Thursday, September 4, 2008

Acknowledging Good Men

My blogging friend Bill Howdle at Dying Man's Journal recently wrote that he has heard quite a bit of male bashing lately, so he asked his blogging friends to write some good things about particular men or men in general. I am happy to do so. Bill was sensitive to the possibility that this might be difficult for me due to my current personal situation. Actually, it isn't.

Overall, I have been quite blessed in my associations with men. My earliest experiences with men were very positive ones, starting with my father. He was kind and loving, (more nurturing than my mother). I saw him as a leader and protector who valued the simple pleasures of life and cared about his community.

My brother is also a good man. He's a hard worker who has been married to his high school sweetheart for nearly 40 years. He is dedicated to his career, but understands that providing for his children emotionally is just as important as providing for them financially. Spending time with family is a high priority for him.

I have been privileged to know several men who have volunteered at rape crisis centers and battered women shelters. They did so not only to help men and boys who are victimized, but also because they knew that these were not just "womens' issues". They understood that violence is everyone's problem because there is no man whose life is not affected by women. Women are their wives, girlfriends, daughters, mothers, and friends. These men hoped that the presence of a gentle, supportive man, might help a woman who had experienced a brutal assault against her by a man.

It is all to easy to generalize a bad experience with one gender, to all men or all women. I think it is sad when women give up on even dating anymore after a bad experience, (although the wicked part of me thinks "okey dokey -more for me"). Perhaps it is easier for me to see clearly that men aren't the problem because of my good experiences with men and because, in my opinion, my husband's hurtful behavior stems from his childhood experience of being verbally/emotionally abused by his mother - a woman.

I'm not tempted to see men as the enemy. Far from it. I love men. I love their strong arms. I love their deep voices and their whiskers. I love that they can open tight jar lids and get stuff off the high shelf. I love that a man will always kill a spider for you even though he knows you could do it yourself. I love the goofy, 'aw shucks' grin men get when you tell them how smart or strong they are. I love the little boy mischeviousness that men seem to keep no matter how old they are. I love how excited they get about sports. I love that they think there are only five colors.

I feel sad that I am not writing about how great my husband is here, although, I could write quite a bit about his good qualities and loving things he has done. I think that is an important point. The world isn't divided into guys in white hats and guys in black hats. I didn't marry the guy because he is a jerk. Most of us who find ourselves in emotionally abusive relationships know that the mean things he does are not the totality of who he is. If it were, it wouldn't be so hard to leave. And for most of us, there was a time - marriage in my case - where the man changes. Maybe I'll explore this idea further in a later post.

I too am dismayed by male-bashing. I wish there were more visible , positive portrayals of men. I don't watch much television, but my recollection is that men are portrayed as either in-charge tough guys or clueless, bungling fools. In real life, most of the good guys are the everyday heroes that you never hear about. Thank you Bill for raising this issue. We need to shine a light on the everyday greatness of good men.


CZBZ said...

Nice post, Jennie.

If it weren't for the good, kind and yes, wonderful men in my life, I'd never have believed my X could be one, too.

Perhaps many of us stick it out too long because empathic and generous men have been role models in our lives??

My perception throughout my marriage was that my husband was a hard-working man who did his best to protect his family. That's what I witnessed in my uncles, grandfathers, and goodly neighbors.

In other words, I grouped him in with 'all men' instead of seeing his behavior for what it was: selfish, manipulative and abusive.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt by interpreting his behavior by what i knew: men worked hard to provide for their families at home, not to escape the home and serve themselves!


Bill said...

Jennie, I thank you for posting this wonderfully written post.
Such an excellent point you raised about how men are generally seen on TV or in movies. You have a rough tough hero and all others are either wimps or bad guys. In real life it seems it is only the bad guys that get any press or attention. The silent majority are skipped over and missed entirely.
I realize you have very difficult and unfair issues to deal with in your own life. There is no denying that many men deserve the "male bashing" that takes place. These are over grown males and not men.
I was so happy to read your comment about not giving up on men. The world really is full of great men, loving caring men.
I am glad you haven't allowed your opinion of men in general to be swayed by the actions of a few of those over grown males.
I thank you for sharing this excellent post.

jennie said...

CZ, I think our early emotional conditioning and resulting templates are very powerful and resistant to change.

Like you, I gave my husband the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile, due to his women are abusive template, my husband tends to interpret my behavior in the worst possible light.

Bill, the good news about the bad guys getting all the press is that it means the bad guys are still "news", i.e. they are the exception to the norm.

It's kind of like watching the local news on TV. You hear about all the robberies and murders because those events are exceptions to how life is in general. It is only because the vast majority of us aren't robbed or murdered in any given day that it is considered news.

Nonetheless, I would like to see more visibility for the ordinary good men and women. BTW, I found the article the Winnipeg Free Press did about you. Very good.

Mel said...


Nicely done, ma'am.

And thank you...


Laura said...

Jennie, you've given me pause for thought this morning.

Those media images of men that you mention help us to perceive that the strong silent type is the ideal man. The masculine powerhouse is supposed to be the gold standard, and not, unfortunately, the conversationalist who talks and listens. We get the Marlboro man on the range with his horsey and cigarette. We don't have an engineer quietly going through the routine of his life.

And I bought into that. mr ex was an Israeli war-fighting, plane-jumping, opinion-giving officer who fit my image of tall, dark and impressively-built man, certainly the opposite of the dental students and lawyers-to-be who I had dated.

And now, now I find myself needing to tell myself not to overlook the quietness and calmness of the man I just met. And I need to respect and value a word of kindness far more than an image of taking the world by storm. Yes, there is a need to change the perception of what is valued in a man.

Archivist said...

Funny, men don't have a negative image of men, or of women. Men don't much think about it one way or the other. Women are the ones who seem to have lots and lots of time think and blog and think and blog about how awful some men are, and by extension, all men, are. Women are obsessed with us -- most would never admit it, but damn, they sure spend way too much time going on about us.

jennie said...

Interesting point that it seems to you that women are obsessed with men and spend way too much time going on about them. I have no idea about actual blog statistics, but if your observation is true, I can think of a couple of reasons why that might be.

I think women, more than men, work through their problems and feelings by expressing them and by sharing them with others, including in the cyber-community. A man may be less inclined to deal with his feelings this way.

Also, I think it may well be that women generally put more time, thought and energy into relationships than men do - at least after the initial stages. Everyone might find better balance in their lives if women were to focus more on their own lives, and men were to focus more on their relationships.

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