Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

Valued, Respected, and Wanted

Written By: Anachan - May• 30•16

Recently, I noticed Peter Hollens had put out a new video, so as normal, I clicked on it on YouTube to see what it was.

Let me preface this by saying that I love Peter Hollens’s work. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of songs I have actually purchased in recent years (rather, than, say, queued up on YouTube or waited to hear on Pandora or even accessed through Amazon Prime) are from Peter Hollens. When given the chance to choose songs from my phone to play in the car, my 13-year-old will access the Peter Hollens playlist and choose from that until we run out, and she is forced to go to either the “Geek Music” playlist or the “Pensive Music” (aka, “moody women”) playlist.

But this video made me sick to my stomach.

I loved the song–“I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, from Mulan–and I could tell the participants had a lot of fun making the video, but the underlying message echoed a disturbing cultural trend I’ve been watching for a few years.

When did it become a cultural imperative to make men appear to be bumbling, incompetent dolts?

You see it in commercials, where, instead of the husband telling the wife how a new vacuum will make her life easier, the wife is, instead, telling the husband he was foolish for not using a certain dishwasher detergent. You see it in movies or TV shows, where often there are women in positions of authority, while the men who work under them are reduced to the comic relief.

I was shocked to find it had even permeated into the media of groups intending to teach men and young boys how to be responsible adults.

When I was teaching a GRADS class–a class designed primarily to help parenting teens graduate and be effective parents–we routinely went to training sessions. It was at one such training session that we were informed our focus would be changing. For years, our organization had been focusing primarily on teaching the young mothers, with some degree of success. But new research had pointed out something which should have been imperatively obvious long before: Fathers are just as important as mothers in the lives of their children. (The Art of Manliness did a great job discussing this idea.) The trouble was that with so many years focusing only on the mothers, the quiet message had gone out to the fathers that they really weren’t needed. After all, the mother could handle everything which needed to be done.

While it is true that many admirable mothers work hard to raise their children successfully alone, in most cases, those children would be far better off with their fathers, as well. And so, organizations like GRADS were, rather belatedly, trying to reach out to the fathers, to persuade them to finish school, to give them encouragement to remain in the lives of their children, and to teach them to be good fathers.

At this training session, in which we were learning about a curriculum designed to help men (or young men) learn to be better fathers, we were shown a video clip, part of the curriculum. I won’t go into the content of the clip, except to say there were two versions of it. One included two men discussing an idea. The other, targeted toward the teens, included a teenage girl and a teenage boy.

Yep, even in this video, part of a curriculum designed to help young men take on their responsibilities as fathers, the teenage boy was the dolt, and the teenage girl was schooling him in the idea presented.

How can we honestly expect young men to grow up into the kind of leaders, partners, husbands, and fathers we want to see, if they are constantly bombarded with the idea that they are less intelligent or less needed than women? What incentive is there to put up with the stress, the trials, and the adjustments needed to build good marriages and families? And, on the other hand, what can we answer the women who complain that there are no more “real men,” willing and capable of accepting responsibility for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of a family, when the culture has eaten away at the self-image of men?

I’m sure there are those who would say, “Anachan, you are taking this far too seriously. The video was all in good fun!” And I’m sure it was intended to be so. But as the mother of daughters, this cultural trend disturbs me. I would have much rather preferred to see the princes and princesses in a more equal contest. After all, would this video ever have been tolerated if the roles had been reversed? Why not? Does a history of inequality in the past make it “ok” to deride the men of today?

Someday, I would like each of my daughters to find a confident, capable partner who is willing to match her intellectually (or imaginatively, depending on the particular daughter), to be a strong shoulder to lean on, and to be a working, valuable partner in an eternal relationship.

Let’s let our young men (or even our older men) know that they are valued, respected, and wanted, for the sake of the strong families we hope to see.

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