I rarely watch news on television. Occasionally, if I’m up late, I’ll catch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” However, there are moments when I turn to the local news stations while flipping through the channels during a commercial break for a football game. It’s strange to see how much bullying gets reported these days, especially when it comes to young men. Bullying is a nonissue. Rather, it is symptom of a much larger issue: men not being men.
Bullying doesn’t bother me. It builds character. Most of the best people I know were at one point bullied, and they grew because of it. They learned how to prepare against the odds and to stand up for themselves. They developed senses of humor, as well as motivation and self-confidence. These kids became men when they realized no one else would fight their battles for them. Sometimes, being a man means facing your problems head-on during the moments when everyone else—including that cowardly subconscious—says to run. We’re missing that today.
Nowadays, men shave with disposable razors rather than learn the art of double-edge or straight-razor shaving. They shave their chests and backs and wear tank tops more than their female counterparts. They play fantasy football during halftime rather than head out to the street for a quick pickup game. They lift for size and sex appeal rather than strength and skip leg day at the gym. And when they do man up for leg day, they trade in full squats for half squats. They bring their cars to quick oil change shops and call AAA when they have a flat tire. They don’t know the difference between a ratchet and a screwdriver. They’re afraid of bugs, they’re overly attached to cell phones and they order coffee with cream and sugar. They act tough online, but need Band-Aids when they bleed a little in real life.
They believe too strongly in equality between genders, so they don’t open doors for ladies or help them out of cars. They don’t help old women cross the street or help them with heavy suitcases in overhead airplane compartments. They concentrate on keeping their wardrobe fashionable and current. They put gel and wax in their hair and spend more than 30 seconds in front of mirrors.
But men aren’t allowed to be men anymore. If you’re reading this and thinking of all the boys who act like self-entitled punks—your old boyfriends—these aren’t men. I’m talking real men, men with skills, men who work with their hands for something other than a text message or a fantasy football point. We’ve gotten rid of shop classes in high schools and the rope climb in gym. We’re told what’s really behind our success is male privilege rather than hard work. We’re told to keep our opinions to ourselves and blindly respect people and ideas, rather than base our judgments on that merit.
This is why so many young men get into bodybuilding at young ages. Their bodies act as silent protesters while also attracting potential partners. The biological difference between genders can’t be ignored when a man has blasted pectoral muscles and peaked out biceps. But muscles are only a portion of what makes a man.
It’s not young mens’ faults. Too many of their fathers abandoned them as children, so they never learned what being a man is actually about. Half of my friends, if not more, grew up without a male role model in the house to teach them about honor and how to stand up to someone who is bullying them. Many of you read discipline as violence. That’s not what discipline means to a father. It’s about setting boundaries and modifying inappropriate behavior through work. The generation gap between ourselves and our grandfathers is too large. No, I’m not saying we should go back to the ‘40s, but I’m saying we need to reevaluate who we are and what it means to be men in the present. So yes, stand up for yourself and for the little guy. But also teach him how to stand up for himself as well. Walk a lady to her car after dark and do it because it’s what’s right, not because you think there’s potential for sex. Learn how to change your car’s oil yourself and learn how to drive stick. Avoid those hipster fixed-gear bikes. They scream, “I don’t know how to tune gears and love bandwagons.” And please, if you become a father at any point in the future, stick around. Be selfless—for the good of all of us— and teach your kids how to throw a ball and patch a tire. Teach your kids to always move confidently toward integrity and to act with resolve. We’re missing too much of that nowadays.