In the past, I have had conversations/debates with a couple of my more liberal friends about the importance and/or existence of masculinity and femininity. “All people are human beings,” they said, “regardless of the genitalia they might develop through a chance meeting of chromosomes. There is no reason to treat people of either sex differently or to shut them out of any relationship role they may desire.” My enlightened friends held the opinion that only the ability to bear children differentiates women from men and that everyone should therefore be treated equally (a word that to them means identically).
Since neither of my friends (both of them male, by the way) grew up in a cave, I can’t imagine how they formed that opinion. I tried countering with logical arguments and observations about obvious differences. I tried to convince them that a recognition of differences between the sexes does not equal chauvinism. I tried to explain how much better life is when women embrace womanhood and men embrace manhood. Despite my best efforts, they remained steadfastly dedicated to a sort of idealized androgyny. I guess when a friend wholeheartedly believes in a chartreuse sky, there’s not much you can say beyond pointing out the blue.
I’m afraid that one reason so many marriages fail today is that men have not
been taught what it means to be a man, that in fact they have been taught that
manhood is irrelevant. I had a class in college in which the professor asked
me, as the only vocal conservative Christian in the class of 80 students, to
list some words describing a husband’s role in a marriage. I immediately said “provider,
protector, and leader.” (After more than five years of marriage, I now know
that my response was simplistic, but I still stand by its accuracy.) The professor
and most of the young men in the class bristled at my comment, and countered
with arguments about how I was setting men above women, how women can take
care of themselves and don’t need a man to rescue them from the world, and
blah blah blah blah blah, completely (maybe even willfully) misunderstanding
I believe God made man and woman to complement each other, to complete each other, to enable each other for greater things than either could achieve alone:
The man said [of the woman],
"This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
—Genesis 2:23, 24
Furthermore, the words of King David to his son Solomon indicate that manhood carries a certain responsibility:
As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn.”
—I Kings 2:1–3
I’m bringing this up because I recently read an excellent article from The Claremont Review of Books about how parents, schools, and society in general is failing in its duty—and, in many ways, working actively against its duty—to grow boys into men. Some key quotes:
In my experience, many young women are upset, but not about an elusive Prince Charming or even the shortage of “cute guys” around. Rather, they have very specific complaints against how they have been treated in shopping malls or on college campuses by immature and uncouth males, and even more pointed complaints against their boyfriends or other male acquaintances who fail to protect them…. It appears to them that, except for a few lucky members of their sex, most women today must choose between males who are whiny, incapable of making decisions, and in general of “acting like men,” or those who treat women roughly and are unreliable, unmannerly, and usually stupid.
The demanding regime of physical and moral instruction that used to turn boys into men and the larger cultural forces that supported that instruction have been systematically dismantled by a culture that ostensibly enables all individuals but in reality disables men.
Half of American boys growing up do not live with their natural fathers. …Divorce, whether in reality or in the acrimonious rhetoric of the mother, impresses upon the boy an image of the father, and therefore of all men, as being irresponsible, deceitful, immature, and often hateful or abusive towards women.
I personally have gone through periods of wimpiness and barbarism both, but my family (even after my parents’ divorce), my female friends, and the Texas school system (especially the male coaches) all taught me to be a man through instruction, expectations, and discipline. I think it’s time that we, as a society, go back to that.