Steve Woods

What it Means to be a Man

In What Day is it? on November 19, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Although there have been calls for such a day since the 1960’s, Trinidad and Tobago were finally able to pull together the creation of this day in 1999.   International Men’s Day has slowly grown from humble beginnings, to a worldwide celebration of the male gender and his role in Society.  Organizers, including founder Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, want to ensure that participants know that this day is not meant to compete with International Women’s Day (March 8th,) but rather to provide a day to remember and thank men for their many contributions.

The Objectives of IMD

International Men’s Day events are held in nations all over our planet, and typically include public displays, educational seminars and classroom activities, publicly broadcasted television and radio programs, religious observances, and peaceful marches. The organizers of IMD have agreed that the following broad objectives should be covered when holding an event related to IMD:

  1. The celebration of manhood as seen in the historically valuable and positive contributions that men of all ages have made to both local communities and Society in general.
  2. The promotion of equality among the genders, encouraging men to stand up and face head-on, responsibly and positively, the challenges faced by all in society.
  3. The demonstration of character and courage in continuing to meet those challenges that Society faces each and every day, to ensure we can all meet our full potential.
  4. The highlighting of positive male role models.  This means not just movie stars or sports figures, but also working class men leading decent, honest lives.

The Year of the Positive Male Role Model

What type of man do we hold in esteem?

In previous years, International Men’s Day has discussed issues relating to men’s health, gender relations, and gender equality.  Celebrating a different aspect of men’s lives each year, 2009 has been named the Year of the Positive Male Role Model.

Who would you consider to be (or to have been) a positive male role model in your own life?  Was it your father? Step-father? Grandfather? Uncle? Older brother or friend? Pastor or Rabbi? A boss? Someone famous?  Every single one of these men had to define for themselves what it meant to be a man, and in some way their definition has influenced your own…

So What Does it Mean to be a Man?

To be a man is to live in a dichotomy.  We are granted incredible freedom in defining ourselves, while living under the invisible pressure of conformity as provided by our fellow Man.  The layers of pressure come from greater Society’s agreed-upon and often capricious definitions of our gender, our larger family’s definitions, and our faith’s often-stringent refining.  We have layered upon us the invisible garments provided by our home, our community, and even our Nation.

So Many Choices when Defining Ourselves…

Oscar Wilde, Irish Playwright, Poet and Author, 1882

Historically the definition of acceptable manhood has changed, and continues to morph over time.  We have moved from wholesale acceptance of brute force and strength of will as desirable defining characteristics to a more intellectual approach to matters of life.  This is not to say Manhood has softened.  Let’s just say that we Men have learned to take the clay from those that used to mold our roles, and have begun to choose for ourselves who (or what) we lend our malleability to…

In free nations like America, where homogeneity of thought was dispensed with as soon as our ancestors began stepping on our shores, we accept many other possible definitions for what it means to be a Man.  And it is our free responsibility to examine with careful scrutiny the many layers put on us, that we carry in our daily lives.  To what purpose do they serve us, and are we prepared to maintain them, passing them down to our sons?  What changes do we make in defining ourselves, and how quickly do we embrace such changes?

So What do I Think?

We define our roles as men, and as fathers

Here’s my spin: To be a man is to be responsible for ourselves, even in areas where we have little control over our lives or destinies.  We must be strong supporters of our friends and family, even when it means providing needed criticism. We are to seek passionate, loving and respectful relationships with our significant others.  We are to be aware of our surroundings and must strive to improve upon them.  We must endeavor to mold our environment to allow for honesty.  We must be willing to both swing the hammer and open our fists.  We must listen, try to understand, sacrifice and compromise.

Outside of this, Dude, you are on your own. You figure out the rest.

So What do we Hand Down to Our Children?

In many countries, International Men’s Day (or IMD) is celebrated in tandem with Universal Children’s Day on Nov. 20th, to bring together the importance of the special bond between men and his children.  It’s one thing to carry the burdens handed to us by our fathers (and their fathers.)  It’s another thing entirely to sit and examine what we will leave behind and place on the shoulders of our sons.

Our sons are watching us...

One of the reasons the cultural definition of Manhood has changed so drastically over the last 40 years is the renewed, shared, sense of self-determination.  Our fathers grew up with the belief that we competed against each other to get ahead, sometimes learning painful cut-throat lessons.  Some of them, now retired, watch in abject confusion as we discuss collaborative work models, as we come together in common cause, move on to regroup with others, then move on again…

Men have to teach, more than any other skill, the ability to work with and get along with others.  Men must remind their sons that they do not have to define themselves through the personal victory, but through the sharing of a common win.  We must teach them to adapt in a World that changes faster than any other our forefathers have ever known.

So be Responsible for How You (and Men) are Viewed

Hang up the definitions no longer needed

Whether in the news, movies, or in literature, there exists ample fictional and non-fictional examples of men, young and old, exhibiting negative behavior.  This includes criminal activities, violence against others, or simply delinquency.  The supporters of International Men’s Day work diligently to provide a forum to respond to these negative portrayals, reminding the World that there are many more examples of decency and scions of character among us.

Help all of us out by examining those invisible garments you wear each day, and hanging up the ones that are no longer needed to protect you from an increasingly open World.  Rediscover for yourself what it means to be a man, and then contact me to help me out, too…

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  1. Okay so what do I know about been a man, nothing, but what I believe a man should include in his repertoire is compassion, understanding and sensitivity. A lot of these can be obtained with a open heart and open ears. And you my friend Steve have an open heart and open ears.

  2. Aw, thanks! My father did a lot to teach me the value of sharing my feelings and rolling with the punches. Love that you are still reading! Thank you so much!

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