In Defense of “Good” Men

IN DEFENSE OF “GOOD” MEN:

How does one define a man in our modern-day culture? To what threshold do we hold men? What lens do we employ to evaluate them? Pause for a moment. If you were to define the “perfect” man, what does he look like? If you said the perfect man looks like your husband, your father, your brother or your boyfriend, you might be off to a good start. But if you rattled off a litany of expectations or unattainable qualities you believe should define men, you may be part of the societal vacuum that has lost its willingness to accept and respect “good” men.

In my opinion, based on graduate studies of interdisciplinary communications and psychology, I would venture to say that the majority of operational beliefs about what men are and what men should be is demoralizing, belittling, prejudiced, and unfair. Of course, this is not to say that women are not held to certain levels of expectation as men are, but outside of beauty as a determinant factor in their reputation or success, women are by no means scrutinized in our society in the same way as men. The set of evaluative standards are somewhat different between men and women, as expected, but the ways in which we measure men in our society appear to minimize men of legitimate worth. Thus, inciting the questions: What should we be measuring men by? How could we evaluate men more fairly and with less prejudice? I believe these questions are useful to consider especially as gender norms are being challenged and straight men are being continually marginalized in the marketplace of work, political discourse, and family life.

The Pyramid of Measurement for Men:

There are three main factors by which men are critiqued in our society. These are not the only means by which they are evaluated, but for purposes of this argument, consider the following:

1.) Stature, which simply means “importance or reputation gained by ability or achievement,” is the primary means by which men are evaluated or ‘judged’ in our increasingly female-opinion-dominant society. Men are not only expected to be successful in careers, attractive to women, and eager to excel in their personal lives. Rather, men are expected to exceed the threshold of “great” in all areas of their lives in order to be held in high esteem.

2.) Respectability, which can be defined as “the state or quality of being proper, correct, and socially acceptable” is a secondary means by which men are evaluated. It is expected that men act in ways that earn them respect. However, here’s the invisible caveat – it is highly unlikely that we respect men for their character. Also, keep in mind that men, whom we expect to be powerful conquerors, can easily get into trouble for merely looking at a woman – whether it be with admiration or simple observation. We respect men for where we rank them in terms of #1, their stature. Be wary of this the next time you say you “respect” a man you barely know.

3.) Merit, which means “deserving of praise or reward” is another tangible way we evaluate men in our society. Men of means or wealth appear to have great merit. Men, especially politicians and celebrities who are showered with daily accolades, are believed to hold merit. Men, whom we deem as having it all – including stature and respectability, are viewed as men of merit. They are the men we believe deserve praise or reward, whether they are inherently “good” or not.

Considering the pyramid of stature, respectability, and merit as a whole, it is easy to see why and how we marginalize men. This frame of reference, though it holds some unique value, is not, however, a holistic measurement by any means. It is a means to categorize men by societal stereotypes and expectations, rather than by who and what they are as human beings. Men deserve to be viewed outside of the pyramid; and men deserve to be seen with relevance to their character, their humanity, and their worth rather than their bank account, appeal to women, inflated ego, successes or failures.

As a result, I suggest the “Modicum of Goodness” as an alternative frame of measurement challenging the pyramid above. It is far less formal means of reference, but a far more meaningful one. So, what makes a good man? And how do we discern the good ones if not by stature, respectability, and merit? The following provides a general idea for how to employ this type of humanizing assessment.

A man proclaiming his wife is the most amazing woman in the history of women –

He’s  good man.

A man who is a single dad working multiple jobs, staying up late to read to his kids before they go to bed –

He’s a good man.

A man who is loyal, faithful, and steadfast towards one woman, his kids, and his family –

He’s a good man.

A man who shows up, works hard, and puts others before self –

He’s a good man.

A man who skips lunches, says no to outings with friends, and relinquishes personal entertainment just to afford a diamond ring for the woman he hopes to marry –

He’s a good man.

A man who still believes in chivalry and sets an example for other men for how to treat women –

He’s a good man.

A man who is adaptable, but maintains his moral beliefs despite worldly temptation –

He’s a good man.

A man who genuinely fears everything if he were to lose the love –

He’s a good man.

A man who is strong of spirit, but practices gentleness and humility –

He’s a good man.

A man who willingly provides through self-sacrifice –

He’s a good man.

A man who believes being a good friend, a caring father, a devoted husband, or a resolute brother is more important than the growth of his bank account –

He’s a good man.

And a man who kisses his woman every day on her cheek, her forehead, her lips, her nose, and calls her beautiful from her head to her toes –

He’s a good man.

Alas, the list could go on…

There are plenty of men out there who might pass the pyramid test, but there are far fewer men who pass the modicum of goodness test, which is far more important. Perhaps those “good” men are not out there beating their chests, puffing their socialite feathers, flaunting their wealth or women – or maybe they are as a facade for what they believe society wishes them to be – but choose to be the person who sees past the clouded stereotypes. Choose to respect the good men of worth and the great men of value. And by all means, cut men some slack. A lot in this world rests on their shoulders and it is about time we start admiring them for it.

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