier upheavals: by blaming women, retreating into the woods, or burying their anxieties beneath machismo. And it does nothing to help them succeed in school, secure sustainable jobs, or be better fathers in an economy that’s rapidly outgrowing Marlboro Manliness.”

They have OBVIOUSLY never read your blog. Your blog promotes the exact opposite of the limp, superficial values of which you are accused. As far as I can tell, your blog has only improved my husband’s scholastic, career, parenting and relationship abilities. I follow you on twitter (which is how I found this post) because he’s always telling me about the great stuff he reads on your site. Does my manly husband still clean toilets & change diapers? Yes, and it’s damn sexy.

Keep up the good work, AOM.

Tom September 20, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Newsweek wouldn’t know manliness if manliness kicked Newsweek in the groin.

SeanWilson1339 September 20, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Let me start by saying, right up front, that I could not stomach reading this drivel word-for-word, so my comments come from reading the first two pages closely and skimming the remainder. Also, I am fully aware that I am launching an ad hominem attack when I say the following: this is the crap that you get when you have left-leaning, East Coast metrosexuals trying to tell the rest of us how to live our lives!

What I gather is that I am supposed to live my life according the mores, values, and beliefs of the Swedes (many of whom are truly wonderful people), of the affluent scions of NYC and/or Silicon Valley, and of the talking heads of post-modern feminism. As the only son of a divorced single-mother, who was raised in the South, was educated in public schools, private schools, and state universities, is employed by the public schools system, and is the married father of two, these groups have little to no relevance in my daily life. What does matter to me: making my wife happy as often as possible, making sure that my kids are happy and healthy, and being the best teacher that I can be. If I can do while simultaneously becoming a little more like my maternal grandfather– a man who can grow his own food, build his own home, and who raised five successful children after the death of his wife– then I will be able to die a happy MAN!

Eric Granata September 20, 2010 at 8:26 pm

This Newsweek article makes evident that AoM should not let up on its mission to recover the lost art of manliness. These hippies would rather see it lost for good.

Seriously, they wonder what will put manhood back on track yet their anecdote is to do more of the destructive redefining that put it off the rails in the first place.

Also, Brett, did you get your designer axe on Etsy? I can’t wait to get my hands on one and run away to the woods to exert my dominance over nature with style.

Jason September 20, 2010 at 8:35 pm

“…it encourages them to confront new challenges the same way they dealt with earlier upheavals: by blaming women, retreating into the woods, or burying their anxieties beneath machismo.”

Laughable at best. They clearly haven’t done their homework and actually researched what this site is about – who knows how credible they are to criticize any other form of manly self-expression.

Gianni September 20, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Seems like the author was coming up on a deadline and didn’t do the research before writing the article.

Gabe September 20, 2010 at 9:02 pm

The more effort people put into trying to prove that the sexes are equal in every way, the more sexist they show themselves to be.

The fact that they have an agenda that must be pushed shows that they are aware that a majority of people know they’re wrong.

Simply being different from each other does not mean being less than the other person…

Matt September 20, 2010 at 9:19 pm

… and another thing, I really LIKED “Shop Class as Soulcraft” thank you (it had its flaws but the basic premise, that the trades are just as intellectually and culturally valuable as white collar jobs, was sound).
Yes, taking care of your family and doing your share of the domestic chores is a manly thing to do. This is not a new concept.

David September 20, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I have been a hairdresser for 35 years and have heard and read all the ” I am woman, hear me roar” stuff I can stand. Let this a##hole come talk to me about what it means to be a man. By the way I have three daughters.

Joe September 20, 2010 at 10:28 pm

I’m not sure where it was decided that guys who wear overalls are doing it to “feel like men,” or men who do masculine things are only “playing a part.” Seriously? Is that the best they can come up with? True, there’s a difference between trappings and substances, but there are posers in every segment of society. Why didn’t the authors search for traditional masculine values like integrity, courage, and honor instead of looking at clothing and accessories?

I’m also dismayed at the findings that young men have chosen not to or are dissuaded from entering traditional fields such as science and engineering, and even attending college itself. Weren’t those professions filled with men in the days when our economy was more “brawn than brains?” Well, what happened?

I suppose it would be called sexist to theorize that a heavily female (by the authors’ own words) and feminist K-12 educational system is to blame. We’ve had “Take Your Daughter to Work Days” for decades, but nothing for sons. Doesn’t the evidence suggest that boys need guidance and support as well? Perhaps the blame lies with society’s glorification of the anti-education gangsta/thug/wiseguy wannabe definition of masculinity. Personally, I think the main reason why so many young men are unprepared for higher education and the workplace is the insistence on eliminating boyish behavior with a steady drip of Ritalin.

Kevin September 20, 2010 at 11:59 pm

“We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those
vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue
nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to
have them all running around with fire extinguishers whenever there is a
flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already
nearly gunwale under.” — C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Bill September 21, 2010 at 5:54 am

Well, obviously Newsweek had to find some angle of story distinction to appear “fresh” or relevant to modern man. Just as obvious, because their premise didn’t hew toward AoM, they had to trash it. But I suppose that’s better said by the C.S. Lewis quote above. Whenever I read something like NW’s story, I’m reminded of what a very successful businessman once said me: “When you say you’re ‘going back to basics,’ I wonder why on Earth you ever left the basics.” The basics are a dot in NW’s rear-view mirror.

Mandy September 21, 2010 at 7:45 am

What a bunch of bull. Brett, I am married to a man whom most people would consider a manly man. He fixes his own cars, does his own electrical work well enough that the neighbors ask him for help in exchange for six-packs of beer, he can weld, and he’s a former police officer. Nothing girly about him. He is also a part-time partner in our marketing business and a full-time stay-at-home Dad these days to our 4 children. He’s a whiz at the laundry, too.
Newsweek never read your blog, and I don’t read Newsweek. Probably because it’s generally full of articles pontificating on everything but based on nothing. All that to say… manliness is not about any stupid idea of macho, rather old, modern, or future. I love my man (and I never wanted a guy or a dude or a boy…. ) because he is dedicated, passionate, strong-willed and purposeful, honorable and committed to me and our family. Long live manliness.

Rob September 21, 2010 at 10:41 am

Page 5, bottom paragraph:
“Until recently, the concept of masculinity had always bent to the demands of the day. Before 1776, according to the historical sociologist Michael Kimmel, the perfect man was still a genteel patriarch, a dandified landowner steeped in the codes of the Old World. By the early 19th century that ideal had given way to the image of the heroic artisan, the rugged individualist (a farmer, a cobbler, a carpenter) who might lead a caravan west. In time, the log-cabin model was replaced by a more modern ideal: the self-made man, a restless, competitive breadwinner whose masculinity depended on success in an industrial, materialistic society.”

…Gee Whiz, wonder where they got all that that from…

I guess (ahem) that the “throwback masculinity” can toss out some good references for an article.

blue john September 21, 2010 at 11:10 am

This article typifies nothing so much as the dissolution of gender identity – a culture that doesn’t properly appreciate manliness or woman-liness. There’s a huge problem in arguing that male and female are the same. No intelligent person would.

Men and women are blessedly different and equating the two is like saying thats unimportant. Masculine qualities, feminine qualities, big difference.

Rob September 21, 2010 at 11:17 am

What is this article’s point? That the current idea of masculinity from a familial, economic, scholastic perspective is not working out so well. I concur with that. Divorce rates, graduation rates, and joblessness rates are all going in the wrong direction. What happens if this continues?

Oh wait, we already have that in Urban America. You want to see where that road leads, look no further than South Philly, Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Compton, the 9th Ward, Houston, The South Side of Chicago, Newark, South Boston, Albany, Birmingham, Appalachia, West Virginia, DC; you get the idea. This is not a new thing, and whatever we have been doing to remedy the situation with the poor in Our country is not working.

The authors posit that we expand masculinity into traditionally feminine roles. Nursing, childcare, elementary school education, housekeeping and other ‘woman’s work’ type of jobs. Has this worked? Currently, its about 20 female nurses to every 1 male nurse (5.6%). This is not working.

The article and this site both take a stance that what generally defines a man is what he does with his time. I find this fair. So, instead of trying to get men to compete with women for jobs, how about we just make more jobs in the entire country for all racial and economic groups?

The question of “what is a man?” is the same question as “what does a man do?”‘. The article asks “what are men today?” and the answer is that 10% of us are looking for work and therefore looking for ourselves.

Stephen September 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Bit of a strawman at parts. Clearly if you’re dressing up in overalls and buying designer axes to look manly you’re doing what’s effectively cargo cult manliness and that’s just silly.

I really like the comment that “being a gentleman means being one when you least like to be”. It’s absolutely true.

Robert N McManus September 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I have read that article and a good bit of similar material like it. “New Macho” has good points,e.g.,involvement with one’s children, building a good relationship with your distaff. Carried to the obvious extreme, it seems authors of this ilk would feminize men merely to reduce their “negative” influence on society. My own perspective is from the male nurse point of view. We are appreciated by patients because we are men, we exhibit a no nonsense, competent approach that we also leaven with humor and a protectiveness that female nurses rarely seem able to muster. Many of my patients have commented on how glad more men are serving as nurses at bedside. I have been doing this for three years after 20 years in a very male-dominated industry; do the tables seem turned? Do i experience minority discrimination? You bet! Being a strong male, I hunker down and get it done. I enjoy nursing, it is,to quote Spock,”My best first destiny”.

Jonathan September 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Apparently they must have at least read the three part article about male archetypes as they stole directly from that on the bottom of page 5. Overall this article is long winded and doesn’t keep to track. The authors believes they’ll get their point across by throwing out statistics, random information and pointless examples. Whoever wrote this seems to think they are re-imagining masculinity but all I felt was that I was being insulted. According to the author, men are too lazy to spend time with their families and too trapped in the past to take on jobs that are considered traditionally female occupations.

I can understand mother’s wanting father’s to take the time off to spend time with their children but in today’s American society that isn’t exactly possible for many families. When I was a child I didn’t get to see my father for the majority of the week. He would wake up before we did and leave for work and come home after we had gone to bed. He worked well over 70 hours a week to make sure that we had a house to live in, clothes on our backs, food in our mouths, and that our mother didn’t have to work and could stay home with to take care of us. Being a small business owner we got to see our father once a week and he made it count. That’s all I could have asked for. This article makes it sound like I would have hated my father for doing such a thing and that I would have acted out by getting into trouble with the law, dropping out of school, doing drugs, or something else that is equally as bad. Instead I was able to learn some of the true virtues of manliness by being able to watch my father strive for his family and to take the heart the things that he was able to teach me.

If this author can not understand the fundamentals of what it is to be a man and what masculinity means then maybe they’re the ones who need to find a new profession.

John Wright September 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I didn’t make it halfway through the article and I was too mad to continue. The modern perception of men is as uneducated apes who are trying to recapture some chauvinist period of their history. The article addressed problems in men today such as alcoholism, suicide, etc. Brett, as I’ve understood it, the whole point of Art of Manliness was to recapture manly values. I believe that it has done this in an exemplary manner. If more men would embrace that component of manliness, then perhaps these masculine problems would diminish. Without a doubt, these people have never read AoM. I am angry at their attacks on masculinity and lack of understanding of the issues that are plaguing modern society.

mch September 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Agree with Brett in the OP that a number of the specific policy suggestions the authors make (mostly toward the end) could actually be pretty beneficial if implemented. But the way they caricature AoM et al. in support of their implicit thesis that no viable 21st-century conception of masculinity already exists is unfair and a bit dishonest. Of course, had they acknowledged the sophistication of existing ideas on masculinity, their task of “reimagining” it would have become substantially more difficult.

Did anyone else notice that the two individuals the authors cite as authorities on masculinity are both women? Susan Faludi and Joan C. Williams are the names — two and three paragraphs after AoM is referenced, respectively. Were this an article on femininity and both “experts” cited were men, it would seem rather suspicious. I’m just sayin’.

More broadly, the authors seem to have a decidedly “feminine” take on masculinity, in the sense that they fail to understand male values, what “makes men tick”, in terms other than caricature. (As is well known, men have at least as much difficulty understanding women.) I was therefore pretty surprised to see that both authors are males. Perhaps this failure is the consequence of their quest to avoid what they term “gender essentialism” — always a misguided pursuit — or perhaps it’s the result of deadline pressure. Either way, it’s a significant problem.

One last thing. I think it’s pretty funny that the authors refer to “anxious trend pieces” in the second paragraph with the implication that theirs isn’t one.

Oh, and finally. The piece in the Atlantic that they refer to, “The End of Men”, I actually thought was pretty interesting and much more nuanced than this Newsweek article. Worth reading.

Greg Nepini September 24, 2010 at 11:16 am

I have to agree with some of the other commentators in that the Newsweek piece is a pretty convoluted piece of “prose”. The authors have most certainly never taken a close look at AOM, and they are way off of the mark with regard to what this site is promoting. To classify anyone who doesn’t fit the mold of the author’s interpretation of what a man is to “being a strong, silent, unemployed absentee father…” smacks of someone who has an axe to grind.

Robert September 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Yeah cause taking more time off is going to help our economy right now…oh wait, back to the original subject. Well what did you expect from Newsweek? Intellectuals today are not the men who used to be educated and led us in the past such as T.R. and Winston Churchill. Keep up the good work on this site!!!!

Richard Williams September 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Hey Brett, who really cares what Newsweek thinks? They were recently sold for one dollar!

The “new macho” sounds to me like the “old feminization.” Sorry Newsweek, this train has already left the station and you’re looking in the opposite direction. Whoever paid a dollar got ripped off.

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