I want to defend men today. An odd statement coming from me, but there it is. Men have it rough these days. Being male in this country is no picnic.
Now before I get accused of being a subservient little woman who has obviously been brainwashed, let me just say that most people would consider me to be a rabid feminist. I actually joined NOW as a teenager – and I was a charter member of Ms Magazine – that’s how rabid I am! If I am brainwashed by anything, it is probably all the feminist rhetoric that I absorbed from MS Magazine during my formative teen years.
So, why would a feminist like me say that men have it rough today? Well, I look around and I see women with all kinds of choices that we didn’t have 30 or 40 years ago; young girls now play soccer and volleyball and softball – thanks to Title IX, jocks are not just boys anymore. And now there are huge numbers of female doctors and lawyers and even female CEO’s. More and more women are running for political office and winning. The U.S. Speaker of the House is a woman, the Secretary of State is a woman – 30 years ago, I thought that might never happen in this country, but it has.
Gone are the days when a woman virtually disappeared from view behind her man after marriage. Remember that old line about a woman only gets her name in the newspaper when she is born, she gets married or she dies? Well, we’ve obviously come a long way baby. Today we women have so many choices about what we can do with our lives. We can go after the top corporate job if we want to, or we can stay home with our kids. Or we can choose to juggle some combination of the two. We get to choose.
The women’s movement was good for women in my opinion – very good. We now have lots of choices.
But look around at the men in your life. Have men’s choices changed for the better in the last 40 years? Did men’s choices expand along with women’s? Actually from where I sit, men’s choices haven’t changed much since the cave man days!
We still expect men to protect and provide for us – that’s still supposed to be their top priority. We expect a man to go after the best paying job he can find and make a bunch of money to put a nice roof over our heads and food on our table. Isn’t that how we still define male success? We still send our man out into the world hoping he will provide for us. Only now instead of hunting down the biggest antelope he can find and dragging it home to us, we expect him to slay corporate beasts and drag home a pile of money.
Look at the “perfect man” in all those romantic movies that women love watching. The alpha male that every woman wants to marry is still the best provider. Oh yes, we want him to be good looking and emotionally sensitive, but he better be able to take care of us financially too! Male nurses still rate far below male doctors on the marriage material scale – no matter how sensitive they are. And forget about HIS personal fulfillment – he’d better bring home a big paycheck week after week or he’s somehow lacking.
But isn’t that thinking just as Neanderthal as what feminists accuse men of wanting from women??
In addition to providing for us, we still expect men to protect us no matter what – even if it means they end up dead. We seem to be locked into thinking that physically protecting us is an essential part of being male. All men are aggressive, right? All men are supposed to want to fight for us – whether it’s a big macho strong man or a skinny sensitive guy with an artistic soul. It’s their DUTY to fight for us.
Every year our young men do their duty and go off to Iraq or Afghanistan or some other battlefield. They go off to “protect our honor and our country” and end up dead or maimed. We treat young men like they are disposable. Men are still cannon fodder just like they were in medieval times. Can you imagine expecting and encouraging young women to do that for us? No way. But for men it’s another matter – we assume they will defend and protect us and we proclaim them heroes when they die in the process.
One of the highest honors a man can earn is to die defending us. I find that very sad.
So, I look around and I don’t see men’s choices opening up like women’s have. I still see men locked into provide and protect, provide and protect – even if it kills them. And I don’t think that old male model works very well in today’s world. This isn’t the year 1114 and the enemy isn’t storming our castle walls threatening to kill us. It’s the 21st century and issues like global warming and pollution threaten us in a totally different way. Traditional business as usual just doesn’t cut it anymore.
I want to help the men I love find a new way of being in the world.
What does that look like? I really don’t know. But I think we all ought to start talking about it with the men we love. I AM certain that we can figure out a new way that works better for men – just like we did for women; a new way of being male that expands and shifts their role and opens up their choices in life.
We’ve had 40 years of women demanding things from men; women demanding to be heard. Isn’t it about time to listen to our men?
Let’s get our knight in shining armor down off his horse. Let’s invite him to come in out of the cold. Let’s encourage him to take off his armor and get comfortable. And then let’s sit down with him and really listen to what he has to say about what it’s like to be a man today. Let’s listen to the men we love and go from there.