“The Dead End Roads to Manhood” is a game developed by the National Film Board of Canada. It takes place in Newfoundland, where cars are scarce and life is hard for many people living on the island today. In this fictional story based off real events, players take control of a young man’s journey through these “dead end roads.” They meet various characters who help them along their way as they try to make it into adulthood without succumbing to alcoholism or other addictions that accompany dwindling economic opportunities
The “manhood course” is a book by sociologist Michael Kimmel. The book looks at how society has created a set of expectations for what it means to be male.
What an adventure we’ve had.
We’ve been diving into the essence of masculinity — its origins, historical imperatives, and place in the contemporary world – for the last several months.
We began by looking at the essential concepts of the ancient code of masculinity, demonstrating that a male who sought to be called a man had to endeavor to protect, breed, and provide in 99 percent of societies throughout the globe, in every epoch up to the present. We discovered, maybe unexpectedly, that a desire to be masculine is not exclusively Western or contemporary; not only is the code of masculinity ageless and universal, but so is men’s desire to preserve it and earn the label of man. Since the beginning of time, practically every man has aspired to be a man.
We subsequently discovered that, rather than being solely a cultural construct, masculinity is rooted in male biological features. Men are selected and driven to these specific missions because of their natural qualities, predispositions, and impulses, but the imperatives given to them are meant to meet community requirements. Men’s biological potentialities are channeled into service to the greater good by cultures.
Then we spoke about how as a society’s riches grow, so does its focus on masculinity. The less males need to be “excellent at being men,” the simpler it is to gain resources and the less they must be safeguarded from others. Men may afford to slack off in secure, pleasant times and locations since there will be no immediate ramifications – either to their reputation or to their own survival and that of their loved ones and neighbors.
Finally, we used the preceding context to explain why, despite the fact that a culture of manhood is currently quite weak in our resource-abundant age, we remain deeply conflicted about this waning masculinity: while manly men aren’t needed right now, we worry that they will be needed in the future, but won’t be prepared to fight and rise to the challenge.
The obvious next question is, “Where do we proceed from here?”
How should men conduct their lives at a time where conventional masculinity is no longer required, and is sometimes despised and despised? Is there any incentive to seek to uphold the masculine code if it does not bring social glory and reward, and if failure to do so does not result in shame? Is it feasible to imagine a masculinity that honors the past while simultaneously allowing men to progress?
Next week, I’ll try to address these issues and provide men a road map for life as a guy in the twenty-first century.
Of course, the route to masculinity that I shall outline is not the only one. There are many different voices calling for males to go in this direction or that one. As a result, I believe it is necessary to first describe the alternative possibilities available in order to explain why I believe they are ultimately dead ends and why I have taken a different path.
The Roads to Manhood That Lead to Nothing
Of course, these are not the only alternatives available to a guy in contemporary times who chooses to achieve manhood, but they are the three most popular:
Option #1: Recognize that masculinity is a societal construct and commit to living a “re-defined” masculinity (or eschew masculinity as a goal altogether).
This is presently society’s default stance. Much of popular culture and the media promote the notion that masculinity is obsolete and never was “genuine” in the first place, and that the remnants of this cultural construct that remain are the source of many of society’s problems.
Men who choose this route want to redefine masculinity in a manner that softens its raw and ostensibly harmful edges, as well as inspire other men to adapt to the present day by embracing more traditionally feminine qualities and hobbies. They see any attempt at conventional masculinity as illogical and sexist.
Disparaging masculinity appeals to guys who deviate significantly from the conventional norms of manhood. If a portion of them feels nervous and embarrassed of their flaws (which almost every guy does, whether they confess it or not), this cognitive dissonance is swiftly and easily dismissed by reminding themselves, “The entire concept of manliness is silly anyhow.” By embracing this dictum, such men not only spare themselves the work of attempting to be macho (and the risk of failing), but they also reinforce their identification as enlightened and superior to their “brutish” colleagues who have failed to get with the program.
Masculinity as a cultural construct is one of those ideas that sounds great in theory. But I believe that most people, men and women equally, have a gut feeling that it isn’t true, that it isn’t attractive, and that it isn’t functioning. As someone who has researched and studied masculinity, I find the notion that it is only a cultural construct to be totally absurd. It’s a conclusion that can only be reached by disregarding vast swathes of evidence and human experience.
It was meant to be freeing for both men and women to throw forth the old code of masculinity. Men’s suicide rates, on the other hand, are on the up, while their college graduation rates are on the down. Men are more desirous of not contributing to society in any way. They are restless and disoriented. “Where have all the decent guys gone?” women have been left to wonder.
We’ve been attempting an experiment in forced androgyny for the last 50 years. How’s it doing so far? Feminism has undoubtedly had some good effects. But, in today’s world, can anybody declare, “Wow, things are truly going wonderfully!” Masculinity has undoubtedly been at the foundation of many serious problems, but it has also been the driving force behind much that is positive (see: civilization). Why should the baby be thrown away with the bathwater?
Option #2: Maintain contemporary civilization but reversing the feminist trend.
There are people who blame feminists for our failing culture, just as there are others who blame masculinity for society’s problems.
These males want to return to a period when patriarchy reigned supreme and men were revered and respected.
There are various flaws with this strategy.
For starters, many guys who embrace this viewpoint, although claiming that masculinity isn’t about women, are obsessed with them! Women are the center of their existence – why they’re upset with them, why they’re not as good as they used to be, and how to pick them up and have sex with them (since, although women are terrible, they’re still excellent for one thing). Though masculinity should be about men – how men test and sharpen one other, what men require from each other in times of crisis, what men admire in each other – for these guys, manhood revolves around women.
Second, there are no “good old days” to return to after civilisation. I would ask males who desire to travel back in time, “What time would have been preferable?” Is it the early twentieth century, when most men were considered so “respected” that they were allowed to work 12 hours a day, six days a week? When did they become cannon fodder in WWI? When hundreds perished on the job because their managers thought they were more disposable than mules since the animals were more expensive?
If you were a landowner, the 19th and 18th centuries could have appealed to you. If you were an indentured servant, a slave, or a tenant of a greedy landlord, it wasn’t so wonderful. Back then, men were so “respected” that you could almost own them!
The wonderful old days…when men were so highly regarded that they could be owned by other men!
So, what about the Middle Ages? Then you might have all the dignity of a serf, a guy who lived off his lord’s generosity, couldn’t travel without his lord’s permission, had to labor on someone else’s land before looking to his own, and was unlikely to survive beyond the age of 40.
So, what about the 1950s, the era that we typically refer to as “the golden age”? The 1950s were unquestionably a unique period, made possible by the conclusion of WWII. And there’s a lot we can learn from that period, which is why our website has a retro theme. Men were masculine, while women were ladylike. However, many men were dissatisfied at the time. The Twilight Zone, a legendary television series from this period, is one of my favorites. Men are driven to suicide by frigid, shrewish spouses and corporate employers who attempt to work them to death; they worry about the conformist, mindless society; and they wish they were living in a little rural village at the turn of the century, back when everything was lovely. They’re living at the pinnacle of the good old days, and they’re longing for the good old days – even farther back!
In reality, although the past 50 years have been exceptional (the first time in history that masculinity as a concept has been denigrated and rejected), men have been persecuted in some form or another since the birth of civilization (just as many other groups of people). When we look back in time, we often see ourselves as a wealthy businessman, a thriving farmer, or a regal baron. But there’s a good probability we’d have been the humble peasant. Emasculated and reliant. The only guys who got to be men were the elite in practically every era up to the present. Everyone else’s masculinity had been whittled away.
Finally, and most crucially, anti-feminism makes few helpful recommendations for what men should do and how they should spend their lives. Commenters on my last piece chastised me for downplaying feminism, claiming that it is a severe danger to civilisation. What I didn’t see, however, was a single practical suggestion for combating this alleged threat. What are your plans to combat feminism if you believe it is a major threat? Is there a need for a policy or governmental change? If that’s the case, how do you propose to enlist the support of millions of individuals who presently vote for feminist-friendly legislation? Or is it possible that everyone just has to convert to Christianity? If that’s the case, how do you intend to convert the general public into devout believers?
When pushed for a call to action, men’s rights supporters usually just have “raising awareness” to offer. There’s nothing wrong with raising awareness about men’s difficulties and the status of masculinity, but what happens next? People would rise up and demand widespread cultural change if enough awareness is raised, according to the theory.
I really doubt it. Opinions are strongly held. Pro-feminist policies benefit a large enough number of people that they are unlikely to be modified.
As I have said, I believe anti-feminists are incorrect in their assumption that feminism is to blame for the decline of masculinity. Feminism arose as a natural result of the twentieth century’s increased peace and prosperity. It’s also not the only issue contributing to social collapse; it’s part of a larger picture that includes economy, class, religion, and technology. Fixing feminism would not solve the world’s issues in a miraculous way. You can’t put the cat back in the bag after it’s escaped.
Patriarchy evolved as a result of the harsh conditions of primordial living, which required males to protect and care for women and children. It was the tangible truth of their surroundings. You can’t just slap a patriarchal framework on top of a comfortable, affluent society where everyone looks to the government for security and men and women can do equally well in the great majority of occupations. It’s not going to work in the long run.
Option #3: Revert to tribalism and abandon civilisation.
Men who are intellectually honest and have given these topics serious consideration recognize the reality of the preceding. You must recreate the setting in which men were created if you wish to return to patriarchy and a period when males could fully practice the “tactical virtues.”
Recognizing patriarchy’s incompatibility with the modern, techno-industrial world, these men propose a more radical solution: blowing up civilization (as in Fight Club) or attempting to hasten its demise by refusing to contribute to it, and returning to a stateless, dangerous world where primal manliness is once again required.
I’ll grant that this notion has a romantic, Dionysian allure to it, particularly for a solitary guy. It’s perhaps why zombie movies have been so popular in recent years. However, society collapse as a result of a single event is more likely to be a fiction than a reality. Awareness-raising can only have a limited impact and will not result in a significant cultural transformation. To return to a period when tribes fought each other, more extreme, even terroristic measures would be required. You’d have to physically blow everything apart.
People, on the other hand, aren’t wired for this type of extremism. They adore their creature comforts, and an iPad, a Hot Pocket, and a smartphone are all they need.
Even people who do not place a high value on material possessions perceive plenty in contemporary civilisation to cherish and safeguard. Life was much less romantic than we assume, despite our ideals of the “noble savage” and the rosy vision of being an uncivilized tribesman thousands of years ago. My fantasies of frolicking in the bush as an incredible hunter-gatherer guy were shattered after reading anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon’s depiction of life among the primitive Yanomamo people. Theirs is a filthy, harsh existence in which one must always be on the lookout.
As a husband and father of two small children, I’ll confess that a post-apocalyptic world a la Cormac McCarthy has little attraction for me. Say what you want about first-world industrial civilizations’ spiritually vacuous society, but I’m grateful I don’t have to worry about my wife and kids being abducted and raped.
So, although a “Black Swan” can never be predicted, I don’t believe people will be rebelling in the streets and ripping down our society very soon. Our existing political and social system, as decrepit and dilapidated as it is, will very certainly continue to function until we approach Idiocracy. “Thank you for visiting Costco. “I’m in love with you.”
A catastrophe like another global war, which may flip the globe upside down and force a cultural return to the way of men, is beyond the control of the common man. So you may think about it, maybe wish for it, and surely prepare for it, as I’ll say next time, but what do you do till then? Some argue that you should just enjoy the decline – go your own way, work as little as possible, and have as much sex as possible. What about the guys who feel that such a road is ultimately hollow and unfulfilling, based on thousands of years of intellectual and spiritual wisdom? Are they destined to join the “religion of non-virility”?
Is There a Different Way?
The following perspectives and alternatives are popular because they provide a compelling, emotionally fulfilling narrative that explains what is wrong with our existing civilization. What they don’t provide is much in the way of practical advice on how a guy might have a decent life while still satisfying his fundamental need for virility.
For me, that’s the clincher. Journalists, social commentators, and bloggers excel at expressing their dissatisfaction with contemporary masculinity. You can’t go a week without seeing an article or a blog post on why males are falling behind or how modern culture is hostile to guys.
Yes. We’re aware. Something isn’t right. What are our options?
Sitting down at a computer and moaning and venting to a community of like-minded males may be pleasant in the short term, but it isn’t rewarding in the long run. Mental masturbation is nothing more than getting fired up without doing action.
What is a viable strategy for a guy who enjoys certain features of contemporary culture but want to uphold the masculine code?
Even if you wish to go back to a period when there was no feminism or tribal life, how should you live in the interim? In your day-to-day existence, how should you live today, as a guy in 2014?
Next week, I’ll provide my modest proposals for an alternative choice, a different road, a framework that strives to marry tradition with modernity’s realities. A path that extends back while also propelling mankind onward.
Continue reading the series here: Part I is to protect; Part II is to reproduce; and Part III is to provide. 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? Semper Virilis: A Roadmap to Manhood (Part IX)
The “manhood in the 21st century” is a book that discusses how men should be raised, and what life for them will be like.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the 3 Ps of manhood?
A: Patience, persistence and perseverance.
What is manhood strength?
A: Manhood strength is a measurement of how much force it would take to move an object that weighs one kilogram with a force at ground level.
What makes a man a protector?
A: A man is someone who protects those weaker than them.
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