Provision and Manhood

In recent years, debates on gender fluidity and gender roles have been a hot topic. The truth is that there are many ways to be considered manly or womanly by society. This article will explore some of the most common conceptions of masculinity in order for readers to gain more insight into how it may manifest itself within different cultures, as well as what we can learn about self-expression from men who defy these norms.

5 p’s of manhood” is an article that discusses the 5 pillars of manhood: physical, mental, social, spiritual and financial. The article also provides tips on how to achieve these pillars.

Vintage blacksmiths in workshop pounding anvil sledgehammer.

“Manhood…can be viewed as a type of moral exhortation to provide for kith and kin as a call to action.”

If the imperative to defend is the most lasting and resonant with contemporary men, appealing to one’s heroic spirit, and the imperative to procreate is the most changing, disputed, and contentious, I believe the duty to provide is the most enticing to consider. There are many explanations for this.

The first is that on any given day, the highest number of males engage in it. Most contemporary males are only called upon to protect in rare crisis circumstances, and we aren’t wooing or impregnating women on a regular basis (except for you, Genghis Khan). But almost every guy has had to work for a livelihood at some point in his life, even if it was merely to support himself. It’s an inextricable component of our day-to-day existence. Food on the table, a home over our heads, and clothing on our backs are all necessities that do not come cheaply.

Second, it is the most flexible, inclusive, and creative imperative — it is, very literally, the call to create. The power to control nature, to convert chaos into order, to take the raw elements of existence and change them into something valuable is the essence of providing. It entails “purposive creation,” as novelist and anthropology professor David D. Gilmore describes it — “commanding and aggressive activity that adds something…to society’s stock.”

Vintage men in laboratory warehouse working on large machine.

The responsibility to supply is accessible to anyone since man’s inventions may take an almost unlimited diversity of forms. Someone like Stephen Hawking may not be able to defend others physically, but he may utilize his mind to contribute to the world’s knowledge bank. A Catholic priest is unable to bear children, yet he is a true “Father” to his flock, offering spiritual nourishment. Whether it’s material things, information, or beauty, factory workers and philosophers, scientists and artists, ditch diggers and instructors all contribute to society’s store.

Resourcefulness was/is linked to the provider role in many cultures and regarded as a masculine attribute, since it is related to the capacity to produce something out of nothing. “The subject of overcoming community issues occurs in most mythologies of the globe as the foundation of the myth of the cultural hero,” writes Gilmore. Consider how Odysseus must utilize not just his might, but also his wits and cunning to return to Ithaca, or how we scoff at a figure like MacGyver but secretly want to be him. Consider the geek who, thanks to his wits, gets his crew out of a jam (paging Data from The Goonies!).

In actuality, this attribute of “heroic resourcefulness” pricks my heart in the same way that the guardian position does, demonstrating that there is place for gallantry in this duty as well. In truth, provision and protection are linked — at least in the broadest meaning of the latter. If not from armed adversaries, then from debt collectors, hunger, and the shadow of poverty knocking at one’s door, a man’s family is protected by the intelligence, tenacity, and ability to move required to be a decent provider.


“I believe we may describe masculinity, therefore, as a legendary confabulation that sanctifies male constructivity,” Gilmore says, which I think perfectly sums everything. “Sanctifies” is an apt term here, since it is in the process of creating that humans most closely resemble the gods. Which gets me to the third reason I believe supply is the most compelling imperative to consider: man as worker, builder, and creator – these positions provide the profound gratification of being able to say, “I built this with my own hands.”

My heart expands even as I type this — the unmistakable result of pondering Truth. It has a pleasant flavor to me.

But let us now descend from our high perches to walk on the ground beneath us. While in an ideal world, a man might fulfill the obligation to provide by pursuing an enterprise that perfectly matches his unique abilities and interests, throughout most of modern history, being a provider has been more about duty than self-actualization. So let’s look at how this need was originally seen and lived, and why a function that today seems to be available to both sexes became more firmly linked with males.

Unless otherwise specified, all quotations are from David D. Gilmore’s Manhood in the Making.

As a Provider, Man

Trukese native Indian men on sailboat in water.

“In Greater Trukese Society…the link between economic success and risk-taking is founded on the material limits of island life, which force individuals to travel great distances to make a living, frequently by outwitting others in cutthroat competition… Men had to fight and die to take loot before colonialism, and they had to embark on dangerous deep sea fishing excursions to feed their families… Participating in open ocean canoe journeys was a common way of demonstrating the masculinity that was bestowed.”

If a husband wants to be considered a responsible man in both past and contemporary communities, “he must provide the lion’s share of money to support wife and family like a pillar.”

The modifier “lion’s share” is crucial in this case. Despite our mythological ideal of the family, in which the woman stays at home with the children while the husband works, this was never the norm in any society, at any time. Even in the 1950s, one out of every three women in the United States worked outside the house. Interestingly, the male/female contribution to provision was roughly the same across cultures and time until the last decade; when Manhood in the Making was published in 1991, it was calculated that “women contribute about 30-40 percent to subsistence in all kinds of societies, from the most primitive to modern civilizations.”

That 30-40% contribution in premodern civilizations took the form of collecting, with males providing the remainder of the tribe’s nutrition via hunting. Women were also in charge of the majority of child upbringing, while hunter/gatherer males were more engaged fathers than any other fathers up to the current day:


The table of modes of production and father's role.

Given our most ancient civilizations’ rather egalitarian character, two problems inevitably arise: 1) If both men and women provided, why was there such a strong focus on providing as a male function, and 2) why did men end up shouldering more of the obligation for production chores while women were assigned greater responsibility for reproduction tasks?

In response to the first question, men’s obligations were more keenly necessary, hence providing was highlighted as a masculine imperative. Gilmore expresses it like way:

“Due to the fact that masculine duties often include competition and bloodletting rather than tenderness and patience, and as a result of their win-or-lose character, these tasks are sometimes brutally judged in terms of performance.” People may be hungry for a short time if women fail to pick veggies. However, if males flee the battlefield in panic or quit hunting, the tribe may suffer extinction.”

The solution to question #2 may be traced back to fundamental anatomical/biological distinctions between men and women. Because of their higher physical strength and expendability, men were the logical choice for hunting (wombs being more valuable than sperm). Hunting and fishing in prehistoric times were far from the relaxing pastimes of today. They might be demanding, hazardous, and even deadly. A hunter may have to chop his way through dense forest while avoiding animals and hostile tribes, while an island fisherman may have to sail a canoe into the deep sea while navigating waves and storms. Hunting and fishing excursions may take men far from home; pregnant and nursing women, as well as their young children, would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to accompany them. As a result, it made sense for our forefathers to keep the women at home, caring to the children and collecting food.

While it’s easy to consider sexism as another force at work in the labor division, as Wikipedia points out, seeing such a situation through our contemporary perspective is a mistake:

“It’s all too easy for Western-educated academics to fall into the trap of interpreting hunter-gatherer social and sexual arrangements through the lens of Western ideals.” The sexual division of labor is a prevalent system, with women handling the majority of the gathering and males concentrating on large game hunting. It’s possible that this structure oppresses women by confining them to the home. Some observers believe that hunter-gatherer women would be perplexed by this explanation. Because childcare is communal, with numerous moms and male caretakers for each infant, the home realm is not atomized or privatized, but rather an empowering place to be. Women in all hunter-gatherer tribes value the meat that males bring back to camp. Megan Biesele’s study of the southern African Ju/’hoan, ‘Women Like Meat,’ is a good example. According to recent archaeological findings, the sexual division of labor was the essential organizational breakthrough that gave Homo sapiens the upper hand over Neanderthals, enabling our forefathers to travel from Africa and expand throughout the world.”


All of this is to say that, while many moderns would consider the hunter/gatherer divide to be sexist, actual hunter/gatherers probably did not, and in fact, delegating the responsibilities of production and reproduction in this manner may have been precisely what allowed us to arrive at a civilization where such a division is no longer necessary! Perhaps we might conclude that what the responsibility divide lacked in fairness, it made up for in efficient harmony.

Community and Family Service

Vintage man in carriage horse pulled wagon full of things.

“In Southern Spain, males must strive to provide for their dependents by making significant contributions to the family estate.” The efficiency quotient, as well as outcomes, are used to assess this. What matters, once again, is job performance, as judged by sacrifice or devotion to family requirements.”

The obligation to provide was seen as a civic responsibility, similar to the other three P’s, as a charge that benefitted an individual man’s personal and psychological growth while also benefiting the society as a whole.

The economy of prehistoric cultures were based on resource sharing and mutual trade, thus men hunted together in gangs and dispersed their spoils to the whole community. Bagging game at this time was motivated more by a man’s need to maintain his macho reputation than by a desire to feed his blood relatives — a skilled hunter bolstered the whole tribe, improving his appeal to women and his prestige among males.

A man’s main responsibility became to provide for his immediate family as cultures developed and a focus on individual wages and ownership grew more prominent. This obligation, however, remained civically tied; a self-sufficient family did not become a burden on the rest of society. A guy who did well for himself was also expected to freely share his riches with the rest of the society, as we will see later, so that a windfall for one man was a boon for all.

From a state of dependency to one of self-reliance

A young man’s first step toward being an effective and respected provider was to achieve “complete and absolute independence.” Dependency in a man was considered dishonorable since it hampered his capacity to care for others; a man could not provide for his own family if he was still depending on his childhood family for assistance.

Vintage man farmer holding bunch of chickens in arms.

“A guy must obtain complete and utter independence from women as an essential criteria of masculinity in Morocco…as in Spain.” How can he pay for and protect his dependents when he himself is reliant on others like a child? Because it makes the woman become the mother, this reversal of sex roles subverts both the male and the family unit, leading to corruption and failure.”

Separating oneself from the caring caretaking of women, especially one’s own mother, to become an independent man required establishing one’s ability to stand on one’s own two feet.

Some cultures have ceremonies that clearly mark the transition of a boy from the realm of women to the world of men. For example, during certain tribes’ rites of passage, a child is “kidnapped” from his mother’s house and transported to live in the woods with his fellow initiates for a period of time. The tribe’s elders then teach the boys the “secrets” of how to be men before bringing them back to live in the community as full-fledged men.


Young boy with spear hunting gear.

A boy’s passage into manhood among the East African Samburu includes passing by his mother’s home for the final time and swearing an oath to never drink milk from inside the community again. Giving up milk, a delectable delicacy, is a meaningful sacrifice that “demonstrates a resolution that amounts to a symbolic disavowal of reliance… It is a self-denial act through which the youngster undergoes a personal change from a receiver to a supplier of nourishment.” The behavior, according to Gilmore, is intended to signal that the boy “will no longer need mothering,” and it reenacts “the pain of weaning, because it provides a public affirmation that he has consciously surrendered the breast in favor of delayed gratifications of work culture.”

Masai young boy with spear hunting gear.

“Masai masculinity is strongly built on the warrior ethic as well as the concept of economic independence… The sacrifice of the boy’s first bull is a high milestone in his moranhood [manhood]. The majority of the meat is then given to the boys’ mother as a gesture of gratitude for rearing and feeding him as a child. This ceremonial feeding of his mother represents the boy’s transition from meat consumer to meat producer, and so denotes responsible adult masculinity.”

Hunting: The Ultimate Provisioning Function

Vintage african young boy with spear hunting gear.

“Hunting skill isn’t only a measure of masculinity in violent tribes like the Sambia. For example, there are the entirely nonviolent Mbuti pygmies of the Congo region…among these peaceful Pygmies, boys must acquire the necessary manly abilities, particularly hunting huge animals like elephants. Hunting provides the tribe with not just essential foods, but also essential living materials like as skin and bones, as well as ceremonial accoutrements. Any guy who fails to succeed in hunting has his masculinity called into question, and he is labeled a ‘clown.’”

Early man didn’t have much of a choice in terms of what type of “job” he could undertake to meet the provider imperative. Prior to specialization, hunting was pretty much all there was to it.

What premodern man lacked in alternatives, he made up for with a “career” that incorporated all of the typically masculine characteristics.

Bushmen young boy hunter with spear hunting gear.

“Among the Bushmen…,” says the narrator. A boy cannot be considered a man or married until he has successfully killed an antelope for the first time. “Boys in their late teens are inducted into manhood, having shot their first deer,” writes Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.

The traits required for success as a hunter are the same qualities required for success in every other aspect of a man’s life, since it requires patience and discipline, as well as “demonstrates a tenacity of purpose.”

Hunting is a hazardous and risky activity that is organized as a win/lose situation, akin to combat. Either you bag the game and bring food for your tribe home, or you return empty-handed – or not at all. Weapon expertise and skill refinement are required for success.


It has a sporting aspect to it since it pits one’s talent and dedication against not only creatures but also other humans. A hunting gang, like any sports team, is tied together by the tremendous camaraderie that comes from working for a shared, dangerous goal. The guys are both cooperative and competitive; the gang works together, but each individual man wants to show off his best skills – to be the “MVP” who plays a key part in bringing down the largest game. A hunter’s performance enhances or detracts from his honor, determining his place in the tribe’s pecking order.

Hunting is also a creative act in the sense that it is “the principal way of extracting value from nature by actually changing wild creatures into food.” The hunt offers not just sustenance to one’s family, but also clothes to keep them warm in the elements and objects important to the tribe’s beliefs. It operates as a parallel to female reproduction in terms of feeding both body and soul, nourishing and maintaining life, and hence may be considered, as Gilmore effectively argues, as a type of indirect and frequently misunderstood masculine caring.

Finally, much like in the procreator role, man is a reward seeker.

Vintage african man hunter with dead animal over shoulder.

Hunting is therefore a creative act that is similar to combat, sport, and sex.

Hunting may genuinely be considered the “provisioning function par excellence” because “all the elements of manhood–economy, skill, toughness, sexuality–come together most immediately and powerfully both in symbols and in the actuality of putting meat on the table.”

The Crucial Role of Autonomy

Young boy standing with spear hunting gear and a dog..

“‘Real men are supposed to master nature in order to rebuild and strengthen their society’s core kinship units…to produce something of worth out of nothing.” Manhood is a kind of male reproduction characterized by self-direction and discipline, complete self-reliance–in a word, agential autonomy.”

There is one more key aspect of manhood that underpins not just the macho quality of hunting, but all three P’s of Manhood: personal autonomy.

Autonomy entails “total freedom of movement” — “action mobility.” It entails the ability to make your own judgments, call your own shots, establish your own objectives, pace yourself, and pave your own path.

“The underlying call to autonomous activity as the beginning point of male self-identity is equally significant as sex and economic ingenuity.”

Manhood is a title of honor obtained by hard work, testing, and perseverance in the face of adversity. If boundaries are created that limit a man’s capacity to seek out better possibilities — that bind his hands and limit his ability to strive for perfection in his responsibilities as protector, procreator, and provider — the potential for masculinity, as well as the mere existence of manhood, vanishes.

Vintage IBM office workings clocking in suits in line.

External authorities such as governments and companies may impose restrictions on a man’s autonomy.

When a man’s sole option for supporting his family is to work in a factory as a cog in the machine, unable to depart from the predetermined pace or his defined duty as a lever-puller, he loses his autonomy and hence his masculinity.


A man’s liberty as a procreator is taken away when the government determines how many children he can have. If it seizes all of his weapons, it also takes away his ability to defend others.

Limits to one’s personal liberty may also come from inside, such as accumulating massive amounts of consumer items and debt. “To go on the path to manhood, a man must travel light and be free to improvise and react unconstrained to challenge,” says Gilmore. He needs to be a moral commander.” Hunter-gatherer cultures had little material goods, allowing them to be adaptable and agile. They migrated up to 20 times each year, following game herds in search of better possibilities. The contemporary man’s alternatives — his “mobility of action” — may be severely constrained by burying himself beneath a pile of goods.

A true gentleman is generous.

Vintage men eating around dinner table on beach ocean.

“I’m going to tell you about another terrible example from Andalusia… In Fuenmayor, there was a guy who was a known homebody, and his family suffered as a result… His stinginess with both time and money was seen as an insult to the other men of the pueblo, as well as a premeditated retreat from the masculine position, which requires not just familiar provisioning but also a certain degree of generosity in the broader community. A wealthy guy is supposed to spend lavishly in order to assist his community.”

One of the most surprising discoveries of Gilmore’s cross-cultural examination of masculinity was that generosity emerged as one of the universal characteristics of the global code of manhood. I believe I was startled because I’ve always associated manliness with the rugged individualist – the self-made male who’s out to “get his” and is just concerned with his own interests. “Whoever dies with the most toys wins,” and so on.

However, in most cultures throughout the globe, the more usual expectation for males is to achieve maximum achievement and then freely share that riches with the rest of society. (There is a strain of this in America’s history, which includes great benefactors such as Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates.) As previously stated, the responsibility to provide, like the other two P’s of Manhood, is portrayed as a public obligation, not just an individual endeavor. As a result, a man who had done well for himself was expected to give back to his society and enhance it.

Vintage man who is stingy with food eats alone.

“A true guy is unselfish; he eats with his family and friends gathered around him and always shares his food.” The individual who is frugal with food, on the other hand, eats alone… In Mehinaku, however, the worst sort of guy is one who is sluggish, stingy, greedy, evasive, and consumes more than his fair share. People presume such parasitic individuals are mendacious, immature, and pointless as well….a true man is a giving spirit, ambitious yet kind, a devoted team member who pulls his own weight.”


Excellence in the provider position, including acts of charity, had to be publicly proved, as with other parts of the code of masculinity. While the guideline of “Take care that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them” has made conspicuous acts of giving appear gauche if not sinful in Christianized cultures, in many communities, making your presents before men was the objective. Because it wasn’t just altruistic, but rather a means to boost your own honor, which, as we all know, is a publicly confirmed reputation deserving of respect and adoration.

The more people a man supplied for, the more dependents he generated, and the more dependents he created, the more macho – even kingly – he was seen to be. As a result, giving became a race to discover who could give the most while consuming the least. An example from the Samburu tribe exemplifies this:

“Every guy attempts to give the most and take the least at every feast.” At most feasts, for example, younger men would insist on serving the finest cuts of meat to their elders… There was a constant fight of politeness among age mates, in which the guy who appeared to eat the least and urge his friends to eat the most was the moral winner, the genuinely honorable man. A greedy guy who eats his own herds is referred to as a laroi, a Samburu name for little, insignificant items, undersized or fragile objects, and tools that do not function well, such as a leaky water bucket or a Land Rover that constantly breaking down. Consequently, the laroi man is infantile (undersized), mean, inadequate, wasteful, and inefficient. He has a habit of taking more than he provides… The objective is to become a tribe patron, instilling dependency on others and engaging in generosity fights with other males, from which everyone benefits indirectly. In this equation, the Samburu see subjection to another man as “an ineradicable stain on personal dignity.”

India wedding gifts ceremony.

“Male dignity is earned by a variety of aggressive deeds among the Muslim villagers…of central India. Matchless piety, the accumulation of material wealth, success in various kinds of male competitions, winning out over one’s rivals, the retention of followers and dependents, and especially the generous distribution of gifts…are examples of such actions…among all castes and sects in north and central India… Excessive gift-giving is a significant method of establishing izzat [honor] across the area, particularly when presents are given without expectation of a return and when they enhance and expand the group’s influence.”

Present-day provisioning

Given how often the rising number of women in the workplace is emphasized in the media and popular society, one would expect that, like procreation, this P of Manhood would face significant challenges in the contemporary day. However, what is surprising about the present form of this primarily masculine imperative is how long it has lasted despite a rapidly changing cultural context. And probably the most startling thing I discovered while researching this piece is that, rather than moving away from the past, the provision plane has in some ways returned us to our early hunter/gatherer predecessors.


Is There a Golden Age for Provisioning?

When the responsibility of a man to provide for his family is discussed, those sympathetic to the men’s rights movement will often respond that this imperative essentially turns men into workhorses – bridled and put-upon brutes who must put their own desires aside to do society’s thankless dirty work.

It’s true that the provider job was/is, at its core, a responsibility — labor that a guy must do regardless of how tough or personally unsatisfactory it is. It’s more about feeding the tummies of one’s relatives than it is about self-actualization. One culture’s hesitant acceptance of this task is described by Gilmore as follows:

“Manual labor, in general, is despised by field workers since it seldom helps them individually. Work, for example, is considered a ‘curse’ by rural Andalusians since it can never make a man wealthy. Working for the poor man entails contracting for a day’s salary in deplorable circumstances, competing with his coworkers for sporadic chances in the workplace, and laboring in the fields from dawn to nightfall, picking cotton and sowing sunflowers. Work is synonymous with hardship, and most men would readily say that they despise it and would avoid it if they could… A guy works hard, sometimes terribly, because he is obligated to his family, rather than because he enjoys it… As a result, work is not seen as having any inherent benefits.”

Such attitudes may surely be found in civilizations all throughout the globe. But what interests me is that they are from individuals who live in contemporary, post-industrial societies (the quote above is based on studies done on the Andalusians in the 70s and 80s). The feeling “Work stinks” does not exist among hunter/gatherer communities, both past and present. “Hunting blows,” says the narrator.

It’s difficult to determine how much early hunters “enjoyed” their task in the contemporary meaning of the word. But, given what modern psychologists have identified as the three keys to motivation in any endeavor – autonomy, mastery, and purpose – and the fact that hunting, as previously discussed, included all three, it’s not hard to imagine that tribesmen found hunting deeply satisfying, despite its great difficulties and dangers.

This most fundamental pattern of employment was disturbed by agriculture and industry. Few individuals achieved immense riches in established civilizations, while the peasants was subjected to the brutal restraints of serfdom. The Industrial Revolution then further transformed mankind into machines.

Vintage men doing works in factory.

Many men had limited alternatives for earning a livelihood, much as they did in primitive times (work in a factory, labor in a mine), but unlike early hunters’ duties, all autonomy in these provider paths had been wiped clean. The self-determination of America’s yeoman farmers was preserved, but for those forced to migrate to cities and work in factories or coal mines, their pace was set by a conveyer belt, their role required no creativity or mastery of skill, and gazing at a pile of widgets they helped produce at the end of a 12-hour shift provided no sense of purpose or satisfaction. All of this for a pay that was barely enough to keep them afloat. Under the boss’s control, such wage laborers’ “moral captaincy” wilted. Under the heel of corporate domination, their “mobility of action” was crushed.


As the twentieth century progressed, more job opportunities arose, but there was still an assumption that a responsible guy would put on a gray flannel suit and contentedly toil away in a cubicle until he got his gold watch and could retire.

Vintage men at train station waiting on platform for trains.

Such employment robbed away the psychological advantages that should come with being a provider, leaving just the foundation of responsibility. Because such job lacked liberty and other typically male characteristics, it turned men into animals. However, it was economics, not the code of masculinity, that caused this; the masculine urge to provide remained unaltered, but the nature of employment changed around it. Men accurately complain of feeling robbed of their masculinity if there aren’t enough employment for those who want them, and/or the majority of the occupations available equate to the crushing of mind and/or body for pitiful compensation. They are perfectly accurate, given the lack of criteria for masculinity, such as the opportunity to strive for greatness and dignity.

This is why I believe we are in the midst of a golden period of provision. At first glance, it may seem to be an odd claim. True, well-paying manufacturing positions, long considered a typically male sector of the economy, have vanished in droves. However, as I study history, I get the impression that manufacturing’s supposed manliness was added after the fact; that is, it wasn’t that men were particularly drawn to working in a factory, but that it was all there was, and because it was all there was, many men did it because they had to, turning it into a “manly” line of work. Naturally, during the decades when industrial employment paid well, such labor was seen as masculine since it allowed you to create a comfortable life for your family.

While the industrial sector has been in decline, mindless white collar professions and low-paying customer service positions have sprung up to fill the void. And the economy as a whole is still stumbling along, with the gap between the haves and have-nots widening.

So, how can I claim that we are living in a golden era of provision?

I’m not ignorant about the difficulties guys confront in making a livelihood in today’s environment. However, when it comes to the amount of possibilities to serve in a really masculine manner – in employment that is rich in autonomy, purpose, and mastery – the contemporary era is unrivaled. It’s never been easier to become an entrepreneur. Travel has never been cheaper or simpler, thus geographic mobility is at an all-time high. The internet has made it simpler than ever before in human history to establish a company and find an audience for your creative work. Anyone, from any background, may establish a business and work for themselves. Specialization guarantees that you can discover a profession and a niche that best suits your skills and interests. A scientist, professor, musician, fireman, carpenter, tattoo artist, cook, programmer, and even professional blogger are all viable options. The possibilities for earning a livelihood and doing it in a pleasant manner are practically endless. A diligent and self-starting contemporary guy has more flexibility than ever before to “hunt” down his ambitions and get a particularly gratifying job.


That isn’t to imply that many of us, if not all of us, will eventually find ourselves in a job we despise and only do to support ourselves and/or our families. The standard of masculinity is doing whatever it takes to provide for people you care about. However, pivoting from such occupations to the point where they just serve as weigh stations on the way to more liberty and a masculine vocation has never been easier.

However, the benefit of this golden age may also be a disadvantage, as it puts unnecessary strain on this foundation of masculinity.

As an Overburdened Pillar, Provision

Last time, we discussed how masculinity is meant to be supported by a triad of pillars, and how things might go wrong when one of the pillars is burdened with more weight than it can sustain. We discussed how, at a time when men may have disappointing white collar professions and don’t function as guardians, sex remains the low-hanging fruit that is pounced on and obsessively pursued to bolster one’s macho character.

However, the provision pillar may be put under a lot of strain.

Citizens-soldiers are what men are supposed to be. When you remove the military aspect, you’re left with a lot of untapped male energy that’s pushed into the provider function, putting a strain on it that it wasn’t designed to handle.

The evolution of the Japanese “salaryman” is a wonderful illustration of this. The values of Japan’s samurai warrior class evolved into a more broad morality that could be practiced by all residents throughout the comparatively calm Tokugawa period (1600 to the mid-19th century). This code of noble, chivalric conduct, now known as Bushido, preserved its martial character and continued to stress warrior virtues such as preferring death over dishonor. Simultaneously, concepts of unwavering allegiance, dedication to family and authority, and selfless, honorable service in the pursuit of a common objective were given a broader, peacetime application. This military and moral code became ingrained in the national psyche.

Vintage japanese students are standing and holding bags.

However, following Japan’s defeat in World War II and demilitarization, the Bushido code’s martial energy was focused totally towards building the country up as a corporate, capitalist powerhouse, and the Bushido code’s martial energy was deleted from the country’s ethic. Obedience to one’s superiors devolved into submission to the corporate hierarchy. The selfless dedication to the common good remained, but the focus had shifted to the bottom line. Stress and 80-hour workweeks were used to crush swords into plowshares, and the pushers of those plowshares were hammered as well. “Honor till death” actually became “death through overwork.” The pillar of providing became overburdened and twisted in the absence of the pillar of protection.

When it comes to the three pillars of masculinity, there may be a domino effect, in which when one gets distorted from carrying too much weight, the other pillars twist and contort as well. It has been suggested that the overwork and hardship that contemporary Japanese men face explains at least some of the country’s strange sex culture (vending machines that dispense used panties, video games where you stalk and rape women, pillow girlfriends, etc.).


The provider pillar has been overburdened by more than simply the demand to become a corporate drone. As previously said, today’s apparently unlimited variety of intriguing employment makes finding a fulfilling, purpose-filled work simpler than ever. On the other hand, this has made picking the proper one a nerve-wracking experience. Your profession has become the end-all, be-all of your masculinity and identity at a time when people are postponing establishing children (there goes the reproduction pillar) and only.5% serve in the military (there goes the protection pillar). As a result, young men are undecided about which career path to choose. What am I supposed to do? Is this or that job the greatest fit for my skills and personality? Do other folks have more interesting jobs? Will I be missing out on anything amazing if I go this route? (The good news is that your alternatives aren’t endless!)

Provision was only intended to be one of three pillars in the traditional definition of masculinity. Many guys nowadays are their f**king khakis. Even if you live in Silicon Valley and your khakis are jeans.

Bringing [Part] of the Bacon Home

Vintage wife putting roast in oven husband looking on.

Over the previous several decades, the number of working women has consistently increased. Women now make up 47 percent of the workforce, and the employment percentage of married women with children has climbed from 37 percent in 1968 to 65 percent in 2011, according to Pew Research.

However, as previously said, everyone who reads history knows that the mother-as-housewife/father-as-breadwinner arrangement was never the norm. The idea that an increase in the number of women in the working is part of a linear social deterioration is just false. It’s a break from the past, but only if your history is limited to a few decades. However, when you consider the big picture, you’ll see that in hunter-gatherer communities, 100 percent of women “worked,” thus 47 percent is a significant drop! Moreover, despite all the rhetoric of drastic transformation in our society, women still earn roughly 30% of total income… The ratio of our most basic cultures is the same as it was when Manhood in the Making was published!

Vintage two men with little baby.

I suppose the more things change, the more they remain the same, and this is true for both attitudes and conduct. While there has been a continuous rise in popular acceptability of working women, the public remains divided on the responsibilities of mothers and dads in the production/reproduction system. While 79 percent of Americans believe men and women should not revert to traditional roles, 74 percent believe the growing number of dual-earner homes has made it more difficult to raise children, and 50 percent believe it has made marriages more difficult to flourish.

Furthermore, although 63 percent of respondents disagree that families are better off if the husband earns more than the wife, males continue to be seen as the primary breadwinners. Children are equally as well off if their father works, according to 76 percent of respondents, whereas children of working moms are just 34 percent better off. Only 8% of Americans believe stay-at-home men are better for their children than mothers who remain at home and don’t work. Only 16% believe that having a full-time working mother is the best scenario for a young kid.


Why has the emphasis on man-as-provider, woman-as-mother persisted in the absence of the factors that led to a 70/30 male/female production split in primitive times – the dangerous physicality of hunting and the need for men to travel far afield – and in a time when most jobs can be done just as well by men as by women? And why is it that moves toward more female involvement in the provider role are usually accompanied by a palpable sense of dread?

Because of a deeply entrenched dread of males returning empty-handed from the hunt, I believe there is still a stronger focus on the necessity for male supply. I believe that all people have a primitive perception that men’s contributions to society’s nourishment are more critical — that without them, the community would hunger and perish.

Vintage men standing at a place.

It’s neither an illogical nor a sexist fear. Despite all of the talk about how far women have come in many areas of professional and public life, 80 percent of Congressional representatives, 95 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 97 percent of firefighters, 85 percent of military members, 95 percent of airline pilots, 70 percent of physicians, 80 percent of software engineers, 85 percent of police officers, 86 percent of engineers, 97 percent of construction workers, and 98 percent of miner workers are women. Our tribe would be on the verge of extinction if males disappeared right now. (There’s even a comic book called Y the Last Man that imagines what would happen if every man on the planet died suddenly.) Men also control 94% of patents, proving that men are not only necessary for human survival, but also continue to drive social growth and technical breakthroughs.

Even if we were able to develop a truly gender-neutral society in the future, where both men and women were equally encouraged to pursue any vocation, the issue of whether there would ever be enough women willing and motivated to fill all of the essential occupations remains unanswered. Will there ever be a sufficient number of women who desire to work as loggers, oilrig workers, mechanics, or soldiers?

While we seldom recognize, much less celebrate, men’s efforts to keeping the world going, I believe we all realize how dependant we are on willing male providers on some level. Even though we realize that males would not disappear overnight, news that male production levels are declining nonetheless causes us to be concerned about our future.

As a result, both women and men offer and make vital contributions to a family’s and society’s well-being in 2014. At the same time, our society continues to put a greater premium on men’s supplies as critical to our survival and development. Which is essentially unchanged from thousands of years ago. It makes me question whether the Paleo lifestyle’s newfound popularity is about more than just nutrition.


As I’ve indicated previously, these pieces are designed to be descriptive rather than prescriptive, so I shouldn’t be surprised if individual couples experiment with the provision/reproduction split of duties, given the nature of the current environment. For example, I have no objections to a guy choosing to be a stay-at-home dad. Occasionally women have more to give to the world outside the house, and sometimes males have more to give to the home. My acquaintance has a household in which the woman works full-time as an engineer and the husband stays at home with their two children. They’re both much more suited to their jobs than they would be if the roles were switched. They’re content, and all power to them.


I’m sure a lot of people think of me as a rigid gender role essentialist in my personal life, yet Kate and I have a marriage that is probably more egalitarian than 98 percent of others. We co-own a company and divide domestic duties and child-rearing responsibilities about 50/50. We both babysit the kids in the mornings, and Kate’s mother watches them in the afternoons so we can work (we also work at night after the kiddos go to sleep).

We’re really happy in our marriage and with our lives, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think about the benefits and drawbacks of our arrangement.

The benefit of our arrangement is that we both get to experience both parental and professional satisfaction. The disadvantage is that life might become more chaotic if duties are not clearly defined. It’s a compromise. We get to play both jobs, but we’re not necessarily as successful businesspeople or parents as we would be if we each focused on one. So the issue we’re both ready to consider is: Is it a decent bargain to exchange harmonic efficiency for personal fulfillment? It may be beneficial to us individually, but is it the greatest option for the children? Is it best for kids to spend equal amounts of time with both parents, or should they spend more time with one parent and less time with the other? What is more beneficial to society as a whole? Is it possible for us to shut down the site and Kate to become a full-time mother, while I work as a barber? Or would doing things the way we do them now enable us to raise nice kids while also perhaps adding something worthwhile to society’s store? These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves all the time, and I believe they’re issues that families all throughout the nation are grappling with. “Are we doing this right?” everyone wonders.

Some people may believe I believe I am a manly oracle, but I honestly don’t know the answers to all of the questions. I’m mainly interested in delving into the issues.

I would argue that everyone, men and women equally, is happiest when they are participating in both reproduction and production, regardless of the proportion of their roles in each sphere. The mothers I know who are the happiest are those who work part-time or run a little side company from home. And the happiest parents I know work acceptable hours and are able to attend family meals and their children’s activities. In the case of working mothers and stay-at-home fathers, the situation is reversed. Even if it’s simply a pastime, everyone needs an outlet in their lives where they can act as providers — makers.

Gilmore notes that the essential threshold for masculinity “represents the moment at which the boy creates more than he consumes” across the globe and throughout history. ” I have yet to come across a greater indicator of maturity, regardless of gender.


Continue reading the series here: Part 1: Defend Part II – Procreate Part IV – A Review of the Three P’s of Manhood Part V: What Is Masculinity’s Heart? Where Does Manhood Come From in Part VI? Why Are We So Conflicted About Manhood? Part VII – Why Are We So Conflicted About Manhood? The Dead End Roads to Manhood (Part VIII) Semper Virilis: A Roadmap to Manhood (Part IX)

Continue reading the series here: Part 1: Defend Part II – Procreate Part IV – A Review of the Three P’s of Manhood Part V: What Is Masculinity’s Heart? Where Does Manhood Come From in Part VI? Why Are We So Conflicted About Manhood? Part VII – Why Are We So Conflicted About Manhood? The Dead End Roads to Manhood (Part VIII) Semper Virilis: A Roadmap to Manhood (Part IX)

We’ve finally covered the three P’s (and how!). Next, we’ll perform a lot shorter review of the 3 P’s so that anyone who missed the previous postings can catch up, and we’ll see if we can’t condense the code of masculinity even more. Then we’ll get to a crucial point that underpins everything and has yet to be addressed: where does masculinity originate from and why has it vanished in today’s world? Finally, we’ll discuss why you should consider practicing the code of masculinity, even if it isn’t required or celebrated right now.


David D. Gilmore’s book Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity



The “what are the principles of manhood” is a phrase that has been used in many different contexts. The principle of manhood is to be strong, brave and courageous.

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