I explained it to my husband like this: when I am walking down a narrow street and a man calls out to me, I am instantly afraid. He may have no ulterior motives except to compliment me, but I don’t know him. I only know that we are alone, and he is stronger than me, making me vulnerable. I don’t intend to judge every man I meet as a possible attacker, but I am foolish not to think there is a possibility. Every woman can attest to that undercurrent of fear.
That being said, I also believe that most men coming upon a woman being attacked would use that same strength to protect her from harm. I have seen it happen many times. My own husband has stepped up many times to protect those who are weaker and, for that, I am very grateful.
Using Strength to Help
I remember one strange scenario where he was driving down the road and a woman fell out of a car as it turned the corner. My husband got out of the car to see what was happening. The woman lay unconscious on the ground. The male driver got out and started dragging her back to the vehicle. Many times he dropped her, so that her head hit the ground. My husband was furious and got between the man and the woman, keeping the man from reaching her again. He warned the man that he would hurt him if he tried to touch her again. He then waited until the police showed up.
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I am proud of him for doing that. I am proud of every man who uses his strength to protect another from harm. This is the kind of masculinity that we appreciate. While we might want our men to curb any acts of aggression believing it leads to toxic masculinity, I disagree. I want my husband to aggressively defend me and my three children. I need him to.
We Value Your Strength
Faith Moore in an interesting article called “The Prince Is a Letdown: Why Women Love Monsters (And What that Says About Masculinity)” explains that women are drawn to the monsters in stories–the beast in Beauty and the Beast, Edward Cullen in Twilight, and the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera.
But, of course, men who behaved in real life like the way these monsters do in their stories would not be the kind of men we’d want to associate with…But the stories deal with that too. The moment that Belle begins to fall in love with the Beast is the moment in which he uses that brute force and rage to protect her. Edward’s appeal lies largely in his struggle to keep his monstrous urges at bay for the sake of his love for Bella. When the Phantom murders Piangi we know, in our hearts, that Christine can never be with him because he’s shown he can’t channel his urges for good….It’s the way the monsters channel and control their overwhelming urges in response to the love they feel for their partners that really seals the deal for us.
Whether most women would admit it or not, there is an attraction to strength. However, it isn’t the presence of it that is so appealing–it’s the control of it. Why is the image of a strong, muscled man holding a baby so beautiful? It is the perfect image of strength under control–for the sake of love.
We Need Your Strength
Our strivings for equality have done much to level the playing field for women. I fear it may have been leveled too much. There is no way to completely make it equal because we are not equally formed. I will never, no matter how much I work out, be as strong as my husband. He, on the other hand, will never be able to conceive and nurture a baby like I can. We are different, but we need to be different in order to thrive.
This doesn’t mean that women can’t be strong. I certainly appreciate seeing stronger female roles in movies. It is a refreshing change from the women cowering in the corner, helpless and useless. (How many times did I yell at Buttercup in Princess Bride to stop whimpering and actually help Wesley fight that ROUS?). But I also find the constant display of female strength to be exhausting. Do we have to do it all now?
There’s more pressure on me as a woman to have it all figured out. We’ve pushed men out of the room and are now trying to carry the burdens for both, but I don’t want to. I want men to do their job–the job they were tasked in the garden.
Designed to Protect
When God finished the glorious work of creation, He created man. Genesis 2: 15 (ESV) says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” The word keep can also be translated as guard or protect. His first job, even before Eve, was a job of protection. Eve was his equal co-laborer for sure, but he had a responsibility on his own as well.
This is not to reinforce our own cultural gender stereotypes–men can cook and do art. And women can work and be engineers. This is about how our very bodies were designed. It has nothing to do with preference.
I tell my own son this, encouraging him to stand against bullies. He should be a defender of those who need help. This is a huge task, I know. To balance this, I also tell him that when he sees his weakness, as he inevitably will, he should remember that there is one stronger than him. One he can depend on too. We are safe because the one who is strongest of all is the protector of the weak (Isaiah 25:4).