Can You Learn To Be A Man?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Former President George W. Bush and his father Former President George H.W. Bush wave to the crowd before a Texas Rangers World Series game in October 2010. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport)

Time columnist Joel Stein talks about trying to make himself into father -- and manly man -- material after learning he was having a son in his new book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity.

Fathers, can you teach masculinity to your son? Have you struggled with how to raise a "man"? Let us know!

Comments [39]


I've heard of Jewish American Princesses, I didn't know there were Princes too. Only someone like that would say that his lack of "masculinity" was women's fault for not being demanding enough nowadays. LMAO. Throughout history there have always been rich, pampered, effeminate men who have relied on foot soldiers/grunts to do their dirty work, it's nothing new. Please, Brian, enough with these bored preppy types talking about nonsense and how the modern world (they made) has confused/betrayed them. Boo Hoo. You think working men worry about whether they're macho enough for their sons??? I'm sure he's never had to worry about violence in the workplace or getting home after night shifts, and neither have his rich "macho" sports player friends. "Tough" is a relative term, ask any working man or woman. Ask anyone with a disability (who are regularly absent from Time Warner publications, and your program btw.) This guy obviously lives in a neighbourhood where he doesn't even need to worry about security anyway, but that's what you get when your world view comes from local TV news. I suggest a quota on the number of Californians you allow on, you can feel the median IQ fall every time one appears. Their gated existence doesn't exactly give them a "real world" view. xx

May. 21 2012 01:01 PM
The Truth from Becky


May. 21 2012 12:20 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Thanks for the thought, Becky,

But I am FREE now, and that's what counts. Victory is to die FREE! Man's major weakness is fear of loneliness. Adam was created free in the Garden of Eden, yet felt something was missing, so God made Eve as a "helpmate." That's when his problems really began in earnest :)

May. 21 2012 12:10 PM
Henry from Manhattan

@DarkSymbolist from NYC
Joel Stein is the satirist whose column shows up on the last page of TIME Magazine.

My guess is, that by time you finish reading his new book, he’ll probably have made it evident how incoherent the popular concept of masculinity is while providing some laughs along the way.

Stein doesn't take himself too seriously, so keep that in mind.

May. 21 2012 12:06 PM
The Truth from Becky

Very sorry that happened to you JBuz.

May. 21 2012 12:03 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Yes, Becky,

You are mostly correct. In the real world, you either BEAT or are BEATEN. You are either a free-ranging mustang or a broken horse eventually.

May. 21 2012 11:58 AM
cwebba1 from Astoria

A good place to pursue this topic is by participating at the Sterling Institute of Relationship's Men's Weekend. This is a three-day initiation into manhood. Lot's of knowledge is passed forward. #NYC is chock full of ad-hoc teams of men who gather weekly (and even daily) to practice the training of this brief seminar.

Men's teams have existed in the East coast region for 25 years. I know of many men who took the training, got married, raised a family and brought their grown sons to The Weekend - meeting weekly with their men's teams the entire time. Volunteer teams are in Canada, Maine, Vermont, Mass, NY, NJ, PA, MA, & GA.

If you are interested in locating the source of your power and breaking the barriers between you and that accessing power, do the Men's Weekend. Contact me if you'd like to learn more.

May. 21 2012 11:57 AM

Including a picture of Bush and his moron son as examples of "men" on this site is laughable, btw.

May. 21 2012 11:56 AM

Joel Stein may be alluding to the emptiness of pinning manliness solely on physical feats through the title of his book ("Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity"), and he ends his interview by remarking how all the men he most admired had aspects of their personality that he hadn't anticipated, such as poetry. Furthermore, the men he recognized as being the most "manly" believed that molding his son was a losing proposition, that they are born into their personalities. So we can infer our contemporary ideas of what it means to be "manly" are superficial.

What's missing from this conversation is what *does* it mean to be a "real" man. What I think is missing from the conversation, and in society, is responsibility. Man's role is responsibility to the future of his family, friends, and society. Aeneas fled from Troy to build Rome.

May. 21 2012 11:56 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I have to counter Mr. Stein's characterization of the valuation of manliness in the Bible. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Jacob, the "quiet man living in tents," is favored over his brother, Esau, the "cunning hunter, a man of the fields"--not by their father, true, but by the text. That father was Isaac, also a quiet type, who was out meditating in the field when Rebecca saw him for the 1st time...& fell right off her camel! (Yes, I know most translations say she "alighted," but the Hebrew word actually means "fell.) Isaac is favored over his brother Ishmael, who made fun of him as a child & grew up to be an archer.

By the way, for much of history just the fact of having a son rather than a daughter was made much of as an indication of masculinity.

May. 21 2012 11:53 AM
The Truth from Becky

And there in lies the problem are not HEARING what is being said. I made a clear statement and you still went left to say "if" I know what I want. This tells me A) you are single now, with an ex-wife who beat you down mentally, possibly physically and B) you were certainly beaten up in school possibly by a girl. Hard headed fool.

May. 21 2012 11:51 AM

teaching evolved person-ness is really the point. standing for principles, being a guardian of the defenseless, both human and non. you can take a kid camping or to museums...equally important.

May. 21 2012 11:50 AM

Hemingway ought to punch Stein in the mouth. Or even Gertrude Stein (just kidding). This is all kind of silly anyway.

May. 21 2012 11:48 AM

Why is being able to handle confrontation "manly"? Why must you learn to watch sports? This conversation is silly. To me, the manliest man is a confident man. Teach your son to be proud of who he is.

May. 21 2012 11:47 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Becky

Assuming you KNOW what you want. If woman really knew what they wanted, men would be able to figure them out. That'll never happen.

May. 21 2012 11:47 AM
Sue from NJ

You're fine- just work on your self esteem. The last thing we need are more loud men.

May. 21 2012 11:46 AM

Aaack! There you go! Non-confrontational does not = wimpy! (And, if he were a girl, it wouldn't even be worth noting, would it?)
It is up to each one of us to change these mindsets, little by little, each day.

I am loving this conversation, obviously.

May. 21 2012 11:44 AM
The Truth from Becky

JBuz...that statement is too broad..I for one, certainly do not want a beaten/broken man for a mate.

May. 21 2012 11:44 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Is this topic a joke? Who is this moron guest and why are we treating this seriously? really?? Quite frankly, most "men" who are constantly thinking about being "manly" are just boys overcompensating for what they are lacking in certain areas. This is supposed to be thought provoking? This is just dumb. Really dumb. Next topic!

May. 21 2012 11:44 AM
Allison from Broolyn

So I have to say that my husband is non-confrontational and always felt less than "manly." I have a terrible macho streak my own self (I am a woman) and am very confrontational. I think we need all kinds of men. To be with a woman like me you need to be able to temper my less girly side.

Also...I think he's manly enough. He IS a man and I think he's beautiful and I love him for all the ways he's just himself...what's more *manly* than that?

May. 21 2012 11:43 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

... and why is it always presented as "pressuring" boys? What about just teaching by example, by being & bearing?

May. 21 2012 11:43 AM
David from West Hempstead

These are some risibly outdated ideas of masculinity.

May. 21 2012 11:43 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

A man needs a woman like a horse needs a rider. A women wants a man she can break in, ride ,and steer in the direction she wants.

May. 21 2012 11:42 AM
Geo from astoria

This guy must have gotten beat up.

Getting your but kicked can bring about these questions and desires to defend yourself. Nothing wrong with that. Some American men need to man up a bit more anyway.

May. 21 2012 11:41 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Why does every conversation about masculinity become invalid by using extremes (the worst) of macho as an argument? There IS a middle ground....

And do women want men who are emotionally and otherwise practically indistinguishable from themselves?

So, how do men get to express their masculinity these days?

May. 21 2012 11:41 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

At the risk of sounding trite, how about just trying to guide all kids towards being the best adults they can be?

May. 21 2012 11:41 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

@ jgarbuz from Queens

So where you suggest us to throw the unwanted children off of?

May. 21 2012 11:40 AM

Men are extraneous these days. All we are is genetic fodder.

May. 21 2012 11:40 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Now to balance this segment we need a segment on "A Stupid Quest on Womanity"...

But that would be sexist right? This is silly.

May. 21 2012 11:39 AM

What is the deal with this topic? is this for real?

May. 21 2012 11:38 AM
Henry from Manhattan

I find the idea of teaching manliness to be a mostly incoherent concept.

If it means teaching civic virtues, like honesty, responsibility, fairness, intelligence, rationality, emotional intelligence, assertiveness, prudence, wisdom, etc. Then, okay, sure, you can teach, “manliness” to boys and girls.

All the other nonsense is just social constructs.

Don’t believe me? Think about our manly founding founder, wearing wigs and frilly shirts, stockings and dainty healed shoes.

Just as the interview began, "being afraid of confrontation" has nothing to do with gender.

I love Joel Steins column, and for the record, his voice sounds deeper and "more manly" than I imagined.

May. 21 2012 11:38 AM
The Truth from Becky

Can you learn to be a man? Yes but even better than that, you can learn to be the man your woman/wife wants you to be.

May. 21 2012 11:37 AM

I think we need to redefine masculinity anyway. Desperately need.

May. 21 2012 11:37 AM
Meg from CT

I think it is incredibly manly to love your kids, your wife too, and be the best father you can be, however you choose to do that. A sense of humor is incredibly masculine, teaching your kids the beauty of getting along and existing well in the world.

May. 21 2012 11:37 AM
Greg from LES

This "struggle" he is suggest is certainly not new for gay males. Often times our parents try to force this upon us but I can tell you first hand it doesn't work. If you're not masculine, though you can "act" that way you wont be.

To put this coldly, if you're pressuring your child and he isn't masculine this could drive a child to suicide.

May. 21 2012 11:37 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Tell him to send his son to Israel and the IDF will teach him quick enough. You can be sure of that.

May. 21 2012 11:34 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I think the Spartans did it right.

May. 21 2012 11:33 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Why? What's the point? It's a woman's world now, so let the women go to war and let men stay home and raise the kids. What does "raising a man" even MEAN anymore? Can anyone explain it to me?

May. 21 2012 11:00 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

And is a man the ideal teacher?

"Manliness" aside, does a boy's ideal preparation for manhood require a man (at least), who has personally experienced the fundamental milestones?

It's the biggest dilemma I've had about gay marriage -- whether or not children are better off with input from male and female experience. How should this affect the debate, if government codifies relationships to encourage ideal child-raising families (for those who want children)?

The best answer I've gotten is "the village raises the kids". But how much village cultivation goes into family planning these days?

May. 21 2012 10:33 AM

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