Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I came across this video the other day:

I agree with it. Sort of. First, the whole concept of "masculine" is crap. It's a vestigial tail left over from a primordial era when gendered rolls were enforced rigidly. Everyone should be able to answer conflict, to be rational, to be self aware, to sacrifice for the greater good, to take a leadership roll. To put that solely on men is antediluvian and we've evolved past it. So lets forget masculine and just go with virtuous.
Bullying isn't "muscular," it isn't a virtue. It's easy to yell and scream and take out petty revenge for perceived slights but easy isn't virtuous. A bully has no empathy, they are narcissistic. They can't see past their own ends and ride rough shod over the collective. To think otherwise is to be a sociopath.
Failing to consider the ramifications of an activity (like football) for your kids is not virtuous. Its failing to parent. When President Obama said that he wouldn't let a hypothetical son play in the NFL, he was looking at the long view. NFL players die early, they have all kinds of medical issues. I don't want that for my sons either. I'd rather they live long working class lives than die at 55 with a Benz and a Bentley. Self sacrifice for the greater good is virtuous, self sacrifice for the entertainment of the masses, and the enrichment of the few is foolish. I myself have been a fool, so I know of which I speak. Playing rugby over the years I have been concussed.. I have no idea how many times. Once was so badly that I lost the better part of a day. Concussions are not good for longevity, and it would be disingenuous of me to pretend otherwise.
It is a virtue to confront injustice, it is not a virtue to avoid conflict at all costs. However, if your only means of conflict is violence, you are not being masculine. Folks for which violence is the only means of conflict resolution lack the ability to communicate to input data from an outside perspective and can only foist their perspective outward.  Don't get me wrong, I like violence. I have a talent for it, both administering and absorbing. However, its not a default. Its not even a preferable option.
Which brings me to a final virtue that is often misapplied. Self Awareness. Blusterers and blow-hards seem to think lacking self awareness is a virtue. To ignore one's one failings and sensitivities and put up a stoic facade. This could not be further from the truth. Self improvement necessitates self awareness. If you can't honestly assess your own abilities and actions you can't do anything meaningful. If you aren't self aware you cannot understand how you affect the world around you. Those who refuse to acknowledge their failings, who refuse to ask for help are incomplete people. Similarly you cannot sympathize if you are not in tune with your own feelings. I have been guilty of this myself. I stifled my on emotions so severely that I couldn't imagine being overwhelmed by emotion. It took a lot of intentional practice to fix.
As the father of two young boys (3.5 and 10 months) the meaning of masculinity is a subject that I am acutely aware. The virtues ascribed to it are not 'male' they are simply virtues. Similarly colors and social play are not 'feminine' either. My oldest loves wrestling, he is fearless: he jumped of a 6.5 foot playground structure last weekend without a microsecond of hesitation. He also likes pink, and cooking. For a while he wanted to be a witch for Halloween (he later changed his mind and went with Captain America). None of these are inappropriate for a little boy.I have not tried to dissuade any of these preferences/behaviors. Pink is just a color, everyone should be able to cook (lacking such a fundamental skill is never a virtue regardless of gender), and witches are scary. If my two boys were girls, I would still emphasize those same virtues. I would still encourage them to wrestle as it is a crucible through which those virtues and values are readily learned. I would encourage them to climb and leap. As parents, coaches, or any figure of authority we need to cut off this vestigial notion of 'masculine' virtue and 'feminine' virtue and simply teach virtue. Honor, integrity, bravery in the face of righteous conflict, and self awareness should be standards of humans regardless of gender. If we do this the easy, false forms of "Masculinity" (bullying, bravado, stunted emotional growth and unwillingness and inability to do 'woman stuff') and "Femininity" (passivity, ineptitude, and reliance on others in the face of 'man stuff') would all become relics of a forgotten, primitive, time.


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