Vilification of Men
In 1878 the first Primary Association of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. The idea came about in good measure by Aurelia Spencer Rogers (subsequently the first President) believing that young boys had a lot of leisure time and they wanted to be rowdy:
“Including snitching fruit from local orchards and melon patches.”
In March Sister Eliza R. Snow Smith and Sister Emmeline B. Wells from Salt Lake City went to Farmington to attend a Relief Society conf. (They were the general presidency at the time). Sister Rogers writes in her memoirs –
“After their meeting was over they stopped at my home for a short call. The topic of our conversation was the young people and the rough , careless ways many of the young men and boys had at the time. I asked the question, ‘What will our girls do for good husbands if this state of things continues?’”
Perhaps Father’s day isn’t a good time for me to share my thoughts, but then again, perhaps it is. I’ve witnessed over the past decade a decline in the moral fabric of our society (not surprising) but most especially in the direction of how we as women (in general) treat, refer to, talk about and respect our male counterparts.
I submit that the women’s movement of the 1970’s and continuing forward (beginning long before with suffrage) is/was not a bad thing. It was needed, essential and balancing to the benefit of many of both genders. However, I also submit that when something becomes balanced, there then follows a dire need to keep that thing IN balance, or it begins to tip the other direction, which is neither better nor more to the advantage of society in general. There is definitely too much of a good thing.
We don’t have television. I offer this not as a ‘you ought to be like us’ remark, but as a both an admitted dearth of present information on the current climate of that particular media source and a support in action for my disdain of the trends. I have watched a few select shows in other places for at least a taste of what is ‘out there’ however. In large part our choice came about when my children (all married now) were in their teens. I found it appalling that every male character was either vilified as a buffoon, a scape-goat, a moral-less villain or simply cruel. There were few to none that were honest, upright moral examples of what I would want my daughters to marry or my sons to exemplify.
When a child watches an action, whether in a pretended situation, reads about it in a book, or witnesses it first-hand, their mind does not separate the means it was delivered from the message. To a developing brain, it is all input and filed similarly. (You amygdala doesn’t differentiate between reality and imagined behaviors. Mayo Clinic)
I am deeply concerned that even good women and men still tend to make comments that make our men seem to be 1. Less intelligent than their female partners. 2. Less capable of spiritual experiences and wisdom than their ‘better halves’ and 3. Less nurturing than those who come by it genetically. (Look up Masculism, fascinating)
When we label someone, it often sticks for a very long time. When someone believes something of themselves, it becomes permanent. When someone believes something of themselves, they act accordingly. When people support belief with action (or inaction) it becomes true.
Who are we creating if our young men grow up constantly believing that women are smarter, more spiritual, better organizers, better nurturers, better at relationships and better at . . . nearly everything than they are? Are we left with a generation of strong, independent, generous and loving partners for our daughters/ granddaughters; leaders for ourselves and our posterity?
Our leaders aren’t even exempt from this mind-set. I realize fully that it is out of a profound respect for womanhood and a generous dose of humility, but I question if it is benefitting either gender when a young woman hears her priesthood leaders demean themselves. I wonder if a young priesthood novice feels strength and courage when he hears (often) in classes and from the pulpit that his role models believe themselves to be much less capable in almost every area, than their female counterparts.
To become a great father, a man needs to believe he can be one. He needs an example to follow, not constant beratement at how he doesn’t measure up, how he can’t possibly ever be as amazing as his future wife, or any woman for that matter. I’m afraid that we are getting exactly what we have created and it not only saddens me, it frightens me. Few heroes are born, few great men raise themselves, few magnificent partners get that way because they pulled themselves up by their own volition and bootstraps. Most give credit not to criticism, not to lists of where they need to do better, but to loving supportive and inspiring individuals who allowed them to be who they could be, believed in them when they made small improvements forward and who inspired them by example.
A friend came home from priesthood session and commented, “I don’t know why I bother going, it is just one more evening of feeling like I’m doing everything wrong, no matter how hard I’m trying.“ That made me profoundly sad.
When I was single I learned many things, only one of which was that there were few ‘good men’ to choose from for a 40-50 year old single woman who wanted to live the gospel to the fullest. I also learned that many of those reasons are far from what the expected answers might be. While that would be an entirely too-long post in its own, a couple of the reasons given were: men who have lost their place in a ward through divorce generally get a LOT less support from their ward than divorced women do; men are very often blamed (guilty or not) for the break-up of the family unit. This is not a discussion on the why’s of any of this, but an acknowledgement they are prevalent enough to be problematic.
Society is against fathers on almost every side, I have deeply personal experiences to attest to this, we do not have to join the bandwagon. We can inspire rather than degrade, support instead of correct and love genuinely and deeply. We can refuse to poke fun continuously at one gender while constantly buoying up the other. We can understand that ‘equality’ doesn’t mean “I get and you have to give”, it means to respect differences as well as honor them.
I have known some incredible fathers, none of them were perfect. I have been blessed, enriched, am continually taught and inspired by all of them. My son, my sons-in-love, my husband and brother, and those in many generational directions each deserve to know that their successes are noticed. Their approximations are good enough. Their desires and intents of their hearts are amazing and wonderful and beautiful. They are the best of people, fathers. They are the men who keep doing what they know they need to, want to, and can. No matter if they are appreciated or not, someday hopefully the world will be a
better place. Isn’t that the definition of a hero afterall?