Seriously; for all the protein shakes and crunches and penis enlargement pills in the world, nothing says more about a guy than what he does for other guys.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block I find when I talk to friends about the idea of masculinity, or of ‘being a man’ is that we try to define it by our sexuality rather than our character. There are certain things that we conventionally associate about ‘being a man’ – like having XY chromosomes, male genitalia, more potential for muscle growth, hair on our chests – that so many people get hung up on. Popular culture invites us to use these characteristics to define masculinity, which means the dude with the biggest biceps, the fiercest beard, the largest penis and whatever else is in vogue becomes, by default, the ultimate man.
The reality is that dudes are varied physically and will always be, so trying to say that someone is ‘less of a man’ because they are skinnier or weaker or something is a pointless exercise because DNA evidence will always be in your favour anyway. I’m a man, but there are female Olympic cyclists who can lift more than I can at the gym without even trying. We need to move on from that.
Being a real man to me means looking after your brothers and sisters. It means taking care of your parents or grandparents, looking out for your mates and helping them when they need it – even if they don’t ask. Seriously; for all the protein shakes and crunches and penis enlargement pills in the world, nothing says more about a guy than what he does for other guys, rather than himself. Being a man means taking responsibility for your actions but also fighting for what you believe in. We’ve been treated to nearly fifty years of action heroes taking on bad guys in cinema and television, and while the violence isn’t necessarily the right method, the thought process is. The men I most look up to probably won’t win in the boxing ring or a shoot-out, but they certainly get out there and do what they have to when the people they love (or even people they don’t know) are facing any sort of hardship.
We don’t all face life-threatening situations every day, and indeed most male lives are pretty mundane; we get up, we go to work, we come home and quietly wish for the weekend. So for me, being a man is about what you do with your mind rather than what you do with your body.
We also need to remember the delicate art of listening, which is maybe the greatest accusation levelled against men that is somewhat correct. It’s so easy to talk, but much harder to sit quietly and hear what someone else – particularly if that person is a female – has to say. I’d say that the best men achieve by being part of a society, participating and being receptive, instead of trying to rise to the top and beat down everyone around them. So if we start thinking about ourselves in the plural, rather than the singular, we’ll go a lot further to unlocking our potential as men – and decent blokes, too.
Emerging from the forum mancave, our Cave Man regularly appears to answer all your questions about being a guy. Got a questions for Cave Man? Swing it his way.
Cave Man is a 25 year old guy who has a history of writing stuff tailored to men. Cave Man's not a psychologist or medical professional and isn't available to give official advice, but he's here to pass on some of his knowledge on all things to do with being a guy in the 21st century.