There’s a commercial airing as I write these lines, that says it all: Mom and Dad racing each other through the city streets in order to be the first to get a red box of McDonald goodies to their waiting son.  Completely out of breath, the father gets there first, only to see the boy look beyond his father to his mother, and say, “Thanks, Mom.”

For a long time now—generations in fact—, the media has orchestrated what seems like a calculated devaluation of fathers, of men.  It was obvious to me even during the thirty years of research that I poured into my book on the impact of television on the American psyche: Remote Controlled (Review and Herald Publishing, 1993); it is blatantly obvious now.  It is a moot question whether or not we men deserve it—it is a fact of life that men are consistently portrayed as being clueless about life; and women as those brave souls who sacrificially (and sarcastically) spend their lives mopping up behind their bull elephants. Watch virtually any sitcom, any movie, any commercial, and the trashing of men is obvious.

The price?  Last week’s blog addressed it.   The price is that men have come to believe the continual devaluing of their species—even to buy into it.  Quite likely, a man may even have written the McDonald commercial.  Just watch them: men are portrayed in the million plus commercials each child is exposed to during his/her growing up years, as bumbling klutzes, incompetent, inane, with the constancy of a rabbit; interested only in sloshing beer, couch potatoing in front of TVs during 24/8 sports (vicariously, of course), and so on.  Is it any wonder that so many boys are growing up effeminate, unsure of what it is to be a man, a father?

And because of our skyrocketing divorce rate, the norm today is no longer the nuclear family, but single-parent families.  Because the media devalues marriage itself, over one-third of all children are now being born out of wedlock.  Not surprisingly, given that it’s almost impossible for one parent to be equally effective in both mother and father roles, to say nothing about trying to do all this while also keeping a roof over their heads, working around the clock at several different jobs, shuttling the kids from one activity to another, at a near frantic pace—the children get shortchanged on all levels.

I spoke at a grandparenting conference not long ago, and was stunned to discover that today one third of all children in America are being raised by their grandparents!  The same percentage as out-of-wedlock children (with tragically obvious implications).  I interact with such grandparents a lot, and they are overwhelmed at having to be the primary care givers twice in life, when they no longer have the energy or emotional reserves for such a demanding role.

So, it’s no wonder boys are falling between the cracks.  For, in single-parent homes (the vast majority of the primary care givers being women), there is no dad to play ball with when the boy comes home from school; no dad there to mentor him, to teach him tough love, to build up his self-worth, to enforce behavior limits, to help steer him away from substance abuse, to show him what it means to be a father, a husband (99% of how we treat our spouses as adults is predicated on how our parents treated each other)—and, not coincidentally, to provide enough family income so the boy can feel a college education is part of his birthright.

I am not discounting the valiant efforts so many fathers who share joint custody of their sons make to compensate for their absence in the boy’s primary home, but it is not the same—it is not the same.

The strength of a nation is not money, prestige, possessions, or military power—it is the home.  Around the world, emerging powers such as India and China are flexing their muscles, and investing billions in higher education so that their children may grow up to help dethrone America as the world’s superpower.  Already, in areas such as engineering (traditionally a male preserve), the balance of power is shifting east away from America.  More bad news for the untold thousands of American men who have doomed themselves to minimum wage jobs by their failure to value higher education.

We cannot retain our world-wide leadership without once again valuing our boys as much as we value our girls.

But I’ve only addressed the tip of the iceberg so far.  Stay tuned for next week.

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Joe, you’ve hit it precisely! We’ve gone from “Father Knows Best” to “Father Knows Nothin'” in a generation. How did this happen? Let me take a risk and say I believe the Feminist Movement has had a finger (or two) on the scale.

    I am hardly one to say women shouldn’t have the same rights, privileges, pay, respect, etc., as men. However, that’s not the underlying goal of many feminist activists whom I know. For many years I worked in violence prevention education. I was frequently stunned by the rhetoric I that buzzed around the office. EXAMPLE: My (female) boss once told me point blank: “”All men are potential rapists. If you’re not out there bashing men every day, you’re not doing your job!” My response: “Then I’m never going to do this job to your satisfaction, because I don’t believe that, and I’m never going to do that.”

    Her goal appeared to be quite different than mine. I thought our goal was to educate young women and young men about violence and, contrariwise, healthy relationships. How can we influence hearts and minds by bashing half of the audience? While this is the proverbial “n of 1,” it’s merely one example among many at various women’s agencies of which I am aware.

    What surprises me even more is the degree to which men have been influenced by this nonsense. Another case of “political correctness” run amok…to the detriment of society and all of us, I believe.

  2. Dear Rosanne,

    Appreciate so much your thoughtful comments. I too have worked with colleagues who were mirror images of the one you referred to. I remember well one assembly program where one of them so viciously damned the entire male race that I felt nauseous. I can just imagine the effect on both the young men and the young women in the audience that day. The hate evidenced in the speaker was so all-consuming we all felt drenched with it. It was one of those rare days when I even questioned my calling as a teacher. Not surprisingly a number of the young men admitted in my presence that they were terrified of this species of woman. So you are right: that sort of thing HAS had a signifiicant impact on the male psyche and contributed no little to their emasculation. Sad!

    I know it wasn’t easy for you to write those words either.


  3. I am one of the “single mothers” you speak of in your column. Although it may have not been intentional, I felt attacted by your words. I believe in freedom of speach and am sure you feel completely validated in your beliefs. I am curious, however, to know the percentage of mothers who choose to become single mothers versus those of us who were handed that deck of cards, or make the decision for the safety of their children. We often are left with our children by fathers who take the easy road and pay child support, if we are lucky, but don’t have the time to spend with their children. We honestly do our best, as single mothers, to raise our sons to be honest hard working respectable adults. And believe it or not, sometimes, as in my case, he has a better chance at being a successful, positive part of society without his father being present.

  4. Dear Ms. St. John,

    I was moved by your response to the blog on boys. You are right, of course, in your contention that mothers who have been deserted by the fathers of their children are caught in a Catch 22 dilemma, one that may not even have been of their making. I have known and empathized with many just like you: conscientious mothers who do the very best job raising their children humanly possible with the hand they were dealt. My heart has always gone out to them. My anger has to do with fathers who help launch a child into the world, then turn their backs to the awesome life-long responsibilities having a child entails.

    Having said that, however, the issue of whether the child would have been better or worse off with the father remains–it would naturally depend on how effective the father might have been had he shouldered such a responsibility.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond.


    DR. Joe

  5. Thank you all for your comments. One thing the world is forgetting is it takes 2 to make a mistake. We always talk about men, what of the mothers?

  6. As for mothers, my current blog series is directly tied to both mother and father roles. And I shall have a lot more to say about the tremendous impact mothers have on their children.

    Bless them!

  7. While the Judeo-Christian culture has a litany of problems, the foundation for that culture is dates back to Eden. And when a people drift away from the the core values that made them the greatest civilization the world has ever seen, chaos is bound to happen.

    When the foundation becomes relative, when the society is driven by a sliding scale of options, hang on to your hat: it’s going to be very windy.

  8. Good to hear from you.

    Your points are well taken. Especially do I concur with your thoughts re the difference between holding a real book in your hands and the stretch represented by the cyberspace wannabe clone.

    Thanks so much for weighing in.

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