Our Approach to Men, Reinvented
By Marty Nemko
I appreciate the women's movement. For example, it likely helped my daughter become Assistant U.S. Attorney and my wife become Napa County Superintendent of Schools.
And I've certainly heard that women deserve more, for example, "It's still a man's world. After all, most CEOs and all the presidents are men, and women overall earn 77 cents on the dollar."
But I invite you to consider a different perspective.
Let me start by inviting you to imagine a world without men. You wouldn't be able to read this: no computer, no computer screen. Probably no chair you're sitting on, no air conditioner/heater that's making you comfortable in your room. For that matter, you wouldn't have a room--It and its materials were likely developed and installed by men: from the sub-floor to the roof. So are the birth control pill that kept you from getting pregnant, the refrigerator that kept your baby's formula and your food fresh, the car that gives you freedom of movement or the mass transit that environmentalists prefer. Beyond necessities, men have given us information transmitters from the printing press to the television to Google to the iPhone, wisdom from Plato and Plutarch to Kant and Kafka, Victor Davis Hanson to Christopher Hitchens, and presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama. And lest all work and no play make dull boys and girls, men have given us entertainment from Shakespeare to Spielberg, Rembrandt to Rothko, Beethoven to Basie to the Beatles to Bono. You might not even be able to defecate without men: What percentage of toilets would you guess were built, installed, and repaired, not to mention sewer lines cleaned out, by women? No less than lesbian feminist, Camille Paglia wrote, "If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.[i]"
Bad times for men
Yet over the past half century, as a side effect of the
appropriate increase in women's opportunities, there has been an
accelerating effort, a successful effort, to diminish men. Just a
couple of obvious manifestations: President Clinton's Press
Secretary Dede Myers', book "Why Women Should Rule the World" and
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's bestseller, "Are
Even more telling is Hanna Rosin's cover story of a Father's Day edition of The Atlantic. Its title: The End of Men.[ii] Its core contention is that men are better suited for the Neanderthal Era and Industrial Revolution, when success usually depended on brawn and individual testosterone-"poisoned" competition. Rosin argues that today's success requires women to be in charge. She writes, for example, "Men are women's new ball and chain," and "Maybe...(male) DNA is shifting. Maybe they're like those frogs--they're more vulnerable or something, so they've gotten deformed."
Yet somehow, men have accomplished the aforementioned.
The male-bashing dispirits not only the intellectual men who read publications such as The Atlantic. Average men and boys are force-fed a diet ever-more larded with images of boorish, sleazy, idiotic men shown the way by wise women. We're in our seventh decade of man-as-oaf media: from Ralph Kramden to Homer Simpson. Even in the majority-male Superbowl audience, commercials constantly present man as cretin: hopelessly impotent men who are literally in the doghouse, cowed by their woman[iii] master. Or they're mumbling supplicants begging for a woman judge's charity. Lest you think I'm cherry-picking, turn on your TV: How often does a show or commercial portray men as superior to women?
Twenty-five years ago, when I began helping people choose their career, both sexes were equally optimistic about their future. Today, except at the C-level, at which fewer women are willing to work the 60+-hour weeks, take the years to get technical enough, and to move their families across the country to get the necessary promotions, most of my female clients correctly believe the world is their oyster. And my male clients are disproportionately despondent and/or angry...
And not going to college. In 1960: the male/female ratio of college degree holders was 61/39. Today, in an era in which a college degree has become a virtual necessity, a mere hunting license for most decent employment, the ratio has completely reversed: It's 60/40 in favor of women[iv]. Yet despite men's serious underrepresentation, many scholarships are set aside for women, few for men. Student groups are funded to encourage women, for example, future businesswoman groups, far fewer for men.
So it's not surprising that men's unemployment rate[v] is now higher than women's. As you know, so many young men are back living with their parents, high and/or playing video games while the young women are launching their career.
"Women earn 77 cents on the dollar!" A misleading statistic
But what about the much-trumpeted statistic that women earn just
77 cents for every dollar men earn? The statistic implies that,
for the same work, women are paid less. The evidence
indicates that far more often, there are fair reasons why
men are paid more. For example, among people claiming to work full
time, men work an more hours per week and work for more continuous
years and so are paid more. Ninety-two percent of workplace
and severe workplace injuries (e.g., amputations, black lung
disease) occur to men, so they get paid more for choosing dangerous
Special note need be made of the military: 97.5 percent of the deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been men[vii]. Perhaps that's surprising in light of the media's hiding that with such phrases as "the men and women serving in Afghanistan." One might ask, why are only men allowed to serve in direct combat? Why are only men required to register for the draft?
Even within a profession, when men earn more, there are reasons other than sexism. For example, men physicians earn more but that's because they are more likely to choose specialties such as surgery or cardiology which are higher-stress, have more irregular hours, and require longer residencies, while women are more likely to choose pediatrics or general practice.
A rich research literature documents that sexism is not at the
core of pay differentials, for example, THIS[viii] is from the
New York Times,
THIS[ix] is from the Wall Street
THIS[x] is from Compensation Cafe,
THIS[xi] is from
City Journal. and most recently,
THIS from the London School of Economicsfinds thatmore women
today want to be housewives supported by their husbands than even
in the 1940s, before the feminist movement was even a twinkle in
Germaine Greer's eye.
Alas, the media chooses to ignore all that research in favor of the broadbrush, "Women earn 77 cents on the dollar," caused by sexist men.
Today's unfair policies and practices
Rather than trying to help men close their unemployment gap, the government deliberately exacerbates men's deficit. For example, government pressures businesses to have "targets," virtual quotas, for women (a "protected class,"), but not for men. And women-owned businesses receive special preferences in landing government contracts, for example, THIS[xii].
Corporations themselves deliberately exacerbate the unfairness to men. Women but not men are encouraged to form committees and caucuses to advance their sex in the workplace, often at men's expense. Examples: mentor programs for women only, special training for women only, fast-track-to-executive position for women only
Rather than demand work-life balance, men are more likely than women to throw all of themselves into work, for which they are often dubbed with such pathologizing monikers as "workaholic", "out of balance," and "unable to relax" rather than "heroic" for being so contributory, even if it costs them their life. Indeed, men die 5.2 years earlier than women[xiii], a major cause being stress-related illnesses such as heart attack and stroke.
True, the occasional foolish old boy still unfairly promotes a man over a woman but despite unemployment being higher for men than women, today, "Sisters help Sisters" is not denigrated let alone sued as sexist, but encouraged. For example, former U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright said, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women[xiv]." And such statements have broad impact. For example, a Google search on that sentences reveals 98,800 matches.
Men's efforts to organize into groups have typically been ridiculed, for example, portraying men's groups as troglodytes tromping into the woods to beat tom-toms. And men's organizations have been pressured to admit women, for example, the service clubs: Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions, while the long-female-only Soroptomists[xv] remains that way. Further limiting men's ability to organize, men's groups don't get the enormous free advertising the media gives to women's groups.
Serious unfairnesses to men extend much further. Examples: In an era of higher unemployment. for men than women, why do men still more often pay for dates? Why do women, more often than men, feel okay about dumping their spouse or boyfriend because he doesn't make enough money? Is it fair that if a man makes the momentary error of impregnating a woman, even if she falsely claimed to be on birth control, he's stuck with 18 years of financial and parenting responsibility? Is it fair that only the woman has the choice to abort a child? Is it fair that the EEOC's new definition of rape includes this: If you've had one drink, then had sex, and later claim it was unwanted, it's rape?[xvi].
And what about men who need social services? Countless social services focus on women, far fewer on men, even though, for example, men's suicide rate is four times as high. [xvii]
And in the worst unfairness to men, when women have a deficit, for example, they're "underrepresented" in science, we see massive redress despite the two-decade study reported in the New York Times that found that women in academic science fare as well or better than men[xviii]. Yet when men have the ultimate deficit--as mentioned, they live 5.2 years shorter--a search of PubMed, which indexes 3,000 medical journals for the last 60 years, on the terms "women's health" and men's health," reveals 43 times(!) as many studies using "women's health." And in terms of outreach, there's a sea of pink ribbons but only a trickle for prostate cancer and even less for sudden heart attack, which kills many more men and earlier. There are seven federal agencies on women's health, none for men. 39 states have offices of Women's Health, none for men. Bottom line: Since 1920, the average lifespan advantage of women has grown 400%[xix]!
Some feminists shrug that off with such statements as, "Well, women were previously excluded from those studies. They didn't care about women." In fact, when women were underrepresented in studies, it was usually because:
· Women were less willing to volunteer for the risk of experimental treatment
· Fewer women are in prison, a major source of subjects.
· Researchers appropriately did not want to risk exposing women of childbearing age to an experimental drug that could damage a fetus.
Other feminists blame men's dying younger on their not taking as
good care of themselves: "If only they'd see the doctor." Well,
would those feminists say that to African-Americans, who also
"don't see the doctor" and smoke and drink at much higher rates
Alas, things will likely get even worse for the next generation of men. Have you not seen "Girls Rule[xx]" tee shirts? How do you think that makes boys feel? More seriously, the U.S. school system has heavily replaced boy-friendly competition with girl-centric collaboration, boy-friendly adventure stories, with soporific-to-boys tales of girl relationships, and created new history textbooks disproportionately extolling women from Sacajawea and Pocahontas to Simone DeBouvier and Sally Ride while sparing no pages to pound home the evils of white men from Hannibal to Hitler, Joe McCarthy to Timothy McVeigh. And when children can't endure school's large amount of seatwork, boys are put on a Ritalin leash at a ratio of eight boys for every one girl.
While, of course, one can point to examples of unfairness to
women, it's incorrect to assert that today, men, on balance, have
an unfair advantage.
A plan for fairness to both sexes
The world is better when both sexes are valued. For every
customer-cheating, wife-beating, sexual harassing guy, there's at
least one ethical man, working hard to be productive and to support
himself and his family. For every manipulative, hormonally crazed,
girls-just-want-to-have-fun woman, there's at least one woman
diligently striving to have it all: career, family, and a personal
life. Good people all. People with real potential to make a better
society for all.
It's time for a truce, one that's fair to both sexes:
1. We must end the gender-bashing, male or female, in the schools, colleges, and media.
2. It's time to end intentional discrimination against both women and men, as documented in the examples above.
3. To the extent that men could use better communication skills
and more collaborative leadership styles to accompany the more
goal-oriented individualistic ones, instead of dismissing such men
as unable to communicate, let our schools, colleges, and workplaces
offer such trainings.
4. It's time for serious Men's Studies programs at universities that don't merely parrot the unfairly male-bashing rhetoric of women's studies.
5. It's time to pay due homage to men, who do so many of the dangerous jobs women won't do (from roofer to rodent remover,) and invent the aforementioned things that women hadn't invented? Should we not honor the contributions fathers make to parenting? For example, fathers often balance many mothers' tendency to not enforce limits. Fathers often leaven mothers' protective instinct by encouraging reasonable (okay, occasionally not so reasonable) risk-taking.
6. It's time to accept the multi-option man, just as we accept the multi-option woman. We appropriately celebrate women having options other than being a stay-at-home mom. Women absolutely deserve the right to, on the merits, compete for jobs from carpenter to clarinetist to CEO. But we must now legitimate the full range of options for men: from stay-at-home father to 80-hour-a-week scientist. The stay-at-home dad who wants to be a part-time artist should be respected as much as a woman who chooses that option. The man who chooses to work long hours should not be pathologized as a "workaholic" but revered as a hard-working contributor to society. Society, often with the encouragement of the woman in his life, makes men feel, even in today's feminist era, that they must generate most of the family income with a steady ,good paycheck. So he so often suppresses his dreams, for example, of a more creative pursuit, until retirement, by which time he may be too old or sick. This should be the era of the multi-option man as well as of the multi-option woman.
7, It's time to end the censorship of pro-male perspectives like
the ones in this article. I was a columnist for the Atlantic until
I wrote a column that made the points in this article. The editor
said he liked it very much and published it, but then was pounded
on by women's groups whereupon he caved and fired me.
The ultimate irony
Despite all of the above, America is making yet more efforts to exacerbate the anti-male sexism. Last year, President Obama created a well-funded Council on Women and Girls[xxi] but rejected one on men and boys. Here[xxii] is that rejected proposal. (Bias alert: I am a member of the commission that created that proposal.) And in Obama's April 6, 2012 speech[xxiii] at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy, he reiterated that he wants to focus yet more on women: "(I) look forward to continuing the important work we are doing to promote the interests of women." After all, women earn 77 cents on the dollar.
America will be better if our goal is merit-based treatment of both men and women.
1,000+ of Dr. Nemko's articles and columns are archived plus his sometimes controversial blog can be accessed from www.martynemko.com His latest books are: How to Do Life: What they didn't teach you in school and What's the Big Idea? 39 Reinventions for a Better America
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