Dr. Morgan T. Sammons, a psychologist responding to the recent American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines on masculinity wrote, ” Let’s face it. When men are compared with women on a variety of psychological and physical health parameters, men pretty much lose across the board. Women outlive men, indeed, in every age group, death rates for men exceed those for women. In 2018, women in the US lived on average a whopping five years longer than men (81 vs. 76 years). Nor is the difference limited to humans. In practically every mammalian and avian species, females live longer than males. In comparison to women, men engage in more risk-taking behavior, consume more alcohol, are more likely to use more tobacco and other substances, and get diagnosed with ADHD more frequently. Men also experience more behavioral disorders in childhood and adolescence, where we develop a pattern of externalizing behaviors that not only bring us to the attention of the wrong type of people but also lead us to ignore internal cues that modulate psychological health. As a sex, we are, in a word, a mess.”
Nothing particularly new in what Dr. Sammons wrote just succinctly highlights some of the challenges faced by men today. An additional challenge for modern masculinity, that Sammons did not mention, are the issues brought to the forefront by the “Me To” movement and the subsequent confusion for men about their relationships with women both personally and in the work place.
In a response to the mess painted by Sammons, former President Obama in a recent interview was asked what is being a man today. His answer started with the premise that a good man is a good human. He then elaborated offering the following characteristics of a good man or human – responsible, reliable, hard working, kind , respectful, supportive, compassionate.
Unfortunately Obama’s response does not bring any clarity to the big questions. Is there a difference between what defines a good man or good woman as compared to being a good human? Do good men demonstrate the characteristics of being a good human differently than women but still meet the standard of being a good human? My take is that men do exhibit and demonstrate the good human characteristics differently than women and this understanding might be helpful for mitigating the mess and confusion that men are facing.
Since defining the characteristics of a good man – good women – good human appear quite subjective I propose taking one trait as an example and ask my readers for their input on what they believe, on average, differentiates a good man from a good woman while both qualify as good humans for a particular characteristic. I’ll begin with the first trait mentioned by Obama – responsible. As an illustration, suppose a family is faced with a decision about whether or not to move to a new city so that the husband can start a new job at a substantial pay increase. However, his wife is deeply concerned about moving the family at a critical time in the schooling and social life of their two children. The husband is acting responsibly in attempting to secure the best financial situation for the family’s future while his wife is acting responsibly by protecting the welfare of the children. Both alternatives demonstrate being a good human but differentiate in priorities based on gender roles. My conclusion is that in a close call a responsible women might more likely choose the short term well being of the children while a responsible man might more likely choose the long term financial benefit of moving for a new job.
What do you think?