In Defense of Manly Men

I’ll be the first to admit I really don’t understand new music. Yes, I am only 31 but these new artists are hard to keep up with. But here is what I do understand: what’s new was once old. The inspiration for this comes from two people; one person I am pretty neutral about and one person who makes my skin crawl and how one faithful day their paths crossed (via the internet because that little COVID thing that’s still around) and inspired me to write my thoughts down.

When Harry met Candace

Harry Styles is an interesting fellow. The former member of One Direction has started off on his own career since the disbanding of 1D a few years ago. His album Fine Line was released December 2019 with some relative successes in the UK. He released three singles, all of which were successful in UK Charts and even cracking the Billboard 100, but he really hit pay dirt with his wildly infectious summer hit Watermelon Sugar in May 2020. Toping Billboard 100 and peaking at #4 in the UK charts, Styles also performed it on Saturday Night Live, which is in my opinion the sign you’ve made it as an artist. I’ve said that I don’t understand new music, and Harry Styles is not my first choice for listening in my spare time. I do get heavy David Bowie vibes from Mr. Styles. Not just because they’re musical artists from the UK, but also because their musical style (prog pop, funk, soul, indie pop), the writing style of their songs, Watermelon Sugar hits me similar to Moonage Daydream and his style/demeanor. The explosion in his popularity lead to Harry posing for Vogue magazine, becoming the first man to solo cover the magazine ever. In the photoshoot, Harry is seen in a field wearing a number of dresses, posing with balloons, being #handsome, famous and all that. Not really a big deal, right? Well…

Candace Owens is someone who I wish I heard less about each day. The leader of the “Blexit” (black people exiting the trend of voting Democrat/being liberal) to show they’re free thinkers and not bound by the fallacies and unfulfilled promises of the left. I commend her for being someone who has successfully gotten her message out there but there are many times where I will read something that Candace says and I think “she’s just playing the game of those who pull her strings”. This happened to be one of those cases when Candace Owens decided to tweet out this in response to Harry gracing the cover of the fashion magazine. The hashtag #Bingbackmanlymen trended for a few hours on Twitter that day and Owens doubled down on her take later. It is worth noting that Harry put this on his Instagram obviously a jab at Candace Owens and her remarks on Harry’s career choices.

A man is exactly who they say the are

Now, I am not here to commentate on celebrity beefs, but I am here to answer a question that I have been meaning to address before: What makes a man a man? Since many people are in the habit of telling others who and what they are and what they can be, I figured I would throw my two cents out there on this issue. And in short let me say this: a man is exactly who they say they are. With that statement, a man can be who they choose to be, and they are allowed to change it if they seem fit to the change.

Now you’re a MAN!

Being a product of the 90s I grew up with an idea of manly men and what it means to be a man: I watched Chicago Bulls games and marveled at Michael Jordan. I was in middle school when Brian Urlacher was drafted to the Bears and the rebirth of the Monsters of the Midway. I knew of movies like Terminator, Rambo and similar movies. I loved Power Rangers (still do to this day) and I was, and still am, a die hard pro wrestling fan. Add to this I grew up the oldest of four boys with my mom and dad. We were a rough and tumble, muddy up our clothes, scrape and bruise our knees boys. Essentially nothing was too out of the ordinary for us. When I was 10, I was interested in things usual ten year old boys are interested in: doing well in school, sports, video games, playing with my friends and anything else that crossed my mind. But I also played in the orchestra, sang in the choir, participated in theatre, generally kept my room organized and neat, cooked, babysat my younger brothers, possessed a high emotional intelligence (emotional maturity was another story) and above all just tried to treat everyone nicely. I was a boy, because that’s who I saw myself as and that’s how I chose to express myself. I am a man because that’s how I see myself and that’s how I choose to express myself. Yeah, I did things that were typical boy stuff, but I only did it because I wanted to. As I went through adolescence those interests were only refined in part because now I was trying to attract girls. Nobody told me that I had to like girls, it’s just what I was attracted to. I was never explicitly told that “Kyle this is what a man is…” from a physical sense. The media I consumed told me that enough. Growing up with Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Michael Jordan, the X-Men, Brian Urlacher, my dad and uncles, my football coach Dwayne Springs, Ludacris, Mystikal, Ja Rule, 50 Cent, LL Cool J, Denzel Washington and many more, I saw different types of men in different capacities and never questioned it. They were all men because that’s who they said they were. I guess I consider myself lucky because I think I phased out a majority of the hyper masculinity that the decade was notorious for.

A Gray-te way to Think

My father was and still is a big influence in my life. As most fathers do, he dropped many pearls of wisdom as we were growing up trying to make sense of our world. One that he would say from time to time when we would get upset is this quote that I come back to regurally:

Life is neither black nor white. It is shades of gray.

Ralph P. Robinson Jr. c. Whenever the Robinson boys were upset about something they couldn’t figure out

Being young and inexperienced means you have the gift of not thinking about peoples’ personal perspectives. When you are younger, you are able to see things as right/wrong, bad/good, yes/no etc. When you lack the experience, you see things as is or is not with no middle ground in sight. It is only when you come across something that is contrary to your understanding that you start to see that life is indeed neither black nor white. Depending on how you look at something, that shade of gray can look whiter or blacker than the way someone else sees it. This is why the issue of masculinity is complex because some people will see it as one absolute and others will see it as another. One person will see masculinity as bulging muscles and thick beards and some will see it as wearing a ball gown on the cover of Vogue. Your personal definition of masculinity could be different from mine because the world is indeed shades of gray. Would there have been a time in my life where if you asked me “Do men wear dresses?” and I would have said no without thinking. But that’s why getting out and learning, and allowing yourself to be wrong potentially and experiencing life is vital. Because your shade of gray may not be the same as mine. A middle linebacker in the NFL is just as much of a man as a male ensemble member of a Broadway show. Ronnie Coleman is as much of a man as Elliot Page because that’s who they say they are and that is enough.

Men are not men because of what they do. Men are not men because of what they look like. Men are men because of who they say they are. Life is hard enough without policing each other over who is doing life the right way. Make an effort to learn about who a person is based on who they say they are not what you think they should be. Even if it is something you may not understand, there’s always something that you can learn from someone else about why the see life the way they do. I promise, the worse that can happen is that you learn something about someone else.

Are they men that wear tights? Or are they men because of the tights?

Take care of yourself and be well my friends!


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