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Guest Blog: Sam Thompson

Last week at the Survivors Manchester AGM 2017, I was overwhelmed to be asked to be the new Survivors Manchester UK Ambassador. I’m joining writer, blogger, dating expert and entrepreneur Charly Lester; actor James Sutton; Comedian Richard Gadd; and ex-Professional Football Player, Steve Walters; and I couldnt be more proud. This is the organistion that helped me after I was raped, which i’ve spoken about previously, and want to do everything I can to help. I’m really attentitive to the news at the moment, with all the discussions on masculinity following the Harvey Weinstien news scandal and its a subject that Duncan and I speak about a lot. So I thought I’d put pen to paper and write my thoughts.

The subject of manliness is something that I appear to encounter on virtually a daily basis. It crops up in almost all of my interviews with media, discussions with friends and every time Harry the spider graces us with his presence. However no matter how many times I discuss the subject I am left questioning what manliness actually is, how it is monitored and if indeed I can even be classed as a ‘man’.

I genuinely believe that in a society where we strive for gender equality and the voice of the LGBT community to be heard that manliness, or the perception of manliness, is actually obsolete. I identify as a heterosexual male and therefore in the eyes of many I should ooze manliness from every pore in my body however I can confidently say that I have, and never will be interested in conforming to the belief that you are only a ‘man’ if you follow a specific list of commandments. I feel that we would become so much more progressive as a race if we could just eliminate this ludicrous medieval perception and move on with our lives in any which way we feel is right. By doing this it will then allow both men to talk about their sexual orientation, gender dysphoria, depression and traumas without being ridiculed by the rest of the nation.

Therefore I ask you to engage with me for just a moment whilst I highlight a few of the discrepancies and misbeliefs that cause pain to so many people worldwide.

It will very quickly become apparent to you all that not only could it be challenged that I am not a ‘real man’ under this misconception but also it is sceptical as to whether or not I could be remotely classed as a historian. Nonetheless for me to be able to evidence manliness to be an out-dated practice I must first attempt to enlighten you to the fact that the way in which we should live our lives has been engrained into every generation since Ancient Greek philosophy first began.

The Nicomachaen Ethics is the name given to Aristotle’s best-known work on ethics, which explores the theme of how man should live. It is considered to be one of the most important historical philosophical works, which indirectly had an influence within early European Law. In its simplest form these teachings tell you how to be the best man that you can be and in return this will lead to happiness. Therefore manliness at this time meant being the best man that you can be.

The ancient romans believed manliness meant living a life of virtue, meaning a life of high moral standards. The English word ‘virtue’ is taken from the latin word ‘virtus’ which in Ancient Rome carried connotations of excellence, courage and worth, which were all perceived as masculine strengths.

It is hard to pin point an agreed definition of what manliness is. The dictionary will tell you that manliness is simply the traditional male quality of being brave and strong. However in modern life being able to put a shelf up in the kitchen evidences supposed ‘manliness’ and although it could be argued that this takes an element of strength, on what planet would this be considered an act of bravery?

Throughout history it is clear that men have had this fixation with ‘manliness’ or being manly and although I feel that strength and bravery would be taken in to consideration during moderation, in order to score some serious ‘man points’ you would need to evidence all of the following: Strength; Bravery; Intelligence; Wealth; Loyalty; Resilience; Resolution; Integrity; Sacrifice.

Now I am sure when removing an unwanted dragon from your back garden these are very useful traits to possess but in modern society I am not even sure that they can be found in most of our world’s leaders. So it becomes very apparent that our definition of manliness has changed somewhat, particularly over the last 50 years, and therefore do we not require an updated edition of our Collins?

At least the historic definition gave men a goal post, something to focus on and work towards. Every Tom, Dick and Harry now has their own ideas on what makes a man manly so is there no wonder that this causing vast amounts of stress on men worldwide. Although it would appear that we can’t agree on what manliness currently is, we can agree that there the modern interpretation loosely follows the historic definition as I will now try and explain.

Last week I discovered an irritating noise coming from the blind on the celling of my parent’s conservatory. Thinking that this peculiar noise was nothing more than a fly trapped with its wings ricocheting against the window. I walked over, grabbed a chair, climbed up and stuck my hand straight in.

This was no fly. I flung back in astonishment, heroically leaping to the floor in order to plan my next move.

It wasn’t long before my friend burst out in hysterics whilst telling me to “man up”. Quickly dismissing her comments I returned to the matter in hand. After multiple homemade contraptions had fallen to the beast in the blind I finally removed what turned out to be a dragonfly and placed it outside.

As an independent party to this blog post my friend identified that removing that dragonfly was a manly task, which required lots of manliness. I believe that she did this by saying something that I’m sure we all hear and use frequently, “man up”. This story symbolises a fraction of the modern definition of manliness. But it all honesty if I had refused to get the dragonfly, would I be less of a man? No, but under the modern definition of manliness, maybe.

There are a number of blogs, books and lectures that enable men to discover how to increase their manliness. After reading through as much as I can before reaching the brink of insanity I have come to the conclusion that it is the biggest load of codswallop I have ever laid my eyes on. There’s a running theme of contradictions, sexist views and just outright stupidity. This is why the meaning of manliness has been lost, therefore it should be forgotten.

A man by definition is a male human. A male’s gender is determined by a number of biological factors such as a person’s anatomy and chromosomal make up, there is however exceptions to this found in both transgender and intersex men.

The perception of manliness is not just something that challenges men psychologically and emotionally. There are a number of physical attributes that supposedly determine how manly a man is, such as: Facial Hair; Body Hair; Broader Shoulders & Chest; Greater Muscle Mass; a More Prominent Adam’s Apple; Deep Voice; Height; even Dick Size

If we go back to the dictionary definition of manliness, the traditional male quality of being brave and strong, other than ‘greater muscle mass’ how is any of the above relevant to being brave and strong? It’s not. In fact although I may be mistaken I am relatively confident that core strength has no relevance to a person’s muscle mass anyway, that’s why steroids are no more useful than an injection of Botox.

Although the above is not mentioned in any definition of manliness, within modern culture we have begun to judge men and rate their appearance based on their ‘manly’ features. The majority of people are against the objectification of women, however I believe that far too many of us overlook the fact that allowing a man’s manliness to be judged by his physical attributes leads to the same psychological disorders and insecurities within a person.

When we talk about somebodies physical appearance it is generally based around how attractive or unattractive we find that person. All these characteristics are things that people may or not find attractive in one another but can they really be used to determine how much of man they are? I hope not otherwise I am significantly less of a man in the morning to when I go to bed.

So just to round up manliness is a confusing term given to multiple things for no real reason. It isn’t something that should bother us men but for some reason it does and it is about time that we tried to move past it. Just because you aren’t good at DIY, you choose to stay at home with the kids, you can’t grow a beard or you didn’t fight back when you were assaulted… it doesn’t make you any less of a man. I promise.

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