It's become a cliche - erroneously, I think - that men, their traits and ethics, have outlived their usefulness. One such manifestation came to me in the mail last week, in the form of an Atlantic Monthly issue proclaiming "The End of Men." Another article in the issue asks, "Are Fathers Necessary?"
I know, I know...in this age of transition from print to digital media - and in an a year in which women figure prominently in politics - such rhetoric is largely meant to provoke us into buying a five-dollar copy of the magazine. But I hope neither men nor women take such articles too seriously.
Yes, it's true that the world has become a complicated affair (you may read: a mess) economically, socially, and politically, and yes, it's true that men have been at the forefront of this state of affairs. But will women, inherently of that gender, make this a better world, simply because of gender? I don't think so.
It seems odd to observe - as I have - the feminization of men in the U.S.'s culture. Menfolk: who picks out your clothes? Who determines what the family money is to be spent on? Who usually predominates in setting the family's ethical and moral base? Beyond the nuclear family (if in fact such a thing exists), fashions are set by whom - for both sexes? Whom are most laws meant to protect and support? Even in the U.S. military culture, still largely a male bastion, the overriding ethos remains a bend-over-backwards gallantry toward and support of women. We've been living in a matriarchal society for a long time, despite the hyper-masculine face the U.S. projects into the world.
This isn't to disparage women and the manner in which they complement the lives of us men. But on Father's Day it seems appropriate to recognize that, for the most part, the male psyche is driven by an unwavering belief in and support of the value of women and family, despite the faint recognition our society gives for such willing sacrifice.
I remember a former work colleague telling me - tongue pointed in the direction of one cheek - that his standing in the family (and here he largely meant his role in family decision making, as well as regarding personal respect) fell just ahead of the family dog - and that only on payday. Men have almost universally been accepting of this state of affairs, always acceding to family demands without protest, putting forth a stable, supportive strength when confronted with debt, misfortune, and other of life's troughs.
And, here in the sunny Southland that I call home, it's always been this way. I once asked my father about his mother, who died almost a decade before I was born. "She was a hard-working woman," he replied in his usual pithy way. "Ha!" someone will no doubt say, "he's admitting women did the heavy lifting then, a state of affairs women have only just begun to rise above."
Not exactly. He was referring to his family's life on a small, north Louisiana cotton farm, in which every family member had to share in the backbreaking-day-to-day work in order to survive.
My father continued his story by telling me that during the picking season, the children (boys in his case) skipped school and picked cotton from first light to the last smidgeon of light at dusk. His mother managed to make clothes and feed six boys and a husband each day, and during the picking season, she would come out late in the afternoon, after her chores were done, to help with the picking. Many of those days, the men gratefully accepted her help. But not infrequently, one of them would put an arm around the short, broad-shouldered wife and mother and tell her to "have a set" - they would finish the picking without her.
I can hardly come up with a better example to exemplify the way men foster American life. It's true, some men aren't that noble or hard-working, but then the strength men bring to the table hardly makes the news, does it?
So if you have a man in your life, give him that card or tie today. But try to find ways of thanking him all year long for being there for you in the many ways you've probably come to take for granted. The end of men? I hope not. For all our sakes.
Causes Bob Mustin Supports
Native American culture. Education. Creative writing.