Man of the House – America In Primetime

http://www.pbs.org/america-in-primetime/episodes/man-house/

What does it mean to be the man of the house?

Society has evolved incredibly over the past few decades, and while women have broken out of their limits and have changed the definition of the modern, independent woman, men have become increasingly confused over their role in the family and burdened by what it means to be a man in today’s society. Quite justifiably, too. There is so much more that society expects from men now – to be financially capable, sensitive, aggressive, available, nurturing, and helpful with household chores. I never realized before how the changing definition of what it means to be a dad could be so stressful and intimidating, but it helps me understand my dad and why it took so much time and energy for our family dynamic to change. When faced with change, the worst thing to do is avoid it. I understand that society has many more expectations for men now, and that it is difficult and exhausting to meet all these expectations. But women have been dealing with it all their lives – just as young boys are told that big boys don’t cry, young girls are taught to be skinny, pretty, and presentable. The best thing to do is not to conform, but to decide for yourself who you want to be. So society tells you that men should be sensitive but aggressive depending on the situation, and that confuses the hell out of you. Be who you want to be, who you decide to be, and take responsibility for it. Down the line, you’ll learn, you’ll experience, and you might change yet again, but there’s no reason to feel burdened by labels and expectations.

Growing up in an Asian setting, my parents were exactly as couples were depicted on television in the sixties. My parents’ roles were clearly defined, and I don’t remember ever seeing my dad cook, clean, do laundry, or even help during my childhood. The table was set and everyone was seated before he got to the dinner table, and even during meals my mom would get up multiple times to get water or to refill the plates. For some reason, though, it always felt unnatural to me and I often challenged my dad because I thought he was bullying my mom. While I could relate to the family dynamic in sixties shows like “Father Knows Best,” these shows did not accurately represent how life actually was. However, having grown up with some of the shows mentioned in the clip, I admit that while the shows were not the most accurate, they were comforting and entertaining. Shows like “The Bill Cosby Show” provided me an escape from boredom, and were witty to boot. How comforting and entertaining must these shows have been in a time when people were newly feeling uncertain about their futures? There were assassinations, political scandals, nuclear bomb drills, feminist movements, civil rights clashes, and a new subculture of drugs and sex. While our generation may be experiencing international terrorism, heightened nuclear and biochemical dangers, economic instability, and natural disasters, there is a different approach to the uncertainty. The term “YOLO” is one of the mainstream slogans that suggests living life to the fullest since it only passes by once. But the term is applied more for personal experiences that are wild and irrational than for communal experiences with family and friends that reflect the value of life.

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