It’s time for some unvarnished, unqualified, unequivocal praise for men. Not all men are awesome, but Thomas Fiffer has 10 reasons most men are.
I’ve heard enough about dismantling patriarchy and dis-gendering the world. I’ve heard enough that men suck. Granted—some of us do. But most of us don’t. And frankly, women suck in equal numbers. An unpopular statement perhaps, but true. There are two types of people—good and sucky. On the whole, most people are good. And this dichotomy, between good and sucky, has nothing to do with sex or gender. Having a penis doesn’t automatically make a man a dick, just as having a vagina doesn’t automatically make a woman the c word.
Academics can tap out treatises on male violence, male oppression, male this and male that, until their high brows furrow, their pale wrists cramp, and their ivory towers topple to the ground. But no thesis or praxis or seminal tome is, by itself, going to stop sucky people from being sucky and make the world a better, safer, more decent and human place. That only happens on the front lines through the way we choose to conduct ourselves, the problems and challenges to which we apply ourselves, and the way adults model behavior for children. And men, for the most part, are doing a great job.
Here are 10 reasons men are awesome. If you like them, here’s what I suggest you do. Parents: print them out and stick them on your fridges. Teachers: hand them out in your classrooms, along with 10 reasons for women, of course. Women: read them and understand that we’re not all about oppressing you or nailing you or denying you opportunities to keep you down. And men, take heart. Be emboldened. Remember every day that you are awesome. And have the courage to step into your calling, to proudly call yourself a man.
1. Men are fighters—who give their lives for our country. Our military forces are 85% male, and 98% of the 4,448 soldiers killed in the Iraq War were men. Over 1.3 million Americans have died in conflicts, nearly all of them male. Many of these brave men put country above family, serving with the knowledge they might leave the women and children they love behind. For every misogynistic or misbehaving military man, there are thousands who conduct themselves with honor, dignity, and respect. You don’t have to like war to appreciate our soldiers and honor their service and sacrifice.
2. Men are protectors—who are the first to arrive when tragedy strikes. Without ignoring women in these professions, it’s safe to say that the majority of first responders, law enforcement officers, and those in the justice system are men. Firefighters risk their lives to save children, homes, pets, and possessions, and police officers patrol the streets to stop crime. EMS workers rush to the scenes of accidents and minister to the injured, while SWAT teams sweep in to deal with hostage crises. These are tough, stressful, dangerous jobs that men take on willingly, and they protect their communities with pride. For every abusive man, there are countless protectors who come when 911 is called, apply the handcuffs, cart the criminal away, and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.
3. Men are providers—who find value, joy, and self-esteem in supporting the needs of their families. Men put roofs over their loved ones heads, food on the table, and gas in the car. Men set money aside for their children’s education. Men buy life insurance to protect their families if they leave this world too soon. Men help support grown sons and daughters as they take time off, find themselves, go back to school, and eventually settle down. Men do this willingly and without resentment because they understand it is expected. For every deadbeat dad, there are millions who provide for the needs of one family and sometimes two.
4. Men are builders—who construct homes, workplaces, roads and bridges, the machinery of our daily existence, and much of the technology we use every day. Men dig and bulldoze and pave and steamroll, build foundations and lay cornerstones, haul materials in and trash away, assemble and raise, hammer and nail, prime and paint, shingle and shellac. Men build cars and trucks and buses and airplanes. Men also fix and maintain what they build. Construction isn’t necessarily “a man’s job” any more than anything else is. But it’s a job that mostly men do. For every man who tears women down, there are countless others who construct shelters for domestic violence survivors, string cables or erect cell towers for victim hotlines, and build the courthouses and prisons where attackers are brought to justice.
5. Men are teachers—who play a crucial role in children’s education. Women hold the majority of elementary and secondary school positions, but 42% of high school teachers are male, as are the majority of college professors (an area where women remain underrepresented). Whether men teach English, history, science, or phys ed, and whether they instruct in schools, coach teams, or impart wisdom at home, men teach their own children and those in classrooms critical skills. Men teach their sons and daughters how to ride a bike, throw a baseball, shoot a basket, and treat a woman. Men teach conflict resolution every time they peacefully settle an argument. Men mentor, serve as role models, and set examples. For every man who teaches hate, sexism, bigotry, and cruelty to his children, there are countless men who practice and teach love, fairness, equality, and respect.
6. Men are healers—who are devoted to keeping us well and helping us recover from illness and injury. While half of current medical school graduates are women, 70% of doctors are men. Though these numbers reflect a past history of exclusion, the fact remains that many of the doctors who saw us through our childhood ailments, immunized us, bandaged and stitched us, took out our tonsils or appendix, set our broken bones, treated us for diseases, 0r told us with confidence in their white lab jackets with their names in blue script that everything would be OK were men. Male counselors and therapists are uniquely qualified to address the issues men face when healing from abuse and emotional wounds, and male social workers stand on the front lines with troubled young people. For every man who hurts the vulnerable, there are countless physicians, practitioners, and other professionals, as well as pastors and rabbis and neighbors and friends, who spend their days—and nights on call—healing the broken.
7. Men are fathers—who play an all-important role for their kids. I grew up without a dad after I was nine, and as I parent my two boys, 11 and eight, I know how empty their life would be without me. Men change diapers, cook meals, help with homework, do carpool, and show up at their kids’ events and activities. Men are engaged parents, and they volunteer in schools and communities. Men provide sons with a model for their own conduct and daughters with an example of the type of man (if they like men) who will treat them well in a relationship. For every absentee father, there are millions who step up, stand in, and give the gift of presence to their children.
8. Men are sons—who honor and care for their own mothers and fathers. Many men support one or both parents as well as their children. As aging parents begin to lose their physical vitality and their grip on life’s details, grown children step in to help. Daughters help in myriad important ways, but sons come by to change lightbulbs, take the air conditioners out, take the car in, clean the gutters or mow the lawn, and fix things around the house or apartment. Many sons help parents navigate an increasingly confusing world, whether by literally taking their arms as they walk across the street or handling their financial affairs. I believe a man feels a particular responsibility to his mother, the woman who brought him into this world, and many sons become caretakers after their fathers die. For every man who disappoints his parents, there are countless others who make Mother’s Day and Father’s Day the most joyous occasions.
9. Men are husbands—who love and cherish their wives–or husbands—in sickness and in health. Men stand as supportive partners in relationships and form the backbone of families. Men are there for their partners to lean on, count on, cry on, even dump on when the going gets tough. Men are in the living room and the laundry room, the bedroom and the delivery room. Men make midnight runs to the grocery store or the drug store. Men bring flowers when their partners are blue. Men make sure the door is locked and check out loud noises in the middle of the night. Men don’t shrink from challenges or shirk their responsibilities. Men are half of the whole. For every man who fails to meet his partner’s needs, there are countless men who come through every day in spades.
10. Men will be men. This is my answer to boys will be boys. And it’s free of cynicism. We can’t let men off the hook by virtue of being male, but we also can’t impale them on the sharp spear of their worst examples. Men will fight. Men will protect. Men will provide and build and teach and heal. Men will be fathers and sons and husbands and lovers. And most men will try to be the best that they can be. So let’s celebrate all that’s good in men, most of whom are … awesome.