Home > Social Commentary > “It’s Time to Rethink Masculinity”? Why Close Doesn’t Cut It

“It’s Time to Rethink Masculinity”? Why Close Doesn’t Cut It

In the September 27, 2010 edition of Newsweek, Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil advocate a rethinking of masculinity, what they call the “New Macho.” They write:

On the surface, the New Macho is a paradox, a path to masculinity paved with girly jobs and dirty diapers. Dig a little deeper, however, and it begins to make a lot of sense–not just for men but for everyone. If men embraced parental leave, women would be spared the stigma of the “mommy track”–and the professional penalties (like lower pay) that come along with it. If men were involved fathers, more kids might stay in school, steer clear of crime, and avoid poverty as adults. And if the country achieved gender parity in the workplace–an optimal balance of fully employed men and women–the GDP would grow by as much as 9 percent, according to a recent study by the World Economic Forum.

Ultimately, the New Macho boils down to a simple principle: in a changing world, men should do whatever it takes to contribute their fair share at home and at work, and schools, policy-makers, and employers should do whatever they can to help them. After all, what’s more masculine: being a strong, silent, unemployed absentee father, or actually fulfilling your half of the bargain as a breadwinner and a dad?

Newsweek makes some good points in its “Men’s Lib” article, which I quoted above, but its good points are nullified by its erroneous definitions and assumptions. Yes, men should be “involved fathers,” but men’s embrace of parental leave will not remove “the stigma of the ‘mommy track.'” Yes, “men should do whatever it takes to contribute their fair share at home and at work,” but the husband’s “fair share” is not to be the half-breadwinner, contrary to this article’s implication. Newsweek comes close to a biblical definition of husbandry and fatherhood, but close doesn’t cut it.

The Good, …

As mentioned above, Newsweek contributors Romano and Dokoupil do make some good points in their article. They are right to assert that men should be “involved fathers.” They are right that men should do “whatever it takes to contribute their fair share at home and at work.” They are also right that men must not shun jobs that seem “girly” (such as nursing or education) for the sake of their “masculinity.”

Yet for all these good points, Romano and Dokoupil make some very bad–and even some ugly–points in their essay.

… The Bad, and the Ugly

The first bad thing in this Newsweek article that I will mention is the authors’ description of marriage as a “bargain.” Admittedly, I myself did not even catch this disturbing word choice until a friend of mine brought it to my attention. As my friend asked me after reading the pertinent quote from this article, “Since when is marriage a ‘bargain’?” The answer: marriage is not a “bargain.”

Romano and Dokoupil uphold the prevailing secular American opinion of marriage as yet another manifestation of consumerism. Even husbands and wives are consumed (by marriage) before being tossed out like worn-out clothing (by divorce). For many Americans, marriage is a “bargain.” But God does not consider marriage to be a “bargain.” In God’s eyes, marriage is a covenantal relationship, not a business relationship between two bargainers looking for the best deal, which in this case would be the best-possible spouse with the least-possible personal sacrifice. The Bible does not describe marriage as a bargain to be made and recanted at whim; biblically speaking, marriage is a covenental relationship between one man and one woman for the rest of their lifetime.

This “bargain” mindset leads into my next grievance with this article. In its context, the authors refer to marriage as a bargain of which the husband should fulfill “his half of the bargain as a breadwinner and a dad.” Since when is the husband supposed to be half the breadwinner? Again, this is the product of contemporary secular American culture. After the beginnings of the radical liberal feminist revolution in the earlier 20th century, as women entered the full-time workplace, men have now begun to leave the full-time workplace. This is simply not biblical. Consider Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Paul equates a man’s neglect of providing for his family with apostasy! A man’s failure to provide for his family is a denial of the faith and makes him “worse than an unbeliever”! Paul actually derives this rule from a Jewish canon, which John Gill quotes as mandating that 

as a man is bound to provide for his wife, so he is hound to provide for his sons and daughters, the little ones, until they are six years old; and from thenceforward he gives them food till they are grown up, according to the order of the wise men; if he will not, they reprove him, and make him ashamed, and oblige him; yea, if he will not, they publish him in the congregation, and say such an one is cruel, and will not provide for his children; and lo, he is worse than an unclean fowl, which feeds her young.

Men are not half-breadwinners; men should be breadwinners, if not the only breadwinners, then at least primary breadwinners. Please note that I am not saying women should never work outside the home; I am merely affirming once more that married mothers should not work full-time jobs to the neglect of their work in the home as wife and mother. Men should strive to be sole breadwinner, not to the ire of their wives, but rather for their wives’ ultimate benefit so they can focus exclusively on “working at home,” as Paul commands in Titus 3:4-5. Romano and Dokoupil insist in their article that they’re “not advocating a genderless society, a world in which men are ‘just like women,'” but they are advocating an egalitarian society, a world in which women are “just like men.” And, ultimately, they are advocating a “genderles society” by doing so.

Dr. Mohler’s Take

Dr. Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, shares his thoughts on this article at his blog. He writes:

The Newsweek cover story is an undisguised alert that the world is changing. A healthy masculinity should motivate men to find their way in this new world of changed economic realities and work opportunities, and to do this while remaining men. The unanswered question from Newsweek’s analysis is this: Will men change the new work of work, or will the new social realities change men?

Though barely mentioned in the article, the most haunting question is about today’s boys. The magazine’s cover features a shirtless man holding a young boy. It is the boy’s face that looks at the reader. We had better hope that the “new masculinity” of the uncharted future is one that leads that boy and his generation to become authentic and faithful men.

Dr. Mohler is absolutely right: men should be both faithful husbands and faithful fathers. And our society certainly is in trouble if they are not both faithful husbands and faithful fathers. Dr. Mohler is also right to turn the attention to the boy pictured on Newsweek‘s cover and to that boy’s generation. However, here I differ slightly with even Dr. Mohler, a man with whom I normally agree fully.

A Better Way: God’s Way

Dr. Mohler concludes his article with an exhortation: “We had better hope that the ‘new masculinity’ of the uncharted future is one that leads that boy and his generation to become authentic and faithful men.” Dr. Mohler is sadly wrong in this instance. We Christians should not hope that the new masculinity leads the next generation to become “authentic and faithful men” because the new masculinity of Romano and Dokoupil is not biblical masculinity. Rather than hoping in the new masculinity advocated by people who nearly align with the Bible, let us rather advocate biblical masculinity without finding more things in common with Romano and Dokoupil (and others like them) than we really have. May Christian men not only teach this biblical masculinity, but may Christian men moreover model biblical masculinity by providing for their families both physically and spiritually.

Yes, we should hope for the future generations’ faithfulness. But we should not hope for the success of a “new masculinity” that, for all its redeeming qualities, isn’t quite up to par with the Bible’s teachings on masculinity. Let us instead look to God and his word and strive by his grace to be faithful to what his word commands in such passages as Proverbs 22:6, 1 Timothy 5:8, and Ephesians 6:4.

  1. October 21, 2010 at 7:14 pm

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