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Male Nurturing 101
March 3, 2004
by K. C. Wilson

The real gender bias we all face is a society that defines aggression as "what men do," and nurturing as "what women do." This blinds us to the equal aggressiveness of women, and, more tragically, equal nurturing of masculinity.

In her book, Odd Girl Out, even Rachael Simons casually refers to, ". . . the female orientation to relationship and connection to nurturing and care-giving," as though they were one and the same. This in a book whose very purpose is to expose that what women do emotional connecting and personal relating can be and is as easily used to aggress and bully as nurture. What women do or their orientation to emotion and personal contact is one thing, and very important. But how any one women uses it, when and for what, is subject to personal traits and circumstance.

By the same token, our society considers the very phrase, male nurturing, an oxymoron. Men just don't, only women do. Now that's sexist.

This is a real, persistent perception error equally held by men and women and equally damaging to all. It is especially damaging to children because of what it leads us to either facilitate or discount and frustrate.

What is male nurturing? If no image came as immediately to mind as if I'd asked, "What is female nurturing," you know the bias to which I refer.

I was sitting in a park watching a couple with their eight- year-old son. Everything she said was along the lines of, "Be careful," "Put your sweater on," "Look out," and everything he said was, "Hey, look over there," and, "Let's try this."

Femaleness is comfort and safety; an inbound energy. It's what men seek from women and children need from them. (If you think men only seek women for sex you've been reading too much Freud. Worse, you've sold out to a purely material view.)

Male nurturing is exploration and independence; an energy that deals with the outer world and just as needed by children. (And what women seek in men.)

The inner and outer energies, the yin and yang of life. Children need direction and example in both, equally. How can one be more important? Imbalance can be said to be when one is emphasized over the other, particularly to the other's exclusion. We must live with ourselves inside, but exactly to live in a world that exists outside ourselves.

Why do we only call what mothers do, nurturing, when what fathers do is just as vital?

Child development literature is consistent on many mother- father distinctions across all cultures. For one, fathers play physically and roughhouse far more with their children. While our puritanical society (which one might call matriarchal when it comes to children) dismisses play as frivolous, even created the "Disney Dad" stereotype for resentment, and today's puritans (a.k.a. feminists) call it "male aggression," the truth is it is as vital as anything mothers do.

Dad doesn't use all his strength. Researchers have realized that in this play-fighting children are learning give-and- take, to read other's clues, dealing with chaos, self-control, and fair play. They are learning vital social skills physically, the way children first learn anything.

Fatherless children equally boys and girls are more socially insecure, and throughout their lives have fewer, less deep, and less lasting friendships.

Dad is critical to socialization and confidence in dealing with the world, and that's just one part of male nurturing.

Copyright © 2004 K.C.Wilson. K.C. Wilson is the author of Co-parenting for Everyone, Male Nurturing, Delusions of Violence, and The Multiple Scandals of Child Support, all available as e-books at http://harbpress.com.

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