Monday, December 7, 2009


In response to my column a couple weeks ago entitled "Be a Man" (which was re-named "Turning fire-belching dragons into Knights," ug) - I received the following email from a reader who simply signed himself "A man." For the life of me I can't figure out if it's a snark or not. Regardless, here it is. You decide.

Dear Mrs. Lewis,

While I appreciate that you regard the distinction between men and women as real and innate, I must tell you that I am sick to death of being told that men are innately animals and that women are innately of a higher order of being. It seems that you have taken the old rhyme about sugar and spice vs. snips and snails to heart and made a religion out of it. You and other "traditional" women seem to believe that women are owed, by their very nature, "manners and respect", and "a proper courtship and marriage". Why? What does a woman do for me? Why do I owe her anything?

I want to tell you of an experience that I had. A number of years ago I conducted a little informal survey among my coworkers. I asked both men and women the same question: "I understand what a woman get out of marriage--she gets security, support, a place to raise her kids... but what does a man get out of marriage?" Without an exception that I can remember, the women all answered "sex" and the men all shrugged their shoulders and said "I don't know". You should know that if men were only honest there is hardly a man alive who believes that he's getting enough "sex" to make marriage worth it. The reason he's (still) married is because--and ONLY because--he loves his wife and feels a responsibility for her.

You've got it all wrong. It is precisely women's "second-class status" as you call it that make men into gentlemen. You need to understand that a man's nature is to OWN things. The things that he owns he cherishes, protects, cares for, and, most of all, loves. Have you ever watched a man lovingly waxing his new car? Things that he doesn't own, he disregards; even destroys. The unwillingness of women to accept a man's offers of help, seats, opening doors, etc. is merely symptomatic of modern women's larger unwillingness to be owned.

This is most destructive in a relationship between a couple. If she sends signals that "I'm your equal", "I'm just as capable as you are", "I don't need your help", he will treat her as one of the guys. She doesn't need me, she's nothing special. If, however, she sends signals that "I need you to take care of me, I need you to protect me, I need you to provide for me and our family", he will be there in an instant and he will stay as long as that need is felt. Just as a woman's core instinct is to nurture, a man's core instinct is to protect and provide. When that instinct isn't met, he loses interest.

Mrs. Lewis, a male will be a man when he isn't told to shove off, when he isn't denigrated as an inferior order of being, and when he isn't told that he shouldn't view himself in the provider, protector role.

A man.


  1. This letter doesn't sound at all snarky to me. Actually, it seems to me that you and this man are trying to make the same point, which is that if women allow and encourage men to be Men, and behave like Ladies, everything is much nicer for everyone concerned. BTW, I think it's pretty sad that the predominant view (at this man's place of work, if not elsewhere) is that the only thing men get from marriage is sex. How about support, encouragement, someone who will always believe in you, love you, and stand by you no matter what? He's right about one thing at least: if sex is the only thing men get from marriage, then why bother?

  2. Although I will say, that I'm not sure why a man needs to feel he "owns" his wife to desire to care for her. But he owns her in the sense that she is his, and no one else's. And she "owns" him in the same way. Semantics are hard, because so many people react negatively to words that, when you actually look at the definition, really aren't offensive.

  3. I think he's hinting a little bit at the one-sided-ness of male-female relationships in public. Men open doors, scoot in chairs, lift heavy objects, change flat tires, generally get dirty, etc. for women who are complete strangers. What do women do in public to reciprocate?

    As a man, I do what I do for women in public out of respect and out of some deep rooted desire to protect the "weaker sex". I don't do it expecting something in return. I think it is, however, a useful question to discuss. As chivalry becomes more and more hated, I think some men are starting to say, "Why should I bother helping unknown women in public when I get nothing in return?"

  4. Loving your blog. :)

    I've been teaching my 16yo daughter that it's important to give men the opportunity to behave like gentlemen by allowing them to open doors for her, etc. Consequently, my dear introverted girl has been blossoming in feminine confidence as she rewards them with a smile and a "thank you."

    It's been fun to watch her discover how differently she is treated by complete strangers for simply behaving like a Lady, while the women around her are opening their own doors and missing out on a small, sweet affirmation of their ability to soften a man's rough edges by simply *being* a woman, rather than trying to force men to change, becoming themselves more man-like in the process.


  5. As I read the man's letter, the Bible's advice on male/female relationships came to mind:

    "Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself ("ownership"); and the wife see that she reverence her husband." Ephesians 5:33, KJV

    This is God's formula for a happy marriage, because more than anything else, men desire to be respected (revered) and women desire to be loved (cherished).

    So, I think this letter writer is actually on the right track, he just has an unfortunate way of expressing his thoughts.