Field of Science

Why growing up as an American female has left me appreciating men

I happen to disagree.
Yesterday, I posted a litany of experiences that had become so commonplace that it occurred to me only recently how much they'd shaped my attitude of wariness about men. They're not horrifically dire, but they were all invasive and damaging, and based on the response, they are not unusual experiences for women. Today, in an act of counterbalance, I've got a different litany, one that illustrates how good some men I've known--and not known--have been. These experiences and their abundance reinforce the overwhelmingly positive attitude I have about men in spite of a persistent and likely necessary wariness. Yes, it's complicated.

I wonder what the following men have in common that classifies them away from intrusive, obnoxious, assaultive jerks. Is it an imperviousness to cultural pressures? To rom-coms? A native understanding that people are people who deserve respect and equal treatment? A native kindness? I don't know. But they are a large group, far outweighing the number of assholes I've encountered in my life. These men are nice guys, and in my opinion, they are not last-place finishers. As an American female, I am grateful to these boys and men who've behaved in ways that negate some of the boorishness out there. In the end, there are kind people and there are mean people, male, female, hetero, GLBTQ, asexual, tall, short, rich, poor. Here are some examples of good men:

  • My brother, stepping in when I very much needed him on many an occasion, always supportive.
  • My brother-in-law, a kind and ethical man who takes children fishing even when he's bone tired, who stepped in last summer when my my oldest and autistic son needed a defense and I wasn't around, and who has helped us move thousands of miles in the years we've known him.
  • The men who let me live in their dorm room and on their dorm floor in a men's dorm my sophomore year in college when I had nowhere else to live. This motley crew of future musicians, engineers, artists, and doctors not only kept my presence on the QT but also brought me food from the dorm cafeteria as I had no money to eat. 
  • My many platonic male roommates with whom I've had some of the best times of my life, watching football and baseball, seeing bands, playing football, staying up until dawn on the porch, and generally making the most out of our college salad days.
  • The two young men who gave me a ride home one night from a club when I was in college, barely 18 years old. I did not know them. They did not know me. Yes, it was stupid, but they turned out to be kind and didn't lay a hand on me. They just took me home.
  • My high-school chemistry, German, and physics teacher--all the same fellow--who saw some kind of something in me worth nurturing and showed that he had high expectations of me.
  • My postdoctoral advisor, who couldn't have been smarter, more accommodating, more insightful about my talents and lack of talent in specific things, and who nurtured the former.
  • One of my current and my longest-term clients, invariably kind, understanding, smart, and generous.
  • Any man who has ever quietly opened a door for me as I wrangled one or two small children, groceries, and strollers. 
  • Any man who drove by me without commentary as I walked alone, who danced elsewhere as I danced alone, who left me alone in coffee shops as I sat alone, who didn't bother me on the bus or train as I rode alone.
  • Any man in the trifecta of social media in which I participate who has interacted with me for my thoughts, ideas, and opinions without bringing sexual politics or sexism into play.
  • My three sons, kind, smart, funny people who are works in progress and with whom I gladly spend most of my waking hours because I like them so much.
  • The Viking (a.k.a., my spouse), who exemplifies something archaic in a sense, the true meaning of "gentleman," someone who has never lied to me, who supports me unequivocally in what I do, whose gentleness and kindness leave everyone liking and respecting him, whose competence and intelligence command my own respect, who has my implicit trust, who never uses hyperbole or takes advantage of anyone, who is strong and doesn't use that as a power against others. This very private person is my rock, my partner, my mental twin, my closest friend and companion. And he is a man. A mighty good man.

1 comment:

  1. I liked this, and I appreciated the previous piece too. Oftentimes I read things like these on the web, and quietly nod my head, or think about it for a few days (like that previous post), but I don't see fit to say anything. Whenever I wander down the comments, I find myself thinking "Why do all the assholes have all this free time? Can't someone give them some work to keep them busy?"
    And I see good people such as yourself and your supportive commenters going to battle, and it looks just exhausting, like many conversations I have with my 4-year-old daughter.
    Anyways, in general, my default policy is not to comment with a (what I previously thought to be useless) head nodding, so I am sure most of the times I actually comment on something it is negative (oh no... I have seen the assholes... and they are me).
    So anyways, I'm a big fan of your work, that post linked your comment policy is epic. I want to try to work that into a class somehow.


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