‘All human advances due to the genius of men’: #howtobeaman responses

How to Be a Man: Readers have responded in their droves to our series on modern masculinity. Here is an edited selection of your contributions


How to be a Man is a series exploring the challenges facing men in Ireland today. Read the full series at www.irishtimes.com/howtobeaman

Is The Irish Times polarising the sexes?

I understand (and applaud) the #howtobeaman initiative, because any movement in this area is better than none. Patriarchy has not served anyone well, be they male or female, and it’s long past the time for intelligent minds to tackle this issue. Having said that, I can’t help but wonder if this is yet again a polarising of the sexes. Could we not try #howtobeaperson first? All the rest just might then fall into place. - Anne Lawlor

Those who don’t identify with the “ideal” man stay silent

I am drawn to the #NotAllMen question. I understand how a feminist (not unlike myself) would see the use of these words as a man shirking blame or responsibility for a wider truth in our culture, one that objectifies women and that overlooks and even encourages violence towards and sexual abuse of women.

But I also feel that women should look at the sentiment behind using these words in each context.

There’s no doubt that some men deny the existence of a rape culture. There’s no doubt that men let the misbehaviour of their peers towards women slip by unscolded and then detach themselves from the problem.

But there are other men for whom the meme #NotAllMen could apply to almost every facet of their lives, whether it be what they do for a living, what they drink, who they are friends with or what clothes they wear.

Just as not all men want to watch the UFC, or want eight pints of lager on a Saturday night, not all men identify with the hegemonic, dominant male that our society has rendered the “ideal”.

And those who don’t identify this way do so silently for the most part, which is why it can be dangerous for them to get shut out of the gender debate. - Aaron Devine

I am very involved in bringing up our son

I have changed a lot since coming to Melbourne, especially since becoming a dad. Being from rural Ireland I grew up trying not to be “soft”, and had a firm belief in the “if it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger” mantra. But a combination of moving here and getting older has changed all that.

I am very involved in bringing up our son, including the night feeds, and the dinner-bath-bed routine. Parenting is shared equally between my wife and I. Would I have been that kind of person had I stayed at home and had a family there? I doubt it, but who could know now.

Being a man to me now still means the “traditional” things like being a rock to your family and the tough guy your kids can look up to, but also trying to be the guy that your wife and kids can turn to as a shoulder to cry on, or for emotional advice and reassurance.

You need to be approachable to your mates too, so that even the most macho of guys can have a “deep and meaningful” with you.

Being a man means being whatever is needed of you for whoever needs it, be it your wife, kids or mates. You have to be the bloke down the pub, the dad shouting encouragement from the sideline, the one they run to when they fall and hurt their knee, the one to make the dinners and pack the lunches, the one to buy her flowers just because, the one to give advice and encouragement to the apprentices at work. You just need to be everyone for everyone and do it all with a smile on your face, because that’s why they turn to you and look to you. - Daniel O'Halloran

Political correctness is the new censorship

My expectation from an early age, and society’s expectation of me, was that I would get a good education and a good job – preferably with a pension – be a good Catholic and model citizen, at some stage get married and raise a family, and, with a bit of luck, live long enough to enjoy a few years of happy retirement. The deal was that if I lived up to all these expectations I would be treated fairly and honourably by the State and by society.

As many men have found to their cost the State does not honour its part of that deal. Many men have been treated so badly by the laws and institutions of this State that they have been driven to suicide, and many others wish they could summon up the courage to end the lives that the State has prescribed for them. These are men who have been subjected to the draconian misandrist laws and practices of the family-law system.

Comparing men’s lives today with men’s lives 40 years ago, I would have to say that in some ways their lives are better but that in some ways they are worse.

People’s lives generally have improved because of advances in technology, medical science and so on. I would estimate that more than 90 per cent these advances – and indeed all human advances since we lived in caves – have been due to the genius of men (as opposed to that of women). We are not allowed to say that, even though it is manifestly true.

Political correctness decrees that we cannot speak any truth that lauds men and not women but that we can, and must, make comments, true or untrue, that demonise men and praise women.

The feminist-dominated media will give prominence to pro-feminist men who collaborate in the demonisation of men and masculinity – a fact that will be very evident in this How to Be a Man project being run by The Irish Times. - Frank McGlynn

Men have more suicides, rough sleepers and workplace deaths

Despite the claims of many that the unrealistic expectations of the classical masculine role have been eroded, society still expects Irish men to “man up” and get on with things, just as it always has.

For example, a huge amount of the discussion surrounding male suicide paints men as being the chief architects of their own downfall, for being too “macho” to see a counsellor. But many men prefer to open up through alternative approaches, such as the extremely successful men’s sheds movement.

Even though four-fifths of suicides every year are men, the idea that the system is failing men, rather than the other way around, is never addressed.

One of my major goals is to become a father and be intimately involved in raising my children. If I wish to be there for my newborn I can avail of a paltry two weeks of paternity leave before I am expected to return to work. If I choose to start a family outside of wedlock I will have no automatic rights of guardianship unless I live for a year with the mother, obtain her consent to my guardianship or, if all else fails, take her to court. Of course, I will still be obliged to pay to support my child despite having no rights.

These are but two examples of how our legal system treats fathers as second-class parents.

There is no privilege in making up the vast majority of suicides, the vast majority of rough sleepers and the vast majority of workplace deaths.

Given all of these systemic issues affecting men, none of which is given the level of attention and empathy it deserves in the mainstream press, it is difficult to relate how frustrating it feels to be a young man in Ireland today. - James Behan

Denying a child his or her father is a sin

I’m feeling pretty stressed, pretty lonely, and feel like the world is against me. Well, maybe not the world, but the Constitution is certainly against me. It’s my year-old daughter’s birthday in the next few days, and I’m just back from spending a half an hour with her that her mother allowed. I don’t know when I’m going to see my daughter next.

Why is it, in 2016, that a man has to apply for guardianship of his own flesh and blood? Why am I denied access to my child? Why should I not have joint custody? Why am I judged as being less capable of caring for my child than a woman is? I can change a nappy with my eyes closed. I can feed and nourish my daughter. And I can, above all, show her love just as much as a woman can.

I’m not saying that men are better than women at raising children. I’m saying that we both bring things to the table and that denying a child his or her father is an absolute sin. This is not a fathers’-rights issue. This is a children’s-rights issue. We need a referendum on this. Children are losing out on too much. - Stephen Brennan

The greatest danger facing men today? Marriage

I’ve never had a problem with the question of how to be a man, but I have had problems with the way men are treated. The best way I can contribute to the wellbeing of younger men is to share my experiences, including the many mistakes I made, and hope that they can learn from them.

One of the greatest dangers facing men is civil marriage. This is not a joke. The putative civil-marriage contract is the most dangerous contract or arrangement any man can enter.

About 20,000 men marry each year, and not a single one has a clue about the legal effects of signing that register on their lives, their civil and human rights or their status as citizens.

If you’re a man contemplating marriage, here’s a friend’s version of what the termination clause of the marriage contract would look like if honestly presented to the couple.

“The female party may at any time and without having to provide any justification terminate this contract on terms that she can largely dictate. She may remove the male party from the family home purely on the grounds that he is male. She may choose to live off his earnings for the rest of her life. She may plunder his assets. She may dictate the terms of his fatherhood and his continuing relationship with his children or may terminate his relationship with his children entirely. She may move a new boyfriend into the family home and instruct their children to call him daddy. She may make false allegations of domestic or sexual abuse against him safe in the knowledge that she will suffer no penalties if her allegations are proven to be false and that the courts of the land will make orders to give effect to these diktats.” - Michael Stephens

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