Manliness Is More Than Obscure Skills

Manliness Is More Than Obscure Skills

Men today are definitely weaker, less masculine, and more childlike than they used to be in the country. That’s not a good thing for the country or for American women. Still, I’m not sure the definition of masculinity discussed here is entirely on point anymore:

They say it’s a man’s world, but Ernest Hemingway wouldn’t believe it if he were alive today, according to Marty Beckerman, author of “The Heming Way.

“Anything a Cub Scout could do, the average American guy can’t do, like how to hunt, how to fish, how to start a fire,” Beckerman said. “If you dropped us in the middle of the woods, we’d be dead within an hour.”

Vegetarian restaurants, spa treatments, butt-accentuating underpants, fruity cocktails — Hemingway would gouge out his eyes if he saw the indulgences consumed by men in 2011, Beckerman says (except for the fruity cocktails, which he drank with gusto.)

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The downfall of Beckerman’s male cohort originated, he said, with its dependence on computers.

“We can all search Google and update our worthless status messages, but few of us can skin a fish, navigate by starlight, climb to the apex of a mountain, or transform majestic creatures of the Southern Hemisphere into piano keyboards with a double-barreled rifle, a hacksaw, and a little elbow grease,” Beckerman wrote.

Men today aren’t spared any criticism, especially those who shave their body hair.

When he halts the attack, Beckerman wavers between two takes on Hemingway, the author of classics like “A Farewell To Arms” and “The Sun Also Rises.” There’s a nostalgic rhapsody for the decisive, courageous, self-reliant image of manhood embodied by Hemingway and his characters and the repudiation of the alcoholic, misogynistic, belligerent image of manhood embodied by Papa Hemingway and his male protagonists.

“The masculinity of the past had a lot of problems,” said Beckerman, 28, originally from Alaska, “but what Hemingway symbolized as a cartoon character is something that American men have lost.”

Here’s the thing: I don’t think you can define masculinity by being able to master obsolete skills. There was a time, not so long ago, when men actually needed to know how to make a fire with two sticks, skin a buck, or make a bed out of a slab of oak. Today? Barring a complete economic collapse that turns America into Mad Max world (That’s not as unthinkable as it used to be, by the way. Thanks, Obama!), few people are ever going to ever need those skills. For example, even my relatives who hunt deer, boar, and bear take the carcass into a professional who dresses the meat for a reasonable fee.

There are still masculine skills that can be of use: Shooting a gun, changing a tire, changing oil, jump starting a car, doing basic repairs, taking and throwing a punch, etc. Those are things that a man should learn how to do. However, it seems a bit out-of-time to define masculinity by skills that 95% of men will never need in their lifetimes.

At this point, mature masculinity is more about attitude and character than skillsets. Show me someone with courage, who leads, who’s decisive, who takes responsibility, who’s chivalrous, tough, ambitious, and self-reliant and no one who knows him will ever question if he’s masculine — and that’s whether he can navigate by starlight or not.

PS: Despite the disagreement with the author, the book, The Heming Way: How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested, Retro-Sexual Legend Within… Just Like Papa!, still looks like it would be a fun read.

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