With So Many Contradictions About What it Means be a Good Man, I Can’t Blame them for Leaving.
Almost thirty years ago Bonnie Tyler sang the iconic song Holding Out for a Hero. It was a smash hit. It was featured in the iconic movie Footlose and reached #31 in the top selling singles in 1985. It has also been an anthem for many a woman’s celebration – such as Bachelorette parties and girls night’s out. It’s also a celebrated anthem for many a drag queen get-together.
In case you don’t remember, the song starts with the lyrics “Where have all the good men gone?”. The song goes on to ask about other problems in finding ‘good men’ such as when it asks “where’s the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds” and also “Isn’t there a white knight upon his fiery steed?” Based on the songs popularity, these questions apparently resonated for a lot of people at the time (and have since). Apparently Good men have been hard to find even since thirty years ago – and still are.
Recently When I look around and see that 1/3 of America is fatherless and as of 2011, 48% of children born in the U.S. are born to single mother homes, I can’t help but wonder where have all the good men gone?
Where Have All The Good Men Gone?
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Bonnie Tyler sang this song in 1984 shortly after the feminist movements of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. When the feminist movements of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s occurred it changed women’s roles dramatically – and for good reason. Women were (and still are in many ways) marginalized, misrepresented and did not share many of the same privileges as their male counterparts did. Through the feminist movements, women’s “traditional” roles were challenged. Women became more empowered, more recognized, and their subtle oppression was brought to the fore and became a center stage. In my eyes, the feminist movement was a welcome, necessary movement. I also believe there’s still a lot to do.
Because of the Feminist Movement, Men’s Roles Have Changed, Too.
But because women’s roles have changed so dramatically over the last half century, it necessarily means that men’s roles have changed too. As a marriage counselor in Denver, when I counsel a couple where one of the spouse’s roles has changed (e.g. as a result of job loss, job change, child birth, etc.) the other partner’s role necessarily changes whether they like it or not. For example, if the wife is primarily responsible for cooking meals for the family but suddenly gets a promotion that requires a lot of travel and time away, the husband necessarily needs to pick up more responsibilities around the home to compensate for the wife’s change in responsibilities. If the couple struggles to make these adjustments, it causes problems in the relationship and usually brings couples in to my office.
It seems to me that on a national level, men’s roles have been affected by the relatively recent change in women’s roles brought on by the feminist movement. Men used to have role models such as Ward Cleaver of Leave it to Beaver or Tom Brady of The Brady Bunch that showed them what exemplary men and fathers were like. However, the messages from the feminist movement have taught us that these men were oppressive and overly privileged.
In an article in the Father’s section about “Why are Father’s Opting Out of Fatherhood?” it states that unfortunately, no other men have risen up to take Ward Cleaver’s or Tom Brady’s place. Fathers such as Homer Simpson, Al Bundy and Stan Smith have filled our TV screens but have received criticism for their being bad role models and being bad dads. Other dads such as and Danny Tanner on Full House and Tim ‘The Tool Man’ Taylor also filled our TV screens as exemplar fathers and husbands but were criticized for being ‘too traditional’ (even though Danny Tanner was a single dad). So men who do try to step up as examples of being good men are shot down for being ‘too traditional’.
When did Women’s Rights Mean that Men are Disposable?
Fortunately, women’s roles have changed a lot since the days of June and Ward Cleaver. They’re no longer expected to be home cooking in heels, an apron and pearls while their men are out working. They’re also no longer expected to be the submissive wife. I think it’s great that women’s roles have changed so much. They needed to. And there’s still a lot more work to be done. But at what point did women’s rights start leading to half of the children being born to single mothers and 1/3 of America’s homes being Fatherless?
No wonder Bonnie Tyler was singing “where have all the good men gone?’ As a man myself, It’s hard for me to navigate all the contradictory roles I’m supposed to play. I’m supposed to be a hero, a knight in shining armor and a Prince Charming for my wife but I’m also not supposed to be chauvinist or ‘hyper-masculine’. What a contradiction! How can men be a knight in shining armor but not be hyper-masculine? Sorry, Bonnie. I don’t know where all the good men have gone but I can’t blame them for leaving. And the ones who didn’t leave are no longer what you’d call “good men” because they’re not being that “white knight upon the fiery steed” that you’re looking for. They can’t be. That’d be chauvinist.
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