Any time i post an especially pro-woman bit of commentary, i get feedback saying that i clearly–clearly–have a problem with men.
For the record, I love men. My husband, my brother, my father, my good friends and male colleagues in ministry, the male members of my church, the stranger at the grocery store…men are great. They are important to me, and to the world in general.
So no, I don’t have a problem with men. Who I’ve got a problem with is ‘dudes.’ More specifically, the many ways that affluent, western culture caters to dude-dom, giving that demographic power and relevance it does not deserve. The language and imagery of the Dude diminishes all–men and women alike–and it seems, increasingly, that we are helpless to stop it.
By “dudes,” I mean guys who live by the bro-code. They embody Donald Trump by day, Barney Stinson by night, and some combination of Tim Tebow and Mark Driscoll come the weekend. They love boobs, sports and money, and they are really uncomfortable around women. Unless the woman is there to feed and/or sleep with them. These are the guys for whom Hardee’s commercials are made, and apparently, they are guys who rarely watch the Academy Awards.
Enter Seth Macfarlane. Somehow embody The Dude as the face of Oscar night, and reach a whole new market-rich audience. Suddenly Oscar night is SuperBowl II for advertisers.
Thing is, those dudes we’re talking about? I don’t know any of them in real life. The men in my life, they might like sports and boobs and beer. But they aren’t threatened by powerful women, nor are they are afraid to watch a little Downton Abbey after the football game. The men that I know value their wives and daughters, sisters and mothers too much to relegate them to the punchline or the sideline. Men I know get het up about human trafficking and domestic violence, and their gay friends are still their friends.
Why, then, is The Dude taking over marketing, media, and mega-church culture?
I keep hearing that we should not be shocked or offended by the flavor of Oscar night. I mean, it was Seth Macfarlane. We knew what we were getting. Why are we surprised?
Oh, I was not a bit surprised.
Just like I’m no longer surprised:
When i hear statistics that one in three American women has been beaten or sexually assualted.
When women are passed over for promotions, or make 70-some cents on the dollar to their male counter-parts.
When i learn how many forms of human trafficking are legal in my state.
I’m no longer surprised when I make the case for women being empowered for church leadership, only to have strangers tell me that i clearly–clearly–have a problem with men.
I’m no longer surprised. But that doesn’t mean I’m not pissed.
I’m not a prude, and I have a pretty diverse and sophisticated sense of humor. But we have empowered The Dude around here for far too long when a famous personality can say such appalling things about women in primetime, and we take it as ‘just what we should have expected.’
Selma Hayek is coming out to speak now, but none of us will hear what she has to say, because she’s so hot.
Translation (in case you’ve lost your dude lexicon): very hot women need not be talented or say anything smart, because their physical beauty overshadows all other contributions to the world. We won’t hear you anyway. And you less attractive ladies need not apply; you are silent AND invisible.
Overreacting? How about his nod to the actresses who ‘gave themselves the flu” last week in order to fit in those dresses? That’s a fantastic message for teen-agers struggling with eating disorders.
But the one that most outraged me was the joke about George Clooney’s affinity for younger women. And I’m not being protective of Clooney. I’m mad for the young girl who was a prop in the joke… In case you missed it, Seth referenced Quvenzhané Wallis, the nine-year-old best actress nominee. He said “How young is she? She’s so young that she’s got 16 years before she’s too old for Clooney!”
Translation: This beautiful young girl–whose outstanding performance earned her the honor of youngest nominee ever in this category–is just the right age for an old man to want to have sex with her.
Did i mention this child was actually in the room? I don’t condone violence, but had that been my child? Macfarlane would have met the Kentucky side of my slapping hand, on camera and in prime time, y’all.
But, this is just the sort of humor that we’ve ‘come to expect’ from the dude sector.
Meanwhile–much like the Academy–large suburban churches are learning that women are the most likely audience for their product–and that if they can just figure out how to get the men coming, the women will follow. And so, they direct the message, the music, the space, even the entertainment (think football on the big screen) at the men.
Numbers don’t lie. It works.
For years, I have not been able to articulate what bugs me about the manly marketing movement of the megachurch. Until i saw what it looks like in primetime.
There–dressed up in Hollywood makeup and lighting– was the Dude’s bottom line message to women everywhere: We will let you in the room. We will let you on the stage. We will let you out of your wife/mother/’biblical womanhood’ roles…but we don’t have to like it.’
While many folks still struggle with the whether and where of women’s leadership, hyper-masculine churches got there for a different reason. They might cite scripture. But if you get an honest mega-church pastor, he will tell you that men are “uncomfortable with lady pastors.” And if the business model (which works) is to target the men, well, then dudes win. Even in church.
Thing is, the Jesus that I follow is a man. He is not, in any universe, a dude. He did not encrypt a secret message into the parables for only the guys to understand (and relay to the wives); he did not make crass boob jokes; and he would be turning over some tables in our governing bodies if he knew how many forms of abuse were socially acceptable today–not to mention legal.
So no, I don’t have a problem with men. I love men. With the help of my husband, my father, my brother and my friends, I am raising my son to be one. He will probably grow to like women’s breasts–I mean, he sure loved mine for the first year of his life. Under the influnce of his father (and mine,) he will likely be an athlete. I look forward to enjoying a beer with him, once he is of an age. But on my watch, he will not be a dude. He will not reduce women to supporting roles, body parts, or cheap punchlines. He will not be afraid of strong girls. He will love his sister, his female friends, and even his mother enough to stand up for their voice and their dignity.
I hope the world has changed by the time he’s old enough for that beer. I won’t be surprised if it hasn’t…but I aim to keep not liking it, for as long as it takes.
Other people saying smart stuff about Oscar night…
“We Saw Your Boobs” Celebrates Rape on Film
(Disclaimer: i’ve got no problem with Tebow, and i dearly love me some Barney Stinson. I’d just rather we didn’t build the whole dang world around them, you know?)