Masculinity and femininity may not be influenced by parenting and society, but manhood and womanhood are. Manhood and womanhood are the mature, responsible expressions of masculinity and femininity. So, manhood (responsible masculinity) is what is done/accomplished with that masculinity. Masculinity, itself, is neither good nor bad. It can, however, be expressed responsibly as when a man protects his family, or selfishly such as when we see men being abusive. The same can be said for womanhood when we see women caring for the home, or see women being abusive. For healthy manhood and womanhood, it all breaks down to: are the actions all about me, or are they for someone else? At the core of manhood and womanhood is the ability to take care of the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of your spouse. With this in mind, there is something to be said about taking care of yourself so that you can take better care of someone else. This is a good example of doing something ‘selfish’ with someone else in mind.
Stated another way, manhood is masculinity with the care and wellbeing of others in mind. How does this impact the scope of men’s responsibility? Men and women are ultimately responsible to God, each other, and the natural world. This includes taking personal responsibility for one’s actions. Whether men or women are helpful or hurtful, they are responsible for what they have done and must accept that responsibility. An important part of being responsible is making amends with yourself and with the one who has been wronged with the primary goal being the restoration of the damaged relationship. Being responsible to God, each other, and the natural world, manhood and womanhood turn out to be almost the equivalent of a full time job. With such a view, we could even consider manhood and womanhood to be a vocation.
Yet, when would such a vocation start? When does a boy come into manhood, or a girl come into womanhood? Different cultures answer that question differently. In the Jewish community, a boy becomes a man at the age of 13 during the rite of bar mitzvah. A girl into her womanhood at her bat mitzvah at the age of 12 or 13 depending on the Jewish community she lives in. A man or woman becomes legally responsible for himself or herself at the age of 18 here in the US. In spite of these different ages there are difficult, life-changing events that can cause even the youngest speaking family member to begin expressing masculinity or femininity responsibly. At best the age for manhood and womanhood is arbitrary. While children don’t understand the entire implications of manhood or womanhood, they may still try to aspire to be men or women. When viewing manhood and womanhood as masculinity and femininity in responsible action, it is important to remember that this does not affect boys being innately masculine and girls being innately feminine. Manhood and womanhood flow from masculinity and femininity and not the other way around. Since manhood and womanhood are based upon the outward actions (behaviors) of masculinity and femininity, they (not masculinity and femininity) are what is ultimately learned from the family and society.