How Manly Am I, and What Does That Even Mean?

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Categories:  Life, Philosophy, Relationships
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Many of my more interesting conversations of late have been about gender, sexuality and what it means to be a man/woman in 2014. As a verified male (I checked) I’m going to give my point of view about what I consider manly.

Disclaimer: Resist the urge to call me sexist (or homophobic) based on this post. These are gut reactions that I’ll attempt to rationalize for the sake of humor and to give the public yet another resource to make fun of me. This is for entertainment purposes and to create fun discussions only.

Being Extroverted/Introverted: Neutral

Some might say that women are generally more social than men because of some brain scans that neuroscientists have been talking about lately, but I don’t think being social and being an extrovert are the same thing. I think that we used to encourage women to be introverted and men to be extroverted in previous generations, but I don’t see that as much in my own experience. As an introvert, I’m highly social, but I prefer talking to 1-4 people at a time. I also like to talk about deep stuff rather than shallow small talk. I know lots of people of all different backgrounds whom feel the same way.

Being Dominant/Submissive: Neutral

I'll just place this here for no real reason...

I don’t know who is more dominant in my marriage, so it’s probably not me. I think dominance is not only different person-to-person, but also relative to the relationship. Not just romantic relationships either. Groups of friends have different dominance schemes as well, and it’s rarely gender-based in my experience. For instance, I’m a lot more dominant when I’m sitting with my buddies watching football than I am on a date with my wife.

If you think about fictional characters, you can find examples of male/female relationships that suit every combination. Jerry from Seinfeld is usually pretty submissive while Elaine asserts her dominance over the male cast members pretty often. Don Draper from Mad Men is the quintessential dominant male on television right now. You can even look back at times before women won many of the rights they have today and see examples of dominant women. Alice from The Honeymooners fights Ralph for dominance in nearly every episode and you could make a case for either one of them to win that struggle.

Luxury: Somewhat Masculine

Some people enjoy status symbols. These are items people display prominently to show off their wealth and/or social standing. This kind of luxury is masculine to me because it reminds me of animals that show off their “alpha male” status or their amazing dance moves to females to impress them.

However, if luxury means “comfort” or “pleasure” to you, it’s pretty neutral. While women may go to spas more often than men do, we care a lot more about our recliners and big screen TVs. This is much closer to my personal preference for luxury, but both are legitimate in my view.

Personal Care: Mostly Feminine

Most women I’ve met in my life spend much more time taking care of their bodies than I do. In my brief conversations I’ve had with other men, I’d say I’m slightly above average in the tasks I take to stay pretty, but the average woman I’ve met completely demolishes the number of tasks that even my prissy, metrosexual brother takes to maintain his body.

Aside: Yes, that sentence was meant to tease him. It’s what older brothers do, and it doesn’t stop after we move away from home.

Google image search for personal care
Google image search for “personal care” shows no males for a long time.

Like status symbols, much of the personal care men take of themselves is in effort to find a mate. I would probably never shave beyond a quick trim if I didn’t care about getting laid ever again. I’d also wear pajamas everywhere I went. Most of the efforts I make — beyond getting haircuts, showering daily, brushing my teeth and wearing deodorant — are to please others. Women probably take the same thing into consideration, but my wife won’t even go to the grocery store without makeup anymore. I’m fairly certain she’s not cruising for dudes there.

Gay men take very good care of themselves too, and in many cases they seem to take even better care. They’re trying attract other men, so my argument falls a little flat here. But hey, this post is about my personal “gut” impressions and I’m not a gay man, so I’ll be honest in my bias.

Beards: Somewhat Manly

action-hank-beard

If your beard is magnificent (mine isn’t quite there yet), then it is VERY manly. But if your beard is inconsistent or unkempt, it has the opposite effect. It creates this glaring beacon of “not manly” right on your face. That is why I can’t let mine roam freely about my epidermis quite yet. Maybe someday…

Design, Composition, and Usability: Mostly Feminine

Manly fashion designer, Tim Gunn

My favorite designers are mostly female. The most elegant usability solutions I find are usually either created by women or inspired by something a woman created in another medium. I think that women have a better sense for visual flow, meaning how eyes travel over information and how the brain interprets that information.

Different types of design all differ of course. I think fashion design is more masculine believe it or not. I think directing movies is very masculine, but I can’t explain why beyond my personal preferences in films. I think print and web design are super feminine. What I do (user experience design) is also more feminine in my mind, because most of the resources I use are written by women.

Beer: Somewhat Manly

Duff Beer Lots of women love beer. I’m not saying they don’t. My wife drinks beer and smokes cigars and I think that’s super hot. Beer and wine are prepared in very similar ways when you look at it from a high level. They taste very different, but lambics are kind of 50/50 and they taste pretty good to me if I’m in the mood for it. That being said, beer is pretty manly to me. I don’t think it has anything to do with the liquid itself, so much as its presentation. Beer is usually served in a basic pint glass. Sometimes it goes into a goblet if you’re drinking something Belgian (or something pretentious like Stella Artois), but even those aren’t super-fancy. If you’re critical, you take a deep whiff of it before you take your first sip, but after that you generally just drink it casually like you would a Dr. Pepper.

Wine: Somewhat Feminine

Wine is a whole presentation! You order a bottle of it in a nice restaurant and it comes to your table in a sleek bottle, wrapped elegantly in a cloth. Popping the cork is a great performance too, especially with champagne. Then, the wine is carefully poured into beautiful crystal glasses and carefully sipped. As mentioned earlier, I think that presentation and luxury are fairly feminine and this is a combination of both of those things. I know that you can slurp box wine at a barbeque, and you can find snooty beer snobs at brewfests, but I consider those outliers.

Designer Cocktails: Very Feminine

Not so manly a drink. If your drink has more “mixers” in it than liquor, it’s very feminine. Not that I blame you, those things can be delicious. At least as long as they aren’t syrupy schnapps-y sugarfests. These drinks DO give you the worst hangovers of course, so there’s something to be said for girls being pretty tough. The male equivalent might be the aftermath of a really spicy burrito.

Scotch & Whiskey: Very Manly

The only mixer I need is ice cubes, and I’m called a pussy when I use those for my scotch.

Colors: Neutral

blue_water-wallpaper-800x600 I’m not sure why pink is considered feminine and blue is masculine. Colors are like words, and everyone should use them all to put together beautiful artwork. Why limit your vocabulary or your palette? Maxi pad commercials always have blue stuff in them. Everyone says men are pigs, and those are pink. I rest my case.

Food: Neutral

In order from manliest to least manly:

  • Steak, Sausage, Potato & Corn Chips, Chili
  • Barbecue, Burgers, Fake Cheeses, Potatoes
  • Pizza, Coffee, Grilled Veggies, Dark Chocolate
  • Corn on the Cob, Cold Cuts, Bacon, Water (neutral)
  • Pasta, Sushi, Tea, Fancy Cheeses
  • Bakery Foods, Salads, Smoothies, White Chocolate
  • Lollipops, Macarons, Cupcakes, Tofu

For the record, I love all of these things except for tofu and white chocolate.

Chivalry: Dead

The knightly way of life has been associated with masculinity for centuries. If a man holds the door for a woman it’s considered chivalrous, but I never hear it associated with when a woman does the same for a man. I find this absurd, so I think the traditional idea of chivalry is dead in modern society. While knighthood could be extended to women and thought of that way, the idea is better captured with other methods that have been gender-inclusive from the start. Like my favorite philosophy:

Be excellent to each other, [and] party on, dudes!

Bill & Ted (source)

Skirts: Mostly Feminine

I have to point out that a couple of the manliest men I know do wear kilts on a regular basis though.

Video Games: Neutral

Why Marketers Fear the Female Geek
Click this for a great article about women in geek culture.

The only possible way to say that video games are manly (because anyone who argues this with me, will likely go in that direction) would be to discriminate between mediums. If you discount casual games from the list, you are being pretentious and snooty about what it means to be a “hardcore gamer”. My Aunt Holly is a more hardcore gamer than most people I know and she plays mostly “casual” games. In fact, one of the most profitable gaming markets right now is app-based games targeting primarily women over 30. On top of that, lots of women play “hardcore” games. They just don’t run around advertising their gender at all times, so people assume they’re male. Based on some of the creepy dudes I’ve seen in online games, I don’t blame them either.

Sports: Somewhat Manly

You can tell which sports are masculine and feminine based on the commercials they air. American football and NASCAR are manly because they do their very best to make them that way by excluding and/or objectifying the women who attempt them as much as possible. Most Olympic sports are pretty feminine in my opinion. That could just be because I find watching people lift and throw heavy shit insanely boring, while [non-dance] gymnastics and volleyball are super entertaining. The only major U.S. sports I can think of that have men’s  and women’s divisions are golf and basketball, and I find both of those extremely boring, so I can’t really comment on which is manly or feminine. Tennis is pretty neutral though. I can watch tennis and be equally entertained by women, men, or mixed doubles.

Power Tools: Very Manly

tool-time This is another weird one where I find power tools to be super manly, but if I ever saw my wife using them I’d think it was hot. I’m not sure exactly why.

Guns: Very Manly

I don’t have any problem with guns used responsibly by trained and licensed users. I consider them similar to power tools, except I wouldn’t find it hot if I saw a woman using one.

Makeup: Very Feminine

Alice Cooper You can show me pictures of heavy metal bands with lead singers wearing eyeliner all day, but I will never think that’s manly. Sorry Alice Cooper. I think you’re super-cool, but not super-manly.

Exercising: Neutral

In order from manliest to least manly:

  • Weight Lifting
  • Punching Bags & Medicine Balls
  • Martial Arts
  • Running / Jogging / Biking (neutral)
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Aerobics

Flowers: Very Feminine

Once again, I have to apologize to gay guys since all the florists in San Francisco seem to be run by dudes. But at least in my mind, most of those flowers end up on women’s desks and tables.

Being Liberal: Somewhat Feminine

When you look at the issues that define the line between a liberal and a conservative, it’s very easy to see why a woman would prefer the liberal side. My previous article delves into one of the obvious reasons fairly deeply, but on a more broad level I believe that compassion is a more feminine quality. I think that compassion is one of the defining differences between the two agendas, and that it drives women to the blue side substantially more than to the red. Women's Issues There is a such thing as moderation of course. I don’t mean to be overly positive toward this side. Too much compassion can be taken advantage of, and it’s hard to inspire your citizens to be ambitious and innovative if they can’t revel in the rewards that put them above the rest of the pack.

Being Conservative: Very Masculine

No matter how enlightened and modern a guy can be, we do have to admit that the old days where we ran everything must have been pretty sweet. I can understand why most Republicans are male because to them the 1950’s and earlier were a pretty sweet deal for us. Any man who watches Mad Men and doesn’t fantasize at least once about having that kind of advantage is either a liar, or a much better person than me. Manly Don Draper in the power position It also must have been sweet to have people work for you without being paid too. Who wouldn’t want to be considered the best baseball player in the world? Would it matter if 75% of the world wasn’t allowed to compete? Obviously having a huge advantage over other people can seem great to the person in power, but it’s not so much that way for everyone else. In a just system, the amount of power you can have over someone else just because of who your parents were should be zero. Apparently, I’m more feminine in this aspect.

What is Not Manly?

Some popular notions of what is manly are dead wrong. Some of these are patriarchal crap we have leftover from previous generations, while others are ingrained into us by marketing or religion. These things are not manly nor feminine. They are just for assholes:

I know what you’re thinking, “Wow Corry. You’re so brave taking a stand against these controversial topics.” I know. You’re welcome.

How Manly Am I?

In my own mind, I’m not very manly. I don’t think I’m feminine either though. Then again, I think most people who give it fair consideration would say they’re somewhere in between. manly-man Gender identity is an interesting thing. It’s generally looked at it on a linear scale with “manly” on one end and “feminine” on the other with “androgyny” in the center. This is a little odd because I don’t generally look at a woman and think she’s my opposite. I think this is more of a subjective impression than anything else because much of what I do is rather “feminine” if I were to interpret things this way. I don’t think it’s ever fair to say “All _____ are like this.” because broad generalities are usually inaccurate and/or offensive. This article was just my mining my own brain to see what I associate with which gender, and I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know what you think is manly in the comments! Happy Not-Going-to-be-Valentine’s-Day-Again-for-362-Days Day everyone!

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