According to a new Pew Research article (pdf), women are getting more interested in marriage while men, ehhh, not so much. Suzanne Venker at Fox says that according to the men she’s interviewed, the problem is that women “aren’t women anymore.” Hanna Rosin, on the other hand, says that the problem is really all about, umm, well, she’s too busy snarking to really explain it, but she’s sure that the problem is not with women. However, given the image chosen to illustrate her post, along with the title of her latest book, The End of Men, my first instincts are to say that maybe, just maybe, she’s a little biased in her opinion.
Just what are those scissors for anyway?
Never mind. I don’t want to know.
Back to the survey, Pew researches found that over the last 13 years, the percentage of women age 18-35 who say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives has risen from 28 to 37%. For men in the same age group, that number has decreased from 35% to 29%.
So why is it that men aren’t that into the whole marriage thing? Well, before I give you my take, let’s look at what Venker and Rosin have to say. First, Venker:
To say gender relations have changed dramatically is an understatement. Ever since the sexual revolution, there has been a profound overhaul in the way men and women interact. Men haven’t changed much – they had no revolution that demanded it – but women have changed dramatically.
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.
Is this true? Is it an accurate reflection of feminism? I don’t know, but I do know that as a man, I can say it sure has felt that way at times. Let me give you an example. From time to time, I receive compliments from women on the way I look, or an article of clothing or something. Sadly, those are much more infrequent as I age, not particularly gracefully.
But when I do receive those compliments, I never stop and think, “I’ve just been objectified! She is treating me like a piece of meat! How rude!” I simply express polite gratitude and go about my day.On the other hand, I’ve been lectured, cussed, and worse for the crimes of:
- Holding a door open for a lady
- Complimenting a lady’s appearance
- Calling a woman a ‘lady’
I’m an old fashioned guy raised in the South. I still believe these things are common courtesy, not signs of degradation and oppression. So sue me. On second thought, strike that; there are women out there who just might.
I did a quick search for feminist quotes and there is certainly a consistent tone that men, both deliberately and unconsciously, are responsible for keeping women down. While this is all anecdotal and doesn’t prove anything, it does demonstrate that Venker’s premise is at least possible.
Venker continues with this paragraph:
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.
It’s all so unfortunate – for women, not men. Feminism serves men very well: they can have sex at hello and even live with their girlfriends with no responsibilities whatsoever.
I can remember hearing the saying “Guys won’t buy the cow if they get the milk for free.” I don’t know that my mother ever used it, but I am certain that she expressed the sentiment to my sister in a much more genteel fashion. An article in The Weekly Standard on the new dating scene, where the hookup is king and romance is dead elaborates and provides some science to support the adage:
Evolutionary psychologists postulate that the same physical and psychological drives prevail among modern humans: Men, eager for replication, are naturally polygamous, while women are naturally monogamous—but only until a man they perceive as of higher status than their current mate comes along. Hypergamy—marrying up, or, in the absence of any constrained linkage between sex and marriage, mating up—is a more accurate description of women’s natural inclinations. Long-term monogamy—one spouse for one person at one time—may be the most desirable condition for ensuring personal happiness, accumulating property, and raising children, but it is an artifact of civilization
Or as Billy Crystal put it, “Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.”We’ll come back to the Weekly Standard article in a bit because there’s lots of good stuff in there, but right now, let’s turn our attention to Hanna Rosin and her response to Venker’s piece.
First of all, there’s that picture. I’m sure it was meant to be satiric, and to point out the inherent ridiculousness of the idea that women have the power to emasculate men. But is it really a ridiculous idea? Don’t women have the ability to emasculate men, cute little scissors aside? Isn’t it a feminist belief that men oppress women out of fear? What are these men afraid of if not emasculation? It can’t be a physical threat; on average, men are bigger, stronger, faster, etc, so it must be emotional or psychological. The scissors may be metaphoric in nature, but no less sharp.
Rosin starts with this characterization of Venker’s article:
What I did not consider was that the true and complete answer was right under my nose, or more precisely, all over my face, staring back at me from the mirror. The reason men could not move forward was ME. I am angry. I am angry and resentful. I am angry and defensive and resentful and men do not find that attractive.
Did you notice the subtle distortion there? Venker is talking about why men don’t want to get married. Rosin wants to change the conversation to why men can’t “move forward,” whatever that might mean. Instead of responding, she’s changing the question, a tactic I’ve talked about before.
The tone of the above is clearly mocking, which is truly ironic because one paragraph later, Rosin says:
You might wonder, what do these nice young men now give a shit about, if its not family or work? (Halo 4 was not on the list).
Am I alone in sensing some anger and resentment here? Maybe flavored with a touch of scorn and a pinch of derision for these feckless men?
Rosin goes on.
I knew that women had become more educated. I knew they were steadily earning more money. I knew they had gained a lot of power of late, and sometimes even more money and power than the men around them. But I did not realize they had become so powerful that they could mess with the men’s DNA. How did I miss that?
Once again Rosin is misstating the argument in order to weaken it. Venker said that the male drive to be the provider was encoded in male DNA and that modern women were not allowing them to express that drive. Rosin, in order to ridicule the notion, pretends that the issue is actual genetic mutation. It’s a silly argument advanced by a silly person.
And notice, as Rosin’s piece winds up, she never actually explains what has caused men to shy away from marriage. Instead, she links to this New York Times piece that claims that men are victims of a ‘male mystique,’ that traps them into a gender based role rather than allows them to develop their personhood. While most of the article is certainly in tune with feminist talking points, one very interesting paragraph towards the end jumps out:
Men who take an active role in child care and housework at home are more likely than other men to be harassed at work. Men who request family leave are often viewed as weak or uncompetitive and face a greater risk of being demoted or downsized. And men who have ever quit work for family reasons end up earning significantly less than other male employees, even when controlling for the effects of age, race, education, occupation, seniority and work hours.
I’m just a guy, but when I read this, it says that men who do the same things women do in the workplace, i.e. request family leave, take vacation to deal with family issues, or work less hours in order to take on home duties, earn less and advance slower, just like women who make the same choices! In other words, the ‘pay gap’ isn’t really about gender; it’s about job performance.
I’m not surprised that little tidbit was buried near the end of the article.
Obviously, I don’t find Rosin’s response to be all that convincing, but of course, she wasn’t really trying to convince me. Instead, she was rallying the troops, so to speak. She was writing for people who already share her feelings, helping them feel better by denigrating an opposing viewpoint.
As for what I believe, well, for now let’s just say that there is a lot more information in the Pew research that neither writer took into account. I’ll discuss this more tomorrow, but as an introduction, I’ll just point out that for both men and women, the vast majority of respondents did not rate a successful marriage as a high priority.
And that is far more important than any gender gap.
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