A former male 8th grade student of mine has been e-mailing me consistently ever since he figured out that I really love to read my students writing. He has been sending me a few stories a month for about six months now. I read these really crazy pieces and say that I want more, always more, and he obliges. However, last week he e-mailed me a little writing assignment for me to complete. It was to write down my definition of man. You see, he had to interview an adult male about the “nature of men” and then write a response to whatever he got. I’m assuming he chose me because he knows that I can’t resist talking about gender roles and equity (a theme that we spent quite a bit of time on in our study of 19th century literature). So, I thought that I would share what I came up with and see if anyone else would like to take on this very interesting challenge from his English teacher at his (private) high school.
A man is fully understands his biases, abilities and shortcomings. A Man thinks. A man never uses his strength to make others feel weak. A man knows that there are differences between himself and a women, but sees them only as the completion of everything he can’t do. A man can see the truth in everything. A man is confident enough in his masculinity to not have to prove it every chance he gets. A man is tolerant. A man works hard and knows how to play with every thing he “has to do.” A man gets what makes him unique. A man is always trying to make himself better. A man is the manifestation of hope. A man is honest about personal needs and emotions. A man, from time to time, wears a devilish grin. A man is aware, both socially and personally. A man cares about what is important.
This is what he wrote in response for his English class:
As always Mr. Wilkoff gives an answer that makes me feel stupid in comparison, I really liked his. I think I agree with just about everything on his answer. I did note that he did not say a man has to have a penis or testicles, which maybe was just implied. I do think that most things stated could be done by a woman, but maybe that shows that men and women aren’t so different. Men and women obviously aren’t the same but we have our similarities. Really the question is really hard since it is so vague and everyone really has different and correct opinions. By definition all it takes to be a man is to have the biology of a man, but just looking back at our day shows us that men act different then women and it’s probably not a coincidence. Maybe it is just nurture over nature and we act like men because we were taught to, but it would take a hell of a experiment to prove that right. And lawsuits would come through your ears for trying to do a social experiment on a kid and give him make-up and purses.
I really like the fact that this teacher has now turned writing into a conversation. It strikes me as incredibly authentic and fun. I hope to do something like this when I come to my Study of Race and Gender.