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A "man" vs. a "person"


I recently took part in a “males only” workshop at a local private high school. It was an unlikely opportunity for an advocate of traditional masculine ideals, especially given the fact that the workshop was part of this fairly liberal school’s yearly “Diversity Conference.” I was thankful for the chance to get across some countering viewpoints. I shared the floor with a veteran leader of men’s groups, and I knew we had different aims from the get-go, but I had the first hour.

To begin, I played the guys my favorite scene from The Outlaw Josey Wales—the part where Wales rides up to the Comanche chief Ten Bears and bargains for peace.

“There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see. And so, there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men.”

There is iron in your words of death.
This is how civilization happened.
Agreements between men, backed by the threat of violence.
This is how men made this world.

That’s not something the kids hear every day. And yet, it is absolutely fundamental to any realistic understanding of how the human world has always worked.

Has anyone ever been told to “act like a man,” to “man up?”

All hands raised.

What were they trying to get you to do?

And they gave me gold. All of the right answers. I wrote them on the whiteboard under the heading “MAN.”

Tough it out.

Be strong.

Don’t be afraid.

No whining.

Don’t show emotions. Stoicism.

My counterpart chimed in with “Do what I want you to do.”

Yeah, that’s true.

I talked it out a bit and made the point that all of those things (with the exception of the last one) could be reduced to some form of STRENGTH. Strength of body, strength of will, strength of purpose.

Two circles. One for all of the things that women do and are, one for all of the things that men do and are. Substantial overlap, but as you move in either direction, you get qualities that are more often attributed to one sex or the other. The overlap is “personhood,” being human. The edges are the extreme masculine and the extreme feminine. And the exceptions don’t disprove the general rules.