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Manliness, No Longer Synonymous with “Macho”

Contributor: Arjan Singh

manlinessIn a sea of macho stereotypes, new voices are changing the face of manhood. One of them, a niche men’s lifestyle website called The Art of Manliness, publishes articles, such as On Being Neighborly and The New Dad Survival Guide, alongside tutorials on straight-razor shaving and the art of Krav Maga. Started in 2008 by Brett McKay, a former lawyer, the site eschews the cartoonish, hyper-masculine and macho images conjured by the word “manliness” in favor of the quest to become a well-rounded man in all aspects of life (not just at the bar and the gym). In the past, men were not generally expected to have a hand in the “feminine” tasks of raising a family, such as changing diapers or cooking meals. Today, however, the role of the man is shifting.

Family and Work – Not Just a Women’s Issue

Stewart Friedman, Director of the Work/Life Integration Project, has widely discussed the pushback he received in 1987 when he introduced the topic of family to a class of MBA students. Work and family, especially at elite business schools, has long been seen as a women’s issue, if it was discussed at all. However, a September 2013 Pew Research Center study found that 550,000 American men are staying home full-time with their children – nearly double the number of that from the 1970s – and this number is expected to increase. While many young men will now grow up to become stay-at-home-dads, an also-increasing number will become parents in dual-career homes. Discussion of family and the integration of work and life seeps into the classroom and public sphere with less pushback now than in 1987, with men embracing the issue of family and work.

Time to Take Action

We need conversations by men and for men. As Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement goes global, work/life integration continues to seem tailored for women. Yet a March 2013 Pew Research Center study found that nearly equal proportions of fathers and mothers are struggling to “do it all.” Evidence shows that men today spend three times as much time with their children than their grandfathers did.  If you’re a guy, bring to light these conversations with your friends, family and colleagues. And women – encourage the men in your lives to embrace their “manliness” and become better boyfriends, husbands, and fathers. Discussions with my peers – driven young men ages 18 to 24 – reveal that we have goals that go beyond our careers and making money. No longer are men okay with a “Cat’s in the Cradle” existence of broken homes and neglected children in order to rise professionally.  Indeed, this is what Friedman observed in his 2013 book about the Work/Life Integration Project’s study of the differences between the Wharton Classes of 1992 and 2012, Baby Bust:  New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family.

Deloitte Dads, otherwise known as the Fraternity of Paternity, are an example of modern day alpha fathers who are committed to work/life integration. The men in this group focus on time management, precisely tailoring their work schedules weeks in advance, in order to create more flexibility at home. In-person meetings are often moved to conference calls and “out-of-the-office” options allow for more flexibility at work and at home.  We need more groups similar to the Deloitte Dads that help men, both young and old, deal with the struggle of integrating all parts of their lives through bold and aggressive changes. Men, too, deserve to “have it all.”

For more on men and work/life integration, check out the Forum’s recap of Stew Friedman’s interview with Matt Schneider (W’97) on the rise of stay-at-home dads and their impact on families and businesses, and read about Stew’s conversation with Brad Harrington about the substantive shift in the role men play in their families and how organizations can support the “new dad.” For more conversations like these, tune in to Work and Life every Tuesday at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111, “like” the Wharton Work / Life Integration Project on Facebook, and subscribe to the Forum.

About the Author

Arjan SinghArjan Singh is an undergraduate sophomore studying economics at The Wharton School.

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