Men are in big trouble. We’re slothful, clueless, adrift on the wind, unable to deal with a world that has changed. There’s no place in modern society for men, and that’s why men are now way behind women and falling further back each day. All the good men have gone away, because society won’t let men be good.
At least, that’s the story we keep hearing. The End of Men has been a topic of discussion since at least 2000, when Christina Hoff Sommers wrote The War Against Boys, and continued on with Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men. Now, Suzanne Venker adds to the mythos, with a new article on Fox News’ online site proclaiming the bitter “War on Men.”
It may come as some news to women and men alike that men are doomed. After all, men still out-earn women despite the efforts of three generations of feminists. Nevertheless, folks like Venker love to talk about exactly how men have been hurt by a society in which women are allowed to compete with men on a level playing field.
As is often the case, Venker starts with an appeal to the Most Important Thing Any Woman Could Want, Marriage:
The battle of the sexes is alive and well. According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997 – from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.
Believe it or not, modern women want to get married. Trouble is, men don’t.
Yes, men refuse to get married, which is why 100 percent of marriages were between women in states where same-sex marriage is legal. Well, those and the two million-odd other marriages that happened. Still, it’s obvious that some women have trouble finding a man that they want to marry. (Men, of course, do not ever want to marry.) So what’s to blame? According to Venker, it’s women — or what passes for women these days.
As the author of three books on the American family and its intersection with pop culture [...] I’ve spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women. And in doing so, 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.
Women are no longer women, but she-demons, who come from the great land across the sea. They do not love, but rather devour their mates, bones and all. Who could love such a creature?
I kid, of course. If you’ve met any women lately, they seem, well, pretty much like women. They’re, you know, female and such. Most men have little problem dealing with women like the women they are. Sure, there is the odd Men Going Their Own Way group, who Venker cites, but the MGTOWers aren’t representative of more than a small, emotionally-stunted group of misanthropes. They hardly represent mainstream thought among straight men, most of whom still find women to be attractive.
Nevertheless, Venker tells us that women have changed, thanks to the sexual revolution, while men haven’t changed, because we guys already worked. Of course, she simply skips over that epiphany, and mutters that women have been taught to think of men as “the enemy,” and pushed men off of our pedestals so they could take our place.
Venker is on to something here — men have, indeed, been taken down a notch by women. Actually, that’s not quite right — men haven’t been taken down a notch, but women have clambered up to near-equal status. Men haven’t fallen any, but women are no longer as far beneath us as they were before they stood up and demanded better.
Some men may find this discomfiting, to be sure — it’s easier to out-compete women when they start out behind you, after all — but happily for society, those men aren’t calling the shots anymore.
Venker wishes they could.
It is precisely this dynamic – women good/men bad – that has destroyed the relationship between the sexes. Yet somehow, men are still to blame when love goes awry. Heck, men have been to blame since feminists first took to the streets in the 1970s.
But what if the dearth of good men, and ongoing battle of the sexes, is – hold on to your seats – women’s fault?
Well, the “battle of the sexes,” such as it is, must by definition be partly women’s fault. It takes at least two to battle. But by definition, it’s also men’s fault. A fair amount of it is nobody’s fault — a good deal of the “battle” is just men and women growing up to realize, to their shock, that men and women are really both human, and the minor differences between them are swamped by the vast similarities. At that point, many (though not all) men and women find partners, many (though not all) of the opposite sex, and start going through life as part of a cooperative endeavor. Which is far more fun than battling, I think we can all agree.
Of course, discussing cooperation doesn’t generate nearly the page-views as claiming that women are destroying men, so Venker goes with that.
Contrary to what feminists like Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, say, 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. They want to provide for and protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them.
They won’t? Most women are perfectly fine with their partners working to provide for and protect their family. They just don’t feel that men alone should be able to do so. Women actually enjoy providing for and protecting their family too. I suppose it’s in their DNA, but it’s also simply in taking pride in your accomplishments, and making sure that people who depend on you are taken care of.
Or as Venker says:
It’s all so unfortunate – for women, not men.
Exactly. Wait, what?
Feminism serves men very well: they can have sex at hello and even live with their girlfriends with no responsibilities whatsoever.
Okay, that’s a bit of a left turn there. I thought men hated women, because women aren’t women. But it appears men are still having sex with women and living with women and generally acting like they find women to be worthwhile people to be around.
Venker’s tangent doesn’t come from nowhere, though. It’s well-accepted by people who learned about gender roles in the 1950s that women actually loathe sex, and only use it trick a man into marrying them, while men fear commitment, and only get married because of the promise of sex. As Kevin Smith once asked, why buy the cow when you get the sex for free?
This is, to put it bluntly, hokum. There are women who fear commitment and men who pursue it; women who think casual sex is great, and men who’d really just like to settle down with the right girl (or guy, depending).
Nevertheless, Venker is convinced that because women now compete with men on equal footing, and men can get sex sometimes, that this means doom for marriage. There is but one solution.
The fact is, women need men’s linear career goals – they need men to pick up the slack at the office – in order to live the balanced life they seek.
So if men today are slackers, and if they’re retreating from marriage en masse, women should look in the mirror and ask themselves what role they’ve played to bring about this transformation. [...]
If they do, marriageable men will come out of the woodwork.
Yes, women. Give up on your career goals! Give up on little things like “equal pay for equal work,” and “promotions.” Let Joe get ahead, just because he’s a man. As a reward, maybe Joe will come a-courtin’! Then you can stay home with the babies, while Joe gets ahead at the office and takes business trips and works late. You can take up knitting, because that’s what you really want!
Venker, like many who talk about the decline and fall of men, actually touches on the reason some men are struggling in today’s society. Women had to fight hard to get to rough equality in the workplace. They clawed and crawled through abuse and assaults to get to a point where society accepts, at least theoretically, that women should have the same opportunities as men.
Women deserve an enormous amount of credit for this. My daughter will grow up in a far better world because women before her made it that way. I could not be more grateful for that.
Men, on the other hand, did not have to adjust. We were already in the workforce, after all. Men let women start climbing the ladder with the clear belief that the glass ceiling would prevent them from being a real challenge. To some extent, it still does.
But three generations after this revolution truly got going in earnest, men still haven’t adjusted, even though we’re now at a point where we do, indeed, have to. If your spouse works, taking care of the kids is as much your responsibility as hers. Cleaning the house is your responsibility, too. And while you may be working hard, your wife’s paycheck may be bigger than yours; she has the same equality of opportunity, at least in theory. She may get a better-paying job than you.
The men who do well have learned to adjust to this new reality. We’ve learned that manliness is no more defined by the size of a paycheck than womanliness is defined by whether a corner table has dust on it. We’ve learned that our children and our homes are as much our responsibility as our partners’. We’ve learned that we aren’t owed anything because of our gender, and once we’ve had that epiphany, we’ve learned that this is a great gift — that the “balance” Venker sneers at is a wonderful thing. That we can find value in changing diapers and getting a promotion — and we can cheer when our partners do the same.
This hard-won wisdom hasn’t filtered out into society, though. These epiphanies come man-by-man, one at a time. There are men’s rights activists, but they, like the men Venker cites, are far more interested in fighting the battles of the past than building for the future.
The world has changed. Women have changed. They are still women, of course — but they now have what they always should have had — the right to chart their own destinies. To work, or stay at home, as they and their partners see fit. Men must react to this change not with anger or despair, but with joy and acceptance. After all, there are men who would love to be stay-at-home dads. Men who have no real interest in the rat race. Men who know that they can protect and provide for their families best by being supportive of their partners’ dreams.
Some men will never accept this, of course, just as some racists will never accept that being white is no longer a symbol of inherent superiority. They will grouse, and complain, and declare that they will not marry a woman who can think for herself. That’s their choice, and their loss — but honestly, what do women lose by ignoring these misanthropes? If finding a mate requires giving up on your hopes, your dreams and your very equality, that price is far too steep. Most women know that, of course, which is why Venker’s advice will happily go unheeded.
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