The Post is an intriguing historical film that explores the dicey relationship between the government and the press. Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major newspaper (played by Meryl Streep), and executive editor Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks) are faced with a choice. Do they print the leaked Pentagon Papers that reveal what Washington really knows about the failing war in Vietnam and risk losing everything, or do they obey an injunction from the White House to stop the publication of the story and save the family business? The Post is entertaining enough for those who take even a casual interest in history, yet deep enough to spawn conversations amongst those who are serious followers of politics. As intriguing as those conversations may be, for me, there was another theme that makes this movie a must-see for every husband in the room.
This past weekend Shannon and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. The great thing about our anniversary getaway was that for about a day and a half it was just the two of us. It was a short weekend interspersed with a lot of food and great conversations. We decided before heading home that we would head to the theater to see The Post. I’m glad we did. As I sat and watched the story of a remarkable woman unfold it made me realize something about the remarkable woman sitting right beside me. I miss her.
When you are as busy as we are, sometimes you don’t live, you survive. I hear, but I don’t listen. I see her, but I miss her.
In the film, Katharine Graham is misjudged by men. They appreciate her as a wife, a mother, and a hostess, but they think of her as a woman out of place when it comes to running a major news outlet. Even though she holds the most critical seat in the company, many of the businessmen at the Washington Post talk to her as a courtesy but do not take her seriously as a professional. Yet when the critical moment comes, Katharine demonstrates that she is fully capable of making a tough decision; one that has profoundly shaped our country.
For men, what happened at the Post also happens at home. We fail to take the most significant woman in our life seriously. That female in your marriage, she’s critical. She’s capable. She’s valuable. You see her, but you look right past her. You share the same house, but you’re missing her.
Men, despite what is going on in Washington between politicians and the press, we can’t afford to lose at home.
Later that evening, I sat down with Shannon further digesting the take-aways of the weekend, and I asked her, “What is it that women want from their husbands?” Here is what I learned from her. Guys, don’t miss this.
1. Know who she is.
As portrayed in the film, the most striking thing about Katharine Graham was that even though she may not be comfortable with the circumstance she was in, she was ever confident in who she was. Her climactic moment comes as she is surrounded by a group of powerful men, shouldering the weight of her decision, she tells them in no uncertain terms that The Washington Post is not her father’s company, nor is it her husband’s. It is hers. She is not the face of it by default, she is the leader.
At the same time, Katharine is a woman who was loyal to her troubled husband and she admired her father. In an era in which women had little opportunity for corporate leadership, Katharine’s father made the decision to pass the business to her husband, Philip, rather than to her. In her personal memoir, Katharine says that she was told by her father that the reason for his decision was because “No man should be in the position of working for his wife.” (source: The Smithsonian Magazine)
Yet, in a surprising scene for a film made in a day in which we seem to scream sexism at every turn, Katharine recalls her feelings about the transition in a conversation with her daughter. She remarks that, at the time, it seemed a natural choice and she held no resentment. In fact, she says that she enjoyed raising her children and playing hostess to the Washington parties. No matter what station of life she was in, Katharine enjoyed being Katharine.
We live in a culture in which women are being killed by comparison. She has to be an activist for the left. She has to know her place for the right. She has to be filtered for social media. She has to have the best friends, the best life, wear the best clothes and no matter what else she endeavors to do, if it doesn’t look good on Instagram, she fails.
The appreciable thing about Katharine is that she didn’t fit the liberal left nor did she fit the mold of the male-dominated right. She could read a book to her kids as she tucked them into bed and she could face the Supreme Court in a landmark decision for freedom of the press. She had the hospitality to host a garden party as well as the courage it takes to face a political firestorm and publish a groundbreaking story. It seemed throughout the film as Katharine was being pulled in conflicting directions she was always having to remind those around her, but “this is who I am.”
In the pressures of all we have to do as parents, as leaders, and as couples, we can’t forget to take the time as husbands to look beyond what our wife does and explore who she is. Ephesians 5:28 says that “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
In short, that verse means that you should know her as much as you know you. She is not your second self. She is not to be lost behind you. She is to be loved so deeply that it changes you. If you love her rightly, you know her as much as you know you.
2. Affirm her desires
Left or right. Trump or Hillary. Fox or CNN. The Post challenges every man to take a pause and ask the wives, daughters, and women in their life, “but what do you want?”
Katharine’s father handed the Post to her late husband. In 1963 Philip Graham committed suicide and so the Post fell to her. As the cover-up behind the Vietnam war begins to unfold, The Washington Post was on the verge of being offered as a publicly traded company. The timing of the leak of the Pentagon Papers could not have been worse for Katharine. To print or not to print becomes a battle between company and conscience.
Katharine is surrounded by men who are passionate about their stake in the game. On one side are the men who feel they have the scoop and thus the story must be told. In doing so, the Post could become as respectable as The Times. On the other side are men with deep pockets who see the implications of TheWashington Post going under in the public offering if the injunction from the Nixon White House stands and the press is stopped.
Katharine occupies the seat that holds the power between both worlds. She is torn between the loyalty she feels to her family’s company and the conviction of conscience to print the story. The men surrounding her treat her as if she is a family hand-me-down, they want her only to agree with their desires, they hardly consider her to be a powerful person with desires of her own.
As a husband, I focus on what we have to do and I forget to take the time to ask what she wants. My wife is not a female hand-me-down from God; a puppet for my own ambitions. She is a person God has created with purpose, ambition, and desires of her own.
One of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible is Genesis 3:16. As a consequence of sin, God curses the man and the woman. To the woman, he says, “Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”
God was not saying that because the woman sinned that she was sentenced to be second to her husband. He was not saying that the woman would have limited aspirations and that all of her desires could be fulfilled by a man. The verse is not a verdict on what she must do with her life, but rather a revelation on how difficult relationships between male and female sinners will be in this life. Men and women were created incredibly complementary but now influenced by sin would find themselves in constant competition.
As husbands, we are called to follow Christ and sacrifice self for the sake of our wives. As men, competition works in business, it does not work at home. If I rule her, I am a casualty of the curse. If I prop myself up as if I am all she desires, I am an idiot!
Guys, she was created complimentary, out of us, not over us, and especially not beneath us. If you don’t want to be yet another curator of the curse, desire her. Don’t rule over her, romance her. Hear her. Ask her. Affirm her. Serve her.
3. Recognize her abilities
As a man, we tend to watch a film like The Post and give a nod to a woman like Katharine. She did something admirable as a woman in her time. We see a film about a woman. We miss that it is ultimately a film about a leader.
Katharine Graham was a capable leader. What I appreciated about her most was that even though she was under-appreciated in the position she held, she valued the opinions of the people around her. She weighed the options. She listened to counsel. She took responsibility for the final decision. She was willing to be sacrificed for the sake of doing the right thing.
But even though I watched a woman on the screen from whom I can learn as a leader, do I pay attention to the woman in my home? Do I take her seriously as someone from whom I can learn?
I’ll be honest, there are times that I feel threatened by my wife. I feel that if she has a better answer or is capable of doing more, that I have failed. The problem with that attitude is that it stands opposed to God’s design for us as husband and wife. I think the English translations of the Bible have struggled to capture what God is saying about the creation of the woman in Genesis 2:18. For example, the ESV describes her as “a helper fit for him.”
Any interpretation of that phrase that makes the woman anything beneath the man, or insinuates that she is not as capable as him, fails to capture what God has said about her. The words more literally translated from Hebrew to English would be something more like “a helper face to face.” It means that we don’t need another “him.” He needs another face, a different perspective if he is to ever fully fulfill his purpose as the image of God.
She is not his helper so that he has the luxury of doing less. She is his helper so that he can do more. And she is fully capable of doing as much, if not more, than him. There is both facing and following in marriage. I miss it if I am amazed by a woman in a movie, but not amazed at the other face, the amazing woman I have at home.
I, like a lot of men, in seeing my wife as a competitive face, miss the mission of marriage. She is not my competitor, she is God’s compliment to me and I to her. She is equal, but thank God, not the same. She is the other face. She is the face that sees things the other way. If I read Genesis 2 correctly, it makes me more of a man to recognize her as capable, not less. I am idolatrous before God to think that the other face in our marriage is my competitor.
Cue Jerry MaGuire! “You complete me.”
4. Celebrate her accomplishments.
In the closing scenes of the film, Katharine Graham walks down the steps of the Supreme Court silent, smiling, victorious. She says nothing, but her path is lined with scores of young women admiring her for her bravery. The scene seems to be set up as an artistic nod for what Katharine did for the women who would come after her. I have no idea how historically accurate that moment is, but it well conveys the idea – it is time to celebrate Kay.
Many see the Bible as an archaic book that is demeaning to women. Yet the Book of Proverbs, a book written by the world’s wisest man, closes with the words of a wise woman.
In the book’s final chapter, the mother of a king counsels her son to find a woman who is capable and celebrate her.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed; HER HUSBAND ALSO, AND HE PRAISES HER: ‘many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Prov. 31:28-31)
Did you catch the command? She is to be praised!
The Bible is not demeaning to women. Men who do not adore their wives are demeaning to women. The Bible does not oppress women. The Bible commands men to celebrate them. In the Bible, a woman is not to be held back but held up as she is admired by her husband.
Your wife may not be walking out of the Supreme Court after a landmark case, but she should be celebrated as she passes through the corridors of your home. She should be met with appreciation rather than aggravation. Her husband should find reasons to look up at her rather than talk down to her. In God’s design, the husband is not the only hero in the home. There is room for two.
Boys, we have been issued a command. She is to be praised. I will admit. I am often out of step with the command. That will change.
5. Empower her decisions.
As leader of The Washington Post, Katharine is an intruder in a world full of men. There are times she seems overwhelmed and intimidated by them, but there is another subtle dynamic to the relationship that can’t be missed. Boys will be boys, but there are times throughout the film in which you get a real sense that it isn’t just business, she has some men behind her who genuinely care about her.
I think the world is the same for each of us, both male and female. This place is smoky and it stinks sometimes; we all need some support.
The story of The Post communicates that even though Katharine’s father and husband had passed, she missed them and wished that she still had them. She did what she had to do, but it would have been easier to have had their support in the valley of decision.
Not every woman needs a husband. Not every man needs a wife. There is something admirable about being single. Paul actually argues for it in 1 Corinthians 7.
But if a woman has a husband, she ought to have in him strong support. She is not alone in parenting the children. She is not alone in managing the household. She is not alone in making decisions. He is not the only one who works! If anyone she should be able to count on to stand with her, defend her, and empower her – it ought to be him, her husband.
Another misunderstood passage about marriage is Ephesians 5:22-33. Most trip over the word for the wives in verse 22, “submit.” The passage is then misread as if it is a directive to the wife that upon marriage she must give up her autonomy, her dignity, and in a left-leaning world, her respectability.
A mistake is made in ignoring the context of the passage. What precedes is a word of instruction that begins by telling us to be imitators of God (5:1) and ends by telling us that the end result of it is that we are “submitting to one another (5:21).” Both male and female share the same call, but they flesh it out in ways unique to them. What follows to the wife and to the husband is how each of them takes responsibility in mutual submission to imitate God in marriage in such a way that it becomes a demonstration of Christ and the church. Done correctly, it becomes a demonstration of redemption to a watching world.
From her, the husband needs respect. From him, the wife needs genuine, self-sacrificing love (Eph. 5:33).
The word sacrifice here does not mean merely that a man is willing to take a bullet for his wife. The focus of the passage is not on how a man dies, but on how he lives. It does not matter if he dies for her if he does not live for her.
Sadly, many married women feel alone with their husbands. She has to make all of the decisions and shoulder the suffering that often comes with them. She has no support. It is hard to live with a man who makes no sacrifice.
Marriage should not be a woman in a smoky room with a stinky man. She should have in him a strong support. If he is truly a living sacrifice for Christ (Rom. 12:1), he will be a living sacrifice for her (Eph. 5:25).
It’s ironic that it was in watching a movie with her, that I was reminded of how much I miss her. She was in the seat right beside me, but when it comes to the critical decisions of life, I fear I make her disappear. Like the men in the movie, I push to the edges a marvelous woman that the world shouldn’t miss. I married a great, gifted, capable woman. The Post should make us think about things – politics and press – Trump and Hillary – Republicans and Democrats . . . but there ought to be some men watching the film who are also thinking about husbands and wives. Don’t miss this movie.
Husbands, don’t miss your wives.
Have you seen The Post or do you plan to see the film? If so, get ready for some strong language. For those who have seen The Post, what were your takeaways from the film?
Please subscribe to BrianBranam.com to be notified of the latest content:
Answering one question a day changes everything! Find a new pace for accomplishing your goal with my book #TheWalk.