Friday, November 30, 2012

The War are we fighting, again?

Some of you may have come across this article by Suzanne Venker over at that bastion of media respectability, Fox News.  If you haven't, you might want to check it out.  In the article, titled "The War on Men," Ms. Venker proposes that one of the reasons so many men are opposed to marriage these days is because of...well...because of women.

"I've spent thirteen years," Ms. Venker states,
examining social agendas as they pertain to sex, parenting, and gender roles.  During this time, I've spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women.
So she's establishing her credibility.  That's great, especially the stuff about examining social agendas and writing three books (which she mentions earlier in the article) and so forth.  But here's me being nitpickish, and I just can't help it.

Apparently she's also spoken to hundreds--maybe even thousands--of men and women.

WOW!  I'm amazed.  Except I'm not.  Admittedly, I assume she's saying that in the context of the "examining social agendas" thing, but come on.  I don't know if speaking to a lot of people qualifies anyone for much of anything.  Except, perhaps, speaking with more people (?).  Did she speak with these men and women in a professional context?  What kind of sample are they?  Gah.  Anyway.  This isn't even what I want to write about, but let me just say I'm not that impressed.

Back to her words:
I've accidentally stumbled upon a subculture of men who've told me, in no uncertain terms, that they're never getting married.  When I ask them why, the answer is always the same.  Women aren't women anymore.
Ok.  Women aren't women anymore.


Does she mean that women aren't what men expect and want them to be anymore?  They aren't what society tries to pigeonhole them into being anymore?  Or is there some other angle she's getting at, here?  Because, um, anatomically, I'm pretty sure women are still...women.  Stephen Colbert did a great bit on this, so check that out--I don't want to step on his toes (and couldn't if I tried) or beat the subject to death (and mix a lot of metaphors).

But anyway, there's the crux of her article.  Women want to get married, and men don't want to get married, and, largely, that whole conundrum is the women's fault.

Personally, I see some fundamental problems with this thesis.  First of all, since when, exactly, is men not wanting to get married a new thing?  I'm pretty sure Og and Zog, the caveman and cavewoman, struggled with the same issue.  Zog wanted babies.  Og wanted to go out with his pals, Urlp and Frederick, to see who could lift the largest rock.  Zog, seeing as how she was the one who did all the cooking, cleaning, and hunting to boot (What did Og do, anyway?  Lift rocks with his friends, I guess.  Oh, and start wars.  There's that.), threatened to withhold any and all sexy-fun-times unless Og stuck around to spend some quality time and give her a bouncing baby or three, or eleven.  So Og shouts down the cave complex to Urlp and Frederick, letting them know the big boulder-hefting competition is off, they'll have to try next weekend.*  It's a tale as old as time**, not the revelation Ms. Venker makes it out to be.

The modern Og and Zog.

Now, one thing Ms. Venker does get right is that women have changed quite a bit.  Good on you, Ms. Vanker, I think that's a fairly accurate statement, although it might be slightly more accurate to state that the way women are treated has changed quite a bit, but still.  Way to...oh.  Wait.  Actually, according to Ms. Venker, the gist of this change consists of women becoming angry and defensive.  Again, this is something I just don't see.  I'm sure Zog could be just as angry and defensive as any woman today, just as I know for a fact that most women today are actually quite pleasant and graceful.  Doesn't seem like much of a change to me.  In fact, Ms. Vanker's entire article seems to do little more than perpetuate generalities and stereotypes that have existed for centuries, wrapping them up in sort-of-shiny, kind-of-new wrapping paper, and throwing them right back into the face of feminism.

Ahem.  Anyway.  She said this other thing that I found a bit wonky***:
The so-called rise of women has not threatened men.  It has pissed them off.  It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family.  Men want to love women, not compete with them.
First of all, let's be honest, the "rise of women" (which sounds more like a planet of the apes movie than anything--come on, people, let's work on our nomenclature) has threatened men.  Some men.  And, sure, it's probably pissed men off, too.  Some men.  But, by and large, I actually think that men, and society as a whole, are better off when women are treated as, well, anyone else should be treated--meaning respect, kindness, and all that jazz, as well as letting them choose to do whatever they want with their lives, whether that's running a business or running a home.  Some people (and I won't restrict this category to just men) may indeed be pissed off and/or threatened by women suddenly filling high-level positions in businesses, or doing better in school than men, or voting, or working while a man takes care of the children, or whatever.  And those people are entitled to their opinions.  But I don't think that's a reason to blame men's lack of matrimonial desire on women.

And the whole "love women, not compete with them" thing...that may be true, too, but probably only because men are scared to death of getting their butts handed to them.  Just another reason for men to pick it up a notch and give these uber-women a run for their money.  (Now, Ms. Venker did come out and say she actually meant that "husbands" don't want to compete with "wives" in the workplace, which I suppose makes a modicum of sense.  Look up modicum in the dictionary and you'll see what I mean.)

Now, is there some truth to Ms. Venker's article?  Sure.  I'm sure the thousands of men and women she's talked to have genuine concerns about this issue.  But I think she spins it too far--it seems more of a reactionary piece to elicit backlash more than anything (in which case, I suppose, she's got me there!).  But you know what?  She can say what she wants, I can say what I want, and we never even have to confront one another about it.  That's what's so great about America.  And the Internet.

Finally, let me contextualize:  I'm a married man, and I'm supremely happy about that.  My amazing wife happens to be the main breadwinner in our family at the moment, and I'm proud of her for that.  She's intelligent, capable, enjoys what she does for work and--get this--is freaking good at it.  I'm not angry or defensive about our situation, and neither is she.  Will that be our situation forever?  Probably not.  But if it is, I, for one, won't be terribly upset.  We compliment each other pretty well, she and I, and I think that is one attribute among many that makes us pretty adaptable to whatever situation comes our way.

*  True story.  Think I saw it on the history channel or something.

**  What, you thought Beauty and the Beast was the only one?  Don't be ridiculous.  Now, when it comes to songs as old as rhyme, I'm pretty sure there's just the one.

*** Okay, she said whole lot more stuff that I found wonky, to say the least.  But this post is already expanding far beyond its humble beginnings, so I'll hold my tongue.

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