Wednesday, April 7, 2010

And Maybe The Issue Isn't Strictly About Women

After our delicious Easter dinner, there was an inordinate amount of dishes.  I blame the sleepy side effect of the turkey's tryptophan for inhibiting our usual sense of cleanliness and forcing us into bed.  Early.  Of course, Ben's all-nighter due to homework and my all-nighter due to Andrew the previous night could have had some compelling force as well.  Descriptions aside, I have been fighting dishes and laundry since Sunday.

As of this early evening, I finally overcame the dish monster.  The laundry demon, though, is putting up quite a battle.  I can't be too sad about this, it allows me watch hours of mindless television.  You know, on my computer.

Unfortunately, what I thought would be mindless has turned out to be a source of constant philosophizing about gender issues;  specifically,  negative gender stereotypes.  Mostly about men.

What surprises me the most about this show is how progressive it purports to be.  Underneath their neat script, they are perpetuating gender stereotypes that I was sure were on their way out.  I am sad to say I thought wrong.

This TV series has the typical cast of characters.  It has the brilliant, thin, and super attractive women, and the intelligent, athletic, and handsome men. This show, like most shows, does an excellent job of portraying the women as very successful.  Kudos to them.  But, also like most shows, they portray the men as horribly crude and sexually impetuous.

I find it disturbing that in one episode they proved that women are equally knowledgeable when it comes to traditional male interests, like motorcycle racing, yet managed to include the long standing stereotype of males being incapable of rational thought when they are sexually aroused.   My husband refers to this as the "dumb men controlled by their testicles" stereotype.

In light of how much the image of women has changed over the years, going from "being in the kitchen" to running for president, I am appalled that the image of men as purely sexual beings has remained almost unchanged.

I am wondering,  is this stereotype any different from the women of the fifties who were metaphorically tied to their kitchens because of society's definition of a good woman?

Sure you might be able to name a few men who allow their sexuality to control much of their impulsive behavior, but you could also name off an equal number of  women.

I am most disheartened by the image this sends to the younger generation:  men allow their genitalia to overwhelm any sagacious thought.  Men are capable of being rational beings, beings that do not allow their appetites to control their minds.  It is a myth that is wrongly advanced by the media and carried around in our minds--one that I find awfully degrading to men.

In my own home, I am trying to combat these myths.  I hope to raise my boys to respect all people.  I hope to raise them to be just like their father.


  1. Andrew is so lucky to have such awesome role models. I have found the older I get, the less able I am to enjoy those mindless shows for exactly this reason.

  2. After writing this, I had a mini-heart attack. I was so afraid that I would offend like EVERY person that I sent a rushed e-mail to my husband asking for his advice. Then, much to my relief, I saw your comment. Thank you so much!!

  3. The character you describe reminds me of the "cool kid" at my high school, the one most people couldn't get enough of, the one who flirted with all the girls, basked in his own masculinity, strutted his stuff whenever and however he could (and the one I always rolled my eyes at and thought of as arrogant and immature). Hollywood has certainly glommed onto that stereotype and run with it. It's a shame they (and viewers?) still think it's "cool."

  4. Well said, Amber. You would think that we have come further than this.

  5. This is so true. I had an enlightening conversation with a girlfriend once where she pointed out that just like Satan wants all men to see women the wrong way, he also wants all women to see men the wrong way (like "walking genitals")-- either way, he prevents eternal, happy marriages and families. That clicked for me because I realized I've fallen into the "all men are beasts" trap (excluding my husband of course) that was being pumped into me through the media and news. Now I make a point of seeking out good and honorable men all around to restore my hope in humanity and to destroy the fear I might feel for my sons.

  6. I do believe that those shows are made up of broad stereotypes and some exaggerations. Many of the writers are men so why are they writing the characters like that? Do men find that the characters ring true or not?

    I do believe that you can raise a high-quality son who looks at women as human beings and searches, hopefully, for his perfect match, not another conquest.

  7. You are right that there are good men out there. Alas, the media focuses the most attention on the ones who misbehave.

    Latest example: Tikki Barber, former NFL player and now announcer, is leaving his wife (who is 8 months pregnant with his twins) for a much younger woman...a woman he began an affair with when his wife was 3 months pregnant. AND HE HAS THE GALL TO BELIEVE THIS IS OKAY?

    I'm so glad you are going to raise your boys to be better men.

  8. I totally agree with this. I don't find it offensive at all.

  9. I know!! What is he thinking? So sad.

  10. Respect - you nailed it right there. We need to raise our children, sons and daughters, to respect everyone. It sounds so simple, but is so difficult - especially with the pop culture messages surrounding us.

    Great post, Amber. Thanks for this food for thought.

  11. Um, with three sons under my roof you know it's super-important for me to focus on RESPECTING WOMEN as they grow older. Respecting a woman's body, and respecting their own body.

    Sex drive is undeniable, of course. It is there. It is strong. Maybe stronger in men than in women? But if I have to learn how to control my criticisms, then they have to learn how to control their penises. Okay, that was a joke. But really, I get it. I get your thinking and your logic and your message.

    Thanks. From the mother of three boys. :)

  12. That is the problem with Hollywood, they have a very narrow field of focus, especially when it comes to humor. They seem to think that people only laugh at crudeness or extreme examples of life. I would not lose faith in society based on anything coming out of Hollywood.

    I should also add that you want your boys to grow up to be like their Father and their GRANDFATHER :)

  13. Bravo, Amber. I have actually been working on a post on this subject for sometime now. I find it incredibly offensive--equally offensive as portraying women as objects. Both mock the inherent divinity in our Creator's two greatest designs.

    My kids were watching re-runs of the Cosby Show the other night. It made me sad to see how far we've regressed socially. That show had two smart, good parents working together. Now every man in TV and movies is either stupid, sex-crazed, or both. No more wise, loving fathers...sad, sad, sad.

  14. What a fabulous topic, Amber. I do agree that we don't seem to be getting as much movement in terms of male stereotypes in some of our media. On the other hand, a lot of young men are being raised by single mothers. It isn't ideal, but it is a reality that shows them up close and personal that the mix of responsibilities to run a household has nothing to do with gender.

    I love being female and feminine, but my son can cook dinner and do the dishes after. He may not like it (the dishes), but he does it when I ask. Like most teens (and most parents), no one likes clean up.

    I think you do have a good one in Ben. And there are many out there. But just as women are having difficulty finding good men (for them), men are having difficulty finding good women (for them). It's a strange and stressful time in our culture. But then, perhaps every era is strange and stressful, and always evolutionary, if not revolutionary.

    Terrific post.

  15. Very well said, Amber. I get so annoyed with "well, he was just thinking with his other brain..." comments when it comes to men and some of their decisions. How about holding people, men and women, accountable for their actions? (that might have been spurred by the Tikki Barber thing... oh my goodness!!!)

  16. I am so glad you brought this up! I was actually thinking about this same thing the other day - - how often men are looked at as purely sexual. And it annoys me. (Maybe it was all the talk about family and the home and motherhood and parenthood this last weekend? AMAZING TALKS.) But I hope, when I am a mother, I will be able to raise my boys the same way you wish to raise yours. Thanks, Amber.

  17. I like to think I'm a critical thinker and aware of the bias in media, but I'm not sure I've ever considered the male stereotypes. I always notice the female ones, but you're so right: the way they portray men is just as wrong and damaging. It's something I wouldn't want my sons to internalize any more than I want my daughter learning how to be a woman from TV.

  18. For years now I have avoided most family centered sitcoms because it irritates me how they portray the men in them. They are stupid, sex crazed, bumblers. And the women feel free to roll their eyes or complain. I don't want my boys or girls growing up thinking it is okay to put down their spouses that way, so I just stopped watching (luckily the Office isn't a family sitcom, it's still okay to poke fun at bosses...)


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