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May 28, 2024

Take What Harrison Butker Said in Context

He was making the radical point that Male Lives Matter and that we shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate them.

When Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker delivered his commencement address at Benedictine College earlier this month, the outrage was primarily focused on his comments about a woman’s place in society. The sisters who clutch at their pearls when anyone suggests that being anything but president is a worthwhile profession went ballistic at the suggestion that motherhood was equal, if not superior in value, to the sort of person who scrubs her laptop in anticipation of an election.

But this was a much ado about nothing moment, with most people understanding that the context of the speech was extremely important, as was the nature of the intended audience. And that intended audience included young men as well as young women. If you get beyond the fabricated controversy of his alleged misogyny, Harrison Butker had some extremely valuable things to say to the He/Hims listening intently to the Super Bowl champion’s words.

“Part of what plagues our society is this lie that has been told to you that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities,” Butker said. “As men, we set the tone of the culture, and when that is absent, disorder, dysfunction and chaos set in. This absence of men in the home is what plays a large role in the violence we see all around the nation.”

There is such hostility toward the idea of a “masculine” man that we have reached the point that “people with vaginas” can have babies. That doesn’t just delegitimize women, it erases the idea of “father.” Say goodbye to any hope of a nuclear family, with mother, father and offspring. That is the wild extreme that the pendulum has reached, crashing through walls of common sense, not to mention biology.

But even the more moderate forms of hostility toward alpha males is rampant. During the 1980s, 1990s and early oughts, most of the family sitcoms included smart and sassy kids, sexy and intelligent mothers and idiot lumps on the couch. Those idiot lumps were the patriarchal butt of every joke, and they were made to look and feel like useless accouterments. I once had a friend who said that he felt like his wife was the center of the world, the kids were her satellite moons and he was out in deep space, for all he was considered central to the daily routine. I don’t doubt it.

Butker was making the radical point that Male Lives Matter and that we shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate them. More importantly, we shouldn’t shy away from extolling the virtues of the masculine man, which were so beautifully personified by John Wayne and which have crumbled into the bitter nothingness of a bearded Sephora model hawking lipstick and eyeliner.

This line was particularly powerful: “Be unapologetic in your masculinity, fighting against the cultural emasculation of men.” I’m glad he told those young men to stop feeling bad about being strong and independent, to stop being the things that we have told our young women they absolutely must be in order to have any worth.

What irony there is in a society that pushes our women to be warriors, and forces our men to be passive observers. This is manifested in so many ways.

When I taught in a boys’ school decades ago, my students were rowdy, athletic, physical and filled with kinetic energy. They rushed through the hallways in bursts of joy and restlessness, and the teachers at the Haverford School encouraged that spirit. But had they been in a coed environment, you can be sure the teachers — mostly women — would have punished them for that natural exuberance. On the other hand, they would likely have encouraged girls to “find their voices” and “be loud.”

There was a campaign a few years ago from Gillette razors that criticized “toxic masculinity.” The brainwashing was so effective that there were men who agreed that this was a problem, and that they were in fact, toxic creatures. At that time I wrote: “I believe this hostility toward men is dangerous, but I also know that it’s nothing new. As the second and third-wave feminists gained momentum over the last 50 or so years, they bolstered a narrative that has become accepted wisdom: Men, the patriarchy, and masculinity in general have been the source of women’s suffering. Women are taught to blame men for everything bad that has ever happened to them. The #MeToo movement is just the next generation of this.”

So I’m very glad that Harrison Butker spoke out on behalf of the men. It was, and you will excuse the pun, just the kick in the butt that we needed from a Super Bowl champ.

Copyright 2024 Christine Flowers

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