Recently I found a site called The Art of Manliness. (I feel as surreptitious reading this site as I did reading wedding blogs back in the day–except I think reading this is healthier.) It has an awesome name going for it and it has nearly 72,000 followers on Facebook. It is, indeed, all about manliness.
I like how the author defines “manliness” here, equating it with virtue (although the site is also full of tutorials on such topics as how to escape a riptide), and I like that the site encourages dressing appropriately, cleaning one’s car for a date, and generally being capable and decent.
But for all the virtue, it still seems mired in traditional gender roles, which I’m guilty of, too: Is my thinking a man should know things about cars and home repair and riptides any different from a man thinking I should know things about baking and mending and grocery shopping? Are we still mired in gender roles because men and women are fundamentally different, so there will always be “manliness” and “womanliness” instead of “humanness”?
It all reminds me of a quote from To The Lighthouse, where everyone is at dinner and the young male student is insecure and wants to join the conversation and the single lady painter notices:
There is a code of behaviour she knew, whose seventh article (it may be) says that on occasions of this sort it behoves the woman, whatever her occupation may be, to go to the help of the young man opposite so that he may…relieve…his vanity, his urgent desire to assert himself; as indeed it is their duty, she reflected, in her old maidenly fairness, to help us, suppose the Tube were to burst into flames. Then, she thought, I should certainly expect Mr. Tansley to get me out. But how would it be, she thought, if neither of us did either of these things? So she sat there, smiling.