Man Up, Newsweek!

September 24th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  5 Comments

newsweekcoverIf you must know, I get most of my news and analysis from the Southern Baptist Convention, and this item is no different: Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, posted on his website a lengthy discussion of Newsweek’s omnibus “Whither Men?” cover package from this week.

Before I get to Dr. Mohler’s arguments, let me just say that I remain unconvinced of the journalistic value of the sprawling, multipaneled newsweekly cover package. I participated in the planning and writing of a number of these at Time, and it often seemed like we were struggling to have the packages succeed despite their format. Andrew Romano is a good writer and a good reporter, but his contribution this week, co-written with Tony Dokoupil, isn’t enhanced by sharing space in the same package with pieces about manly trends in advertising.

Maybe the newsweeklies just lost their authority to make big, sweeping arguments about issues like the New Masculinity. Maybe they never had the authority. Why is it so much more satisfying to read one deep, narrow take on a topic–like Nathan Hegedus’s description of his experience with the Swedish paternity state at–than Newsweek’s half-newsy trendbomb approach?

Hegedus’s piece, by the way, is quoted liberally in the Newsweek article, and I again get the feeling that the newsweeklies’ most potent argument for themselves is that they’ve read it all so that you don’t have to, that you can read all the currently swirling arguments in one place, served up in breezy, engaging newsweekly prose. But if that’s the case, what makes them better than The Week? Yes, newsweeklies have an important commitment to actual reporting that The Week does not, but do readers care anymore? Are newsweeklies even living up to that reporting commitment?

Alrighty then! You are likely here because you’ve used your ovaries for their godly purpose or have at some point seeded someone else’s ovaries and therefore care about parenting. So I’ll wrap up the media criticism and get to Dr. Mohler’s take on the new masculinity:

Of course, the call for men to be more engaged with their children is never wrong. Indeed, in this case, the political Left is picking up on themes long driven by the Right, and by conservative Christians in particular. The difference is that the Christian concern for asserting a man’s responsibility and fulfillment in fatherhood is not about social egalitarianism. Rather, it is driven by a biblical conception of true manhood as defined through the roles of husband and father.

Still, as much as we might complain about Newsweek’s rather predictable tip of the hat to the welfare state and the end of many gender distinctions, there is a sense in which the writers come very close to getting a big point just right.

They explain:

The truth is, it’s not how men style themselves that will make them whole again—it’s what they do with their days. The riggers, welders, and boilermakers of generations past weren’t wearing overalls to feel like men, as Susan Faludi, the author of books on both sexes, has pointed out. Instead, “their sense of their own manhood flowed out of their utility in a society, not the other way around,” she writes. “Conceiving of masculinity as something to be”—a part to play—“turns manliness into [something] ornamental, and about as ‘masculine’ as fake eyelashes are inherently ‘feminine.’?

We may be surprised to find ourselves in agreement with Susan Faludi here, but she is absolutely right. Our fathers and grandfathers did not put on overalls to play dress up. They were headed for work. Faludi is profoundly right when she writes that “their sense of their own manhood flowed out of their utility in a society, not the other way around.”

A true masculinity is grounded in a man’s determination to fulfill his manhood in being a good husband, father, citizen, worker, leader, and friend—one who makes a difference, fulfills a role for others, and devotes his life to these tasks. Most of our fathers went to work early and toiled all day because they knew it was their duty to put bread on the table, a roof over our heads, and a future in front of us. They made their way to ball games and school events dead tired, went home and took care of things, and then got up and did it all over again the next day.

Today’s men are likely to be more nurturing, but they are also statistically less faithful. They may be changing more diapers, but they are also more likely to change spouses. Men must be encouraged and expected to be both faithful fathers and faithful husbands. Otherwise, any society is in big trouble.

If the Southern Baptist Convention’s main thought-cop is surprised to be in agreement with Susan Faludi, then consider how surprised I am to be in agreement (partially) with him. Of course, his hyperpolitical (and un-Christian) swipes at a social safety net–what he flintily calls the welfare state–are bogus. But he has a powerful truth hidden in here somewhere: the right and the left both like good fathers.

Now, one side will support these good fathers (the, ahem, Swedish side), while the other will simply pray for them. But still, it’s good to know that what we do as Involved Dads is lauded across the spectrum. And also, not incidentally, by our children. Bully for us!


  1. Guy Fredrick says:

    September 24th, 2010at 12:07 pm(#)

    Your remark about the “social safety net” misses the main point about true biblical manhood. True men take care of their families and have no need (save for true emergencies) for the social safety nets now seen as inherent entitlements in American society.

    We, as a society, have come to lean on the government’s ability to subsidize lifestyle choices that are unsustainable in most of the world. The Bible says it plainly (Apostle Paul speaking), “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living”(2 Thess 3:10-12).

    Real men wear work clothes because that is part of what is required to do real work to feed and care for real families. That those same working men can also come home and lovingly care for their wives (first) and children, is but a sign of maturity and confidence in their manhood.

  2. Nathan says:

    September 24th, 2010at 1:32 pm(#)

    @Guy: Lemme just break off a little Matthew 25:41-45 for you:

    “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’

    “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’

    “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

    Now, I know you are going to tell yourself that this scripture doesn’t apply because it doesn’t say to clothe and feed welfare queens. But you are mistaken about what a social safety net actually does and whom it serves. The term “working poor”–the fastest-growing segment of society–should give you a clue. People work, Guy, and still struggle to raise their families and still need a hand. You turn your back on them, you are turning your back on the Big Guy. Don’t let the hellfire hit you on the way down.

  3. stormsweeper says:

    September 24th, 2010at 1:48 pm(#)

    We no longer pay those overall clad guys enough to support their families by themselves, if they even have overall-worthy jobs at all. Usually their wives have to go do some other job so their family has the privilege to barely scrape by until something really bad happens.

  4. Natha says:

    October 1st, 2010at 5:51 am(#)

    It seems so self-serving that I mostly comment only on posts that involve me, but … Guy, who are you to tell me that taking care of my child is not “work,” that it does not carry the social value to make it worth society investment, that having healthier, more balanced kids will not pay off for Swedish society in the long run, and ignore the fact that I’m now back at work happily paying ridiculous taxes so that guy down the street (or that poor immigrant in the isolated outer suburbs) can take time off with their kid?


  5. Nathan says:

    October 1st, 2010at 11:32 am(#)

    Always good to hear from you Nathan. It’s why we drop your name in posts. And you’re right here. Long-term benefits are just not readily understood by everyone, I guess. They’d rather take comfort in old stereotypes.

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