I've been accused of many things on the web (don't we bloggers subject ourselves to much criticism?), but two weeks ago saw a first: Regular Her.meneutics contributor Sharon Hodde Miller compared my personal blog post "10 Reasons He's Not Calling You," excerpted from the book Have Him at Hello, to a "Cosmo checklist," calling it a prime example of how not to help single women. I generally agree with Miller, that blaming women for their own singleness is not helpful. But I'd also argue that blaming men for being, well, men, is equally unhelpful. I've noticed this trend in Christian circles as of late.
There is no shortage of op-eds complaining about the lack of good men, a new study about men falling behind in the workforce, or another lamenting the marriage crisis because men won't grow up and get a real job. In the most recent Internet skirmish, author Suzanne Venker claimed a war on men is in full-force—and that women are actually to blame for the lack of marriageable men. She asserts that the rise of women has changed the dance between the sexes, and that men apparently do not want to be married because "women aren't women anymore." We allegedly aren't feminine or appealing enough, and are pushing men away with our career achievements.
From the Christian women I see around me, Venker misses the mark entirely. Christian women in general are still exuding feminity and not giving away free sex—but men are still not readily willing to give up their bachelor pads and buy a ring. So what's the problem? Are men to blame?
But Venker is correct about one point: There is, in essence, a war on men in the sense that men are often blamed for the current state of our relationships. It's become acceptable for women, including Christian women, to stand around and toss verbal grenades at men for all our dating woes. "There are no good men anymore"; "All men are jerks"; "Men these days are pathetic"; "If he would man up, I might have a shot at love." Don't get me wrong: There are plenty of jerks out there, and one of my life passions is to help women know how to identify them before it's too late. I've been accused once or twice of being too hard on men, so I'm speaking from experience, not judgment.
When I was in college, I spent the better part of two years hanging out with Christian men in a fraternity. I watched as my friends were asked to date party after date party, formal after formal—and grew more and more resentful. Other guys were asking me out, but the Christian men didn't express interest. I became dismissive, flippant, and frustrated. By the time I was a senior, I was so hurt from being overlooked that in front of a Christian guy friend I announced, "I've never been asked to anything!"
I tried to play it off as a joke, but my words barely masked how hurt I really was. I look back and feel certain that all those years my belief that "no good man would ever ask me out" surfaced in my conversations with men. I vacillated between blaming men and then believing terrible lies about myself, gripping onto my "I don't need you anyway" attitude. It hurt to feel overlooked, and bitterness grew deep. Eventually, I started blaming men for my singleness because that hurt less than assuming I may have played a part.
Many of you struggle to know in your heart that you are worth loving; my heart breaks thinking about you tossing and turning with the question, "Why haven't I been chosen?" I don't take your pain lightly. However, it's what you do with the pain that is pivotal. Blaming men doesn't solve the problem—it only adds to it. Sitting around with our girlfriends talking about the nonexistence of good men erodes our attitudes and can show up in conversations with men. Falling back on the infamous "I'm single because there are no good men left" is excusing our bitterness and potential contribution to the problem.
I understand the statistics have made many lose hope—but don't let statistics become an excuse not to put yourself out there, examine your difficult personality traits, or read books or lists about finding a spouse. I understand that God never promises us a spouse more than he promises good health or retirement at age 60. However, he has promised that he is faithful to us, that he is for us, and we are called to hold unswervingly to hope in him.
In this way, it is imperative we remain hopeful of good men and not attack our brothers whether it's at dinner with our girlfriends, in the subtle lies we believe about men, or letting men "have it" on the internet. What if we opened our hearts up to all the emotions that come with singleness and stopped trying to blame anyone? What if we adopted an attitude of grace toward men and made it a point to offer life-giving words they all long to hear: "You have what it takes"; "You are a good man"; and "I respect you." What if?
Last week, I struck up a conversation with a beautiful African American woman in line at a local sandwich shop. She told me her story of meeting her husband—marveling that even though "most black men aren't living right," God gave her "an amazing family man." I don't think it's a coincidence that she shared her "God story" with me. It's easy for me to give up hope for all my single friends as well. In my conversation with the woman in line, I remembered how important it is not to lose hope—to extend grace instead of resentment to our brothers—and reclaim faith in a God who is bigger than statistics.
Ruthie Dean is a publicist for HarperCollins-Christian and lives in Nashville with her husband. She wrote the top-read Her.meneutics post of 2012, "Real Women Don't Text Back and blogs at RuthieDean.com."