Scott commented on my last post, noting that his blog focused on honoring respectable men runs against the prevailing culture:
So far, the response has been positive but with the caveat that speaks to what Damn Crackers is alluding to. What I do is make a post, then I share it on FB and tag the dad. Generally, I get comments from that dads friends (who are usually not my friends. My FB friend list is VERY small, on purpose) and the comments are characterized by “a well deserved tribute” followed by other statements related to how “hes not like all those deadbeats out there.”
It is basically inconceivable to the average person that I am honoring fatherhood–as fatherhood. (Even though it is expressly written in the about page).
It will take a miracle for this to change.
The irony is this reflexive tendency to denigrate men comes not from a sincere fear of a shortage of good men, but from a sense of extreme and everlasting abundance. It wouldn’t take a miracle to change this attitude, it would take an actual fear of a shortage of good men.
What is confusing is the words people are using all denote a fear of a shortage of good men. But if you look at the attitude that accompanies these missives, you will see that the overwhelming sentiment is one of abundance, of being in a position to nitpick, and select the very cream of the crop. Take for example the fathers who responded on Instapundit to Tony Katz’s claim that there is a severe shortage of real men. Commenter President Friedman concurred with Katz’s assessment, based on his own observation of the men in his teenage daughter’s cohort:
Out of the entire group her age, there are a few young men I’d be proud to call son-in-laws: Athletic, smart, industrious, curious about how things work, courteous, a little mischievous, but with a good moral compass. Maybe 5% of the boys in her age group fit this description.
So I don’t find very many young men suitable for my daughter…
…which I supposed puts my sentiments about the current crop of young men in the exact same ballpark as every father-of-a-daughter who ever lived.
Commenter Scottie agreed with this sentiment, replying:
Yep, as a father myself, I share your sentiment. Just be sure to raise a daughter worthy of one of those top five percent, dad. I think that’s the key. I know any man my daughter chooses has run a much harder gauntlet than any I would offer him.
The words are complaining about an acute shortage of suitable husbands for their daughters, but the sentiment is that only the very best of the top 5% can hope to win their daughters’ hands in marriage. Part of the reason we don’t notice this mismatch is we struggle to conceive of a situation where there really is a shortage of good men. In such a scenario, we would be focused on helping young women out compete their peers to be worthy of the very few good men available. We also wouldn’t be focused on the best of the top 5%, worrying if they would be able to win our daughter’s hearts. We would be encouraging our daughters to be realistic about their own MMV positions, and focusing on the true bare bones list of must have qualities in a future son in law. But we know we don’t have to do this, because good men are plentiful. They may represent a smaller percentage of young men today than in the past, but whatever shrinkage this might represent isn’t enough to cause us any true alarm.
We can see the same pattern in Dr. John Piper’s recent post Why Are Women More Eager Missionaries?* Piper explains that missionary work has become a pink ghetto:
…the actual situation among most evangelical faith missions is that between 80–85% of all single missionaries are women. It is a rare thing, like two out of every ten, for a single man to make missions his life’s vocation, which results in the overall statistics being that one-third of those in evangelical world missions are married men, one-third are married women, and 80 percent of the last third are single women. Which means that something just less than two-thirds of the total missionary force are women.
Piper’s main concern with the post however is not that there aren’t enough single men doing missionary work, but that women who choose this field aren’t marrying as they would like. Piper complains that the problem for husband hunting missionary women is really an exacerbated version of the same problem all Christian women have, and that is an overall lack of marriageable Christian men:
Among Christian men who do not get married, say, in their 20s and 30s, they are probably held back from that relationship of marriage by — here are my opinions — a sense of inadequacy that they could be a spiritual leader or a fear that they might be rejected as they pursue a relationship or a lack of purpose in life that would give support and meaning in a marriage relationship. Any of those hindrances to forming a long-term commitment of marriage would also explain why he may have a sense of inadequacy about missions or a fear about missions or a lack of purpose about missions.
In other words, the very things that keep a man single in his late 20s and 30s are probably the same kind of things that would keep him from pursuing a life in missions. On the other hand, single women may not feel any of those hindrances. They would happily marry a godly, mature, purposeful, mission-directed man if he came along. But they can’t make that happen without men doing their part.
But if Piper actually believed this, if he believed that there was a severe shortage of husband material men, he would focus his attention on helping the women reading navigate this incredibly difficult situation. Overseas mission work may feel empowering for young women, but (according to Piper) single women going into the mission field are greatly handicapping their prospects in an already bleak field. His advice to young women would be to choose which was truly more important to them, being a missionary or finding a husband.
Piper even tells a story which would be a perfect way to teach this lesson. He describes a single woman named Gladys Aylward who went to a place where she found no marriageable men, and then blamed single men for not following her and proposing marriage:
“Miss Aylward talked to the Lord about her singleness. She was a no-nonsense woman in very direct and straightforward ways and she asked God to call a man from England, send him straight out to China, straight to where she was, and have him propose to me.” I can’t forget the next line. Elisabeth Elliot said, “With a look of even deeper intensity, she shook her little bony finger in my face and said, ‘Elisabeth, I believe God answers prayer. And he called him.’” And here there was a brief pause of intense whisper. She said, “‘He called him, and he never came.’”
Now, that experience, I would guess, is not unique to Gladys Aylward.
If Piper really believed that Christian husbands were scarce, he would be sharing this anecdote to warn young women of the foolishness of moving away from the pool of men they hope to choose a husband from and then expecting God to send the man of their choosing across the world to propose. If we were in a culture of scarcity of good men, this would be the obvious lesson from this story. But we live in an age with unshakable confidence that good men are not only available all around us, but will always be abundant. If Piper believed that the husband Miss Aylward was praying for was surrounded by real life English women eager to win him as a husband, this story wouldn’t be complaining about why he didn’t drop everything, fly to China, and propose to a woman he had never met. If Piper believed that the man was sought after as a husband in England, he would be pointing out the foolishness of Miss Aylward flying off to China and then wondering why a man she had never met didn’t show up to propose once she decided she wanted to marry.
We can see another, perhaps more subtle example of this sense of abundance in the recent Dennis Prager/Jim Geraghty video The Sexiest Man Alive**. The video is an expression of the theme of Geraghty’s book Heavy Lifting: Grow Up, Get a Job, Start a Family, and Other Manly Advice. The book’s description on Amazon reads:
What has happened to men in America? Once upon a time, men in their twenties looked forward to settling down and having children. Today, most young men seem infected by a widespread Peter Pan syndrome. Unwilling to give up the freedom to sleep late, play video games, dress like a slob, and play the field, today’s men wallow in an extended adolescence, ostensibly unaware that they’re setting themselves up for a depressing, lonely existence.
In this hilarious ode to male adulthood, Jim Geraghty and Cam Edwards—two happily married, 40-year-old men—have a simple message for their younger peers: Grow up!
Again, if you simply read the words, Geraghty is telling us that there is a terrible man shortage. And yet, this isn’t the real message of the book. The message of the book, and of the Prager video, is that young men shouldn’t be discouraged by the fact that women their age aren’t interested in good men and instead are chasing after bad boys. The message is that if the good men reading/watching remain good long enough, eventually women will want to hop off the exciting bad boy carousel and marry boring nice guys like themselves. Keep being good men for long enough, and eventually women will tire of the bad boys and find your nice guy qualities irresistible, even sexy! This is both the premise and the promise of the book, which is why Good Reads titles the book:
Ward Cleaver Is a Stud
Likewise, the description of the Prager video is:
What makes a man sexy? What makes a man…a man? Is there something about being the “bad boy”? Or is it more about predictability and reliability? Jim Geraghty of National Review explains.
The words say there is a terrible shortage of good men, but the message of the book is that good men shouldn’t be discouraged by the fact that women aren’t interested in them.
*HT Wood Chipper