Most of my energy nowadays is spent thinking about culture, more specifically about mainstream American culture. My hope is that by concentrating on culture we can better equip ourselves with the tools necessary to create a healthier, happier, more sustainable world for everybody. There are days where I know we are winning. Then there are days when I am reminded of the absurdity that still occupies so much space. There are times when I am reminded of the corrosiveness that defines too much of American culture, last night was one of those times.
One of the most divine things human beings can do is create. There is no creation greater than children. The birth of our children should be celebrated, unfortunately this is not the case in American society, enter Daniel Murphy.
David Murphy is the Mets second baseman and his wife just gave birth to their first child, congratulations are in order. Sadly this is not what the Murphys received, instead of congratulations and celebrations Daniel Murphy was met with criticism for missing the first games of the baseball season, yup the one that is 162 games long. Boomer Esiason went so far as to say he would have urged his wife to “have a C-section before the season starts…” because “… I need to be at Opening Day, I’m sorry.” Esiason was not alone in his absurd criticism, his co-host Craig Carton was in agreement stating: “Assuming the birth went well, the wife is fine, the baby is fine, 24 hours and then you get your ass back to your team and you play baseball.” Believe it or not these two don’t even represent the worst of the criticism, that distinction belongs to Mike Francesa who had this to add: “For a baseball player. You take a day, all right. Back in the lineup the next day! What are you doing? … I guarantee you are not sitting there holding your wife’s hand. . . . I had three kids. . . I was at the birth and was back to work the next day. I didn’t see any reason not to be working. Harrison (Francesa’s son) was born at nine in the morning. I worked that day. What was I gonna do, sit with my wife in the hospital?”
Imagine that… sitting by your wife at the hospital! Or… Or celebrate and give thanks with your family and friends! You know just a couple of ideas.
And it is in this callousness I see the real issue. Men are taught by our society that they cannot be “soft” and put their families in front of their duties as men, whatever that means. Why else would you “guarantee [Murphy] is not sitting there holding your wife’s hand.” What would be wrong with that? Is it not an appropriate thing for men to be present in the intense emotion of child birth? Shouldn’t being at work the same day as your wife gives birth be a source of shame as opposed to pride? Apparently not for these (and many many more) men, they (we) have been socialized to believe that our main role on this planet is to meet the obligations demanded of us by the market economy… Fuck That! We are so wound up in this definition that even when the space is there to be more than that, as it was to Murphy via the collective bargaining agreement between the players union and MLB, we scoff at it. Again Francesa illustrates this perfectly in his reaction to the 10 day paternity leave offered by his own company, “That’s ridiculous, what the heck do you need 10 days for? What are you supposed to be doing, vacationing?” Yes, loving and enjoying your family is vacationing.
The time has come for us men to redefine what it means to be a man. We are more than our ability to survive or even thrive in the market. We are more than our ability to inflict physical pain or strike fear in the hearts of other men. Maybe, just maybe, when we confront these fundamental socializations we can begin to confront the epidemic of rape, sexual assault and all other types of violence that serve as hallmarks of the lives of far far too many young women. And make no mistake the abhorrent sexual violence and rape statistics are directly linked to masculinity not, as many would have you believe, the women who are on the receiving end of this dysfunction.
Healing is not easy, no doubt. But it can begin with a simple congratulations Daniel Murphy.