Saturday, March 5, 2011

A rowing team I could see myself joining

For the most part the idea of helping men and boys is either seen as taboo or presumed to be sexism against women and girls (sometimes even by the very people who claim to want to help all people). Well simply put there are areas in life in which boys/men really could use some help and it looks like some folks are really trying to do something about it (via Pelle Billing)

The proposal is for a White House Council on Boys and Men. It lays out five areas in which boys/men are in need of help:

1. The Education of our Sons
2. The Emotional Health of our Sons
3. Children without Dads; Dads without Children
4. The Crisis of Boys' and Men's Physical Health
5. The Future of Work, and of Boys and Men at Work

1. In nearly every metric and in nearly every demographic when it comes to education women/girls are outperforming boys/men. That in and of itself my not be a problem (but bear in mind how people flipped out when it was the other way around, and how they are basically twiddling their thumbs now actin like things are how they are supposed to be now) but if you look at the numbers the stats in and of themselves are serious issue. While I like some of their recommendations (like the "Improved Communication Skills) more than others (I'm a bit iffy on "Single Sex Education") I think this is a good start on addressing the issue with boys/men when it comes to education.

2. When it comes to emotional health we as boys/men just don't have it going on so well (take a look at the "The Invisible Stepping-stones to our Sons' Suicides" part). I think a big part of that is the burden of playing the male role. We're supposed to want sex all the time, out emotional range is supposed to be happy, horny, and angry, and we're supposed to internalize the rest. Problem is these things lead to a are factors that can and often do lead to a critical mass. And for you folks that want to wait until Little Johnny grows up and become abusive with his wife and THEN start pointing fingers you might want to check out the "Violence and Criminality among Young Men" section. Johnny didn't grow up all well adjusted and then suddenly wake up one morning and decided to become abusive.

3. "...I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence—both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand
that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill."
President Obama, Fathers' Day, 2009

Wouldn't be nice to think that if Obama were so concerned about men being responsible parents he would not simply dismiss all the dads out there that fight to be in their kids lives that are pushed away by moms and the sexist courts that are more than willing to be their tools in doing so for the right price? (Go look up Fathers and Families for plenty of stories like that.) Our dear president is right in saying that the government can't fill the void left by a missing dad (no matter why he's not there). So why isn't he doing anything about the current system that is so hell bent on not only ignoring that void but in many cases actively creating that void (usually for profit)? People are correct when pointing out the unfair burden that's dropped on moms when it comes to parenting. Well the answer is often right there in front of us in the form of dads that want to be there for their kids. As women are making their way into the external workplace men should be making their way into the internal workplace for they go hand in hand quite nicely. The some people complain about men not being around for parenting is like complaining about being unemployed while turning down job offers left and right.

But of course if it weren't so profitable to demonize men when it comes to parenting then maybe Obama would have oh I don't know actually acknowledge the dads that are treated unfairly rather then sweep them under the rug of nonexistence.

4. Look at the chart at the start of the fourth section "The Crisis of Boys and Men's Physical Health". To think that men die earlier in 9 out of the 10 leading causes of death in America is terrible. However consider this part:
Men's earlier death is not inevitable biologically. In 1920,
American boys and men lived just one year less than women; today, American boys and men live five fewer years. In just ninety years,
the male-female life expectancy gap has grown 400%.
Yet when it comes to health not many people want to talk about men's health. With disparities like that I think its high time someone did. Oh and in case you want to try to turn this into a race issue rather than gender:
Health of Minority Men Not a Minor Problem
The longevity gap is even more severe for minority men. For African-American boys born in 2006, life expectancy at birth is 11 years shorter than for white females. But even the average white man has shorter life expectancy than the average black woman.
Females (White) 80.6
Females (Black) 76.5
Males (White) 75.7
Males (Black) 69.
Much like education even taking race into account men/boys are still at the bottom of the heap. So while it is great to see efforts that focus on race there is no need to pretend that addressing the racial aspect will actually prevent the need to address the gender aspect.

5. Employment. Even though times are changing and more and more people are realizing that a man is more then his job that does not change the fact that men are still expected to work. Now I'm not saying that men shouldn't be expected to work. I'm saying that there are people who still look at men to be "the provider" or the external worker.
Theoretically, some would say it should make no difference whether a woman or man earns the family's money. In reality, though, few women choose husbands reading Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus in the unemployment line. A man with little earning
potential is less likely to find a wife, more likely to find himself divorced, and, once divorced, more likely to feel disconnected from his children. And as mentioned above, unemployed men commit suicide at twice the rate of employed men. An unemployed man is everyone's loss.
As we know the majority of jobs that were lost in the latest economic downturn were held by men. And a lot of those jobs are gone for good. Many of those jobs were in construction and manufacturing, fields that usually vulnerable to economic downtimes. One possible solution to this is to break the notion that such jobs are what define a man. Its perfectly fine for a guy to go outside the realm of "manly" work. Society just needs to accept that.

There's a lot going on in this proposal that I like (and a few things that I don't but nothing is perfect) but I especially like these three paragraphs near the end.
Prior to the women’s movement, girls learned to row the family
boat only from the right side (raise children); boys, only from the left
(raise money). The women’s movement helped girls become women who could row from both sides; but without a parallel force for boys, boys became men who had still learned to row only from the left--to only raise money. The problem? If our daughters try to exercise their
newfound ability to row from the left, and our sons also row only from the left, the boat goes in circles.

A family boat that goes only in circles is more likely to be sunk by the rocks of recessions. In the past, a man was a family's breadwinner
and he might be with one company for life. In the future, advanced technologies make economic change the only constant, increasing the need for a family boat with flexibility--with our sons eventually able to raise children as comfortably as our daughters now raise money.

A White House Council on Boys to Men can provide leadership to help our sons adapt to the next generation's needs for more flexible
family participation and more flexible work participation. To introduce both our sons and daughters to the trade-offs of both a traditional partnership (of each sex specializing in rowing on one side of the boat); and the trade-offs of a relationship in which both sexes feel comfortable rowing on either side of the boat.