Disclaimer: This is not a literal “ode.” My apologies to any disappointed lovers of lyrical, sung poetry. Many thanks to Amanda for letting me Think Out Loud this week.
One of the primary motivations for starting this blog was to encourage young women and publish content that they could identify with. I feel like I’ve failed to reach the opposite sex though. Maybe I just don’t know how, but I think a better explanation would be that healthy living bloggers are predominately female and our audience is predominately female as well. As a result, our posts are often geared toward women. While I am not equipped to start writing for men (I mean…I could try, but it wouldn’t be very good), I can write about the men in my life who cracked the neat stereotypes that have been built up around the male population, one of those stereotypes being that men are idiots and another that men are autocratic, cocky jerks.
The most influential men in my life (my father, two brothers, and two incredible teachers from my middle school and high school years, to name a few) don’t fit either of the aforementioned stereotypes. These men have changed the way I think about the world. They have listened to me, cared about me, respected me.
They weren’t domineering or controlling or stupid. They were compassionate and intelligent and thoughtful. Those qualities are often overlooked. It seems like, in an effort to advance women’s rights, we demonize men, which isn’t fair. I am really trying to avoid sweeping generalizations. Of course not every woman does this, and stereotypes are based on an element of truth. However, we should be cautious about the way we advocate for equality. It shouldn’t be us against them. When we become passionate about injustice, we try to find a common enemy to unite against. I think when we take that approach, it is not only harmful, but it’s ineffective too. That isn’t feminism. That is the antithesis of feminism. If feminism is defined as the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, which it is, then we all should push for that. But it goes against every sense of the word when we elevate one gender and demean the other. Which means that men most definitely should be feminists too. Female and feminist are not mutually exclusive terms.
I’ve thought about this a lot, and I realized these examples of strong men in my life have been one of reasons I’m comfortable with being single. I’ve seen how strong, kind men can add so much goodness to a relationship. I’ve also seen how unloving, unkind, and domineering men can create an abusive and hostile relationship.
I crave that relational integrity, which means that I’m willing to wait for someone who possesses those essential characteristics, characteristics that make a strong man. And I don’t mean physical macho strength, although that’s nice too. It’s a totally unique strength, one that is often interpreted as weakness. Compassion, humility, empathy, and grace are often viewed as “wimpy” characteristics, but men can, and do, most definitely foster these traits. And they are by no means signs of weakness. It takes extraordinary strength to embody them.
So I’m okay with waiting. And while I wait, I know I need to spend time developing my own characteristics too. It’s a give and take kind of thing. I realize that no man will perfectly model those characteristics, just like I’ll never perfectly model the qualities I hope to grow in myself. We have to focus inwardly before we point fingers at the imperfections of others, and I think an inward focus lends itself to that relational integrity and societal equality we strive for.
No questions today, just thoughts.