Man Shaming

Tom Brady is being dad-shamed after jumping  off a cliff with his 6-year-old daughter.  He posted the vacation video of holding his daughter’s hand and together jumping off a cliff into a water fall pool.  Both emerged safely.   Apparently a number of folks, I suspect mostly women, berated Brady on social media for his risking his daughter’s well being and for, as they saw it, pulling her off the cliff.   Frankly watching the video I had the opposite opinion.   To me he was reflecting the best of fatherhood.   His daughter showed no signs of fear or distress before jumping.   She was holding her father’s hand and he was reassuring and appeared to be telling her that they would jump together after counting to three.   At three he jumped slightly ahead of her so it gave the appearance that he yanked her off the cliff – which wasn’t the case.   Once in the water she swam into his arms with a broad smile on her face.

What fathers bring to parenting is showing their children that they can take reasonable risks.   This is especially important in fathering girls who are more likely by cultural norms and biology to be risk aversive.  Dads tend to engage in more horse play with their children than Moms.   This fatherly roughhousing reinforces physical confidence and the ability to take prudent risks.   Moms bring their no less important and unique energy to parenting that also is essential for a child’s healthy development.   What a revolutionary concept –  children thrive when they have a father and mother contributing to the parenting journey. 

On another note.  The Berkley City Council adopted an ordinance to replace gendered language in the city’s municipal code with neutral terms.  A perfect example of confusing gender equality with gender neutrality.  Does anyone really believe that calling a manhole a “maintenance hole” will further the cause for gender equality?  The rest of the  list of gender neutral preferences is almost as silly.   Any title that has the word man in it is due for change.  Another example from the Council ordinance.  Does the word manpower  really mean just men?  According  to the dictionary man power is defined as ” power available from or supplied by the physical effort of human beings 2. usually manpower the total supply of persons available and fitted for service.”  

If we are truly striving for gender equality let’s not waste time on semantics.   All it does is provide material for stand up comics and diverts attention from what is needed to achieve gender equality and mutual respect for our gender differences.    

Got My Attention

It has been some time since voices in the media triggered my masculinity radar.    My attention, like most folks, has been focused on the political chaos generated by the Muller Report, the Democratic primary debates, tariffs, Iran, North Korea, etc.  However, a discussion on NPR featuring E. Jean Carroll the advice columnist for Elle Magazine and  author of “What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal,” and Chavisa Woodsauthor of “100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism got my attention.

I’ll start with the ending comment on the show.  I believe it was Carroll, when asked how we can move forward to gender neutrality glibly stated that “we should move all men to Montana and re-educate them.”  Her clear meaning is that every American adult male is sexist, treats women as inferiors and at any time can turn into a sexual predator.  Obviously there are some who do belong in this basket of deplorable men.  However,  her hyperbole only further accentuates the cultural divide between the sexes and does only harm to a meaningful dialogue on gender neutrality.

Chavisa, in her book, chronicles all of the occasions where she was sexually harassed.  In the interview she mentioned the numerous times that while out and about in her urban neighborhood she was subject to verbal abuse by men.   She attributes this harassment to patriarchy and the cultural bias among men against women.  However, during the interview certain lifestyle descriptors were revealed which I believe distorts her data.  She describes herself as a lesbian with a purple mohawk  hair do who often walks hand in hand with another female.    Let me be clear.  I am not excusing bad behavior because Chavisa is a lesbian but I want to emphasize that what she experienced was not necessarily a product of male sexism.   More likely triggered by homophobia and folks who have a hard time tolerating differences.  In addition, an inappropriate comment by a man does not automatically mean that man is a sexual predator.   He very well might be a good father, husband and generally respectful to women he works with.   I agree that men should cease and desist from what they believe are merely amusing or teasing  unsolicited comments.   Men who do this are just playing into the hands of those seeking evidence to condemn masculinity. 

Nuance is not a dirty word.   It is important to distinguish between true sexual predators and misogynists  who are more driven by power needs than sexual needs and men trying to adjust to contemporary cultural norms about interacting with women.