Remember the old days when men could shave with nothing more than a hatchet and some whiskey? Or when having a problem with someone led to fisticuffs rather than "subtweeting"? Or when the nuclear family had a clear and obvious hierarchy?
A lot has changed in recent decades, and the way men are represented and groomed is no exception. Where we once expected– perhaps even demanded– that every person born with a penis be tough and stalwart in all things, we're now in an age where there is less stigma attached to guys expressing themselves in a variety of ways. The floodgates haven't fully opened and many guys still find themselves feeling repressed or pressured into presenting themselves according to others expectations, so there are still plenty of macho guys out there.
In an age of such broadened gender expectations, here are 5 super manly things we at Self-Himprovement think men should be able to do regardless of where they fall on the spectrum of expressing their manhood.
1. Balance a Checkbook/ Basic Budgeting
Whether or not you have a breadwinner mentality, knowing how to do some basic finance management is a skill that you can't pass up. The amount of money you're making doesn't matter either. High income, low income, or no regular income, keeping tabs on how much money you're spending compared to how much you're bringing in can help you stay out of hot water and can help you find opportunities to build wealth.
If this is a manly skill you struggle with (or if you're an impulse spender), be sure to check out this resources on the basics of budgeting to help you get started with building this skill.
2. Hold Other Men Accountable
Look, we get it. You want to uphold the Bro Code and be a good friend to your buddies. That's totally fine. Be a good friend– just consider that "being a good friend" doesn't mean letting your buddies be assholes.
Everyone who has watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone understood what Dumbledore meant when he said, "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." Just because someone is a buddy doesn't mean they're always going to be in the right and the responsibility for addressing someone's shortcomings typically falls on the shoulders of those closest to them.
If you want to think of manliness as a state of being bold and courageous and heroic, you can't sit idly by while other men perpetuate harmful ideas or actions.
It's not an easy skill to develop, but learning to point out when other guys are being misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, or racist is absolutely vital to the health of our manhood as a whole. Being a man and expressing our manhood is something men should be able to take pride in, but that's something we can't do when masculinity is dismissed as immature and harmful ideas being passed around as "locker room talk."
Allowing such bullshit to be acceptable or treated as the norm devalues the positive contributions that men can be making within their communities; it lowers our standards and drags all men down.
3. Understand and Respect Consent
Clearly expressed consent is the most important part of sex since "sex" can't exist without consent. Without consent, it's rape.
You've probably seen the ridiculous manchildren of Twitter claiming that you can determine someone's consent from their state of sobriety, a smile, or their clothes. Worse, you've probably also heard sitting legislators claim that rape isn't a big deal since the state of the human population is dependent upon "rape and incest."
Could there be anything more unmanly than these claims? How weak and simple-minded does one have to be to think that such notions are valid?
Real men should be smart enough to understand consent and should have the self-control and strength to put the wellbeing of others above their own sexual desires or sense of dominance.
4. Reduce their Carbon Footprint
If super hero movies have taught us anything, it's that saving the world is really frickin' manly and cool. And you know what you can do to help save the world? Reduce your carbon footprint!
Though there are a few folks who would disagree and say that it's pointless to reduce your carbon footprint, the scientific community is in agreement that we should be making serious efforts to slow climate change in order to help mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of rising sea levels, rising temperatures in the arctic, and shifting weather patterns.
Start by choosing something small, like using paper bags instead of plastic at the grocery store. Look for opportunities to walk or bike instead of drive. Turn off lights and electronics that you're not using. By taking initial baby steps and seeing how easy they are to fit into your daily life, you'll eventually start to feel empowered to take bigger steps with broader impact, such as contacting your legislators to voice your opinion on proposed climate legislation or, if that fails, joining the underground proletariat uprising that's planning to kidnap the handful of wealthy elites who are directly responsible for the majority of environmental destruction.
Reduce, reuse, recycle, and revolt.
5. Be Vulnerable
If you buy into the cultural idea that men should bottle up their emotions and always put forth a facade of impenetrable strength, you're shooting yourself in the foot. Contrary to public imagination, men are humans and humans experience a wide array of emotions.
Thinking that bottling up your emotions and refusing to show weakness is a mark of strength is a pretty common misconception, but it's also a mode of flawed thinking. In reality, refusing to show weakness is a means of sticking with the path of least resistance. It distances us from living in the moment and fully embracing our present experiences by constructing walls between us and others. In order to form genuine, intimate relationships with those around us, we need to allow ourselves to experience and express our emotions authentically. Doing so tears down the walls we build between ourselves and others and keeps us grounded in reality.
Perhaps more importantly, if men allow themselves to outwardly experience emotions like fear and sadness, it creates a model that younger men can see and replicate. It teaches young boys how to handle and express their emotions in a healthy way (which only sets them up for success).
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable can be terrifying, and it honestly may be the most difficult skill on this list to fully develop, but it is also at the root of each of these other skills and developing it will pay off exponentially in the other areas of your life.