Good Man, Good Women, Good Human

Dr. Morgan T. Sammons, a psychologist responding to the recent American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines on masculinity wrote, ” Let’s face it. When men are compared with women on a variety of psychological and physical health parameters, men pretty much lose across the board. Women outlive men, indeed, in every age group, death rates for men exceed those for women. In 2018, women in the US lived on average a whopping five years longer than men (81 vs. 76 years). Nor is the difference limited to humans. In practically every mammalian and avian species, females live longer than males. In comparison to women, men engage in more risk-taking behavior, consume more alcohol, are more likely to use more tobacco and other substances, and get diagnosed with ADHD more frequently.  Men also experience more behavioral disorders in childhood and adolescence, where we develop a pattern of externalizing behaviors that not only bring us to the attention of the wrong type of people but also lead us to ignore internal cues that modulate psychological health. As a sex, we are, in a word, a mess.”

Nothing particularly new in what Dr. Sammons wrote just succinctly highlights some of the challenges faced by men today.   An additional challenge for modern masculinity, that Sammons did not mention,  are the issues brought to the forefront by the “Me To” movement and the subsequent confusion for men about their relationships with women both personally and in the work place. 

In a response to the mess painted by Sammons, former President Obama in a recent interview was asked what is being a man today.   His answer started with the premise that a good man is a good human.  He then elaborated offering the following characteristics of a good man or human – responsible, reliable, hard working, kind , respectful, supportive, compassionate. 

Unfortunately Obama’s response does not bring any clarity to the big questions.   Is there a difference between what defines a good man or good woman as compared to being  a good human?    Do good men demonstrate the characteristics of being a good human differently than women but still meet the standard of being a good human?  My take is that men do exhibit and demonstrate the good human characteristics differently than women and this understanding might be helpful for mitigating the mess and confusion that men are facing.

Since defining the characteristics of a good man – good women – good human appear quite subjective I propose taking one trait as an example and ask my readers for their input on what they believe, on average, differentiates a good man from a good woman while both qualify as good humans for a particular characteristic.  I’ll begin with the first trait mentioned by Obama – responsible.   As an illustration, suppose a family is faced with a decision about whether or not to move to a new city so that the husband can start a new job at a substantial pay increase.   However, his wife is deeply concerned about moving the family at a critical time in the schooling and  social life of their two children.   The husband is acting responsibly in attempting to secure the best financial situation for the family’s future while his wife is acting responsibly by protecting the welfare of the children.    Both alternatives demonstrate being a good human but differentiate in priorities based on gender roles.   My conclusion is that in a close call a responsible women might more likely choose the short term  well being of the children while a responsible man might more likely choose the long term financial benefit of moving for a new job. 

What do you think?

Men In The Media

Several recent references to masculinity in the media are worthy of comment.   An article on girl boy friendship stated that, ” Children have an often overlooked conservative streak, one that’s most easily identifiable in their attitudes toward gender. Even as more grown-ups come around to the idea that gender is a spectrum, children continue to draw a bold line between “boy” and “girl” and police these categories with a great fervor.”  The author clearly believes that the gender spectrum perspective should outweigh the conservative streak among children.   However, what about the notion that the children are acting more closely to a degree of biological determinism and that gender fluidity is more of a socially ascribed construct.  How revolutionary, beyond anatomy boys and girls are not the same.   In the same article the author does make a case against same sex schools.   Her point is that boys and girls need to learn how to get along and work together in order to prepare them for the world of work where men and women should be treated equally.   No disagreement but a reminder that we do not have to be gender neutral to be gender equal.

Laura Ingraham on Fox News started an interview with Dr. Ed Adams, a psychologist who was there to explain the new American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines on masculinity, by commenting on his clothing and what message his choice of clothes signified.   Not only was the comment inane but illustrated a double standard.   If a male commentator had started a conversation with a female professional by discussing her outfit the cyber universe would have erupted with a call for the interviewer to be fired for obvious sexism.    Did not hear a peep resulting from Ingraham’s behavior.

I have tried to pay attention to how men are portrayed in television commercials since the vast majority of ads make men out to be simpletons needing help and correction from their female companions.    Some of the latest examples.  In a Turbo Tax ad a man is sitting in an office talking to the tax person and pretending to be on a yacht.  His intention was to show the tax person that he was actually wealthy and this year’s income was not representative of his true financial status.   A female office mate then tells him that the tax person can’t really see his pretend yacht props and that he was being foolish.   The take away, it takes a women to shame a man with his reality.  An H& R commercial showed a man and his wife leaving their tax consultation with the knowledge that they didn’t have to wait for their anticipated tax refund.  The guy joyously says they can use the money to buy a pool table for the family room.   His wife then reminds him that the only room in the house for the table is the dining room and how ridiculous his idea is.  The message is that men make grandiose plans and need a women to ground them in reality.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge at least one advertisement that portrayed men in a positive light.   A commercial for the Amazon Echo Share device showed a young women who just ruined a recipe while preparing a meal for a boyfriend remotely getting advice from her father on what she could prepare quickly to serve her guest.   The interaction between father and daughter was respectful, natural and illustrated a strong positive relationship between a father and adult daughter.  Fathering is a life long journey and Dad’s can continue to be important in the lives of their grown kids. 

The most effective way to push back on the media which tends to put men into either the toxic or inept basket is for those of us who represent the vast majority of men who live a life of positive masculinity to be outspoken about who we are and what we do every day to lower the temperature of the gender war.