My buddy Ron Baumgartner sent me this after reading my post, “If You Want a Real Man.” Ron is a great writer and probably one of the best undiscovered comedic talents you’ll ever meet. He’s also an excellent writer.
What I love about his response is that it is so similar to what women complain about — skewed media portrayal of our gender and how it affects others’ expectations of us.
Gosh, I was just going to post another picture of my cat…
The Emasculation of the American Male
I recently read an article by my friend and writer Teresa M. Owen -teresamowen.com. Her article is entitled “If You Want A (real) Man”, and it was wrote as a sort of rebuttal to the many and varied articles and advice lines that can be found on the internet and magazines. Her article inspired me to finally write down some thoughts of my own on an this particular issue and address a problem that has been festering for at least a couple of generations now.
I’ll start with an example from my own experience. Some years ago I was in a long term relationship with a woman. We were having a fight about something that I cannot recall. The only thing I do remember is, at some point during this spat, she told me I needed to “man up”. I was confused because she had spent several years trying to condition me NOT to be a man. She made her own money. She made all her decision large and small based on her own desires. She was a modern woman. Empowered. Why then, after all the hard work of beating the “man” out of me was she trying to get the man back.
The only other insult that came even close to the anger that that caused me, was when my first wife, who spent a great deal of her time convincing me that I should have no opinion, called me a “mamas boy”.
(Just a side note: My mother is a woman I am suppose to respect and revere. But not too much. And certainly dont express any resentment toward her, then you have “mommy issues” and in need of some sort of counseling. But I digress, this is a subject for another time.)
I realize that on both those occasions, the questioning of my manliness was intended to be an insult that was to inspire in me, a different behavior. And while I agree that many men do need to “man up”, and many men are indeed “mammas boys”, I am afraid that the majority of women have missed something important. Simply put, you cant have it both ways.
This is a difficult issue to discuss, because it is more than just man vs. woman and the war between the sexes. It is political in it’s roots and is now embedded in the pshyce of women, as well as men nation wide. Probably the best way to begin is with early television.
In 1951, “The Honeymooners” first aired. Jackie Gleason played Ralph Kramden and his wife Alice was played by Pert Kelton and later on, Audrey Meadows.
Ralph Kramden was a belligerent, stupid, loud-mouthed bafoon who could barely tie his own shoes, let alone provide for his wife. He was big, fat and constantly threatening his wife with violence. Alice, who was quick witted and sharp toungued, was forever having to overlook Ralphs many shortcomings. And at the end of each episode she would have to forgive his stupidity and just accept Ralph for the caveman he was.
Many will scoff at my following assertion, but I think if you take an honest look at the many television shows, commercials and media in general, you’d have to agree that the portrayal of men these days is anything but flattering. I contend that it is those very portrayals that have given rise to the army of bloggers, writers, columnists and would be experts of the male mentality, that now fuel a proverbial tail chase. They have created an image that is generally false at best and then have created a “users manual” of mis-information and all-around poor advice to navigate and maintain an imaginary being.
At best, these fictional portrayals of men in media are intended to be humorous caricatures. At worst, they are tools of propaganda to change and maintain the perception that a man is an unthinking animal and must be torn down to keep under control. In essence, they are saying; the only way women can achieve equality is not by elevating themselves WITH the help and understanding of all men, but rather, destroy the image of men.
Virtually every sit-com since the time Honeymooners first aired, where the focus of the show was to be on the relationship of a man and woman, has been modeled after that formula. With the exception of the Lucille Ball show, the image of the American male has been stamped from one mold: the Ralph Kramden archetype.
Another good example would be “The King of Queens” starring Kevin James. He is fat and gluttonous. She, is good looking, sexy and sassy. He is fat, yes, but he is also unintelligent, prone to jumping to ridiculous conclusions and horney. And again, the stoic wife must resign herself to overlooking his many faults and find a way to love him in spite of them.
I wont even ask you to do your own research, You only have to turn on the television and make note of what you see.
The only time a man is generally depicted as having anything at all going for him is if he is a black man, or gay. These two “types” of men always seem to be quite successful, smart and resourceful. The one thing I’m still not sure of is why the black man is usually portrayed as very snide and unhappy, inspite of his success. The one exception to this rule, however, is if the show centers around the black mans marriage/relationship with a black woman. In that case, he too will be presented as the embodiment of all seven deadly sins.
So by now, you are probably asking yourself, so what’s your point, you dumb lazy pig?
They say that art imitates life. Whether that was ever true or not, I don’t know. But one thing that I am more and more convinced all the time, is that life is imitating art. Or in this case, mass media. After decades now, of men being portrayed in only one light, how can perception not be persuaded. If media had no effect on our minds, then it wouldn’t cost a million dollars to buy a thirty second commercial spot during the Super Bowl.
So why wouldn’t there be one relationship “expert” after another coming out of the wood work to explain how best to manipulate and navigate the muddled thoughts of the average man?
Media has taught us that men should be submissive, and in a way, we have been “let off the hook”. When nothing is expected of you, after awhile you put forth no effort. Which brings us back to the “man up” statement. Are you serious? After at least two generations of being told to sit down and shut up, we should man up on those rare occasions that suit you?
Men are driven by hormones. And I know your thinking sex. But hormones also drive us to provide and protect. Its the key element behind our pride. Our pride in ourselves and our pride in YOU.
We find ourselfves stuck now, between the proverbial rock and a hard place. We have been conditioned to lay low and not be what a man was created to be…. until it’s time to be that man. But those qualities and hormone-driven traits cannot be turned off and on like a bank of light switches. Unfortunately it’s all or none. You may be able to refine some aspect of a mans characteristics but you will get much further with him if you deal with “what is” and not with; what you think “should be”.
A tragedy has occured in my estimation, and that would be that someone concocted the idea that for women to gain equal ground, men had to be beaten down. I have no intention of doing anything further to change the current notions, aside from writing this article, but I would only like to make one final point….
The media, women and even some men are giving the males of our species a pass. If you are told from every direction every day, that you are an unthinking trogladite, will you just accept yourself for what you are and quit striving to improve? Like the mother who tells her misbehaving son; “Whats the point in punishing you, your just going to misbehave anyway….” All the motivation the boy would have ever had to mind his mother is out the window. He’s been let off the hook.
Another way to put this that the you may better understand… If you are told from your earliest memory that you are ugly… actually, you wouldn’t even have to go as far as to say ugly. How about; you are unattractive and have a dull personality? How do you suppose you would approach the world?
Even if you found someone who worshipped you, you’d never believe you were attractive.
I like women. In fact; I love women. In fact; I’m in love with a woman right this moment. I have two daughters and I hope someday that they have happy fulfilling relationships with the men of their dreams. But, I wonder, when every scenario that involves a man and a woman in commercials and television portrays the man as a pet dog that needs to be cared for and properly trained in obedience, is that going to skew there perception? Are they going to view him as an obstacle to their happiness and success? Maybe that is why fewer peoople are getting married and staying that way. Because, as I said earlier, men have been let off the hook for any real expectations, so perhaps they have begun to take advantage of that fact. Furthermore; women have been told for a very long time now that they do not need that man, anyway.
I realize that women have, for the most part, lived subservient to men since… forever. However; women have ruled empires and been worshipped as goddess’ since forever. The traditional roles are gone. I believe gone for good. I don’t intend to do anything about it beyond pointing it out and getting some nagging thoughts of my big, hairy, manly chest. I’m only curious if the women of today are happy with the outcome.
Unfortunately, I think many men are happy with the current state of things whether they know it or not. Once looked upon and expected to be leader, provider, protector… he has now been set free of expectation and obligation. Just don’t compain that he cant find his way back. After all; you’ve been well informed for some time now, just how DUMB he really is.