Having recently read and discussed a book and paper entitled, Is There Anything Good About Men, I decided to research why we think the way we do about men and look at some good things about men that aren’t being said. It’s always wise to hear from both sides on any subject. This is about promoting cooperation, understanding and working together on all gender issues. We can be pro-male as well as pro-female, as we should be.
When I announced that I was going to write a paper on this topic, I got responses like, that should be a short paper or, not much, present company excepted. Where does such thinking come from? What is their source of information? Why are we hearing only one side of the story? Who benefits?
If you were to list under two column headings, Good Things About Men and Bad Things About Men, what would you come up with? Where did your thoughts and views come from? What we see in the news, on TV, in the movies, read in books, magazines and newspapers and our personal experience informs our beliefs. Much of it is influenced by political correctness. Roy Baumeister puts it this way, “PC permits us to say that women are better than men at one thing or another. But it’s mostly taboo to suggest men are better at anything more important than opening jars and killing bugs.” The reasons are rooted in the wide-ranging influence of the women’s movement, which argues the patriarchy is somehow oppressing women.
This paper is not about trying to prove that men are better or women are better but to begin to give some equal treatment to the gender discourse and speak up for men. We will take a positive look at men from several different perspectives. Wouldn’t it be better if we could see that men have a good side and appreciate the good that men do? This is not to deny the negatives we hear; we hear more than enough about that. Open discussion and debate leads to better understanding and solutions. When considering some of the good things, you may say, yes, but look at the negatives. That’s a legitimate point to raise about both men and women. We hear much about what’s wrong with men. Here, I want to point out and detail the good to give a more complete picture.
First, a definition of good, from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, “having positive or desirable qualities ; serving the end desired; beneficial; virtuous; doing well; valuable; merit.”
When we look around, almost everything we see was invented, designed and built by men. As Camille Paglia, an independent thinking feminist says, “Let us freely acknowledge what treasures— (men) have poured into culture. We could make an epic catalogue of male achievements, from paved roads, indoor plumbing, and washing machines, to eye glasses, antibiotics and disposable diapers.—When I cross any of America’s great bridges, I think: men have done this.”
There is much more to be said about what is good. Why is the prevailing narrative and attitude towards men so negative? In Re-thinking Men, Anthony Synnott states, ”men are so widely demonized on so many fronts that it is sometimes difficult to see the male caring ethic.” He offers one book among many as an example: Are Men Necessary, by Maureen Dowd—“implying that they are not. This reverse sexism is now institutionalized and acceptable.”
From Spreading Misandry (misandry being culturally propagated hatred of men), Nathanson and Young assert, “By denying value to specific groups of citizens (men) ideological feminists must be taken very seriously…it is worth pointing out that this extraordinary phenomenon, the dehumanization of half of the population has gone unnoticed not only by reviewers and journalists who work for the mass media, but also by critics and theorists who work for academic journals.” Saying that women have no need for men denies the moral claim all humans have on others. “A healthy identity is always based on the ability to make some contributions to society that is both valued and distinctive.”
Some women don’t approve of promoting misandry but are willing to tolerate it to a degree. Some see nothing wrong with attacks on men and find it hard to feel sympathy for those they consider privileged. They believe men have all the power—physical, political or economic power, an often repeated political statement; many men don’t have any of these.
In relationship situations, we all experience rejection. Women get rejected by men, and men get rejected by women. Feelings are hurt. Both need reassurance when rejected. Women read books on relationships and talk to each other. When a man rejects you, you’re hurt and angry—and that leads to lashing out at men. It doesn’t hurt as much to be rejected by a “jerk” (object) than by a wonderful man. A self-respecting man protects, not attacks women, even if he’s rejected.
Women make up about three-fourths of the editors of the books on relationships and most are feminists. Warren Farrell reports that the editor with whom a colleague of his was working forced him to present women as victims – or not be published. This is one example of why few books on the male viewpoint make it through what some call the ”Lace Curtain.”
In his book Bias, Bernard Goldberg talks of the wounding power of slurs, something alert, sensitive network news people watch for, except when a slur is aimed at men. A CBS news executive called this a license to over-kill; you can say almost anything about the people you’ve defined as oppressors (men) and get away with it. It’s important to emphasize that not all men have power and privilege. Shallow, stereotypical thinking equals poor journalism. When media elites adopt the strident feminists’ definition of the issues, men come up as bad. Women’s advocates have had and still have the dominant voice in gender issues. They have selected, chosen what to emphasize, defined, interpreted, publicized, politicized, and repeated their issues many times, succeeding in nearly total control of the message. Dr. Richard Hise points out that the radical feminist’s aims are pushed by an organized, systematic, widespread dissemination and promotion of their thinking and beliefs that is second to none. “The amount of information touting the causes of women in general and radical feminism in particular is prodigious.” This results in a great deal of control and influence in what we think. Unless you seek balancing information and perspectives, it is easy to go along with it and believe it.
Repetition gets to be seen as truth and creates an image that does not reflect reality. According to Roy Baumeister these feminists “explain” that men banded together to create patriarchy, a conspiracy to oppress women. He writes, ”There is little or no evidence that it is true…that men erased it from the history books…this would have had to happen over and over in group after group all over the world.” Constantly portraying women as helpless victims of men creates an unsympathetic image of men. The way journalists present any category of people has impact. It takes a negative toll on reality. Having one’s contribution to society be valued is essential for a healthy identity.
These are some very significant influences which lead to hearing only one side of the gender discourse. The following are focused on specifics.
Consider Housework. Women’s advocates tell us again and again that women do most of the housework and that men don’t do their share. The finding most referenced came from Arlie Hochschild’s book, The Second Shift. Their definition of housework includes cleaning, meal prep, etc., parenting—feeding, bathing children, etc., and management of domestic life, paying bills, remembering birthdays, etc., a total of 27 items. They list only 4 items that men do, putting out the garbage, lawn work, car repair and household repair.
A more comprehensive list of household and family work presented by Warren Farrell in Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say lists 50 additional items related to home/family management, most often done by men. Here are several examples:
• Climbing tall ladders, going up on the roof; activities most likely to result in injury
• Shoveling snow, pushing a stalled car; heavy work that can cause a heart attack
• Moving furniture, carrying heavy suitcases or boxes; can cause back problems
• Assembling new toys, furniture, tents, etc.
• Negotiating technical skills, installation/hook-up, washers, computers, TV cables, etc.
• Confrontations with neighbors or strangers
• Home bodyguard, checking out that strange noise in the middle of the night
• Coaching children’s sports.
Some have pointed out that many of the activities on the women’s list are done daily compared to the activities on the men’s list. Data reported in 2016 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that full time working fathers who are parents of children under age 18 worked one hour more per day than full time working mothers. On days when they did household activities, women spent 2.6 hours versus men’s 2.0 hours in those activities. In households with children under age 6, women spent 1.1 hours per day versus men’s 26 minutes per day providing physical care. These figures indicate that there is more overall balance and sharing of the work, paid and unpaid, than is often stated.
This underscores the critical importance of asking and framing the right questions. From Kate Tucker, in a sermon delivered at First Universalist Church, Minneapolis, “Long before we discover the right answers,… we have to think deeply about formulating the question,” or questions. The power to define an issue has a huge impact on the results, how we see it, and even whether it is an issue. And it is important to hear from all parties involved.
Fathers are important in families. Children who have a father in the home have lower crime rates than those with no father, and girls have fewer teen pregnancies. This difference holds for both poor and wealthier families. Fathers contribute to children’s cognitive and social skills, competence in school, and in developing empathy. Annette Lareau, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, found that fathers added color, fun, informality and “accent” to family life, and enlivened and lightened its tone.
In her book, Project Fatherhood, Dr. Jorja Leap reports that even men in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles “feel responsible for the children of any woman they are with.” Some of them resort to illegal activity if they can’t get a job to provide for their children’s needs.
Other things that men do for women and family, again from Warren Farrell in Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say:
• Men have lengthened women’s life expectancy so it is now 5 years longer than men’s, up from one year longer than in 1920. How? Developing better disease control and sanitation, labor saving home appliances, birth control pills, making child birth much less risky, and more.
• Men’s greater commitment to work allows their wives to have more options with work, choosing jobs that are closer to home with part-time or flexible hours and more favorable work environments.
• If a couple divorce, she is much more likely to be protected by his income or the government.
Roy Baumeister reports that a group therapist who for 20 years had been conducting group therapy for males, and in all that time these men have never talked about women as the enemy. They did talk about how to understand and get along with women and build relationships with them. It was never about how to oppress or exploit, a sharp contrast with the feminist’s view of men.
Again referring to Warren Farrell, this time in Why Men Are the Way They Are, in the chapter, “What I Love About Men,” he lists:
• Giving/generosity, sometimes working at jobs that are more demanding, unpleasant or dangerous to provide for his family. Driving the car when both he and his wife are exhausted.
• Fairness. Learned in team sports.
• Nurturing. Solutions are male nurturance. Men are rewarded and selected as mates for achieving. They have been criticized for this and not listening. When they are addressing the problem with solutions, they have already listened.
• Leadership. Working many hours to become a leader in businesses that provide jobs for many others—women and men.
• Being outrageous. Standing out is how men gain status and female attention. Acting outside of the envelope.
• Keeping emotions under control in crisis situations.
• Self-evaluation after a setback or loss, which is necessary in order to complete successfully.
• Able to keep separate the roles he plays from friendship in the game of life.
• Able to express anger and not hold grudges.
• Will discuss his relationship problems with his spouse or significant other, not outside of the relationship with his male friends.
• Will risk his life to save hers and also to support a family.
• Able to work and earning a living; not expecting to be taken care of. Being a self-starter. Self-sufficiency is part of being a man.
• Creative and inventive; a problem solver.
• Ready to take responsibility; ready to take the initiative.
• Doing, not complaining.
• To do well, to push the limits of one’s talents.
• Play with kids on kids terms;–being a kid at heart. Providing a combination of physical risk taking and protection, while having fun.
• Making changes without blame. Men have become more involved in fathering, being sensitive to women’s sexual needs and desires and supportive of their work and careers. This was done without a movement that blamed women.
Here are four additional illustrations of male achievements:
Bravery and heroism
Anthony Synnott, in Rethinking Men, Heroes, Villains, and Victims gives several examples of men acting heroically. On the Titanic 70% of the women and children were saved, but only 20% of the men. ”It took a deliberate heroic act of altruism and self-sacrifice by some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world.”
On September 11, 2001 403 police officers and firefighters, all men except 2, died in rescue operations at the World Trade Center. “This bravery, altruism and self-sacrifice demands recognition. Not as exceptional—but as the normative for so many men., –not just as part of a job, but as part of a man’s life.”
These are specific examples of bravery. Synott goes on to list several other categories. In times of war, men have received the Congressional Medal of Honor in the United States and the Victoria Cross of the United Kingdom and in peace times the Nobel Peace Prize showing moral courage and opposition to undemocratic tyrannical systems. Most of the people in these categories are men.
The first and best sports figures, explorers, the gift of self, creativity, originality and imagination, all gifts to humanity and all achieved mostly by men.
In 1999 Time Magazine listed the 100 most influential, in a positive way, people of the century. The International Who’s Who also assessed the most important people of the last century. Again, all but a few were men. Quoting Time, “It clarifies the massive and positive and diverse contribution of men to our civilization in this century. They are honoured for this.”
This is not to say that men have more ability than women or that they are better than women. Men are evaluated by other men for their relative strength, ability and accomplishments, for their place in the male pecking order, and by women for their desirability as mates. There is much more pressure on men to stand out and accomplish. This is a strong motivational force is bred into them by women over the millennia, by selecting the highest achieving men that they can attract, achieving that often encourages risk-taking, aggressiveness and competition. This is reflected in men today. The lower achieving men were not selected as often and did not reproduce as often. Roy Baumeister points out that 80% of women reproduce, but only 40% of men. This selection process continues. Women can do all or most of the things men do. The motivating pressure to succeed in this way is very different for men and women. It is also a significant contributing factor that results in more men contracting stress related illnesses than women.
When we take off our blinders and look with openness and courage at what is good about men, a very different picture emerges from that presented to us in the media, academia and women’s advocates. All of the above-described good things about what men contribute fit one or more of the dictionary definitions of good. When getting new information about something we believe to be true, we often look for things that confirm our present thinking, or we look for things that disagree with our present thinking so we can reject the new information. This trick of the mind is known as confirmation bias.
Anthony Synnott says that pulling together and synthesizing both feminist and masculist perspectives is intellectually possible, ”but emotionally is another matter. Many people hold grimly onto their convictions, ideologies and identities as truth and a lifeline.” From William Saunders, a Unitarian Universalist minister, “we push the limits and parochialisms of our lives by engaging with that which is not me, which is not us, which feels strange.” And Tim Goldich: “All products of the human mind…must be subject to judgement and critique; it’s the only way to promote high standards in quantity and quality of truth.” Engaging those who think differently promotes civility; shutting them out has the opposite effect.
A war of the sexes is totally unnecessary and counter-productive. Carol Tavris puts it this way, ”as long as people think in opposites—they will continue to define problems in a narrow way, instead of expanding the visions of possibility. They will continue to provoke animosities across gender lines instead of alliances.” We need to remember that we are all part of a very complex and highly interactive gender system with many facets. Systems analysis has the potential of giving us deeper, more comprehensive understanding of gender issues and more effective solutions. Men and women together have brought us to where we are today, the good and the bad. Blame and polarization are not the answer. Focusing on one or a few parts of the system leads to inadequate and unfair “solutions” and unforeseen consequences. Let us celebrate all that is good about men and work together, men and women for more fulfilling lives and a better world.
Roy Baumeister, Is There Anything Good about Men?, 2010
Doug R. Berdie, “Six Steps to Domestic Tranquility,” Star-Tribune, 10-1-l7.
Warren Farrell, Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say; Destroying Myths, Creating Love, 1999
Warren Farrell Why Men Are the Way They Are, the Male, Female Dynamic, 1986
Bernard Goldberg, Bias. An insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, 2002
Tim Goldich, Loving Men, Respecting Women, 2011
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow, 2011
John Gordon, The Myth of the Monstrous Male-and Other Feminist Fables, 1982
Jack Kammer, Good Will Towards Men; Women Talk Candidly about the Balance of Power Between the Sexes, 1994
Dr. Jorja Leap, Project Fatherhood, 2015
Paul Nathanson and Catherine Young, Spreading Misandry; Teaching Contempt for Men in the Popular Culture, 2001
Paul Raeburn, Do Fathers Matter; What Science is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked, 2014
William Saunders, “Martyrdom is a Dying Art,” sermon, April 4, 1993, Unitarian Universalist Church, Urbana, IL
Anthony Synnott, Re-thinking Men-Anthony, Heroes, Villains and Victims, 2012
Carol Tavris, The Mismeasure of Women; Why Women are not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex or the Opposite Sex, l992
Kate Tucker, “The Question of Questions,” First Universalist Church, Minneapolis, MN 2002.
Nelson E. Otto, January 2018
Thelma B. Boeder, editing assistant
NCFM Benefactor Nelson Otto, What We Don’t Hear About Men – The Good Side
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