I am intrigued with the male perspective on feminism, masculinity, and issues in our present culture. What is it to be male today? A year and a half ago the subject came up, unexpectedly, and started me thinking....
What have we lost? We were at the Gene Autry museum for a birthday party and the question seemed to surface repeatedly. As the men stood and watched their children ride faux, life size horses, they looked around discussing the elaborate get-up of the long, lost cowboy. We've lost so much, one man said to me. We looked around and saw how our clothes have changed -spurs on the boots, pistols with inlay, and the hats. Maybe this is why we get so little respect. It was not said with any kind of rancor or bitterness, but with a matter-of-factness, which surprised me. Do men feel this way? Have we lost respect for men?
And what were the women talking about? How they have so little time with their children. How they feel that the mornings are all about the scramble before school - getting dressed, bolting down food, packing the backpacks and lunches - and then having a brief blip of conversation with their children. As one woman talked the other nodded, vehemently agreeing with her every word. In another conversation, a woman blurted out that she was going to stay at home this year with her two children. The woman by her side told her how lucky she was. It seems that we value, secretly or not, the ability and/or desire to stay at home with our children.
And so, what have we lost? It is easy to find the loss. It is here, in the words spoken today. Yet, I like to reflect on what we've gained. We have boys who can see that their dads are capable of gentleness. Boys who are, at 3 and 4, allowed to cry and are not shushed for expressing their feelings. Boys who hug each other, and also know their way around a load of laundry and the kitchen. And the girls? We have girls who have many role models - women who have full lives as single women, the choice to have children or not... Moms who work jobs outside of the home, and the moms who work by staying at home with their children. They have choices. Choices that weren't there for us before.
Maybe we as women and men can reach out to each other and acknowledge the loss of our elusive masculine and feminine selves. But, also face down our animus, and embrace our true souls that have stretched and grown into who we are today. The long lost cowboy is still inside us, as is that prairie woman. Both a bit trail weary, but still innate inside of us.