Sunday, July 31, 2011

A dozen questions for men

So, Tom Matlack at the Good Men Project has a set of questions for men. These questions seem to be like a good chance to get men talking. I'm in. But I don't want to leave such a long winded comment over there (and they STILL have their pages set to auto-refresh, which will erase your comment right in the middle of typing it) so I'll put it over here.

1. Are men categorically better parents, at least in some areas? Do you think gay (male) parents have something to teach mothers?

Why: I can understand where this question comes from. For a long time people simply did not want to believe that men could be good parents. Well now that times are changing and some people are recognizing that men can be good parents I think what may be happening is that people are going into overdrive to get rid of the old stereotypes.

My Take: However despite what I just said I think that there might be some areas in which men may be better at parenting than mothers. Unfortunately I don't think its as simple as a sweeping declaration of, "Dads are better at ______ then moms". I think the same about gay dads in comparison to moms. There might be some individual things but I don't think there's anything solid enough to make broad conclusions.

2. What does “telling the truth” mean to you, and how important is it to your sense of what it means to be a “good” man?

Why: Truth is important. Its an indicator of what kind of person you are. There's to the proverb "A man is only as good as his word." If a man's word is not true then how can you trust the rest of him?

My Take: I think that a man really is as only good as his word. I don't care if you wear a different $500 everday or have less that $500 invest in your whole wardrobe. If I can't trust your word then I can't trust you. I'll have more respect for a person that admits to f'ing up then a person that lies to cover their butt.

3. It used to be that manhood was passed down generation to generation by “role models.” Does that still exist in some different form or was it always a crock?

Why: Whether you believe in the concept of being a man or not the fact of the matter is when you are expected to be something one of the first things you'll look for is someone who is already living that expectation and from them learn how to get there yourself.

My Take: When it comes to being a man the path is not an easy one (which is one of the main reasons why this blog is here). There are many bumps in the road and many side paths that can lead to all sorts of outcomes, good, bad or otherwise. As men we owe it to each other to guide and help our fellow man. There is no one right way to be a man. But that doesn't mean that we can't lend the occasioal helping hand whether that hand be in the form of giving a place to talk one's pain or the opportunity to sort out confusion.

I think manhood, just like any other part of humanity, is passed down by the generations and as I said above I think it still does happen. If the influence is good chances are things will turn out well, if the influence is bad chances are things will turn out bad, if there is no influence then who knows what will happen.

4. Are all men on a spectrum from homosexual to bisexual to heterosexual?

Why: One's sexuality is a core part of their being. Men are no different.

My Take: I don't think all men are on that spectrum but I think the vast majority of us are. Depending on where a man falls on tha spectrum he faces a different set of challenges. It really shouldn't be that way but for now it is. From being told you're a predator to being told you can't raise childrent, to being told you have to be one or the other. Such presumptions and challenges must be dealt with if men are to be able to be the the orientation of their choice and by extension be the men they want to be.

5. Why are there so many fatherless children in this country? Is it poverty, divorce laws, race, or guys just being irresponsible?

Why: In order to keep the next generation everyone has to do their part. In order to get those who are not doing their part it must be revealed why they are not doing their par.

My Take: Its a mixture of all four causes mentioned in the queation and probably more. A great number of those fatherless children are black. A lot of those children live in poverty. A lot of those children are left fatherless after divorce. A lot still are without fathers because said fathers chose to turn their back on the responsibilities. Black men must be allowed and motivated to be in their children's lives. These children need to be lifted from poverty. Those divorces need to stop ending with unnecessary outcomes where children are left without their fathers.

6. Should we have a draft in the United States for all men (and women) of fighting age?

Why: Its clear that defending one's home and land is important. What's not so clear is how to decide who should do the defending or how to go about deciding who should.

My Take: Personally I don't like that fact that based on one's gender you may or may not have to register for Selective Services under pain of fine, prison, denial of college application, and being ineligable for citizenship. Also I do not like the fact that one's socio-economic status can be used as a get out of duty free card. Depsite that I would prefer it if there no draft (and by extension no need for a draft) at all. However this is not a perfect world. If the draft were to manage to encompass all people who are of fighting age (or in some other way capable of contributing to the war effort such as people who may not be physically fit for combat but say have medical skills, something that pretty much goes hand in hand with war) I would support it. I think if more people saw the real hell of war, especially those that decide to go to war but then don't have to actually carry it out, there would not be as much enthusiasm for it.

7. What should be done about our separate and unequal private/public education system?

Why: The gap between public and privte is horrible. And when the education system fails the nation fails.

Part of Tom's Take that I want to address:
Through national service, those graduating from the top schools should be required to give back by working in the most troubled schools for a period of time.
I think it will take something more than that. In North Carolina we have a type of scholarship called Teaching Fellows. Basically a student gets their school paid for in exchange for agreeing to being assigned to a school to teach at for x number of years after graduation (not too different from folks who go military to pay for college). Sounds like a good idea but what so often happens is that when such teachers are assigned to those schools they are sent to places that need the extra help and they will stay there just long enough to fill out their obligation and then move on to districts for more money.

My Take: Truth be told I really don't have a solution for the education system. But its a mess and it needs to be addressed.

8. Are women just as horny as guys but afraid to admit it?

Why: Just like many things sex is something that people want. As a gateway to a more intimate connection or just to satisfy an itch real quick. Its all well and good until you get down to a sexual encounter with more than one person. Things can get tricky.

My Take: To answer that question I don't know about the just as horny but I'm betting women are horny and don't want to admit it for some reason (and no its not always a fear of slut shaming). Perhaps its a fear in losing the advantage in a power struggle that ultimately hurts everyone.

9. Do you buy redemption as a key component of goodness? Are there some men who are beyond redemption? Do you believe in the death penalty as a result? Would you hire a convicted murderer? Is there any part of prison that is rehabilitative, or is the point to punish bad guys?

Why: Short of the Powers That Be coming in and giving the final answer we as humans will never be able to conclusively answer whether or not someone's goodness (or lack of goodness) is set by nature, acculumated through nuture, a combination of both, or something else.

My Take: On an individual basis it may be a key component but otherwise I don't think so. Before you can really question if someone is beyond redemption we have to think about if redemption is even attainable (if you look at a lot of fiction, fiction but still written by real people, redemption is an ongoing process that never ends). But beyond I still think that men that are truly beyond redemption are extremely rare cases (nowhere near the numbers that go into prison and never see the light as a free man again). The prison industry as we currently know it does not exist for rehabilitation or redemption or even justice in some cases. Its exists to punish people for crimes, make people feel good for seeing someone punished (think legalized revenge), all the while turning a nice profit.

10. Is racism alive and well in the United States?

Why: We as a human race have to be able to get along or we are all doomed. Its a shame that things as arbitrary as skin color, accent, and geographic location are still used as obstacles from unity.

My Take: As I said skin color is still used as an obstacle to block us from unity. And as such men of different colors have different lives and experiences. It would be nice to say that such differences to matter but that would be foolhardy and dismissive. I would very much like to see men united but it will never happen as long people think that the white man and black man are living the same lives as the Indian man and Mexican man and so forth. One thing that must happen is that these various baggages will have to come to the table eventually. Or unity will remain a pipe dream.

11. How important an issue is the rape and sexual abuse of adult men by women?

Why: As men we are often told that crimes against us don't matter because we are men. There are few crimes where this shines true more than rape. And especially if it happens at the hands of a woman.

My Take: Frankly I think its a serious issue that really needs to be discussed more often that it is. But before than happens the folks that think male against female rape should get time equal to female against male rape (but in their defense I almost can't blame them considering how often male victims of female rapists are outright ignored because they male victims of female rapists), the folks that think one is worse than the other, those that think male victims of female rapists somehow owe it to women to "suck it up" so that more effort can go to female victims of male rapists, those that think male victims of female rapists need to "wait their turn", and anyone that thinks a gender check (of the victim or rapist) needs to be run before deciding how serious it is all need to STFU.

One of the reasons male victims are female rapists have such a hard time being heard is because of the belief that women don't do that kind of stuff, the belief that due to wanting sex all the time guys are always consenting therefore we can't be raped, the belief that if a guy says he was raped by a woman he must just be covering up the fact that he raped her (falling back on the belief that all men are rapists or rapists in waiting), and other nonsense like that. We need to get rid of that stuff so that male victims of female victims can get the help that any rape victim regardless of status, wealth, nationality, religion, gender, or whatever other criteria you can think of deserves.

You can't have gender equality while at the same time thinking that some people are more deserving of help than other because they are "wrong" gender.
(Side note: I can't help but notice how Tom just sidesteps this with a "yeah that's important but..." and goes right into "what we really need to work on is men raping women". I guess some people just can't help but making everything about women being the victims.)

12. Does love require monogamy? Is marriage a life-long commitment, or is it better thought of as an arrangement for a period of time?

Why: Its odd that most people will acknowledge that everyone needs love in their own way but are then so hell bent on trying to stick to such a narrow definition of love that a lot of people are left in the cold.

My Take: Personally I think people should be free to define love on their own terms. However one thing to bear in mind is that once your definition of love involves other people you must be just as mindful of their feelings on the issue as you are of yours. While I have no experience of my own to draw from on this from my observations of others it seems to me that the problem isn't the definition of love and what it requires. No to me it appears that the issue is compatibility. The compatibility of the definition of love between the folks involved. If that doesn't line up its doomed to unhappiness if not doomed to outright failure (and personally think unhappiness would be worse).