Two Views of Manhood

Two Views of Manhood

A First Glance

I exited childhood in the 1950’s with beliefs about “being a man” that have gradually become myths to me over the last 60 years. I believed what I was taught back then – just by watching and listening:To be a respectable man, I must have a successful career

  • Competition brings out the best in a man
  • Winning is critically important – at whatever I do.
  • It is good to be regarded as better than others
  • In every setting, perfection is the goal. Flaws are failures.
  • Aggression is acceptable when used to “get ahead” in life
  • A reputation for sexual prowess is necessary
  • Traditionally feminine interests and behaviors are best avoided
  • Suffering suggests weakness, and is best addressed stoically
  • Expressing vulnerable emotions like sadness & fear is weak, unmanly
  • The best way to solve personal problems is to “do it myself”
  • Other genders, ethnicities, & religions are “less than” in some way
  • Status, renown, and affluence are appropriate and reachable life goals
  • Philosophical questions in life are best answered with creedal statements

Attempts to adhere to these values created significant stress in my 20’s and 30’s. Instead of feeling accomplished and effective, I more frequently felt sex-role strain, never quite reaching the above ideals.

A  Second Glance

Gradually, as the decades have passed and social mores have broadened, these gender-related expectations have become less influential in my life, though versions of them still strike unexpectedly in assumptions, thought patterns and conversations.

Over time, my commitment to four other beliefs has strengthened – both in my personal interactions and in my political ideals. And gender role conflict – the gap between outside expectations and internal experiences – has narrowed. It has been freeing, connecting, and constructive to believe that:

  • Every human being on the planet has inherent worth equal to mine
  • Serving is more satisfying and productive than winning
  • Collaborating generates healthier outcomes than decreeing
  • Missteps in living these values are normal, forgivable, and recoverable

John Robertson

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