There’s been a lot of intense, high quality writing about men, manhood and what it means to be a man lately. Maybe it’s the trickle down of having an unstable, immature US President exasperating and sometimes terrifying the world? Maybe it’s a growing awareness, in the wake of the #metoo and FutureIsFeminine movements, that it’s finally time to have a reckoning on some of the previous behaviours of men? Maybe it’s something else entirely.
All I know is that there are a lot of essays flying around about toxic masculinity (the new catch phrase) and other questions about what it means to be a First World male in 2018.
Articles with checklists such as this, on ‘how to spot a Tender Man’:
- Is he invested in all of his relationships, not just romantic ones?
- Does he express his emotions in a healthy way?
- Is self-awareness a concept he’s comfortable with?
- Does he commit to personal growth?
- Are boundaries something he is aware of and respects?
- Is he unafraid of male intimacy — for instance, can he express affection for male friends without making a gay joke?
(and yes, that was tender, not tinder)
Steve Biddulph would know the answer to most of those questions. He has been around for a long time, advising on how to raise boys among other specialities, and he’s written a strong piece about how now might be an opportunity, the time that modern man can finally drop the masks and be genuine, emotional and free.
One of Australia’s greatest living authors, Tim Winton, is pushing a new book which looks at toxic masculinity and he seems to feel we’re a bit further behind than Biddulph suggests. In a recent speech, Winton expanded on his view of young men and how older Giants Among Men could be better helping shape and guide developing young men away from the old, misogynistic and blunt-instrument behavioural patterns.
And then, there is this astonishing story from The Guardian, about a search for a better form of masculinity – featuring a man who is a self-confessed former rapist. It raises one very important question, if nothing else: at what point can your previous sins be put aside so you can be accepted as wanting to genuinely be part of the solution? With the #metoo movement, this is a key shift that needs to be made… letting men into the tent, to help form the future that women want and a lot of men want too.
Right now, the ex-rapist would understandably still find a lot of slammed doors in his face. How do you feel about that? Have a read …
Finally, the ‘tender man’ checklist at the top of this article was from a piece on Medium, by an author called Terra Loire. Having defined her version of the Tender Men she would love to see, she goes looking for them in pop culture and comes up with everything from Hogwarts professors to hobbits, male strippers to pretty much the entire cast of Moonlight.
I’m not sure I agree with all her reasonings but it was nice to see a piece celebrating good men, instead of shining every spotlight there is on the arseholes bringing the rest of us down.
Let’s aim to not be in the Shithead Army, to use Winton’s phrase.
Let’s show our boys a better way, respect our women and act what we preach.
Or to put it more simply, be Sam the Hobbit, my friends. Be the Hobbit.
(Special thanks to Seamus Bradley for inspiring and researching so much of this piece)