I have felt for a long time that there needs to be a “menimism” movement. In fact, I first wrote the following blog celebrating men five and a half years ago, and last week, I was validated (it feels so good to be validated, doesn’t it?) when I listened to guest host Mary Katharine Ham interview Richard Reeves, author of the new book Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It on the Honestly with Bari Weiss podcast The message of the podcast and Reeve’s book…in my own words…men’s place in society has become collateral damage in the fight for women’s rights. It’s not that women have done anything wrong. They wanted the same opportunities as men both personally and professionally…and, while there still is more to go, they have been extremely successful at attaining it.
There is no doubt that men have enjoyed plenty of gender dominance for generations, and they have committed plenty of gender “sins” throughout history. But as women have gained social, emotional and economic independence, men have been losing their identities. If they don’t need to be providers and protectors…and they are maligned for their biological characteristic of strength…then who are they? In his book, Reeves makes the case that as women have gained their independence, men have shrunken from the workforce, from collegesand from society. They have been supplanted with no one to help them adapt to the change and redefine their roles. The result: A suicide rate of four men for every one woman…significantly more men than women using illicit drugs… a two-to-one ratio of men versus women in drug-treatment programs…and a generation of boys and men who simply don’t know what their purpose is in society.
My words from 2017 are as valid today as they were then…men are vital to a successful and fully functioning society if we would only allow and celebrate their existence. Here’s what I said then. You decide…
I’ve spent years seeing all the women’s book groups, women’s fitness classes, women’s professional groups, women’s conferences of all shapes and sizes, women’s health centers, women’s studies at universities, the list goes on and on. But I rarely see men’s studies classes or conferences celebrating men. Given the “oppression” of women through the ages in a male-dominated society, it’s understandable that women came together about 170 years ago to form the feminist movement. Their efforts have paid off on so many levels. What is fascinating to me is the fact that there now are so many women’s groups…and that women are so social and group-oriented…and so incredibly supportive of their sisters in need…and that the women’s movement has grown so substantially that even professional football players wear pink one game each year. Men just don’t operate that way.
While there has been enormous focus on helping to get both women and other minority groups onto equal footing with men, I fear that men have been emasculated along the way, stripped of the honor they deserve and lacking the community resources to support one another in their roles as men in society. Instead they are all too often maligned with personal attacks for simply being men, especially by modern feminist rhetoric.
Through the years, I have painfully listened to women complaining about their husbands as both spouses and fathers. Whether it’s the mess in the house or the way the children are fed or cared for, somehow we women believe it to be our privilege and our duty to let men know that they simply are not up to our snuff when it comes to managing a household. That said, I learned early on that there is magic in what men provide to children…and to us wives/partners if we just allow them.
- Sense of play: While women are busy worrying about feeding schedules and naptimes—and the many other details of the care children require—men teach kids to play. Play with blocks…play in the mud…pretend to be wild animals or explorers…swing from the tree…and make a fort with cushions from the couch. I wasn’t the one to take our daughters on a puddle march in the rain—it was my husband. Women focus on cleaning up and making order, but men teach children to explore their worlds and experience the many shapes and forms and sounds. Women don’t make motor noises and roar like lions…men do.
- No worries: Here’s the usual dialog when my family goes skiing. I will ask which way we should go, and my husband will say, “Down. It’s all good.” Such is his calming timbre in all areas of our family life. There’s a great lesson for all of us Nervous Nellies who focus on the dangers instead of the opportunities. Men dive into the metaphorical pool—not thoughtlessly but with joy and enthusiasm for the experience.
- The great protectors: Above all else, men want to be our heroes—divine characters who are admired for their strength and noble qualities…for keeping their families safe and protected in the face of whatever bogeymen lurk. Of course, in primitive times, it was the man who killed the wild beasts and brought home the food. With civilization, that role has changed. And as women have asserted their independence, it seems we have forgotten that it’s OK to be taken care of sometimes. Deep inside, all little girls loved to cuddle up and be held by their big strong daddies. My daughter went on a date last week and commented on the fact that her boyfriend opened the door for her, even the car door. Big, strong, caregiving men are not dead—we just have to give them an environment where they can shine.
- Letting go and not holding grudges: I have spoken to countless mothers of boys and girls, and the consensus is that boys are a whole lot noisier and messier than girls. But when boys are mad, once they punch one another a few times, they move along…arm in arm. No grudges or muttering. There was a “fight” and a victor. Done. Girls, on the other hand, twist and turn the knife of anger and revenge long after anyone can remember what the fight was about in the first place. There’s a great lesson for all of us—and I don’t mean to punch it out. Letting the past be in the past and looking forward is a beautiful concept that we all can benefit from.
- Fix-It: Probably one of the greatest elements of my marriage is the fact that my husband can fix “anything.” He’s good at it, and he enjoys it. Being able to fix things relates to men’s desire to be our heroes. Who isn’t a hero when the plumbing is leaking all over, and someone can stop the gush? Or when the computer is making weird noises? Some women are great at fixing things. In fact, I used to be, but I have very happily let my husband—who is far better at it than I am—have the glory of the fix while I have other glories in our home and family.
- Humility: I definitely make it clear to every member of my family how hard I work for them and how much I do for them—but men simply do it…no drama…no podium. They just graciously do all they can to protect and care for their loved ones.
When female friends I know complain about their husbands, I ask them when was the last time they acknowledged the goodness of their men. When was the last time they said, “Thank you”? All too often the answer is, “I don’t remember.”
Women can be an insatiable pool of wants and desires, but men are delightfully simple. Simply noticing them and saying thank you goes a very long way toward a whole lot of forever greatness.
Thank you, men. You are magical gifts for the world, and I am grateful to the many men in my life.