How Fear of Men Hurts Us All

In my work as a director for a boy’s camp, I was able to see some of the best examples of male leadership, compassion, and care.  I was particularly touched by the multiple times I saw college-aged young men helping to comfort homesick ten-year-olds.  These young leaders were some of the most caring and fun guys I’ve met, busting outside of gender norms to help be role models for the next generation of men. 

Which is why it worries me to see articles like this one in the Wall Street Journal.  To summarize, Lenore Skenazy shares stories from around the world that point to society’s growing distrust of men as caregivers.  While I understand how men are the primary perpetrators in the majority of crimes, I think there are better ways to protect children than constant suspicion and vigilance towards half of the population.

It’s quite concerning to me that we demonize men like this, when there are many examples of positive male role models and caregivers in our society (one only need look at the White House to see that).  While attacks, sexual assaults, and misogyny happen, we need to be aware that there are just as many men out there fighting against these things than who perpetrate these acts.

The trend pointed out by Skenanzy also relates to growing suspicion of other people in general, with folks locking their doors and avoiding neighbors.  We as a society are more distrustful in general.  Ask any typical parent today whether they’d let their kids go to the park down the street by themselves, and I’m guessing they would say no, for fear of their kids going missing from the “strangers” in their neighborhood.

What can we do?  We need to remember that the potential for good and bad can exist in all people, and living in paranoia is an unhealthy practice both for us and for our community.  As a staunch supporter of using a community to produce social change, this idea is difficult for me.  When you and your neighbors (especially the male ones) lack a mutual sense of trust, it will be impossible to create those special communities that take care of each other.  Let’s make sure that any males in our life are treated with cautious respect when it comes to children, and acknowledge that while any given male may be a sexual predator, the vast majority of them are not.  Instead, they are great influences, role models, and caretakers.

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Photo thanks to rossaroni on Flickr Creative Commons.

About Craig VanKempen

Craig VanKempen

Craig VanKempen, LLMSW/MPH, is a sex educator and therapist practicing in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area. His professional interests include HIV, polyamory, compulsive sexual behavior, religion and sexuality, and GLBT issues.

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    This is a great post. I completely agree that while hegemonic masculinity has the potential to socialize men into predatory roles, the vast majority of men are not predators and should not be treated as such… however, some caution is, sadly, necessary in daily life. It’s one of those terrible conundrums that characterizes modern life in the West.

  • fella

    It becomes even more ridiculous to be suspicious of men’s interactions with children when you read the many, many studies that indicate women are the primary perpetrators of child abuse.

  • Laura

    I am lucky to live in a small town, and know most of the men in my neighborhood. I let my daughter play outside, knowing that the people of the neighborhood are all looking out for all the kids. I have to say, I really do feel lucky, but I have made an effort to meet and interact with everyone who lives within half a mile of me.

  • A Ghost

    Actually, the Internet has shown me that a lot and I mean a LOT of women develop severe mental issues as they get further into caregiver age. (Just think of Carrie’s mother in the original Carrie with Sissy Spacek). I read some blogs that 30 / 40 / 50 something gals are writing and I am thinking, “Holy crap! Dementia written right out here in the open.” We just had a case here where a little girl died and when they went to the caregivers house, (a woman) they found like 100 cats who had urinated and deficated all over the house along with rotting food on unwashed dishes. Where I live we have serious child neglecting / child endangering men AND women. When you leave bitter / demented loners alone and no one gets to know them, that is when they do the MOST damage, completely undetected.

    In general, men are currently taking a shit kicking right now by the meerkats for … everything really. Yet, women can release all of these books about how they were strippers, call girls and porn stars and they go on to become America’s little darlings. As Lilly Allen says, “Cause everyone knows that’s how you get famous.” Many actresses end up in bikini’s in FHM and Maxim. Hugh Hefner’s hoe bags end up on Dancing with the Stars. Some gal who has anal sex with political figures on Capitol Hill writes a book about it like she was the good person in all of that. A gal takes a year off from her regular job to be a stripper, writes a book about it which leads to here script for Juno turning into a movie. Kim Kardasian, Paris Hilton, etc. etc. etc have a sex tape released and suddenly then get reality shows. Or course, men are part of the driving force in their sudden popularity. Yet, I also know many women who love buying the books about the call girls and the strippers and who post a Kazillion photos of young, pretty and scantily clad models to their Tumblr posts, thus adding to the success.

    Boat loads of women write their tell all books about how they were addicted to cocaine and sex for years, but now they are writing their book to help YOU because now they are wise. You could stack all of those books clear to the moon. And of course, they get lots of sympathy and letters about how their story has touched the hearts of women everywhere.

    But some important man has an affair because his marriage is dead? He gets raped over the coals by the media and the meerkats. Career ended and he couldn’t even buy a friend if he wanted to.

    Then there are all of the TV shows / movies where tiny, petite women frequently beat the shit out of every man in their path and never can form a decent, wholesome bond with any male.

    Add to this, the plethora of books and magazine articles written by women lately stating that women don’t need men anymore and how men just can’t compete with women because of inferior communications skills, organization skills, inability to network with 150 other people, etc. And articles about ‘The End of Men’ and how men need to become women or we won’t survive in the new and improved America that they now rule. (Yet, straaaaangely, there are tons of recent sex self help books out about a huge lack is sex (except for with their vibrator) is making women very sad.) Go figure.

    The latest of such books is Manning Up: Blah, Blah, Blah. Read reactions to the book here.
    http://drhelen.blogspot.com/2011/02/manning-up-or-wimping-out.html

    And here is a nice, “Women rule, men blow” article about the Internet.
    crunch.com/2011/03/20/why-women-rule-the-internet/

    So, yeah. I’m interested in seeing how this is all going to play out.

  • A Ghost