Man Card

You’re not a real man.

There. I said it.

And I felt disgusted just typing it.

We read a short story in class today and the fictional father was harassing his fictional son about the qualities of being a real man. Instead of the father affirming his son’s value, he spent his time tearing him down. Humiliating him. Stealing his manhood. Though the story was fictional, it sickened me, because often times fiction is torn from the pages of reality. We write what we know.

So you’re not a real man.

The truth is, you’ve probably been told this before. By the media. You’re not tall enough. You don’t have the same sense of style. You haven’t earned the same sociology-economic status. Perhaps, worse yet, your manhood was questioned by someone you cared about or respected. They said you didn’t measure up. They compared you to someone else, and found you to be lacking in some area. If you’ve lived any number of years as an adult male on this earth, you’ve had someone threaten to pull your man card.

But when did manhood become standardized and sanitized? Who decided just what criteria one needs to fulfill to get his man card? Who has the right to revoke it?

The real truth is that manhood is more dynamic than static. We are a differentiated bunch. Just as there is no single definition of being “white”, or being “black” or being “attractive”, there is also no set standard for being a “real woman” or a “real man”. Does a real man have to like sports? Does a real man have to be over 6′ tall? Does a real man have to have a bass voice and know how to wield a socket wrench? Obviously, there are preposterous standards. It seems to me that the creator of men decided what they should be like, and he seemed to create quite a continuum of manhood.

May our boys grow up to be cherished and affirmed just as they are, with role models who bless them with words, actions and relentless affection, rather than tearing them down. Give them their man card early on, stamp it often with examples of strength, humility, and compassion, and let them construct their own sense of manhood. That seems to be our purpose and role as fathers.

Then watch in awe, as they each grow to be a real man that you can be proud of.

5 thoughts on “Man Card

  1. What a beautiful slice. I particularly loved your mantra (that I feel I could HEAR you yelling out!) in the last paragraph. I will be sharing this with the TWO men that we have slicing with us this year. They will really appreciate it, as did all us women out there!

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  2. >But when did manhood become standardized and sanitized? Who decided just what criteria one needs to fulfill to get his man card? Who has the right to revoke it?<

    Just as I worry about the boxes that my daughters are put in, I worry about the boxes that our sons are put in as well. I watch the boys in my class, and see how people gravitate towards the athletes while the smart ones shift in the shadows. I watch as the hunters are high-fived, while the artists are ignored. Manhood, like adulthood, has so many slight differences and shades. Thank you for keeping that conversation in front of the students and for sharing this with us!

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  3. YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! Every word is so true, Greg. Our boys today need role models who show them the many sides of strength, humility and compassion. I think that is greatly lacking. I’m with Kevin — You guys need to start a “Real Men Write” campaign. You also should publish this piece for a larger audience. Loved it!!

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  4. Greg,
    I don’t think I have heard this phrase spoken to me, directly, but I do worry about the boxes that we put our young people into, even today, with so many ways to express individuality. What is a real man or a real woman, anyway? Someone who loves others, and supports others, and nurtures the world to make it a better place. But gender identity always filters in to discussions, too, and observations of others.
    I have been Slicing for nine years now and know you have been Slicing for some of that time, too, and I have often noticed, and mentioned to Stacey and company, how few men there are in the mix. There are more this year than other years, but it has been fascinating to wonder about.
    Why not more men writing Slice of Life? Is the daily journal/documenting a women’s kind of writing? (no) Is this a community of female educator/writers? (sort of, but not really). Is the invitation to write speaking to the male writers? (I don’t know)
    We need a new slogan/meme/viral media campaign: Real Men Write.

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  5. Here, here! Well said, all around but this, “The real truth is that manhood is more dynamic than static. We are a differentiated bunch” absolutely electric. Please keep at it. Stories like these open doors to conversations that need to be had! Excellent slice!

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