What kinds of things should boys do to be more manly?

Painting: "St. George and the Dragon", by Paolo Uccello (~1456)
Painting: “St. George and the Dragon”, by Paolo Uccello (~1456)

Super-wife Lindsay sent me this article by David French in National Review. I am skeptical of older men who try to get younger men of today to “man up” without realizing all of the challenges that men face. Many of them are fatherless because their mothers divorced their fathers. Many of them are in failing public schools where 90% of their teachers are women. Many of them are depressed by the $20 trillion debt that was run up to pay for the feminist welfare state. And on, and on, and on.

However, I decided to blog on this because the article was very balanced.

First, here’s David:

I look back to my own childhood. In 1985, I was 16 years old, and I was a nerd’s nerd. I toted graph paper and 20-sided dice to school to play Dungeons & Dragons at lunch. (I like to think I was the finest dungeon master Scott County, Ky., had ever seen.) When I wasn’t playing D&D, my nose was buried in Lord of the Rings, or the Shannara books by Terry Brooks, or the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. I played sports, sure, but let’s just say that my varsity tennis exploits didn’t make the cheerleaders’ hearts flutter.

But none of my nerdiness relieved me of the responsibility of learning how to be a man — a protector, builder, and fixer. So that meant spending my Saturdays hauling out the ramps to change the oil and oil filters on all our cars. That meant helping my dad build a new back porch or constantly wrestling with immense piles of firewood. (We heated our house with a wood stove.) I made extra money working in neighborhood yards. Being a guy meant doing manual labor. That was just part of growing up — no matter your social class.

In the age of instant oil change (why entrust your car’s health to your 16-year-old?), ubiquitous lawn services, and on-demand handymen, privileged kids simply don’t have the same, naturally occurring opportunities to learn to work with their hands and to develop physical strength. In the age of zero-tolerance school-disciplinary policies — where any kind of physical confrontation is treated like a human-rights violation — they have less opportunity to develop toughness. Today’s young males don’t have common touchstones for what it’s like to grow up to be a man.

I just had to quote this, because wow, David French (Harvard Law graduate, Major in the Army Reserves, Bronze Star recipient, and heroic defender of religious liberty) played good old D&D. So did I, although I preferred Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. I have over 200 hand-painted miniatures in my parents’ basement.

Anyway, I digress.

French continues:

Raising a boy to be a young man used to be a natural act. Common experiences and rites-of-passage meant that my D&D friends could pop the hood of a car and get to work right alongside the future mechanics of my high-school class. We weren’t as good or as knowledgeable, but we held our own. And there were no social-justice warriors shrieking that there was no such thing as distinctively male or masculine pursuits.

Now, for parents of the privileged, raising a boy to be a young man has to be an intentional act. You have to ignore the voices who are telling you to indulge your child’s inclinations — no matter what they are — and train them to be not just morally courageous but also physically strong. They can have their Xbox or their PC (my son brags about his kill/death ratio on Battlefield, and we belong to the same World of Warcraft guild), but they can also hit the weight room. They can also not just learn to shoot but also how to assemble and disassemble their weapon. Even if you’re rich, you can make your kid do the hard work that keeps any household together.

Though this sounds simplistic, never ever underestimate the positive effect that raw physical strength can have on a young man’s development. I’ve seen the impact that weight training has had on my son, and I wish I’d been as diligent when I was his age. I’ve experienced the impact — even as an older adult — of the physical transformation of Army training.

Our culture strips its young men of their created purpose and then wonders why they struggle. It wonders why men — who are built to be distinctive from women — flail in modern schools and workplaces designed from the ground-up for the feminine experience. Men were meant to be strong. Yet we excuse and enable their weakness. It’s but one marker of cultural decay, to be sure, but it’s a telling marker indeed. There is no virtue in physical decline.

Yes. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. My parents never had any plan for me growing up, except that I get As in school and work during the summers. However, since I got free of them after graduate school, I have been lifting weights, eating lots of protein from whole foods and taking the appropriate supplements on and off. I think it is important for a man to be able to lift his future wife across the threshold of her new home, and so I had this idea that I should lift weights. I have lifted up one woman (who I was in love with) and that was very fun. So, yes to muscles. Cardio, meh.

And lately I have been picking out my first firearm and getting ready to do my concealed carry permit. (I’m trying to decide between the S&W Performance Center M&P Shield and the Walther PPS M2). And I have always wanted to learn more about auto repair, so I can save money on that. Although, I think that my generation of men didn’t learn as much about cars as we did about computer programming and building computers from parts. I’d like to make things out of wood – maybe toys and perches for parrots. And I want to learn gardening, so I can feed myself from what I grow.

There are so many interesting things to learn and do, and I do think that men should be expected and encouraged to develop useful skills so that they can help others. Part of being a man is learning useful things so that you can help others. I think if you explain to young men why they should be learning useful skills and working and saving (to help others, to learn self-sacrifice, to practice being generous with gifts) then they would be more interested in these things. A man will do anything in order to get respect, especially from women. Maybe the problem is there – that women want men to be weak man-shaped girlfriends who just agree with them, and never challenge them to grow. I see that a lot in young women today. They aren’t comfortable giving men respect, or letting men help them and lead them.

9 thoughts on “What kinds of things should boys do to be more manly?”

  1. I also read Mr. French’s article, and I’m glad you mentioned at the start the issue of fatherlessness.
    I see the truth in what the article says, and see a reflection of my self in it.

    My parents were divorced before I could remember, and my father passed away when I was 13, a year after his father died. My maternal grandfather was a bitter alcoholic, my uncle a drug friendly homosexual, my cousins also drug abusers, my mother a 70’s era feminist who favored my sister.

    Yes, films, games, books, toys, all of these became like a surrogate father, role models to which I clung, not just entertainment as is its proper role. I fully admit this isn’t how manhood ought to be, I am not looking to excuse it.

    However, we need to have a nuanced approach as not every “beta” male asked for his lot, blaming the victim is like condemning a hibiscus for not thriving in the Sahara desert. Grand sweeping statements aren’t going to encourage the “nerds” to listen.

    What many like myself have failed to realize is how “progressive” culture has neutered men. I agree men ought to balance intellect along with physical fitness. C.S. Lewis speaking on chivalry mentions “Ferocity to the nth degree, meekness to the nth degree” on the ideal knight.

    Boys and men want to be that hero, I argue many nerds love “fantasy” because of its medieval world, men were men, ladies were ladies, good was Good and evil was Evil. It’s why as a neophyte Christian I think an “Epistle to the Nerds” is ever more needed, break the spell of Progressivism, rescue Christendom.

    1. This is one of my favorite comments since I started writing this blog. I think that as a culture, people have just gotten use to making withdrawals on men, and neglected making any deposits to boys in order to support them. Things like no-fault divorce and female-dominated schools are two obvious ones. Obviously, secular leftist feminists will be indifferent to the need to invest in what boys need. Feminism is all for adult selfishness and against children’s needs. But it’s not just them. I would say that pastors are an especially useless group of individuals, catering only to emotional needs, and neglecting any moral or practical concerns related to men. When I was a young man, I came to Christianity through apologetics. To this day, I can barely stand to be in a church, because it is such an emotional, anti-male environment. Like you, I had to look to C.S. Lewis to find my way forward. And the classics, too.

  2. Far from a man that can go into the woods fight bears, and live for a week in the mountains…..but yeah, I remember working with dad on the car. When I was about 16, it was one of my jobs to change the oil in the family car and my dad’s truck every three months. I was required to be outside sometime during the weekend as a boy / teenager (more than a few minutes….more like…..the rest of the day after Saturday morning cartoons were over and it didn’t matter if it was raining, or below zero in the winter). I was required to have a part time job in high school, and if not on a sports team…I was expected to have a sport and play it. I had to stack wood and shovel / snowblow the driveway…….

    It’s more than this WK…..there is a cultural shift even with boys who have this upbringing……guys who were raised like this even have a problem meeting women…….ask any of the single men in church right now who do want to be married who keep in shape, work, have some serious masculine pursuits…….he’s still going to be looked over for the guy who gives the church girl *immediate tingles”

    I agree with the premise, but it is zero guarantee today.

    1. I agree with you, and this is because women typically are less critical of the culture around them, and blindly accept the standards of what a man is from what they see in the culture. (E.g. – The idiots who married scum like Anthony Weiner, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, etc.) Their emotional reaction to men (and to a marriage plan) is largely determined by what they see on TV, hear in music, learn from their liberal teachers, read in feminist magazines, imitation of Hollywood celebrities, and so on. Although they state lofty goals “I want to be married some day”, their day to day actions have nothing to do with these lofty goals. I have seen women who were raised in the church by two married Christian parents losing their virginity in high school, and then drinking and hooking up all through college. They think that they are good girls and headed for marriage, children and a yard with white picket fence, but they can’t escape from the lousy goals that society feeds them. It’s only when they hit 35 years old that they suddenly become interested in good, marriage-minded men and then enlist the aid of pastors to guilt those men into marrying them. But who wants to marry an irresponsible, penniless woman with a spotty resume, and a repeated pattern of pursuing fun, thrills and travel from age 15 to 35? This is not a good deal for a man. The repeated pattern of self-centeredness and hedonism has not created a wife / mother who is capable of putting a husband and children first. When the looks and youth run out, they are left with nothing. Those who are able to trick a man into marriage by using pre-marital sex or cohabitation quickly dry up the sex supply once they hit 40 and don’t feel like sex any more.

      I think I recommend that men be manly for God’s sake, but men should be very skeptical of relationships with women who are not aware of all these things and marriage-minded before it’s too late.

  3. my first thought was that song from Mulan

    (Be a man)
    You must be swift as a coursing river
    (Be a man)
    With all the force of a great typhoon
    (Be a man)
    With all the strength of a raging fire
    Mysterious as the dark side of the moon”

    1. Well, we’re nerds, you know, but it is good to balance out the nerdiness with skills that are usefull. My penpal had headaches from stress today and she used the personal massage thing I had bought her to ease the shoulder pain. If a man works, he can listen to others and solve their problems. It’s what men do.

  4. I’m surprised team sports wasn’t covered in this post. Ok, yes there is that rare 0.00001% of some female making the men’s/boy’s team that you’ll see a story on in your local news once a year maybe but other than that, it is a pure bastion of maleness. The leasons I learned from playing HS football regarding discipline and leadership have carried me through my life and I was a terrible defensive back; way too slow and seem to always overshoot my tackling. But man, I will never forget that feeling of being with your teammates in that locker room. I even did tennis and being involved with an individual sport, we still supported each other and had to develop mental toughness to defeat players better than you.

    I guess I don’t understand how you can talk about things boys can do to become more manly and not include elementary, HS, college athletics or am I missing something here.

    I am genuinely curious to hear your opinion on this.

    1. Sports is not useful for making money. The vocational training mentioned in The Atlantic article prepares boys to make money in ways that are suited to their male natures. As I noted, the boy-friendly educational programs (and all-male schools, which would also help boys) are opposed by radical feminists.

      1. Sorry WK, I’m going to vehemently disagree with your statement. Sports are actually quite useful in making money. A quick search on the old Google machine clearly show there are numerous reputable peer reviewed studies (I know you love your data) that show a causation of improved academics and lifetime earned income from being involved in athletics.

        A smart wealthy Christian male with leaderships skills is an effective Christian male!

        Now your 2nd presidential pick (Mr. Ted Cruz) played soccer, football and basketball. And your first pick (Mr. Bobby Jindal) played tennis. I could drop the mike right here but I digress.

        What we so desperately need are tried and true Christian male leaders to reverse the moral decay in America. And in addition to stem academics, (side bar: believe it or not english majors are a solid springboard for top tier law schools, check out how many ADF lawyers and other Christian Conservative civil rights lawyers were english majors, you’ll be surprised so quit knocking english, lol, I was EE myself) athletics help round out the leadership development in any Christian male.

        I’ll just end with this, you repeatedly state again and again how everyone is selfish and gives up when life gets hard. We have given up forcing married straight couples that no longer love each other to stay married. We have given up fighting for biblical wife submission. We have given up on stopping our young Christian adults from enjoying their youth (worldwide travel, sea cruising, missions to Africa, drinking wine, paddle boarding, such a waste…) And most importantly we have given up stopping gays from becoming parents.

        Athletics teaches you to keep pushing despite the intense pain for the good of the team and you take those losens and apply them to supporting the Holy Trinity Team. Look, I loved playing D&D in high school but that didn’t teach me how to motivate my family to stay true with Christ. Doing two-a-days in the hot sun, throwing up and still running drills is what sprout the discipline seed that gave me the strength to lead my family. And I will bet any Christian who was commited to athletics will agree.

        We need more Ted Cruz’s and Jindal’s and athletics were a key part of their development. You’ll hate me for saying this but we don’t need any more anynomous Christian bloggers. I am very greatful for your message but please understand without strong Cristian leaders physically out in the public square, people like you and I will continue to decline rapidly in numbers especially since a lot of Christians have given up on marriage.

        You and I are on the same team.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s