Loving Men, Respecting Women: An Analysis of Modern Sexual Politics

September 30, 2008
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(Today I’m lending my blog to another writer. Tim Goldich has written a book called Loving Men, Respecting Women: The Future of Gender Politics, Love and Respect in the Past, Love and Respect in the Present, and Love and Respect in the Future.
I feel Tim has a unique perspective on the present dichotomies plaguing men and women, and offers a fresh perspective on how to remedy the persuasive distrust between the sexes. Because of this, I will be promoting his new book, which will be available soon. I am offering my readers a sneak-preview into Tim’s perspective by posting the forward of Loving Men, Respecting Women. Also, Tim has offered to be a contributing writer to my blog in the near future.
Hope you enjoy it.)

I have a truth to share with you, a truth that is at once radical and moderate. It is intuitively known but ideologically obscured. It is the one gender truth to be emphasized above all others. It is the one truth that promises to deescalate the Battle of the Sexes replacing resentment, blaming and victimhood with maturity, accountability and generosity. It is a truth just at the edge of awareness.
And it all begins with love and respect.

As is so commonly the case, I grew up respecting and obeying my Dad more than my Mom while appreciating and loving my Mom more than my Dad. When Mom cooked and served our meals her giving was plain to see and much appreciated. In serving our favorites Mom received our compliments and our gratitude. We came to the table hungry! And she gave us sustenance we could not live without. She gave us food, a fundamental archetype of life that stands at the very heart of family as well as religious, holiday and other social gatherings.
When Dad did his 50 hours a week on the corporate treadmill he did his giving miles away where none of us could see or appreciate it. I directly experienced what Mom was giving, but it often seemed as though Dad gave nothing. Growing up loving our mothers and resenting our fathers is more than just a matter of cultural cliché. It is the murky origin of a profound gender bias that remains with us all our lives.
Have you ever considered a true and deep empathy toward fathers? What is at risk in directing culture-wide caring, concern and compassion toward men in general and fathers in particular? And why will so many of us react with derision at the very idea?
Did you know that on Mother’s day more phone calls are made than on any other day of the year, more than on Christmas day and far more than on Father’s day. Father’s day, in contrast, is the day on which we make the largest number of collect calls.1 If we love Mom and Dad equally then why do we buy and send half again as many mother’s day cards as father’s day cards?2
It would seem that most of us grow up respecting our fathers, but not necessarily loving (empathizing with) our fathers. Likewise, it would seem that most of us grow up loving our mothers, but not necessarily respecting our mothers. At least in part, the disparity in love and respect derive from the roles we play. Clearly the husband role of protector/provider lends itself to being respected while the wife role of lover/nurturer better lends itself to being loved. Of course, it doesn’t always work this way; but it works this way more often than not.
In serving our meals we could say that Mom was being “servile,” or we could say that cooking and serving our meals was one of the ways in which Mom placed herself at the center of our affections. In “bringing home the bacon” we could say that Dad was being “dominant,” or we could say that working to earn his family’s love was one of the ways in which Dad was separated from his family’s love. In this way, we will find that every gender reality has a dual nature.
At home, Mom was as loving, giving, nurturing and omnipresent as Dad was demanding, rule enforcing, cranky and absent. My emotional dependence on Mom was obvious and absolute. It was she who washed us, fed us, tended to our bruises, taught us right from wrong and cared for our most basic needs. Within the mother/child glow we experienced a world of limitless unconditional love protecting us from an outside world cold and uncaring. It was Dad’s interaction with the outside world that insulated us from that world. Yes, we were financially dependent upon Dad, but what does that mean to a child? In our infancy did we experience Dad as he who suffered the slings and arrows making it possible for mother and child to live within a nexus of love and safety? Or, did we experience Dad as he who competed for and often usurped Mom’s love?

Every hour Dad devoted to earning his family’s love left him with one fewer hour in which to be with his family’s love. His work persona, so functional at work, was dysfunctional at home. “I can’t understand it,” he said to me once, “I communicate so well with my young employees; why can’t I communicate with you?” It’s easy to get disgusted with Dad. “I’m your son, not your employee,” I thought to myself. But how was Dad supposed to know about parenting?
Our dads didn’t grow up playing with dolls, playing house and babysitting. The male culture our dads grew up in did nothing to prepare them for the role of parenting. I was born before 1970, which means that I was born at a time when fathers were not even allowed in the delivery room. Think about it. Fathers were shut out right from the start. The anesthesiologist could be there. The family doctor could be there. A man with some practical value could be there. But, apparently, husbands/fathers, having no practical value in the delivery room, were considered to have no value at all. Only wives/mothers were encouraged to think of their nurturing and empathy as valuable gifts to be shared.
Fathers have many such stories to tell. Consider this one: Father listens to the sounds of his child playing outside. Suddenly something happens and the child is hurt. Father hears the sounds of his child in pain running for the front door. His heart goes out to his child. But the child runs right past his father’s open arms and into the arms of his mother instead. The child seeks comfort from the parent he loves most. In keeping with the male code, father does his best to keep his pain invisible, yet he is devastated nonetheless. It hurts to be loved second best. Is it any wonder if, from that day on, the father begins to hide behind his newspaper? Is it any wonder that Dad begins spending more time at work where he feels functional and less time at home where he feels dysfunctional?
Perhaps if we men better understood our father’s inner experience, we’d have more empathy toward our fathers. And if we can have more empathy toward our fathers, then perhaps we can have more empathy toward ourselves.
Dad did give something. Among other things, he gave 40 years of long days that he counted down till retirement from a job that he hated. He could have taken a more enjoyable job that paid less; but that would not have been in keeping with his role as provider. Though he ended up spending more time at work than at home, there on his desk amid the folders and the memos were pictures of his family. There under a sheet of glass covering his desk was a poem I had written in the 4th grade.
What he did, he did for us. Looking back on it, we might have thanked him more and blamed him less for not “being there for us.” He was over there at work for us. Looking back on it, I suppose it was we who were not there for him, to lend an ear to his fears, to love and support him.

A day of reckoning may arrive when a man comes to see his life in pursuit of respect as having been “all for nothing.” “Yes,” he says to himself, “I was respected. I may have been feared, obeyed, admired, lauded and rewarded with authority, status and titles, but I was never loved. Out of the blue, I awoke one day to be served divorce papers. I still love my wife; but she does not love me. And my children to the extent they even know me don’t love me either. With a restraining order effortlessly achieved I was effectively shut out of all their lives. I did it all for them, yet I lost them all. In desperation I turned to my brethren for solace and support, but following some perfunctory remarks (‘Keep your chin up,’ ‘keep a stiff upper lip,’ ‘Hang in there’), there was nothing. Men don’t love men any more than women do. Father’s Days come and go without a card or a call. I was never loved. It was all for nothing.”
Similarly, a day may come when a woman comes to see her life in pursuit of love as having been “all for nothing.” “Yes,” she says to herself, “I was loved. I may have been adored, protected, pursued, financially supported, coddled, catered to, and showered with gifts, mother’s day cards and other affections; but even my women friends never really took me seriously. I took the central place in the emotional lives of our children, but I awoke one day to find my children grown and gone away. I never achieved anything intellectually or creatively. I accomplished nothing with my life. I was never respected. It was all for nothing.”
As is true of men and women in general, we tend to respect fathers more than love them and we tend love mothers more than respect them. The love/respect dynamic is at the heart of gender polarity and in our tendency to respect women less than men and love men less than women, it is also the primary basis of legitimate gender complaint. The challenge for society is to care about men’s issues even when society doesn’t care about the men themselves. Both love and respect are abundantly rewarding in some ways, yet each is lacking certain essentials. For their lives to be fulfilling women need to be both loved and respected, and for their lives to be fulfilling men need to be both respected and loved.

The gender system can be improved. The sexes can negotiate these improvements under a unified banner without resorting to resentment or victimhood. One truth above all others leads the sexes down a path away from destructive battle and toward healthy negotiation, mutual understanding and fairness. So what is this wondrous truth that can do such wondrous things? Simply this:
It All Balances Out.

1[http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE7DE1031F933A15755C0A961948260]
2[http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1630551,00.html]

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