I caught part of a segment on MSNBC's Morning Joe a few days ago in which the topic of discussion was "What makes a gentleman?" The guests were GQ's Chris Mitchell and Jake Wood, the winner of GQ magazine's "Better Men, Better World" search. It seems to be a worthwhile endeavor. Aspiring to make the world a better place is noble & honorable, and the men who strive to do such deserve recognition. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly rare to find men of character who stand above the rest and make a real difference in the world in which we live.
What kinds of traits make up a gentleman? Who do you think of? For me, the word gentleman conjures up images from my grandfather's generation. I think of men of Hollywood fame, like Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper, and Humphrey Bogart.
Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezenzki thinks Robert Duvall is the quintessential gentleman. I agree. He is definitely old school. He has charm and the timeless qualities that define a gentleman. He seems like the type who would pull out a chair for lady, open doors for them, and would, if necessary, kick someone's butt (as Mika so eloquently put it).
I found Bryan William's depiction humorous. Corny, but funny. But it does seem chivalry is a thing of a by-gone era. My wife, when asked who she thinks of, said Sean Connery. Of course, who oozes coolness and gentlemanly qualities better than 007 himself? Who can compete with the tux-wearing, martini-sipping, villain-fighting Sean Connery, the one who made all the 007 women fall under his spell?
In today's culture, rudeness, misogyny and vulgarity are commonplace. The question has to be asked: "Where are the gentlemen in today's world?" In contemporary America, coarseness and disrespect have displaced manners and politeness. Behavior that used to be considered fringe and reserved for tawdry daytime television can be seen in almost any public setting. It is as if boorish behavior is a contest, but no one really wins.
I am not trying to open a Pandora's box of feminist wrath, but I think in spite of what some women say, they really do want a knight in shining armor. Women like men who are confident, self-assured, and assertive. Weak, milquetoast men need not apply. Cowardice and timidity are not traits of gentlemen, and I would guess most women are put off by these traits. I think a gentlemen is one who is manly, fearless, and courageous. And all the while demonstrating respect and a special tenderness to their woman and family. Maybe for women to admit the qualities they really like in men suggests a level of vulnerability, but I think that's OK. At the end of the day, well-disciplined masculinity wins over weak, passionless souls, and indifferent, obnoxious brutes.
I have seen men whose behavior suggests they've never been taught the right way to treat a lady. I believe many confuse gentlemen-like behavior and politeness for weakness. Perhaps part of the problem is an increasingly fatherless society. And maybe some of it is a culture that tolerates behavior that devalues and dehumanizes others. Regardless the reasons, men can and should do better.