For some, the title of this post alone will be sufficient to raise ire and protest. It seems that on the rare occasion that the genuine concerns of men are raised there is no choice but to have the apparently greater and more important concerns of the feminine of the species to be brought along with it and quickly assume prominence. So, let me reassure those concerned that this post is in no way intended to dismiss or diminish the very real and consequential issues that women face.
Instead, I wish to express some thoughts as a man on issues that many aren’t aware of at best, or at worst are dismissed with an appalling (and incredibly costly) disregard.
The first point of contention is the suggestion that men are simple creatures: food, sleep, sex and we’re good. This fallacy seems to be found in comparison as opposed to objective reality: men are compared to women who are widely regarded to be much more complex than men and instead of drawing a conclusion of: “May not be as complex as women”, instead: “Men are simple.” Questioning if men are as complex as women is something effectively so unthinkable that no-one asks lest the response be measured by the decibel level of laughter and ridicule, but I think it’s an assertion that bears merit if for no other reason than to bring identifiable and considered reasons to long-held presumptions that I would suggest cost men (and therefore everyone) dearly.
The second point contention is that men are inferior. This is one that really isn’t spoken aloud in most instances, but nonetheless is quite obvious in both church settings and the secular world.
First, inside the church.
Having spent most of my life in the Sydney Anglican church, I’ve heard many talks over many years about how God created them male and female. I’ve heard sermons about how each successive step in the creation narrative is “good” but when it comes to humans, it is “very good”. This is all good and theologically sound. However, I have heard the suggestion that whilst man is very good, woman is even better because she was created after Adam and, well, let’s face it – wo(ah)-man! (The next time I hear that supposed reaction of Adam to Eve I think I’ll scream.) Not only is this suggestion heretical, it’s downright offensive. Over the years I’ve heard countless words about how women are all queens and princesses and should be treated as such (it is worth noting that I’ve never heard men referred to as kings and princes). Men are apparently meant to fawn and blush and sacrifice their all for their women and that’s as good as it gets for us guys. Women get to be worshipped (and some of the behaviour I’ve seen among Christian men toward their women is indeed worship) and guys, remember your place as the servants of your women – not kings or princes. Be grateful for what she allows you to do and the fact you found a woman who will put up with you.
Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that men shouldn’t sacrifice. If we’re to have Jesus as our model then one of His greatest defining characteristics is that of sacrifice. What I am suggesting is that men are far more valuable and noble than creatures who “get” to lavish upon those they love and should be thankful for anything they get in return. It seems for some, what the woman wants, she gets (Happy wife happy life, so I’ve heard at every wedding I’ve ever been to, said in jest but meant with the utmost seriousness). But what the man wants is probably selfish or childish and no he can’t have it. Like a child who wants a toy he’s effectively told: “No! Put that down!” I’ve got a couple of married friends who are often in trouble with their wives and they don’t know why.
Want to know why there are fewer men in church than there are women? I would wager that at least part of it is down to what men are told. Whilst women get to enjoy the adoration and love of the men in their lives, men get to be servants. Grow up, be responsible, get on with it – all that. The flow-on effect of this is that the interests and concerns of men are not really acknowledged and are absolutely NOT treated with the same importance. This is evidenced by the huge slant to be found in gender-specific ministries. Every church I’ve been a part of has considerably more ministries aimed at women than they do at men. It also has to be said that often men’s events are, well, pretty awful. You can’t take a bible study group, replace the women with beer and pizza one night and call it a “Men’s event”. Women love to do things that involve talking – men don’t. Maybe that’s it? Interesting, fun events that appeal to men are just too difficult? Or perhaps men’s needs have just been largely ignored by the church and thus men’s events just aren’t a priority?
Outside the church.
The easiest place to identify how inferior men apparently are is in advertising. Men are the ones who dirty up the just-cleaned house; the ones who can’t work the washing machine; the ones that can’t open the can of food and heat it in the microwave. Thankfully the woman of the house comes to the poor sap’s rescue with a doting smile and an endearing roll of the eyes for the poor fool. Aren’t these scenarios more like actions of a young boy and his mother? There’s even an ad where the simple bloke gets into his girlfriend’s box of sanitary napkins, places them on his body and pretends to be a superhero (believe it). Exactly how far would an advertisement get if the woman was painted as the not-so-bright one and her man comes to the rescue? It wouldn’t even make it to a proposal paper, let alone the airwaves.
Consider that for many men in Western culture there is an unspoken rule that seems to pervaid their life from an extremely young age: you don’t admit defeat, you don’t run and the The Big One – you don’t cry in front of others, especially other men. As a man you’re expected to have a handle on any situation that comes your way and if that means a crippling amount of internalised anxiety, depression or self-doubt then so be it. We even see this unspoken expectation extend itself to men’s physical health. Prostate cancer is one of the largest causes of death amongst men, yet many need the figurative gun held to the back of their head to just get themselves off to their GP.
Whilst it’s true that men genuinely do not talk as much as women on average, it also needs to be understood that a lot of male-male relationship building isn’t spoken. Having said this, however, there’s a difference between not wanting to talk and not feeling like you’re able to. What’s the consequence? Men often feel like they’re failures or weak because they don’t have it all together – never mind that they may feel incredibly isolated, even if they do have a wife/fiance/girlfriend. Sometimes you need your own gender to “get” the issues you’re facing.
Again, what I am asserting here is not that men shouldn’t sacrifice or that women’s issues aren’t very important. What I am asserting without apology is that men are far more valuable, capable and complex than they’ve been written off as and every bit as important and valuable as women.
I don’t see the feminist movement amongst some as simply balancing things out, I see it tipping things the other way and leaving men confused and marginalised about who and what they are meant to be.
But what do others think? Is there something I’m missing? Is it a case as someone once told me that men have had their turn and now it’s the time for women? Or are there others who’ve come to realise that being a man is a truly incredible, valuable thing that needs far more attention and credit than it currently receives?