© 2008 Kathleen Parker
It's not a man's world any more. Far from it, Kathleen Parker writes: in America, men have not only been dethroned but imprisoned by a culture hostile to them. In Save the Males, Ms. Parker elaborates on the many ways in which the nature and contributions of men are scorned, abused, and discouraged by the prevailing culture, influenced as it is by 'third wave feminism'. The first wave feminism gave women the vote, second wave got them careers and divorces, and the third wave made them porn stars. Save the Males is less about men and more about the abuses of that third wave, which the author sees as not pro-women, but anti-male, and by virtue of the sexes' interrelatedness, anti-human. She raises a series of fair points, but the book's focus is wobbly.
Parker doesn't detail a campaign against men, but rather has a list of complaints about the various ways men are emasculated. Education is entirely girl-focused, she says: boys are forced to spend all day listening to soft-spoken women and denied rambunctious games of tag at recess. Women can merrily abort babies without ever consulting the fellows who contributed to the cause, divorce and child custody laws are outright malevolent to the male sex, and then there's porn! It...puts pressure on them to perform, or something. The list of attacks against men drifts into a list of ways society is degrading midway. As wretched as porn can be (and if you have doubts, read Chris Hedges' Empire of Illusion), the fact that it hurts men is somewhat tangential. More thoughtful are her remarks about women in the military: despite the fact that women can push buttons as well as men, we have yet to civilize warfare, which -- after plans go to hell -- is still an area where brute strength, testosterone-fueled ax-crazy risk-taking are needed. The desperate, primal struggles which erupt in Afghanistan and Iraq need frenzied, mighty men to deal with them. Even when women are tucked away into noncombat roles on the front, the unpredictable nature of war means they'll still get caught up in it -- and that's just not right. Regardless of our well-intentioned idealism, men and women at war are still men and women. Even if women weren't so physically inferior to men, says Parker, injection of sexual tension into combat zones would suggest keeping the military from being feminized. The tribal mentality that resurrects itself so mightily in combat will derail combat units' effectiveness when the men start worrying about their ladies being shot and raped. Given that the US has recently done away with its barring women from combat roles, that tension is worth pondering.
I'm not particularly convinced by Save the Males that we of the beard are in great need of saving, though Parker does raise a lot of points worth thinking about -- divorce, military policy, and to a degree, parenting. (Parker's assertion that boys need men to teach them to be men, and girls need women to teach them to be women, and thus that test-tube babies born to single mothers are deprived of half of their necessary gender acculturation, is at first glance intriuging: I'd never considered the idea that fathers teach boys how to act appropriately around women, and vice versa, but then I realized they don't, really, at least not outside 1950s sitcoms. And besides, who says we need to be taught to be men or women? If there are authentic gender roles, shouldn't they be as natural to us as breathing?) These ideas deserve more serious consideration, however, than they find here, in a book which contains one chapter on nothing but how women worship their vaginas.