Maybe you have already heard about the essay, “The war on men,” that has kicked up a firestorm. I did not jump in right away on this. The essay, by Suzanne Venker, is just another variation of the “evil feminists” theme, articulated so ridiculously that it is a caricature of itself. I’ll share a few choice passages so you can judge for yourself. (You can also partake of Stephen Colbert’s parody – it is the opening segment of the November 28, 2012 show.)
Then I will get to the point that really did bother me – an outrageous, singlist reaction made by someone who is often a smart and witty commentator of the political and cultural scene.
Venker’s essay begins with a note about statistics showing that over time, fewer men have been reporting that marriage is very important to them, while for women, the numbers have increased. (My aside: Still, even among women, only 37 percent now say that “having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives.”)
The “ongoing battle of the sexes” and “the dearth of good men” are, Venker maintains, “women’s fault.”
Here are a few excerpts:
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.
In a nutshell, women are angry. They’re also defensive, though often unknowingly. That’s because they’ve been raised to think of men as the enemy. Armed with this new attitude, women pushed men off their pedestal (women had their own pedestal, but feminists convinced them otherwise) and climbed up to take what they were taught to believe was rightfully theirs.
Now the men have nowhere to go.
…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.
Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.
If they do, marriageable men will come out of the woodwork.
Probably just about anyone can generate a cogent critique that is far smarter than anything in the Venker essay. (If you want to read some well-deserved mocking, you can start with Jezebel.)
What has bothered me is a reaction I heard on the Martin Bashir show. (The video is here.) After Bashir read the first excerpt, about the subculture of men who told Venker that they are never getting married, Ana Marie Cox said that there was a name for that subculture: Losers. She said she was happy that they were out of the dating pool and maybe they should walk around with the letter L stamped on their foreheads.
Ana Marie Cox has long been one of the cool kids. She was the original Wonkette, then she wrote for Time magazine, then GQ magazine, and now the Guardian. She often appears on The Rachel Maddow Show. She is not a dumb or clueless person. In dismissing men who do not want to marry as losers, though, she said a dumb and clueless thing. She should have been embarrassed. She should have been called out on it.
She probably will never apologize, and never be asked to apologize or clarify (except for here: please apologize, Ana Marie Cox, or explain away your singlist remark).
That the cool kid can get away with this blatant act of prejudice and stereotyping is a stark illustration of just how unrecognized singlism still is. Ana Marie Cox is why we still need to engage in consciousness-raising about singlism every single day.
The other panelist on that segment of the Martin Bashir show was Karen Finney. I don’t know if Cox’s disparaging remark made her uncomfortable, but she quickly added an observation that was much more enlightened. She said that Venker’s discussion of the men who do not want to marry shows just how out-of-touch Venker and others like her really are. Plenty of men and women in today’s society, Finney noted, are not married, and they have chosen to be single.
I hope Ana Marie Cox was paying attention.
Angry woman photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 29 Nov 2012