Navigating Media and Gender with Our Students

In today’s age of fake news and media hysteria, faculty members of Christian schools must be able to both discern what is true and teach students to do the same. We live in a confusing age, a time in history when anyone and everyone has a ready-made platform from which to shout their latest musings. As educators entrusted with helping teenagers navigate this new world, it is essential that we consistently present examples of articles, podcasts, and videos at their best. By doing this, we can show students how to judge what a relevant and thoughtful opinion looks like. This skill is only made more important by the current culture of inflamed heads and underdeveloped hearts playing itself out on a national stage of finger-pointing and rage.

One major area of consistent media attention is gender. It would be far too easy for us as Christians to remove ourselves from the confusing, and at times alarming, debates about how we must think about the significant challenges being addressed. The #MeToo movement is an example of a social movement that teenagers and adolescents want to know about. Moreover, not only do students want to know about this topic, they also want to be able to think and talk with wisdom about how women have been abused by powerful men. If Christians should be the light of Christ in the darkness, we must weigh in on these topics with our students.

The New APA Guidelines

In August 2018, the American Psychological Association (APA) released new guidelines for treatment of men and boys with mental health disorders (Pappas). Stoicism and dominance, “traditional masculinity” as stated by the report, are drowning men in a sea of their own pain and leading to high numbers of suicides, homicides, and addictive behaviors (APA Guidelines, 11). In the Washington Post article “How ‘Traditional Masculinity’ Hurts the Men Who Believe in It the Most,” columnist Monica Hesse explores this new insight into how to best treat males and how to change the cultural narrative around struggling men. While many in conservative circles have dismissed both Hesse’s article and the APA’s assessment, it seems that administrators and faculty members of Christian schools should, at the very least, consider what is being debated. Whether or not we bring this debate into our classrooms, our students are thinking and forming opinions about these fiery topics.

“How ‘Traditional Masculinity’ Hurts”

The Christian world can no longer pretend to believe that the men in our midst are alright. Pornography, mental illness, and stress of all kinds are pulling men down by the bootstraps by which they are told to lift themselves up. Hesse’s article is generally well written and thoughtful, far from the critique of masculinity that I expected. Instead, Hesse speaks lovingly of her grandfather who embodied “traditional” masculinity in a way that gained both her love and her respect. She reflected on a men’s conference she had covered a few years back where she found men to be overwhelmingly depressed and sad. Throughout her stories and reflections, it seems that, if anything, she is genuine in her desire for men to flourish.

At one point in the article she asks a difficult question that is interesting and essential for explaining the problem as she sees it. After describing her experience at this men’s conference, she wondered how white males, who are clearly privileged in our society, could be complaining about the system that they built. After all, she exclaims, weren’t the Founding Fathers themselves white men? She answers the rhetorical question with a simple response: what we have is a bad system, and bad systems hurt everyone—including those who create them.

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Dennis Uhlman teaches American Government and Economics at the Ben Lippen School in Columbia, SC. Dennis serves as the Model United Nations Advisor and greatly enjoys teaching and discipling students. He lives with his wife, Stacey, and their young daughter Ruth in Columbia.