Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." - Isaiah 30:21

Friday, October 5, 2012

In Praise of Boys and Men (Yes, Really)

Delaney and Liam are playing spies in the next room. They are assigning themselves various roles, personalities, skills, and gadgets. Liam paused the assignments to say, “The boy spy is usually the stupid one.”

I am so frigging sick of this. The dumb guy trope should be over. It never even should have started.

My father has railed against it ever since my sister and I brought home our first Berenstain Bear books, with the goofy, clueless dad. The marital combination is a sitcom staple: The mom holds the world together. The dad goes along for the ride. Usually screwing up quite a bit in the process. Thank God the mom is there to swoop in and save everybody.

This isn't silly. This isn't a funny joke. It's becoming a cultural norm, and it has the potential to be very damaging to men and women alike. And now, with Liam's comment, I'm beginning to think that the same sentiment has wormed its way into kid's movies and TV shows. It's called “children's programming” for a reason, right?

Here's the reality: Men have as much duty to care for their families as women do. And you know what? Many of them are incredibly good at it. My husband keeps me sane. He's super smart, he works hard, and I wouldn't be half the person I am without him. He would say all the same things about me, too. My son is clever, funny, and capable. He's an excellent problem solver. It hurts to think that the “adventure” movies he likes would suggest he should be anything less.

This is not feminism. This is pure reactionary stupidity.

I think it's important to raise girls to be smart. To teach them that they are not objects, but complete, worthwhile human beings in their own right. I'm proud of my strong, smart girls. The idea of anyone turning them into sex objects infuriates me, just as it would any good parent. And I am equally offended and angered by the cultural insistence on turning my boy into the butt of every joke, the hapless little dude consistently rescued by a smart girl.

Can somebody tell me why we are all so completely freaked out by the idea of men and women getting along and actually liking each other? By both sexes being smart and capable? Because that's what I do in my personal life, it's what most of my friends and family do, and all in all, it's a pretty sweet arrangement. That's what I want my son to remember about his childhood. It's time to override the programming.  


  1. Hear, Hear!! Somewhere in the "women must be strong" teachings, the boys get lost. They get assigned to be the rough and tough and maybe sometimes fumblingly romantic "because how else will he find a good woman" and it makes me SO mad! My son is a critical thinker, a sweet and sensitive guy, equally happy with Superman AND Cinderella costumes and sometimes HIS singing makes *my* heart sing so loudly that it drowns out the rest of the world. I like it that way. I love ALL of my children for their unique and endearing personalities, not because they are boys or girls. Gender is the WORST discrimination we can foust upon our children. It can break a spirit like nothing else. Kudos to the families I hang with for fighting those biases tooth and nail <3

  2. Jenny,
    Wow. I'm blown away. Thank you for expressing what has been festering in the back of my mind for close to 20 years now. This 25 year old narrative that pits the smart, capable woman against the strong, stupid man, has grown tiresome. It is a failed philosophy that blames every societal ill on dumb, aggressive men and holds the promise of a blessed, matriarchal utopia. Oh please. Without men, women are nothing. Without women, men are nothing.

    I'm old enough to remember the old, "stupid woman", biases and was so glad to see them go away. I never bought into them anyway because I was blessed with a very smart mother and a Dad who recognized how great that is. They make a great team. When I met my wife, I recognized another smart, strong woman and we made a life together. It's been great.

    These old-school biases led to a backlash that had to happen. But we have tipped the scale to the other extreme. Boys are ignored in school. They graduate at lower rates than girls and men are more likely them women to lose their jobs when the economy gets rocky. Boys have become liabilities and men relegated to the status of sperm donors. This is pathological.

    Let's recognize the unique skills that we all have, regardless of gender. If we encourage girls AND boys to be smart and strong and nurturing, we can weather any storm.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love to hear a man's perspective on these things.