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Masculinity And The American Male
My six-year-old first grader is wide-open, 100 mph from dawn to dusk. He overflows with energy, laughter and enthusiasm. He also sits in school for a good part of the day. Cameron, like other rambunctious children, struggles to sit for hours while reading, pushing pencils and coloring pictures. He has a very patient teacher who loves him dearly, yet refuses to let him fall below her expectations. He is recognized in the principal’s office. He has missed many holidays and has been deprived of the things he enjoys most in life as punishment for misbehavior at school. His mother and I insist that he learns to obey and respect his father, and that he learns to cooperate and share with his peers, and that he practices self-control. It will be a long and tiring journey but we are confident that Cameron will learn these lessons well and one day grow into a fine young man.
We are very satisfied with his educational experience but we are also aware of the difficult dynamics of educating young children. Their spontaneous displays of energy are often considered detrimental to learning and desperate attempts are made to suppress them. Little girls thrive in an arrangement that requires them to sit still and use cooperation and creative skills. Little male warriors are expected to do the same. If little boys can’t sit still and behave like little girls, they are often diagnosed with ADHD and given Ritalin pills to curb the behavior. Learning and behavioral problems are not cured by Ritalin. Ritalin only treats the symptoms, the problem is still there. Isn’t it annoying that many child psychiatrists start their diagnosis by claiming they too have ADHD? Our society is highly dependent on chemicals to treat the symptoms of their emotional, physical and spiritual problems and ignores the possibility of finding and eliminating the root cause of their problems.
If a child’s aggressive behavior is calmed down and controlled, it can be of great benefit to the child’s development and society in general. These energetic, masculine expressions need to be nurtured and developed without being chemically suppressed or destroyed. The aggressive, independent boy who is ‘too big for his breeches’ may one day be the quarterback of the football team or the point guard of the basketball team. He can lead a group of Navy SEALs to save innocent lives by capturing or killing an evil tyrant. He can help colonize the moon, build an empire, or change the world by making amazing inventions or discoveries. Shouldn’t we control the development of a young boy’s manhood?
My son will likely be in 7th or 8th grade before he finally gets a male teacher. By the time he graduates from high school, he will have accumulated 14,000 teaching hours in school. Their lives will be dominated by female personalities. Therefore, as his father, I am determined to teach and show him manhood. Wrestling tournaments, fishing and camping trips, baseball, and target practice will help him differentiate into his masculine role. There are many life lessons to be learned from competition and adventure. Children without fathers in the home are disadvantaged but are often taught to fend for themselves through surrogate male role models such as grandfathers, uncles and coaches.
I have taught high school teenagers for almost 30 years. I have seen masculinity slowly diminish and almost disappear in large numbers of young men. Some of them feel ashamed of being manly. Some people are confused about gender roles in society. Some have been taught that superior male power should be used to dominate and control women rather than protect them. Masculine independence is a foreign concept to many. Many women have taken care of them their entire lives and expect to continue this into adulthood. This has created a generation of young men who are intimidated by the commitment of marriage or the prospect of actually fathering children. Many men in their 30s are still at home playing video games, complaining because mom hasn’t cooked dinner yet, while their female counterparts have earned bachelor’s degrees at age 22 and master’s degrees at 24.
The feminization of men is as much a problem among Christians as it is in the secular world. In the Christian high school where I teach, male leadership is rarely present outside of athletics. If you visit some of the Christian ministries on our university campuses you will find women in charge mostly. We have feminized church ministries. Men may need a shoulder to lean on but feel embarrassed when they are given a shoulder to cry on.
Hollywood has a far greater influence than the church in teaching our youth worldviews. Television entertainment devotes a large portion of its programming to the feminization of men. The average American household watches 5 hours of television per day. Your child will have watched more than 142,000 hours of television by his sixteenth birthday. (Nielsen Research, Leachman Research Group, PodcastingNews.com) Everyone loves how Raymond is such a doofus while Debra, his wife, seems to have the solution to every problem.
The feminization of men is not always the passive, subconscious product of a popular trend in society. It is also the result of the radical feminist hate movement spawned in the 1960s by women such as Betty Friedan (The Feminine Mystique), who compared the suburban home to a concentration camp and encouraged women to find fulfillment outside their marriages. Another radical feminist, Gloria Steinem, tried to instill hatred towards men by exaggerating domestic violence to mythical proportions. She opposed the ‘patriarchal’ element in society, saying, “The most dangerous situation for a woman is not the unknown man on the street or the enemy in wartime, but the husband or lover in the solitude of one’s own home.” (Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, pp. 259-61) I would never minimize the problem of physical violence in American homes, but to allege that all men beat their wives is like saying that all Eskimos are idiots. Or all Swedes are ugly. It shows that one’s feelings of hatred, in this case, hatred of men, can completely remove one’s ability to be rational.
Our perfect example of manhood is Christ Himself. True manhood does not lord it over those who are weak. Instead, it’s about caring for and protecting them. When Christ was not averse to using violence to defend His Father and His Father’s property (Mark 11:15-19). He never raised his hand to harm a woman. He treated women with utmost respect and his love for children was unprecedented. He thought so little of his earthly life that he was willing to submit to public beatings by Roman soldiers and ultimately to a brutal death on a wooden cross to purchase salvation for those he loved.
True manhood is to love your wives as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25) Real men don’t just procreate. They nurture their children with love and compassion. They sacrifice for them, protect them and invest enormous time and energy in their lives. Our society needs men, real men, Christ-like men now more than ever.
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