A good man is hard to find?
But is the American male broken or bent? Damaged or spent? Are social and professional expectations really so outrageous that Anthony Weiner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Edwards, and so many others are representative – or only representative of a particular segment?
Public Figures, Exposed
A writer I read from time to time (and frequently disagree with), Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, explores the broken American male in light of these public figures. His most recent Huffington Post piece is an interesting read, and generates any number of questions.
Men today are broken. We have created a hyper-competitive society where the worth of a man is judged by one thing and one thing only: his professional success, measured in how much money he has, how much power he wields, and how famous he’s become.
Rabbi Boteach refers to his 2008 book, The Broken American Male, calling for:
conversation about the sky-high levels of male violence, depression, porn-addiction, and infidelity
I haven’t read this book (yet); I’m wondering what insights it might provide, and the conclusions it will draw from statistics on divorce, infidelity, and presumably the Rabbi’s considerable experience in counseling couples. But looking at what might cause the American male to break – or bend – toward the activities Rabbi Boteach cites, I also contemplate the American woman and how she fits into the picture.
Fear, Finances, Women in the Workforce
None of these behaviors occurs in a vacuum, and nor does the Rabbi imply that they do. But how tightly intertwined are they with unrealistic expectations of marriage, onerous economic burdens, (female) investment in education and career, lack of social safety net like universal health care, employment environment issues (inflexibility, insufficient time off), and more? Each of these contributing in varying ways to our sexual and social disarray?
There are those who simplistically blame women in the workforce (and more globally, feminism); I draw my own conclusions concerning the precarious situation of jobs (with benefits), and how all these stresses play into the behaviors of “the average Joe,” but equally, the average Josephine. I also wonder about socioeconomic and demographic factors (this article seems inclined toward the more privileged end of the White spectrum). And I persist in my worry about our pursuit of “presence” and the pop culture position that personal happiness trumps all else.
So are we broken? Bent? Spent?
Frankly, I’m not sure the American male is any more broken than the American female. But I strongly believe that all these factors drive men and women both to a breaking point. Over and over again, with no end in sight.
Dating Demographics, Good Men
I’ve written about some of my dating (mis)adventures, as a divorced woman over 40 and now (dare I admit) over 50. I’ve met some men who are a real piece of work. Okay, many men who fall into that category, whose approach to women as commodity (and their startling sense of entitlement) certainly proved to be a shock to my system. In my dating forays I recognize these individuals more quickly now, shrug and move on. (Commodity conclusions of my own, or honed antennae?)
I’ve also encountered some wonderful men. Good men. And most of these good men, at one time or another, have engaged in some of the activities that the Rabbi refers to. We are none of us without our peccadilloes, and I myself make no claims to being an angel.
Sex, More Sex, and More
Men and women care about sex. We’re drawn to sex. We’re wired – some more than others – as sexual creatures. Some women ask why men cheat to which some reply, flippantly, because they can. But does this mean they’re broken?
And if women cheat, are they broken as well?
This is hardly a carefully constructed argument about the state of, well… affairs, when it comes to men and women in relationship, in their own situations of emotional dissatisfaction, in extreme scenarios of abuse of power and position, or random acts that we deem sexually inappropriate.
But in this quick read that I recommend, and my own morning musing here, I daresay the topic is worthy of continued discussion or, as the Rabbi would say – a real conversation.
- Do these public figures represent the worst of our best?
- As Rabbi Boteach suggests, is our competitive “success” culture to blame?
- Are both men and women too exhausted to exercise what some might consider higher moral character?
- Are these behaviors nothing new – simply magnified by our digital devices that rob us of our privacy – and at times, our common sense?