fter two years of saying that we need to change the way men are portrayed in the television media, someone, finally someone else out there agrees with me. Chances are the Fatherhood Institute has never heard of me, but they recently published a report saying what I have been saying for two years now. Namely, that the Dan Connors, and Tim Allens are doing harm to the perception our young men have of themselves.
The Fatherhood Institute called this a serious problem saying CBS's Everybody Loves Raymond is the best of a bad lot when it comes to how men are portrayed on television. It seems we have spent the past two decades worrying about our young women perceive themselves at the expense of our young men. To help the self-esteem of young women ,we have done a great deal to ensure change when it comes to the way women are portrayed. We have neglected to do the same for young men and now perhaps with school shootings, increased alienation felt by young men, and increasing youth violence we seeing the results of our lack of effort.
If women see themselves in the characters on television why do we not recognize that men see themselves in the men on television? What kind of message are our young men inadvertently getting when they see stereotyped, weak, bumbling male characters on every popular sitcom or that in order to get the girl they have to look like every guy from N'sync, Backstreet Boys, Baywatch or Melrose Place? What kind of message do they get when every movie of the week centers around a young woman and the man next door who turns out to be a murder, spousal abuser, or rapist?
It is no wonder our young men are very angry and at a time when we have taken every constructive means of letting go of that anger away from them. Competitive sports now are shunned as being detrimental where they were once a means for our young men to let out those aggressive tendencies. Schoolyard fights have now given way to conflict resolution programs where we ask children to do as we "adults" do and talk out their problems with one another. We ask students to vocalize their feelings when we as adults can barely vocalize the feelings we have. Meanwhile, adults continue to use violence to solve their problems - do I need to bring up Kosovo yet again?
Classrooms themselves, as William Pollock, author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, reminds us are an "alien and uncomfortable place for many boys." Assessment practices in most classrooms are not boy-friendly. If students are marked on attendance, attention in class, neatness, politeness, and helpfulness plus their knowledge of the subject can you see how boys can still do the work but receive lower grades on overall school work than girls? If you believe the Fraser Institute's recent report, it is happening. In one example, "the study notes that in Math 12, while 1.3 percent more boys than girls achieved honours (a mark of A or B) on the final exam, 6.5 percent more girls than boys received honours for their schoolwork" (Vancouver Province, Sunday June 6,1999).
Elsewhere, Alberta is considering passing a bill that would make it legal for the Justice system to go to great lengths to punish a man for spousal abuse. By no means am I for spousal abuse; it is a heinous crime, but it is perpetuated by men who are given no other outlet for their anger. Yet the Alberta government is considering making it legal for the courts to make supervised or unsupervised visits with his children impossible, and freeze whatever assets he has (e.g. bank accounts, credit cards, cars, etc.) after just one incident of spousal abuse by a man (regardless of the type or situation). I cannot think of better way to make a man, who already cannot deal constructively with his anger, even angrier. Whatever happened to helping one another as opposed to punishing one another? We forget that people who abuse were very often abused themselves when they were younger. It does not mean we should condone their actions, but it does mean we should try and understand and help them.
Recently, a report was issued in the United Kingdom by a Mrs. Chesewicke. She was the first person to set up a woman's shelter in the United Kingdom. In her report, she states that very often authorities fail to recognize what she calls the "family terrorist." The family terrorist uses mental, rather than physical, abuse to get her point across. Mrs. Chesewicke goes on to state that what authorities often fail to see is that the woman is not only the victim, but can also be the family terrorist. She, through verbal abuse, goads the man into violence unknowingly. The result is that we have two victims. We punish one, and cause a marital rift. Neither party is helped and the cycle may continue. It is ironic that in our schools we have come to recognize bullying can be both physical and verbal, but we refuse to recognize that in our homes also.
Here is another example. The Off the Record talkshow on Canada's The Sports Network (TSN) recently had Leesa Barnes, founder and editor of sportsfemmes.com as one of its panelists. During the course of the discussion she suggested that women's hockey is about skill and finesse while men's hockey is more about testostorone. I have seen women's hockey. It is, relatively speaking, just as rough as men's hockey. If men's hockey is more about testosterone, I gather Ms. Barnes never saw Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Petr Forsberg, Joe Sakic, or Jaromir Jagr play. Ms. Barnes should ask where most of those women on the women's hockey team learned how to play. She'll find a large majority of them are the daughters or sisters of male hockey players.
A recent article in the Vancouver Province about fathers' said it best.
"[Men were] running hard, too. But hardly anyone noticed. [Women were] still the big story, you see. Women were crashing through. Catching up. Big jobs, better bucks. Grabbing a bigger share of the partnership. [Women] had a revolution on their side. . .[Men] learned to be comfortable with stuff like that. . . .but some of [women's] bite put the pinch on [men]. . . .Learning how to feel really, really good when [the wife] got the promotion and started bring home more bacon than he did. Easy as pie? Not necessarily.
We men do not have a revolution behind us. What gains woman have made our wonderful and due, but now we've left the men behind and I find a lot of women hate us for it. I don't think any of us will truly accomplish true liberation of both sexes (the real goal of true feminism) unless we stop blaming man for what he is not yet. I can only be held responsible for my last 8-10 years of my life. Before that I believed what my parents (both father and mother) told me to believe. I am a product of their socialization.
I am not sure when it happened, but I have to ask the question when did we become such a man-hating society in which we would rather beat up on men emotionally, instead of helping them and understanding them.