Monday, October 18, 1999

Week of 10/18/1999

The Measure Of A Man
- by David Matthews 2

A rather old and risqué joke goes something like this.. a little boy and a little girl were arguing about who was better. Everything the boy could do, the girl was able to do just as well if not better.

Finally, out of desperation, the little boy drops his pants and says "Well, I have one of these, and I KNOW you don’t!"

Then the little girl smiled, raised her dress and said "No, but I have one of these, and my mommy says that when I’m old enough, having one of these means I can have as many of THOSE as I want!"

Crude and risqué, but it gets to the heart of the topic at hand.

I have one simple request for America.. Can we end this so-called gender war soon? Like… right now?

I’m getting sick and tired of hearing about factions like "angry white males" and "soccer moms" in the media. The so-called "Republican Revolution" was supposedly created by the "angry white males" who were leading the backlash against feminism. Then the Clinton re-election was supposedly credited by this group of voters called "soccer moms" who supposedly came screaming to the voting booths in their sport utility vehicles, complete with Stepford Pod children in tow before whisking them away to soccer practice.

Please! Give me a break! The only people who actually buy the notion of groups like the "angry white males" and "soccer moms" are pollsters, and they’re the ones who created this fluff-oriented garbage in the first place!

However, when it does come to the sexes, it seems like many men are left gazing like deer in the headlights of progress. The best they can do is either get out of the way or get run over.

Of course the media doesn’t help matters much. The tabloid talk show circuit is filled with guys who are two-timing louts who don’t pay child support or alimony, who stalk their ex-lovers, or just plain refuse get jobs and sit on their fat ass watching other tabloid talk shows. The sitcoms want to show dad as either a bumbling buffoon or a workaholic who is too busy to know what his children are doing until it blows up in their face. A man either has to be a larger-than-life hero to be noticed in the media, or else he’s a pathetic character either looking for pity or canned laughter.

And our elected officials? Well, our highest elected official is a narcissistic and hypocritical con man who needs public opinion polls to know when and how to tell the truth. Then on the Republican side is retired congressman Newt Gingrich, leader of the "Republican Revolution", former speaker of the House - the man who preached about family values and the sanctity of marriage - who is now in what looks like a messy second divorce, and is rumored to have been carrying on with a Washington aide for quite some time. The alternatives right now running for office are authoritarians like Pat Buchanan and Gary Bauer, or plain-as-yogurt personalities like Governor George Bush and Vice President Al Gore. Men are represented in government either by hypocrites and thugs, or else bores.

Now some people are starting to blame the wave of shooting sprees on men acting out on society. Several writers I’ve come across have gone so far as to say that men are being "feminized" by both women and society in general. While the argument could be made that the men .. and even boys in many instances.. could’ve felt emasculated by their peers and by society prior to their violent shooting sprees, I would find that theory too difficult to swallow, and too easy a scapegoat. We’ve all been harassed and picked on in our lives, some more than others. Everyone has had their share of failures. Not everyone can be the next Mark Andressen, or the next Steve Jobs, or even the next Bill Gates. The best business advisors will tell you that eighty percent of all businesses fail. The fact that some males take this as feeling emasculated should not be used as an excuse for violent behavior.

So what has been happening with us guys?

Well, let’s get brutally honest here.. we guys have been busy working. Too busy, sometimes, to notice the changes that have been happening. Times change, often at an incredible pace for most men to keep up with.

Women have been able to change more readily than men because they’ve been pushing for those options that the male populace never considered. Before World War II, the very notion of women working was unheard of aside from professions like nursing and teaching. Today, women have options. They can work, or they can get married, stay home, and raise children. The birth control pill in the 1950’s gave women more power to determine whether or not they’ll have children while exploring their sexuality. The more liberalized trends in the late 50’s and into the 60’s and 70’s allowed women to explore more about themselves.

Men, on the other hand, worked. There was no movement to "explore our sexuality." Our egos told us we didn’t need to explore it.. either we knew what we needed to know or it didn’t matter. There was no real push for "fathers rights" because that conflicted with our own traditional notion that fathers worked and mothers stayed at home to raise their children.

What would you say if a woman told you that she was going to quit her lucrative job so she could stay at home and raise the children, and let her husband do all the work that pays the bills? You’d probably say "Good for you!" and commend her on her willingness to stay at home and raise the children.

Now what if a man said that he was going to quit his lucrative job, stay at home, raise the kids, and let his wife do all the work that pays the bills? How many of you would be willing to say "Good for you" to that guy? Or would you be quick to chide him about his choice of being a lazy SOB while his wife did all the work? You probably wouldn’t even think about him raising the kids, because you’d think that was just an excuse.

And yet, it was that double standard that explains the problems between women and men. Women have been making progress by making more and more options available. For the most part, men have remained the same, and that is creating some confusion amongst the male populace.

What is the measure of a man? Is man simply an economic life-support system? A wallet with legs? A replaceable cog in the ever-demanding workforce? Or is he something more than that?

Unfortunately, too many social institutions tell us no. Social programs like welfare tell us that struggling mothers are somehow better without husbands. The workplace tells us we’re replaceable through various layoffs and corporate mergers. To add insult to injury, the workplace does so even after demanding the employees dedicate more and more time to work. The religious institutions simply tell us to grin and bear it, and the so-called "family" experts chide men for not dedicating every single, solitary moment of their time, effort, and money into the family.

Let’s start with the notion that men should be allowed to BE men, just like women have been demanding to do everything they want to and yet still be treated like women. Women don’t like to be treated as walking wombs (to put it mildly), so they should stop treating men like walking wallets. Objectification of either gender is wrong.

Let’s also entertain the notion that man is not a finished work of art just because he is out of school and has a job with a steady income. Not every hard worker is destined to climb that ladder of success in their current field. Sometimes people just don’t know what they really can do, or what they really want out of life until later in the years. For women it’s not that difficult, especially when they have a spouse that is understanding and supportive enough to allow women to find out what it is they really want. Guys should be at least given the same amount of understanding.

Finally, let’s realize that men - for the most part - need some very simple things.. to be accepted, respected, and appreciated amongst their peers, their family, and their spouse, for the things they do. Basic needs that have been forgotten in this fast-paced, me-more-now world. Take those things away, and what you have left is a shell of a human being; one that doesn’t care about anyone or anything; and angry enough to lash out at a world they feel has ignored them.

In the end, men simply want to be the best they can be. THAT is the real measure of a man.

No comments: