Thursday, 16 January 2014

What does it mean to be a man?

A friend of mine is pumping iron at the gym as I write this blog. He’s got it into his head that he needs to muscle up for the ladies. 

When I said that not all girls (myself included) are big on muscles, he replied that while they might not think they like them physically, every member of the ‘fairer sex’ equates muscles with protective masculinity, and what woman doesn’t want to be protected?

I didn’t know how to respond to this as, while patronising, there may be an element of truth in it. So while he was building biceps, I lifted my heavy laptop onto my lap and researched what it is to be a man in 2014. I have to say it made for very interesting reading.

According to Theo Marz at The Telegraph, men are becoming more feminine in their habits and hobbies. Knitting, for example, is gaining popularity among men. Marz writes:

Gerrard Allt had been smoking for around 20 years and was getting through a packet of cigarettes a day when a housemate introduced him to knitting. “It gave me something else to do with my hands,” says the softly-spoken Scouser, now in his 40s. “Before that I’d tried quitting, but I was going cold turkey and just wanted to eat all the time. Knitting calmed me down…”

“…It’s a question of how you see yourself, and how confident you feel in your masculinity. My masculinity can handle a bit of knitting – and I’m sure plenty of other guys’ can too.”

Next I saw an article featured in my least favourite tabloid, but on this occasion I couldn’t resist taking a peak. It was about a new Japanese range of silky, lacy underwear for men. Made by Wish Room, the range features feminine men’s bras and panties. And no, this is not an early April Fool’s joke.

According to the executive director Akiko Okunomiya: “More and more men are becoming interested in bras. Since we launched the men's bra, we've been getting feedback from customers saying, ‘Wow, we'd been waiting for this for such a long time’.”

Australian brand Homme Mystere is also getting in on the action. Its range of lacy thongs, camisoles and padded bras (marketed under names such as Moulin Rouge and Jungle Fever) have met with high demand.

Once I had stopped giggling like a teenager (apologies if you are into the undies), I stumbled upon a thought-provoking article in The Huffington Post. Entitled: “Real Men Talk About Their Feelings - For Real”, Josh Rivedal explains that: “Men are willing to talk about the size of their prostate glands, or how much Viagra they're allowed to take, but they're still not willing to be open about their mental health.

“If men want to live long, healthy and productive lives it's absolutely crucial that the dialogue surrounding men's mental health has to change.”

Men’s reluctance to talk about their problems and hurts can lead to a range of problems and even premature death, with male suicide rates far exceeding those of females. Having considered suicide himself, Rivedal understands the dilemma so many men face.
However, he reassuring writes: “As a man who has suffered from clinical depression, I can say from personal experience that this is not a character flaw or a weakness. It doesn't make you any less of a man.

“In fact, by asking for help it makes you a stronger man. It gives you a fighting chance to improve your life and become the person you want to be. Reach out to your family and friends and ask for help. Nip it in the bud before it can turn into a crisis.”

I came to the conclusion that being a man is a very complex state of affairs. Should men be watching Downton Abbey in their frilly thongs, knitting needles raised, or watching the match with their mates, pint in hand? Should men be the strong, protective type or the kind that aren’t afraid to admit defeat, talk about their feelings and seek help? (I would certainly recommend the latter.)

It seems there is a lot of pressure on men to be all things to all people: the breadwinner, the brawn, the gentle lover, the comedian, the father, the mate. And everyone has their own ideas about what it means to be a man.

The Bible contains plenty of examples of manhood, good and bad. Apart from Jesus, every one of these men was flawed. Some liked a drop too much of the amber nectar, others stole, lied and killed. Still others liked to wear silky drawers… Ok, that’s not in there, but you never know.

The Bible is a great place to start if you want to know what real men are like, because it describes the journeys of ordinary men who made mistakes and overcame them, and of one extraordinary man who made no mistakes but paid for all of ours.

If you aren’t quite ready for the Bible yet, Sorted magazine is another place to read about men who are exploring the concept of masculinity as they journey through life themselves. We don’t have a knitting column (yet), but we discuss all things male, from business to politics to sex. Our hope is that it challenges and inspires you as well as providing quality entertainment and making you laugh.

Click here to buy your copy of Sorted magazine today.

No comments:

Post a Comment