Masculinity A cowboy, the strong and silent “man’s man” is the iconic figure of masculinity. The same cowboy also has a certain fragileness. The perception of a man usually does not reveal the fragile side. However, Gretel Ehrlich reveals this underlying soft side of cowboys in About Men (1985), and Paul Theroux explains in Being a Man (1985) that the idea of manhood is pitiful because there is a fragile side to every man. Ehrlich talks about the rugged lifestyle of a cowboy. He paints this picture of a man who loves what he does.
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The long days of work with little payoff, the courage of acting spontaneously in the field, and the physical punishment is often underplayed. Most movies containing a cowboy role show a bold individual who gets down and dirty and exerts strength in whatever he does. Their daily activities include throwing hay bales, riding horseback to round the cattle, and just about any other form of manual labor. That’s not all there is to these men though. “Ranchers are midwives, hunters, nurturers, providers, and conservationists all at once.
What we’ve interpreted as toughness-weathered skin, calloused hands, a squint in the eye and a growl in the voice-only masks the tenderness inside” (Ehrlich 282). The author uses support by explaining the job of birthing and nurturing calves as part of the beef-raising industry. He also points out caring for a sick born calf by taking her home and nurturing her back to health. Cowboys have a facade. They have a socially defined image to uphold. They “…lack the vocabulary to express the complexity of what they feel” (Ehrlich 283). Some might say “lambs are cute” but a cowboy’s version is “Ain’t this little rat good-lookin’? Same general meaning expressed with manly vocabulary. Ted Hoagland wrote, “No one is as fragile as a woman but no one is as fragile as a man” (Ehrlich 283). Men try to hide this characteristic but Ehrlich tells there is a softness to their strength and a delicacy to their toughness. So it seems that Masculinity may be overshadowing the true characteristics of a man. “The whole idea of manhood in America is pitiful” (Theroux 292). Paul Theroux looks at how the image of a man is set forth and at the same time emotionally damaging. Theroux disliked being a man. He wanted to expose is softer side and be a writer, but for years he found it impossible to admit. Men just weren’t writers. This concept of being a man starts at an early age. Theroux explains that instead of meeting girls, boys are encouraged to take up sports, join Boy Scouts, and not read so much (293). He saw sports as wasteful and humiliating. But writing wasn’t manly or even considered a profession. “All the bullfighting and arm wrestling and elephant shooting diminished Hemingway as a writer, but it is consistent with a prevailing attitude in American writing: one cannot be a male writer without first proving that one is a man” (Theroux 293).
He points out a few male writers also at odds with the manliness battle. “The male writer is traditionally proud of his heavy drinking. He says he can drink you under the table. But even tiny drunken William Faulkner loved to mount a horse and go fox hunting, and Jack Kerouac roistered up and down Manhattan in a lumberjack shirt (and spent every night of The Subterraneans with his mother in Queens)” (Theroux 293). “Being a man is bad enough; being manly is appalling” (Theroux 293). The image of masculinity doesn’t allow for the softer, more feminine side to come into play, but every ‘man’ has it.
The Scottish Daily Record recently published an article titled “HALF OF ALL MEN WANT TO BE GIRLS; Lads have softer side”, exposing a survey about the softer side of men. The article begins by saying, “Men aren’t obsessed with breasts, beer and ball games, new research claims” (HALF). Typically this describes the norms of manhood. But as it explains, times are changing. “Instead, they like and respect women – and nearly half would like to be one. Forty-six percent of men aged 18 to 35 questioned for a survey said if they could be born again; it would be as a woman” (HALF).
It seems as though masculinity, or the idea of, isn’t as appealing as it used to be. The survey claimed men only behaved badly in stereotyped TV shows and advertisements. The publication used the information in a survey taken from Cosmopolitan magazine and states “There is a definite soft side to the 21st-century British male” (HALF). Masculinity is all about strength and toughness. But behind every man is a soft, tender side. For many years, and even still today there is a social standard for men to be manly.
Rugged outdoor work and sports are commonly associated with masculinity, but behind the scenes nurturing and delicacy are just as much part of men as women. To some, the fact that I am writing this paper and I am a male would discredit my masculinity. However, that is not the case. Surveys are beginning to show that males are gaining more respect for females, which is allowing them to open up and reveal their own softer side. Just because a man doesn’t play a sport doesn’t mean he isn’t masculine. Genetics determine male or female. Manliness is simply traits of being a man, such as bravery.
But sometimes bravery can mean showing the fragile side others are afraid to show. Ehrlich, Gretel. “About Men. ” 1985. FRESH TAKES: Explorations in reading and writing. Wayne Stein, et al, McGraw-Hill. 2008. 281-283 Theroux, Paul. “Being a Man. ” 1985. FRESH TAKES: Explorations in reading and writing. Wayne Stein, et al, McGraw-Hill. 2008. 291-293. “HALF OF ALL MEN WANT TO BE GIRLS; Lads have softer side” The Free Library 16 January 2001. 02 November 2011 ;http://www. thefreelibrary. com/HALF OF ALL MEN WANT TO BE GIRLS; Lads have softer side. -a069196800;.