What it Means to be a Man II: Responsibility

Published in Feminism - 2 mins to read

Following on from where I left off yesterday, one of the key traits I think I want to possess as a man is that of responsibility, namely taking it. I’ve been making a list on the Notes app on my iPhone, and for each quality, I’ve tried to name an example or two who I think is worth holding up as an example, somebody to aim for. Responsibility has been an especially difficult one, and as such, currently there is no name by it - although I’d love to court suggestions. I could instead list a million counterexamples, but that’d be a bit too depressing for a Friday night. I think one of the most valid criticisms of Western social structure with regard to gender inequality is that we simply do not hold men to account, we allow men to not take responsibility for their actions in many circumstances with disproportionate, if any, consequences.

In my mind, not taking responsibility is cowardice, and I think a powerful aversion to cowardice ought to have a place as a pillar of masculinity. I’m reluctant to characterise it as “bravery”, in part because it sums up images of a woad-faced Mel Gibson, but more meaningfully as I think a lot of stereotypical male “bravery” tends to be performative or misguided, adjacent to elements of toxic masculinity or simply evocative of different ideals that aren’t so near its true meaning. Men should be vulnerable and admit when they make mistakes, not act like lions or charge impetuously into battle or whatever else might fall under those connotations of bravery in the context of manhood.

Taking responsibility is inherently difficult, there is something almost masochistic about it, to admit fault and acknowledge that some amount of retribution will be inflicted on you (whether by yourself or another), and that’s going to be painful. But to paraphrase a generic Instragram clichéd platitude, the sort of which I usually loathe, the regret from shirking one’s responsibility will far outweigh the pain from doing so.

See other posts in the What it Means to be a Man series