Sunday, September 11, 2022

What is "manliness" in 2022?

Over the past year or two several of my favorite writers have expressed uncertainty about the American cultural standard for "manliness". Some wonder if it even exists.

Speaking from Oldness I would say that there is a clear standard of "manliness" in American culture and that it has changed relatively little over the past 80 years.

Manliness is Shane in 1949. It's the MCU's Steve Rogers (more than the comics actually). It's Aragorn in the LOTR. In the 1970s it's James Bond and Playboy and, more recently, Men's Journal. It's Kipling's (yes, that one) 1943 poem ...
If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too ...

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same ...

... If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son

Manliness includes enjoying toys, whether they are garden tools or drills or mountain bikes or skis or Lego models. There is continuity with Boyliness.

While Manliness has not changed much, there have been changes in who can be Manly. The role was once restricted to penis people. It's now open to all. Once you understand that you can see the continuity of the cultural model.

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