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Saturday, April 17, 2010

A TIME FOR 'MENAISSANCE'?


I saw a curious segment on CNN a few days back which described how maleness and masculinity is purportedly making a comeback after having lain dormant for a number of years. The presentation described how it is now the female who is outnumbering the male in terms of college diplomas and how many women are now earning more money than their husbands or significant others. In reaction to this, supposedly, society seems to be calling for males to step forward, reassert themselves, and become more masculine or "manly" than they have been in recent times. New "retro" masculine clothing lines for men just put forth by Banana Republic, and a few universities now offering courses in "Male Studies" are supposedly heralding this new focus on restoring the masculinity of men; a new "menaissance," if you will. Well, now, I just don't know what to think or say about that.

In the days of my childhood and before, it was always the male who was the breadwinner, ruler and decision-maker of the house, and handyman fixer-upper. Women were to maintain the home, cook, clean and wash, and bear and nurture the children. The Ward and June Cleaver stereotype was considered the norm. In popular culture and media ads, it was always the MAN who was smart, resourceful, and had all the answers. He was the protector of the family unit, who saw to its safety and who also spoke on its behalf. Being the wage earner, it was he who controlled the family finances. Women were to be silent, complacent, and supportive. A man's role was to show strength, but never emotion. Men who cried were thought to be weak little sissies, possibly even homosexual. A woman's role was to be charming, soft-spoken, to behave at all times like a "lady", and to never speak up or contradict her man publicly. She was to be weaker than and dependent upon her man. That was the unwritten and unchallenged code of the times. But, as we all know today, this was utter nonsense and far too self-limiting for both genders, and so this unrealistic, Cleaver-esque scenario had to come to an end.

The changing nature of our marketplace, with the waning influence of unions and the rise of corporate greed and power, plus the fully-warranted social upheaval that resulted from the Women's Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, brought profound change to both our economy and society. Rather than remaining sheltered and TRAPPED as stay-at-home moms, women in droves began entering the workplace and many even launched their own individual careers. They desired and got a broader perspective of the world as a result. They became more assertive and less docile. At the same time, a growing introspection and self-awareness among both sexes, coupled with a strong antiwar peace movement, led men in particular to become more sensitive and aware of their sisters, girlfriends, and wives. In this sense, their perspective on the world was widened. These were all poisitive developments.

Somewhere along the way, though, the roles of each gender became less clearly defined. Once considered a gentlemanly act, the gesture of a man opening a door for a woman became taboo; it was suddenly an infringement on a woman's independence, as perceived by some women. As women entered the workforce and begain earning their own money, they naturally began to resent a man trying to control all of the finbances. Many women adopted an attitude that men weren't all that necessary in their lives. They became angry with men who never lifted a finger to help with housework or child-related duties that women were expected to continue even though they, too, were now working long hours away from the house. In many families, the end result of this upheaval was divorce. Beyond that, a number of males began to feel threatened by female competitors on the job and by their newfound assertiveness. They became less civil and less communicative toward females in general. Some, now believing they were somehow absolved of all former protective responsibility at home due to their mate's newly-acquired equality, began taking a hands-free approach toward child-rearing and refused to take part in household chores. They found immense enjoyment in constantly going out with the boys, or in immersing themselves in endless hours of TV sitcoms and televised sporting events, delivering a punishing withdrawal from and silence toward their mate. To be sure, bility, and that was wrong. On the flip side of the coin, many women, flush with financial independence from men, have come to view males as irresponsible oafs who know next to nothing and are in need of constant gratification. This underlying attitude is subtly presented in and reinforced by current TV ads portraying women as more knowledgeable and more responsible than men. We are now presented with an assertive woman as the one who can tell us all about the properties of oil, for example, or who can explain all the benefits and mechanical advantages of the latest SUV or truck. We see her showing stupid, unknowing males all the ins and outs of a wide number of products. I believe such portrayals damage relations between the sexes and create fictitious stereotypes. For the actual truth of what modern males and females are really made up of lies somewhere between the errant stereotypes of both yesterday and today.


So do I think we need a resurgence of "mascu- line" males? I can't say - I would hardly call most American males of today "effeminate." I myself am in tune with both my male and female characteristics, and I know and readily admit I have both influences. I do not feel threatened by females in the workplace, and I certainly don't worry that they will someday be dominant. I do not view myself as being less-than-masculine for being attentive and sensitive to the needs of others. I am simply not an insecure person, and I don't see the world through specific-gender-colored eyeglasses. I don't like overly-assertive or aggressive females OR males. I try to be understanding of and respectful to those of each gender, race or creed. I strongly believe both genders should receive exactly the same pay for the exact same work. I believe promotrions should be based on education, experience, and merit, not gender, and that nobody should be barred from a management or CEO position simply due to their being a female. I am not concerned with our gender differences on the job or in society. I seek teamwork and accomplishment, not conflict and foolish rivalry. In my view, the sexes complement each other and need one another. Men are men and women are women. Viva la difference, right? So determining whether or not we need more masculine males today is not really a concern of mine. How about you, readers?

14 comments:

BigmacInPittsburgh said...

What a timely post,most of what you write I'm in agrement with.
I don't like the ideal of the media telling me what a man is.
I can clearly look in the mirror and my heart and see what a man is.
I still hold the view of being a protector of the family.
I respect everyones opinion,but that doesn't mean I agree with it.
I'll listen to your point of view and if it's something that is relavent to my life,I'll try to incorporate it into my life.
The whole point of my comment is to say I respect you as a person,and that should be enough for me to get along with you no matter who or what you are.

Jack Jodell said...

BigmacInPittsburgh,
You took the words right out of my mouth. As for the media telling us anything, they are corporatist and grossly oversimplify and dummy-down everything. They try to create absolutes based on an "either-or" model, and anybody with half a brain knows that life is not that simple. Of course, we real people don't have to constantly cut ourselves short to rush to the next commercial break every 3 minutes...

Bigmac, thanks for dropping by with this. You, sir, are a real man! :-)

Lisa G. said...

Men that can't accept a woman making more than them are not real men in my opinion.

My boss created a "Women's Network"; it was universally hated by all and about 30 years late. We can't do fin on our own with out so group of women telling us how to be 'empowered'. Thanks for playing.

JUDGE TRUTH 101 said...

Half our marraige my wife made more than I did. I made more than her while I was selling cars and that was the only time, 9 years, that she objected to me making more. That was mostly because she is an RN and was offended that used car salesmen made more than RN's.

I lived with the shame.

Jack Jodell said...

Lisa G,
"Men that can't accept a woman making more than them are not real men in my opinion." I'm with ya all the way, sister!
---------------
Good point, Judge Truth101!

Max's Dad said...

Hey Jack. I think who you are is the key. If you are who you are, nobody can take that from you with a judgement or a prejudice. If everybody was allowed to be who they are, this world would be fine. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. Now if I could just find a woman who knew anything about fixing cars, I'd be a happy man. :)

Jack Jodell said...

I think you've nailed it, Max's Dad. There are so many insecure people today, and their fear keeps them from being real, from being understanding, and from contributing. It is a terrible tragedy in that it is so limiting and so self-defeating.

Jerilyn Swiger LMT said...

Jack, I couldn't have said it better myself. I really resent the media's portryal of gender stereotypes. I hope they will start to chage soon. No one around me seems to mind and I can't understand why. Maybe I am ahead of my time. I don't mind when a man opens a door for me nor do I find anything wrong with opening a door for a man.

Tim McGaha said...

I think there's a perception, fair or otherwise, that men nowadays are more reluctant to "grow up" and accept responsibility than they were in the days of yore. This isn't exactly news. Every generation of parents from Adam on down has thought the next generation to be feckless slackers. This looks like more of the same.

Still ... I always like to see a call and challenge for men to be better. I want to be a better man tomorrow than I was yesterday, a better husband, a better father. My own father was an excellent example, but now that he's passed, I occasionally need other sources of inspiration. There's a lot of nonsense associated with some of the "Menaissance" sites, but there are some jewels buried in there, too.

Jack Jodell said...

Jerilyn,
I would say you are definitely ahead of your time and out on the cutting edge of things. I hope you'll always keep that progressive, activist, and slightly feisty persona. I love it! :-)
---------------
Tim,
Thanks for stopping by. You're always welcome here. I, too, don't know if it's true, but I agree that the perception of which you speak is out there.And I applaud your desire to be a better husband, father, and male. In my humble estimation, that's what being a real man is all about, and you certainly fit the mold with ambition like that! I encourage you, and all other males, to continue to strive for the good and the improved rather than sink into complacency. Striving for improvement as you do makes this world a better place!

mud_rake said...

...except in the Catholic Church. Jack. That exclusive club is still going strong and is XY chromosomal-limited. Which, by the way, is why it's in free fall.

Jack Jodell said...

mud_rake,
They have certainly been mismanaged for far too long. The hierarchy runs things like a corrupt bureaucracy, but the latest scandal is opening a lot of eyes all across the world, as it should.

Infidel753 said...

"Menaissance" is fighting against an irresistible tide. Growing numbers of males these days want to just watch football, drink beer, play video games, and generally turn into hippopotami while leaving the work of running the planet to the females.

Jack Jodell said...

Infidel753,
Let us hope that is a passing (rather than growing) phase. Our country and our species as well will not accomplish much more if half its population turns into a group of big, fat, lazy sloths!