The Shriver Report – Where Do Men Learn to be Good Men in the Absence of Male Role Models?
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Where Do Men Learn to be Good Men in the Absence of Male Role Models?

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In the last few decades there has been a great emergence of female leaders. From Oprah, to Ellen, to Marissa Mayer, to Mother Theresa and Gloria Steinem, there are a number of notable names to which we turn for feminine inspiration. Courageous women have risen to notoriety not only as a result of their great accomplishments, but also as inherent symbols of what it means to be a good member of humanity.

Where are their male counterparts?

Men have long sourced politicians, professional athletes, celebrities and world leaders as role models. The difference is these men are idolized for their career achievements and not necessarily the quality of their character.

Years ago, it was quite possible to fantasize about the moral character behind those making a difference in the world. However, we also lacked the tools to investigate and discover the true character of titular individuals.

In today’s day and age it has become not only common, but celebrated, to post life’s moments and thoughts on various websites and mobile platforms. In turn it has also become much harder for people to get away with personal shortcomings previously kept in private.

Many “great men,” formerly considered ambassadors of the masculine gender, have fallen from moral grace via a single text message or email. Men can no longer blindly trust that legends gracing television screens and magazine covers are any better than the absent, abusive, or cheating fathers they grew up with.

What message does it send to the male youth of our nation when prolific men lie, cheat on their spouses, embezzle money and are forgiven not only by their spouses, but, by in large, the nation?

What message does it send that, often times, pop stars guilty of crimes are set free or receive highly reduced prison sentences?

As time and technology progress, the ability for people to hide parts of themselves and their behavior is no doubt going to decrease. Although it’s possible that this will simply cause some to take higher measures to hide the least favorable qualities of themselves, it may also force many in the public eye to have a higher standard of character.

In the mean time, it’s important to remind young men that there are consequences for malicious actions. Though the public forgives, careers bounce back, and the limelight regains its luster, somewhere there is a person or group of people that suffered as a result. While they may be good at a sport or great at playing the guitar or philanthropic in very large ways, we are ultimately the sum of all the choices we make, not only a select few.

“There, however, lacks a public figure championing for men to be better in the workplace, in the home, and in society.” 

There have been plenty of male and female public figures championing for women’s rights, women in the work place, women in sports, etc. There, however, lacks a public figure championing for men to be better in the workplace, in the home, and in society. The good men gracing the public arena need to step up and champion for the betterment of men.

Part of the problem stems from what former pro football player and activist Joe Ehrmann describes as three myths associated with masculinity, which include: athletic ability, sexual dominance, and financial success. In a TEDtalk earlier this year Ehrmann argues that he, “could take those three lies and tie them into every psycho-social problem we have in this country.”

Ehrmann continues that in order to redefine masculinity we need to place higher importance on two criteria. First, relationships and how we can nurture men’s hearts to aptly give and receive love. Second, teaching men about the importance of committing to a cause or career in order to make the world better.

When was the last time we honored a male celebrity, politician, or athlete for the love and devotion he gives his wife or his children? In examining what we honor about great men in society, Ehrmann’s argument holds true, though there is arguably more than two ways that we can help reshape masculinity.

If our society continues to place importance on mythical characteristics of what it means to be a man like Ehrmann suggests, boys will continue to turn out as mythical men.

How do we break the cycle?

Fatherhood

Rather than running from fatherhood out from fear of failing, men need to be encouraged that fatherhood is a positive way to change the world. In becoming fathers, men have the ability to challenge and change traditional expectations of masculinity, rather than repeat the mistakes of the past.

Know More Than the Coach or Teacher’s Name

Just as fathers play specific roles in children’s lives, so do men outside of family units. Mothers and fathers have a responsibility to surround their male children with influential mentors. Parents should challenge themselves to know the caliber of the men who coach and teach their children.

Change the Way We Praise

It sounds simple, but changing how we praise men is difficult. We’re more likely to criticize ill behavior than we are to praise good behavior. Why shouldn’t we acknowledge and honor the men in our lives, not only for their successes in the workplace or ball field, but also for being kind hearted people?

Though we may not have the male version of Oprah or Ellen or Gloria Steinem quite yet, if we continue to educate our youth about a truer form of masculinity, perhaps one day we will.

Daniel Jenks is a Reporter for The Shriver Report.
MariaShriver.com & ShriverReport.org in-house editor/writer, Daniel Jenks, hopes to inspire positive change in males, millennials, and anyone trying to make the world a better place to live. He is currently based in Los Angeles, CA.
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