Why Does Nancy Pearcey Focus on The Attack on Masculinity?
Hostility against men has become so acceptable in mainstream publications that the Washington Post had an article called ‘Why can’t we hate men?’ And the Huffington Post had an article saying, ‘My favorite hashtag is kill all men.’ You can buy t-shirts that say, ‘So many men, so little ammunition.’ And then books come out with titles like ‘I hate men.’ ‘No good men.’ ‘Are men necessary?’ And I thought, wait a minute, where did this come from? A couple of months ago, the director of the movie Avatar said, ‘Testosterone is a toxin.’
Another male author writes that talking about healthy masculinity is like talking about healthy cancer. The trigger that made me say, ‘We have to address this,’ was the incredible hostility against men. There was a survey done in 2016 in which 46% of American men said, ‘Society seems to punish men these days just for being men.’ These days, this discrimination against men has become worse than the discrimination against women. You can’t address something effectively if you don’t look at where it came from and how it developed. So that was one of the major goals of the book.
Where Did Hostility Against Men Start?
One of the surprising things that I found in writing this book is that if we want to deal with it effectively, we have to go much further back. Families worked together in the colonial age before the industrial revolution. The father worked with his children all day on the family business.
Early America was primarily Christian, so a Biblical view of masculinity existed. The dominant social expectation of the time focused more on men’s caretaking role. Their authority in the family meant they were responsible for the common good. That authority didn’t mean you could do whatever you wanted. Rather, it meant you had responsibility for the common good of the marriage, family, and church. All of this changed when the Industrial Revolution began. That’s when the rhetoric changed. As men no longer worked alongside people they loved, they were now competing with other men.
I quote a letter to the editor in a newspaper from the nineteenth century saying, ‘In the pursuit of economic success, American men are losing their souls.’ Elizabeth Katie Stanton, one of the first feminists, gave a speech titled ‘The Destructive Male.’ In it, she said, ‘The male element is a destructive force; stern, selfish, aggrandizing, loving war, violence, conquest, acquisition, and breeding discord, disorder, disease, and death. What America needs is a new evangel of womanhood. To exalt beauty, virtue, morality, true religion, to lift man to the higher realms of thought and action.’ She preached a gospel of feminism. This double standard meant that women were expected to hold men in line. But on the other hand, men were expected to be immoral or lack integrity. My book goes back there and traces the history so that we can understand it better.
Nancy Pearcey Explains The Healthiest Families
‘Conservative protestant gender ideology can lead to abuse both physical and emotional. It is no secret that abuse is prevalent in conservative churches that embrace headship theory.’ The problem with these accusations is that they ignored the data from the social sciences. Sociologists have examined these accusations and asked, ‘What was the evidence?’ So they went back and did the studies.
And now it’s very clear that husbands and fathers who attend church regularly are the most loving husbands and engaged fathers. Unlike the average American family, evangelical men are the most loving to their wives. These wives report feeling the most loved and appreciated by their husbands. They’re the most engaged with their children in terms of shared activities like sports and church youth group and discipline like setting screen time and bedtime. They have the lowest level of divorce of any group in America. They have the lowest rates of domestic violence of any major group in America. Even Christians don’t know this.
The Happiest Marriages
Brad Wilcox wrote an article in The New York Times, saying that the happiest of all wives in America are religious conservatives. 73% of wives who hold conservative gender values and attend religious services regularly with their husbands have high-quality marriages. Then he says, ‘You academics need to cast aside your prejudices against evangelicals, and religious conservatives in general and realize that evangelical, protestant men have the best marriages, are the most loving husbands and the most engaged fathers.’
The reason that the statistics show something else is that we hear that Christians divorce at the same rate as others. Those researchers returned to the data and separated truly committed authentic Christian men who regularly attended from nominal Christian men. These men might check the Baptist box, but whose Christianity is mostly cultural, they don’t attend church regularly. The differences between these two groups are shocking. Nominal Christian men have the worst marriages and report the lowest level of happiness. They’re the least engaged with their children and have the highest divorce rate and domestic violence, even above secular men.
And this is why the statistics become skewed. You get a misleading statistic if you take truly committed Christian men and put them alongside nominal Christian men who are worse than secular men. That’s another reason most of us don’t realize that truly committed Christian men are doing far better than any other group in America.
Evangelical Protestantism Helps Women
In my book, I focus mostly on America because otherwise, it would be too big. But I have a few examples from other countries. In Colombia, there was an anthropologist/Marxist. She expected that Protestantism would lead to patriarchal males dominating their families. She shockingly discovered the opposite. What she found is that when a man converts and becomes an evangelical protestant, he stops drinking, he stops gambling, and he stops visiting prostitutes. His money goes to his family. His family experiences a rise in the standard of living. This anthropologist concludes that if there is a women’s movement that helps women, it’s evangelical Protestantism.
Then there was a large study done by an anthropologist at the University of London. She included not only Latin America but Africa and Asia. She found the evangelical gender paradox creates a partnership between women and the church where they hold men accountable for the typical male vices, like drinking and adultery and visiting prostitutes, and so on. In her words, ‘The church helps men put the needs of the household above their own pleasure.’ She also says if there’s a women’s movement, it’s not the Western AIDS organizations or Western feminism. The so-called backward, unsophisticated evangelicalism has done more for women than anything else.
And the last one was a bestselling book, Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof. He went around the world to look at the status of women in other countries and concluded that Christians were helping women more than anyone else. He said, ‘The evangelical church applies community pressure to bring wayward husbands back in line. It discourages alcoholism and adultery practices that have caused tremendous hardship to women, especially in places like Africa.’
The Uniting Idea of Good Men
There was a sociologist, he’s not a Christian, but he’s very well known in his field, so he gets invited to speak worldwide. When he does, he asks young men two questions. First, he says, ‘What does it mean to be a good man? You’re at a funeral, and in the eulogy, somebody says he was a good man.’ People had no problem answering that. They said things like honor, integrity, sacrifice, looking out for the little guy, providing, protecting, and being generous.
And he would ask where they learned that. They would say, ‘It’s just in the air we breathe.’ In the West, they would say, ‘It’s a Judeo-Christian heritage.’ Then he would follow up with, ‘What if I say to you, man up; Be a real man.’ And the young men would say that’s completely different. That means be tough and strong, never show weakness, win at all costs, be competitive, get rich, and get laid.
That’s the competing grips to masculinity in the culture today. God made man in His image, and they know what it means to be a good man. The first ever cross-cultural study done on the concepts of masculinity by an anthropologist found that no matter how different they were in understanding what it means to be a man, all cultures expect men to perform what he calls the three p’s: provide, protect, and procreate. This means contributing to society for the next generation.
Men and Women Are Different
Biologically men are bigger, stronger, faster, and have more fast twitch muscles (which means they can react more quickly). They have 75% greater muscle mass and 90% greater strength. It’s natural that all cultures expect men to be the providers, protectors, and procreators. Can you imagine if a woman was pregnant and nursing and went off to war? Of course, she’s not going to go off to war. We also have to ensure we’re always talking about women regarding their strengths.
It’s important to say, ‘Women’s superpower is having babies.’ It takes incredible strength of character to raise an infant. You have to be on call 24 hours/day. You have to be willing to drop whatever you’re doing at 3 in the morning when the baby wakes up hungry. Whenever the baby’s in distress, you don’t scold them, and you don’t reason with them; you meet their needs, no matter what you want to be doing. It takes incredible character strength and sensitivity to nonverbal cues and threats in their environment.
What Nancy Pearcey Sees as The Long Term Solution
The most important long-term solution to toxic behavior in men is close, loving bonds between fathers and sons. And right now, 40% of American children grow up without contact with their natural father. A psychiatrist, who I quote in the book, says, ‘We’re not going to get a better group of men until we get a better group of fathers who are willing to stick it out and be there for their sons.’ So the long-term solution is we need to look at these fatherless kids. Everyone knows that single-parent families are not as effective. They have children, especially boys, who are more likely to drop out of school, be addicted to drugs and alcohol, get pregnant outside of marriage, and end up behind bars. 90% of violent offenders are from fatherless homes.
We need to focus on getting fathers more involved with their children. I would suggest that churches should have a ministry for fatherless boys. Father substitutes like a youth pastor, a youth group leader, a coach, and a teacher can have an incredible impact on a young boy. I think churches should rethink and reprioritize some of their ministries and make this one higher on their list. How do we reach out to fatherless boys?
Nancy Pearcey Provides Hope For Healthy Masculinity
In my book, The Toxic War on Masculinity, I look at the changing views of fathers because today, the media mocks fathers. No wonder fatherhood has lost status, and fewer men want to become fathers. That, too, started with the Industrial Revolution. Fathers were no longer in the home, teaching their children daily what it meant to be a man and what it meant to acquire adult skills. Now men were in the workplace, and the kids didn’t see them all day. In the nineteenth century, people protested that fathers were no longer involved with the kids.
The leading Psychologist of the nineteenth century said, ‘Never before in American history have boys been so wild because fathers were not there to discipline them. Never before have they been so half orphaned and left up to female guidance in family, school, and church.’ In their day, they were acutely aware of what they’d lost by fathers being out of the home all day. People began to say that fathers were irrelevant and incompetent because they were no longer in touch with what was happening in the home.
I have a chapter on practical ways that men can tweak the workplace. We can’t undo the Industrial Revolution, but can we tweak it so that fathers have more time at home? The slight silver lining in the pandemic was that 66% of fathers liked being home more. A recent headline in the New York Times said, ‘During the pandemic, fathers got closer to their children, and they don’t want to lose that.’ On surveys, men report just as much work-family conflict as women do. I think the solution for both is to bring more work home.
About Nancy Pearcey
Nancy Pearcey is the author of the upcoming book The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes. Her most recently published book is Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. Her earlier books include The Soul of Science, Saving Leonardo, Finding Truth, and two ECPA Gold Medallion Award Winners: How Now Shall We Live (coauthored with Harold Fickett and Chuck Colson) and Total Truth.
Her books have been translated into 19 languages. She is professor and scholar in residence at Houston Christian University. A former agnostic, Pearcey has spoken at universities such as Princeton, Stanford, USC, and Dartmouth. She has been quoted in The New Yorker and Newsweek, highlighted as one of the five top women apologists by Christianity Today, and hailed in The Economist as “America’s preeminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual.”
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