I wanted to build on PJC’s recent post about gender roles because, in most ways, our stories correllate very well. Especially this part:
I would go on to be forced to play all sorts of sports in school. I never enjoyed them. I played on the basketball team my 9th grade year. I ended up spending all my time ‘on the bench’ because of grades. It was not me, and mostly I dreaded every second of it. It took time, but I eventually just accepted that it was not me. The only sport I excelled in was fighting. And that got me kicked out of many schools. It was not easy at first. In society certain things are associated with being a ‘proper man.’ I would punch alot of kids and some teachers and spend most of my school career in trouble of some sort. In this day and age I have begun to see where the aggression and fighting was coming from. I was not a weakling or feeble. I was a strong kid, and I could ‘kick some ass.’ My masculine side was not proven through sports I hated but through punching kids I hated.
There was a very good article at the Good Man Project about this penchant for aggression among men. Men seem to be biologically hard wired for this aggression and it spills into every area of their social interaction. It’s something that needs to be contained and any parent of a young boy must be aware of it, lest they end up denying the nature of their own child.
Post-feminism, the variant of feminism spearheaded by women like Gloria Steinem, played a significant role in unleashing this demonic force that millenia of men knew about all too well. Sexuality is a messy, often demonic thing, as Susan Sontag aptly put it, and the rejection of its history by the Sexual Resolution helped to unleash its potent forces:
The Sontag quote encapsulates that point: sexuality is too messy to be neatly controlled by preset political ideas. Vargas-Cooper points to the shortcomings of past efforts to mold sexual relationships according to progressive politics. The sexual revolution of the 1970s, she points out, did not create a utopian, egalitarian dynamic between the sexes. In many cases, it meant freedom for men to screw around without social constraints, while women were free to raise the out-of-wedlock kids that resulted. She argues that the PC culture of the ’90s may have led feminist women to think prematurely that sexual equality could be achieved with strategies like explicit communication about relationships and their boundaries.
I was raised by a single mother. My father wanted to be involved but was blackballed from doing so for various reasons. He himself was of a prosperous background and didn’t seem to feel much responsibility. Growing up with a dad was not something I want any young boy to repeat, and it is infuriating that people who never had to deal with this in the real world still write about it as if it is desirable and progressive. Take, for instance, the article “Are Fathers Necessary?” by Pamela Paul, which was published last summer in The Atlantic:
Ah, there’s the rub. All howling to the contrary, most heterosexual men and women like that traditional division. Sticking to “gendered” parenting roles offers a seductive affirmation. Fathers, roughhouse all you want. But we, gatekeeper moms, are in charge of the rest. We could give you detailed instruction, and you still couldn’t possibly do it as well. “Even women who want their husbands to help more with the kids don’t want to give up their traditional authority,” says Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families. In addition to our pragmatic embrace of these roles, we still live in a culture with a deeply embedded notion of what a father is, beyond just another set of hands, and men, women, and children cling to it.
The bad news for Dad is that despite common perception, there’s nothing objectively essential about his contribution. The good news is, we’ve gotten used to him.
That is straight up hate speech. Seriously. The entire genre of rap music, a genre dominated by real-life out-of-wedlock young men, took shape because of the fantasies that Paul proposes. Her ideology won’t help anyone.
I do not think that feminism, in the model it has been given in the last four decades, is the way to go to foster a culture in which men are no longer dominating and taking advantage of women. As PJC notes with the increased commoditization of women as sex objects in mainstream culture (take a look at MTV’s new lineup of sadist filth to see how bad this has gotten), the rejection of old restrictions hasn’t resulted in a balanced order. The wholesale rejection of gender roles seems to have left alot of men not knowing what they’re doing, with the really bad ones given a new avenue to make their rape fantasies seem legitimate.
Instead, some sort of gender equity seems like the more desired outcome. Just as old patriarchal subordination of women to “the kitchen” should be dismissed and women should continue to enjoy the freedom they have for decades, a culture of responsibility needs to be fostered. Men and women should not view each other as enemies to be conquered or outwitted. They should view each other as genuine partners, whose companionship comforts the other just as it comforts them. This is easier said than done.
I was once sent a link to a dating advice website by a friend. It became quickly obvious while looking through the website that there was something really wrong with the people – largely men – there. They didn’t view women as partners. They viewed them largely as Pamela Paul seems to view men – a group that needs to be outwitted and outmaneuvered. For Paul, the outmaneuvering is in order to illustrate that men are unnecessary to family building, while for the men at this dating website, the outmaneuvering is far more brutish and gross, with their schemes and tricks built to tug women into sex, viewing them as of little use otherwise. (The most darkly comic offering there was a book called “Secrets To Picking Up Strippers.” Poor guys, that must be so difficult.) Both are only working to make the maze of sexual relations more complex and hazardous.