Friday, November 05, 2010

The trouble with American society today... that it's too darn masculine.

Does time pass more slowly in academia than in The World? With a little less concern trolling and a little more old-fashioned man-hating, this article could have been penned in 1974. How can anyone write as if nothing has changed since then?

Thus today’s typical man is seen as independent, ambitious and competitive, naturally suited to market work and the breadwinner role. Meanwhile, today’s typical woman is seen as nurturing, expressive and responsive to the needs of others, naturally suited to homemaking and the emotional work required by secretaries, flight attendants and nurses. These basic tenets of separate spheres continue to shape our default understandings of men and women, reproducing stereotypes that systematically advantage men and disadvantage women in the workplace.

Huh? Where did the last third of a century go? Masculinity is considered a vice by intellectuals nowadays, practically a crime. Who is Professor Williams' audience, here? And where have they been?
Masculinity holds the key to understanding why the gender revolution has stalled. As long as men continue to feel threatened by the possibility of being perceived as wimps and wusses unless they live up to the norms of conventional masculinity, we can expect little economic progress for women.
What would "progress" entail, in this sense? More women in traditionally male-dominated occupations? Higher incomes, despite putting less time than men into their professions? A thoroughgoing suppression of anything anywhere that smacks of masculinity, for fear that it may incommode female achievement or wellbeing?

Ex-patriate curmudgeon Fred Reed has a typically jaundiced view of these matters. As he admits, yes there are exceptions and degrees, and no he doesn't have polling data. But,

Men are capable of malignant government, whether authoritarian or totalitarian, as witness North Korea or the Russia of Stalin. I don’t know whether women would behave as badly if they had the power. (I’d guess not.) But women have their own totalitarian tendencies. They will if allowed impose a seamless tyranny of suffocating safety, social control, and political propriety. Men are happy for men to be men and women to be women; women want us all to be women.

The United States becomes daily more a woman’s world: comfortable, safe, with few outlets for a man’s desire for risk. The America of wild empty country, of guns and fishing and hunting, of physical labor and hot rods and schoolyard fights, has turned gradually into a land of shopping malls and sensible cars and bureaucracy. Risk is now mostly artificial and not very risky. There is skydiving and scuba and you can still find places to go fast on motorcycles, but it gets harder. Jobs increasingly require the feminine virtues of patience, accommodation to routine, and subordination of performance to civility. Just about everything that once defined masculinity is now denounced as “macho,” a hostile word embodying the female incomprehension of men.

My daughter is tomboyish at the present, but we're trying to raise her to be as feminine and considerate and kind and nurturing as possible. If she wants to succeed in business, I hope the sports activities we provide her with will help grow the necessary talents. If she wants to go into a profession, I am confident her native grey matter, coupled with the work ethic we're trying to instill into her, will carry her through. If she wants to be a feminist, a few semesters of Strong Wymynyst Studies in college ought to fix her right up. But in order for her to be a good mother and wife, such as becomes the very pearl of the home, she's gotta get it in her soul early. There's no written certification for it, no seminar to go to, to get it. It would be a signal tragedy is someone succeeded in reducing the rich pageant of her life to the dryness and hardness of mere political positioning. I hope she becomes a fullblown, unapologetic woman, and finds a man to match.