35 Things a Man Should Never Do

Men need advice. We need to be told, preferably early in life, what we should do, what we shouldn’t do, and how to tell the difference. If we don’t receive such advice we live our lives by trial-and-error—a much less effective strategy. The reason emergency rooms, warning labels, and scar tissue exist is because some man did not receive—or did not heed—sound advice.

A couple of weeks ago we discussed “50 Things a Man Should Be Able To Do.” Such lists are useful, but even more helpful are lists of things we should never do. The “never do” list is nearly infinite, so I’ll narrow it down to 35 of the most essential things:

1. Get a “mani-pedi”—There may be situations in which a man is warranted in getting a manicure. There may also be situations where a man’s toenails get so out of control that a wife-mandated pedicure is a condition of staying married. But there are few legitimate reasons for getting both at the same time. And even if you do, there is no excuse for referring to the procedures as a “mani-pedi.” There just isn’t.

2. Wear an item of clothing simply because it’s “ironic.”

3. Cheat on your wife, taxes, or golf scorecard.

4. Ask a woman, “Why can’t you be more like ____________?”

5. Tell anyone about the time your buddy broke down and cried.

6. Tug on Superman’s cape. Spit into the wind. Pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger. Mess around with Jim.

7. Leer creepily.

8. Punch a woman for any reason other than to prevent her from causing another human being serious bodily harm.

9. Punch an animal for any reason other than to prevent them from causing another human being serious bodily harm.

10. Punch a kitten for any reason.

11. Admit to watching any movie on the Lifetime channel.

12. Know the complete lyrics to a Lady Gaga song.

13. Criticize another man’s wife in front of him.

14. Pierce any part of your body.

15. Care about fashion. (It’s okay to care about style, but not fashion. There’s a difference.)

16. Be drunk in public.

17. Post drunken pictures—of yourself or anyone else—on Facebook.

18. Spend more than three hours a week playing video games.

19. Expect praise for doing what you’re supposed to do (e.g., take care of your kids, clean up your own messes, work for a living).

20. Show fear in front of a dog or small child.

21. Sit while a pregnant woman has to stand.

22. Forget where you came from or who helped you to get where you are.

23. Invest your life savings in a company whose business model you don’t understand.

24. Attempt to impress a girl by joining any group that requires a serious commitment (the Marines, the Peace Corps, Orthodox Judaism).

25. Eat fried Twinkies any place outside a State Fair.

26. Use the bathroom in front of any woman that isn’t a nurse (including your wife).

27. Refer to oneself as a “playa.”

28. Lie to a kid by telling them they can be anything they want to be. (Most likely, they can’t.)

29. Give yourself a haircut.

30. Correct someone’s grammar unless (a) you are asked to do so, or (b) getting paid to do so, (c) the person is both under the age of eighteen and your own kid.

31. Embarrass a father in front of his children.

32. Cry while watching any movie other than Old Yeller, Brian’s Song, or Rudy.

33. Go more than a year without reading a book.

34. Take cues about sex, marriage, fatherhood, or masculinity from watching popular movies and television shows.

35. Stop and ask for directions when a woman is in the car.

 

  • http://themolinist.wordpress.com Matthew SG

    Is this intended as satire or are you genuinely laying down a list of inappropriate activities for all self-identifying men, a list littered with such classics ‘doing things women do’ and ‘offending patriarchy?’

  • Joe Carter

    Is this intended as satire or are you genuinely laying down a list of inappropriate activities for all self-identifying men. . .

    No, it’s not satire. I truly think that all men within a particular cultural context (America in the 21st century) could improve their lives by not doing these things (with the exception of #35, something men will avoid naturally). However, this is a list of advice, we’re not drafting law. There’s no penalty for disagreeing. It’s doesn’t mean someone’s evil. It just means they’re wrong. ; )

    a list littered with such classics ‘doing things women do’ and ‘offending patriarchy?’

    I confess that I think men and women are different and that there are certain things that women do that men should not. But I don’t understand what you mean by “offending patriarchy.” Who is the patriarchy? To be honest, that sounds like something that should go on the list (#36 Do not use phrases gleaned from Women’s Studies classes, such as “offending patriarchy.”).

    • http://themolinist.wordpress.com Matthew SG

      In response to your first point, I did not mean to take issue with the content of the list, but to suggest, admittedly obliquely, that the entreprise itself is a cissexist (‘cis’ being the opposite of trans) and patriarchal one. Your explication itself reinforces this assertion, particularly the latter element. You say that what constitutes appropriate actions for men (here constructed as straight and cisgendered) are socially determined. Social determination doesn’t make right. Social determinations can be racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, etcetera. The social demands put upon men in modern Western society (I’m a Canadian living in Britain, both of which share the relevant social context you have described) are not necessarily good ones. My point is that you are reinforcing the arbitrary and cissexist constructions of hegemonic masculinity and impugning the manhood of anyone who trespasses against those constructions.

      To your second point, what I mean by ‘offending patriarchy’ is, in a (hyphenated) word, self-feminisation. Rules like numbers 1, 13, and 32 (more besides but I needn’t number each one) describe socially ‘feminised’ actions. Getting really Women’s studies on you, in Western culture, a feminised action is an inferior one, one which is unbecoming of men and fit only for the lesser sex. The dynamic of feminisation is best illustrated by the classic example of late Republican Rome attitudes toward male-male anal sex: the ‘passive’ or penetrated partner was emasculated by virtue is his adopting the ‘feminine’ role in the sex act, it was thus considered inappropriate for adult citizens and freemen to be anally penetrated. Your rules declare that I, as I man, must not feminise myself by getting a ‘mani-pedi’ or crying during a movie for the same reason the 13th Legion is said to have mocked Caesar for allowing himself to be penetrated by Vercingatorix: because it is unbecoming for me as a man to perform a feminine action.

      This list is an exercise is gendering actions and casting aspersions on those who trespass those gender boundaries. You’re asserting a harmful, performative (as in defined by the performance of mandated actions, rule 35, the interdiction against admitting ignorance in front of a woman, being a prime example), heteronormative (as in assuming that heterosexual sexuality is morally normative, well illustrated by rule 24) model of masculinity which values men and masculine actions above women and feminine actions and which, as I have already asserted, impugns the masculinity, and thus the value, of men who trespass.

  • Jerry

    I agree with all except the “give yourself a haircut” one. Unless you go to a real barber shop, the whole getting a haircut experience is on par with getting a mani-pedi. Plus I dislike strangers touching my head and making chit-chat.

    • Joe Carter

      Plus I dislike strangers touching my head and making chit-chat.

      Well, when you put it that way it does sound rather unpleasant. I’m not a fan of chit-chat or head-touching by strangers either. But a man should have at least one friend that will cut his hair for him.

      Cutting one’s own hair is like being one’s own lawyer in court. Sure you may be able to do it, but you’d probably get a better result having someone—anyone—do it for for you.

      • Jerry

        Oh I’m good.

  • Jerry

    cheers to #36 too.

  • Joe Carter

    . . . that the entreprise itself is a cissexist (‘cis’ being the opposite of trans) and patriarchal one.

    From the definition I gleaned on Wikipedia, cissexist means “a gender identity where an individual’s self-perception and presentation of their gender matches the behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex.” If that’s the case, then yes I’m a cissexist. I am, after all a person who believes in Biblical Christianity, a system of beliefs that says there are behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex.

    Of course I am in no way claiming that my tongue-in-cheek list has anything to do with the normative roles established in the Bible (though nos. 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 34 probably are).

    You say that what constitutes appropriate actions for men (here constructed as straight and cisgendered) are socially determined.

    Actually, I would say that there are (at least) three determinants: natural revelation (what God has revealed to all people), special revelation (gender norms that God reveals in Scripture), and culture. Culture is obviously the most flexible and least binding. But I don’t think it can or should be dismissed altogether.

    The social demands put upon men in modern Western society . . .are not necessarily good ones.

    I agree.

    My point is that you are reinforcing the arbitrary and cissexist constructions of hegemonic masculinity and impugning the manhood of anyone who trespasses against those constructions.

    I’ll agree to the first part, though I’m not sure about the latter. I prefer to impugn a man’s manhood on a case-by-case basis rather than through a general arbitrary rule.

    To your second point, what I mean by ‘offending patriarchy’ is, in a (hyphenated) word, self-feminisation.

    While I like the phrase “self-feminisation” (and am against self-feminizing) I wouldn’t agree that it has anything to do with “offending patriarchy.”

    Getting really Women’s studies on you, in Western culture, a feminised action is an inferior one, one which is unbecoming of men and fit only for the lesser sex.

    Oh, I definitely disagree with that. Again, as a Christian I think that certain gender roles are normative, but that both sexes are equal in dignity. To say that a man should not engage in a “feminised action” is not to say that it is inferior, only that it is not something he should do. A person should fulfill their teleos and you can’t do that if you have men and women subverting their Biblical gender roles (whatever those may be).

    Similarly, to say that someone is violating a gender role devised by Western culture is not to say that they are acting inferior.

    it was thus considered inappropriate for adult citizens and freemen to be anally penetrated.

    Indeed, and it is inappropriate nowadays for much the same reason.

    Your rules declare that I, as I man, must not feminise myself by getting a ‘mani-pedi’ or crying during a movie for the same reason the 13th Legion is said to have mocked Caesar for allowing himself to be penetrated by Vercingatorix: because it is unbecoming for me as a man to perform a feminine action.

    Actually, I would say my admonition fall into the “probably should not” rather than “must not” category. If a man can engage in such activity without doing so in a “feminine” way then it certainly won’t harm him.

    This list is an exercise is gendering actions and casting aspersions on those who trespass those gender boundaries.

    An exercise in gendering actions? Yes. Casting aspersions on those who trespass those gender boundaries? Yes, but only in a gently mocking way.

    You’re asserting a . . .heteronormative (as in assuming that heterosexual sexuality is morally normative, well illustrated by rule 24) model of masculinity . . .

    Oh, I’m unapologetically “heteronormative” (see: Revealed Word of God).

    . . . which values men and masculine actions above women and feminine actions and which, as I have already asserted, impugns the masculinity, and thus the value, of men who trespass.

    To be honest, I think the idea that proscribing masculine roles for men is a a devaluation of women or femininity is a bit silly and something that could have only been cooked up in the Academy. Sure, it can and does happen in the real world (what doesn’t?), but I don’t think that is the intent of such actions, despite what the professional feminists seem to think.

    • http://themolinist.wordpress.com Matthew SG

      I’ll respond here to a few of your more substantial points individually and hopefully the general thrust of my argument will speak to my larger perspective.

      The definition of ‘cissexist’ which you gleaned from Wikipedia is not accurate. Cissexism is the devaluation of sexual and gender identities which don’t fit within the gender binary. In practice it manifests frequently as discrimination against and bigotry toward trans* and intersex persons. It is distinct but not discrete from homophobia, since ‘homosexual’ sexuality can and frequently does operate within the gender binary.

      In response to your three determinants of appropriate gender action, though I cannot hope fruitfully to discuss your natural and special revelatory categories in this forum in any substantive ways, I can explicate my point about culture. I do not mean to suggest that we should throw out our cultural understandings of gender, mainly because that’s impossible. We can’t step outside of our culture, only seek to operate critically within it. To that end we can seek to turn a critical eye to our inherited understandings, engaging with them in the hopes of understanding something of where they come from and, crucially, what implications they have in the world. In cases where those implications are negative, we can and should seek to understand how those negative effects can be addressed, including through conscience attempts to abandon certain inherited understandings. The point is critical and constructive engagement.

      To the point of your Biblical and teleological defense of gender roles. I would not deny that human sexual differentiation is an element of our personal and collective teloi. Certainly I would cast the net wider than you would and include a broader spectrum of sexual and gender identities as integral to that collective journey. However, in response to your assertion of morally normative Biblical gender roles I would like to raise Gal 3.28 as a problematising passage. I am aware that gender is hardly Paul’s point but the fact that he employs it as an example to further his primary anti-Jew-Gentile-distinction argument speaks, I would posit, to its equally nonsubstantial nature.

      Your final point, that the intent is more important than the effect of devaluating gender norms, that as a rule people do not intend these determinations to be harmful, is quite undone by your own comment a few lines above: “[i]f a man can engage in such activity without doing so in a “feminine” way then it certainly won’t harm him.” Why, I must ask, is ‘feminine’ equivalent to ‘harmful?’

      • Joe Carter

        Why, I must ask, is ‘feminine’ equivalent to ‘harmful?’

        In the context of gender, human behavior can be masculine, feminine, or gender-neutral. The vast majority of what our culture deems “masculine” and “feminine” should be considered, in my opinion, gender-neutral. In fact, my primary criteria for cultural gender norms would be how much it enhance or impedes the Biblical gender norm.

        For instance, the Bible says that a husband should be willing to die for his wife. That means, at least, that the man should provide physical protection for his spouse. Therefore to be the protector would be the “masculine” role while the “feminine” role would be as protected. If a culture promoted women having to die to keep their husbands from physical harm, then that would be a culture that “feminized” men. That is an example of when the “feminine” equivalent would be harmful.

        • http://themolinist.wordpress.com Matthew SG

          Would, by the same token, such a culture be ‘harmful’ to women by virtue of ‘masculising’ them?

          • Joe Carter

            Yes, I think so. In fact, probably even more so. Men have certain advantages and privileges in our culture so the “harm” done to him by feminization is mostly internal. But a women who is “masculinized” often faces external hardships. For example, when a woman is treated as if she should be equal in physical strength to a man, it can lead to abuse and violence.

  • Brad Williams

    I shall list my manly objections to this Manly Man list of Don’t here. If you disagree, you have the option of laughing or pistols at dawn:

    #11: I watched some shows on Lifetime with my wife. I have contradicted your proverb and proved my manliness.

    #13: I find criticizing a man’s wife behind his back to be even more repulsive. Criticizing her with him absent is going to be viewed as unmanly by many. (Not to me.) So when, Joe, can you criticize a woman? It seems that you are in a conundrum.

    #16: You should have just left of “in public”. I mean, getting drunk by yourself is more creepy than being drunk with people.

    #18: HOW DARE YOU! You should have said ‘watch TELEVISION for more than 3 hours a week.’ I’m working on my hand-eye coordination, couch potato!!

    #24: Is technically correct. You impress them by violating #1. It is less permanently problematic, though I suspect it will not impress every girl.

    #32: I cry at movies all the time. I hereby turn in my man card with this withering innuendo. This, added to #5, makes me think that Joe is desperate to hide his crying fits.

    #35: JUST PULL THE CAR OVER ALREADY YOU NUT!

  • Barry Arrington

    12. Know the complete lyrics to a Lady Gaga song. Got that covered. In fact, if someone were holding a gun to my head and demanded that I receive ANY lyric to ANY Lady Gaga song, I would just have to prepare to meet my maker.

    • Rob

      lol well stated :D

  • Barry Arrington

    “recite”

  • Barry Arrington

    On second thought “recieve” kinda works too.

  • B-Lar

    The herd only goes as fast as its slowest members. Your black and white thinking is holding us all back. Stop it, for the love of god, stop it. Dont you want to grow? To learn? To improve yourself?

    Your mind is puny and weak. Every morning for a week, dump a bucket of cold water over your head and shout out loud: “The world is bigger than I think it is”

  • Rob

    I could tell some of the statements were meant to be funny, but some seemed serious. Overall it’s not a bad list, although I would think it’s ok to cry during Courageous, in addition to the other movies you listed. :D And dead on with Lady Gaga… no man should know her stuff…

  • http://www.twitter.com/johncfarrier John Farrier

    27. Refer to oneself as a “playa.”

    I don’t agree with all of your items, but I enthusiastically agree with this one.

  • largo

    Never put your hat on the bed son, never put your hat on the bed.

  • Steve F

    Only a prideful narcissist would think they have the right to even conceive of such a list. To publish it confirms it.

  • http://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    You might want to clarify that this is a list for heterosexual (and very likely heterosexist) men. There’s plenty of full-on men who are fashionable, and who know all the words of several Lady GaGa songs, and they are no less “men” than any other sort of man–and, many are considerably more manly where it counts, i.e. in maturity, integrity, and strength of character. And, many of those aren’t even gay, bisexual, or at all gender-variant.

  • Hilary

    I don’t get it – what’s wrong with a mani-pedi or knowing Lady Gaga lyrics? Does that make your little guy go limp and fall off? Do you think that a man who likes his hands and feet in good condition and listens to popular rock music gets hit by lightning or is this worthy of burning in hell for? Satire, this is funny. Not satire – what a limited veiw of masculinity. Sad, really, that you let your plumbing limit your world this much. Just as long as you don’t try and limit other men’s lives over your beliefs.

    Hilary

  • Thomas R

    “11. Admit to watching any movie on the Lifetime channel.”

    I could agree, but I kind of liked “Homeless to Harvard.” I remember it feeling different than the ones I’d set through when with Mom. It had a girl going from homeless to Harvard, as it says, and was based on a real story. But unlike some such stories I remember it not being too sappy. The pain in her life wasn’t magically solved by getting accepted to Harvard. She still had severely screwed up parents and some traumas from living on the street. She was still young so likely had some growing up to do by the end. Additionally she ultimately found Harvard wasn’t for her, it was more a dream she had then a reality she liked, so transferred to a different college. That said it was pleasing she was working to turn her life around and making progress.

    Okay maybe that sounds effeminate, but if it was about a man played by Will Smith or something it might sound less so. I remember liking it okay sue me:)


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