Vilification of Men

[ 19 ] Comments

by MSKeller

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:

The Berry Boy (circa 1875), by John George Brown, is on view as part of the exhibit “American ABC.”

“Could there not be an organization for little boys wherin they could be taught everything good and how to behave?”
The Berry Boy (circa 1875), by John George Brown

“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 did our heroes become the bad guys?

When did our heroes become the bad guys?
Graphic purchased from storyrock.com.

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

http://www.photos.com/images-photo/open-collar

Open Stock Photo

better place.  Isn’t that the definition of a hero afterall?

About MSKeller

Marsha Steed Keller (Th'Muse) "When I get a little money, I buy books, if there is any left, I buy food and clothes." --Desiderius Erasmus. This defines a part of Marsha's psychology and intent fairly well. When she was a child she says that people asked what super-power she would desire. She replied, "To know what is true, always." It hasn't changed much since then. Marsha cares more about intent than result; more about understanding than agreement and more about good questions than finding all the answers. She defines her best blessings as people (Family and Friends), ideas and beauty. She is highly visual, teaches voice and piano and enjoys her Life/Relationship coaching immensely. She has a BA in Psychology and an AA in Ballroom Dance. Life is an adventure to be lived in the moment and shared with the world. She considers being asked to write with this amazing group a high honor.

19 Responses to Vilification of Men

  1. Brenda says:

    Thank-you for this Marsha. It seems that many people think equality between the sexes must be a zero sum game where for one to have something it must be wrestled from the other and taken away. It is a pervasive lie used by the adversary to weaken society. As a people we should put the same effort in building up righteous men as we do women and both should follow the Savior’s lead treating all with love, respect, and support.

    • MSKeller says:

      Agreed Brenda. I hate to see it. I can’t understand why folks believe that one person/ group/ whatever. . . has to fail in order for another to succeed.

      And weaken society it has in my experience. Many men I’ve spoken with are at a loss, they don’t even know who or what their place or role is anymore. I’m so impressed with the men who can somehow maintain their honor through the difficulties that are constantly tossed at them.

  2. E says:

    I love this and it is so true. Thank you!

  3. templegoer says:

    Amen sister, I have become increasingly aware of this since having a son, having come from a family of women.
    It really was part of my mother’s narrative to badmouth men at every turn, but she had good reason.
    I have been married to a man with the best if intentions and motivations for thirty years,and it’s been such a privelege to grow to understand what a good man does.He was a great father to daughters who never for one moment experienced anything limiting about his perception of them, and he has continued to support them with good counsel and facilitation in their chosen studies and careers.Now I get to enjoy the dynamic of just what a good father can doe for his son, which is completely outside of my fram of reference. It’s all been a brave new world for me,and helps me to begin to define a completely different view of God and godhood.
    We do find as women in our family that we need to grow in our capacity to respect and honour our men, and notice that we have been influenced by the belittling and sniping that has become part of the contemporary narrative.We don’t want to be discouraging, and so we are learning to hold fast to that which is good. Growing up with a dad about allows my son to be better understood, I do find that there are aspects to this that would be beyond my insight, and it’s interesting to acknowledge that. I have had to learn to be a lot more tolerant than I might naturally be of behaviours that did not come my way with girls.We really don’t live in a boy friendly society, safe out door play can be challenging when there is often a need for boys to take up a lot of space. I find it useful to re-frame these irritations within a different context- my son would have made a great hunter/gatherer.
    It’s a beautiful privelege to witness fatherhood, and a great loss when that has not been present in our lives. I think there will continue to be angry women and boys as long as there are feckless fathers, anf it’s important to not compound that loss in leaving people with guilt about their feelings,I understand that.It’s really difficult to hold a position of understanding that good men do exist, but don’t have one yourself. I understand that it is easier to denigrate men as a gender than to accept that an individual father has chosen not to do right by his wife and children, and thus not feel singled out as a victim of bad behaviour.

    • MSKeller says:

      What a lovely testimony to add to the conversation Templegoer. I also loved this, “We do find as women in our family that we need to grow in our capacity to respect and honour our men, and notice that we have been influenced by the belittling and sniping that has become part of the contemporary narrative.” – So true, I do wish that more would see it, and then do something to alieviate the downward spiral.

      It is a beautiful privelege to witness excellence in anything, but a father who loves his children is precious. I have a son who I have been awed with, the tender care he takes of his tiny little one. He amazes me all the time wiht his desire to do the very best for her no matter what it costs him in time, energy or resources.

      I have sons-in-love who do the same, and many others, uncles, cousins and my own husband. I’ve been so very blessed in this area. It is so very sad to watch the good be discounted because there are many poor ones.

      Men are amazing beings.

      • Amanda Brouhard says:

        Thank you for this article! I agree with so many points you made. I have grown up surrounded by amazing capable men who respect and cherish the women in their lives. I am also now blessed with an amazing husband and father-in-law. It is very evident today that there are a lot of very well rounded and capable young women, and a lot of young men who feel like they are not good enough for them or intimidated by them, so they don’t even bother. So many of the YSAs are not dating. I think a big part is because the men feel like they don’t measure up. Which is crazy and untrue. A marriage and family take two equal partners to make it work. Children need to see two strong parents who work together. I feel like I am a strong and capable woman. But my husband has so many qualities that fill in the gaps I have and together we make a very strong partnership. Neither of us could achieve the same result alone. I hope with attention being brought to this we can start raising strong men again! Both genders should be equally respected and celebrated for the unique strengths each possesses.

        • MSKeller says:

          Thank you Mandy. More voices for an issue are always helpful. I was a bit concerned when writing it, that I might sound too sharp, but it really is an issue dear to my heart. It is good to hear other voices that feel similarly.

          I agree that many young men also feel like they aren’t ‘good enough’ and many young husbands as well. We have become a critical society unhappily.

          So wonderful to hear you speak so highly of your good husband, and those other men in your world who are being examples of sons of the Highest.

  4. Nathan Smith says:

    Well written article. I remember in the 70′s where men on TV especially in situation comedies were often the idiot of the family, with Mom as the smart one, taking control of most situations. It bothers me when I ask men in our quorums if I can home teach them, or something similar, and the response is “Well, I’ll have to ask the boss!”. I have even come across this in Italy. Internally, I’m thinking, “Really?” Men shouldn’t be dictators, but I see men who definitely feel inferior to their wives. We should be equal partners.

    • MSKeller says:

      Good to hear a male perspective Nathan. Thank you. It is also good to know I’m not alone, and sad a little to know it is world-wide, and not in the US.

      Men of course ought not be dictators, but women don’t want men who defer everything to them either I don’t think. Balance is a tricky but worthwhile goal. Equal partners, indeed.

  5. StillConfused says:

    I have often wondered why the “put man down” problem is so prevalent in the Mormon culture. I wonder if part of it is because the religion in general is very comparative. Things are constantly being said about the “less valiant” or the “chosen people” etc. There is so much comparison rather than just acceptance. When I look at faiths that don’t have that “we are the only true church” mentality, there seems to be less putting groups down.

    • MSKeller says:

      Well Confused, while you have chosen to focus on ‘mormon culture’, I’d share that my main difficulty is not at all there, but in the media. It is unfortunately the media that our youth gains much of their role models from (and by ‘our’ I mean society) – that is what most concerns me. I frankly see more ‘putting ourselves down’ than putting down others within the humble men of the church. Acceptance is a tricky word that can be used as an excuse and an anvil at times. While I appreciate your thoughts, it really isn’t at all what I was saying.

  6. Ray says:

    Frankly, StillConfused, I think there isn’t much of a problem in the LDS Church with putting men down. Just saying.

    I do agree, however, that in the push for equal treatment of women within our secular society, which is important, there has been backlash against the men who ruled for so long – often oppressively. Balance is important (“moderation in all things”) and, unfortunately, pendulum movement is much more common than balance.

    • MSKeller says:

      Totally agree Ray. Balance is the key, but very difficult to acheive. I think that the best we can do at times is to recognize when it is swinging either way, and make course corrections alone the way.

  7. Crystal says:

    I have little to add but I agree, as you know and am grateful I’ve been taught these principles growing up.

  8. Paul says:

    MS, Thanks for this post. My lovely wife read it first and told me (and our kids in the room) how much she enjoyed it. She’s always been bugged by the sit-coms that pick on Dad or Mom or parents in general.

    I’m fortunate not to have been marginalized in this way in my family. That said, I suppose I’m as guilty as the next guy of self-deprecating humor that suggests that I married “up” or that I’m the fortunate recipient of my wife’s one moment of poor judgement. Those who know me well, however, know I don’t really believe that.

    Like Brenda said, this is not a zero-sum game where if one “wins” another loses. In fact, that’s the beauty of an excellent marriage and an excellent family, that all can “win” (and do!).

    • MSKeller says:

      Paul, I have found you to always be honest in your appraisal and humble in your approach. Like you, I believe that we all ‘win’ when we present the best of ourselves and understand the places we still need work.

      I didn’t really mean to waggle my finger at anyone, just perhaps a nudge that self-depreciating humor often does the opposite than its intention, or has long-reaching unintended consequences to consider. Thank you for doing so. You are one of the amazing ones. . . .

      • Paul says:

        You are spot on. Just as sarcasm can invoke a smile or a sting, so can self-deprecating humor. I worked with a fellow in a bishopric a number of years ago who complained that if all the men of the church married “up” it meant that all the sisters “settled” and he didn’t think that was fair to either side. He’s right.

        (All of these thoughts passed through my mind as a visiting general authority to our stake conference this past weekend described his wife as his “better three-fourths”… Still, his talk was awesome, despite his own self-deprecating humor.) ;-)

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