Michael Taylor | Friday, February 11, 2011
In response to both Mr. O’Leary (“Day of woman,” Feb. 9) and Mr. Mullen (“Be a Man,” Feb 8), I agree with many points from each. I do indeed believe “the absence of true manhood is a serious problem in society,” and I think we all know at least a few sensitive guys who do indeed get the girl.
However, in a society today that tries to define masculinity in terms of athletic achievements, sexual conquests and economic power, we need to reevaluate our definition of masculinity.
“Masculinity, first and foremost, ought to be defined in terms of relationships,” claims Joe Ehrmann in Jeffery Marx’s book “Season of Life: a football star, a boy, a journey to manhood.”
Joe was an NFL star for eight years with the Baltimore Colts back in the 1970’s, lost his brother to cancer, became ordained a minister in 1985 and later coached a high school boy’s football team where he taught them, in his opinion, what it means to be a man for others.
“If you look over your life at the end of it,” claims Joe, “life wouldn’t be measured in terms of success based on what you’ve acquired or achieved or what you own. The only thing that’s really going to matter is the relationships you’ve had.”
So when my favorite golfer loses almost all his corporate endorsements, naturally I can empathize with Mr. Mullen’s point above. But I think we tend to get confused between the false fronts of masculinity and what it actually means to be a man for others. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the movie Fight Club, but I think it takes more than “kicking ass and taking names” to define true manhood.
Joe Ehrmann also talks about one more criteria in being a man. He claims that “all of us ought to have some kind of cause, some kind of purpose in our lives that’s bigger than our own individual hopes, dreams, wants, and desires. At the end of our live, we ought to be able to look back over it from our deathbed and know that somehow the world was a better place because we lived, we loved, we were other-centered, other-focused.”
So when an entire dorm bonds together and stands outside all day in shorts and a t-shirt, giving themselves a better perspective on what it means to be homeless, and all doing it for a cause greater than themselves, that’s an example of being a man. When most guys are on their deathbed, I don’t think the thoughts going through their minds are, I wish I’d made state in basketball back in high school, or I wish I would have made more money or slept with more women. I’d take a stab at saying it’s probably more like, I wish I’d have gotten to know who my dad really was, or I wish I’d have been a better sibling to my brothers and sisters. You want to know what real masculinity is? It’s all about forming relationships, and it’s about having a cause bigger than you.