NB* Please read the comment section at the end of the post before you swear off my blog forever as a load of misogynistic crap. There are some excellent points brought up, as well as an apology or two and some clarifications. As I say in the post, I’m fumbling through this argument.
Sometimes I wonder what you think of my blog. I wonder if you wonder if I’m completely honest all the time, or if I exaggerate, or if I’m afraid to talk about certain things. I wonder if you notice that I’ve mentioned things and never followed up on them, that I prefer to make you laugh than make you think, that I self-edit for the sake of those I love, those that love me, and those that would be hurt by re-living certain times in my past.
Because I wonder all these things too. I know I exaggerate sometimes; that’s part of my personality. My best friend knows to subtract 40% of the drama of what I say to arrive at the truth of the matter, but it doesn’t bother her (it doesn’t, right, Meg?). It’s a personality quirk, one I’ve had forever. (See what I mean?)
I know I’ve brought up things about my past that I would like to follow up on. I’d like to tell you what it was like to be a drug addict, what it was like to find God in my own personal hell, what it was like to carry a child inside me and know that the entire world was betting against me. I’d like to tell you what I feel now, when I look at her face and know that I’ve beaten the odds, that I was strong enough to accept the grace that was offered to me. But I can’t tell you those stories just now. For me, that life seems light years away. That girl seems like another person, one I sometimes don’t remember very clearly. But for my family it wasn’t so long ago. It was just yesterday when they paced the floors at night, wondering where I was and if I was alive or dead. It was just yesterday when my mother and father spent hours upon hours praying for me, begging God to get me out of the hole I had dug for myself. And I can’t put them through that again. Not now. One day I will tell you those stories, because they are stories that need to be told. Other girls need to know that they can make it, even when they have no idea how or where to begin. Other mothers and fathers need to know that their children are not lost, that their children can be saved. Other young men need to know that they can be strong enough for two; that they can make a family out of two broken people.
But it’s not time for that, yet. There are other things I want to talk about, and sometimes, like today, I wonder if I should. I wonder it if it’s too uncharacteristic of me, too harsh, too real. Too gritty. I wonder if I have the authority to speak on these matters, if I really know what I’m saying or if I just think I do. I wonder if my words will hurt someone. Because those things I mention above, those things that make me prone to exaggeration or reluctant to discuss things that might hurt those I love, those are qualities that aren’t just personality traits unique to me. Those are part of my inheritance as a woman. We are emotional creatures. We are attuned to the emotional well-being of those around us. I like to make you happy by making you laugh. My mind doesn’t run to high ideals or first principles. I focus on the simple stuff, the stuff that makes up my daily life, because most of you reading this are women, and those are the things that you are concerned with.
But I’m going to talk about something else anyway, and I hope you’ll bear with me, and know that I’m fumbling through a complex subject as best I can.
Yesterday, the Anchoress brought a horrible story to our attention. A story about male rape victims in Uganda and other places, where rape is used as a weapon of war. A story about the stigma these men face, how they can’t get medical help, how they almost always lose their wives if they tell them, and their children. How their community no longer views them as men.
I see a parallel in this story, and I hope to draw it without diminishing in any way the unbearable suffering that these men are facing.
Our culture, here in America, has figuratively raped our men. We have taken their power, their masculinity, their honor, and the respect they deserve. We make sitcoms where they are pictured as bumbling, idiotic placeholders who need to be taught a lesson by their smart-mouthed wives. The jobs that have traditionally been allotted to men for the protection of us, their women, have now been opened up to both sexes, to the detriment of all involved. Men are no longer allowed to protect us, because we, in our ignorance and in our crippling pride, don’t want to be protected. We women wanted to show the world that we were not less than men, and in doing so, instead of making ourselves better, we cut them down to prove our superiority.
I’m not one to call for a return to the days of the angel of the hearth. I think women should have the right to vote, and own property, and drive, and work. I think that women should be equal under the law. But as a culture, we have said, “Women are better. Men are senseless, idiotic brutes who have had the power all this time because of strength and convention, not because of some innate nature that desires to lead and protect.”
We have raped our men and brought them to their knees. Do not imagine that I am exaggerating this. Look around our country, and you will see men crying out in pain for all that we have taken from them. They are no longer allowed to be what they were born to be. They are no longer allowed to do what they were born to do — to protect us. To guide us.
I know there are those of you who cry foul, who say, “we don’t need protection! We don’t need guidance! We can figure things out just as well as the men.”
To you I say that you are wrong. Men and women are of equal value, assuredly, but we differ in essence. Women’s minds are ruled by emotions, by which we protect our families and our children. Every woman is called to motherhood, whether actual or spiritual. It is what we were made for. Our minds turn inward, to the stuff of life, and this is as it should be.
Men are different. They see things in the long-term. They worry about how best to make a place in the world for their family, not how best to order the family itself. (Forgive me for not including single men here, but I honestly don’t know enough about the life of the single man to make assumptions. The comment box is down there, though, boys!) Their minds are free of emotional restraints, the better to allow them to ponder the stuff of eternity. There’s a reason why Socrates was a man, why Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine, Joyce, Eliot, and Shakespeare were men. The “dead white male,” that most despised creature in modern academia, is an archetype precisely because they were the ones who thought in leaps and bounds. They were the geniuses who laid the foundation of our modern society. The occasional Jane Austens were the exception, not the rule.
The Ogre and I attended a conference once in Tulsa. The conference was on interdisciplinary studies, which we should have known was code for “tolerance, tolerance, tolerance and diversity or death!” But we were so naive, freshly out of grad school at our wonderful little University where the canon of Western Tradition was properly venerated. Where men were treated with respect, as were women. Where the idea of “women’s studies” had no place, because to study women is to study men, and all of humanity.
We entered into the dragon’s lair without realizing it. The Ogre gave his presentation, on the cry of Kurtz at the end of the Heart of Darkness, and we attended a few other mediocre presentations before the conference dinner.
It was after an underwhelming course of mystery meat and limp salad that the woman who was putting on the conference, the former Women’s Studies chair and present director of Interdisciplinary Studies, began talking about the same thing everyone always talks about at these sorts of things. “What is Interdisciplinary Studies?,” she began. “What are we doing here?” she continued.
The Ogre and I were beginning to wonder the same thing as she rambled about diversity and recognizing the value of postcolonial literature and the cry of oppressed peoples. Then she got to the crux of her argument. “We’re looking for truth here, people.” she said. “Not white male, capital-T truth, of course,” she went on, her voice dripping with disdain. A titter ran through the crowd of graduate students at such an antiquated and hideous notion. The girl sitting next to me at the table cast a doubtful glance at the Ogre, as if he were exactly what they were not looking for here. The boy on the other side of him perceptively moved his chair further from the Ogre’s. “No,” the speaker went on, “we’re looking for each person’s truth. The ever-changing, individual truth, as we make it.”
I don’t have to tell you what a load of crap it all was. Nor do I really need to tell you that, in fact, the Ogre is the embodiment of white male, capital-T truth. He is everything our modern society despises. A white male Catholic! What could be more despicable than that?
I also don’t have to tell you what it’s like watching him fight these battles, but I will. It’s like watching Sisyphus roll his rock uphill only to have someone, a girl in his class, a feminist teacher, an anti-Catholic colleague, kick it out of his hands. He trudges back wearily to begin again, knowing that the battle will never be won, knowing that the world will always kick him when he’s down. Knowing that the only people who truly support him are those who truly see what’s happening around us, and knowing that those people are few and far between. Knowing that he is hated for what he is, a man who refuses to be less than that, just as surely as women once used to be despised and devalued for what they were.
I used to fume at the arguments I’m making here. I used to see them as nothing more than a tool to oppress women. But they’re not. I can see now, having lived with and loved a man among men, having given birth to my own little boy, that men and women are essentially different. We can never be equals, because we are not equal. We are so very, very different.
Why can’t we embrace it? Why can’t we rejoice in our difference? Sure, sometimes I get mad that the Ogre gets to walk out the door every day, or for six months, while I’m stuck with the kids. But really, I wouldn’t trade it. I would go crazy not seeing my children. I miss them after two hours away. He misses us acutely, but it isn’t the same. The children are my life, they are the air I breathe. It’s not the same for him. We are the end to all his work, it’s true; he is motivated by a desire to care for us. But the work he does is worth doing in and of itself. He has a separate work to do outside the family, and it’s one I couldn’t do. My mind doesn’t run to philosophy and poetry the way his does. I love poetry because I feel it; he loves poetry because he understands it.
Being unequal does not make us less than. It’s time that we recognized our men for the leaders and protectors that they could be, if we would only let them. Feminists, lay down your arms! Let the men be men again. They are no threat to you. They are, in fact, the very thing our country needs to get back on its feet. They are what we need to bring back the family in our society of crumbling morals.
Men, don’t be afraid to be strong! Even if the women around you don’t want you to be, rest assured that somewhere there are women who want to see you be what you were born to be. There are women who know that they need protection, that they need your guidance and your companionship, that allowing you your natural strength doesn’t mean that they are weak by default. It takes a strong woman to say to a man, “I will obey you, even when I don’t want to.” It takes a strong woman to let someone else lead. Never forget that.
I hope that we as a culture we have gone as far as we will go in the de-masculation of our men. I hope that the days of women getting preference simply because of their gender are drawing to a close. I hope that the time when Toni Morrison is put on syllabi over Shakespeare or Joyce will end as soon as humanely possible. But I fear that unless there is a rapid and heartfelt change in the attitude and actions of the women in our country, things will remain too much the same.