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The Marriage Plot, New Feminism, & the End of Men, Part 4: Solutions

This is part 4 of a 5-part article.

Read Part 1 Here
Read Part 2 Here
Read Part 3 Here
Read Part 5 Here

This reality, in fact, is one of those amazing coincidences that can only be called either inspiration or serendipity.

The current crisis is offering an opportunity for men to develop their nurturing side.

Before you discount this, consider that men are as naturally prone to nurture as they are to provide.

Thousands of years of the Nomadic, Agrarian and Industrial Ages have conditioned hundreds of generations of men to find success through work.

And the long era of comparative peace and prosperity since 1945 have tended to make them feel entitled to plentiful jobs, extra cash, vacations, and leisure time, and numerous other opportunities—often with minimal effort.

The Great Recession has challenged these assumptions, requiring a new type of individual with two sets of character traits and skills:

  1. First, extremely high levels of initiative, resiliency, ingenuity, and tenacity.
  2. Second, much higher than traditional levels of cooperation, communication, unselfishness about who gets rewards and credit, and teamwork.

Today’s generation of men and women are capable of the first list of needed traits and changes, but many men struggle to compete with women on the second list.

Indeed, for much of history it was man’s lack of these very “weaknesses” that made him independent, self-assured, bold, assertive, ambitious, and what has been called simply, “manly,” “Roman,” and “tough.”

When boys are taught, “be a man,” “don’t cry like a sissy,” and men are told to “cowboy up,” it often means precisely not to be the cooperative, communicative, depend-on-others types.

“Stop talking and just do it.” “Who cares what others say or do, just do what you want.”

Men still laugh at Tim Allen’s grunts as the essence of male communication, and even in team athletics boys are taught to stand out and rise above the crowd.

What used to be the unwritten rules of “male dominance” are now actually seen as inability to excel in the vital second list of characteristics (communication, cooperation, unselfishness).

While of course this generalization is overcome by a number of individuals, it remains a reality for many.

Wise fathers, grandfathers and role models will help teach boys and men that there is much more to manhood than the wartime and gang-related values.

Indeed, the lessons taught from fathers to sons by generations of hunters, farmers and entrepreneurs differ greatly from those idealized by warriors, politicians and corporate raiders.

The first group idealizes cooperation, communication, and progress whereas the second prefers competition, dominance and victory.

In the Industrial Age, the “Organization Man” became the ideal for males—detached, admired, cash-carrying, benefitting from a lot of leisure time, and considered in charge of his family and its members.

The Industrial Man was the provider and the boss. At work he was an employee, a servant, but at home he was the center of the universe. He too often tended to treat his wife and children like employees and act like the boss he resented at work.

With a life experience built on succeeding as an employee, he didn’t know another way of acting.

His wife was either an employee, the boss, or perhaps a fellow worker in competition for advancement, attention and rewards.

His marriage was most often seen as a contract, where both sides were expected to perform their agreed upon roles, rather than a covenant where he would give his all in sacrifice and longsuffering regardless of what the other side did.

His relationships with neighbors and his nation took on this same contractual perspective.

He voted like an employee, for what he wanted—rather than for what the nation truly needed like a farmer or owner protecting the land or the organization he raised from scratch.

Today some men are lamenting (often quietly) the loss of this concept, while at the same time the need for a new male ideal is vital.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the masculine ideal was often the best nurturer. It takes nurturing, not detached management, to grow a farm, build a business from the ground up, and raise children into adults.

The necessary attention to detail is legendary. Indeed, in the Agrarian Age the iconic man’s occupation and business was Husbandry.

Providing was part of their role, but it was a secondary natural outgrowth of nurturing children like a small business in its infancy, encouraging and husbanding plants and coaxing them to grow and flourish into a farm in full bloom.

As Wendell Berry put it:

“…a man who is in the traditional sense a good farmer is husbandman and husband, the begetter and conserver of the earth’s bounty, but he is also midwife and motherer. He is a nurturer of life. His work is domestic. He is bound to the household.

“But let ‘progress’ take such a man and transform him…sever him from the household, make…‘uneconomical’ his impulse to conserve and to nurture…’ and not only will much of his incentive to be a good husband end, but his attachment to the land, to his nation, and to his wife and children, who are, after all, not particularly economical.

“Then, send his children away to school during the day, thus severing the wife from both husband and children, and she will naturally follow him to work looking for connection and meaning.

“Our homes are left abandoned and barren across the nation—father, mother and children are all elsewhere, seeking love and acceptance and nurturing.”

Read Part 1 Here
Read Part 2 Here
Read Part 3 Here
Read Part 5 Here

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Oliver DeMille is the founder and former president of George Wythe University, a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd Online.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Comments

  1. I realize that you are writing to a mixed audience, however I cannot help but think that the lessons for manhood can be better taught through the lives of Joseph, Abraham, David, Jesus, Alma and others. Anything else is an approximation and diluted. Consider Abraham’s nurturing side when he gave Lot the choice of land. Consider Joseph’s response when faced with his conniving, bask-stabing brothers. Consider David’s treatment of Saul. Alma says of Melchizedek that he was a prince of peace, king of Salem and reigned under his father. The Lord’s priesthood holds his name precisely because his life and identity were barely distinguishable from Jesus’.

    Nurture is a Godlike quality and can be internalized in direct proportion to proximity to God.

    The longer I live, the more I believe my time needs to shift much more heavily toward evangelizing activities.

    Thoughts?

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The Marriage Plot, New Feminism, & the End of Men, Part 4: Solutions