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The Way We Were…And Now

Article

The Way We Were…And Now

Why are strong, balanced, principled men so rare today—even viewed as oddities? Why are there so few men of the same stature and uncompromising strength as in past generations? Likewise, traditional, virtuous femininity in women is as scarce as precious jewels. What has happened?

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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Today’s social landscape is being turned upside down. Gender roles are being blurred and marriages redefined. Traditional roles and values once considered normal are now being dismantled and reshaped.

In an article written for the Trentonian, a columnist writes, “Women are the new men…And I have no earthly idea what the men are, now…By, ‘women are the new men,’ I mean that women are strong, efficient, and can balance work and family. We can open doors and jars for ourselves, kill bugs, install electronic equipment without help, even put in our window air conditioning unit after work on a 90-degree day. Or, women can do anything men can do.”

A marketing and style strategist from Fashion Group International also notes a shift in gender roles: “The masculine ideal is being completely modified. All the traditional male values of authority, infallibility, virility and strength are being completely overturned…[he] no longer wants to be the family superhero” (Ibid). The Associated Press article that originally published this quote contained a picture of a man with “punk rock,” fire-engine red hair, backwards suspenders and a striped green and red sweater.

Many parents still teach traditional gender roles to their children. However, their efforts are being thwarted by an increasing number of teachers who are instructing young children and teenagers that they must recognize “the various ways in which gender categories are tied to an oppressive binary structure for organizing the social and cultural practices of adolescent boys and girls” (ON LINE opinion).

One result is that traditional literature is coming under assault for promoting heterosexual relationships, and fairytales such as Jack and the Beanstalk are being ridiculed for portraying boys as physically assertive. A classroom resource titled Fracturing Fairytales argues that traditional stories “present powerful images of gender-specific roles, and, in particular, negative female roles and the attitudes, beliefs and values inherent in them need to be critically examined and challenged” (Ibid).

Those promoting the redefining of gender roles understand that, in order to bring about acceptance of this idea, cultural perception must first be adjusted. And they realize that such an adjustment is best introduced in schools, where they can indoctrinate young teachable minds.

If this new way of thought becomes accepted, does this automatically mean that it is correct? What are the implications of a society in which males and females are no longer distinguishable?

One Extreme to Another

This “new” way of thinking is not new at all. History demonstrates that, prior to total economic and military collapse, prosperous and dominant cultures always produced a final generation of weakened and softer men. Feminine qualities among men such as compromise, tolerance and submissiveness—each a great virtue when complemented with the strength and guidance of a masculine leading partner—became the norm.

Prior to the 20th century, relationships between men and women were governed by tradition and somewhat by biblical instruction, with roots extending back for centuries. While men and women had unity of purpose in forging ahead with their lives, the roles of each were very different, yet still complementary.

The natural differences between the sexes were emphasized throughout the formative years of childhood. Fathers taught their boys to be courageous and daring, to be out in front, to provide, to be tough and to sacrifice. Mothers instructed their daughters to be meek, unassuming, respectful and supportive. Men taught their boys to hunt and to perform heavy, physical work at an early age, while girls were assigned duties around the house, assisting with cooking, sewing, cleaning and nurturing. The typical family worked as a team, with each member having an important role to play.

When of age, the young brides would willingly offer the words “love, honor and obey” in marriage ceremonies. Young men would commit to protect and provide for the woman with whom they had agreed to spend the rest of their lives. Nuptial vows were viewed as commitments to be kept despite all obstacles. Marriage was considered a lifelong partnership and mates worked together as a team.

However, it should be noted that the hallmark of human nature is to be given to extremes. The Victorian Age, during the 1800s and early 1900s, established and shaped a society of sexual repression and rigidly-defined roles of masculinity and femininity. While the roles were predominantly correct, there was some misuse, as will always be the case when human nature is involved. 

Later generations gave way to the social backlash of the liberal and “free love” oriented 1960s and 70s, and, as a result, Western civilization has been radically different ever since—as have the traditional roles of men and women, husbands and wives.

The prominent advertising agency Leo Burnett did a study to learn how men viewed their roles in society and how these compared with the way that men are portrayed in advertising:

“Half of the men surveyed in most parts of the world said they didn’t know what society expected of them. Three-quarters feel the imaging in advertising is out of touch with reality.

“Most male-targeted advertising places men in one of two camps. The latest incarnation of man is referred to as the ‘metrosexual,’ a guy who loves shoes, pink shirts, man-purses, and conversations over General Foods International Coffee. They’re refined, sensitive, in touch with their feminine sides and can screech like a 13-year-old girl at an American Idol concert…” (WebProNews).

A metrosexual has been defined as a “straight man who embraces the homosexual lifestyle, i.e. refined tastes in clothing, excessive use of designer hygiene products, etc.” (a user entry from Urban Dictionary).

Obsessed with his appearance and self-image, the typical metrosexual maintains an urbane lifestyle of frequenting the finest clothing stores, nightclubs, gyms and hairdressers.

“According to Leo Burnett, though, the world is shifting toward more feminine attributes and the advertising world should adjust accordingly.

“‘As the world is drifting toward a more feminine perspective, many of the social constructs men have taken for granted are undergoing significant shifts or being outright dismantled,’ said Tom Bernardin, chairman and chief executive of Leo Burnett Worldwide” (Ibid.).

The other group that advertisers are targeting is called “retrosexuals.” The antithesis of the metrosexual, the retrosexual is a man who does not obsess over his physical appearance, such as plucking his eyebrows. Some view him as a man who rejects casual sex as mindless and immoral.

In its early years, Hollywood portrayed such men as having strength of character. They were seen as tough, hardworking and self-sacrificing. For these heroic cinema characters, family and country always came first. And yet, because human nature shifts to the extreme, Hollywood often portrayed such characters as stoic, the “strong and silent” types; tenderness and gentleness were generally seen as weakness. A generation of young moviegoers grew up to emulate this Hollywood-made image of masculinity. Many became husbands, fathers and leaders who were strong, dedicated and uncompromising—yet without much emotion. This helped set the stage for the “sexual revolution” and “women’s lib” movement years later.

Accepting Divorce as an Option

Although it was not entirely absent, divorce was almost unheard of before the 20th century, with separation usually occurring only at death.

Prior to this time, the husband was recognized and accepted as the head of the household. Practically, as well as legally, the authority to make the final decision resided with him. The wife was obliged to accept her husband’s decisions—even if she did not believe those decisions to be wise. (Of course, a wise husband would seek and listen to his wife’s counsel.) There was government in the family. Disagreements did not automatically lead to separation and divorce.

But today, the state of marriage and divorce is radically different.

Let’s look at a few startling numbers: In 1886, there were 25,000 divorces for all causes. The number rose to over 72,000 by 1906, hit nearly 500,000 by 1965 and passed the one million mark per year by 1975. The number has leveled off at about 1.2 million per year over the past decade. Put another way, taking into account increases in population, the divorce rate increased more than 700% in the 20th century! It should also be noted that subsequent remarriages fail 60-75% of the time.

Marching Toward Moral Decay

One of the perplexing ironies of history is that many difficulties accompany the material prosperity and power of a dominant culture. People, governed by human nature, have typically become much more selfish and self-centered. Associated with this change in human behavior are all forms of corruption and evil.

Consider. As the industrial revolution moved toward its climax in the 20th century, many began to view the guarded traditions of culture as impediments to their “self-fulfillment.” Increasing numbers of men fell into the age-old snare of infidelity, while women sought economic independence from men. As the 19th century faded into history, a growing number of discontented men and women pursued “liberation” from the established and traditional “old” ways.

Note that before the ratification of the nineteenth amendment, allowing women the right to vote, each household had one vote, which was cast by the husband. (Naturally, the wife had, to a certain degree, influence upon the husband’s decision.) A woman running for office and assuming political power was unthinkable until the early 20th century.

Following the passage of the nineteenth amendment by Congress, and its ratification into law, the political landscape shifted dramatically. With the codification of “women’s suffrage,” a wife could politically divide the household by casting her vote for a different candidate, effectively canceling her husband’s vote.

The “feminist movement” derived its beginnings from an alliance between discontented women and affluent male politicians who saw the political benefit of independent women, who they viewed as a voting block to which to cater.

The Effects of World War I

Along with the above watershed movement, the contribution of World War I to cultural change must be discussed. Men had marched off to a new type of mechanized war, a conflict more terrible and costly than ever before in history.

The idyllic and chivalrous perception of wars prior to WWI, however erroneous, had encouraged such masculine qualities as courage and self-sacrifice. Traditional warfare, horrific in its own right, truly separated the men from the women. Men marched off to fight for their country, an idea, religion or their children’s future. Both men and women celebrated courage and this ultimate sacrifice. While the act of war is wrong, boys at least looked up to the brave men of their culture, and women desired to marry such protectors and heroes.

The impersonal, automated, and brutal nature of modern warfare began to change the way men reflected upon armed conflict. An unseen enemy from hundreds of yards, or even miles away could now deliver mass death and destruction. The true senselessness of warfare became more evident to growing numbers, igniting anti-war sentiment. But, as is so often the case when man attempts to solve his own problems, desirable marital qualities such as courage, fortitude and resolve were also de-emphasized, and even discouraged in men.

America had tipped the balance of the war and Germany was defeated, thus supplying a two-decade respite in hostilities. Sandwiched between the two world conflicts was a decade of euphoric frivolity called the “Roaring Twenties”—characterized by liberation from established moral guidelines.

While the culture of the American heartland continued as it had for generations, people living in the cities led lives of pleasure, becoming ever more unrestrained. Secular hedonism and anti-religious sentiment became a growing part of American culture. Among the many traditions that were being cast aside were the biblically-defined roles of men, women and family.

World War II and the Family

In 1939, world war came once again. The demands upon a nation to conduct total war now required the near complete mobilization of national resources to field a modern army and navy. Prohibited from joining the military, except for nursing and office work, women entered the production workforce by the millions.

“Rosie the Riveter” moved from tending the home to the industrial environment previously occupied only by men. Her children went off to school, and Rosie drove rivets—all in the name of national security and necessity. While this may have been necessary for the war effort, it also had the unintended effect of fueling the pursuit of self-independence.

When the war ended, men returned home hardened by the battlefront, in many cases saturated with terrible memories of violence and atrocity, finding all forms of violence repugnant. Many women returned home from the factories, but others remained to claim their newly found economic independence. The results included changes to the thinking of both men and women—what they thought was important in life, their attitude toward patriotism and the definition of masculinity and femininity.

In spite of this shift in thought, throughout the 1950s, men with firm determination and conviction were considered best suited for positions of authority in government and industry. However, another way of thinking was slowly emerging from the fringes of academia into mainstream America. The universal violence of World War II, followed by a more localized conflict in Korea, along with the prospect of total annihilation from nuclear weapons, further removed an already jaded population from their past.

The expected chivalry and gallantry once encouraged in American men gave way to an expectation of a more pliable, less assertive male. The masculine tendency to fight it out had brought the human race to the brink of annihilation, so the reasoning went. Many reasoned that there had to be another way.

The evolving, “push button” culture envisioned by so-called luminaries also seemed to reduce the need for the strong, stalwart and somewhat stoic man. The change that many men and women came to believe necessary was made possible by the perceived reduced need for human strength and courage. What was necessary for mankind to survive, they reasoned, was a softer, more “sensitive” man, and a more assertive and vigorous woman.

Thus, male and female roles were merged and mixed up. The word “Unisex”—defying nature and promoting sameness and likeness between men and women—was one of many new terms coined to further encourage the process. Those seeking social change, with the intent to eliminate differences between the sexes, created words such as this. Many advocated “unisex” restrooms—allowing admittance for all. Unisex clothing, not distinguishing between male and female form and function, came into vogue. The differences between men and women were thus further de-emphasized. This contributed to the acceptance of homosexuality.

Media Assaults the Family Unit

Hollywood contributed greatly to this merging of the roles of men and women. Television sitcoms and films of the 1960s subtly introduced new thoughts and ideas, intending to generate feelings of injustice toward the established norms. From that time through the 70s and 80s, more and more radical thought was introduced. Today, TV “comedies” celebrate loose sexual behavior, homosexuality, aggressive women, and silly, self-centered, weak, effeminate husbands—if the couples are married at all!

Larger-than-life heroines introduced in the mid-1970s (shows such as Wonder Woman, Police Woman and Charlie’s Angels) continued the process of changing the way the sexes viewed each other. While the characters in these programs retained some femininity, within 20 years they were cast as ridiculous, semi-masculine women such as GI Jane, Xena, Dark Angel and others.

Modern programming not only tosses out common sense and practicality, but basic physics as well. How often does one see a small-framed woman easily pulverize a large-framed man? Yet, if life were as Hollywood frequently portrays it, this would happen on a regular basis!

The media, with its tentacles in nearly every home through television, radio, music and the all-pervasive Internet, has assisted in cultural change. Here is a general description of the method used: Desired change from established tradition is achieved by first using the media to shock the public, and push the proverbial moral envelope a bit further toward the desired outcome. Controversy is drummed up by other elements of the media in a debate about traditional values. Then, the previously shocking idea is repeated in other situations until it no longer shocks, but is debated and finally accepted. The media then pounces on the next tradition to corrupt and destroy.

Consider that “homosexual marriage” was not in the minds of most people 20 years ago. There was no need to define marriage, as religion, tradition and nature helped establish its meaning.

Enter the homosexual movement, whose objective is to redefine the basic bulwarks of society. The news media shocked most of the public by televising controversial homosexual couples engaging in mock wedding ceremonies, including the kissing of the “brides.” These illegal unions were presented to engage the public in philosophical debate over their validity. Suddenly, what was once unthinkable became debatable, with news commentators, Internet “bloggers” and politicians asking, “Does anyone have the right to legally define marriage?”—“Why should we deny them the right to ‘love’ one another?”—“Are nuclear families really normal?”—“Shouldn’t all citizens have the same rights as heterosexual couples?”

Family Redefinition

In his book The Abolition of Britain, Peter Hichens wrote, “The greatest fortress of human liberty, proof against all earthly powers, is the family. In its small private space, it can defy the will of authority and the might of wealth. It is without doubt the most effective means of passing lore, culture, manners, and traditions down through the generations. Its loyalties are stronger than those of the state, more powerful even than patriotism. All serious tyrannies have sought to undermine or infiltrate it, socialist tyrannies most of all.”

Those who wish to change the roles of men and women in society must first redefine the family and indoctrinate the minds of the next generation. The family, the bedrock of civilization, must be altered into something more amorphous and general. Hence, the new definition of a family includes any group of people. To some, even a person and his pet are considered a family! Incredible!

The husband’s role as the central protector and provider has been replaced by a more sensitive, docile, submissive character. And the wife’s critical function as a source of counsel, a nurturer and supportive partner has changed; she is now expected to be forceful (or even aggressive), “all wise” and dominant. The result is the universal breakdown of the biblically defined family unit.

Some years ago, the late Herbert W. Armstrong, editor and publisher of this magazine’s predecessor, taught that a “50/50 partnership” in marriage does not work, because someone will end up in charge. No organization, business, corporation, government agency or sports team can effectively operate and reach its full potential with two or more “co-leaders.” One person must take the lead. And so it is with marriage. Yet, because we live in a time when traditions and values are being overturned, many would view the previous statement as “harsh.”

The Bible has much to say about the condition of our age. Notice: “As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people, they which lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths” (Isa. 3:12).

Our loving Creator has clearly established boundaries for the different roles of men and women: “The woman shall not wear that which pertains unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord your God” (Deut. 22:5). Ignoring this command will prove deadly to civilization. Men are to be men and women are to be women, as God had created and ordained them to flourish in His intended roles for them.

The family unit—defined as a husband, wife and children—critical to the survival of a nation with a government ensuring personal liberty, is failing. In a hostile, blood-soaked world cut off from the true God, the result is national collapse.

The Final Generation?

Across the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and other westernized nations, the traditional roles and functions of men and women are fading into the past. They are quickly being replaced by the modern definitions of a society in which true masculinity and femininity are no longer taught nor understood.

How long can a nation last without a generation possessing strength, principle, values and character steering its helm? What does the future hold for Western civilization when—in an age that requires tough-mindedness and determination in the face of all the world’s problems—young males are being groomed to be “softer,” more in tune with their “feelings,” and young females are being molded and shaped into wives and mothers who see no need for—and even disdain—the leadership role of husbands and fathers?

The world is changing. Society has taken a new path, and God’s Word sheds light onto the peril to which this path leads. It reveals that humanity’s problems and ills will increasingly get worse.

Yet, the Bible also reveals that the ultimate “new way” of thinking—actually an “old” way, established millennia ago—will be established on earth. At that time, all men, women and children will be taught the true purpose of why they were born. True masculinity and femininity—instead of the extremes that man takes from generation to generation—will be widely understood and appreciated.


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