Shifts in traditional gender roles are allowing men more freedom to explore who and how they want to be.
There have been so many unfortunate events in the news of high profile men abusing and brutalizing the people around them. Inflicting so much pain on the people they are supposed love the most, on the people they are supposed to protect. I read another author who said it’s, “because we’re horrible and brutal and defensive about it besides…” But I don’t think that is exactly right. Not fully anyway.
I think what we are witnessing is a societal shift in the best possible direction. We are living in a time when women’s stake in the world is growing. Women are taking their rightful and natural places in roles they should have always been welcomed. And I for one am grateful to be alive while it happens.
Looking around me however I see something else happening with the other half of the world’s population. I look around me and see a professional athlete physically punish the woman in his life until she is unconscious and then drag her limp body through a crowd of people as if nothing happened. I see another charged with multiple accounts of abusing his children. I see countless young men sexually assaulting women, as if it is our birthright, our trophy to hoist above our heads. I see professional men in finance take people’s money, use it to make themselves wealthy beyond measure, and return to the original owners a pittance. I see this constantly. It’s all around us. But I think the biggest travesty is that I see just as many men everyday showing up in the lives of the people they love. I see fathers and husbands and business owners and divorcees and teachers and uncles show unbearable love and compassion and understanding. I see this happen without much regard at all.
Maybe that’s how it should be. Maybe male behavior should be to bestow immeasurable love on those closest to him so that it is so unremarkable it is easily overlooked and warrants little celebration. But that’s not where we are today. Today we are led to believe that men are “horrible and brutal and defensive.”But I ask why? Why are we led to believe it to be true? Why are men portrayed this way? I think what we are witnessing is a societal shift in the best possible direction.
The same shift that affords women the same opportunity to actualize who they truly are also creates a shift for men. As women’s roles expand and change a vacuum forms. The world is slowly starting to devalue men who are providers; men who work until they die to give their families a comfortable life; men who are detached, stoic, and unaffected; men who swill beer and watch sports until they pass out in their recliner. It’s important to realize that the world doesn’t devalue men though. Men are ever a vital part to this changing world. Just as women’s roles in the world change, so too do men’s. The vacuum is not a power struggle. It’s a struggle to identify the “new” man’s place.
We are now asked to do things differently. As I write this my wife is writing an intelligent paper for her last class in her last semester in graduate school. The prospect that my wife is a brilliant, independent, funny woman who functions in the world just fine without me scares the bloody hell out of me. It scares me to know that she needs me for nothing, that we are equal partners in our relationship. As progressive as I like to think I am, I still cling to this antiquated idea that I am the provider, the protector, the patriarch. In real life outside of my head, I am asked to do something different. But I am grateful for that.
In real life I am asked to be open, attached, and honest. I am asked to be fearless in how I approach my fears. I am asked to love my people without condition. I am asked to be present. And this is the “new” man isn’t it? It’s more Jimmy Stewart than John Wayne. It’s more MLK than JFK.
As much of a departure from the tradition and as uncomfortable as it may be sometimes, it is such a relief. It still takes effort, but we don’t have to try so hard. We still work, but we don’t have to toil. We still support, but we don’t have to be the strong silent type anymore. As we change and adapt to be the “new” man, the freer we are to live life as husband, father, son, boyfriend or anything else.
In the end it’s so much for the better. We owe it to our wives to be the best possible partner we can be. We owe it to our kids to be be the best possible father. We owe it to all of them to find out just how much we can love them, to find out just how great of men we can possibly be. Not just so we can live to make their lives better, but because we get to live a little bit fuller, happier lives in the end.
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