I’ve heard that there are two typical methods of dealing with problems in our society. Take racism for example. In a group of people plagued with such a problem, Method 1 is to change the individual man himself. Through proper parenting and education, let each person know how racism hurts us as a nation, and how to properly combat it in their own lives. They may take years, even generations, but the result will last for a long time. Method 2 is significantly different. This method deems the first to be too slow, and seeks to change society by making undesirable behavior illegal. Laws against hate speech are an example of this, where a group of people didn’t want to take years or generations to end racist behavior, so they simply made it against the law. Instead of changing the individual, they change society.Method 1 relies mainly on the use of the family and small “tribes” of people to simply make better human beings within their groups. Method 2 relies on legal force and media portrayals to change a whole nation.
I completely disagree with Method 2, because instead of fixing a problem, it merely tells us to just look at it differently. When a people group feels slighted, they tend to use this methodology when they cry out about how they are portrayed in the media.
“Have you seen the way such and such a TV show portrays my gender/race/ethnicity/sexual orientation?! We need different, more positive portrayal in today’s media so that everyone will look at us different!”
The specific example I have in mind is the media’s portrayal of fathers, and the typical (in my experience) male reaction to it.
I recently read an article written by a mother that speaks about some of the dumb phrases we as a society need to quit saying to dads. It was creatively titled, “Dumb-Ass Stuff We Need To Stop Saying To Dads.” The writer argues that we (American society as a whole) need to quit looking at fathers as an “inept accessory to parenting.” While I agree with her assumption that fathers are a vital and equally necessary part of the parenting team, why are we attempting to change the way society views us? Why not, instead, attempt to become better fathers and men, and let the first problem fix itself?
Talk about an obvious statement. “Really Nate? Your point is that men should be better fathers?!”
Let me expound.
The “change the way society views dads” method lowers the bar, in my opinion. I hear so many men (including myself) who spend significant amounts of time complaining about the typical sitcom dad, who is a stupid mouth-breathing sports fanatic with nothing to offer his wife and children besides comic relief. We complain about how we are viewed, yet how many of us take the time to actually become something more than that?
We can rant and rave all we want to make society respect us. We can demand that our wives read Love And Respect, scream for better portrayals of men in entertainment, and complain about this generation of disrespectful children all we want.
In the end, if we’re not getting respect as husbands and fathers, it’s not because of an unfair stereotype. It’s because we didn’t individually do anything to earn it.
If I as a man would take more time to properly provide for my family’s needs and protect it from negative influences, they would see the efforts of a good man and respect them. I don’t want or need society’s acceptance, or their changing views on fatherhood. If I have earned the respect and love of my family, I can use the remote to silence the rest.
Allow me to give an example.
I have a good friend who is a pastor at a local church. He has five (!) daughters with his wife. Last year, he decided to give his wife a break for a week so that she could travel with her friends to Florida while he took time off of work to spend with their girls.
As he recounted the experience to me, he was exasperated with the amount of people who gave him pity and/or sympathy for his “plight.”
“How are you holding up?” seemed to be the typical comment he would receive.
Here’s what he did. He took that situation, and freaking crushed it.
He planned activities with his kids. He reveled in the good times he had with them. He cooked for them, got them dressed, and watched their movies. He did it all without help, and blew everyones’ minds.
I’m not saying that every father out there should become Mr. Mom. Masculinity isn’t found in performing a mother’s role. My friend only did that for a week, then went back to his traditional role of provider and protector of the household.
I am saying that he never needs to complain about the way society portrays men to his family, because he has proven himself as a capable parent, and done it on more than one occasion.
We’re trying to “move the goalposts” of good fatherhood. It would be much easier to have TV shows change the way my children think of me than it would be to spend individual time with them each day, help them with their schoolwork, show them the importance of physical fitness, teach them how to hunt, or be an example of a praying father.
I’m not there yet, but I would rather actually be the man I want portrayed in the media, than have them change everyones’ minds for me. I’m going to have to quit complaining, and just be a man.
Additional thoughts from my friends on this subject:
“If a man wants something, he builds it, earns it, becomes it, takes it, asks for it, or does without. He doesn’t go to the government or media to do the work for him.”
“If you want to make the world better, make your world better. Be a father and mentor to your kids. Be a mother, a good friend, a hard-working employee, a respectful person, and be the kind of change you want to see. I do believe men live down to the stereotype because it’s easy and expected. I think plenty of women bash, belittle, and emasculate their men, set the bar low then bitch when they hit that standard. We have almost deified motherhood while chipping away at the importance of fatherhood. Motherhood isn’t the most important or the hardest job…parenting is. Fathers and mothers should be complimentary. The roles are different but certainly equally important. Taking the focus off the family and placing it on one parent or the other is misguided.”