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When Men were Men

Yesterday, I did something unusual. I went to see a movie that was filled with frightening scenes and macho bravado. And I drank it up all.

Liam Neeson in the film The Grey. Photo credit.

It’s old fashioned and sexist to believe that men should all be strong and brave, just as it would be to believe that all women should be nurturing and gentle. But the news has been filled with stories of weak, dishonourable men as of late. And it is making me long for a time (fictional or not) for when “men were men.”

First there is the Penn State football scandal in which assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky repeatedly abused young boys. On several occasions, according to this report posted today, Sandusky was caught in the middle of abusing a child:

  • In the fall of 2000, a janitor named James Calhoun witnesses Sandusky pinning a young boy up against a wall and abusing him. He does not pull Sandusky off the child and get the child to safety.
  • In this same year, another employee, Ronald Petrosky, is cleaning the showers and comes across Sandusky abusing another young boy. Again, another man witnesses a man abusing a child and does not intervene and get the child to safety.
  • In 2002, a graduate assistant to the team, Mike McQueary, comes across Sandusky sodomizing a young boy. Yet again, another a grown man does not intervene and get the child to safety.

I like to think that if I had been in the position of any of the three men above that I would run up screaming and yelling and try to push Sandusky away from the child. I also strongly believe that the men I know best would rather risk a black eye and upsetting an influential sports figure on campus, than live with knowing that they walked away from a child who desperately needed help. It’s one thing to hear of suspected abuse, but to witness it in the act not intervene? I simply can’t understand this.

Next, we have Captain Schettino of the Costa Concordia. His ship goes down, and rather than working to organize a rescue, he jumps overboard and saves himself. From a lifeboat, he watches the passengers frantically trying to escape while a Coast Guard captain urges him to go back on board to assist with the rescue. The entire conversation between Schettino and the Coast Guard is recorded and you can hear the captain’s weak excuses for not going back and the Guard finally demanding that he do — ” Get back aboard, damn it!” – to no avail. There are 11 passengers confirmed dead, and another 23 still unaccounted for.

And last but not least, the major news from yesterday was the guilty verdict in the Shafia case. Three members of the family, including the father, are charged with killing four members of the family – three sisters and the father’s second wife. Again, we have a man, Mohammad Shafia, putting his own needs first.

In the Penn State case, it would seem that the men did nothing so that they could avoid ruffling the feathers of a popular football team’s leadership, while in the Costa Concordia situation, Schettino feared for his own life and ran for shelter rather than to fulfill his duty as captain. Then, with Shafia, he is so focused on his own “honour” and reputation, he murders his own flesh and blood. Rather than re-examine his own values and do the hard work of bridging a compromise with his daughters, he decided to just make the “problem” go away.

I know there are plenty of honourable men – and women — in our society today. They quietly do hard, brave work every day. But the spate of recent media stories has really had me feeling sick to my stomach.


  1. Rather than men being men, it’s about people doing the right thing. Society is scared of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, they often worry that if they interfere they will be punched, stabbed, sued or something else and therefore ignorance is bliss. But when you see a wrong and you don’t do anything it’s not going to be bliss, because if either of those men described above isn’t haunted by what they did or didn’t do than it’s more than not doing the right thing. If they are not haunted, than they as people are not what they should be. There are examples of women doing dispicable things as well, as women looking away when they see wrong done.
    I would hope that I teach my children to stand up for what’s right, to defend people that are being harmed and to know that to look away is not an option.
    BTW: I believe it’s his first wife…

    • I agree that both men and women have to be accountable. This post, however, tries to express my feelings, even if they include societal stereotypes that I’ve absorbed over time. Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  2. It makes me shake my head. And you’re right, it’s sickening. 
    As human beings, we seem to have this endless capacity for deviancy and hubris and situational amorality. 
    It’s hard to fathom. And it’s hard not to want to hide under the covers.  

  3. Sarah McCormack says:

    while i was agreeing with all your said on this most disturbing and socially relevant topic, i was also hoping for a review of the movie you saw! is that wrong of me?

    • ha! someone else asked me the same thing via DM! For its genre, I’d give it a 4 out of 5. It was really good. (But you need to dismiss unjust demonizing of the wolves. It is like Jaws.)

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