What Does It Mean To Feel Manly? A Gender Interlude

I found this NPR article the other day that asked this question: What Object Makes You Feel Like a Man?  There were some pretty good answers to the question; the person in the interview mentioned his Adventure Time Bathrobe. One dude said a lawnmower, another a Swiss Army Knife. Mostly it turns into a talk of power tools and doing things on your own and feeling proud of your accomplishments.

The only problem I have here is that I don’t feel the question is fully understood (by that I mean I don’t understand the question). I don’t get the question because I guess it seems odd to me to “feel” manliness.  Let’s take the lawnmower guy for example.  No doubt the gas, the noise, and the accomplishment of finishing some yard work are good things.  If I didn’t have allergies, I could no doubt experience the same thing by mowing a lawn (it’s also in my lease that my landlord takes care of that anyway), but how does that all add up to feeling like a man?  What on earth does that feeling have to do with having a pair of testicles between my legs?

I can see some of you rolling your eyes here.  “Look, Pat,” you might say. “This doesn’t have to turn into a thing about gender identity and roles.  You know what feeling manly is.”  To which I say: No, I really don’t.  I know there are things that make me feel GOOD.  There are things that make me feel STRONG.  There are things that make me feel a sense of accomplishment, but that doesn’t mean they have to be MANLY.

I’m really uncomfortable with gender roles, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now.  I think it’s ridiculous to say that there are certain things only men do, and certain things women do (outside of their roles in procreation and childbirth, these things should be MUCH more flexible).  For example, I think that the idea that women should be homemakers regardless of their employment is preposterous.  There’s no reason a man can’t be a homemaker (I grew up with a stay-at-home dad). The assignment of the role of homemaker to women is something our society is moving away from, and for good reason; it’s ill-founded and rooted in patriarchy.  This isn’t to say women can’t be homemakers if they so choose, but that should be the reason that they enter into it: because they WANT to.

So let’s get back to mowing lawns. Plenty of people of both genders like mowing lawns, so why are we assigning that feeling the role of “manliness?”  Is it because only men should mow lawns? Yes, lawn care has traditionally fallen to the male in the past, but given our society with it’s blurred gender roles and everything, it seems counterproductive, then, to continue using what is effectively patriarchal language to describe emotions and feelings.

What say you, droogs?  Am I off my rocker?


5 thoughts on “What Does It Mean To Feel Manly? A Gender Interlude

  1. Off your rocker? No.

    But I don’t see any issue with gender specific feelings. I don’t think you’d slight a woman for feeling feminine when she got a manicure or wearing a pretty dress or, Hell, maybe mowing the lawn. I don’t think the task matters as much as the feeling it elicits. I feel manly doing an abundance of things, I feel accomplished during other things, I feel strong doing other things.

    I think instead of trying to make everything equal, we should be celebrating our differences not only in our genders but also in our personalities.

    On another notes, I am really freaking tired of hearing about Hobby Lobby (both sides). I just don’t want to add to the nuttiness and I need to vent somewhere. I mean, what do you do when you think everyone is an idiot?

    • I believe you quoted Douglas Adams when you told me to “hang the sense of it all and keep yourself busy.” :)

      Let me counter your comment with a question, though: what, exactly, is a manly feeling? Or a womanly feeling, for that matter?

      • Yes, I did :)
        I would define manliness or womanliness as the feeling that arises from the fulfillment or even shattering of any number of preconceived (whether sociological, physiological, psychological, etc.) gender archetypes. With this definition it is highly subjective, which is what I think I was alluding to (e.g. I feel manly when I make love to my wife, I feel manly when I mow the lawn, I feel womanly when I get a manicure, I feel manly when I do my stage makeup, I feel womanly when I lift something heavy, etc.). I would say it’s a specific kind of feeling of fulfillment unique to the individual based on how they identify with their gender. Does that make sense?

  2. Richard Beck wrote a great post a while back when Driscoll was in the news for making some sketchy patriarchal comments. You’d probably dig it, Patrick. As Beck points out, it’s important not to not to get issues of gender role interest confused with issues of agentic psychology. Loving Monster Truck rallies is a separate issue from psychological needs for power, control, and dominance.

    I also think there is something to the theory that he eludes to that attraction to stereotypical female activities (e.g., cooking, home design, the theater) is positively correlated with education–seems to be true for me anyway ;)

    Here’s the post:

    • I DID like this article! The understanding of agency was actually really helpful. It’s also the most objective article on Driscoll I think I’ve ever read.

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