WaPo: Manliness?

Saturday, March 18, 2006 at 10:40 AM

Proceed cautiously. You're about to see a lesbian admit something shocking! The faint of heart may wish to turn back now. Okay, you asked for it. Ahem. I love real men! You can reread that as often as you like, it'll still say that I -- a big ol' lesbian -- love real men. No, I don't want to sleep with them or marry them or take them home to mother. That's where the lesbian part comes in. But I definitely love them in a respectful, platonic, completely lesberrific kind of way.

So, you can imagine how really angry I get about nonsense theories like that being proposed by Harvard's Harvey C. Mansfield about how there's some sort of crisis of masculinity. The solution to this "crisis?" Let's bring back the bygone days of "manly men" who punched people and kept women in their place. This guy wouldn't know a real man if he bit him.... okay I don't know if real men would go around biting each other on the ass for no reason. (This is not to say that men who do like to bite other men on the ass aren't real men.)

Real manhood isn't "Me Tarzan. You Jane." grunting, chest thumping, ball scratching crap. Real men don't have to hit someone or kill something to "prove" their manhood. Masculinity is more than how many women you've bedded or how many men you've beaten up. Real men know they're men, no stupid displays necessary.

Trying to pin "masculinity" down to the aggressive, violent stereotype is insulting to real men. It degrades and dehumanizes them, painting them as animals. The "manly man" is nothing more than muscle, testosterone and a penis. There's no room in that archetype for the mind, heart and soul of a real man.

A real man thinks, feels, dreams, and hopes. He doesn't need to be over someone else to know his own worth. Real manhood comes from within and is won in an internal struggle more difficult and often more frightening than the battlefield. Real men, by the way, don't start fights, although they may finish one or two when necessary.

Real men do what's right even when other people think they're crazy because their own self-respect is worth more than the admiration of their peers. A real man will help someone who's hurt him just because it's right. A real man will cry if there's something worth crying over.

A real man knows how and when to balance his dreams with his responsibilities, his freedom with his obligations, his wants with other's needs. He knows when to walk away and when to take a stand even if the whole world calls him a fool or worse.

A real man knows that greater physical size and strength may make him male but they don't make him a man. A real man knows when to own up to his mistakes and to take the knocks he's earned so that he can move on as a better man. A real man is loyal to his friends and faithful to his wife. Most of all, a real man is bound to his word and dedicated to his own character.

I count myself privileged to have real men in my life. I'd name them but they'd just see that as an opportunity to mock me. That's one of the great things about being friends with real men. They'll lift you up when you need it, but they also know how to keep you humble. So, I'll just say thanks. You know who you are.