Casual observation of popular culture reveals that boys and men increasingly are being portrayed negatively, in contrast to women, who invariably are seen as more competent, efficient, successful and in charge. Television and Hollywood movies are producing a tsunami of negative stereotypes depicting guys as losers. The typical male portrayed in the entertainment media is clueless, socially inept, irresponsible and immature. He invariably disappoints the women around him and makes thinking people grimace with his callous, self-centered behavior. Both Huggies and AT&T have received complaints about their advertising featuring fathers as incompetent and bumbling.
With girls and women, though, the stereotype is of a smart, witty, take-charge leader who is never at a loss for words, acts appropriately and can be counted on in a crisis. In the movie “Brave,” the three female characters in the movie — the heroine, her mother and a witch — are smart, well-spoken and resourceful. In contrast, every man in the movie is depicted as an unthinking doofus — impulsive and incapable of reason.
Television sitcoms offer evidence of the historical devaluation of male traits in American culture. In the 1950s and 1960s, male characters were strong, yet sensitive to the needs of others. They were men who treated others, including women and children, with respect — men like Fred MacMurray in “My Three Sons,” Robert Young in “Father Knows Best” and Andy Griffith in “The Andy Griffith Show.” The qualities of the heroic men in those shows are quite a contrast to the cluelessness of Homer Simpson in “The Simpsons,” the ignorance of Carroll O’Connor in “All in the Family,” the degradation of “Two and a Half Men,” the stupidity of George Clooney’s “Men Who Stare at Goats,” the crudity and childishness of “The Hangover,” and the mockery of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”
Children, teens and many adults are, of course, influenced by such stereotypes. They see trendy and popular stars and celebrities as role models from whom they learn and whom they imitate in their own behavior and interactions with others. Decades of such indoctrination have had an effect.
Data clearly reveal that boys are being left behind, especially when it comes to education. As early as 2000, Christina Hoff Sommers wrote a best-seller, “The War Against Boys,” detailing how the education establishment was making schools more girl-friendly to the detriment of boys. Now, boys are being “expelled” from preschool four times more frequently than girls. More girls than guys graduate from high school (72 percent to 65 percent).
Girls are taking more Advanced Placement classes in high school, and girls dominate as school valedictorians. Boys with lesser qualifications than girls are being admitted to colleges in order to keep gender somewhat balanced among the students. Even with lower admission standards for males, most campuses remain predominantly female, with undergraduate men making up just 43 percent of enrollment. American women have received more college diplomas than men since 1992. One study reports that for every two men, there are three women in college, and women are more likely to be accepted for graduate programs.
The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, late editor of the journal First Things, described liberationisms, like “gender liberation,” as liberating for “economically secure and socially stable Americans,” but “absolutely devastating for the very poor whose lives were in no way stable or secure.”
Radical feminism’s disrespect for men and manliness has been especially harmful for children’s well-being because it calls into question all adult authority, including their fathers’. Cartoons, popular movies and television programs portray dads and other male authority figures as out of touch, old-fashioned and prudish. Children regularly are bombarded by derogatory media images of adults who respect or exemplify traditional moral values. Such adults typically are held in contempt, subtly mocked or openly ridiculed. Males in positions of authority and men who hold traditional values and beliefs often are portrayed as buffoons whom no one respects or admires.
The late D. James Kennedy explained that one of the most tragic aspects of our lack of positive adult male role models in our increasingly fatherless culture is that children without fathers of their own seek ersatz fathers, or they seek love in all the wrong places and end up taking out their frustrations and anger by wreaking havoc on society. The end result, too often, is gangs of predators threatening the safety of communities and neighborhoods.
Is it any wonder that many women lament the lack of suitable mates? Is it surprising that marriage rates are at their lowest in American history? Immature, ill-educated men who are unprepared to assume the responsibility of forming and supporting a family are not good husband material. Unfortunately, that doesn’t keep them from siring babies and then leaving their girlfriends to raise the children as best they can. Sadly, radica feminism’s emphasis on women’s liberation has produced a culture that neglects and even disrespects and denigrates men. Ultimately, that is hurting the nation’s girls and women, too.
Janice Shaw Crouse is senior fellow at Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute and author of “Marriage Matters” (Transaction Publishers, 2012).