14 June, 2009

How We Fail Our Brothers

We, as men, as fathers, as brothers, as uncles, as cousins, are failing. We are failing grotesquely to teach the males younger than us how to be men. As a result, we are complicit in the creation of an entire generation of idiot men-children pursuing their immediate gratification at the expense of anything meaningful or lasting. Culturally, we have enshrined this new lowest common denominator in TV and film with popular anti-heroes, who get by, succeed, and get the girl in spite of being pathetic, rudderless, and immature.

Too often we frame the discussion of feminism, inequality, and/or women's rights solely in terms of what women can do to empower themselves and hold solidly against a casually oppressive patriarchy. While this is good for women, it leads to long-term conflict and frustration on both sides. Men cast women as whiny castrators despite well-documented gender-based disparities in income. Women cast men as stupid and base, and unfortunately this is becoming more and more true with each passing year. We have allowed the lowest common denominator in what we expect of men to sink to new depths.

A real man is responsible, considerate, and, above all, respectful everywhere that respect is due. This doesn't just mean respecting one's grandparents, it means respecting the janitor, respecting the receptionist, and, most importantly, the strangers with whom they share the world every day, including the cute women regardless of whatever they may choose to wear. But these values are no longer being transmitted to boys as they grow up. Instead of seeking to become men and assume the responsibilities of adult life, young adult males are living in a protracted adolescence and have been for quite some time. A second generation of man-children is now coming up through college. This environment of greatly lowered expectations for decent behavior from men doesn't just perpetuate gender-based inequalities and an unsafe world for women, but it also exacerbates it by placing the immediate gratification of a man before the autonomy of anyone else, especially women.

Our society views all women's personal interests and goals as secondary to those of men. We are astounded with the exceptions of stay-at-home fathers, we castigate ambitious women as power-hungry harpies. That our popular media, news media, literature, and schooling all reinforce this ad infinitum is deeply flawed, and in it our failure is evident. We cannot hope to correct gender-based wrongs by focusing solely upon how women can help themselves; we must also ask how men can change themselves and redefine the shallow, but unfortunately prevalent, prescribed notions of macho and masculinity*. To do otherwise, to not teach young boys how to be real men, guarantees failure.

*If you're a male wondering how you can change to help, here's what Toaster does: He just tries to not be an asshole. And when he slips and is an asshole anyway, he apologizes. This generally works quite well.


Silence is the Enemy

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful Toaster. jc

quietandsmalladventures said...

oh enlightened one, i think i might now have a wee bit of a crush now :)

DuWayne Brayton said...

Thanks for going there. I am trying to get back to another gender post, discussing this very issue - but I am also trying to keep up other blogging, finish the last eight weeks of my twelve week intro psych and just started my eight week intro to cultural anthropology today and start my eight week physical geography tomorrow...

So for the moment, suffice to say that I think you are totally dead on...

Ambivalent Academic said...

:)

scicurious said...

AWESOME. Nail, head, you hit it there.

JLK said...

Great post, Toaster. :)

Mike Haubrich said...

Excellent commentary. It ain't so hard to be a real man if you just be civilized.