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The New Manliness

The September 27th issue of Newsweek features an article by writers Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil entitled, “Men’s Lib.” “What’s the matter with men?” the authors ask. “For years, the media have delivered the direst of prognoses. Men are ‘in decline.’ Guys are getting ‘stiffed.’ The ‘war on boys’ has begun. And so on.” They cite Hanna Rosin’s declaration about “The End of Men” in The Atlantic (fiercely dissected in this blog not long ago).

Without doubt, there’s a lot of confusion today about what a guy needs to do and be. Romano and Dokoupil criticize what they call displays of “throwback masculinity” such as rich urbanites strutting around in hunting gear. They’re right: we can’t retreat into the woods in deference to “some musty script” of manliness. The man for our times must be a man of our times, and changing gender roles can’t be ignored. We need to look forward, to evolve, to redefine our gender. But in ultimately suggesting that the solution lies only in embracing “girly jobs and dirty diapers,” the authors miss the point. Sure, men with children should strive to be good breadwinners and good parents. I can’t agree more! But so should women. Gender roles have neutralized in many ways and nobody should be afraid to change a diaper or do the carpooling. But that doesn’t help us define what masculinity is. If anything, by focusing on genderlessness, it just tells us what it’s not.

A different take on the subject is offered by Zosia Bielski in “Are men being robbed of their masculinity?” (published September 30, 2010 at GlobeandMail.com and accessible here). In asking the question, “Do women really want emasculated men?” Bielski strikes on the same chord we hit in Alpha Male Challenge and suggests that things are just a little more complicated than spending more time in the nursery. After all, it was Amy Brayfield’s essay “Why I left my beta husband” (published in Marie Claire magazine) about why her marriage tanked that helped drive forward the first chapter of Alpha Male Challenge:

Here was the story of a driven businesswoman who left her stay-at-home-dad–husband despite his dutiful accommodations to her career. For all his housework and commendable parenting efforts, she realized one day that it had been almost a year since they’d made love and that just the thought of his touch made her “recoil.” Had she changed, or had he? We know from the research that guys’ testosterone levels drop after marriage and children, and that they also decrease when we stop accepting competitive challenges. Had his taken a nosedive? Clearly, he lost his edge, maybe even became depressed (associated with low testosterone). And in his wife’s mind, he’d been cut down from the “sexiest man in the world” to no man at all . . . and with no sex at all. He’d been neutered. As she explained, “The truth is, I wasn’t attracted to him anymore. . . . I’d neutralized him as a sexual being. I wanted to be overwhelmed by the sheer power of his masculinity in the bedroom, but I wasn’t. Because I felt like the man in our relationship.” And, it would seem, he didn’t.

[excerpted from Alpha Male Challenge, Chapter One]

Every guy should strive to be the best parent he can be. But he should also strive to be the best man he can be in all other ways – physically, socially, mentally. And that’s what Alpha Male Challenge is all about.

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