Sunday, December 2, 2012

What Defines A Man?

Let me start out by asking a question: what qualifies a male as a man? I'm not talking about (XY) chromosome pairs or other anatomical differences. I'm talking about the personal assessments we use to gauge if an adult male has characteristics worthy of respect. Do you judge a man by his aggressiveness? What impact does his competency at being able to carry out a variety of tasks such as repairs have on his manliness? Does a male need to be a leader--not a follower--to be a man? Even more nebulous, what if a male lacks in confidence? And what about those males who don't fit inside the traditional box used to classify someone as a man? Last of all, how does a person 

With that said, it's time to dive into today's topic. Some days, I feel more emotionally charged than others. Emotionally charged, now there's a weasel phrase if I've ever seen one. As a writer, it behooves me to use strong verbs rather than weak excuses so a translation is in order. Emotionally charged means a willingness to take up my lance and do battle with the dragons who exhibit negative social behaviorism. Okay, so I ended up writing something even more weasel-worded. How about this: my temper flares (translation: I'm totally [censored] off) when I encounter people who are blatantly disrespectful or abusive to other people. As you might guess, my morning didn't get off to a great start (translation: I'm in a [censored] off mood!).

Let's back up a bit to provide some context. After having a typical restless evening, I got out of bed, grabbed some breakfast and sat down in front of my computer. “Time for a bit of browsing,” I thought to myself. First off, a quick scan of my online contributions to see if I something I created became an Internet success overnight. Rats, no activity. Even the latest photo I posted on Pixdaus was a dud. Oh well, I simply need to accept how my ideas of interesting is not shared by the public on the most part.

Okay, so maybe a junkie fix from one of my techie haunts will improve my mood. IO9 usually has something interesting so off I go to look around their website. Sadly, one thing I never learn is to not look at the links at the bottom of IO9's home page. Why not? Because, there's almost always something interesting, controversial, and blood boiling to be found. And today was no exception. Note: someone buy me a Powerball lottery ticket because I just won the boiler-maker special in the form of a Jezebel link.

Foolishly, I clinked (clicked the link) to a Jezebel article with the catchy title, “The 32 Biggest WTFs About the ‘32 Things Every Man Should Do’” With a site name like Jezebel, it's not too hard to deduce the general atmosphere of the site. Flashy, sexually charged and controversial to the extreme at times, the site has some interesting posts. Unable to resist the latest baited hook, I stepped through the looking glass into Alice's Wonderland (translation: started reading the post from an author named Lindy West). The author proceeded to describe the contents from another separate website that focused on “making men more manly”.

While the Jezebel article was interesting, the quotes taken from the originating blog post were even more intriguing (translation: infuriating). Phrases like “girly man”, “sissy” and “men are rightful leaders” were peppered throughout the quotes and communicated a clear underlying message. Okay, so I'm only reading quotes, not the entire article. And as we all know, quotes can be taken out of context. So like a diligent investigator, off I went to look at the original site. But I failed to pass go and collect my two hundred dollars (translation: I couldn't access the article). The originating website was serving up HTTP 403 messages for the pages. No accessed allowed. Even the home page returned 403. Either the author disconnected the domain from the Internet to block the horde of unfriendly invaders or the hosting site cut access to squelch the bandwidth usage. Regardless of the reason, I question the rationale of blocking the website rather than providing a more insightful notification but that's a different issue and I don't want to dilute the current topic. So back on track we go.

Without access to the original author's full article, I can only surmise certain details so let's abstract this. There are members of society who use domination as a tactic in their social interactions. When you have a “live and let live” policy like mine, a number of actions will conflict with my moral compass. So, what is a fella to do? Do I stay true to my words and allow the promoters of domineering attitudes be who they need to be? Or do I become a hypocrite and attack or stand up against the differences?

In cases where someone is championing macho behaviors such as domination, identifying the deeper issue is crucial. To me, the core of the problem revolves around our desire to establish order in environments we don't fully control. We need hierarchy to keep chaos [translation: the free will of others] from impeding our ability to function as a group and make progress. The pecking order is simply one form of hierarchy, albeit an abusive one. When I recognize I'm in one a situation where aggressiveness is taking center stage, my responses need to be focused on maintaining a healthy environment to coexist in. Easier said than done of course. It's unlikely I could establish a constructive discussion with someone who believes non-aggressive people deserve to be subjugated. Furthermore, a person with those beliefs is already at war with the society around them so a hostile conflict would be inevitable. Violence can erupt in an emotionally charged situation so stay alert. We need to be aware of our environment in order recognize when it is necessary to establish a healthy boundary. While I've meandered from the opening question about what defines a man, I do believe the additional commentary introduced value in promoting deeper thought about the subject.

Hierarchy is an inherent part of society but it doesn't have to be in the form a counter-productive pecking order for men or women. Gender should make no difference in regards to respect. Our actions on the other hand, should. How we interact with society should be a primary factor in deciding if we are worthy of respect. And it falls on each of us to do what we believe is the right thing. We can influence others but we have the greatest potential to change to ourselves.