Monday, April 27, 2009

Do men feel this way? Have we lost respect for men?

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.


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14 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

There is always room for improvement and that's what we're doing--evolving. It's a messy process.

Angeline said...

such complains are so common among my girlfriends, I'm so glad, I've got the best from the lot, I have zero complains about my man. It all voice down to one thing - expectation. When there is no expectation, there is no disappointment. So we have been with each other for more than a decade, loving the fact that we are different, complementing each other. *wink*

Reluctant Blogger said...

I think it can be difficult for men now. It must be confusing to know what is expected - one minute they have to treat all women as equals and then the next they are frowned at if they don't get up on a bus to let one sit down or hold open a door.

In the UK it is certainly true that in some parts of society men's roles are disappearing - our working class women do better if they have children alone, so the men are left, often unemployed with no real role left to them.

But in the middle classes, I don't know. I think we all have far less choice than we like to believe - many women simply cannot be at home with their children because they are tied to mortgages or other debts that keep them in work.

I feel a bit uneasy about the world that awaits my sons but hope that their quirky originality will enable them to find a place there somewhere!

Harry would just love to be a cowboy!!!

Madge said...

i think this is constantly evolving. we lose some things on both sides and we gain. it will never be perfect. hopefully we'll keep getting more right than wrong.

g said...

This is a bigger issue than the trivial thing I'm about to comment on, but....

Looking at the picture, and reading your words of the man "We've lost so much...maybe this is why we get so little respect" - an image flashed immediately into my mind of a man I saw this Sunday, in a restaurant....he was a bulky man, wearing a loose basketball tank top, loose long shorts, and a pair of plastic slides on his bare feet. The flesh on his body quivered, and his plate was piled high with food. He reminded me of a giant toddler.

Cowboys worked hard, physically; their clothes were tools for their work - the design of the boots had a purpose to keep them on their horses, to protect their legs from snakebite; the thick fabric of the jeans protected their legs from scratchy brush. Perhaps if we had more respect for our bodies and indulged less in our appetites, we'd earn more respect.

I realize this is a totally trivial response to a more encompassing issue, but that was my image-flash on your words.

Jen said...

I think that men feel a loss of respect because SO many women are constantly bashing their husbands to other women! Also, the common theme on sitcoms these days is the clueless dad, whose kids and wife belittles him. I admit - I tease Jim about his cluelessness at times, but I also brag about him quite a bit, as you know.

Tricia said...

I keep hoping and expecting that it's really more an evolution than a loss, and I love that each generation will continue to redefine gender rolls.

Nap Warden said...

"Boys who are, at 3 and 4, allowed to cry and are not shushed for expressing their feelings" and "Women who have choices"
That's good stuff in my book;)

Margaret said...

What have we lost? How much of what "we lost" was ever real? How real was Gene Autry? How many mothers were ever June Clever. There's a great book called "The Way We Never Were," that talks a lot about the domestic fantasies we've invented. It puts a lot of things in perspective.

K said...

I think these are hard times. The blueprints have changed a lot in the last 50 years and we're all still figuring out how to work together.

I am pretty much a SAHM (I work a little part time from mom) and it is not something I ever, ever thought I'd do. BUT I love it.

That said, I'm thankful for having a choice. And I know that someday I will be working (for pay) more and that this is just a brief phase in my life.

I think men are still figuring out their roles too. I'm glad so many men are more hands on when it comes to parenting now.

(Sorry for the really long comment.)

Tit for Tat said...

Interesting post. I wonder though, who do you want to read this? Was it written just for women? If not, do you think the style of writing is conducive to having a male relate to it and give his input?

Midwest Mom said...

Thank you for bringing the thought around to the image of Prairie women in the end. My thoughts about the real men and women of the frontier are all about inner strength. That's what the cowboy playclothes signified - boys wanting to be that epitome of grit, flamboyantly packaged though it was.

I think what we are experiencing now is not a loss of that strength, but its redefinition. Today, men and women can fully feel the gamut of emotions and endure, remain on the path, make strong decisions, and do what is right. Movie cowboys masked their feelings up to the very end, but real, strong men are capable now of a full and real expression of their experience and feelings, if they choose it. They can also, just as women can, choose to keep their feelings private and their demeanor reserved.

The point is that now there is a choice. To my mind, that benefits us all.

- Julia at Midwest Moms

Jennifer H said...

I don't think we're even close to done trying to figure it out. When you think about it, in the space of all the years that came before, how do we change so much of it in 50 years? I'm not sure all of it should change.

Yes, there should be equality - jobs, pay, choices, shared childcare/household responsibilities - but there are also differences between men and women, and how we're made up biologically (that testosterone is there for a reason). When it all settles, I hope we manage to create and/or hang on to something valuable, on both sides of the gender fence.

(I adore you for the cowboy references, ya know. :-) )

phd in yogurtry said...

Even in the day of spurs and pistol inlays, only a small percentage of the male population actually dressed that way. Men today retain their masculine dress -- sturdy shoes, if they choose, practical pants and jackets. As for hats, men and women both have largely shed hats, except in cold weather.

I suppose I see it this way: For every "lost" masculine or feminine characteristic, there is a freedom gained, or a choice available. So many masc/fem traits that are getting lost are those in the extreme: the tough cowboy who didn't show emotion, the weak female who needed a strong man to rescue her. Sadly, Hollywood has the toughest time letting go, perhaps because of men like the one in your museum.

Great post, JCK. I could go on and on but I've got kids to feed!

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