RGC3: What is a Man? Redefining Male Success

Millennial editor Robert Christian has a new article at Notre Dame’s Church Life Journal. He writes:

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “I abhor the creature who uses the expression that ‘a man must be a man’ in order to excuse his being a vile and vicious man.” Certain vices and failings remain closely identified with existing definitions of manhood. Men seek power and control. They view women as objects to be acquired and used. Material success defines their worth and virtue. Men are free from the weakness of emotional dependence. A ‘real man’ is rational and self-interested, without pity for those who cannot or will not stand on their own two feet. Clothes make the man (or his car or house or corner office). Men use violence to protect what is theirs.

But do we really want a society full of emotionally vacuous men who dehumanize others, define their sense of self-worth based on superficial metrics, and turn selfishness into a virtue? For the Christian, the obvious answer is “no.” But even for the average American, this description of what constitutes a ‘real man’ would likely be viewed as far from ideal. And it is clear that changing social norms, brought on by the empowerment of women and socioeconomic changes, among other factors, are redefining what it means to be a successful man (which is not to say that the aforementioned view of manhood was ever undisputed). But if these changes do not purposefully reject the individualism, materialism, consumerism, chauvinism, and the preeminence of self-interest that has made the common definition of male success so incompatible with genuine virtue, the gap between the two will persist and men will be pressured to conform to social expectations that divert them from living lives of genuine virtue, joy, and fulfillment.

Men are not cavemen nor are we devoid of free will. If we value the authentic flourishing of men and the people around them, we need to define success differently and develop social norms that reflect this redefinition….

While some may prefer the traditions of past decades when it comes to gender roles and defining success, we are entering a new era. One can respond with nostalgia, but a better way forward would be to reimagine how we translate Christ’s call to love in today’s world, a perennial challenge.

The full article can be read here.