“In our culture, a false picture has emerged of what it is to be a man. The culture’s emphasis on crude, macho masculinity as a status symbol causes young men to strive after the wrong type of expression of their masculinity.” — John A Sanford and George Lough, Ph.D., “What Men Are Like.”
Just watch a commercial for Jack In The Box, McDonald’s or Carl’s Jr. We see a “manly” man attacking a gigantic burger. Worse is the Carl’s Jr. ad that is absolutely offensive — the gyrating, sultry, mostly naked young woman sexually enticing men to gorge themselves with a “sensuous” burger. It’s the macho thing to do!
Thousands get their jollies from football games where the incidence of severe concussion is common. And still some parents of young boys encourage them to play the game and risk brain injury so they can grow up to be “real” men. Many ads for automobiles emphasize speed and reckless driving that is certainly a bad example for teens and immature men. On TV, we see many commercials for movies and special events that glorify severe risk taking and egregious violence — virtually all perpetrated by males.
I can’t help but think back to when our kids were young and we rarely heard of violence on the streets, in our schools and homes. We didn’t see things like those described above on TV, and movies were under better control. On TV, men were depicted mostly as upstanding citizens — often family men who took their role seriously and were good role models. Of course, there were no video games where kids could chop people’s heads off with alacrity — no conscience or empathy. Standards for violence and sex were upheld. We didn’t hear about gangs of young men roaming the streets, causing fear and havoc, shooting and stabbing each other and innocent bystanders.
Reading the newspaper on July 30, 2014, it was appalling to list the headings of news items that appeared on just two pages of the San Mateo County Times: “Man pleads guilty to stabbing.” “Man convicted in molestation of girls.” “Man to stand trial for alleged road rage.” “Man pleads ‘not guilty’ to attempted robbery.” “Man fatally stabbed in downtown brawl.”
Do we want a civilized society or not? Are the profits to be made from exploiting our boys and men all that matter? Because of our cultural mindset about males, you’d think that by this time we would all be doing something about the macho cultural myths that prevent so many boys from becoming assets to society. How far will the exploitation be allowed to go?
I mourn when I think of that new little great-grandson and his contemporaries and all that they will be facing that will work against them. The messages that they will be bombarded with include: It’s not manly to take an interest in your health — eat and drink whatever pleases you. Go ahead and get your head bashed in. It’s fun to watch! Feel free to take part in other activities that glorify violence and mayhem. Don’t use your mind, for heaven’s sake. That’s not masculine. Don’t take too much interest in school. That’s for girls! If you are suffering (physically or psychologically) don’t act like a sissy. Drown it in alcohol or beat someone up. It’s the manly thing to do.
Of course, in spite of the many odds against them, there are some men who have transcended our culture’s distorted ideal of a male. They are productive citizens, good fathers, men who are at peace with themselves. But the odds are increasingly against especially the great number of boys who have little or no connection with good role models and are too often left to their own devices to absorb the “real male” icon that bombards them from our demented culture.
Yes, tiny baby boy, you’ll have to be strong and have a lot of help to counteract the pressures of a culture that is all for making you into a robotic human being who is exploited by corporate interests that are only interested in profit and a government that looks the other way.
“Men are not flawed creatures by nature. We become destructive when our masculinity is damaged. Violence springs from desperation and fear rather than from authentic manhood. ... If we want boys to feel good enough about themselves so they do not become obsessed with violence, etc., we must promote constructive role models — from involved, caring, accepting fathers to sports and entertainment figures who model integrity and decency. We need to change the general attitude toward boys that still permeates this culture in many areas and that starts from day one in a boy’s life.” — Aaron R. Kipnis, PhD., “Knights Without Armor.”
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 750 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.