For the past two-weeks, things have been pretty deep, as we have taken a short trip into the esoteric abyss of what we believe. As I have said, I won’t necessarily move on, but rather take a short break. My sincere belief is that until you answer The Big Four, in a consistent and coherent way, cognitive dissonance will eat away at your manhood little-by-little until there is nothing left at all. We have some battles to fight, and these battles can only be fought by those readied by absolute believing. One such battle will be discussed this week and so it begins …
Once upon a time in a land far and away … well the once upon a time part at least but not so much far and away part, I was helping plan the retirement celebration of a really great guy who was my boss at the time. He had been with the company for almost forty years so there were a group of us looking through boxes in the corporate archives for old pictures of him. In one of the boxes we found a very old company newsletter on the cover of which was a line of young women in short skirts, gogo boots, and V-neck sweaters. The caption read something like, “The Women of [Insert Company Name]”. One of the ladies who was helping us plan the party and had been around almost as long exclaimed, “Oh my, I though they went through and took all that kind of stuff out, none of us are very proud of the way women were treated in the workplace back then.” No one would disagree with that, leading up to the 1960’s, pre Joreen Freeman and women’s libation, that most female stereotypes were certainly wrong and some were even offensive. And. while I think that was has ultimately manifested from those early movements has become a ruthless catch 22 for the 21st century woman, I truly believe that had men behaved morally1 towards women, as they should have, women’s issues would have shaped up much differently. But I digress; that is not the topic of todays post; but stereotypes are indeed! Not female stereotypes since we can all rest assured that any female stereotype in the media, business, or political world will meet with an army of opponents.
So this is the part where you think I’m going to say that we have to band together and wage war against the male stereotypes right? Well in a way yes; however, in the war we wage, we may well find that we are our own first opponents. Let me explain. It’s one thing to attack stereotypes systematically in our families, social circles, and social networks. If there were enough of us, we could even become a force to be reckoned with, and someday we will … sooner than you might think considering how the readership of this blog seems to be growing. If you have read my prior post that deals with the AT&T commercial, you’ll know that is a stated goal of this work. Growing in numbers and mobilizing to fix broken stuff is part of the plan, which you should (click here) and have a look at. But guys, it’s just not that easy.
Here is what is already starting to happen and will continue to happen. Our numbers will grow and grow, and then I’ll make some statement that is so difficult for you to accept that many will simply disagree and disengage. ALERT … this is the probably the first time that may happen. So here it is, I believe in ultimate male accountability in all things. Over the next few months, you will see me hammer this point home as I weave it in to almost every single post. For instance, why have we gotten to a point where AT&T and other companies continue to paint a picture of what I call “sissy duffus man”. According to an article by Forbes magazine, this is a noticible trend:
Let’s look, briefly at gender roles on a few current hit family shows: On ABC’s Modern Family we get one couple where dad’s a doofus and mom’s in charge, another where dad’s a curmudgeonly doofus and mom’s a well-meaning bimbo and even given a couple with two dads they’re both caricatures. Or on Last Man Standing we get Tim Allen as a bewildered fish out of water in a household with three daughters. His wife? Great comedic timing and, of course, the kind of woman who holds her family together despite her husband’s unpredictable antics. (Societal mores hammered home: mom rules the roost, dad makes money and messes things up).
So sad, yet so true. I decided to take a break from the believe something blog series and write on this topic when I saw a post circulating Facebook that reduced men to unfeeling, dimwitted, insensitive sloths who, after leaving a love interest unsettled, crack open a bag of Doritos and get lost in a sportscast. The worse part was that it was the guys who where sharing this crap and then other guys were commenting and saying things like, “so true” and “this guy gets it”. A full copy of the post can be read by clicking on this link if you are interested. The story of Fred and Martha is so very sad to me because I can’t imagine how this guy Fred has gotten this far in life and the hell that is in store for Martha if she continues on with him.
So here is the straight up ugly truth, ABC’s lineup and male bashing Facebook fodder will continue because sadly, a lot of it is true of a lot of males. Worse yet, many males embrace and support these stereotypes as a sort of cop out of any kind of personal growth or empowerment, “see honey, it’s not just me, all guys are like that. Really we are just a bunch of smelly, insensitive, brutes, who have the emotional spectrum of a small mammal and, other than food and sex, we really don’t think of else, we really are pretty simple”. We allow these stereotypes, we buy into them, and we even promote them because it is a hell of a lot easier to be stereotypical than to be a real man. That, my friends is the cold hard truth. We can’t point to the big bad T.V. networks and say, “Look what they are doing to us”. According to my belief in ultimate male accountability, we own this, it’s our problem, it’s our fault, and we simply have to change it.
Just think about the great men who shaped this world we live in. The great kings and emperors, these were real men, and looked nothing like any one of these stereotypes. The great men of literature from Chaucer to Shakespeare; Whitman and Lord Byron. What about the men of early science, exploration, the leaders of revolutions. All of these great men and not a single one who looked anything like the twenty-first century western male dunces I see around me today. I’m sad to see that too much of the modern western male contingent has become stereotypical. So the plan of attack is to start with our selves first. If the story of Fred and Martha resonates with you, if you can walk away from an encounter with your woman where she is in distress, open a bag of Doritos and sedate yourself with television, then you have a problem. If you find that you have become a sissified doofus in your own home, then it isn’t your wife’s fault, it isn’t your children’s fault; it is your fault. Being a man is about owning your crap. The other day, I had a guy tell me that he just doesn’t feel respected in his own home then he seemed offended when I enquired of him what it was, specifically, that made him a respectable man. So here it is, as simply as I can state it … A real man is better than the stereotypical male. That means, “better” in all regards.
Here is a real example from my own life. For too much of my life, I am sad to say, that my emotional spectrum consisted of the following emotions; Sad, Happy, and Mad. What I didn’t know is that I was actually experiencing a whole range of complex emotions all along that spectrum. I had to make a choice to explore this part of myself and it was one of the scariest things I have ever done, and I’ve done some scary stuff! I’ve ridden up the side of a mountain in the back country of Central America in a broken down Ford Explorer where I could see half of one wheel hanging off the cliff, and the fear I felt at that moment was nothing as compared to the fear I felt when I decided to explore the complexity of my own emotions. Along the way, I have realized that I am as, if not more, emotionally complex than any woman. I am anything but simple, I think deeply and I feel just as deeply. If I have hurt or confused my sweet wife, it gnaws at the core of my being until I figure it out. I am nothing like Fred, I can’t open a bag of chips and forget it ever happened, and neither should you! That is not how you were made. You have been lied to and this lie has immeasurable consequences. It goes something like this, “guys really are pretty simple …” Please hear me, then let this sink it. You are not simple at all! You are very complex, capable of complex thoughts, insights, and feelings. You come from a long line of men who built the world we live in. We designed the greatest buildings. We painted the most breathtaking of art. Our father’s father’s father’s wrote the poems that speak even today. As males and men, our faults are immeasurably numerous, but simplicity is not one of them. Simplicity is a pill you have taken to make the pain go away, but it is that very pain that you so badly need to become the man you were made to be.
I am putting the challenge on the table. Be better than the stereotypical male … be a real man.
Stay with me on the journey brothers, next week’s topic is going to be a little dicey, but I hope to address one of the main reasons that I see western men falling into the trap of marginalized stereotypes.
1Reference Believe Something and The Big Four for an in depth discussion of the question of morality. In this context, I am speaking specifically of Christian Morality as that is the one of the few theistic worldview that provides for a moral treatment of women.