male box, off the cuff

A Few Good Men

In a 2010 article by Dennis Prager, “Is America Still Making Men?,” I believe the answer to many of our questions about modern male behavior are answered.  In it, Prager, single-handedly sums up the premise of several articles I have written on my site prior to reading his article, namely Real Men Lead, Men are from Venus, Women are from Venus, Nine-to-Fiving is for the birds, and even Street Etiquette: Fashion and the Heterosexual Male

I truly believe the answer to the question Prager poses in the title is no.  It can be said that America is no longer “making” men, depending on what you feel makes a man, a man.  I tend to think of manhood in the traditional sense, but society seems to be redefining manhood, which is what creates a point of contention when considering Prager’s question.

For those of you with short attention spans, I have highlighted Prager’s most insightful points (in my opinion) here:

The distinction between men and boys has been largely obliterated. The older males that many American boys encounter are essentially older boys, not men. They speak, dress, and act similarly (think of men who “high-five” young boys instead of shaking their hands). And they are almost all called by their first names. Even when a boy (or girl) addresses an adult male as “Mr.,” many men will correct the young boy or girl — “Call me” and then give the young person his first name. This is often true even with regard to teachers, physicians and members of the clergy. When a young person calls an adult by his first name, the status of the two individuals has been essentially equated. Boys need men to respect. It’s not impossible to do so when they call men by their first names, but it makes it much harder.”

The ideals of masculinity and femininity have been largely rendered extinct. Feminism, arguably the most influential American movement of the 20th century, declared war on the concepts of femininity and masculinity. And for much of the population, it was victorious. Indeed, thanks to the feminist teaching that male and female human beings are essentially the same (note, incidentally, that no one argues that male and female animals are the same, only human beings are), untold numbers of boys have been raised as if they were like girls. They were denied masculine toys such as play guns and toy soldiers, and their male forms of play — e.g., roughhousing — were banned.”

“America has become a rights-centered rather than a responsibility-centered society. Aside from helping to produce a pandemic of narcissism, the rights-centered mindset is the opposite of the obligation/responsibility-centered mindset that makes a boy into a man. It is not good for either sex to be rights-preoccupied; but it is particularly devastating to developing men, as men are supposed to be obligation-directed. The baby boomer generation helped destroy manhood in most of the ways described here. One additional example was its widespread slogan, “Make love, not war.” One cannot come up with a more unmanly piece of advice: “Don’t fight for your country, screw girls.” If the greatest generation had adopted that motto, Hitler and Tojo would have won. A few years ago, the city of Chicago named a street after Hugh Hefner, a man who has played games much of the day and night, lived in pajamas and devoted his life to sex — quite a model of manhood for American boys.”

Increasingly, marriage is regarded as optional. The most obvious expression of men assuming responsibility — marrying a woman and taking care of her and their children — is no longer a male ideal. Vast numbers of men quite openly admit to having problems with the C-word (commitment) and responsibility of being a family’s sole breadwinner.”

Lastly, Prager poignantly states that “when boys do not become men, women assume their roles. But they are not happy doing so…and so, a vicious cycle has commenced — men stop being men; women become man-like; men retreat even further from their manly role; and women get sadder.”

Do you agree with Prager’s notion that our society is no longer teaching men how to be men? If so, can this be corrected or is the perennial concept of manhood obsolete?



11 thoughts on “A Few Good Men

  1. I think Prager is right. The children of the 80’s (thankfully my generation) may be the last of the American male in it’s classic sense. It seems that young men who are coming of age have no idea what its like to earn something. They have no idea how to find and care for a real woman or how to carry themselves with class. The sad thing is that it’s just going to keep getting worse.

    Posted by Derek | February 16, 2012, 9:21 AM
    • Derek – I tend to agree with Prager as well, and I agree with you that it is only going to get worse. But, do you think there is any way to possibly correct this behavior?

      I also notice that men these days feel a sense of entitlement and often seek instant gratification. Back in the day, gigolos (men who rely on their women to take care of them) were not looked upon favorably. Nowadays, men are being encouraged to find sugar mamas and cougars to take care of them. It’s actually considered “cool.”

      Posted by 30thoughts | February 16, 2012, 10:59 AM
      • I do think it can be corrected over time, but it’s going to take real men to stand up and lead by example. The funny thing is that I see men who you think would be an example acting like the the subjects of this post. To the point about sugar mamas and cougars, that will go on as long as women accept it. It feels like women are settling because they don’t think there are any strong minded men are left. Real men are out there, they just have to keep looking.

        Posted by Derek | February 17, 2012, 7:27 AM
      • Yes, maybe you’re right about the sugar mamas and cougars, but I think it has a lot do with the role reversal that has occurred. Women are naturally nurturing creatures, it’s instinctive. So now that we are able to make our own money and pay our own bills, we can now “take care of a man” financially, when in the past, we took care of men by taking care of home and fulfilling their primal needs so that they could go out and “bring home the bacon.”

        Posted by 30thoughts | February 19, 2012, 4:07 AM
  2. Unfortunately, I agree with Prager also. I believe that the answer to whether or not it can be corrected is “yes”, however, I do not see such correction occurring on a large scale. If it does not come from a strong male figure in one’s home, it must come from strong male figures that one either has regular contact with or the ability to observe them in action (eg. Church, mentoring program, etc.). I would have included sports or school and while it is a possibility, I can only think of one coach worthy of such a designation during my almost 18 years of playing competitive sports and only two professors.

    I could not agree more that so many of the older males today are just older boys. I am often times extremely disappointed by the statements that I hear come out of the mouths of men in their 30’s, 40’s, and even 50’s (NOTE: These are men of various races). Further, it is almost as if the word “woman” is becoming extinct even from older males.

    Regarding the demise of masculinity in men and of femininity in women, it is disappointing to watch and seems to be increasing at an extreme rate. As long as young males and females continue to look up to celebrities, the cycle will continue. We who are disappointed by this must take some time out of our busy schedules to be an example for young people because without us, there is little hope.

    The root of the so-called lack of commitment epidemic is a lack of self-discipline, and the fact that men either consciously or subconsciously objectify women based on how women are both presented (tv, film, music, etc), how some present themselves, and the events that one frequents. I have never been one to pursue women for any sexual gratification (NOTE: I am not puffing myself up in anyway because I have made many mistakes in my life!) but I still have to occasionally remind myself that the person near me is not an object. Now that I stay in the Word, have significantly reduced the amount of television that I watch, and am very selective of where I go and the type of music that I listen to, it’s becoming rare for me to have to do so anymore.

    I said a lot and will be quiet now but I leave with this, the answer to the problem is lot more complicated because the reason that this epidemic exist is much deeper than most think and my fingers would probably cramp up 😉 However, those of us who see the problem should never underestimate the impact that we can have. We must keep in mind that if we are able to reach one at a time and only on occasion, that “one” will eventually result in that “one” reaching others.

    Posted by Mark | February 16, 2012, 3:05 PM
    • Very well said, Mark. I suppose older men can only try to do their part in affecting change among younger men who have no strong male figures in their lives.

      But, I pose a question to you and other men who may read this article: There are also a lot of boys who grew up with fathers who set a poor example of what it is to be a man (abusive – verbally or physically to their wives, cheaters, drug abusers), but does the sheer fact that these men were present (physically, not necessarily emotionally) somehow give those boys a leg up over the boys who had no male figure in the household? Or do you think both groups of boys are equally stunted growth-wise?

      Posted by 30thoughts | February 16, 2012, 10:06 PM
      • That is an excellent question TT. I would not say that the sheer fact that one’s father is present gives a boy a leg up in and of itself. A boy’s need for a male figure in the household is vital!! While some may say they don’t or didn’t need a father/male figure, if one is truly honest with and has thoroughly examined one’s self there is no way that some negative remnants stemming from that absence do not exist.

        I will use my upbringing as an example and let me start by stating that I love my dad with all my heart. I grew up in a home where my parents were married (still are to this day although that which I am about to mention no longer takes place as of 7-8 years ago), however, my dad was an alcoholic from the time that I can remember up until I was 25 or 26 years old. During that period my dad was verbally abusive towards my mother and would regularly forget each of our birthdays, daily outings that were planned, etc. I can only think of 3-4 memorable conversations with my dad before the age of 25 or 26. While he always provided for us, he was not there emotionally. As a result I had a short temper for the majority of my life, a few insecurities, and a problem expressing certain emotions into adulthood because I felt the need to “stay strong” (suppress my emotions) in front of my little brother who would cry if my dad was yelling at my mom. This is the short version of things but each of my siblings had and in some cases has, noticeable shortcomings (in my eyes given that I know them so well) as a result of the situation that was in our home despite our father’s presence.

        If it weren’t for my mom being the amazing Christian woman that she is, I would not be the man that I am not to mention possibly not being alive today. I couldn’t imagine how differently my life would have turned out had it not been for the grace of God and how she raised me/us.

        Regarding the second question, I definitely think both groups of boys can be equally stunted growth-wise if the present yet absent male figure displays no positive attributes. In my instance, I learned a number of things from my father (It was more through observation rather than spoken but I can remember a few stories) in that he was a provider, disciplined, tough, stood up for what he believed in, and had no fear. He was definitely a manly man but was addicted to a devastating substance. Due to those things, I had a leg up in that regard and while I was teased occasionally about it, I learned not to care about what others say about me (blessing in disguise).

        I hope I answered the questions clearly (by way of my humble opinion).


        Posted by Mark | February 17, 2012, 2:38 PM
      • Well, at first, it seemed like you felt both groups of men would be stunted growth-wise. However, the fact that you learned some things simply by observing your father, shows that his mere presence, and providing for, protecting and disciplining his family – gave you some insight as to how a man should be. If that’s the case, I could see the boy who grew up with an absentee father being clueless on ALL levels as to what it means to be a man, whereas the boy whose father was present may only be deficient in those areas where his father was lacking (in your case) – emotional stability, temperament, and the like.

        So, in essence, the fact that you had some frame of reference would make at least having a father in the home more beneficial than not having a father in the home. But, I think in a situation like yours, it could go either way. Either the boy tries to be the exact opposite of what his deficient father was or was not or he unwittingly follows in his footsteps even though he hates what his father stands for or represents. I suppose it’s better to have some direction vs. no direction at all though. Thanks for clarifying.

        Posted by 30thoughts | February 17, 2012, 10:14 PM
  3. Thanks for writing the article and your statement “Either the boy tries to be the exact opposite of what his deficient father was or was not or he unwittingly follows in his footsteps even though he hates what his father stands for or represents” is spot on in my opinion. I can distinctly remember repeating to myself as a kid that “when I grow up my family will never go through this”. On the other end of the spectrum, I know some people who followed nearly identically the errors of their father.

    Posted by Mark | February 17, 2012, 11:37 PM
  4. Love the faux military man introductory photo. I would have to agree wholeheartedly with this article, and will consider myself a genuine fan of this blog now. Unfortunately, “maleness” is subject to the laws of evolution and discourse as every other trait or acceptable behavior has been, and it is unwise to suggest a “golden time” of manliness without a number kickers as to social progress. A constant state of inebriation, the occasional “I do this because I love you” backhand, and the ubiquitous workplace sexual harassment and marital rape issues used to be the very definition of what it meant to be “a man,” and I feel a number of references to the “old school” easily gloss over these. It has taken some time for what I ascertain to be your particular ideal of the balance of masculine and feminine to take shape, and gain popular acceptance. Even Praeger is guilty of a certain glossing of concepts, referring to the “obviously” feminized major religions as a source of de-masculinity, and while not a believer myself, the ones I associate with seem to leave their weekly worldview-recharge with a reinforced sentiment of how things should be, usually including a return to “traditional” values and relationships with regards to masculinity and femininity.

    Posted by Jordan | February 20, 2012, 4:43 PM
    • Thanks Jordan. I thought the faux military man was quite handsome and also goes along with Prager’s mention of the military as one of few places where men can bond with other men.

      It also seems that Prager’s idea of manhood is heavily based on religious tenets that you, as a non-believer, may not agree with. He does come off as quite chauvinistic in his statements about women in the clergy, sports and the like, but I have spoken to men who have voiced the same sentiment regarding women now being such an integral part of sporting events and church leadership. While this is a positive change, I can’t say that I don’t understand how and why this would affect traditional notions of manhood and what it means to be a man. Also, I still tend to agree with his overall theory of masculinity and femininity, and why or how this change came about.

      A male friend of mine raised a similar argument, that there has been social progress as to sexual discrimination and marital rape issues, but I did not understand Prager as saying that that era – when men were more socially responsible, cared about community, etc. – was necessarily “a golden time of manliness,” but rather a time when being a man meant certain things as far as leadership, integrity, responsibility and discipline are concerned. These are all things institutions such as the military and the Boy Scouts teach, as Prager mentions. Whereas now, we still have those same issues of the past in addition to not just marital rape, but forcible rape outside of any relationship, objectification/denigration of women on a much larger scale, and still domestic abuse. I guess I’m just saying that the problems with men that existed then still exist now, but at least back then men stood for something, and wanted more out of life than just a “good time.”

      Posted by 30thoughts | February 21, 2012, 11:19 PM

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