WHY MEN MATTER, WHY WOMEN SHOULD CARE
By Kathleen Parker
Random House, $26, 240 pages
REVIEWED BY LARRY THORNBERRY
The “war between the sexes” has been waged, with varying degrees of intensity, as long as there have been two sexes. Which makes it the longest war in history, with no light at the end of the tunnel. (Some of the campaigns have been really brutal - but many of the cease-fires really nice.)
This war has given us many frustrating and heartbreaking moments through the centuries, but some entertaining ones as well (see the Wife of Bath’s prologue and tale — see Dick and Liz — see W. Shakespeare). And of course there has always been a good deal of fraternization and collaboration between the two sides in this “war.” If there hadn’t been, the population of the world would now be counted in hundreds rather than in billions.
Thanks to radical feminism, and the virulent stream of male-bashing this bunch is successfully promoting, the men vs. women war is going through a really nasty patch just now. Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist and modern feminist of the nonradical stripe, reports from the front lines and calls for an armistice. She warns that for the sake of our children, ourselves, and perhaps even the survival of the West, we need to tone the man-hating down some.
“Save the Males” is an articulate brief, not to let individual male malefactors off the hook for bad behavior, but for us to move away from the current Queen of Hearts approach wherein men are often assumed to be guilty of everything before the charges are even read. (See the Duke University lacrosse players rape case.) She argues that women should not react to male values such as honor, valor, courage, loyalty and an inclination to protect women and children in the same way that Dracula reacted to sunlight and the True Cross. There’s not only room enough on this planet for both masculine and feminine traits, but we need and should value both.
Anyone paying the slightest attention to the hothouse that American culture has become knows that men and masculinity have been under siege for the last few decades. Guys have been described in the most unsavory terms - lazy, violent, deceitful, maniacally over-sexed, pathologically unfair, none too bright (when was the last time you saw a man in a television commercial who wasn’t either a lout or a helpless doofus?) - and are deemed to be the proximate cause of all bad things in the world, especially responsible for every unhappiness suffered by any woman. If you don’t think this is so, read just about any description of any university course in women’s studies, a fairly new “discipline” whose main purpose for being is to drill into college students that men are awful, masculinity is passe at best, dangerous at worst, and that women are victims, saints, martyrs, and all around superior human beings.
In “Save the Males,” Ms. Parker outlines how, in the name of a worthy purpose, that being to make a more female-friendly world, the geek-branch of feminism has demeaned and diminished the importance of fatherhood, as well as the traditionally male roles of protector and provider. They’ve almost succeeded in criminalizing normal masculine behavior for both men and boys. In the name of sexual equality, they have compromised the effectiveness of the military and put both maleand female soldiers’ lives at risk.
They’ve created a thoroughly confusing atmosphere surrounding sex between men and women that simultaneously creates a puritanical code under which a man who so much as looks at a woman in the wrong tone of voice runs the risk of being hauled up on charges of sexual harassment, and at the same time has also unleashed promiscuity through a “hooking up” culture that has led to an explosion of sexually transmitted diseases, trivialized man-woman relationships, and uncountable regretful mornings after.
The response to all this cultural carnage from the mighty, oppressive, and dreaded patriarchy (at least according to Gloria Steinem, Catherine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, and others who have been pushing the men-are-pond-scum thesis) has been mostly, “Yes, dear.” Many of the programs and sentiments of the more radical feminists are now both law and etiquette to be enforced by the PC police.
Ms. Parker, a deft and entertaining writer, goes at all aspects of this emotionally charged subject with wit and humor, some of which can be picked up just by reading her chapter titles: “Women Good, Men Bad;” “Honk if You Love Daddy;” “Faux Pa and the Yadda-Yadda Sisterhood;” “Gelding the American Male;” “The Vagina Diatribes and the Sacred Clitorati;” (this chapter alone is funny enough to justify the price of the book) and “Celebrity Sluts and America’s Ho-Down.”
Ms. Parker’s on-target remark about the changing taste of (some) women and a recently popular television show showcases both the Parker wit and insight: “The exemplar of the modern male is the hairless, metrosexualized man and decorator boys who turn heterosexual slobs into perfumed ponies … in the dangerous world in which we really live, it might be nice to have a few guys around who aren’t trying to juggle pedicures and highlights.”
Ms. Parker concludes with a plea: “We need women willing to let men be men — and boys be boys. And we need young men and women who will commit and marry and raise children in stable homes.
“Saving the males - engaging their nobility and recognizing their strengths - will ultimately benefit women and children, too. Fewer will live in poverty; fewer boys will fail in schools and wind up in jail; fewer girls will get pregnant or suffer emotional damage from too early sex withy uncaring boys. Fewer young men and women will suffer loneliness and loss because they’ve grown up in a climate of sexual hostility that casts the opposite sex as either villain or victim.”
Wow. Would this be any way to conduct a war?
Larry Thornberry is a writer living in Tampa. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.