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What Does It Mean To Be A Man?

978 words - 4 pages

What does it mean to be a man? To many people, it means engaging in physically demanding activities, such as playing sports or manual labor. Just the word "masculine" conjures up images of action movies, explosions, and fearless heroes whose ability to make jokes in dangerous situations borders on sociopathy. But by definition alone, "masculine" simply means "of or like men or boys; male." "Machismo," on the other hand, is defines as "overly virile; domineering." Throughout our lives, society teaches us that "machismo" and "masculinity" are one and the same. This idea could not be further from the truth. While a man may show qualities of machismo, they are not required to be considered masculine. This brings us back to the beginning: What does it mean to be a man? I believe that what makes a man a man is adherence to principles.
In her essay "Why Men Don't Last: Self-Destruction as a Way of Life," Natalie Angier examines the reasons why men have a shorter average life span than women, and why more men than women die every year. One of these reasons is that "men are natural risk-takers, given to showy displays of bravado, aggression and daring . . ." (Angier 372). According to Linda Chamberlain, a psychologist who specializes in treating compulsive gambling, "[m]en . . . like the feeling of being a player, and taking on a struggle with the house to show that they can overcome the odds and beat the system" (qtd. in Angier 372). Chamberlain also explains that male gamblers often exhibit the aforementioned risk-taking behavior. The "traditional image" of manhood appears to be little more than a violation of common sense. The purpose for this behavior is often to attract a mate, and in the past, it would have served a man well. Primitive man would attract as many mates as possible to ensure that his family line continued. In "Why We Love 'Mad Men,'" Lauren Goodlad examines Don Draper, a character in the TV series Mad Men. Don, a married man, has had affairs with multiple women. To the traditional man, Don is someone to be respected. But in the 21st century, there are more refined ways to attract a mate, making such macho displays unnecessary and often dangerous.
Angier also discusses the cause of a higher suicide rate in men than in women. She explains that while women attempt suicide more often, men complete the act more often. To the traditional man, surviving a suicide attempt is not seen as "surviving," but as "failing." The traditional man is not allowed to fail, lest he be labeled "unmanly." This is one of the ways in which machismo can be dangerous. It pressures men to take big risks, often with a success/failure mentality. If he succeeds, he is a man among men, to be envied and admired. If he fails...

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