Are Boys and Men Becoming Obsolete?

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Marie Roker-Jones teaches us how to be independent without disrespecting an entire gender.

The other day I saw an image on a Facebook page in which a mom and her daughter stated “I don’t need a man” with a shadow of a man leaving the house in the background. The picture represents one of  the most celebrated statements uttered by women. I have to be honest and say that I hear this most often from black women than any other group of women.

Some women use this statement as a defense mechanism to explain being single or express their disappointment  or distrust of men. Where does that leave boys and men? In the effort to raise girls to be strong and independent, women are conveying the wrong message by telling girls that they don’t need men. First of all, we should teach all children to be independent and self-sufficient. People shouldn’t need other people. However, we were created for human relationships. By nature, we are social creatures and benefit from connecting and interacting with others.

Stating “I don’t need a man” doesn’t help girls or women become strong, confident, and independent. I get it, we want to ensure girls and young women understand that they don’t need a man to be or feel complete. What we really should be telling girls is:

  • You don’t need a man who’ll disrespect you
  • You don’t need a man who doesn’t appreciate your efforts and contribution
  • You don’t need a man who is too insecure to let you own your greatness
  • You don’t need a man who only sees you as a sexual object

My mother taught my brother and I life skills so that we can care for ourselves and not rely on anyone for our financial, emotional, spiritual or physical well-being. She never stated to me “You don’t need a man”. When I was a child, I never doubted my mother’s confidence, power or strength. She didn’t depend on my father to make her feel whole. I understood the difference between “want” and “need”.

Also, let’s think about what this statement tells boys. If our sons overhear us saying this, what are they learning about themselves as men? We don’t want to undermine the roles that boys and men play in our lives. If we want to raise a generation of empowered women and compassionate men, we must begin to change our what we say. It’s not about needing anyone, it’s about being true to yourself, practicing self-care and  maintaining your individuality, even when you’re in a relationship. Let’s not dismiss boys and men as an inconvenience in our lives.

 

Originally appeared on Raising Great Men 

 

 Image Credit: myravery/Flickr

 

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About Marie Roker-Jones

Marie Roker-Jones is the senior editor of the Raising Boy section of The Good Men Project and the Founder of Raising Great Men™ which provides parenting programs and workshops for raising boys and navigating the challenges of military deployments. Marie also provides social media strategy consulting to small businesses that market to parents of boys and military families .

Comments

  1. Boys and Men aren’t becoming obsolete. What’s becoming obsolete are the extremely limiting (and frankly sexist) gender roles that men and boys have been bound to all these years. Just as girls were raised to think that they need a man to support them boys were raised to think that they needed to find a woman to support.

    While I agree that women shouldn’t be raised to think their portion of that message, ignoring and/or not addressing the portion of that message aimed at boys is going to lead to problems.

    If we want to raise a generation of empowered women and compassionate men, we must begin to change our what we say.
    I’m sure you don’t mean anything by it but when you get down to it, there needs to be some empowerment for men as well.

    • Danny, I agree with you about the “extremely limiting and sexist gender roles that all men and boys have been bound to all these years”. As the mom of two boys, I’m often shocked by the comments people make about boys that would be socially unacceptable had it been said to girls. There needs to be empowerment for men and boys. Unfortunately until our society sees the urgent need for this empowerment, we will need to continue to push for it.

  2. Not too long ago I was slammed, flamed or whatever it’s called, in a thread where I stated that some women promote single motherhood and actually celebrate it. I would be interested in seeing the same females who slammed me, come here and defend their position that promotion of single motherhood doesn’t exist.

    “ I don’t need a man” is exactly what I was talking about and I’m glad you wrote this.

    So why do you think this is happening? It’s nothing new.

    “I don’t need a man” but what about the child “needing” a father? So yes, in some ways they do need a man.

    • Technically, children don’t really need mothers either. Not beyond the basic gestation period, and that may not be necessary either with some technological inventions in the future. Fathers are not necessary, because no particular parent is necessary. That’s something many mothers ought to bear in mind.

      If “it takes a village,” then someone else in the village can take over from you. The village doesn’t need any particular member, and that includes any one of us.

    • Thank you for your comment Steve! I will say that what children need are adults who are emotionally and mentally healthy and can be a living example of the values they wish to instill in these children. Children need love, guidance and support.

    • Hi Tom,

      Thank you for your comment. Sorry to hear you were slammed for your comments on single mothers. It can be a sensitive topic for some single mothers because they are not single by choice but by circumstance. What worries me is when single moms use the statement “I don’t need a man” as a defense mechanism and how it affects their children. What does her son or daughter think when they hear this comment? How does it affect their relationship with their father?

    • Tom, people aren’t going to like this, but I’ll say it. This same defense mechanism “I don’t need a man” or “I don’t need a woman” is found in the gay community.

      Essentially, a gay partnership is either two single moms or two single dads. When we step back from our personal politics, it may be undermining the ‘utility’ of men and eventually the ‘utility’ of women.

      When two gay women say, they “don’t need a father”…it makes me question what negative messages they send to their children and to our children about the opposite sex.

  3. wellokaythen says:

    There’s a deeper set of assumptions that need to be challenged here. Saying men are not obsolete is great and everything, but that is still just reinforcing the idea that men are to be defined primarily by their utility, particularly their utility to women. Saying a man is not necessary should NOT be considered an insult. It’s only an insult if you assume that men are only worth something if they’re useful for something. It’s assuming that to be needed is the most important thing for a man and without that he’s not worth anything.

    This whole issue is still framed as a choice between being needed and being garbage. Who says those are the only two choices? Saying “men aren’t obsolete” is not much better than saying “men could be obsolete someday.” It sometimes sounds like “don’t worry, you’re not totally useless.”

    I’m happy not to be needed. Tell me I’m obsolete and I just laugh. I’ve always preferred to be wanted more than needed anyway. I prefer to be a luxury and not a necessity.

    If a woman is looking to live a life in which she never gets involved with anything unnecessary, focuses only on what she absolutely needs and nothing else, then I feel sorry for her. A life without luxury of any kind? Nothing just for the sake of joy or fun or just because you felt like it? Terribly boring.

    No one really needs chocolate, either. Chocolate is totally obsolete. That sounds funny, doesn’t it?

  4. Will Best says:

    The lie is that you can do it on your own, and that you don’t need a partner whether its hetro, homo, or asexual. The stats on poverty and well being generally indicate that very few people can do it on their own. Its actually kind of silly that the individual is the metric when really the family is a much better benchmark

    “Boys and Men aren’t becoming obsolete. What’s becoming obsolete are the extremely limiting (and frankly sexist) gender roles that men and boys have been bound to all these years.”

    This gave me a chuckle mainly because I bet the guy that advertises himself as wanting to be a house husband has no high powered career oriented women takers. Nearly every woman I know (90%+) is uncomfortable with a man who isn’t achieving professionally at the level they do, and the other 10% haven’t had a chance to demonstrate their sincerity. The only difference is they are also looking for men capable of handling careers plus doing indoor housework (in addition to the outdoor work and maintenance we already do) and taking care of the kids, because well they can make money too.

  5. Hi Wellokthen

    You write::

    “I’m happy not to be needed. Tell me I’m obsolete and I just laugh. I’ve always preferred to be wanted more than needed anyway. I prefer to be a luxury and not a necessity.”

    Well said.
    Men are wanted.
    The fact that women get an education,or develop skill that makes her able earn money to pay her bills does not mean men is not wanted!

  6. Of men are needed, who are going to do the dirty jobs , the dangerous jobs of society. WOMEN, really, they aren’t lining up for those jobs now. Yes, women are getting more education but that education isn’t in the trades industry, they are in the soft degrees, social science, gender studies etc.

    Sorry folks but if you think that women as a group are going to be willing to step up to the plate and do this kind of work, you are kidding yourselves.

    • Hi Saitek
      You are right. Women choose traditional femal occupations , at least where I live.
      But you don’t have to be a man to send out drones over Pakistan and other places. But I think it must hard for a woman to a firefighter,construction worker or work on an oil platform drilling oil.

      Of course society needs all genders and all helping hands to function well. Most men are physically stronger than women and have other talents as well.

      If some women say they do not need a man,I think they mean that they can pay their own bills, are not afraid to live alone in their house, and can be emotionally healthy even without a man in their life.They mean they are not dependent on having a man to live a good fullfilling life.

      I don’t think they mean society don’t need men. Is that your impression?

      Still,most heterosexual women prefer sharing their life with a man. It is more fun, and has many advantages. We are social animals,we like closeness,we like sex,we like love,friendship, and we cooperate well.

  7. Marie, Thanks for writing this. I’ve been working with men, and the women who love them, for more than 40 years. I believe, as you say, that we are social beings and we DO need each other. We all need men and we all need women. None of us need to be abused, shamed, or put down. The larger issue is that we live in a dominator culture which is based on exploitation and abuse. It started with our disconnection from the earth. As we began to dominate and exploit the earth, we became disconnected from ourselves. What we did to ourselves we did to others.

    The bind many women are in is that too many men have become abusive or absent. As a result they prepare themselves to be without a man, to believe that “I don’t need a man.”

    The bind for men is that we are taught that we are inherently violent and deep inside we feel disconnected. We come to believe we aren’t lovable so we, too often, denigrate women so they will feel as as bad about themselves as we feel.

    We all need to break the binds. We may need to start by healing our connection with the Earth. As Sam Keen says, “The new human vocation is to heal the earth. We can only heal what we love. We can only love what we know. We can only know what we touch.” Getting back in touch is the road to healing for us all.

    Thank you again for contributing to that journey.

    • Thank you for your comment Jed–that was beautifully said and expresses the thoughts I could not put into words.

  8. I don’t need a man. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want a good man. I agree that we have to be very careful about the messages we send. Great article!

  9. Your message is grounded and powerful. We are social creatures, and we (men and women) need to set boundaries for acceptable behaviour in our relationships. Disregarding men in entirety shows disrespect in reverse. I grew up hearing the exact opposite: that there is something wrong with you if you don’t have a man, and that you should do whatever it takes to keep a man, including putting up with abusive behaviour. It has taken me a long time to rebound from this message, and I could very easily have ended up in the “I don’t need a man” camp. Thankfully, I didn’t, as there are men out there who I value having in my life.

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