Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Don't, don't you want me?

You know I don't believe you

when you say that you don't need me

--Don't You Want Me
, Human League

I didn't mean to hurt you,

I'm sorry that I made you cry,

I was feeling insecure,

You might not love me any more

--Jealous Guy,
John Lennon

All you pretty women,

Stand in line,

I can make love to you baby,

In an hour's time.

Now I'm a man

I spell M-A-N...man

--I'm a Man
, The Yardbirds

(The middle photo shows Mr. Obama trying to navigate a gate in New Orleans, 8/28/10. The L.A. Times ran a salient group of questions in the link to accompany the difficult scene.)

It plays into Ranger's experience at the recent Old Airborne Instructors Association reunion in Columbus, Georgia, where most of the usual members were in attendance, though the ranks are thinning.

The ages ranged from a 91-year-old paratrooper to the Vietnam vets, usually the youngest group. Most of these old troopers had their Master Parachute Wings before Ranger was out of the 4th grade. These are the men that trained and mentored many a young troop of my cohort.

They continue to inspire and awe, leading to today's topic:

What defines Manhood today?

Looking at and listening to the congregation of old troopers, one needn't mince words. Their manhood has slumped their shoulders and damaged their spines, demolished their knees and left behind the ravages of time, yet they still stand as tall.

But what is it that constitutes a man? Let's look at our recent top dogs: Are Obama, Bush or Clinton exemplars of manhood? What about the vaunted scholar-General Petraeus? What about the assassin McChrystal? Do our leaders have a confidence inspired by action, exuding from them like sweat on a trooper's brow?

Could anyone imagine any of our congressional leaders leading an assault on a bunkered up machine gun? There are a few exceptions -- Bob Kerrey, John Kerry, Daniel Inouye, Bob Dole, John Murtha, John McCain, Jim Webb, our own Alan Boyd -- but they are the exceptions in the upper echelons of our government.

Can you imagine President Obama humping a ruck sack or eating MRE's for six solid months? With nary a leaf of arugula in sight? In "Moral Clarity in the Age of the Metrosexual", Bernard Goldberg described Obama as
"more of the risotto with green apple kind [of man]." Or, is this not the measure of manhood? Perhaps we are firmly ensconced now in the era of "feeling one's pain" versus sharing it.

A scan of manhood depicted in film and t.v. presents an abysmal portrait of inane ineptitude and buffoonery. What movie shows us how to man-up? For every film that displays manliness, there are 20 that show man to be craven and clueless.

The animated programs The Simpsons and Family Guy paralleled the come down (predominately) of the white male in other media. The popular t.v. show
2 1/2 Men features three Peter Pans -- alcoholic and clueless pussy hounds. Like the leads in Boston Legal, as often as not they conclude the program in their own company with an alcoholic beverage, sans the solace of their supposed goal, a female.

This in itself reveals a societal trend as some of the males have sired offspring, but none manages to cohere the family unit. Their lust for sexual gratification begins and ends there, their offspring becoming a chiding inconvenience, nonetheless accusatorily standing as representative of what was once a more mainstream view of manhood. For these men it is all of a piece: A woman or a drink -- something to slake their loserly essence and remove them from their resistance to mature.

Another in this genre --
Rules of Engagement -- labels men as either fey metrosexuals or boorish brutes, whom the women spend their their time either trying to model or escape. It is I Love Lucy, 2010-style, both sexes jockeying for their best position, the men usually on the losing end of the stick. This program is followed by "The Big Bang Theory" which is lacking for Big Bangs, but not short on brilliant but clueless nerds.

We suppose it is G(r)eek tragedy in action: Every man has his Achilles heel. But these men have no anchor, their manhood, unballasted. It is as though they are taking clues from fashion magazines or Marlboro cutouts on how to be a man, and the result is an unappealing thin semblance of manhood.

Programs like
MI-5, 24 and The Unit, all masculine names or numbers (which are presumably, also masculine) offer the opposite extreme of ballsiness, lacking for any middle ground. Where is a man, or at least, a Hollywood facsimile of such? Where is the template that a young man can apply to his life to help him determine how to assume his manhood?

Ranger has been advised by women that a man should be
macho while also possessing the attributes of tenderness and emotion. Using this definition, he concludes that women want men to behave like butch lesbians. Women want us to be both tough and feeling, and these qualities seem contradictory.

Maybe this is a moot
point when Lady Gaga represents femininity (though Camille Paglia compellingly argues that she represents the Death of Sexuality.) Maybe men have been superannuated.

Nonetheless, we are game if you are:
What is your definition of manliness
? (this is an Equal Opportunity contest, prize as-yet to be determined.)

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Realistic Libertarian said...

To me, a real man is the guy who is completely comfortable in his own skin, unwilling to compromise for anyone.

That doesn't necessarily mean he has to be counter-culture. But usually by the time you are putting on man makeup you've crossed the line of doing things for yourself and are just out to "look good" for the rest of the world.

How's that for a definition?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 7:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Underground Carpenter said...

Hi Jim and Lisa,

Good post. I like best the posts that make me look up from my screen and wonder.

OK, I'm thinking, I'm thinking….

The one thing that defines the human male is anger, so I guess the ability to control his anger is what makes a man manly.

How about a RangerAgainstWar coffee mug?


Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 8:39:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A man is a male of the species who has not allowed his fears and weaknesses to prevent him from doing or becoming what he believes is right and best or, perhaps, just obtaining what he wants.

He controls his fears; not the other way around.


Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 5:08:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Carl said...

"We suppose it is Geek tragedy in action" Was that a typo or intentional? Either way - excellent! A true man is made from the inside out surmounting through continual personal struggle & sacrifice - courage, morality, honour, compassion (when the timing & circumstance requires it) and a steel will. All the steroids and other chemicals being pumped into bodies these days for external "benefits" do not in any way (in my opinion), make up for those internal shortcomings.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 5:40:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Juan Moment said...

Manliness is expressed via conduct, not vocabulary. It is the ability to overcome ones fears and to do the right thing despite the hardship this might bring. It’s shown by being man enough to own up to mistakes and face the music, and also by not worrying about dishes piling up.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 7:04:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Carl said...

Day after day I'm more confused..but I look for the light through the pouring rain..you know that's a game that I hate to lose..I'm feeling the strain..Ain't it a shame....Drift Away/Doby Gray 1973

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 9:45:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hi, and thanks to all the guy's who've answered (I hope for more!)

First, I have to sheepishly say that it was total coincidence I added the "Tweet" button beginning with this post, for somehow "tweeting" seems anathema to masculinity.

Real Lib,

I dunno about the compromise. I would say it depends. One mustn't compromise on one's bedrock beliefs, but compromise for the sake of amity is not necessarily a bad thing.

Having morals and not compromising those is a good, I think :)


A very thoughtful reply, as it has been said that men are only allowed a few socially-sanctioned emotions, anger being one. So anger stands in stead for a lor: disappointment/hurt/frustration/...
So, yes, controlling that potent anger is a good thing.

Now, we are not talking emotional repression here. Optimally, maybe a man could try and express the feelings without the damaging anger which often accompanies the. Just a thought.


Very good. A female counselor wrote a book, "Feel the Fear; Do It Anyway."


Just a typo (I think!), but I like your sense of humor. I also appreciate all of the qualities you list. It is a continual process, anchored by certain foundational beliefs. A compass which has true north.


Thank you -- "owning up to mistakes." That you do not worry about the dishes tells me you are no metrosexual :)

The consistent which I see thus far is a recognition of the need to overcome fear, weakness or adversity and do the right thing. Whining is NOT a male attribute.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 12:57:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

oh, and for UC;

I like the idea of a RAW mug. We have so many contest ideas ... I'll see what we can do.

The tentative prize is an 8 x 10 glossy of a bare-chested Alexander Putin on Russian steed in Tuva (alternately, with your head Photoshopped on.) But this might be a tad too ... metrosexual.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 1:03:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A man is defined by strength just as a woman is defined by tenderness - not that a good man or good woman is lacking in either quality.

A man fulfills his duty even when that duty is burdensome and unwanted. A man has an understanding of personal honor (integrity or principle) and tries to keep his honor intact. A man tries to be rational and just and that usually is demonstrated as generosity in fact and in spirit.

Personally, I reckon unadorned directness and action as a specifically male characteristic.

I've never known a perfect man but I've known some I would trust with my life, or more importantly, with the lives of those I love.

I must have led a very peculiar existence as I have never found "anger" to be a male characteristic.

Jay in N.C.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 1:50:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for confirming personal honor and integrity.

Far as the anger goes, in keeping with your statement that a man is "generous in fact and in spirit" + rational, these things equate to maturity. A mature (not just "older") man will respect his interlocutor, whether a "tender" woman or another man, and he will not shout his anger.

Ditto a good woman. A true person knows that sort of cruelty is toxic beyond the mere words spoken and can poison all good will. The goal of communication is killed, and the well is fouled.

An old saying: An unkind word spoken in anger takes a 1,000 to heal. You won't see it's return in your lifetime. Trust is the most precious possession; once trifled with, you can kiss it goodbye.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 2:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

If you win i'll send you a used canteen cup with a Ranger decal on it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 3:09:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

That's a good definition, but what is MAN MAKEUP?
I never use scented items of any sort, no aftershave, underarm crap or perfumes.
So- what is man make up and why would one wear such a thing.?

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 3:13:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Realistic Libertarian said...


You're right, the ability to make a compromise is a good thing. However, as poorly worded as my definition may have been, falls into it as well.

Lets us political beliefs as an example. Your boss starts making comments about something you disagree with. You can agree, disagree, or be silent. Agreeing to win brownie points makes you a tool, and definitely not a man. However either of the other two options are viable alternatives. This is in contrast to compromising that while you believe that deficits are bad for the nation going into debt to keep a school open is a neccesary evil.

One comes out of necessity and the other from social pressures.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 4:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Realistic Libertarian said...


Man makeup is exactly what you think it is. Crap that makes your eyes stand out (don't know the technical term) or concealer to hide those blemishes. Crazy, I know but here it is:


Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 4:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I have to disagree with some of the chivalry spin on the definition. I had actually started to put it into my own definition, but then I stopped and thought about some bad men I have encountered; barbarians in the truest sense, killers, outlaws, etc, but real men nonetheless.


Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 6:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...


When you ask "What (things/characteristics) defines manliness for you" you're really sort of asking "WHO/WHAT defines manliness" - period.

Is it the culture you live in? Is it you, your own ideals - which are, of course, influenced by your culture. The same if your definition comes from your friends, or your family, or your lover. All these people have their notions, usually in some way shaped but not always defined, by the society you live in.

Until about 200 years ago us guys were pretty much defined by what we DID. We were makers, doers, hunters and fighters, much as we had been since prehominid times.

Even if we didn't actually hunt or fight for our families or livings we were brought up with the physical and moral code of the forests, the farms, or the battlefield. Be strong. Don't show fear or weakness. Be in control; don't snivel, don't plead. Power is good, strength is good, because the strong and powerful survive and prosper.

So we were as tough, stern, and intimidating as we could be - not all that much different from dogs in a pack, because, like dogs, the weak ones get picked on.


Friday, October 15, 2010 at 1:09:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...


I don't think there would have been a hell of a lot of difficulty defining "manliness" for most people in most cultures for most of human history. Mind you, lots of cultures had different definitions from each OTHER - ask an 18th Century American farmer and a 19th Century Afghan hillman about the relative manliness of buggery and you'd get a hell of a fight - but most cultures had some pretty fixed standards for maleness.

I think our problem is related to the effects of technological civilization. In less then ten generations we've gone from mostly doing hard physical labor to intellectual or clerical work, from being hunters and fighters by necessity to being a mostly indoor society. The old things we HAD to be to survive and prosper aren't that important to us as men or as a culture anymore.

And what's left - things like controlling anger or fear, courage, morality, honour, compassion, steely will - are really, when you think of it, neither "masculine" nor "feminine" but merely "human".

So what we're left with is, in my opinion, trouble finding some hard societal rule for "manliness". Some of us go hunting for the old, hard standards of the hunting or battlefield, holding onto the hard, stoic manliness of an older, harder time. Others make the ideas of stern will or courage "manly", as if by definition a woman can't be stern or courageous.

So I'm not sure what a "man" is, other than a person with a "Y" chromosome. As a man do I want to be considered strong, brave, honorable, decent, truthful, overcome my fears, and persevere through hardships? Sure.

Would I consider all the above unwomanly, or be diminished if a women could do them? No.

So I guess that in the end my definition of "manliness" is no more than "being a good person" only with chest hair.

Seems lame, but I can't think of anything more gender-specific...

Friday, October 15, 2010 at 1:24:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Carl said...

Jim, Lisa & fellow RAWer's. In case you didn't know there is a website which has a few entertaining narratives, and quite pertinent to this particular entry: http://artofmanliness.com

Friday, October 15, 2010 at 2:36:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I misspoke -- the saying is, "An unkind word spoken in anger takes a 1,000 years to heal." No amount of cajoling, wheedling or apology will do; you don't get a mulligan. Cher sang it, "If I Could Turn Back Time." And not only unkind words, but unkind deeds, as well.

I have friends whose husbands have cheated on them. While they remain together (and probably always will), something is gone now, something fragile and tender which will never fully regenerate. It remains now in a vestigial form.

Trust is a part of what's gone. My friends are stronger, but they are wary, too. They are aware of things that would have been better had they not been.

I am not advocating for better OPSEC, for no one is that clever. I AM advocating for kindness. Which leads to ...

FDC, who limns being a good man down to being a good person. Agreed. To me, a good person is a kind one.

Further, he says, "The old things we HAD to be to survive and prosper aren't that important to us as men or as a culture anymore." This I find compelling for I question whether 10 generations (or 100) will breed out those old impulses. I suspect not. In addition the old traits do cross genders and ensure survival in any environment, be it the wilds of the Savannah or the marketplace.

Perhaps the only thing that is different now is that we have the leisure time to consider such fripperies as "working on oneself" and processing and considering the suitability of a mate, for the idea of the "love match" is a relatively new one.

Self-actualization (I kinda abhor the term) is a new pursuit, and let's call it the Oprahfication of the U.S.: The chic new digging out of every fact of oneself and one's relational stance with all significant others. Self-help is huge, and with it, a certain weird egoism and sense of entitlement.

I suspect all of this instability leaves men (and women) reassessing their place and their roles, both alone and vis-a-vis the opposite sex. I see many men and women dropping out of any thought of long-term relationship. Some behviorists have told them that is a quaint notion, so the serial monogamists remain proud of themselves (with occasional lapses) and retreat to their ice cream and Netflix in the interbellum.

I like Viktor Frankl's definition of a man in his recollection of his brutal time in concentrations camps, Man's Search for Meaning:

"Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influence alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp."

So ... to me, a man (or woman) does not complain that he was limited by others or this or that, but gracefully lays his burden down and lives the most uplifted life possible, both for himself and the benefit of those nearest him.

Not to get into a windy theological discussion, but I believe if Christians truly took the message of the Cross to heart, they would stop embracing their "crosses to bear" which only seems to perpetuate poor behavior. To me it seems a more direct route than praying for atonement would be to address the person against whom one has transgressed (and yeah, I reject Nietsche's ubermensch -- transgressions are real) and express genuine, sincere remorse and a desire to make amends. Like Juan said, admit your mistakes.

It takes a man (or a woman) to do this.


Thank you. Acco. to the article, "Minimalism Begets Manliness", I must be quite a guy :)

Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:02:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Peter of Lone Tree said...

How 'bout this:
A real man.
Okay, might be overdone. It's from a post at VetsToday entitled THE UGLY AMERICAN AND HIS FRANTIC RACE OVER THE ABYSS – ON TO THE TRASH HEAP OF HISTORY.

Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 10:59:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

...Little bias there, Peter -- "sons of Satan” in IsraHELL" !?!

Don't recall no Israelis attacking the Cole, or WTC, or embassies, or ...

Your friend,


Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 1:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous basilbeast said...

I'll go with "personhood" as well. After all, both men and women have the same basic template. Men and women do tend to think, talk and solve problems differently.
And is the homosexual man less manly than the heterosexual? Or any other combination of "Homo Sapiens" that we seem to have?
And then throw Viagra and Cialis into the mix. Bob Dole used to hawk that stuff and Rush Limpballs ( notice any bias there, eh? ) couldn't do without his borrowed supply overseas.
Honesty and responsibility are the canons of character and personhood for me.
And let the sexes interpret them as they will.


Monday, October 18, 2010 at 6:34:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous basilbeast said...

From TPM today:

On one side there was Paul calling on Conway to "run a race as a man" and "stand up and be a man instead of just calling me names."

On the other side there was Conway, who accused his rival of forcing a woman to "kneel before a false idol."


Monday, October 18, 2010 at 6:54:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for this -- the use of "woman" as a pejorative. It gives ma an idea for a piece ...

Monday, October 18, 2010 at 1:52:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


p.s. -- re. your cmts. on Mr. Limbaugh: That's bias I can get behind :) I see not one redeemable thing about that person, unless he is hiding his better self elsewhere ...

Monday, October 18, 2010 at 1:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Soy metrosexual said...

Good post.

Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 9:55:00 AM GMT-5  

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