March 28 2011
Earlier this year, America watched 30 beautiful women compete for the attention, kisses and love of Brad Womack on The Bachelor. Brad is presented as a handsome Texas hunk, an ideal American man who after a few rough patches is ready for a relationship.
Brad is the epitome of a cultural problem plaguing America: guys who won't grow up.
The Bachelor was a steady ratings performer and consistently beat other shows in the same time slot, likely in part because Brad represents a societal snapshot of American boys/men today. Guys who don't want to grow up and gals who are frustrated by those same guys relate to Brad because we all know a Brad. Author Kay Hymowitz recently addressed the problem in Manning Up: How the Rise of Women has Turned Men into Boys.
It would be difficult to be more of a bachelor cliché than Brad. He owns a bar in a college town and is a self-described fitness freak who lives in a loft-style condo and buys a bottle of champagne when he has a woman over. His chosen lifestyle was once reserved for college boys - full of drinking, women, tempers and irresponsible behavior. Today, many may expect this type of bachelorhood to spill into the early 20s, but Brad is 38. His bachelor lifestyle, however, didn't seem to raise red flags for The Bachelor contestants, regardless of their age.
Yet, in the finale, "After the Final Rose," it becomes clear that Brad and the woman he chose, 24-year-old Emily Maynard, are having problems stemming from his bachelor ways. During the show, Emily complains, "Well, he's got a bit of a temper." Brad later replies, "Well, yeah, I can lose my temper, I can. And, you know I'm not going to make excuses. I am not going to sit here and make a single excuse. She is worth it to try to change. I have been alone a long time. I haven't had to answer to anybody." Brad and Emily continue to capture headlines as they try to work out their issues, and Brad tries to transform from a bachelor into a fiancé and father.
Brad hasn't grown up. He's used to living alone, without the responsibility of providing for others. During the show, his family nonchalantly said he was finally ready for a family of his own, as if it wasn't unusual for someone to take 38 years to reach that point.
And, sadly, today it's not unusual. One of the most damaging legacies of the second wave feminist movement is that it taught a generation that independence, a life comprised solely of the individual, is one of the greatest goods. Brad has achieved independence, but has realized that he doesn't just want independence, he wants a wife. The challenge now is finding a partner compatible with the self-centered lifestyle to which he has grown accustomed.
The Network of enlightened Women (NeW), a national organization for conservative college women, is countering this cultural phenomenon of guys staying boys longer and this cultural emphasis on independence by encouraging men to put others first through the NeW Gentlemen's Showcase. The Gentlemen's Showcase is an online contest run on Facebook to find the top college gentleman, the NeW Gentleman of the Year. It is a NeW kind of March Madness, where men aren't just competing on the basketball court. This event recognizes and honors college gentlemen, and encourages college men to exhibit the characteristics of gentlemen - such as exhibiting good manners, showing respect to others, putting others first and taking responsibility for personal actions.
The NeW Gentlemen's Showcase is a positive way to motivate boys to grow into gentlemen and to foster mutual respect between the sexes. Brad and countless other guys would have benefited from such encouragement. Our society needs to find other creative ways to change cultural expectations and create a healthier climate for relationships and family. NeW's initiative is one step in helping college guys move away from boyhood toward manhood, so that we will ultimately have more men and fewer Brads.
Karin Agness is the founder of the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW) and a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum.