Andrew S. writes:
Recently my extended family got together for a rare vacation. Including my family (wife and three young sons, all below the age of 14), we were joined by my sister and her family (daughter in her early twenties and son also under 14, and the same age as my oldest, 12). As you will have noticed, my sister has no husband and her two children have different fathers (she was married to her daughter’s father but they divorced many years ago). We live in different states and lead very different lives.
During dinner one night the subject of “cleaning up the kitchen” came up and my sister, as she is prone to do, went on a rant on how worthless men are at helping with household chores, and my nephew let out a long, sighing, “Men!” I responded by saying, “you are a man,” which he replied, “No, I am a boy,” to which I replied, “Well you are going to grow up to be a man, so you need to start acting like one.” This ended this particular exchange but a few nights later almost the exact same exchange happened, and this time he said something like, “I won’t ever grow up to act like a typically man.”
A few days after that, I asked him if he was going to play football in the fall and he said no. When I asked him why not (he just finished a year of trumpet, but is quitting.He used to play soccer but quit) he said, “because my mom does not like for me to act like a boy.” I said, “You are a boy, and there is nothing your mother can do about that.” He seemed confused and did not want to discuss it further (he drops his nead and sticks out his lip whenever he is challenged).
On the last night there someone was channel surfing on the TV and went passed a boxing match and he stated, “My mother thinks boxers are idiots.” My brother asked him why she thought that, and he said, sounding like a robot or someone who has been brainwashed, “Because my mother believes that all forms of violence are wrong, and that violence is never justified, and that is what she teaches me.” My brother simply stated, “Then you are in for a difficult life down the road.”
Needless to say, several members of our family are concerned at what appears to be the emasculation of our nephew by his mother, my sister. Since we all live in different states, my brother and I have very little day to day influence over him, which is how our sister wants it. He has no real male roll models in his life. Intellectually and emotionally he is far behind my sons (who have a mother and father in the home), and is very short for his age and overweight, yet no effort is made by him or his mother to do anything about these problems.
I am very concerned and was wondering if you had any advice.
This is sickening.
Do you know whether your nephew has any contact with his father?
His father is in the same town and my nephew will spend the occasional weekend with him, but the less contact he has with his father the better. He is an alcoholic and has not worked in several years (he was a union carpet layer, and spent more time manipulating the union rules so he would not have to work).
Let me just say that my nephew is a very kind and polite young man, but he has virtually no male role models, and instead of seeing this as a problem, my sister believes this is a tremendous plus. He has spent summers with both my brother and my family and after only a few weeks we both saw dramatic changes in him, only to be undone after returning home. After staying with my family for one summer, he lost several pounds and had gained some self confidence. The same happened after staying with my brother. However, this summer he was even more overweight and had no self esteem.
I would not be surprised if your nephew spends most of his free time at the computer or PlayStation. He is primed for becoming a gaming junkie. His life sounds like sheer misery.
How many single mothers, disappointed and bitter, turn on their children in this way?Your sister seems bent on destroying her son.You didn’t mention much about her daughter, but I imagine she has her own set of problems. Your sister couldn’t possibly raise a daughter well either given her hostility to men. If you do not feel you can be open with her about this, maintaining a cordial relationship is obviously important so that you can still see your nephew. You seem to already realize this.
Your nephew seems conscious of the problem, judging from the comments he made to you. And, the time he has spent with you and your brother has probably helped him. The more time away the better. The only hope for him is to get away from his mother as soon as possible. If ever there was a case for boarding school or a high school military academy, this is it. If he is going to college in a few years, it would be best if he could spend his summers away, preferably in some outdoor or physical job that involves male camaraderie. I have a suggestion in that regard that I will convey to you privately.
You can see why it can be very difficult for boys raised by single mothers to have normal relationships with women later in life and to marry. This sort of thing will be much more common in the years ahead given the out-of-wedlock birth rate today. What a disaster.
— Comments –
George S. writes:
I’ve seen the kind of situation Andrew S. describes before. I’ve often wondered just what the heck the mother was thinking. I guess she is either to dumb or to selfish or to malicious to realize what she is doing and how it is hurting her own child.
To me, and I would think anyone, it is obvious that making comments like that is going to damage her son. In fact I have no idea why Andrew didn’t say something right there like: “Stop. Do you understand that by saying this your are condemning your own son? Children aren’t stupid and I’m sure he realizes this. How can you, as a mother, sit there and give a blanket condemnation of men when you have to know that this is going to hurt your son’s feelings?” Or say something like this to her.
My personal experience tells me that a lot of women like Andrew’s sister really don’t understand how damaging their behavior is. Which honestly baffles me to no end how these people don’t realize what they are doing.
Yes, I agree that many women don’t understand what they are saying and need to be corrected. Still, I think it might have been embarrassing and humiliating if Andrew had brought it up in front of his nephew. It depends. If it would have led to a big scene, it would have been better to talk to her privately.
A reader writes:
“How many single mothers, disappointed and bitter, turn on their children in this way?”
That is exactly what my mom did. After she got divorced, she raised me in an atmosphere of profound hostility to men. Her attitude was that men are stupid, evil, and worthless, and marriage is a waste of time in which the browbeaten wife constantly drudges after her lazy husband. I think she was just too consumed with her rage against her ex-husband (which is no less intense today, 35 years later, by the way) to think about how she was hurting her son. She certainly never seemed to think that the nearest male to her (me) would quite naturally regard the “men are pigs” message as applying to himself. I bet she would even be surprised if I confronted her today with the view that her attitude was extremely damaging to me. Since she only had sisters, who naturally shared her low opinion of her ex-husband, there was nobody to say anything to her about the possible effect on me.
One lesson that I try to keep in the forefront of my own mind is that children notice everything — but they don’t necessarily interpret everything correctly.
Yes, children notice everything. They pick up the subtext of family dynamics very quickly, but they are rarely able to articulate what they see. Exposing a child to such constant negativity, let alone negativity toward his father, or even stepfather, shows such profound insensitivity. It is damaging to a son and also to a daughter.
You say your mother never got over this hostility toward her ex-husband. I have found that some women who have left their husbands remain bitter and angry for decades. Sometimes it seems that they expected their leaving to make their husbands love them more. When they realize that divorce does not achieve this, they become even angrier.
I would also add that no matter what a spouse has done, publicly criticizing him is a form of betrayal. Criticizing him (or her) in front of his children is the worst kind of treachery.
Laura said: ” Yes, I agree that many women don’t understand what they are saying and need to be corrected.”
Any idea why they don’t understand? I’m sorry to beat a dead horse, but the damage being done is as obvious to me as the sun in the sky and I find that I really can’t see this woman’s point of view. I assume that women like this are either 1.) outrageously brutally incompetent, or 2.) evil.
As a side note I have to wonder if this isn’t part of what’s fueling the MRA guys. They see this behavior and assume answer number 2.
Laura said: “Still, I think it might have been embarrassing and humiliating if Andrew had brought it up in front of his nephew.”
That is actually the entire point of doing it. Obviously this woman can’t pick up on subtleties, so people like Andrew’s sister won’t change if they aren’t publicly humiliated. I’ve dealt with people like this for years, they only listen when someone is screaming in their face, anything less and the volume is too low for them to hear. [Laura writes: I meant humilating for the son, not for her. I agree it would have been right to confront her if he had not been in the room.]
That too is tragic. This girl fits the pattern of behavior for girls with no fathers.
In response to George, when women make blanket statements about aggression, they are speaking from a feminine perspective and they don’t naturally understand the masculine view. As for this particular woman’s hostile comments about all men in front of her son, I don’t understand that except that she is nursing grudges and perhaps thinks men have no feelings at all.
Mark Jaws writes:
Maybe the roots of hostility towards men run deeper. It could very well be that some of these women faced indifference or hostility from their fathers. For example, my father was not a kind or affectionate man. He rarely showed positive emotion and he never said to his four children, “I love you.” He never cuddled his two daughters and to this day, my 48-year-old sister remarks that she never sat on her father’s lap as a child. Such emotional deserts do not cause flowers of love and apprection towards men to bloom.
But would a cold father lead one to lash out at all men? If men routinely spoke dismissively of all women, would we excuse it if their mothers had been unloving?
Laura wrote, “perhaps she thinks men have no feelings at all.”
I was nodding my head in agreement when I read this. I was in my early 20′s (long before I knew about “game” or MRA, etc) when I first noticed that a lot of women seem to casually disregard the feelings of men. It seemed as though they either didn’t care about men’s feelings or, as you pointed out, they seem to think men don’t have feelings. Again, this belief is very strange to me and I don’t know where it comes from.
I’ve actually had the experience, on several occasions, where I told a woman friend and a girlfriend that a certain behavior hurt my feelings. My exact words were: “It hurts my feelings when you do that, please don’t do it again.” Both times I was blown off by these women. I don’t think I could have made myself any clearer than I did. This is something else I don’t understand: I couldn’t be more direct and yet it was like they couldn’t hear me or something.
In fact, after I broke up with the girlfriend, a woman I knew asked me about what happened. I told her what went on and she told me that she didn’t believe that my feelings were hurt. Which makes me wonder if the girlfriend also thought the same thing.
I have no idea if my experience with this is common among men or not.
I think women generally underestimate how feeling men are. Some of this is natural as men are less emotional than women; they are less demonstrative and more aggressive. So women confuse this with hard-heartedness. But, culture plays a large role in the extremes that George describes. Feminism has encouraged women to view men as indifferent to others. After all, if men oppressed women for thousands of years, what else are women to conclude but that men are innately insensitive?
David C. writes:
George said: “I have no idea if my experience with this is common among men or not.”
At least one of us can relate to your experience. Though I cannot recall specific examples, perhaps because I was so hurt by them that I was unable to really process what was happening, there have been occasions in my life as well when women refused to believe that their behavior hurt and offended me, though I also expressed this fact outright. Their refusal to acknowledge my feelings only compounded the hurt they originally caused. That sort of response frightens me a bit, especially if it does, in fact, occur frequently: if you cannot acknowledge someone’s feelings, how is it possible to recognize their humanity? And if you cannot recognize their humanity, what restrains you from treating them however you wish? I guess the proof is in the pudding: there are many women, though clearly not all, who do in fact treat men however they wish. And many men are deeply hurt for this.
I think this problem can sometimes go further than mere dismissal. That is, women have sometimes responded to my honest expressions of hurt or difficulty with scorn and contempt. It is as though they thought I was less of a man because I could be hurt. This, again, was a dehumanizing experience.
As far as I’m concerned, all of this goes to the point Laura makes in her entry, “Come Holy Spirit,” which is the same point I tried to make in a recent article at The Spearhead. We Christians really must unite in prayer to restore our country. After all, our efforts to solve such complex and enormous problems may cause more harm than good unless they are infused with the grace of Christ. Apart from this, it is perhaps not so important to change our country as to change ourselves, to change the way we meet the sorts of injustices we are describing. In prayer Christ can strengthen us to suffer as He did — with love and dignity. Please excuse me if I sound preachy, but I strongly believe we need to emphasize, above all, the fact that prayer will be indispensable to the healing of this country.