Suzanne Venker, author of the new book, ‘How to Choose a Husband (and Make Peace with Marriage),’ insists feminism has been bad for women and good for men: “Men can have sex at hello” with “no responsibility whatsoever,” she states. So marriage makes a man automatically “take responsibility”?
Quoting Pew Research Center, Venker offers that more women today want to get married than they did 15 years ago – but men have traveled in the opposite direction. She cites feminism and women’s growing numbers in the work force as the cause.
According to Ms. Venker:
“The so-called dearth of good men (read: marriageable men) has been a hot subject in the media as of late. Much of the coverage has been in response to the fact that for the first time in history, women have become the majority of the U.S. workforce. They’re also getting most of the college degrees. The problem? This new phenomenon has changed the dance between men and women.
…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.”
This is a preposterous statement but in order to get to the bottom of it, we need to unearth what Ms. Venker, or the men she has allegedly talked to, think a woman actually is. A mommy? A homemaker? A mistress? Underlying this statement, it would seem she thinks a woman who balances career and family, or a woman with no children is not really a woman.
She argues that women have been taught to “hate” men and see them as the enemy, “climb[ing] up to take what they were taught to believe was rightfully theirs.” She says “now the men have nowhere to go.”
Nowhere to go? What about when women were not able to legally own property? Talk about nowhere to go!
How about co-existing with women instead of demanding that women stay small so that men can feel big. Doesn’t she think women should have equal rights? Any rights? I am loathe to make assumptions here, but Ms. Venker sounds as though she were a doting daughter protective a bullying father: Keep quiet so daddy won’t get pissed off!
“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.
…[A]fter decades of browbeating the American male, men are tired. Tired of being told there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told that if women aren’t happy, it’s men’s fault.”
But asking men not to browbeat or control women is not the same as wanting to emasculate them.
Further, it is just as valid to say that if a man is not comfortable in his own skin, he will blame his wife or girlfriend. I’ve been on the receiving end of that one in the past and witnessed the same in my parent’s marriage – everything that was wrong with his life was her fault.
It is easy to externalize problems rather than looking within for the cause, but to pretend that only women are guilty of this behavior is as laughable as it is false. There are men and women who will blame the world at large for every slight rather than be guilty of self-examination. That is by no means a by-product of feminism. (Or Femi-Nazi-ism – which, I think, is Venker’s underlying accusation here.)
There are also men and women who attach their self-worth to their net worth, and their career prospects. This behavior is likewise not the province of just one gender. But Venker states:
“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.”
Isn’t that pretty much the same thing? Aren’t you going to get angry at the source of what threatens you?
“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.”
Are women supposed to leave the work force en masse so that they may once again “be loved?” Is a woman not allowed to realize her own dreams regardless of what someone else thinks she should be doing? What of the women raising families on their own because the daddies are no longer in the picture? Should they just pitch a tent in the woods and hope for the best? Surely there are women who would like to stay at home in order to raise their children – but for whatever reason, it is not in the cards. That is likewise not the fault of feminism.
Furthermore, if a man is “competing” with a woman with whom he is in a relationship, that is what he is choosing to do – and how he is choosing to think. The same applies to the woman. I always look at my mate as my co-captain. We are on the same team working towards the same goal. It is not necessary to keep score.
This country ranks about 78th when it comes to female leadership. But because we trail so many other nations around the world in this regard, that is not to say we are right to do so.
Venker also insists that
“[Men] want to provide for and protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them.
…It’s the women who lose. Not only are they saddled with the consequences of sex, by dismissing male nature they’re forever seeking a balanced life. 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.”
Only men are capable of linear career goals? I see.
“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.”
Her argument is an example of what author Robert Johnson called “shadow projection”: I cannot have something because you have it. Hot flash: if a man is a “slacker,” no woman did that to him. Contrary to what she states here, no one can defeat your true nature – it will seep out of you until it explodes, like a gas leak.
But wait till you read this:
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.
There are so many glaring stereotypes in this statement, it is hard to know where to begin. I am a very feminine person, a girly-girl if you will, and have always been one. I have also been in the labor force non-stop since high school and college – of necessity; not just ambition. So does that mean I have not “surrendered” to my femininity? I will inquire of my husband what he thinks about that one.
Ms. Venker concludes that if women “surrender”…
[M]arriageable men will come out of the woodwork.
How will they do that, exactly? Perhaps her contention is that if women retire from the workforce and guys take all the jobs…miraculously, they will want to work themselves into the ground to support a wife and family.
Her argument also neglects to mention our society’s current economic realities. Trying to stay solvent with just one income is not easy for many couples. I can just as easily tell you of many men I know who are grateful to have a partner who is capable of earning a living. Venker’s assertions also fail to mention that women outnumber men in poverty 3 to 2, and that women hold the majority of minimum wage jobs – how is this emasculating to men?
A male friend of mine avers the real war on men has more to do with stereotyped roles that saw men dropping dead of heart attacks at age 55 or younger from over work, conforming to an existence that may not have suited them anymore than being docile housewives suited women. Why is it necessary that we define gender roles in black and white and assume relationships work or do not work because of the competition or “hatred” or “blame” Ms. Venker cites?
That is not to say that a man would not be threatened by the empowerment of the encroaching female. But to pretend that the answer is to go backward and pretend that the last forty years never happened is to negate the progress that both sexes have made at accepting more flexibility in gender roles.
It is also important to take a look at arguments like this because there have been a spate of articles and books lamenting the end of men, rather than trumpeting the opportunity we now have to let the pendulum swing to a sensible center, where we can celebrate the unique qualities each individual can bring to the table – and to a relationship – regardless of gender.
Anita Finlay is the author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin: Sexism and Sabotage, a Hillary Supporter’s Rude Awakening, now available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon.
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