Sunday Reflections: Reflections on the perfect gift and what it means to be a man
The other day I received a text from The Mr.: Don’t ever let it be said that I don’t love you or support Teen Librarian Toolbox, it said, I’m currently driving an hour away to buy you a book cart for your “office”. For the record, my “office” is technically the dining room. We eat in it twice a year during the holiday season and it usually involves me having to do some massive clean up and moving a ton of books into another room in order for that to happen.
This gift is one of the most amazing gifts I have ever received for a couple of reasons:
1. It showed that my husband knew me and what was important to me and that he was willing to buy me a gift that spoke to who I am and what I valued. Being known and understood is an empowering gift.
2. It showed that my husband support TLT, which means that he supports me. TLT is very important to me and he is always supportive, even when I’m answering an emergency text in the middle of one of our few nights out alone at a restaurant or when I’m discussing to him a meaningful post that one of my fellow TLTers wrote on a topic that he barely understands because even though he is married to a librarian, he doesn’t always know library jargon or politics.
This amazing gift came at the same time that many of my female friends were post memes on their FB pages that suggested that all men are overgrown children that you have to mother or parent their entire lives. One of them even suggested that men needed “adult supervision”. It was posted by some FB page – maybe a radio station – with the caption that everyone would agree with this one LOL. See, for example, this, this and this:
But the truth is, I don’t agree with it. And not only do I not agree with it, I worry about the negative stereotyping it presents and how it affects the men in my life and the teens that are in the process of becoming men. I spend a lot of time speaking out against stereotypes of women and how destructive I feel they are, so I felt that I needed to speak up against this stereotype as well.
And before I go any further and you flame me in the comments, let us all just admit that yes we do in fact know people who sincerely believe this. And even when we say it’s just a joke or an exaggeration, we also joke in this way because we – cultural we, not specific you – believe it has some basis in fact. If it’s an exaggeration for comedic effect, then we are saying that we think there is some truth to it to exaggerate.
You see, this idea that men never grow up and constantly have to be parented or that they require adult supervision infantalises and demeans men, an entire people group.
What does it mean to require constant adult supervision? I am a mother, Thing 2 is now 7 years old and not even she constantly requires adult supervision. She did because she couldn’t be trusted to make good decisions, to stay safe, to not destroy our house by pouring mustard all over the furniture. When The Teen was four she stuck an M&M up her nose when I turned my back for just a moment (Side note: they may not melt in your hands, but they do melt in your nose, which is how we avoided an emergency room visit.) And yet they don’t even require constant adult supervision. The flip side is, when they do require adult supervision often times their father is in fact the mature, responsible adult supervising them. And no, he’s not babysitting them, which is an entirely different discussion. He is parenting them, he is rearing them, he is educating and nurturing them. Because he is a grown up.
My husband is an adult. He doesn’t require mothering or parenting or adult supervision; I respect and value him and the person he is in this family. He gets our girls up in the morning to get ready for school, he packs lunches, he drops kids off, and then he goes to work where he is admired and respected. He then comes home and helps do homework, laundry, dishes and more. He is my partner, my equal. He is the man who bought me the perfect gift. He is the man who is turning out to be an amazing husband, father, and, well, man.
Imagine what it must be like for our teen boys to grow up in a world where they constantly hear that men never grow up, that they are and always will be immature and irresponsible. Imagine what it must mean for men to constantly hear these same messages. The bumbling idiot dad and husband is one of the biggest trope to appear on the television screen, perhaps equal in misuse and abuse to that of the female money-hungry vixen, the dumb blonde (almost always a woman), and the nagging wife. In fact, it is a corollary to the nagging wife trope, wives nag you see because we’re so busy having to mother our husbands.
I want my teen patrons of all genders to hear a different message. I want them to grow up and develop their identities in a world where it is made clear that men are valued and respected for the men and husbands and fathers that they are. This, to me, is just as important as my daughters growing up in a world where they know that their brains and hearts matter more than their looks and they have value other than their ability to fulfill the sexual needs of the men around them.
And let’s be clear, none of this means that we all can’t still have fun, be silly, or cut loose as an adult. That’s not what being an adult means. Being adult simply means you know when and where and how to do those things and when to balance it out with the serious business of working, paying the bills, and keeping a household running. No group of people is any one thing; we are all complex and multifaceted. My husband does not need my parenting or my adult supervision, he does need and deserves my respect and trust.
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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