J. Soltys's Weblog

June 18, 2009

Some Good Things Happened Since I’ve Been Gone

ncfm

I took sort of a mini sabbatical from my blog. However, it should not be assumed that I wasn’t busy advocating for a greater male voice in gender politics.

One of the things I’ve been working on – for quite some time now – along with another masculinity writer, Tim Goldich, has been the formation of a Chicago chapter of the National Coalition of Free Men. It took time to put all the pieces in place, but we were finally approved by the national office, and conducted our first meeting last month. We have a lot of work to do in building the foundation of our chapter, recruiting members, holding future meetings etc., but we look forward to the challenge.

About the same time that this was happening, another interesting thing happened. A men’s advocacy group calling itself Men in Power was formed at the University of Chicago. The formation of this group made national news, with founder Steve Saltarelli appearing on many media outlets including Good Morning America and National Public Radio to name a few. Steve was also contacted by Warren Farrell, who is considered one of the founding fathers of the men’s movement, and he offered his support. I also contacted Steve and the Men in Power members offering my support and the support of the NCFM Chicago chapter.

MiP held their first open forum at the University of Chicago earlier this month. The format was designed to allow others to hear and discuss MiP’s mission and intentions on campus. Tim and I attended this forum to observe the students reaction concerning the university’s first men’s organization (there are 11 women organizations already established on the campus), and to meet Steve and the other members.
Unfortunately it was a rude wake-up call for these young men, all men advocates, and for the progress of true equality between the sexes. The panel consisted of three MiP members going up against two campus feminist members, within a room which was lined with protesters holding signs that displayed anti-male, and anti-white male wording and symbolism.
The MiP members spent the whole night defending themselves against what the audience saw; a group of white male students trying to reclaim power for white males in this country.
It was a futile attempt because the opposition saw and heard what they wanted to hear, not what was actually being said. The MiP members were assiduously explaining that this was not their intentions, but it fell on deaf ears. Every misstep they took in defending their position was seized by the opposition with resounding sarcasm, taunting, shame, and ignorance. The opposition came looking for a kill and they got it.

It was apparent that the MiP organization had good intentions, but they went about it the wrong way. The members admitted to being new to men’s issues and male advocacy – and it showed. The opposition consisted of student activist who have studied and debated various forms of feminist, gay, lesbian, and transgender literature. They were the veterans, and the MiP members were the rookies. I myself was not sure what their purpose was by the time it was over, but in hindsight, they could never advocate their mission because they were constantly on the defensive. It takes the skill of a seasoned politician to absorb an attack, defend it, and then launch it back towards your opponent as a counter-attack. And considering the hostile crowd, I’m not sure if a seasoned advocate for men’s issues would have gotten the pertinent points across anyway.

The biggest issue appears to be their name, Men in Power. And I have to agree that this was a bad choice. For someone to be in power, it means someone has to be subservient. And given the history in this country, it’s understandable why some people are going to be offended.
I think MiP is distracting the true nature of their mission with that name. Their mission is not about reclaiming power, but trying to help those men who have been ignored or ostracized by society such as homeless men, men with addictions, men who are incarcerated, men who are mentally unstable, etc. And they know that part of this mission is going to be to reverse the downward spiral in education that has been affecting males for years now.

The good news is Steve has talked to Warren Farrell, and Warren has advised Steve that his group should accept the offer of working with myself and Tim, and Steve has accepted our offer. Within a few weeks we hope to get together and begin the process of establishing MiP as a legitimate, resourceful, men’s advocacy group – minus the name. We have already advised the members to change their name. Male advocacy work is hard enough, but with that name, it is almost impossible.

Aslo, Steve has told us he has received numerous requests from other universities wanting to know if they can affiliate with MiP. This is good news for male advocates. It shows a surge of interest in our message and arguments. And it should be noted that at the MiP forum, there was a handful of comments made in which males and female expressed a desire to know more about men and father issues.

That’s about all for now. Once the NFCM Chicago chapter website is established, I will post it on my blog. In the meantime, I will begin writing again. I’m thinking of changing my blog by using a mix of my writings and along with important news stories that concern or affect men and fathers. I guess I’ll try it and see how it feels.

So with that being said, I want to wish all fathers out there a wonderful Fathers Day. Regardless what President Obama says I think you guys are great. (I know it’s three day away, but I know his scolding of fathers is coming. Sadly, he’s clueless on men’s and father’s issues)

Contact:

soltys.joe@gmail.com

https://jsoltys.wordpress.com

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October 16, 2008

Violence In the Home vs. Gender – Diagnosed or Demonized? Part II

(October is domestic violence awareness month. My blog will focus on domestic violence from the often ignored and silent perspective – the male victim – and how organizations, politicians, and society deny men and their children the same awareness, compassion, and resources offered to women.)

Lady Madonna: Cont.

by Tim Goldich

Andrea’s mother and siblings told reporters that Rusty, a controlling husband who often downplayed his wife’s mental illness and shut them out, bears some responsibility for the tragedy. Andrea’s best friend, Deborah Holmes, did the same. On radio call-in shows, Internet chat rooms and newspaper editorial pages, the questions continue. . . . Rusty is “innocent of any criminal offense,” says his lawyer, Ed Mallet. Some legal experts, however, think that even if Yates escapes criminal charges (including contempt of court) he may have a tough time defending himself in civil court where a jury could find him partly responsible. (Newsweek, 04/01/02, p.6)

More than just “questions” circulate throughout the Internet.
Andrea went to prison, but many people believed that she was not the only one who was culpable in this tragedy. Rusty had been warned not to leave her alone with the children and a doctor had taken her off medication while apparently believing that she could be a danger to herself or others. Many people believed that they shared in the blame.

http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/women/andrea_yates/13.html (retrieved 08/02/07)

In fact, many expressed more hostility and blame toward Rusty than Andrea. A typical sentiment was articulated by Barbara Robinson: “Rusty Yates is Culpable, Too: Father’s Bizarre, Domineering Actions Played a Role in Children’s Deaths”
(http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0322-02.htm, retrieved 08/02/07, published 03/22/02 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal).
Robinson goes so far as to suggest that “her husband should have been on trial instead of Andrea.”

I couldn’t understand how a man could repeatedly impregnate a mentally ill wife and force or allow her to home-school their children. Yates exhibited a sense of arrogance as he explained why his children had to be home-schooled: “The social integration that the world claims is so essential is exactly what we need to protect our children from.” So the Yates didn’t integrate with their neighbors, who didn’t agree with Rusty’s beliefs. Rusty Yates claims he and Andrea jointly made decisions — including Andrea giving birth to all five children without pain control measures; Andrea abandoning her nursing career to become a homemaker; Andrea home-schooling the children; the family moving from their four-bedroom house into a 38-foot trailer and an adjacent 350-square-foot motor home.

There’s a world of difference between “force” and “allow.” Is Andrea an adult woman accountable for her own actions? Or is she a child? Was Rusty her husband or her father?
Is Rusty Yates culpable? Of course he is. He’s in it; he’s involved; he plied a force of influence in the overall situation. But the same can be said of any wife whose husband “snapped” and did what Andrea Yates did. To whatever degree husbands may be judged “domineering,” wives may be judged “manipulative” in equal measure. The difference comes in the differing degree to which men and women, husbands and wives, are held accountable for their force of influence.

It should be noted that not everyone judged Andrea Yates so lightly. According to CBSNews.com, Dr. Park Dietz, the state’s expert witness “testified that Yates’ thoughts about harming her children were an obsession and a symptom of severe depression, not psychosis.” Additionally there was “the state’s key expert witness, Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who evaluated Yates in May. He testified that she did not kill her children to save them from hell as she claims, but because she was overwhelmed and felt inadequate as a mother.”
(http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/07/26/national/main1837248.shtml).
Damning opinion regarding Andrea Yates exists, but you have to do some digging to find it. Where male killers are concerned only the opposite prevails.

Back now to the Chicago Sun Times article, “Police aren’t saying why Christopher Vaughn allegedly shot his wife Kimberly, and three kids in the family’s red SUV on June 14. But in other family-murder cases, a clear pattern emerges, experts say. Fathers often wipe out their families simply because they’re tired of them. They want to be free again, without going through the hassles and obligations of divorce and child support.” (p. 4). We don’t know why Christopher Vaughn allegedly shot his wife Kimberly, but even so, we’ll just lump him in with the rest of his presumed inferior species as an article of faith. Compare antipathy like that with the outsized empathy shown Andrea Yates. Following the Today show report on the Yates’ tragedy, Katie “Couric provided an address where viewers could send contributions for Yates’s defense fund” (TV Guide, 09/01/01, p. 10).

“Suzanne O’Malley, a journalist, covered this trial for numerous publications and had unique access to Andrea and Rusty Yates. As the author of ARE YOU THERE ALONE?: The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates, O’Malley talks to Bookreporter.com’s Diana Keough” (INTERVIEW February 20, 2004 http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-omalley-suzanne.asp).
If anyone got in close enough to the Yates tragedy to hold an informed opinion it was Suzanne O’Malley. Says she, “Sure, spending time with Rusty Yates changed my thinking about him. But the 2,000 pages of Andrea Yates’s medical records affected me more. Before I read them, I felt Rusty Yates was a monster.” Is that really how she felt, or, like everyone else, did O’Malley simply presume guilt and evil upon the nearest male?
For Diana Keough, O’Malley’s interviewer, even Rusty’s forgiveness of Andrea is regarded with suspicion. O’Malley responds: “How I explain it is that Rusty Yates understands his wife is mentally ill. For him, the crime of killing their five children never required forgiveness — the deaths were a tragedy from which to seek future safeguards, not blame.” Sounds sensible enough. If only women could be expected to apply such magnanimity toward men.
The interview continues:

Q: Characterize Rusty Yates for us. He seems like a man who things happen to. The world seems to circle around him with him not really taking grasp of any issue except as a topline thought. He knew Andrea was ill, but never hired an attorney or other advocate to help him get her the care she desperately needed. He knew she was ill, but still left the children with her that morning. Andrea’s attorney was hired by her three brothers without Rusty even being consulted. This does not seem like a man “in charge.” Are these sentiments on target?

SOM (Suzanne O’Malley): No.

Indeed, these sentiments are not on target. With one breath we demonize Man for being “controlling” and “demanding.” With the next breath we hold him in contempt for not being “in charge.” In an effort to avoid being judged a “wimp” (i.e., “a man who things happen to”), a man tries his best to take charge only to suffer being judged a “patriarchal oppressor.” Where is the win position? Whether judged a wimp or an oppressor, either way, we will go to extraordinary lengths to hold him solely responsible.
Fortunately, Suzanne O’Maley dug deep enough into this tragedy, the people involved and all surrounding factors to see things more clearly. Says she:
1) There is a Rusty Yates standing on every street corner in America. I don’t perceive him to be different from many spouses. If you are talking to him about feelings on a Sunday afternoon in front of the television set, he will interrupt what you’re saying to appreciate a touchdown or a really good putt.

2) Read the book excerpts from the 2,000 pages of Andrea Yates’s medical records. If there’s one thing Rusty Yates is, it’s an advocate. When psychiatrists are unable to diagnose an illness after years of family effort, I wonder how a family, a lawyer, or any layman can succeed.

3) Hindsight is 20/20. Andrea Yates was left alone with the children for an hour that Wednesday morning when Rusty Yates left for work. Andrea and the children were watching television and Rusty’s mother was on her way over to look after them. When Andrea had been ill the first time (in 1999, after the birth of her 4th child), she had twice tried to kill herself. The family’s focus was on making sure she didn’t try to kill herself again. They never thought she would harm the children.

4) Andrea Yates’s attorney was hired by her then 72-year-old mother two days after the murders (with the consultation of her three brothers). Prior to that Friday morning, Rusty Yates was identifying the dead bodies of his children at the coroner’s office, selecting their coffins, making funeral arrangements, seeing a NASA grief counselor, ferrying relatives to and from the airport, giving the Assistant District Attorney a tour of the crime scene, and seeking advice from a friend who is an attorney. Rusty Yates had also scheduled a meeting that Friday afternoon with noted defense attorney Mike Ramsay (who recently won the Robert Durst murder and dismemberment case in Galveston, Texas). Ramsay had been recommended to Yates by the office of NBC’s Katie Couric. So had the attorney Andrea’s mother had selected. Rusty Yates agreed with his in-law’s choice of George Parnham.

Q: In his grief, just about everything Rusty did — from creating a website in his children’s memory to the way he methodically cleaned out the bathtub and removed the bed the children were placed on after they died — seems like the actions of someone rather emotionally detached from the situation at hand. Did you feel this way about Rusty?

SOM: First, let me say that, it was Randy Yates — Rusty’s brother — who cleaned the bathtub. Relatives had begun to arrive for the funeral and some were staying at the house. Rusty says he himself was never able to set foot in that tub. He had it removed and smashed to pieces with a sledgehammer.
Rusty Yates is a career NASA engineer. His job is safety systems for the space shuttle program. It is fair to say he is methodical.

Given the merciless blame and judgment aimed his way, one can only hope that Rusty was emotionally detached. Sadly, however, I have no doubt that a Dad’s grief at the loss of all five of his children could only be monumental. Obviously, that grief can only be magnified by the zero-empathy he’s accorded.
At such a distance I cannot judge the hearts of either Christopher Vaughn or Andrea Yates. I cannot know what The Truth is regarding either the depth of their guilt or innocence. What I do know is that there is a staggering gulf in empathy accorded each sex. What I know is that women are presumed innocent while men are presumed guilty.

It is ubiquitous misandry like this, at saturation levels, shouted aloud from the most official and respected sources of news and opinion, that forces my hand. I could just give up. I could sit by while my sex is utterly denigrated. I could watch passively as misandry and feminism conspire to turn men into second-class humans. But I choose instead to fight back. And I fight back the only way I know how. I tell the other side of the story.

(Tim Goldich is in the process of publishing a series of books on the subject of gender issues as seen from both the female and the male perspectives. His first book, Loving Men, Respecting Women: The Future of Gender Politics, Love and Respect in the Past, Love and Respect in the Present, and Love and Respect in the Future will be released in the near future.)

Contact:

soltys.joe@gmail.com
https://jsoltys.wordpress.com
Photo Courtesy of: stockxchng.com

October 14, 2008

Violence In the Home vs. Gender – Diagnosed or Demonized?

(October is domestic violence awareness month. My blog will focus on domestic violence from the often ignored and silent perspective – the male victim – and how organizations, politicians, and society deny men and their children the same awareness, compassion, and resources offered to women.)

Lady Madonna: Part 1

by Tim Goldich

The dark picture we have of men would lead us to believe that most child abuse is male-inflicted. In fact, the opposite is true, and by a wide margin. Women commit the vast majority of child abuse and infanticide. Of course that’s only because women perform the vast majority of childcare, nevertheless, our assumption that men are the primary perpetrators against children is emblematic of our attachment to the MB/WG paradigm.

We would hate to think that there was anything less than a Madonna in the nursery, but the facts paint a less-than-“angelic” picture. In fact, if we dare delve deep enough, in the shadows there lurks a picture of motherhood darker than any we care to know.

Before embarking down this road it is important to remind ourselves why. Why do we delve deep to reveal the darkest corners of the maternal psyche? I can answer that question with another: “Why do dads kill?,” asks the front-page headline of the Chicago Sun Times (06/25/07). In answer to that question, also from the front page, in “family-murder cases, a clear pattern emerges, experts say. The father wipes out his family simply because he’s tired of dealing with them.” Really, as simple as that? Also on the cover in a narrow-cropped photo of Christopher Vaughn, who allegedly killed his wife and three kids, eyes staring out and looking a lot like Satan. So, here on the front page of a major metropolitan newspaper we are told that dads kill their families simply because they grow weary of them. Message sent: men are evil violent scum; don’t marry a man, he’ll kill you and your children the moment he grows tired of dealing with you.

So, again, why do we delve deep to reveal the darkest corners of the maternal psyche? Because, in failing to do so, we are left with only a demonizing of men and an anglicizing of women—we are left with ManBad/WomanGood.

When Andrea Yates drowned her children in the bathtub, all five of them, one at a time, it made the cover of Newsweek (07/02/01). The headline? “‘I Killed My Children’: What Made Andrea Yates Snap?” Note how this Newsweek cover treats both Andrea Yates and what she did as unique. By contrast, in dealing with Christopher Vaughn and what he allegedly did, the Chicago Sun Times cover asks why dads kill as if to implicate all dads. It may not literally implicate all dads, but oftentimes it is the blunt message that sticks in the brain and the blunt message reads “dads kill.” Not some dads kill, or this particular dad killed, but just: “Why do dads kill?”. A headline that asked “Why do moms kill?,” would be protested accordingly.

The Newsweek cover quotes Andrea’s reply when a police officer asked, “Do you realize what you have done?” Her reply, “I killed my children,” could either be taken as cold-blooded or it could be taken as an expression of horror and remorse. What follows may nudge us toward the latter interpretation: “What made Andrea Yates snap?” Isn’t that really asking: What was Andrea Yates’ excuse? Also on the cover: “Understanding Postpartum Depression” and “Anna Quindlen on Every Mother’s Secret.” Yes, Anna “It’s not that I don’t like men; women are just better” Quindlen is asked to give her unbiased opinion on the subject [Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, CBS, 04/15/93]. So now we know what made Yates “snap” and we are given a further nudge toward an empathy interpretation of her actions.

Many will merely glance at the covers. The verdict will be obvious. Look for it and you’ll find the ManBad/WomanGood paradigm insinuating itself into our media/cultural products with a pervasiveness comparable to the way food additives are included in the products we buy at the grocery store. Comparing the two covers, the greater empathy shown a woman could not be more self-evident. Now let’s take a look inside each article starting with The Chicago Sun Times.

According to Minneapolis criminal profiler Pat Brown, men who commit “familicide” fall into one of two categories. “Some men decide to commit suicide because they are heavily in debt, have failed in their jobs or are otherwise falling apart. In a supremely selfish act, they decide to take their families with them. Those who don’t kill themselves are more likely to just want to be free, Brown said.” (Sun Times, p. 4). When a father kills we don’t ask what made him “snap.” We don’t care to know what his excuse was. He may well have been provoked in the worst way imaginable, but we’re too intent upon vilifying him to seek out that which might mitigate his guilt in some way. We are not invited to consider either his “depression” or his “stress.” In fact what we’re told explicitly precludes any possibility of redemption: “They are manipulators. They’re narcissistic, filled with grandiose thoughts. And they’re pathologic liars who blame everyone but themselves for their problems.” And there’s no end to it. “But they’re usually not insane . . . they know right from wrong” (Sun Times, p. 4). So, when it comes to fathers who kill, there can be absolutely no possibility of an “excuse.”

When the article shifts its attention to their female equivalents, however, the tone shifts dramatically. According to John Philipin, psychologist, crime profiler and author of true-crime books, “By contrast, many mothers who kill their families suffer from depression, depressive psychosis, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses” (Sun Times, Jim Ritter, “Why do dads kill? To be ‘free,’ experts say,” p. 4). Women who kill are said to suffer from these illnesses implying that even women who kill remain the victims.

The Newsweek article begins: “Andrea Yates was the ultimate caregiver—until depression and the strains of raising five children drove her to an unspeakable crime.” (p. 20). Note the air of incredulity that accompanies a heinous act when committed by a woman. “How could a mother commit such an act against nature and all morality, ending the lives she had so recently borne and nurtured. And kill them so methodically, one by one, holding them under the bath water (imagine eyes staring back) and laying them out on the bed wrapped in sheets like little Christian martyrs” (Newsweek, p. 20).

“About 200 children are killed by their mothers every year, according to Justice statistics. Sometimes moms blame the Devil. Or they think they are saving their children from a hellish life by sending them to heaven. The psychologists call these ‘altruistic killings.’ Andrea Yates was apparently suffering from a specific, diagnosable—and treatable—condition called postpartum psychosis.” (Newsweek, p. 20). It was on the basis of that diagnosis that Yates was eventually judged not guilty by reason of insanity. “Yates’ attorneys never disputed that she drowned 6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John and 7-year-old Noah in their Houston-area home in June 2001. But they said she suffered from severe postpartum psychosis and, in a delusional state, believed Satan was inside her and was trying to save them from hell.” (“Andrea Yates Found Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity; Will Be Committed To State Mental Hospital,” http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/07/26/national/main1837248.shtml, 07/26/06). So, I guess it was five of those “altruistic killings” that Yates committed?

Patricia Pearson:
By contrast, when a sample of men convicted of infanticide were surveyed in Brixton Prison in Great Britain, those who offered altruistic motivations were scoffed at. Wrote their interviewer: “The statement ‘that it was best for the children’ . . . is an expression of the fact that the perpetrator himself thought that the infanticide was the best way out—that is to say, the act was egosyntonic.” [When She Was, p. 88]

No matter what the circumstances, a father who drowned his five children one at a time couldn’t possibly be received so empathically as to have his actions labeled “altruistic.”

Newsweek quotes Andrea’s mother, the one person we would expect to love Andrea most unconditionally. “She was the most compassionate of my children. Always thinking of other people, never herself. She was always trying to care for everybody.” (Newsweek, p. 20). And follows that with a pitiful image of Andrea Yates caring for her Alzheimer’s stricken father while pregnant. “Between caring for her father and her children, it is hard to think that Andrea ever had time for herself.” (Newsweek, p. 21). True enough, however, between working/commuting 70 hours a week plus domestic and other chores expected of him, many a husband/father has no time for himself.

According to the Newsweek article, most multicide killers (i.e., men?) are coldly psychopathic. “Andrea was the opposite; if anything, she apparently cared too much. She may have felt she could never do enough for her demanding husband. In a horribly twisted way, she may have tried to be too good a mother.” (Newsweek, p. 20). Even as we’re canonizing the female killer note how we begin blaming the nearest male, her “demanding” husband. But no one blames Andrea, not even the devastated father of those five murdered children. ‘“One side of me blames her because, you know, she did it. But the other side of me says, ‘Well, she didn’t, because that wasn’t her.”’ (Newsweek, p. 20). Spoken like a typically chivalrous and infinitely magnanimous male. What wife would express such forgiveness toward a husband who did what she did?

Houston police officer Frank Stumpo: ‘“Do you realize what you have done?’ he asked her. She looked right at him and said, ‘Yes, I do.’ She told the police, ‘I killed my children.’ Stumpo looked around. The house was a mess, he thought, dirty and unkempt.” (Newsweek, p. 25). At this point Rusty had returned home but was kept out of the house presumably to protect Andrea. Asked if he wanted a glass of water, “he doubted anyone would find a clean glass in the house. Stumpo looked anyway, and couldn’t find one—until Andrea calmly pointed him to the china cabinet.” (Newsweek, p. 25).

Rusty Yates was earlier described as “demanding.” Maybe so, but if he didn’t demand housekeeping, and he didn’t demand help with the financial burdens, then perhaps he wasn’t all that demanding. Many a wife is “demanding”: demanding toughness, strength, and courage of her husband; demanding of competence, demanding of domestic chores, demanding of career success and demanding financially. Even so, if a husband/father did what Andrea Yates did, who would ever think to pin the blame on his “demanding” wife? Yet the media made every effort to vilify Rusty Yates and hold him responsible for the murder of his children.

In a follow-up article, Newsweek (04/01/02) describes Rusty’s tireless campaign on behalf of Andrea. He defended her on every show from the “Today” show, to Larry King, to Oprah. For his chivalrous efforts he faces contempt of court charges for violating a gag order. But that’s only the beginning; “as he crisscrossed the nation, simmering questions about his own accountability have boiled over.” (Newsweek, 04/01/02, p. 6).

Andrea’s mother and siblings told reporters that Rusty, a controlling husband who often downplayed his wife’s mental illness and shut them out, bears some responsibility for the tragedy. Andrea’s best friend, Deborah Holmes, did the same. On radio call-in shows, Internet chat rooms and newspaper editorial pages, the questions continue. . . . Rusty is “innocent of any criminal offense,” says his lawyer, Ed Mallet. Some legal experts, however, think that even if Yates escapes criminal charges (including contempt of court) he may have a tough time defending himself in civil court where a jury could find him partly responsible. (Newsweek, 04/01/02, p.6)

(Tim Goldich is in the process of publishing a series of books on the subject of gender issues as seen from both the female and the male perspectives. His first book, Loving Men, Respecting Women: The Future of Gender Politics, Love and Respect in the Past, Love and Respect in the Present, and Love and Respect in the Future will be released in the near future.)

Contact:

soltys.joe@gmail.com
https://jsoltys.wordpress.com
Photo Courtesy of: stockxchng.com

September 30, 2008

Loving Men, Respecting Women: An Analysis of Modern Sexual Politics

(Today I’m lending my blog to another writer. Tim Goldich has written a book called Loving Men, Respecting Women: The Future of Gender Politics, Love and Respect in the Past, Love and Respect in the Present, and Love and Respect in the Future.
I feel Tim has a unique perspective on the present dichotomies plaguing men and women, and offers a fresh perspective on how to remedy the persuasive distrust between the sexes. Because of this, I will be promoting his new book, which will be available soon. I am offering my readers a sneak-preview into Tim’s perspective by posting the forward of Loving Men, Respecting Women. Also, Tim has offered to be a contributing writer to my blog in the near future.
Hope you enjoy it.)

I have a truth to share with you, a truth that is at once radical and moderate. It is intuitively known but ideologically obscured. It is the one gender truth to be emphasized above all others. It is the one truth that promises to deescalate the Battle of the Sexes replacing resentment, blaming and victimhood with maturity, accountability and generosity. It is a truth just at the edge of awareness.
And it all begins with love and respect.

As is so commonly the case, I grew up respecting and obeying my Dad more than my Mom while appreciating and loving my Mom more than my Dad. When Mom cooked and served our meals her giving was plain to see and much appreciated. In serving our favorites Mom received our compliments and our gratitude. We came to the table hungry! And she gave us sustenance we could not live without. She gave us food, a fundamental archetype of life that stands at the very heart of family as well as religious, holiday and other social gatherings.
When Dad did his 50 hours a week on the corporate treadmill he did his giving miles away where none of us could see or appreciate it. I directly experienced what Mom was giving, but it often seemed as though Dad gave nothing. Growing up loving our mothers and resenting our fathers is more than just a matter of cultural cliché. It is the murky origin of a profound gender bias that remains with us all our lives.
Have you ever considered a true and deep empathy toward fathers? What is at risk in directing culture-wide caring, concern and compassion toward men in general and fathers in particular? And why will so many of us react with derision at the very idea?
Did you know that on Mother’s day more phone calls are made than on any other day of the year, more than on Christmas day and far more than on Father’s day. Father’s day, in contrast, is the day on which we make the largest number of collect calls.1 If we love Mom and Dad equally then why do we buy and send half again as many mother’s day cards as father’s day cards?2
It would seem that most of us grow up respecting our fathers, but not necessarily loving (empathizing with) our fathers. Likewise, it would seem that most of us grow up loving our mothers, but not necessarily respecting our mothers. At least in part, the disparity in love and respect derive from the roles we play. Clearly the husband role of protector/provider lends itself to being respected while the wife role of lover/nurturer better lends itself to being loved. Of course, it doesn’t always work this way; but it works this way more often than not.
In serving our meals we could say that Mom was being “servile,” or we could say that cooking and serving our meals was one of the ways in which Mom placed herself at the center of our affections. In “bringing home the bacon” we could say that Dad was being “dominant,” or we could say that working to earn his family’s love was one of the ways in which Dad was separated from his family’s love. In this way, we will find that every gender reality has a dual nature.
At home, Mom was as loving, giving, nurturing and omnipresent as Dad was demanding, rule enforcing, cranky and absent. My emotional dependence on Mom was obvious and absolute. It was she who washed us, fed us, tended to our bruises, taught us right from wrong and cared for our most basic needs. Within the mother/child glow we experienced a world of limitless unconditional love protecting us from an outside world cold and uncaring. It was Dad’s interaction with the outside world that insulated us from that world. Yes, we were financially dependent upon Dad, but what does that mean to a child? In our infancy did we experience Dad as he who suffered the slings and arrows making it possible for mother and child to live within a nexus of love and safety? Or, did we experience Dad as he who competed for and often usurped Mom’s love?

Every hour Dad devoted to earning his family’s love left him with one fewer hour in which to be with his family’s love. His work persona, so functional at work, was dysfunctional at home. “I can’t understand it,” he said to me once, “I communicate so well with my young employees; why can’t I communicate with you?” It’s easy to get disgusted with Dad. “I’m your son, not your employee,” I thought to myself. But how was Dad supposed to know about parenting?
Our dads didn’t grow up playing with dolls, playing house and babysitting. The male culture our dads grew up in did nothing to prepare them for the role of parenting. I was born before 1970, which means that I was born at a time when fathers were not even allowed in the delivery room. Think about it. Fathers were shut out right from the start. The anesthesiologist could be there. The family doctor could be there. A man with some practical value could be there. But, apparently, husbands/fathers, having no practical value in the delivery room, were considered to have no value at all. Only wives/mothers were encouraged to think of their nurturing and empathy as valuable gifts to be shared.
Fathers have many such stories to tell. Consider this one: Father listens to the sounds of his child playing outside. Suddenly something happens and the child is hurt. Father hears the sounds of his child in pain running for the front door. His heart goes out to his child. But the child runs right past his father’s open arms and into the arms of his mother instead. The child seeks comfort from the parent he loves most. In keeping with the male code, father does his best to keep his pain invisible, yet he is devastated nonetheless. It hurts to be loved second best. Is it any wonder if, from that day on, the father begins to hide behind his newspaper? Is it any wonder that Dad begins spending more time at work where he feels functional and less time at home where he feels dysfunctional?
Perhaps if we men better understood our father’s inner experience, we’d have more empathy toward our fathers. And if we can have more empathy toward our fathers, then perhaps we can have more empathy toward ourselves.
Dad did give something. Among other things, he gave 40 years of long days that he counted down till retirement from a job that he hated. He could have taken a more enjoyable job that paid less; but that would not have been in keeping with his role as provider. Though he ended up spending more time at work than at home, there on his desk amid the folders and the memos were pictures of his family. There under a sheet of glass covering his desk was a poem I had written in the 4th grade.
What he did, he did for us. Looking back on it, we might have thanked him more and blamed him less for not “being there for us.” He was over there at work for us. Looking back on it, I suppose it was we who were not there for him, to lend an ear to his fears, to love and support him.

A day of reckoning may arrive when a man comes to see his life in pursuit of respect as having been “all for nothing.” “Yes,” he says to himself, “I was respected. I may have been feared, obeyed, admired, lauded and rewarded with authority, status and titles, but I was never loved. Out of the blue, I awoke one day to be served divorce papers. I still love my wife; but she does not love me. And my children to the extent they even know me don’t love me either. With a restraining order effortlessly achieved I was effectively shut out of all their lives. I did it all for them, yet I lost them all. In desperation I turned to my brethren for solace and support, but following some perfunctory remarks (‘Keep your chin up,’ ‘keep a stiff upper lip,’ ‘Hang in there’), there was nothing. Men don’t love men any more than women do. Father’s Days come and go without a card or a call. I was never loved. It was all for nothing.”
Similarly, a day may come when a woman comes to see her life in pursuit of love as having been “all for nothing.” “Yes,” she says to herself, “I was loved. I may have been adored, protected, pursued, financially supported, coddled, catered to, and showered with gifts, mother’s day cards and other affections; but even my women friends never really took me seriously. I took the central place in the emotional lives of our children, but I awoke one day to find my children grown and gone away. I never achieved anything intellectually or creatively. I accomplished nothing with my life. I was never respected. It was all for nothing.”
As is true of men and women in general, we tend to respect fathers more than love them and we tend love mothers more than respect them. The love/respect dynamic is at the heart of gender polarity and in our tendency to respect women less than men and love men less than women, it is also the primary basis of legitimate gender complaint. The challenge for society is to care about men’s issues even when society doesn’t care about the men themselves. Both love and respect are abundantly rewarding in some ways, yet each is lacking certain essentials. For their lives to be fulfilling women need to be both loved and respected, and for their lives to be fulfilling men need to be both respected and loved.

The gender system can be improved. The sexes can negotiate these improvements under a unified banner without resorting to resentment or victimhood. One truth above all others leads the sexes down a path away from destructive battle and toward healthy negotiation, mutual understanding and fairness. So what is this wondrous truth that can do such wondrous things? Simply this:
It All Balances Out.

1[http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE7DE1031F933A15755C0A961948260]
2[http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1630551,00.html]

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