Friday, May 02, 2008

Why Real Men Don’t Care What Women Want

Cassy Fiano has written a piece about the need, in her opinion, for men to “MAN UP”.

I respectfully disagree. Enough so that I think a full rebuttal is needed. While some of Cassy’s points are valid, her article makes what I see as mistakes in several areas, and these need to be addressed, if the gender behavior question is to be better understood and resolved.

The first thing to say in any gender discussion, is the obvious fact that men and women are different. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and in how Society treats the gender. Look at crime, for instance. In my book, an adult teacher who molests a student is a particularly slimy felon, one who should be put away for a very, very long time. Yet over and over, we see that female teachers who have sex with their students do not receive even half the length of sentence commonly issued to male teachers who do the same thing. Sexual harassment is supposed to apply to equally to men and women, but here again we see that women suing for sexual harassment are far more successful in court than men who do the same thing, as a proportion of damages awarded to cases filed. Granted, this is an offense where male perpetrators far outnumber female offenders, yet this also is skewed, because even in today’s world, a male employee who complains of unwanted sexual advances by a female superior will be mocked and ridiculed in the public, in a way no female complaintant in the United States needs to fear.

A significant portion of the article addresses the decision by women either to work outside the home or to stay at home. The article never mentions that in many families, the man stays home while the woman works, not in some hillbilly paradise where the guy slacks around, but because the woman may be better suited to working in a corporation while the man has better domestic skills. It may come as a shock, but some men are better at cooking, cleaning, and child care, and some women are better in monetary skills. If a couple or family finds themselves in the fortunate situation where one paycheck is sufficient, it’s nobody else’s business how they decide to sort out the various responsibilities of the house.

The article also appears to take a swipe at two-career parents, quoting Mellisa Clothier’s rather stupid asssertion that many men no longer work as hard because they just don't have to. On the one hand, they don't have the financial pressure of their father's generation, but they also don't have the self-respect, work-ethic and noble purpose of their father's generation either.”

What utter bilge! No serious thought could possibly have produced that statement, which reflects some long-disproven assumptions about the modern generation and a more than slightly elitist arrogance. I will use my own experience to illustrate:

My father worked as the sole breadwinner for his family when he was young. This is because at 8 years old during the Depression, he still had an easier time finding a job than his mother or sister could, and so even before Middle School, my father was helping support his family. That mindset, to do what the family needed at any cost, became something of a lifelong mission for my father. In the performance of that mission, he worked long hours, took countless assignments in other countries because they paid more, and sacrificed an untold number of personal luxuries and goals for his wife and kids. He spent what little “free time” he had with us kids and with the church as a Bible Study teacher. The ‘payoff’ for his work? Four heart attacks, a stroke, he was laid off seven times during his career, his commitment to the job hurt his marriage, we had to move four times to find work that met the family’s needs, and the stress and wear from so much travel and effort left him a physical wreck, so that the last nine years of his life he could barely walk, leaving his bed only for minutes at a time. This was not doctor Clouthier’s mythical “self-respect”, “work-ethic”, or “noble purpose” – such terms lose their meaning when the man is destroyed just trying to take care of his family, and people like Clouthier do not begin to understand the forces at work which challenge a family to survive, let alone succeed.

Then there is my wife, Mikki. Her first husband was a big believer in the stay-at-home wife, he would have applauded Ms. Clouthier. He treated his wife like a possession, like a prize to be kept under lock and key and always under his control. Of course, his freedom to work while she stayed home also helped him have an affair, which destroyed the marriage as such things often do. Mikki was left alone to fend for herself, and she was grimly pleased to do see she could manage her affairs without some husband to do it for her. When she and I married, we both understood that she intended to work full time, for several reasons but which included the fact that she would never allow herself to be kept in a box, whether it be a house or apartment or assumption. If Ms. Clouthier and Ms. Fiano wish to stay at home and have the means to do so, good for them, but that in no way means anyone else is obliged to do the same, nor are they irresponsible if they choose that path. Further, I am no less a man for respecting my wife’s wishes and being aware of her history and needs, and if Ms. Clouthier and company cannot fathom that, it is their flaw, and not my own.

I also have to speak up about this “man up” command from on High. In the comments to Cassy’s article, reader Aries said Men have seen women in action. Whiners, complainers, misandric and endlessly focused on themselves only. Women threw men away.” Blunt but true, that. Many men are just sick and tired of women telling us half a hundred different things they expect us to do. Nothing is ever good enough, and while I agree with equality, my definition of that word never included my surrender to women and their countless chaos of neurotic demands. Women chase after drunks and liars, ignore and mock the nice guys, then complain because they can’t find a good man. Women demand equal pay and opportunity in the workplace, but also want special rules and preferential treatment from HR and the business practices. Women demand to be treated as equals and receive respect, but as a rule treat men either as the enemy or simply as not worthy of their regard, much less respect. Women despise being treated as sexual objects – rightfully – but see no hypocrisy in ranking men according to their physical attributes. I have personally known hundreds of men who put their wives first, who constantly try to find ways to show they love and appreciate their wives, but I have only found a handful of women who do the same for their husbands (Mikki is one). Oh, I am sure there are more out there, but the overwhelming fact is that men are dogs and women are cats. Men, like dogs, are sloppy and careless and spill and break things, but most are utterly dependable and full of love and fun. They are heroic and serious about family. Women, like cats, are full of themselves and tend to hate dogs as a group. If you take loving care of a dog for even a few minutes, you will have a friend for life, and a lot of men are the same way. If you take loving care of a cat for years, catering to its every need and whim, you will be rewarded with the privilege of cleaning out its litterbox, and the presentation of an occasional hairball or shredded shirt, and a lot of women are the same way.

In closing, I admit my posted opinions are a broad brush posting, and there are many good women out there, just as there are some men who are utterly useless. But the stereotypes presented by Ms. Fiano needed a counterweight. There is hope for gender relationships, if only for one great truth: Men love and need women, and women also love and need men.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Soul School

There is a debate going on which takes many forms, but is based on the same old questions:

Why do we suffer?

Why does evil exist?

Why are we here?

… and the like. These questions are of a kind, and near as I can tell no answer yet has ever been perfect, nor do I think ever will be so. This is because God made billions of individual people, one by one. It seems to me that we each have an answer that is right for us, one which is unique because we are unique.

The people on one side of this debate seem to be very bitter and prone to blame God for whatever they don’t like. They blame God for the existence of evil, basically saying that they are not responsible for any wrong they do, because they believe that God set them up for a fall. This is not merely erroneous, but quite arrogant and a very dangerous attitude to hold in practice; it is in the same catageory as the man who knows he is drunk but figures if he has a problem driving, he can blame it on the bar, on the road, on the other driver, anyone but himself. Such people also fail to consider the purpose of asking the basic questions – presuming God exists, it is quite foolish to imagine that we can come up with a better defense for our behavior than he can for His position, or that we hold any standing wherein he is compelled to accept us as moral equals. The proper purpose of such questions, then, is not to try to catch God out as some kind of criminal, but to gain understanding and perspective. This, I think, was one of the key lessons of the book of Job.

Another contention that has become popular, is the notion that this life is a test. Pass it and you get great rewards, but fail it and you are in for a bad eternity. This claim and the many variations on it are quite common, but even a casual inspection shows flaws in the premise. After all, there are different kinds of tests, but generally from my experience there are two varieties. First is the type of test to determine the quality or nature of something, like a blood test for various diseases or to check blood cell counts. This kind of test results is a prescribed regimen for the subject. . The other type of test is certification. It can be initial certification, like NASA testing prospective astronauts to make sure they can withstand the rigors of training, or the aptitude tests given to high school students to determine whether they can handle the material of a college curriculum, or it can be confirmation of successful completion of a mission, like a home inspection to be sure a house is ready for move-in, or final examinations in a course. What both varieties of test have in common, is the course of action which precedes or follows the testing. Therefore, it seems to me reasonable to say not that we are going through a long test in this life on Earth, but we are in a kind of school. And that changes a lot of the rules and presumptions, once you think about it.

The starting point is God. Like it or not, the most essential reality in the universe is its Creator and Master. Not merely ‘master’ as in the guy with the keys or the most powerful being, but ‘master’ in the true sense, a being so perfect in power, authority, and essence that he rules by right. And everything besides God was made by God, and owes all to Him. It all starts there. Obviously, there are certain people who cannot accept this, and so they rebel. So, even before we get into our own condition and needs, there is rebellion against the Sovereign Lord. This is important to the resolution prepared for us by God.

Perspective is a critical factor to judgment. People see from a limited viewpoint, and for humans omniscience is never possible, although we fool ourselves many times into thinking we have the full picture. The only entity who truly enjoys omniscience is God, and that is worth thinking about. How can a being know more than one perspective? One possibility is if that being can be more than one person, so that perspectives may be tested against other perspectives, not only in time (God being eternal) but in simultaneous persons experiencing the same event from differing contexts, so that Reality exists fro God in a higher order than a human can know. That is worth its own discussion, but for here it seemed to me worth its mention as part of the framework.

So, for humans the goal seems to be for us to learn to love and do goodness. Yet we already know that freedom to choose means that some will choose to rebel. And that rebellion leads to great evil and suffering, indeed no better than that can come of it where God is rejected, as all goodness comes from Him. How then, some ask, can God allow suffering in this way? Why is evil allowed to happen, and why is its punishment deferred and the good allowed to be harmed? One way to consider this, is the fact that humans often learn through comparison. We know good music because we hear sounds we do not like, we know good health because we know illness, and so on. Consequently, we learn to appreciate good in part because we see what evil is and does, and good people do not wish to advance evil. Also, it is important to learn another key truth, one which many people do not want to be so – we all do evil, to some degree. Evil is that quality which not only wants to harm someone, but it can also be that selfishness that treats another person as a thing. Jesus taught about a rich man who went to hell. What is interesting is, we never heard that this rich man was dishonest or violent or failed to go to temple, or any of those things. The sole offense of this man, was that he saw someone in need and chose not to help. The sin was in choosing to make that beggar an object rather than a person, and in so doing rebel against God’s command that we love one another, which shows up over and over again in the Bible and in every true faith. By ‘true faith’, I mean to say that although I am a Christian and believe Christ’s Gospel is the true gift of God and the Salvation of the World, I agree with C.S. Lewis that myths are often echoes of God’s truth, so that what is true in Christianity may also show up in different places – God is not silent about hope and mercy, so we should not be surprised if there is truth in surprising places.

Doing good is hard. Not sinning is hard. Focusing on God’s will instead of my own is hard. I don’t know that I can do any of the three for more than a few minutes, and if I think I have, I have just committed the sin of pride, don’t you know! It is extraordinarily easy to sin, to do what we know is wrong, even when we very much want to do the right thing. Keep that in mind, it’s important. We all sin, even when we try hard to be good. We all love goodness and we al teach goodness to our children, yet it remains a hard thing to do. I don’t mean the easy business of being nice to folks and showing them respect, though enough people have a hard time with that, I mean going out of our way to help someone, doing the right thing when it costs us something.

Life is a university, and we are each on our own schedule. What’s right for one person may be very different from what is right for someone else in terms of goals and specific skills, but we all live by a code which commands us to think, speak, and act by a standard we cannot meet all the time. Before you claim that such a regimen is cruel, consider that any skill is always taught as never-ending improvement. Artists always seek something better, engineers people seek more efficiency, business people seek ever-more effective solutions, scientists always seek deeper comprehension, and so on. We all pursue prefection, even if we touch it so rarely. Should we be so surprised to learn, that God wants us to learn to be more and more perfect? Yet as I said, we all fail the mark, and there are three reasons for that. First, if you have ever known someone who seemed perfect, you may notice that they are very different from regular people. If you like golfing with the guys, you enjoy the sense that you are all peers. One guy may be a great driver but his putting is off, while each of the others has his own strengths and flaws. But if one of the guys in your foursome is Tiger Woods, then as good as he is, he may have a hard time fitting in. The idea is not that God holds us down to keep us from getting where we want to be, but knowing that we will fail, God helps us remember that we are all human, none of us is Superman. Second, we all need God. Just as we all must die one day, we all sin and cannot be everything all in ourselves. Even Jesus took care to have His disciples take part in some of His miracles (like the feeding of the 5,000, and even Peter was able to walk on water when Jesus did it); we are family, one with each other, and no man can truly say he needs no one else. Third, it is not right to say that knowing we would do evil, God created evil in order to make men sin. Rather, it is true to say that God chose to make men free, and knowing that men would use that freedom to choose evil in various times and places, God not only chose to forgive men their sins, but also to use that evil for good purposes. We do not always see this, but it is true nevertheless. When we see someone suffer, for instance, it moves our heart to act in compassion, which is good. When we see injustice, we are moved to create justice. When we see sickness, we are moved to help healing. In our arrogance, some blame God for the evil done, not realizing that evil is temporary, and one day will be destroyed. Even death is only real for a little while, measured against the eternal life God grants us. But because God is eterrnal, the things of God are also eternal, and no good thing is ever lost forever, but only set aside until its time. So it is eventually a different reality which comes to be; one where every bad and foul thing is undone, but only every good thing remains. Then we are able to appreciate all good things without cost or compromise, and all that is right will be full advanced. Our lives seek that goal.

Is there a test? Yes, there are many of them, as is always the case in school. But just as a good school can be a wonderful place for a child, so too the education of a soul does not need to be hard or cold, and the purpose of these tests is not to frighten us or browbeat us, but to help us see how far we have come, and to choose our next stage. And this, if I may be so bold, is where the Commission of Christ comes into the matter.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who came to earth as a man, to live among us as one of us. This already sets Christ apart from so many religions based on a distant and impersonal god. Yet Jesus did more; he was entitled to wealth, influence, and power, yet He lived as a poor itinerant preacher, who died after being wrongfully accused of sedition by men who knew He was innocent. Jesus could have escaped this fate, but accepted it in order to do the will of God, that He should die for the sins of the world. This claim is admittedly controversial, but in this place I will not elaborate; I simply state what I know to be absolute truth. As a result, God acted as a human in order to save humans from their chosen path of evil, and knowing this salvation has been made for us is essential to understanding our identity and purpose. For someone living in this world, knowing that God loved us enough to live as one of us and die for what we did in hatred of Him is powerful, radical information. If life is a school, well, Christians are kind of the Student Council. We are charged with reporting who God is, what He wants for us, and why. And like any Student Council, we are a mix of people who do a good job, people who get a big head about the title, and all kinds of others. We are learning just like anyone else, in fact we may not be the best students and we are not really the teachers, unless in some rare case God so uses us, which He does with anyone whose work pleases Him.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Believe it or not, I’m still around. Frankly after the delay since my last post, I’m surprised anyone still stops by, thanks. OK a few personal remarks, to try to explain for the absence and sort out where to go from here. Mom’s breast cancer returned, and it came back mean, which – well, I will leave off the details and just say she went in for surgery last Tuesday, and she’s home now recuperating, which is another way of saying she feels tired and woozy and has noticed that there is absolutely nothing on TV she wants to see. But, all things considered not a bad situation. The family came together for obvious reasons, and everyone has packed up and gone back home except for my brother who lives there anyway.

The other thing which ate up so much time, besides my job and trying to be a good husband and father that is, is that I am finishing up the Spring semester at UHV. I turned in a final case for Managerial Economics, a term paper for Information Systems, a Powerpoint presentation for the IS paper, and I took my Economics final, which was pretty heavy in Quant. material, being a hands-on course in things like determining optimal production and pricing for a company or deriving an appropriate costing solution for product development, real micro-economics stuff. I got lucky though; I was nowhere near done with my Finance term paper this week past because of spending so much time at the hospital, but apparently everyone else had the same problem, so the professor of my Finance class pushed back both the Final exam and the term paper due date to this coming weekend instead. The IS course has a take-home final, which makes it sound easier than it is, but at least I can work at my own pace. That is, of course, providing I keep a diligent pace. This also means that my posting is likely to be sporadic this week, as well, but I will try to improve on last week.

That brings me, roundabout, to today’s topic. For all the hoo-dah about how important it is to elect the right leader who will somehow make all the right moves and make everything as it should be (lemme give you a hint – that’s not going to happen, even if [x] your favorite candidate [x] were to win in every election) Real Life makes you do a lot things yourself. It’s up to you who you choose to be, how you live your life and with whom, what you let bother you and what you make sure you always do, and what you never do. It’s up to you what kind of credibility you establish, what kind of work ethic you use to kick yourself out of bed and into gear every day, what you do about pain and loss, what you do about ego and hypocrisy, all of that. I see the news try to tell folks it’s not their fault they bought a house they knew they couldn’t afford, that if someone else gets rich that must somehow mean you got cheated, that Society – especially Hollywood – knows better than your family about honor and morality. Whether you believe that or not is your lookout, but in the end you make the decisions, and whatever comes of it is your baggage. You won’t get “fair”, that does not exist and it won’t do you any good to whine about it. We live in a world with better civil rights, a cleaner environment, more responsible government, and higher living standards than ever before in History. Someone will always be better off than you, but that does not make them wrong for doing well, and there will always be someone worse off than you, but that is no cause for you to feel guilty about it, unless you personally and deliberately caused their loss. In any case, it’s not a race, we all die sooner or later and if you think it’s about class justice or righting some perceived slight, you’re on your way to filling up your plate with spite and bitterness when you could have joy and hope.

Make good decisions. From where I sit, those are the ones which care about people and don’t aim to bring someone, anyone, down out of envy or pique. Instead, learn, think, then build on those things that you will always be glad you did.

[steps down from soapbox]