Who’s the Man?

[ 11 ] Comments

by Nick Galieti

The FonzThe stereotypical 1950s male is strong, rugged, doesn’t cry, is stern with discipline, but tender and romantic with his spouse. Some say men are expected to hunt and be a handy man, while simultaneously being sensitive and eloquent. Men in and out of the LDS Church seem to have different expectations.

What people expect of men today is vastly different than even 30 years ago. With each passing generation these perspectives vary from gender to gender and from culture to culture. Within the LDS Church some women treat LDS men like priesthood blessing machines, and some men don’t see their role any different. Some men see themselves as money provider and disciplinarian for the children, but can go and play sports or watch ESPN until they are needed.

Is there a right way to be a man, and who defines those roles and characteristics? We see several ways that we can see of what not to do, but it is not as easy to define manhood in today’s LDS culture.

  • How do women view men in the church today?
  • How do men view men in the church today?
  • What are the roles? Responsibilities?
  • Who are men expected to be?

11 Responses to Who’s the Man?

  1. Dimples says:

    IMO, the questions aren’t complete. Not all men in the church are fathers with children living in the home, are married, or even hold the priesthood. Plus, the expectations even within a single marriage can change over time.
    For the first 7 years of our marriage, my husband and I had very different expectations for each other than we now have. We’ve always allowed for change and adjustment in our husband/wife and father/mother dynamic. Some changes have been harder than others but as long as we’re working together, we’re happy.
    My husband used to by the guy that would watch football every second he could but we’ve worked together to realize that we’re both happier if we work together on the chores and child-rearing then sit down and watch the games together. But getting to that point took time because we had to learn how to communicate our needs and frustrations without being accusatory in the process.
    In many families I know, the father doesn’t have to “step up” much as far as housework and taking care of the kids goes. The mentality that “mommy is home all day and should do all this so daddy shouldn’t have to” is still incredibly prevalent. Unless a father stays home with his children, day after day, it is unlikely he’ll realize just how much work gets done. Similarly, unless a mother is working outside the home during the day, it is unlikely she’ll understand the pressures that come with a career and the desire to relax at the end of a hard day.
    The wonderful thing about the role of men today is that there is so much more fluidity in the expectations of manhood. And with that, women and men can work together to find a relationship dynamic that works for them. If that includes being the primary breadwinner and watching tv in the evenings, and the wife is okay with that, then great! But if the man/father wants a larger more involved role, that’s wonderful, too.

  2. Paul says:

    Is there a right way to be a man? Yes. See D&C 121:41-46. That those instructions may also apply to women is immaterial in defining the right way to be a man.

    An excellent talk by Elder Christofferson from Oct 2006 (“Let Us Be Men”) speaks of a man’s relationships with women, his integrity, his ability to build and run things, and ultimately his being like Christ, obedient, doing good and opposing evil and error. I was particularly touched by Elder C’s story of his own father’s quiet sacrifice to provide assistance to his ailing wife without her knowledge.

    Little in those descriptions about whether or when to watch or play sports, but plenty on how to interact with others, including our spouses and children.

    The Family: A Proclamation to the World provides additional inpsired insight. The narrow definition of fathers as providers and protectors ignores the man’s role first as husband and then equal parenting partner to his wife, and his heritage as child of God, created in His image.

    I agree, Dimples, that it is wonderful that in today’s world there is fluidity to allow men and women to discuss their shared responsibilities to sort out how they are best met in their individual families. Real men will participate in those councils.

  3. Becca says:

    Elder Christofferson gave an excellent talk in the Priesthood session of General Conference in October (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/brethren-we-have-work-to-do?lang=eng). We studied it last month for our Teaching for our Times lesson in priesthood and Relief Society. It occurred to me that pre-1970s, a man’s worth was based (mostly) on how much money he made, how successful he was in his career, etc. That is, his worth was defined in terms of things that had nothing to do with his family. It didn’t matter so much if he didn’t spend much time with his family, as long as he was working – making money. Then came the feminist movement, and women “took over” in the career world, doing what men were doing, only doing it better. Suddenly men were replaceable, useful only for their ability to procreate, although with artificial insemination and sperm donors, women don’t even need men for that either.

    Thankfully the gospel teaches us that men are most valuable for their contribution as fathers – whether or not they have children of their own. But society still does not recognize that value in men, and unfortunately, members of the Church frequently either take on the views of society, or they misunderstand the doctrine and look at men, as you said, like priesthood blessing machines, or they see men as The Church.

  4. Cheryl says:

    This makes me think of the examples of men in my life. My father was the quintessential feminist –without realizing that was what he was or was doing. My dad worked, but on his day off he would do the laundry, clean the garage, bake a few pies, fix a leak, clean the toilet, pay the bills, and do grocery shopping, as well as fixing dinner. He loves travel and movies; wasn’t really into sports, although when my brothers started playing, he was their biggest supporters. My father is quiet and reserved, plays board games and enjoys the theater. He’s a ball room dancer and a musician, but the first to mow the lawn, climb the roof for repairs, or fix the plumbing. He led us in family prayer and scripture study, fulfilled his callings, and gave us blessings. He dated my mother weekly and went to the Temple. He loves new cars! He wasn’t a perfect man, but by all means, he was a great man. Is.

    Needless to say, when I married my husband –who had been raised by a man quite different from my father –it was a shock to me that my husband didn’t do all the things my dad did. His father was not as ideal, and although he loved his kids, the background included a lot of deceit and selfishness. He was rarely there and rarely fulfilled even the most basic roles, although on the outside he seemed like the perfect father/husband (in the last 2 decades it’s been even worse). So, my sweet spouse struggled with what a man was supposed to be in a family, but luckily had some good role models (friends’ fathers and his grandfather). But with my expectations? It wasn’t really fair for him from the get-go!

    He’s been amazing, though. And when I think about the men I’ve seen I’ve come to the conclusion (and can answer your question –I promise I’m not rambling!): Men are nothing without the women, and women are nothing without the men. My father was not anything more than my mom (who worked as a teacher outside the home). They were a team and they worked together to raise their family. My father exercised his role of father and husband the best way he knew how, and he was great at it. My husband has done the same, and truly I’m so proud of him, because he’s had a larger learning curve.

    P.S. What Becca and Paul said, too. I really think LDS men don’t have excuses. Society is stupid and there are no reasons we should want to emulate their idea of what a man is, whether it’s a bumbling idiot drinking beer or an over-the-top CIA agent gone rogue.

  5. Kenny says:

    I think the formula to know how to be a man is simple: “Would Jesus do that?” If the answer is no, then don’t do it… or you won’t be a real man. It’s hard to keep that up in today’s world when men are stereotyped and expected to be ignorant and self-centered, but that’s because the world doesn’t understand that Christ is the epitome of the real man. Perhaps one of Satan’s most powerful tools for evil is to confuse us with the definition of the “real man” (or “real woman”, for that matter). If he can trick us into believing that real men don’t express love to their family members and neighbors, aren’t religious, don’t use clean language, don’t listen to their wife, don’t ask for directions, etc., then he’s done a pretty good job of messing us up.

  6. Bonnie says:

    I think everything about manhood devolves to fatherhood, just as everything about womanhood devolves to motherhood, whether or not one is in relationships that make the literal application of those skills obvious. There is a tension of inclusion that happens in roles, however those roles are defined by men and women, ensuring that the entire gamut of needed things happen. We are flexible beings, doing what needs done and balancing one another in the service of others.

    In its worst iterations, I think that becomes “men are defined by these characteristics” – limited to caricatures of what “real men” look like just as women’s roles can become imprisoning caricatures – but in its best it’s the perfect balance of people completing one another to serve others. For this reason, I’m not so fond of definitions of people or types of people.

    For those of us located outside those relationships, there is a different, less chemically-stable experience, and I’m actually okay with that. I like to think of myself as a charged particle, missing an electron and therefore having picked one up that keeps me on the lookout for an opposite valence ion. My views of what a real man is are completely colored by who I am and what I need the man who completes me to be like. I doubt that any two of us would define manhood the same way, but I think in the infinite diversity of humankind, that’s okay.

    The great loss would be to define manhood and womanhood without consideration for each other, since the chemistry is about stable bonds.

  7. Deborah says:

    Wonderful discussion ~ I suppose, the more I understand the character of Heavenly Father, the clearer my perception as to what needs to where the treasure of my heart should lie and seek after. We each balance each other best when God is our target.

  8. templegoer says:

    Yes to everyone, but I I feel the problem is that we often lack a narrative of men as good fathers. Women are idealised or held in contempt for their failings as mothers-often fathers are either invisible or abusive or absent. What becomes difficult to conceive of is a narrative where a man is respected for his best efforts at being a father, where that can become the measure of his potency rather than the drink he can sink or the women he can win,or the salary he can pull.
    I’d love to see men celebrated for their place in the family as fathers, as are mothers. I don’t mean a narrative that whitewashes the harm done, but it would be lovely to hear more stories of meaningful and effective fatherhood.Whilst we do make efforts to do this at church we often replace that with leadership narratives. I want to see our fathers in the heart of our homes, where they belong.
    I live in a ward where that is increasingly expressed and honoured and lived, it’s very beautiful to see and I’m so grateful for the positive influence that has on my family.If I had to choose I’d rather have my sons and daughters influenced by those examples than from a a mannic youth program. Fortunately we have both.
    We did go through a very bad patch where there were many marital break ups, and we have wards in our stake where that also seems to be the case, which is obviously cause for concern because it’s clearly catching. Often it seems to be where there are very busy wards where everyone is very involved elsewhere other than at home, with good intent I’m sure. But I’ve never heard anyone preach from the pulpit telling the brethren to go home and pay attention to what is going on. I’ve had several friends who’s husbands have left in the course of their service, getting over-involved, often with the community’s full endorsement up to that point.
    So, more stories of great fathers serving in their homes and less of great leaders would be my shout out.

  9. Ja says:

    It is hard to set an example without idealising something that is individual. Like many other things in life, the goal is not to keep up with the Jones’ or Mr Jones but to be your best self. That concept is the goal of true religion. It is about being one with God. You can learn possible patterns from others, but we are not supposed to have any matter of -ites (or isms). Class separation whether based on gender, color, age or anything else is not in accordance with being one and common in all things. Pray to know what you can and should do. He can and will prepare you as you are willing to be one with Him.

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