Reflections on Movember: Masculinity and Respect

When I was in college, Movember was a HUGE deal. Most of us ladies met it with a groan because now regularly good-looking guys were going to be less so for a whole month…and then finals followed, so there was just more bad facial hair and we had to leave for Christmas break with terrible mental pictures of our guy friends and boy friends and their terrible facial hair.

I have a theory that no-shave-November has taken a back-seat to the wildly popular no-shave-ever that’s going around.
And really, facial hair on guys can be really great. I myself am quite partial to some nice scruff on the jaw.
Still, when a guy in my social circle attempts to grow facial hair for the first time, I find that his attempt is met with groans and eye rolls from most of the female population.
So this got me thinking… because I took a month off from blogging and had some time to think…about masculinity… and femininity… and the relationship between the two.
So, yes, I have scoffed at a bro’s attempted to grow a mustache before. (And yes, I am slightly creeped out by mustache’s a la carte.) But as I think about it, I’ve scoffed at guys for a lot of reasons…most of them not justified.
There has been a lot written about the extended adolescence of young adult men in our culture. We worry about what this means for the future of the family dynamic, but, as a woman, have I examined how I am reinforcing the behavior in the men in my life?
Some close friends of mine where having some car trouble a few weeks ago. As a young married couple, they aren’t in a financial state to just go out and buy a new vehicle… they also aren’t quite in a state to get it repaired. So what does this leave them with? DIY, of course!
Her husband doesn’t have a lot of experience with car maintenance, so he did some reading and watched a couple videos after he’d identified the problem. He told us he was pretty sure he could fix the problem.
So our response? “Yeah, right!” “Are you sure? We could just spend the extra and have someone who know’s what their doing take care of it.”
To his ears, our statements probably sounded more like, “You’re incapable,” and “Nice try, junior! Let’s have a real man handle the problem.”
Not exactly affirming the responsibility he wanted to take and the work and research he had done to feel prepared to tackle the project.
So often when my male peers try to take on a “manly” behavior such as a home improvement project, or growing facial hair, or logging (it’s manly, right?), me and my girlfriends give them a hard time. We roll our eyes, we scoff, we give them a doubtful glance. We belittle their risks and attempts to outwardly demonstrate their masculinity. We emasculate them without really thinking about what we’re doing.
This makes me sad. And sorry.
If we as women want the men in our lives to act like men, perhaps we should affirm their attempts to show that masculinity. That can be in the growing of facial hair or the attempt (a successful one at that!) to repair a car. It can be in any way he may be trying to risk and prove himself.
Is it that hard to give a “good job,” or “I believe in you,” or “sweet man-beard!” to our brothers, friends, co-workers, boyfriends, fathers, or bro-on-the-street? Genuine encouragement may be out of vogue in this day of sarcasm and “irony” but I think what men and women are really desiring from one another, romantically or no, is honest encouragement and heartfelt thoughts.
Perhaps if we took the time to show small bits of respect to the boys in our lives, we might see more men-in-the-making.

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