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What it means to be a man and how that effects the way we treat women – by Chris Pelch

This is a difficult topic for me to write about because it is not something that I consciously think of.  I am certainly not an expert on “what it means to be a man” and I have made many mistakes like all the rest of us.  For this reason, I do not want to promote myself as some sort of hero, saint, or model citizen.  We are all flawed (men and women) and I believe that we are all on a continuous journey of learning from our mistakes and striving to be better.

With that in mind, we uncover the most important core principle of what it means to be a man which is a willingness to listen and change.  It’s incredible to me that such a simple concept can be so difficult to follow.  Men are often characterized as tough, macho, hard headed, and stubborn and there is good reason for this portrayal.  Many guys dig their heels into the dirt when it comes to their opinions on politics, work, sports, and so on.  We idolize stories of strong men who are unrelenting in their resolve, who persevere despite the pressures of the world around them.  Historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln are all praised for this very trait.  But it is a mistake to use the stories of these men as evidence for digging our own heels into the ground, ignoring the perspectives of others, and bulldozing our way forward.  Instead, I believe that to be a man you need to be willing to admit you were wrong and to adjust your opinions accordingly.  I am a big sports fan and I often listen to a popular sports talk show host, Collin Cowherd.  Cowherd often uses this saying, “I don’t want to be right, I want to get it right.”  So often sports fans state their opinion and look for any piece of evidence to support them being right, while ignoring any evidence to the contrary.  The smart fan is the one who is willing to say they were wrong and to change his opinion to get it right.

We should extend this mantra beyond sports to all walks of life, especially to one of the most important social issues that our nation faces which has been brought to light by the “me too” movement.  Women in our country are often objectified and this has resulted in an abundance of sexual harassment and sexual assault.  Unfortunately, our society has perpetuated this objectification.  For example, women are portrayed as sex symbols in movies, social media influencers are using provocative photos to sell more products, and who can ignore the impact of the pornography industry.  As I mentioned earlier, I do not stand here and pretend that I am impervious to the effects of these influences on my own views of women.  But, this is where the willingness of a man to listen and change becomes so important.  Are we as men willing to listen to facts that are contradictory to what we want to believe, accept them, and adjust our perspective accordingly?  Are we willing to get it right or do we just want to be right?  If we want to truly be a man, if we want to get it right, then we need to be open to hearing the stories of women who have been mistreated and we need to change how we act and treat women to avoid making the same mistakes again.

When I think about what it means to be a man, something else comes to mind that needs to be acknowledged.  Men feel the need to provide.  The easiest way to measure our effectiveness at providing has been based on our salary and what that allows us to afford for our families.  In this last year I have had to reevaluate this measuring stick of my ability to provide for my family.  I went back to school to pursue a graduate degree, while my wife worked to support our family.  Not being able to financially support our family was a huge challenge for me and has caused me to reevaluate what it means to “provide.”  Since I cannot provide financially, I have found ways to provide emotionally by being an interested listener and a shoulder to cry on.  I have provided tangibly by cleaning the house and preparing meals.  Listening and changing does not just mean listening to others and changing for others.  Over the last year I was forced to listen to my own need to provide and to change the way in which I was providing for my wife.  Perhaps, by changing how we value our own contribution, we can change how we value women and their role in our society.

Listen to Chris on the Conversations on Life Podcast (Episode 9).

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