Why does modern society seem to care so much about women and girls, but so little about men and boys?
As evidence mounts that men and boys are falling behind by almost every metric, our institutions ignore their plight – while continuing to act as if women are an oppressed minority. The federal government sponsors dozens of initiatives to promote female achievement. Universities lavish resources on women’s studies departments. Exaggerated claims of women being oppressed (such as the 23 cent wage gap) get endless media attention. Even burly football players wear pink — in solidarity with suffering women.
Meanwhile the men’s rights movement struggles to get any positive press. Feminists ridicule even the slightest suggestion that a man could suffer oppression — particularly if he’s white. Strangely, many men join in mocking their fellow males.
Here are four reasons both men and women have a hard time perceiving male suffering. Many are deeply rooted in human culture:
- Thousands of years of conditioning have trained men to never see themselves as weak. Throughout history, most men would at some point face the deprivations of war, the hunt, sea voyages, etc. Men learned to suffer in silence, lest they hurt morale – or be labeled a coward. This ancient programming still keeps men from perceiving themselves as weak or vulnerable.
- Women trained themselves not to obsess over men’s wellbeing — lest they drive themselves mad and spread panic through the village. As their fathers, husbands and sons marched off to war, women supported one another by saying, “Don’t worry about Jack – he will be fine.” This ancient programming still makes it uncomfortable for women to express concern for men – or to think of them as weak or vulnerable.
- Men are trained to rescue women – not the reverse. In almost every adventure tale a man rescues a woman. Prince Charming rescues Cinderella. Peter Pan rescues Wendy. Superman rescues Lois Lane. Occasionally a woman will crack a flower pot over the bad guy’s head – but the climactic scene always has the man rescuing the woman. These universally loved tales were written to motivate men to noble deeds, but they have had the unintended consequence of making both genders uncomfortable with the idea of a man needing rescuing.
- The man in charge fallacy. Humans tend to look at an organization’s leader and assume he reflects the rank and file. For example, 97 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are male, so we assume that the business world is male dominated. However, American firms now employ more women than men – and women hold a majority of management positions. Women are quickly gaining parity in pay and power. In fact, young women entering the workforce today earn more than their male counterparts. And fewer adult men than ever are working full time. Yet because a few powerful, talented men rule the world we assume all men are equally empowered.
At Church for Men, we battle the perception that church is a male dominated, patriarchal and sexist institution. Even though men comprise just 39 percent of the active adult membership in the average U.S. congregation, (the lowest of any major world religion) our critics have a hard time believing the church has a “man problem.”
After all, Christianity was founded by a man and his twelve male associates. Ninety-five percent of the senior pastors in America are men. Every Catholic priest, bishop, cardinal and pope is a man. Some church boards are composed entirely of men. Christians sit in church, look up and see a man in the pulpit, and assume the institution he leads is a bastion of male power and privilege.
But look beyond the relatively thin stratum of professional clergy, and you find a church dominated by women and their values. Dr. Leon Podles says it well: “Modern churches are women’s clubs with a few male officers.”
Whenever large numbers of Christians gather, men are never in the majority. Not at revivals. Not at crusades. Not at conferences. Not at retreats. Not at concerts. With the exception of men’s events and pastoral conferences, can you think of any large gathering of Christians that attracts more men than women?
Visit a church during the week, and you’ll find most of the people working there are female. Drop in on a committee meeting, and you’ll find a majority of the volunteers are women—unless it’s that small bastion of male presence, the building committee. Look over the leadership roster: the pastor is likely to be a man, but at least two-thirds of his ministry leaders will be women. Examine the sign-up sheets for volunteer work, prayer, Sunday school, and nursery duty. You’ll be lucky to see more than a couple of men’s names on these lists.
Male ministers come and go, but faithful women provide a matriarchal continuity in our congregations. Women are the devoted ones who build their lives around their commitments to Christ and his church. Women are more likely to teach and volunteer in church and are the greatest participants in Christian culture. The sad reality in many congregations is this: the only man who actually practices his faith is the pastor.
Yet people still refuse to recognize the church’s man problem.
At Church for Men, we’re not looking for pity. We’re looking for churches that have the courage to change.
Change starts when we overcome our ancient biases and start caring about men and boys.
David Murrow is the author of the bestselling book, Why Men Hate Going to Church. David’s books have sold more than 175,000 copies in 12 languages. He speaks to groups around the world about Christianity’s persistent gender gap. He lives in Alaska with his wife of more than 30 years, professional silk artist Gina Murrow. Learn more about David at his Web site, www.churchformen.com, or join the conversation on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/churchformen. Don’t forget to share this page by clicking on the links below, or scroll down and leave a comment (right below those annoying ads that pay for this blog).