Masculinity And The American Male
by Kevin Probst
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My six year old first grader is wide-open, 100 mph from dawn until dusk. He overflows with energy, laughter and excitement. He also sits in school a good portion of the day. Kameron, like other rambunctious little boys, has trouble sitting hour after hour while he reads, pushes his pencil and colors his pictures. He has a very patient teacher who loves him dearly, yet refuses to allow him to drop below her level of expectation. He is familiar with the principal’s office. He has missed a lot of recess and he has often been deprived of the things he enjoys most in life as a punishment for misbehavior at school. His mother and I insist that he learn to obey and respect his elders and that he learn to cooperate and share with his peers and that he practice self-control. It will be a long and tedious journey but we are very confident that Kameron will learn these lessons well and one day he will develop in a fine young man.
We are very satisfied with his educational experience but we are also aware of the difficult dynamic of educating young boys. Their rambunctious display of energy is often considered detrimental to learning and desperate attempts are made to suppress it. Little girls seem to thrive in a system that requires they sit still and use cooperative and creative skills. The little male warriors are expected to do the same. If little boys fail to sit still and act like little girls they are often ‘diagnosed’ with a ‘psychiatric disorder’ (ADHD) and fed Ritalin tablets to bridle behavior. Learning and behavioral problems are not cured by Ritalin. Ritalin simply treats the symptoms, the problem is still there. Is it not troubling that so many child psychiatrists begin their diagnosis by claiming that they, too, are ADHD? Our society has become insanely dependent on chemicals to treat the symptoms of their emotional, physical and spiritual problems while ignoring the possibility of discovering and destroying the root cause of their problems.
If a young boy’s raucous behavior can be tempered and controlled it can be a great benefit to the development of the child and to society in general. These energetic, masculine expressions need to be fostered and developed, not chemically suppressed or destroyed. The aggressive, independent boy who is ‘too big for his britches’ may one day be the quarterback of the football team or point guard on the basketball team. He may lead a group of Navy Seals to save innocent lives by capturing or killing of an evil tyrant. He may help colonize the moon, build an empire or change the world in which he lives by making an astounding discovery or invention. Should we not control the development of a young boy’s masculinity rather than try to feminize him?
It is likely my son will advance to the 7th or 8th grade before he finally has a male teacher. By the time he graduates from high school he will have accumulated 14,000 instructional hours in school. His life will be dominated by female personalities. That’s why, as his father, I am determined to teach and demonstrate for him masculinity. Wrestling contests, fishing and camping trips, baseball and target practice are activities that will help him distinguish his masculine role. There are multiple life lessons to learn through competition and adventure. Children with no father in the home are disadvantaged but are often taught to blaze their own trail by surrogate male role models such as grandfathers, uncles and coaches.
I’ve taught high school teen-agers for nearly 30 years. I’ve watched as masculinity has slowly declined and nearly disappeared among a large number of young males. Some of them are ashamed to act manly. Some are simply confused about gender roles in society. Some have been taught that superior male strength should be used to dominate and control women rather than protect them. Masculine independence is a foreign concept to many. Many have had females take care of them their whole lives and they expect this to continue throughout their adulthood. This has created a generation of young males who are petrified of a marriage commitment or the prospects of actually having to provide for the children they father. Too many 30-year- old males are still playing video games at home, complaining because mom hasn’t made supper yet, while their female counterparts have achieved a bachelor’s degree by age 22 and a master’s degree by age 24.
Feminization of the male is a problem among Christians just as it is in the secular world. Male leadership in the Christian high school where I teach rarely exists outside of the area of athletics. If you visit some of the Christian ministries on our university campuses you will mostly see women in charge. We have feminized church ministries. Men may need a shoulder to lean on but they are often embarrassed when offered a shoulder to cry on.
Hollywood has a much greater impact in teaching worldview to our youth than the church does. Television entertainment has dedicated a large portion of its programming to the feminization of men. The American family watches an average of 5 hours of television per day. Your child may have watched over 142,000 hours of television by his sixteenth birthday. (Nielson Research, Leichtman Research Group, Podcasting News.com) Everybody loves how Raymond is such a doofus while Debra, his wife, seems to have a solution to every problem.
The feminization of men is not always a passive, subconscious yield to a popular trend in society. It is also the result of a radical feminist hate movement that was birthed in the 1960’s by women like Betty Friedan (The Feminine Mystique) who compared the suburban home to a concentration camp and encouraged women to seek fulfillment outside of their marriages. Another radical feminist, Gloria Steinem, attempted to stir hatred for men by exaggerating violence in the home to mythical proportions. She opposed the ‘patriarchy’ element in society by declaring, “The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home.” (Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, pp. 259-61) I would never minimize the problem of physical violence in American homes, but to make a blanket accusation that all men beat their wives is like saying all Eskimos are stupid or all Swedes are ugly. It demonstrates how one’s feelings of hatred, in this case, hatred for men, can totally eliminate one’s ability to be rational.
Our perfect example of masculinity was Christ himself. Real masculinity isn’t lording it over those who are weaker. Rather, it’s about caring for them and protecting them. Christ was not averse to using violence (Mark 11:15-19) when it came to defending his Father and what belonged to his Father. He never raised his hand to bring harm to a woman. He treated women with utmost respect and his love for children was unprecedented. He thought so little of his earthly life that he was willing to subject himself to the humility of a public beating by the Roman soldiers and finally a brutal death on a wooden cross to purchase salvation for those he loved.
True masculinity is the loving of our wives as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25) Real men don’t just procreate. They rear their children with love and compassion. They sacrifice for them, protect them and invest tremendous amounts of time and energy in their lives. Our society needs men, real men, Christ-like men, more now than ever before.
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