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What Is a Man?

Perhaps my friend, with her pat answer, stumbled upon a naked truth about men today -- that maybe we really don't have a clear definition of who we are, as men, and perhaps even worse, we can't even define it for ourselves.
07/29/2014 04:25pm ET | Updated September 28, 2014
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What is a man?

"I know it when I see it."

That's what a female friend told me yesterday when asked to describe what a man is. The funny thing is that she used the exact same standard that Justice Potter Stewart of the U.S. Supreme Court developed in his concurring opinion for Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964) to define what pornography is:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. [Emphasis added.]

Perhaps my friend, with her pat answer, stumbled upon a naked truth about men today -- that maybe we really don't have a clear definition of who we are, as men, and perhaps even worse, we can't even define it for ourselves.

That's not good.

We all know how to define a man anatomically. But that is far from the ultimate truth of what makes a man a "man." Ever since the feminist movement redefined the gender power balance to that of equals (which I, by the way, strongly support), the inner core of what it means to be a man has never fully reset.

What's the end result of this seismic shift? We, as men, have lost our center of who we are, and what we think of ourselves, as men.

So who's to blame? We are. Yep guys. We are.

We could blame the media. Men used to be defined in movies and in TV shows by their inner and outer strengths, strong individuals who were in complete control of their destinies as the "man in charge." John Wayne. Clint Eastwood. Ronald Reagan. Marlon Brando.

Today, however, we are often portrayed as deeply flawed, feeble, feckless frauds. Don Draper. Tony Soprano. Phil Dunphy. Homer Simpson. Peter Griffin. Walter White.

Blaming the media for man's displaced internal guidance system is useless and downright silly. Blame is not a solution. It's a cop out.

We need to instead redefine who we are, as men of the 21st century, and then reclaim that manhood as our own. This is currently a work in progress. It's evolving, in a radically new shift. It's not set, yet, but I do think we are getting very close to us guys finally returning to our inner core, as men. It's what I like to call the "Return to Man."

We can't wait much longer, though. I would argue that men are more disconnected from other men than at any other time in the history of mankind. This has to change. And it will, as soon as men start to support, and be supported, by other men.

Currently, we are the worst at that. How often, for example, do we talk about getting together with our buddies, and never do. How about ALL THE TIME.

This can change, with a simple touch flick of a smartphone. In my case, I have a friend who just moved out of his house after being married forever because he doesn't know what he wants, not only from his marriage, but from himself.

He's miserable.

He's not sure if he is going to stay in his marriage, or leave it. He needs to talk with someone. He needs his friend. I need to call him -- now.

So that's what I'm going to do, just as soon as I press send on this blog submission. It's time for me, and my buddy, and millions upon millions of other men out there to huff, and puff, and blow down our House of Discontent.

The time has come to Return to Man.