A man card is a nonliteral licensure of one's masculine identity, obtained through recognition of manhood in one's culture, and maintained by upholding acceptable standards of manliness.
A man card is not considered to be a literal card that one can print up and carry around (however, some may print up man cards of their own to keep or pass out), a man card is something that a person is considered to have when they are sufficiently manly.
One subtle implication made by the supposed ownership of man cards is that they can be revoked if, at any time, that person's behavior is deemed substandard for men.
Grounds for awarding a man card
In many cultures, the awarding of a man card is considered to be automatic upon first reaching a certain stage of growth or age (such as puberty, or reaching the ages of 13 or 18). Generally, when a male transitions from boyhood to manhood, the man card is considered to be awarded.
Grounds for man card revokation
A person's man card can be revoked if that person's behavior is considered unfitting for a man. A few examples that are grounds for revoking a man card include:
- A history of disappointing behavior towards women.
- Making feminine choices (such as using feminine body wash, driving what is seen as a woman's car, etc.).
- Failure to provide adequate support for one's wife.
- Mistreatment of those seen as weaker than one's self.
- Instances of extraordinary selfishness.
- Crying in public after one's girlfriend dumps him.
If a man is witnessed committing unmanly behavior, it is permitted that another card-carrying man approach him and ask him to hand his man card over.
Grounds for earning back one's man card
There are certain circumstances which allow for the awarding of a new man card. This can be done by making amends to those whom he wronged in such a way to cause his man card to be revoked, or with an act considered to be extraordinary (such as saving another person's life). In some circumstances, a person's man card could be considered reawarded after a period of time, depended on the seriousness of the offense that caused his man card to be revoked.
Multiple man card theory
Some suggest that it is possible for a person to have more than one man card, if a person meets certain conditions (such as if a person performs an action considered grounds for earning back one's man card though they had not lost it). Thus, if a person loses a man card, they would still have another man card, and their male identity would be preserved. Critics of the multiple man card theory point out that the idea of having multiple man cards can be used as a means to "purchase" unmanly actions, which would go against the intention of the man card system.
The irrevokable man card
It is said that there are a few very rare instances in which one can have an irrevocable man card. Such a man card, if it were to exist, would likely be earned by performing acts extraordinary to the point of being considered legendary. For example, saving a large number of people from a catastrophe may result in the awarding of an irrevokable man card.
Some suggesting the existence of an irrevokable man card argue the the man card itself isn't considered to be irrevokable, but that the continued and persistent manliness of an individual would render such a card irrevokable.
Criticism of the man card system
The man card system does have it's critics. Some call the man card system unnecessary, and others insist that such a system couldn't effectively be enforced until there is a clearer widespread understanding as to what constitutes manliness.