When I grew up our culture viewed opening the car door for a woman as a kind, chivalrous and masculine gesture. But in the last three decades what was once revered as a gentlemanly act has turned into a political debate about gender equality.
Today opening a car door in the eyes of many women is viewed as sexist; rude and demeaning; and that it implies an inferior status of women; while opening the door themselves can represent independence for women.
Many men also support not opening a car door for women. The rationale is that if a woman desires to be entirely independent and treated as an equal, she needs to give up being treated with any special consideration.
While men and women continue to bicker over a simple act of kindness, the gender gap keeps widening and so does the animosity towards each other. What is sad is that this ongoing conflict and lack of love among men and women is not setting a good example for the children.
It has gotten so far out of hand that the advocates for gender equality created a t-shirt that singled out boys. The words on the t-shirt read, “Boys Will Be Boys Good Humans.”
A mom, Bianca Jamotte LeRoux who writes for Today Parenting Team, shared her frustrations about the t-shirt in an article titled “Boys Will Be Boys.”
The more I sat with it and looked at the word boys crossed out I thought, ‘Why would I cross out my boy? Why would I, his mother, teach my son at such a young age that he is somehow “wrong” for being a boy?
I feel the people who created this t-shirt were so consumed with their anger at the men accused of sexual harassment that they didn’t see how this t-shirt is also a form of gender bias and sexual harassment. They are specifically targeting and harassing innocent boys just because a few men behaved inappropriately. Furthermore, these men accused of sexual harassment do not represent the majority of men who behave like loving, caring, compassionate and respectful human beings and who are also raising boys to be good men.
They also didn’t think how the words on this t-shirt might hurt a boy emotionally. And how a girl might take this message the wrong way and behave inappropriately to boys and also other girls.
Girls can also be unruly. They are also capable of teasing and bullying and inflicting emotional damage on boys as well as girls.
Five days after the publication of LeRoux’s article a sad story appeared in the news about a teenage girl’s suicide. According to the police report one of the suspects told an investigator that she had started rumors about the victim in person, and online. Should we now print up a t-shirt with the words “Girls Will Be Girls Good Humans?”
No, because the boys and girls are not the problem. It’s the adults and how they treat each other.
I have been a big supporter of gender equality. My unconventional decision to be the primary caregiver for our family from 1991 to 2011 demonstrates it. For twenty years I supported my wife’s professional career. During this time I experienced many forms of emasculation by relatives, friend and strangers. They all questioned my masculinity and insisted that a man’s place was at the office and not in the kitchen. I battled the stigma of dads as incompetent and untrustworthy caregivers and parents. I also endured comments that emasculate men like, “Hogan, so nice to see a man show his feminine side.”
I couldn’t understand why men and women only associate traits like nurturing, compassion and sensitivity with a woman when a man is just as capable of them without losing his masculinity. The truth is that over the last two decades millions of at-home dads like me have proven that it is possible for dads to be as nurturing, compassionate and sensitive as moms.
Yes, I was the primary caregiver. But I’m a man and don’t have a feminine side. I didn’t feel like I lost any of my masculinity. I still behaved like a man. I enjoyed drinking beer, fishing, playing poker, performing practical jokes on my kids and friends, working on my car, wearing the same t-shirt for three days, verbal jousting with my male friends, roughhousing with my kids and other manly acts. While our culture considers these as masculine traits, I fully support females engaging in these activities and behaviors without asking them to give up their femininity.
Men have also contributed to the emasculation of men. One example is the “Mr. Mom” label sparked by the 1983 movie of the same name. My attempts to convince men and women that I was not a replacement for mom proved futile. They had a hard time wrapping their head around the idea that a dad was just as capable of being a primary caregiver as a mom is a corporate executive.
Another example is the National Football League. Football, by its very nature, is a man’s sport. While the NFL’s support to join the fight against breast cancer is commendable, the NFL executives’ decision to allow the color pink on the football field is a form of emasculation. The gridiron is sacred ground to men and a place of battle where men can be men for 60 minutes.
Instead of asking the NFL players to surrender the football field to the color pink, why didn’t the NFL executives stand up for masculinity? There is plenty of space inside the stadium to post pink banners and ribbons. And the big screen also provides opportunities to commercialize the cure of breast cancer. Furthermore, keeping the color pink off the field is not a form of sexism but merely a way to stand up for masculinity and draw the line as to what is acceptable in the world of masculinity. This same rule would apply to men with respect to femininity. That to me is an example of the true meaning of gender equality.
What about the gender bias and stereotyping of the color pink? While color pink is associated with women, cancer doesn’t discriminate. Cancer also attacks men. I have not heard of men demanding that female soccer players wear a blue ribbon for prostate cancer or purple ribbon for testicular cancer on the soccer field. And that is because men don’t feel the need to masculinize a sport that women play and more importantly respect the women’s gridiron as sacred ground for their opportunity to show off their athletic skills.
Our culture has also asked men to redefine manhood and fatherhood. There is no reason for this request because as I noted earlier if a man chooses to be a primary caregiver, he is still a man and doesn’t lose any of his masculinity. I have yet to see an advertisement for women to redefine their womanhood and motherhood. Therefore, why should we ask men to do it?
I’m all for gender equality but not at the expense of emasculating men.
Masculinity is what makes a man a man just as femininity makes a woman a woman. In the heterosexual world, these different and definitive traits are what attracts us to each other and serve a bigger purpose in the growth and development of boys to men and girls to women.
Masculinity is a trait women should embrace in the same way men embrace femininity. I’ve never heard a man say, “I’d like my wife or girlfriend to show her masculine side.” This is because the majority of men I know don’t seek to defeminize women but more importantly respect and value femininity.
The significant truth adults need to accept is that God created men and women differently for a good reason. There is excellent value in masculinity and femininity and both play an essential role in the development of each gender. Femininity is a big part of a woman’s identity as a mom; and masculinity is a big part of a man’s identity as a dad.
If women and men really desire to create gender equality, then I suggest we stop using children as pawns and playing the unproductive tit-for-tat game. Instead, lets start respecting, embracing and valuing each other’s gender differences. We can begin by bringing back the gentlemanly act of boys and men opening a car door for girls and women.
Hogan Hilling is a nationally recognized and OPRAH approved author of 12 published books. Hilling has appeared on Oprah. He is also the founder of the “#WeLoveDads” https://dadmarketingconsulting.wordpress.com/welovedads/ and “#WeLoveMoms” https://dadmarketingconsulting.wordpress.com/welovemoms/ Campaigns, which he will launch in early 2018. He is also the owner of Dad Marketing https://dadmarketingconsulting.wordpress.com/, a first of its kind consultation firm on how to market to dads. He is also the founder of United We Parent, www.unitedweparent.com. Hilling is also the author of the DADLY book series and first of its kind books. The first book is about marketing to dads “DADLY Dollar$” and two coffee table books that feature dads and moms. “DADLY Dads: Parents of the 21st Century” and “Amazing Moms: Parents of the 21st Century.” Hilling is the father of three children and lives in southern California.
Tom Konini is the Founder of Dad Marketing Consulting, LLC, and the #WeLoveDads https://dadmarketingconsulting.wordpress.com/welovedads/ and #WeLoveMoms https://dadmarketingconsulting.wordpress.com/welovemoms/ Campaigns. He is also the author of, “DADLY Dollar$: How Marketing to Dads Will Increase Revenue and Strengthen Families.”
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