Remember a little over a year ago when Dennis used his gigantic
ego brain to show you how to sex up your lady? Remember how useful all those tips wound up being, after you finished dry heaving? Well, if you've been dying to hear more about what a pussy you are, last week's column is for you, you masochistic weenie.
Dennis' intro is rambling and wrongheaded, as usual. Short version: Dennis conflates good and responsible parenting with teaching boys how to "be men," while never bothering to define the term or allow for the possibility that different sorts of "real men" exist. He also never explains why he's focusing exclusively on boys. As an elementary school teacher, I am quite familiar with the concept that children who are not taught to control themselves DO wind up becoming jerks. I also see very similar behavior from bratty girls AND bratty boys.
Throughout American history, society asked, "How do we make men?" (It was understood that "man" meant a good man.) Anyone who thought about the subject knew that boys who are not transformed into men remain boys. And when too many boys do not grow up into men, women suffer and society suffers.
Congratulations on your giant DUH there, Dennis. I can't believe you get paid for this.
When I was a boy in the 1950s, without anyone expressly defining it, I knew what a man was supposed to be. And I knew that society, not to mention my parents, expected me to be one. It went without explicitly saying so that I would have to make a living, support myself as soon as possible and support a family thereafter.When I acted immaturely, I was told to be or act like a man. I wonder how many boys are told to "be a man" today; and if they were, would they have a clue as to what that meant?
Maybe we don't say "be a man" because we recognize that women are also people who have responsibilities to live up to, as opposed to being homemaker-sex goddess-baby factories (hi Grandma!). I think the new irritated command used for today's whippersnappers is "grow up." Seems to work fine.
It would appear that for millions of American boys, this has not been the reality for decades. Many families and society as a whole seem to have forgotten boys need to be made into men.
Ok, keep in mind that Dennis has just said, A, that historically society ALWAYS was asking, "How do we make men?" and B, in the 50s, no one was explicitly saying how to be a man, but that Dennis was still aware of how this mysterious process would be achieved. I have to ask, Dennis, if being a man isn't something explicitly put out there but rather "sensed", presumably through some masculine telepathy or something, wouldn't it be kind of hard to measure whether it's still happening or not? Or do all manly men stay hooked into the man-force after they come of age, kind of like the folks from Avatar?
Dennis now comes to his list explaining why the world sucks and there are no men anymore. If you're a longtime Dennis reader like I am, you know anytime he whips out a list you're about to be simultaneously bored and enraged.
1. The distinction between men and boys has been largely obliterated. The older males that many American boys encounter are essentially older boys, not men. They speak, dress and act similarly (think of men who "high-five" young boys instead of shaking their hands). And they are almost all called by their first names. Even when a boy (or girl) addresses an adult male as "Mr.," many men will correct the young boy or girl – "Call me" and then give the young person his first name. This is often true even with regard to teachers, physicians and members of the clergy. When a young person calls an adult by his first name, the status of the two individuals has been essentially equated. Boys need men to respect. It's not impossible to do so when they call men by their first names, but it makes it much harder.
Um, no. This entirely depends on who the boys' role models are and which adults they interact with. It also puts a tremendous emphasis on external factors like clothes, handshakes and names. No one shakes little kids' hands anymore because it's outmoded-- a lot of people don't shake hands anymore, period. Ditto for clothes. I prefer going to school dressed more formally because it reinforces that I think school is important, but my students don't care if I wear jeans in the classroom or not. They simply aren't that observant. This also applies to the name thing. If you enter into a scenario with a child ceding power to them and PERMITTING the dynamic to be one of equals, then they will consider the exchange to be between equals. If you establish that you are the adult and they need to listen and follow directions or there will be consequences, they will comply, whether or not you go by Mr. Prager, Mr. Dennis, or Denny the Deranged Clown. Believe me on this point-- most of my education involved dealing with tough-as-nails European teachers who preferred to be addressed by their first names. The fact that I was on "a first-name basis" with my principal in no way led me to believe we were peers. Also, the line about physicians makes no sense. You spend a maximum of an hour with your physician at a time, and, unless you're chronically ill, probably only encounter them a few times a year. Whether or not you call your pediatrician "Dr. Dave" instead of "Dr. Demento" is not likely to have a radical effect on your man-psyche.
2. Boys today have fewer adult men in their lives than ever before. Many boys are not raised by any father. More are not raised by a father who lives in the home full-time. Nearly every teacher and principal American boys have in elementary and high school is a female. The boy's clergy person and physician may well be women. And few male figures in contemporary film radiate manhood as defined above.
Not having a father certainly makes it harder to have a positive role model, but not impossible. Think of countries whose men have died through prolonged war (post-bellum American South, post WWI-England). The boys still get by. And education has leaned female for quite a while-- exactly how many male teachers did you have as a boy, Dennis? Film stars? Please. These are all side issues. Distractions.
3. The ideals of masculinity and femininity have been largely rendered extinct. Feminism, arguably the most influential American movement of the 20th century, declared war on the concepts of femininity and masculinity. And for much of the population, it was victorious. Indeed, thanks to the feminist teaching that male and female human beings are essentially the same... untold numbers of boys have been raised as if they were like girls. They were denied masculine toys such as play guns and toy soldiers, and their male forms of play – e.g., roughhousing – were banned.
Again, painting with a very broad brush, and again, an extremely essentialist view of masculinity. I was not permitted to play with guns as a child. I responded by going over to a friend's house and playing with his guns. I lived and turned out fine. So did my brother who did not have friends with quite so accommodating parents. Boys do not need toy soldiers to learn how to be men-- particularly since there is no fundamental connection between being a soldier and being a man. You might as well say boys can't become men without having toy chainsaws. The larger issue of what school environments help or hinder boys is legitimate-- though, of course, not remotely what Dennis intends to talk about.
4. America has become a rights-centered rather than a responsibility-centered society. Aside from helping to produce a pandemic of narcissism, the rights-centered mindset is the opposite of the obligation/responsibility-And you say this based on what eternal truth? I think kids should be taught to think of others, too, Dennis, but these pearls of wisdom from your butt are getting really old.
centered mindset that makes a boy into a man. It is not good for either sex to be rights-preoccupied; but it is particularly devastating to developing men, as men are supposed to be obligation-directed.
[SG: Did I miss something? What about the 50's era social constructs regarding women's obligations to support their man emotionally and bear his children? What about all the men that think they're entitled to have sexy and attractive wives into perpetuity? Or that they should be the only high-powered executives because women belong barefoot and pregnant? Apparently everyone is supposed to be obligated to everyone and no one gets anything in return. Awesome.]
5. There are few places where men can bond with other men. One major way men become men is by associating with other good men. The only places left where this normally takes place are sports teams and the military. The same holds true for boys. And much of society is now working on breaking the most significant all-boys institution, the Boy Scouts.I'm not sure what Dennis is pushing for here. More mikvahs? Neighborhood whipple ball tournaments? Fraternal Lodges? Look Dennis, society today is increasingly isolated thanks to the booms in technology and the corresponding cultures that grow up around them, which emphasize individual activities over communal ones (where communal ones do happen, they're often through technology intermediaries, like characters, or chatting). And, for the record, I'm not sure there were oodles of man-bonding organizations back in the day... I mean, yes, there were male-dominated spheres, but weren't most of those occupation-focused (coal mine) as opposed to leisure (coal mine tavern)? Is that "bonding" per se? I don't disagree that men should spend time with each other, but the reason this is hard is that so much activity takes place in the home, with the family unit, and that many work environments now have mixed-gendered employees. If not having a structure to hang with the bros bums you out, don't be a pussy like Dennis and blame society. Be proactive! Why not start a club, or take up an odd hobby that isn't likely to attract the ladies (Warhammer? Ships in a bottle? Whitling your own athletic cups)? Oh, the possibilities...
6. Males no longer have distinctive roles. Men do best when they are relied upon, when needed; and they feel most needed when they do something distinct from women. This exists today in sports and the military. It is symbolic – significantly so – that there are no more "men at work" signs on highways. Now "people" are at work. "Men" have disappeared.That's stupid as hell. Men haven't disappeared, Dennis, men are INCLUDED under the umbrella term. And, again, what are you basing your vast man-knowledge on, other than your conversations with yourself? Why do men's occupations or roles need to be specifically distinct from women's? Is a firefighter or pilot demeaned by the fact that women participate in the same field? Hey, let's bring the conversation even closer to home: what about rightwing crank commentators? Tell me, Dennis, do you feel like less of a man since Ann Coulter started writing her screeds and Laura Ingraham started jabbering on the radio?
7. Many churches and synagogues have been feminized. This has occurred in at least three important ways: Clergy are increasingly female (and touchy-feely males) – for the first time in Christian and Jewish history; God is often depicted as androgynous and no longer either demanding or judging (He just loves all the time); and religion has been changed from morally and theologically demanding to a therapeutic model. So religion, too, has become yet another place where boys encounter few men, and few masculine models (even God, as noted, is no longer masculine).Sigh. Even when I agree with you, Dennis, you corrupt your point by being a boob. Yes, men abdicating all the roles in their religious communities is a big problem, and I personally am not a fan of the gushy, mushy God one sometimes encounters in some of the more hippy-dippy shuls around town. That said, your complaint about the shift to an androgynous (and all-loving) God is just plain dumb. First, the rabbis explicitly teach that God is gender-less and that our perception of him/her/it as having gender is just a human construct. In your bid to harken back to tradition you actually wind up missing the point. Second, while you're bemoaning God no longer being male or pissed off, let me ask you: how is a judgmental and vengeful God any better a role model for little boys? (And, to look at the other side of the coin, what potential damage can be done to girls by exclusively referring to God as a male?) Also, I like how you refuse to define males, but make sure to toss that "touchy-feely" in there. So a man is mysterious and undefined, but we definitely know he's not touchy-feely. What does that make those men, incidentally? Boys? Women? Gay? Help me out, Dennis, all the unspoken assumptions are clogging up your column. Let it out and set them free!
It takes until his 8th point for Dennis to finally define masulinity... and wouldn't you know it, even when he does, it's pretty pathetic.
8. Instead of the traditional American model of masculinity, which was a rare combination of masculine toughness and stoicism with doing good (e.g., Superman), boys are now taught to be preoccupied with their feelings and with (unearned) self-esteem.Ok, so real men are "supposed" to be Superman... who, incidentally, IS, literally called a Super-Man because he demonstrates qualities and abilities which SURPASS actual men (way to pick achievable goals there, Dennis). And boys learning about their feelings and self-esteem is wrong because... why exactly? They're supposed to be "stoic"? Well how exactly does that translate to a five-year-old, Dennis? What tangible reason or rationale can you provide to support lecturing a child that it's ok to cry if they feel bad when they're a girl but not a boy? Aside, of course, from the always significant, "Because it's just not manly!" argument. Incidentally, "unearned" self-esteem would count as another issue that affects all children across the board, not specifically an argument for "de-manification."
9... Dear God, are we really at 9?
Marriage does not define a man. You can argue that marrying the mother of your child demonstrates responsibility and maturity, sure. But there are plenty of ways to be responsible without A- Getting Married, or B- Fathering children. As an example, take priests, who spend their lives serving their communities and its families. When done properly, this can be a model example of responsibility. No marriage involved.
Increasingly, marriage is regarded as optional. The most obvious expression of men assuming responsibility – marrying a woman and taking care of her and their children – is no longer a male ideal. Vast numbers of men quite openly admit to having problems with the C-word (commitment) and responsibility of being a family's sole breadwinner.
And the breadwinner point is stupid; since many households are double-income, and so many people today have GROWN UP in double-income households, a lot of people likely don't have that expectation in mind when they become adults. As usual, Dennis is picking a random thing that he personally feels embodies point X, and claiming it to be a universal truth and standard by which to judge others.
Dennis closes by bringing it back to the ladies.
[SG: This rant is even creepier when you realize he's supposedly writing it on women's behalf.]
There are any number of reasons American women suffer from depression more than ever before and more than men. It is difficult to believe that one of those reasons is not the very emasculation of men that the movement working in their name helped to bring about. And so, a vicious cycle has commenced – men stop being men; women become man-like; men retreat even further from their manly role; and women get sadder.
So men, if you care about your wife or girlfriend, stop wasting time thinking about feelings! Stop letting her have a role at church! Force her to quit her job and stay at home! Call the guys over and break out your whittling set! Go get some Nerf Guns! Make sure you obnoxiously force yourself on all the young boys in the neighborhood as a role model! And, of course, insist that they call you "Sir."
She'll be putty in your hands. And happier.