I'm going to risk being potentially controversial here for a few minutes because I saw something last night that really annoyed me. The more I think about it, though, I move from being annoyed to concerned.
Let me start by talking about a friend of mine. He is highly educated and very good at what he does. Very good. He married and he and his wife decided to have a baby. They were ecstatic as the due date drew closer, but my friend realized something. His wife made substantially more in her job than he did in his.
I don't know the discussions and reflection, the soul-searching that went into their decision, but he decided that he didn't want his child being raised by a babysitter (even though his wife's employer provided good quality child care for employees at a good rate--so this wasn't the issue). He just wanted their child to be raised by a parent, especially in those early years.
So, my friend gave up his job he loved and was good at and decided to become a full-time dad. Leaving aside whether you agree with this or not, I think that anyone of good faith ought to be able to acknowledge that my friend made a sacrifice for his family. He unselfishly put his own goals, dreams, and desires on hold in service of what he felt was the greater good of his wife and child. (Incidentally, I know many, many, many men who have put their dreams on hold and demonstrated unselfishness by doing the opposite--by working long hours in difficult jobs so they could support a wife who chose to stay home with a child).
Even though my friend and I are on a different life path, I admire him more than I can say. In my opinion, he is a very good man--this is what good men do. They make sacrifices for their family's well being. He deserves a lot of credit (as do women who make the same choice he's made). He will be a wonderful, wonderful father.
While I wasn't privy to the discussions, I assume that this must have been difficult on many levels. But he did it, ultimately taking responsibility for the life he had helped create. If more parents of both sexes did this, it would be a far better world.
That background may explain why I was so annoyed when I saw a commercial for some stupid new sit-com. From the little I saw it looks like there are three young dads, each of whom has a baby they are caring for. From what I saw they are--wait for it--clueless idiots. I imagine that they have much, much smarter wives, each of whom is a high achiever and endlessly competent (although that's a surmise). These dads are juveniles, infants themselves.
In other words, they are as far from my friend as possible. He is smart, thoughtful, and caring. These look like idiot frat-boy cartoon characters with baby carriers.
It made me mad. It seriously ticked me off. The disparity between the reality and the caricature offended me for my friend's sake.
Now that I'm not so mad, I'm concerned. Our culture is sick. For years it has objectified women--including girls at younger and younger ages. There has been some pushback against that (needs to be more, though). Now, we seem to want to do something similar to men--instead of objectifying, we are going to infantilize them, turn them into idiots.
I would argue that this is as unhealthy for young men and boys to see as the constant and unrealistic commodification of the female body is for young women and girls.
We are allowing our culture to poison our children with ugliness and it really worries me. I see how casually and easily my female students have absorbed all of the cultural messages and now I see young men starting to do the same. This is not a recipe for healthy, happy, well-adjusted humans in the future.
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