Picture
I read this post and it got me to thinking (once again) about the always elusive and controversial trait of manliness (and it's twin sister).

I thought the matter over while I showered (I do take long showers which, come to think of it, may be somewhat unmanly... but this, as will be inconclusively argued below, is probably OK).

I think everyone pretty much agrees that at least some virtues (or some part of them) must be gender-neutral.  Any of us can describe a decent person without ever referring to him or her as anything other than "him or her"... Causing some annoyance but little controversy.

You could casually say that this morning you met a kind, brave, smart and honest person, and most folks would not jump to any conclusions about whether said person was a him or a her (all men are pigs notwithstanding).

But alongside this comfy gender-neutrality of goodness, I submit to you (or is it better to say "remind you"?) that there are some specifically masculine (or manly) virtues AND some specifically feminine (or womanly) ones.  That's a fact.

No?  Yes!

But, before I get into specifics, a few philosophic and general points should be reviewed.

First.  Virtues are all good.  It's kind of part of their definition if I'm not mistaken.

Second. All good things are good to have.  Duh, right?

Third.  The more masculine virtues a man has, the manlier.  Ditto for feminine and women.

Note: Yes, a woman with lots of masculine virtues and few feminine ones could be called (if you must call her something) a "manly woman.".. and no, by my reckoning that IS NOT a bad thing (because like I said ALL virtue is good... and because some manliness in a woman is something a personally appreciate) but, see Fourth Point.

Fourth Point. In addition to the intrinsic value of all virtue, there is an ADDITIONAL goodness when it come to gender-specific virtues (It is intuitively grasped by anyone who feels there is something "off" about a wimpy guy or a butch gal... anyone who nods in appreciation of chivalrous boy or a lady-like girl).  This additional goodness is a kind of fit.  Manliness befits a man, womanliness a woman.

(If you feel this fit is a figment of my imagination, a weightless and oppressive social convention, or what else have you... You are simply not paying attention to the world about you.  Somethings fit other things.  Something's don't.  Some people fit with each-other; some clash.  Wine fits some occasions and moods; beer others.  Some clothes fit you; some make you look like a dork.  Peanut butter fits jelly; it doesn't fit onions.  There is nothing wrong about a PB&O... but its ingredients just don't fit.  Why should human-gender be exempt from the reality of (or need to) fit)

(Also, before I move on, let me just say this, and I think it is a critical point: a wimpy guy is lacking in manly virtues, but by no means necessarily over-endowed with womanly ones... and a butch gal is lacking in womanly virtues, not over-endowed in manly ones.... check?)

So for instance, insofar as a man embodies several womanly virtues, he is a man with several good and commendable traits (I'll get into them later).

The virtues this particular man possesses make him a better person than he would be in their absence. Furthermore, they do not detract from whatever manliness he may lay claim to.  But they do nothing to advance it either.

Enough generalities.  Some of that was probably repetitive.  Or obvious.  Or both.  Oh well.

So now, to specifics.  Here's a first draft list of manly virtues:

Strength
Physical Courage
Ruggedness
Leadership
Hardness

And womanly virtues:

Sensitivity
Nurturing
Pliability
Loving-kindness
Softness

(semi-random agriculturally anthropomorphic thought:  manly virtues ~ good qualities in instruments used for "working the land" to grow things; womanly virtues ~ good qualities in actual land used to grow things... you know, tomatoes or whatever).

So lets cut to the chase, the all-important questions are: who is manly, and who is manlier, and who is best?

And my answer runs thus:

The man who is Sensitive, Nurturing, Pliable, Supportive, and Soft but neither Strong, Courageous, Rugged, Leader-like, nor Hard, is a decent chap.. but not a particularly manly one.

The man who is Strong, Courageous, Rugged, Leader-like and Hard is manly.

(Because he is manly AND a man there is a sense in which the second is better than the first... or better-off?... or better fit.  They are like two men snorkeling in the ocean, one is wearing swim-trunks, the other one a tux... which would you rather be?)

Finally, the man who is Strong, Courageous, Rugged, Leader-like, Hard, Sensitive, Nurturing, Pliable, Supportive, and Soft is equally as manly as the second, and being more virtuous, is the better man (Like a snorkeler in swim-trunks but with the tux stashed neatly in his car's trunk, for the hot date later on).

Reviewing what I've written so far I get the feeling there is too much of it... and not enough.  I think I've left out something important to do with smallness and weakness, and its counter-intuitive effect on manliness.  Something that probably applies to all virtues, but it seems to be particularly congruous with manliness.  What I'm getting at is this:  David was manlier than Goliath.  Not only because he kicked his giant ass, but also because he was the underdog.  Or... all other things being equal, a man who raises to the Presidency of the United States while in a wheelchair... or crutches, is a finer example of manliness than his able-limbed predecessors and successors.

And reviewing this rant one final time before hitting Post... it dawns on me (again)... that incessant talk about manliness in all likelihood springs from insecurity - which could be symptomatic of a deficiency in the (manly) virtue of  not-giving-a-damn-what-others-make-of-you.  It may be after all that it is manliest to swim in a tux because you have your own reasons to, and you'll be damned if you have to explain yourself to others... and because chicks dig wet tuxedos.



Leave a Reply.