We've been watching a lot of the Olympic coverage at our house, as of late. What can I say? We're a house full of sports-loving, competitive-by-nature gymnastics fans.
As a mom, I have to admit that part of the "pull" I feel towards the Olympic coverage is that -- for the majority of the time -- it's good, clean, "safe" programming. Sure, there are a few skimpy uniforms here or there (Kerri and Misty, I'm looking at you), and at night there are a few commercials that I have to censor, but overall.....it's pretty safe TV viewing for the rascals.
Most of the time, we'll see a race or a game, and the only non-competition piece that will air is a quick interview or biography of an athlete. And, man, there are Cinderella stories galore: a hardworking young athlete is hit with some big dramatic setback and his or her sheer determination and perseverance will overcome the speed bump and everyone cries tears of joy.
Yep, I do love me some Olympics.
But I have to admit that there is something about this year's Olympic coverage that is really bothering me. As in years past, the coverage is exclusively being provided by NBC. And of course, NBC is using this huge audience to its advantage: promoting its upcoming TV season relentlessly. As a business, they are right in doing this.
However, it is one of this year's promotions that is bothering me.
You see, apparently NBC is premiering a new comedy show this fall: Guys with Kids.
The premise of this show sounds pretty tame: we follow three guys as they adjust to lives as new dads. Most of you guys out there have lived through that -- it is quite a huge adjustment. The learning curve is steep. Mistakes are made, and often, they are mistakes you end up laughing about ten years later.
But ladies, this show upsets me down to my very core.
Let's take a look at it a bit more closely, shall we? Media, by its design, is a representation of our culture. Mainstream news organizations claim to report events impartially, supposedly providing a clear retelling of our culture. TV shows, music, and movies reflect our society, according to some critics. Taking these sentiments at face value, let's take a look in that mirror.
At first glance, it seems funny: a bumbling father, making "stupid" mistakes and ending up in a mess (literally, in one of the ads, as the dad is trying to feed a baby and ends up covered in his child's dinner). Again and again, we see Dad getting into a tight spot and "hilariously" trying to find his way out of it, looking like the village idiot the entire time. While the previews don't show it, and I haven't seen an entire episode yet, I'm guessing that he'll end up being rescued by the only level-headed, intelligent adult in the show. I'll make an educated guess (after watching many similar sitcoms and movies) that this level-headed adult will be a woman, most likely the child's mom.
Now, don't get me wrong: It is right to portray Mom in this light. She should be portrayed as intelligent, calm, loving, and level-headed.
But Dad should be, too.
Instead, in our trusty culture mirror, we see Dad losing Baby (Friends episode from the past) or ignoring Baby's needs in favour of a football game (Huggies commercial). I could easily list a dozen more examples of a clueless dad who needs rescuing in our current popular TV shows and movies.
At some point in the last 20 years, we've changed our reflection of men from the wise dad, helping his kids through problems (Anyone else remember Full House?) to Guys with Kids, the idiots who can't put on a child's diaper properly.
Folks, if this cultural mirror is giving us a true reflection, we have an even bigger problem on our hands than Guys with Kids commercials. It's no wonder we have so many (statistically) "deadbeat dads" out there: We've turned our men, culturally, into mere sperm donors who cannot be trusted or relied upon, but instead are the butt of all of our jokes. We've turned our heroes into punchlines with sperm.....and nothing more.
Our cultural mirror - in the form of the news media - enlightens us even further. In the wake of the tragic shooting in Colorado, it came to light that three men died protecting the women they were with that night. They literally laid down their lives to protect the women next to them, and what did we see in response to that news coverage? Comment after comment from people (mostly women) offended at the thought that a man would even dare to think - much less attempt - to protect a woman. The implication in all of these comments (and explicitly expressed in some) was that there was nothing needed from these men, and that their options were not heroic, but were, instead, a sign of their ingrained stupidity. It was offensive, some of these commenters wrote, that a man would accept death in the act of protecting a woman. It was offensive that a man would even think, just for a moment, that a woman should be protected by them. In their comments, they claimed that an action such as this could only mean one thing: that the man viewed a woman as being unable to protect herself, or as being "less able" than him in some way.
In my opinion, these comments and reactions (and the acceptance of "comedy" in the first example) are chilling examples of just how much we have forgotten what it means to love and be loved. Instead of raising the cultural interpretation of what it means to be a woman (which would be loving women, and rightfully so), we've started down the road of dirty politics. Instead of aspiring to raise the public view of a gender (female) by focusing on its positive attributes and inherent dignity.....we're are attempting to raise the status of women by lowering the status of men. This cultural mirror is nothing but a smear campaign on the opposite gender (male).
We've stopped trying to enhance the status of women based on woman's merits and dignity: we're trying to do it by destroying the status of men, and belittling his merits and inherent dignity. We've stopped trying to love our men, culturally.
Ladies, this is a problem, and I'm sorry to say.....it's not just in our media.
How many times have we been at a playgroup, or talking to a girlfriend on the phone, or joking with other coworkers.....and our husband is the punchline of our jokes? (I'm at fault here, too, ladies, I'll fully admit it). How many times have we heard something along the lines of "what else can you expect from a man?" or "well, that's a man for you!" at Mom's Night Out events?
How many times have you, at a gathering of other women, chosen to make a joke about something your husband has done poorly or a mistake that he made......instead of praising him for his character or his abilities?
How many times have you bitten your tongue while with other moms or wives because you don't want to be teased as the "sap" or "hopeless romantic" by the other women, when what you really want to do is tell them about the things you love about your husband?
How many times have you used a fault of your husband as a means to receiving personal affirmation and approval? In other words....how many times have you made your husband the butt of your joke, just for the approving laughs and looks from your friends?
I'm ashamed to admit that I've done all of the above. I, too, allowed myself to perpetuate this myth of man as village idiot, while doing very little to witness to the truth of man as an image and reflection of our God. I, too, have made more jokes than I'd care to admit that perpetuate the myth of woman as greater than man, and man as an idiot.
Ladies, we can do better than that. We can love our men better than this.
For those of us who are married, do we remember just what the goal of marriage is? If not, let me refresh you (emphasis mine):
"The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799)."
- CCC 1661
Are we really perfecting our human love, strengthening the unity of our marriage, and sanctifying ourselves and our spouses when we make them the butt of our jokes?
Are we reflecting the love that Christ modeled in His love for the Church?
If the only socially acceptable way of finding public affirmation in a marriage is at the expense of our spouse......what does that reflect about the union of Christ and the Church?
Christ loved the Church so much that He died to save Her.
Christ used His Body to protect the Church from the death caused by sin. He died to protect us, His Church, His Spouse, from evil.
It seems like our cultural mirror may be warped. If we were truly trying to reflect Christ's union with the Church......shouldn't we be trying to raise our spouse up?
Ladies, what we say or do often ends up being what we believe. If we only talk about our spouse's faults and failures, that will be what we see when we are alone with them at home. How will focusing on that negative (without trying to improve it) perfect our love and sanctify our spouse?
Raising ourselves up higher at the expense of our spouse will not get either of us anywhere.
There's a reason I married my husband: I love him.
To love is to will the good of another, according to the Catholic Church (CCC 1766). Let's look at this definition for a minute.
To love is to will the good of another.
"To love is," not "love is." The word "love" is being used as a verb in this definition. Love is not a thing, love is an action, according to the Church. This changes the meaning of "will" as well. We no longer have a noun to substitute....we have a verb.
"To love" means "to will."
And if we look at the definition of will as a verb.....it means "to choose" or "to make a choice." Looking at the definition of love in this manner means that in order to love my husband, I must make the choice that will bring good to him.
Does making him the butt of my jokes bring him good? Does painting his character and intelligence in a negative light in front of his peers bring about good in his life? Is speaking negatively about your spouse truly an act of love towards them?
It's not. We can do better than that.
And it's not just us married folk that are at fault. One of the most quoted passages in Scripture is Jesus' call to love one another. (John 13: 34). Jesus tells us to love one another as He has loved us.
If we are to love one another.....we must choose to do or say what will bring about the good of each person we come into contact with.
That's love. Making choices that bring good to another. This is not a call only for spouses: this is a call for ALL of us.
Making another the butt of our jokes, portraying them in a negative light, or as the "village idiot" is not fulfilling our call to love. It doesn't matter if it's on a personal scale (our spouse) or on a larger scale (the characterization of dads or men as described above).....it's not answering our call to love.
Standing up for the dignity of another, testifying to their courage, their strength, their abilities, encouraging them to grow and develop, challenging them to become the "best version of themselves".....that is loving another.
Ladies, our cultural mirror is reflecting a society that is not loving our men. It's reflecting a society that is not willing the good of an entire population of people.
It's time for us to change that. It's time for us to love the men in our lives, to truly love them. We won't change our society overnight, but we might be able to make a difference in time. We can consciously choose to say and do things that bring about the good of the men in our lives (and support media that does the same).
I am committing here, publicly, to better love my husband.