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February 11, 2015

The Role of a Modern American Man.

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Men are being called to support equality and healing for all of the persons who have been hurt by the old patriarchy.

However, the end of patriarchy has caused us some confusion, too, and it would be unhealthy to use the other challenges facing our society as an excuse to ignore the identity crisis that modern American men face.

Our society used to have strict guidelines for what our role was and how to practice it.

We used to be expected to be:

  • Bread Winner: Our job was to bring home the money for the family.
  • Protector: It used to be acceptable and expected to not only protect the physical needs of the family, but also to take a leading role in protecting the honor of the family and its members.
  • Leader: We used to be tiny kings. Our word was to be obeyed even if we were wrong, because society believed the family had a better chance working together to succeed with a bad decision than working separately to succeed at a good one.
  • Stoic: Emotion was something to never show society unless it was anger, joy or pride.

The new story we face is:

  • Bread Winner: A man should make enough money to pay most or all of the family’s bills; however, he needs to support his mate’s decision to focus on earning if she wants and do his part to take care of the family. If she earns more than him, he is supposed to support this in spite of an unspoken shame held by both himself and many people around him that he’s a “kept man” or, in the worst of cases (and certain Facebook Meme’s), a “bitch.”  While his old place as bread-winner ensured he had a place in the family, his mate’s ability to earn enough to pay the bills means that he may now find himself facing a threat that earlier generations of men reserved for women: the threat of being thrown out on his backside. Unfortunately, whereas a man would face public shame for throwing his wife out in the past, modern society often celebrates a women getting rid of a “mooch” and making a go of it alone.
  • Protector: A man is expected to be both physically strong as well as peaceful. He must be capable of protecting the family and being a complete teddy bear to the family. Not really a huge change there in expectations. While forgiveness for failing in the peaceful department is entirely gone, most of us support that development. When it comes to the family’s honor, however, that is completely out the door. The authority to speak for or redirect the behaviors of the family for “honor” has been revoked, leading to a new double standard: men are held in contempt for the family’s lack of honor while also being expected to support individuality expressed in the very actions which lead to a “lack of honor.”
  • Leader: This role has shifted the most. Men are still supposed to be leaders, but they are supposed to be modern leaders in partnership with their mates. Their word is no longer law, and they are jerks to demand it. Society has revoked the “mandate of heaven” to rule, and men need to learn to lead through example and communication with a personal authority. Part of the challenge is to learn to follow and change gracefully. If a man’s mate or even child offers a good idea they are expected to gracefully shift and start to use their personal authority to support that good idea, even if they had another idea in mind.
  • Masters of Emotion: Men should know it in themselves, share it with their mates and children and never let it rule them. Emotion’s council should be heard, but decisions need to be made with conscious choice.

One primary challenge men face is that society is slowly replacing entry-level jobs with more and more automation. Entry-level jobs are becoming more precious, and thus, people are willing to work harder to earn less. Women are unfairly paid less, and yet this social illness has set up a situation where it is clearly a better choice to hire a woman in non-physical areas. Women will statistically accept lower pay, be more reliable, be nicer to look at and have better customer service skills on average.

Moderately skilled positions are not safe from this phenomenon either, as talented and educated women step up to serve. There are still neanderthal holdouts who embrace the old model, but more and more they are failing and changing. It is only in the realm of high skill labor where there are still a lot of neanderthal holdouts (for now), but those jobs are a fraction of the possible workforce.

These claims are evident in the unemployment numbers of young men and women. Young women between 16 and 25 have an unemployment rate of 13.5 percent. Young men, however, average four points higher at 17.25 percent. While it is hard for both genders to seek entry level positions at a young age, it is 25 percent harder for men than women at that age.

Looking at some of the great Hispanic fathers around me offers one possible option. Men can choose to be more reliable and accept lower pay to make themselves equally desirable to employers. However, to do so we have to release our sense of entitlement to a good job with good pay. Society made a promise to our fathers: plenty of jobs that pay well enough to take care of our families. Now, though, it seems society does not intend to keep that promise.

My choice has been to study and obtain a high skill job. I have been blessed with both the resources and talents to do so. I know others who haven’t, and I can’t judge them for not having my opportunities.

This is only one example among many of the decisions men face in this changing world and it isn’t one-size-fits-all. It seems evident to me that nobody can say what men should be. We are all struggling to find our way; however, I can recommend some things we shouldn’t be.

Modern Men in America shouldn’t be:

  • Ashamed: Society is changing, our old roles may no longer be possible. When people tell us that we are doing it wrong, we need to have the courage to tell them to mind their own business. We should find the courage to declare, “I’m doing my best to love and support my family in any way I can, and regardless of what others say, that’s good enough.”
  • Bitter: We may think our fathers were kings while we often feel like serfs. However, while society doesn’t offer us everything on a silver platter like we seem to think it did for our fore-fathers, we need to get over that delusion and live in the present. Women receiving equal opportunity is a good thing. Minorities receiving equal opportunity is a good thing. Getting angry that we have challenges and wanting to blame others for them is petty and foolish.
  • Rigid: We are living in a time of change. The easiest and most obvious way to fail is to remain the same. If we want mates and families who love us and accept the awesomeness that we can offer, we need to be willing to transform.  Nothing is sacred anymore, and we need to be willing to say “We used to do X, but perhaps it is time to change.”
  • Emasculated: Nobody knows what a “Real Man” looks like now. We have some amazing historical ideals to look toward, but it is up to each man to decide this for himself. Nobody gets to tell you what being a man is. This means that nobody gets to tell you that you aren’t a man, either.

I challenge men to revoke permission for other people to define your manhood. Take your power back. Men are redefining manhood in a new era. You are blazing a path forward to be a shining example of what a healthy man can look like. Emulate your peers’ good behavior and learn from their mistakes. Transform the disempowering story of failing to be what our forefathers assumed, into a story of exceeding any expectations they could have imagined.

Be yourself in the most amazing way possible, and you’ll be a great man.

 

Relephant:

The Silent Culture of Manhood.

 

Author: Scott Reimers

Assistant Editor: Rebecca Lynch/Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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