Several years ago, I wrote an article entitled, “Twenty Things Every Dad Should Teach Their Son”. It was a random list of chivalrous actions that emphasized teaching young man how to respect a young lady. Things like what side of your date to walk on when on a busy street, how to seat a lady at a formal meal, giving up one’s seat to a lady on a crowded bus or in a waiting room, entering a darkened room first, going in front of a lady down stairs and behind her up stairs in case she should stumble and fall, etc… Basic, gentlemanly conduct intend to honor, respect and even protect a member of the fairer gender.
Wow. I was not prepared for the push back on that one! I was called a chauvinist, “old”, out-of-touch, condescending and a variety of other epithets ranging from the unkind to the uncouth. Some of it even came from my conservative and more traditional friends who felt the need to enlighten me on the ways of the world in this enlightened and modern age in which it is considered hateful to even suggest that there are actually just two genders and they are each unique.
Fast forward to the fall of 2017 and the headlines announcing the fall of various predatory, crude, vulgar and exploitive men who used positions of power and dominance to play out their sexual aggression on young women whose only crimes were being attractive females. From Weinstein to Franken to Lauer to Keillor to Rose to Conyers to Smiley to Levine to Spacey to Simmons to Tambor to Moore to Zimmerman to Louis C.K. to Seagal to Hoffman to Piven to Halperin (well, I’m assuming by now you are getting my drift), these guys represent a cultural wave that sees women as prey to be conquered and mauled for their own personal pleasure often while maintaining a public profile of being “progressive” and “enlightened” when it comes to feminism and social justice issues.
How did we get here? Where do we go next? Is chivalry dead? Has it been replaced with the new reality of seeing women, not as something valuable and special, but as objects primarily for sexual pursuit as commonly observed in barnyards, forests and jungles? Could there possibly be a correlation between our men view women and how men treat women?
The sexual and feminist revolutions of the 60’s and 70’s wanted sex without consequences or conditions (including love), a blurring of traditional roles, a realignment of social mores into a less-restrictive mode and the dismantling of societal norms now considered overly patriarchal, dated and even oppressive.
This is not to say that things were “perfect” in the previous generation. Women were often portrayed as empty-headed bimbos while men were self-assured and smooth operators who could bed a women with a firm grab, quick wink and a strong jawline. There was indeed a condescension that created a “Boys Club” atmosphere into which women should not even dare to find themselves with thoughts of entry. Boardrooms were for men, bedrooms and kitchens were for women was a common stereotype.
And as is often the case, when trying to correct an injustice, we often swing to an equally unjust or out-of-balance juxtaposition that unleashes a whole new set of issues. Such is the case of our current generation.
Now, it is common-place to hear females referred to as “bitches” (or less crudely, but equally offensive forms like “be-yatch”.) Men are labeled as “d*cks”. Conversations are had about whether hooking up on apps like Tinder is today’s equivalent of a blind date and if it is appropriate to have sex on a first date. Concepts and values like chastity, waiting until marriage for sex, treating women with deference, men refraining from boorish behavior in the presence of ladies, not shacking up before the wedding and acknowledging that males and females may be equal in terms of worth, but are not equal in terms of things like physical strength and other very human characteristics, impulses and responses. Equality is not necessarily the synonym of sameness.
Scripture refers to the need for men to treasure their wife as the “weaker vessel”. People who haven’t bothered to study the term and context have reached the conclusion that Paul was being a chauvinist and was guilty of putting women down as “less than” their male counterparts. Not so. The term has a connotation of “treasured”, not weaker or of lesser value. We have a cabinet of plastic tumblers, Carowinds cups and brightly-colored princess-adorned sippy cups for the granddaughters. In another room, in a closed cabinet with glass windows that have special lights installed to highlight the contents, you’ll find our crystal goblets, fine glassware and special hand-made pitchers which I’m actually not even allowed to handle without my wife hovering nearby like a nervous nelly. THESE are the REAL “weaker vessels” – capable of shattering into a million shards and tears with one careless motion. Valued. Treasured. Nearly sacred.
Treating each other with respect – as something strong or something weak – is a sign of discernment, maturity and care. Removing chivalry from our culture, making everyone equally common, demeaning respect toward women, encouraging crude behavior in men, dispensing with values and mores thought “ancient” and out of touch have brought us to this point and it is time for a new conversation. One in which we discuss the Universal Truths designed into us by our Creator and the consequences of the tragic Fall of Mankind by he who wanted to mar the creation and to separate us from the Creator. In that conversation, we might move toward a right view of genders, manners, sexuality, authority and decent human behavior. Surely we can all agree that this is a moment in time that is teachable and possibly transformational in terms of how men and women should and can interact.
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