The emergence of feminism in the 1960s brought about what many might have deemed an assault on men and manhood. As an idea, feminism was sound. It sought equality for women, especially in the areas of employment and education. Despite a long history of right suppression, women have the capacity to contribute at a high level, and in many cases have been the key to eliminating poverty in poorer countries around the world. The feminist movement have picked up more steam recently, and with it, there are more claims that men are under assault. While it does not have to be true that an advance for women has to mean a regression in rights for men, these two are often juxtaposed. While the focus remains today on women and what they can accomplish, it appears that men are losing their focus on just what makes a man worthwhile.
The American man has long needed a capital “M.” While certainly not perfect, the history of men suggests a capability of achieving great things. Men explored the world and founded America. They wrote the constitution and the declaration of independence. Men have served as president, landed on the moon, and designed the personal computer. The characteristics that make for a successful man have not changed, but they seem to have been lost on some over the last few decades.
Man with a capital “M” is characterized by work ethic, especially in America. The country has its fair share of work-a-holics, which may be seen as a fault, but Americans will never be accused of failing to work as hard as some of its neighbors. The average American man works more than 40 hours per week. Some work in difficult jobs with manual labor. Others slave away at desks for upwards of 70 hours per week in professional jobs. Whatever the case, men today are working harder than ever, looking to get ahead and support families even despite an economy that will not seem to recover.
Men today have the capacity to live longer and live healthier lives if they will simply take advantage of some of the medicine that is available to them. For the longest time, men have been taken down by prostate problems, but modern medicine provides a means for easy detection. Even colon and gastro-intestinal problems – long a common killer of older men – can be treated by skillful doctors. Unfortunately, a sense of false confidence and bravado has seemingly infected the male psyche. In an effort to prove that men are “tough” enough to handle life, many avoid going to the doctor until it gets to be too late. Going years on end with a doctor’s visit will only lead one to living a shorter life, especially for people who have poor lifestyles already. While this sort of toughness might seem as if it is a part of the male DNA, it does not have to be. Men with a capital “M” recognize that one of the primary aspects of being a man is having the humility to accept that one is fallible. Likewise, one of the primary aspects of being a man is using one’s brain to make the right choices.
Men today must be responsible, both for their lives and for their health. Just as more men are choosing to work long hours in response to the struggling economy, many more must choose to do something about the many health problems that men can pick up along the way. Men tend to suffer from stress-induced conditions, including cancer and heart disease. Some develop high blood pressure because they are not active enough. Others have joint and bone problems, culminating in life-altering pain that keeps them from living a complete life. The good news for men is that they do not have to live this way. There are available means for men to do the things that they need to do in order to get healthy.
Men with a capital “M” hit the gym, they walk rather than ride on the golf course, and they find a way to stay active. They recognize that eating good food and drinking good beer is one aspect of a fulfilling male life, but another aspect is remaining in good shape so that one might fulfill his or her potential. Simply put, the full-engine male life cannot happen unless one has the energy to go almost all the time. That energy is only available to those who remain healthy. The new man who wants to be his best at work and in the home must keep his body in good shape, taking advantage of modern medicine and living a lifestyle that tends toward longevity.
Today’s men have not lost their way, but they are not taking advantage of those resources around them. As women focus on improving themselves and fighting for their own rights, men cannot lose sight of what has made them successful for years on end. Today’s men can live longer, work better, and be happier if they are willing to be smart about both their fitness and their health. It is imperative that men adjust to their surroundings. With the changing times and men being given more responsibilities, it is important that men care for their health just as much as they care for their bank account balance. This is the formula for long-term sustainability.
- Lee, Christina, and R. Glynn Owens. The psychology of men’s health. Open University Press, 2002.
- Lynn, Susan. Progressive Women in Conservative Times: Racial Justice, Peace, and Feminism, 1945 to the 1960s. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992.
- Rowbotham, Sheila. “The past is before us: Feminism in action since the 1960s.” Feminist Review: Issue 33 (1989): 109.
- Sabo, Donald, and David FF Gordon, eds. Men’s health and illness: Gender, power, and the body. Vol. 8. Sage Publications, 1995.