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June 10, 2010

Men of VC: You're on the Menu This Week

Aye, chihuahua.

On the Intertubes, tendentiously announcing "The End Of..." this that or the other thing never seems to get old. The only thing more reliable than Barack Obama blaming Bush for everything is the knowledge that some fool is about to tell us that something is deader than a doornail.... usually right before it rises up and bites him or her in the ass.

A few years ago we were told it was "The End of Liberalism". After the 2008 it was "The End of Conservatism". Brace yourselves - this week it's The End of Men:

Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences...

[yawn]

Why does no one ever tell me these things?

I don't know about Ms. Rosin but I kind of like men. I like working with them, and talking to them. And I kind of like sex with men. Therefore I see little use in a future wherein women have "evolved" to the point where we produce offspring in the manner of paramecia. Though certainly some women seem to have the right personality for it.

It's a weak sort of woman who builds herself up by wallowing in the misfortune of others (temporary or otherwise). Ms. Rosin seems to look forward to the day when she can grind men beneath her heel. She is welcome to try it - I suspect she may get more than she bargained for.

Posted by Cassandra at June 10, 2010 11:36 AM

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Comments

She might get a lot of woman-starved men from China. And while Asian guys are indeed cute, that's not really the way I want to meet Asian guys.

Posted by: Maureen at June 10, 2010 11:51 AM

*snort* :)

What gets into these people?

Posted by: Cass at June 10, 2010 11:58 AM

John Derbyshire wrote the same piece in late August, 2001. I know, because I remember writing him back to tell him that he should enjoy the female-centric society while it lasted; it would look like a garden once history changed again.

Two weeks later was 9/11.

Posted by: Grim at June 10, 2010 12:03 PM

Derbyshire has an odd notion of "traditional masculinity":

The modern workplace has also been de-masculinized. I have spent many years working in the offices of big corporations, among the vast clerical middle class of the Information Age. It has often struck me how much more suitable this work is for women than for men — how, in fact, men seem rather out of place among the "tubes and cubes" of the modern office. No masculine values are visible here. The mildness of manners, the endless tiny courtesies, the yielding and compromising, the cheery assertions of labor-room stoicism ("Hangin' in there!") that are necessary to get this kind of work done, leave little outlet for masculine forcefulness. Such outlets as did once exist have been systematically sealed off by the feminists and "sexual harassment" warriors. Was it really only twelve years ago that my mixed-sex office in a big Wall Street trading house celebrated the boss's birthday by bringing in a full-monty stripper to entertain us? Yes, it was. If we did that today, we should be the subject of a 60 Minutes segment.

Oddly, I must have missed the page in the traditional masculinity primer where professional men brag about bringing "full monty" strippers into a mixed sex work place. But then I always was naive that way.

Posted by: Cass at June 10, 2010 12:15 PM

On Wall Street? I've never known anyone who worked there, but my understanding from what I've read is that it has never been a place that prided itself on its good manners, or the care taken with other people's feelings.

Posted by: Grim at June 10, 2010 12:38 PM

It's not so much that I don't realize such things happen, Grim. I am not stupid.

I just have never quite gotten used to the sight of men defending them as "traditional masculinity". If that's his idea of the kind of thing we need to bring back, I must be more screwed up than I thought.

Posted by: Cass at June 10, 2010 12:47 PM

OK, I made it through the whole thing. You could have at least let me do it with a hot bath, a razor blade, and then I could have slowly bled out in a gender neutral manner.

Heh, near the end. Woman are acting like the dominant sex, and men are becoming more passive. You mean cultural roles change with time and circumstances? Who would have thunk it?

Posted by: Allen at June 10, 2010 01:01 PM

If you say so. This is my favorite line, though:

Even war, that most quintessential of masculine activities, is probably a thing of the past. For war you need a large supply of young men. With the great demographic collapse of modern times, that supply is drying up. Soft, feminized, over-civilized, under-militarized societies of the past were likely to be jolted back into vigor, or just overrun, by warriors from the wild places. Now there are no more wild places.

Except Afghanistan and Iraq, it turns out. And Pakistan. And the Philippines. And the horn of... well, no, most of Africa. And Fort Hood.

Posted by: Grim at June 10, 2010 01:05 PM

There may have been some value to "write what you know" after all :p

Posted by: Cass at June 10, 2010 01:15 PM

Anyway, my perspective on this rendition of the piece is the same as it was in 2001. Women are doing so well because this is a golden age.

In spite of the troubles of the day, we remain in the last hours of this age of unimaginable wealth and peace. The disorder we have seen so far is only the first taste. The order of the world is guaranteed by America; when her strength and wealth are wasted, there will be a terrible age to follow.

But it will be a man's world then, for whatever that's worth.

Posted by: Grim at June 10, 2010 01:19 PM

Shame on you, Grim!

Don't you know that we chicks exist only to forcefully feminize you big, manly men - to snatch the cigars and remote controls right out of your burly hands, tie you down and make you watch Sandra Bullock movies while you nosh on mango sorbet and vegetarian quiche and dab feebly at your beards with sanitized hand wipes?

I feel sure that I must be plotting something vaguely like that. Some days I just *hate* myself... I really do :p

Posted by: Cass at June 10, 2010 01:34 PM

"No more wild places" -- yeah, that's a good one.

Not that I agree that the world becomes a "man's world" whenever it's dangerous, any more than it's a "woman's world" every time we need a new generation to be gestated. It can't be a man's world unless men think they can do without women. Same goes for women. The women don't own either the world or "their men," just as the men don't own either the world or "their women."

Posted by: Texan99 at June 10, 2010 01:43 PM

Now there are no more wild places.

Derbyshire's definition of "wild place" is, obviously, "a party featuring a full-monty stripper."

He wouldn't last a minute in a genuine wild place.

Posted by: BillT at June 10, 2010 02:18 PM

:)

Posted by: Cass at June 10, 2010 02:42 PM

Some of the "experts" quoted by Rosin seem to think that management ideas such as motivating, coaching, and delegating/distributing authority are something new at this moment in history (and are tightly correlated with the ascendancy of women)...actually, I expect these ideas were well-understood by Xenophon.

The gee-whiz-everything-has-totally-changed attitude is too common among social critics, and generally betrays a lack of historical knowledge and perspective.

Posted by: david foster at June 10, 2010 03:39 PM

The gee-whiz-everything-has-totally-changed attitude is too common among social critics, and generally betrays a lack of historical knowledge and perspective.

I wiped out a long, cranky comment to that effect.

I grew up watching old movies and reading classic literature and history. When I hear people go on and on about how anything that cramps their personal style is "feminized" I just shake my head. These folks should try reading a few old books or watching really old movies. The men, by today's standards, seem almost impossibly emotional and their manners border on the effeminate at times. There are old movies I find difficult to watch for that reason.

I guess back in the old days men and society were "feminized" too.

Or maybe "civilized" was the word they used back then :p

Posted by: Cass at June 10, 2010 03:45 PM

"The men, by today's standards - seem almost impossibly emotional and their manners border on the effeminate at times."

Someone watching Civil War general Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain care for some wounded remarked "You have the soul of the lion and the heart of the woman." JLC clearly took it as a compliment. I'm not sure anyone would be likely to make such a comment today.

Posted by: david foster at June 10, 2010 03:48 PM

Also...people who know nothing about industry, and particularly nothing about industrial history, often make comments about "industrial-age organizations," "industrial age management," etc, in a way implying that (a)the age of industry has passed, and (b)thank goodness for that, since we can get rid of all those human robots. There is some of this flavor in Rosin's article.

Several months ago, I critiqued this kind of thinking, as embedded in a David Brooks column, in my post "protocols" and wealth creation.

Posted by: david foster at June 10, 2010 03:53 PM

"Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history."

Personally, I'm looking forward to retirement in about 5½ years...or even sooner if I can manage it.

Posted by: camojack at June 11, 2010 01:15 AM

The things people find to worry about.


Oh, yes, the wild places. There are a few left, and some of them I'd really hesitate to go near. The middle of the Indian Ocean in the middle of winter, for one. Not the boat for that journey, IMHO. Glad she's survived.


Less extreme, though, they're wonderful. I used to go off up the mountain or down in the canyons or out on the desert by myself ... when I got back to the tailhead after a week or two, it's always been the hardest part of the journey to walk down the trail back to "civilization", to resume the chains of duty.

Posted by: htom at June 11, 2010 10:15 AM

Cass, I actually sort of get what he's talking about, although I think he wrote it inartfully and skipped a lot of steps. I think a scenario like he proposes is possible if you accept that America is moving towards an authoritarian society in which the lives of most citizens will be tightly controlled by the government. Certainly the election of Obama was a huge step in that direction, but the general trend has been that way since the 1960s. Yes, there will probably be a reversal, or at least a slowdown in the trend, in 2012. But given that our current choices are between big-government Democrats and slightly-less-big-government Republicans, and that we have a generation now moving to maturity that has been raised to be passive and follow directions, I'm afraid that looking back forty years from now, 2012 will be only a blip on the graph.

In an authoritarian society, who suffers? It's the people who want to take initiative and carve their own path through life. And who are these people? Most of them are men. Yes, there are women in that group too, but if you accept the theory that men in general are bigger risk-takers, then it would make sense that more of this group would be men.

In the past, whenever social circumstances were such that these men began to chafe, there were always outlets that benefitted both them, and in the long round, the country at large. The rough-and-tumble ones, whose primary attributes were physical strength and survival skills, made their way to the frontier. The ones who were more intellectual became independent businessmen, inventors, financiers, or artists. The former group carved out new areas of civilization; the latter shook up and rearranged society from within.

But the only frontier we have to day is space, and currently that frontier is unavailable because the infrastructure needed to get access to it doesn't exist. And in an authoritarian structure, all of the avenues for making one's own way within society are closed. You can't go into business for yourself because facist (in the dictionary sense) government puts up barriers to entry, to protect existing corporations. You can't invent for those same reasons; you need financing to invent and perfect a product, and what's the use in that if you can't enter the market? You can't very well be a financier when the government limits and confiscates private assets, and you can't be an artist when the government limits freedom of expression.

In an authoritarian society, risk-takers find themselves irrelevant and unwanted, and they turn towards self-medication of various sorts to wash those dreams out of their heads. We saw this in the Soviet Union. And although not all of these people are men, a high percentage of them are.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at June 11, 2010 10:50 AM

Dave:

Derbyshire makes a number of rather bizarre assertions in the essay:

1. "Society ain't gonna study war no more". Grim already dealt with that one. Could he have been any more wrong? Hard to think how.

2. "Sex is on the way out".

Whoa. The evidence? This whopper:

I have written elsewhere about the sudden (historically speaking) ubiquity of fellatio among young people. This is a genuine social phenomenon of our times. Its significance in this context is that fellatio is an act of condescension by a woman towards a man. The subtext, as we say nowadays, is: "I am not willing to engage in sexual congress with you. However, to maintain your affections, and pacify your beastly masculine nature, I will do this."

I have read a lot of dumb things over the years but that passage ranks right up there with the dumbest I can think of.

Fellatio is an act of condescension? How the hell would Derbyshire know how women feel about oral sex? Has he asked any?

For that matter, has he asked any men if they feel they're being "condescended to" when the little woman fobs them off with a BJ when all they really want is good, old fashioned missionary style sex?

*rolling eyes*

I could go on and on about this one but that would mean saying something I'll regret so I believe I'll stop now.

3. "The modern workplace has also been de-masculinized."

Yes, because in the offices of yesteryear there were hot and cold running strippers on tap. Just watch an old re-run of Perry Mason or Dragnet or Father Knows Best.

I am willing to stipulate that men and women see different things when we read the same piece. What I saw in this essay was a very strong dislike of women. As I said earlier, I see men do this a lot - especially conservative men. I get that there's a natural tension between men and women. I raised two sons to adulthood and I'm married to a US Marine. The only other female presence in our household for over two decades was a beagle named Molly.

The society I grew up in was one that was utterly dominated by men. And you know what? In that male dominated society you couldn't even turn on a freaking TV and see a married couple sharing the same bed.

Movies were also censored. In order for Rhett Butler to utter the immortal words, "Frankly my dear I don't give a damn", the 1930 Motion Picture Association's Production Code had to be amended to allow such a shocker to get through:

... the MPA board passed an amendment to the Production Code on November 1, 1939, a month and a half before the film's release, that forbade use of the words "hell" or "damn" except when their use "shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore … or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste."

This is the world James Brown sang about: a man's world. And it wasn't women running making rules so strict that few people alive today (least of all Derbyshire with his workplace strippers) would wish to live in it.

I often wonder how many guys today understand that what kept people in line back then was the authority of other men who wanted and desired rules? Just as not all women are whores or gold diggers or madonnas, not all men are risk takers. Civilization exists because for centuries, men have worked hard to create order and stability. It astounds me to hear men go on about how everything around us was created by men and how men still do all the important work and provide all the leadership, but somehow that only applies when they want to take credit for the benefits of civilization. When it comes time to look at some of the problems... well, men had nothing to do with those. They were all caused by those inferiour slacker, powerless women men only put up with because they are forced to by... whom? I've never quite figured that one out.

You can't have the argument both ways - it doesn't stand up logically.

I hear men like Derbyshire blaming everything under the sun on women and I just shake my head. They have to reinvent history to get there, but when you've got a raging bias on who needs facts?

The entire point (though I admit it was only a suggested one and not one I made explicitly) of that Femininization post was to try to get people to think. That morphing population pyramid is a pattern that has repeated itself over and over as countries move from developing (pyramid) to industrialized to post-industrial (almost a column). The birth rate goes down and people live longer. It's all happened a million times but we don't see the pattern because we're mired in the quotidian - a state only exacerbated by the flood of information that pounds at us from all sides. We literally can't see the forest for the trees.

I guess it makes people feel better to predict the death of men, or conservatism, or whatever but history doesn't work that way. Forces ebb and flow in response to current events. Qualities that seem superfluous now are suddenly at a premium with history throws us a curve ball (as it did on 9/11).

I happen to agree with Grim - I think we're headed for a global conflict on the scale of WWI and WWII. I think we're headed for the devolution of society, not a rigid authoritarian society. You can hear the death knells all around us - our innate urge to form larger and larger institutions has hit the wall. They've become too large and too complex to manage.

And there's only one answer when that happens. Break it all into pieces.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 11, 2010 12:29 PM

I am sorry if that sounded testy. I am not irritated with you (or with your comment) and I should not have allowed my frustration to come through.

This is something I feel passionately about, Dave. Sometimes so much so that I can't write for days.

Anyway, didn't mean to beat you over the head with my opinions :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 11, 2010 12:35 PM

The end of sex? Ha. That reminds me of this passage from a Nick Lane book I've just ordered. He's talking not just about sex between men and women but about the broader phenomenon of sex in biology; the book is "Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution." (The epochal steps being primitive self-replication, DNA, photosynthesis, complex cells, sex, movement, sight, warm-bloodedness, consciousness, and death.)

"If sex is an occupational folly, an existential absurdity, then not having sex is even worse, for it leads in most cases to extinction, non-existential absurdity. And so there must be advantages to sex, advantages that overwhelm the foolhardiness of doing so. The advantages are surprisingly hard to gauge and made the evolution of sex the 'queen' of evolutionary problems through much of the twentieth century. It may be that, without sex, large complex forms of life are simply not possible at all: we would all disintegrate in a matter of generations, doomed to decay like the degenerate Y chromosome. Either way, sex makes the difference between a silent and introspective planet, full of dour self- replicating things...and the explosion of pleasure and glory all around us. A world without sex is a world without the songs of men and women or birds or frogs, without the flamboyant colours of flowers, without gladiatorial contests, poetry, love, or rapture. A world without much interest."

Posted by: Texan99 at June 11, 2010 12:53 PM

C, I'm with you, by the way, in the uneasy expectation of collapse.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 11, 2010 12:54 PM

The irony of that particular passage is hard to beat, T99.

We live in a world that's awash in sex and this guy thinks sex is under siege?

Wow.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 11, 2010 12:56 PM

Cass, no worries. But I don't think I quite got my point across. I did say that Derb wrote that piece inartfully. He circled all around the truth, but he never quite got to it -- instead, he went down a bunch of blind alleys. And in the end, he didn't manage to say what I think he meant to say. I've read lots of Derbyshire before, and he's never come across to me as a woman-hater. I daresay there's hardly a blogger on the Internet who has never hit "publish" on a post and then immediately wished they could take it back. This one may be his.

An authoritarian government and a devolved society are not incompatible. In fact, I'd say that the latter is an inevitable consequence of the former. Again, the Soviet Union, case in point. Or today's Cuba. Why worry about moral values when the government is making all your decisions for you? Might as well milk the system for whatever you can get out of it. After all, that's what everyone else is going to do. There's no reward for behaving any other way. I'm not sure where you were going with the 1950s references. Was that time authoritarian? Well, yeah, it was kind of stuffy. But that wasn't authoritarian. When the government starts telling you who you must have sex with, that's authoritarian. We in the U.S. (those of us who didn't immigrate from Marxist countries) have never really experienced it first-hand.

I take it that your real objection is the characterization of that state of affairs as being "feminine" in nature. Fair criticism. Is our current society becoming more feminized? Yeah, I think it is. But as you and others have noted, that pendulum swings back and forth. The real danger is that some authoritarians have figured out how to use feminization as a wedge. "For the public good", private wealth must be confiscates so that supposedly self-capable adults can be mothered. "For the public good", risk-takers must be purged from society.

Actually, it's not all that different in kind from the paternalization that we've seen in the past. The difference is that they are using the language of femininity to push it. Why that, why now? Because using fatherly language won't work at this point in time; traditional masculinity has been too discredited. But using motherly language, it slides by. I'll let someone else speculate as to what that is.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at June 11, 2010 02:12 PM

I meant to add a sentence to the authoritarian government / disorderly society paragraph, which got lost in the shuffle. An authoritarian government is perfectly happy to let you do whatever you want -- as long as you're doing something self-destructive. That's why the one good that was plentiful and cheap in the Soviet Union was vodka, and why the Kremlin never made a serious attempt to do anything about the alcoholism that pervaded Soviet society. By disabling people who might have been formidable political opponents, it worked in the government's favor. A dysfunctional society gives government more elbow room.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at June 11, 2010 02:20 PM

They're going to have a tough time pushing authoritarian fascism with a feminine voice :p

If there's one thing I've never liked and never understood about women, it's that we're all closet anarchists.

The very fascism you cite requires masculine force.

I guess it see this very differently than you do. The real threat of feminism and femininozation, in my view, is that it erodes respect for authority and encourages both men and women to give full reign to their instincts and emotions. It's hard to put that genie back in the bottle. I don't think anything less than an existential threat to civilization will suffice.

And if we continue down the weak-willed path we're on where we broadcast vulnerability and lack of resolve with every word we speak, we may just succeed in eliciting that threat.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 11, 2010 02:28 PM

An authoritarian government is perfectly happy to let you do whatever you want -- as long as you're doing something self-destructive.

Well, I could see that threat - a government (like Obama's) that says one thing and does another is unlikely to be opposed by a populace that can be bought off with consumerism and unrestricted vice. I'll give you that one! :)

My point, which I didn't express well, is that I think there's just as much of a threat from without as from within. Most of the admittedly brief reading I've done about fascism has it inextricably intertwined with militarism. I guess I'm just not sure how you get to the enforcement part of authoritarianism from a feminized perspective?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 11, 2010 02:45 PM

I think I'm with Cousin Dave on the fashion for assigning either fatherly or motherly attributes to an excessively authoritarian government: either way, it's a government that's too much in the position of adult parent to a citizenry that's too much in the position of child. In different eras, it may be more palatable for the government to adopt the metaphor of father or mother, depending on whether voters are more amenable at that time to the image of a "Father Knows Best" cool orderliness or a "Mommy Make It All Better" warm security. Maybe now is the time for "Mother, please. I'd rather do it myself," which could also be described as, "Thanks, old man, but I'm head of my own household now."

Posted by: Texan99 at June 11, 2010 04:06 PM

...either way, it's a government that's too much in the position of adult parent to a citizenry that's too much in the position of child.

I'll concede that! I was just having trouble getting to an authoritarian, militarized government from femininization (under which the armed forces would be reduced to having bake sales) :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 11, 2010 04:33 PM

They're going to have a tough time pushing authoritarian fascism with a feminine voice :p

Yes, and no.

I agree that women aren't typically viewed as the "stick a gun in your face and make you obey" types, but I don't really see things like seat belt laws, smoking bans, trans-fat bans as having a masculine voice.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 11, 2010 04:40 PM

I don't really see things like seat belt laws, smoking bans, trans-fat bans as having a masculine voice.

And the enforcement of laws like that is...???

Seat belt laws are enforced laxly, if at all. I think there's a bit of difference between being hassled with petty regulations with fairly trivial penalties and a fascist militaristic state :) Though I agree on the stupidity (and even the more feminine nature) of that type of law.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 11, 2010 05:00 PM

Cass, I'm just speculating here, but the answer to your question may be "shaming and ostracism", in the fashion of what some teenage mean girls do to those not in the clique. I say that as a conjecture because I can't put my finger on any country in Western history where it has happened. Czarist Russia, maybe. It has happened in some extreme sub-subcultures, mainly cults.

I definitely share your concern about the external threat. What I see as the internal threat isn't the usual insurrectionist type of thing. It's the non-action of a soma-ized populace. It's that, when the external threat finally manifests (and I think it will in my lifetime), there may not be enough people left who give a damn for it to matter. A whimper, not a bang; that sort of thing.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at June 11, 2010 05:06 PM

I'm just speculating here, but the answer to your question may be "shaming and ostracism", in the fashion of what some teenage mean girls do to those not in the clique.

You know Dave, this is why I enjoy your comments so much - you always have an interesting perspective on things. I have heard that argument (in a different form, but the same idea) from a lot of guys and frankly it has always puzzled the heck out of me.

Please don't take this personally because I have the utmost respect for you. I am genuinely puzzled by this and would appreciate your humoring me if this is a dumb question.

I see guys talk about "blaming and shaming" as though it were brute force and I'm mystified. You're right - girls (not all girls, but the nasty ones) do try that sort of thing. So does a certain kind of woman. But it never worked on me as a child b/c I took one look at the kind of person who does that and thought, "Jeez - why should I care what they think or want to be their friend? Who wants friends like that anyway? They aren't worth a puddle of warm spit."

Standing up to people like that isn't much different from what boys have to learn, except IMO it's easier (not easy, but easier). Boys learn to stand up to bullies physically but the consequences of failing to prevail against shaming/ostracism are a LOT less bad. On the one hand, people who are snots may not want to be your friend or may disapprove of you. On the other, you get the snot beaten out of you :)

I think that's why you can't think of a single case where a government successfully used it to control a populace - there's a vast difference between mild arm twisting and clubbing someone over the head with a lead pipe.

Why do guys talk like that? I don't get it.

I worry about society becoming lazy or complacent but I've always thought that when push comes to shove, if they are ever really threatened that complacency will get sloughed off so fast it will make your head spin. Just watch what happens to people in emergencies - they will knock you down and climb over your prone body if that's what they need to do to survive. The social veneer is mighty thin.

Oh sure, some don't react quickly enough and they'll be easy targets. But a society of men (or women for that matter) who can be controlled by what guys call "blaming and shaming" (as opposed to force)? That scares the crap out of me.

I hope I'm not wrong about this.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 11, 2010 06:04 PM

And the enforcement of laws like that is...???

Outsourced. :-)

But paying someone else to do something on your behalf doesn't absolve you of responsibility.

And like I said, I agree that women are much less likely to stick a gun in someone's face themselves, I don't see much of a difference from men in their willingness to outsource that violence to others (who are, admitidly, primarily men).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 11, 2010 06:07 PM

So I guess I'm saying that in the equation:

Threat = Desire * Ability

The "Gender Feminist" is, at least, an equal in Desire but without help would have a lower ability.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 11, 2010 06:16 PM

I should also say that I think the reason women are no different than men in outsourcing violence is that almost no (men or women) realizes that's what they are doing.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 11, 2010 06:26 PM

I don't know, Cass, I've got a kind of a free-form worry that's been on the back of my mind for a while, and I'm groping for an explanation of what it is that I'm worried about. I see a lot of young guys coming out of school these days, in the 17-19 age bracket, and their spirits are just crushed. They're afraid of their own shadows, convinced that they will never be able to accomplish anything in life. They've just spent twelve years of schooling in which they were consistently in the bottom half of their classes. And worse, they were told repeatedly, from a young age, that as males they are the cause of all of society's problems and that their country has no use for them.

If you look at educational statistics, you can see a lot of data that backs this up. The gender stats that prevailed in education through most of the 20th century have been turned upside down. It's not just that girls are doing better -- boys are doing worse. There's quite a few liberal arts colleges that have reached what admissions people consider a point of no return: more than 60% female student body. Boys are falling behind in nearly every subject. Teaching methods are patterned very much to favor the ways that most girls learn, and against the way that most boys (and some girls) learn.

Organized women's groups are either unconcerned, or they are applauding this trend. The American Association of University Women released a notorious position paper last which basically said, "we deny that there's a problem, but if there is, it's because males are genetically inferior." Other groups are lobbying against any funding to fix "the boy problem" because it might take money away from girls' programs. (Noticed how cleverly they constructed the problem as a zero-sum game -- in order for one group to gain, another group has to lose.)

There's other things too, but suffice it to say that today, a lot of boys and young men are getting the message that they are a disfavored class. This is what I meant by the "shaming and ostracism". It's not just that people are making fun of them -- when said shaming and ostracism has official government sanction, the picture changes.

Here's what I really worry about. If we do develop a large cohort of confused, directionless, unemployable young men, what happens? If young men decide that Western culture has declared them surplus, what will they do? Most people want to feel like they have some value, and that there is a place for them. What's the major culture in the world today that promises every man a starring role? Islam. (Of course, it isn't really true, but they do a darn good job of making it look so to outsiders.) What happens if young American men in large numbers turn to Islam? The upcoming war, which we are assuming will come to us as an external threat, may wind up being a civil war instead.

Does any of this make sense? The scenario I just described will have a lot of factors working against it. Nonetheless, I'm afraid that with the direction our society is currently going, it's possible.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at June 11, 2010 11:43 PM

First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Dave. I really appreciate it.

You've given me a lot to think about - give me a moment to think and I'll respond :)

Posted by: Cassandra at June 12, 2010 05:50 AM

Cousin Dave...a huge part of the problem is that way that the current public-education system selects for teachers. People with high spirits and an independent streak, whether male or female, are unlikely to put up with the ed-school nonsense, the micromanagement of how they teach, the administrative willingness to allow them to be disrespected by disruptive students, and the lack of connection between competence and pay/promotion. Hence, many of those finding their way into the classroom are those who place very high value on security and conformity, who lack intellectual interests, and who natter on endlessly about their "feeeelings."

This isn't good for anybody, but it is indeed probably even more destructive for boys than for girls.

Posted by: david foster at June 12, 2010 08:52 AM

First of all, Cass, thanks for posting things like this. I know you don't want to make gender relations the sole focus of your blog, but you have a unique way of looking at that subject that helps me sort out questions in my mind when I read your posts.

David, I think you may have provided the answer to something I've been wondering about. Some people have, IMO, been too quick to connect the dots between the current poor performance of boys in school with the teaching profession being women-dominated. The reason I question it is because that's not new... when I was in elementary school, most of the teachers were women, and I suspect that was true throughout the 20th century. But consider: prior to 1970 or so, teaching, being one of the few careers open to women, probably attracted the most ambitious and independent-minded women. But today, there are lots of other career paths open to those women, and as you say, they don't find ed school attractive.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at June 12, 2010 10:12 AM

Cousin Dave...precisely. It's not so much that the teaching profession is dominated by women; it's that it's dominated by *a certain type* of women...basically, take Sarah Palin and invert her, and you'll get the archtype.

Not sure their male equivalents would be any better.

Posted by: david foster at June 12, 2010 10:29 AM

I see a lot of young guys coming out of school these days, in the 17-19 age bracket, and their spirits are just crushed. They're afraid of their own shadows, convinced that they will never be able to accomplish anything in life. They've just spent twelve years of schooling in which they were consistently in the bottom half of their classes. And worse, they were told repeatedly, from a young age, that as males they are the cause of all of society's problems and that their country has no use for them.

OK, I want to throw a couple of things out here:

When I read this, two things immediately jumped into my mind.

The first was, "WHERE THE HELL ARE THESE BOYS' PARENTS?" The second was, "Since when have 17-19 year old boys had a clue?"

I'm not saying this b/c I don't like boys. I love boys. But boys are not girls. They really are different.

I am going to end up posting about this, so I don't want to go into my whole argument here in the comments. But this is something I've been noodling about for some time.

I NEVER expected the school system to make my boys want to do ANYTHING. All I expected of school was for teachers to show up and teach the material. It is *not* their job to provide motivation, validation, goals, self esteem or any other such nonsense. That's why kids have parents.

Not only did I not expect schools to motivate my kids - I actually expected to have to fight the crap my kids were exposed to. IOW, *I* set the values I wanted my sons to absorb and I held them accountable to those values even though the schools were shoveling a load of horse hockey into their young ears as fast as they could.

I don't buy off on the notion that boys are discouraged b/c school is too hard. It's easier than it has ever been and standards are WAY lower. And I think that's the real problem here - low standards and lack of accountability.

I did - and do - take offense at the argument that women are to blame ... when it's applied to things they are not responsible for. Children have 2 parents - a mother and a father - and BOTH are 100% responsible for the rearing of their progeny. If one parent defaults on that obligation, the other parent doesn't get a pass to do likewise.

So, again, my first question is: where the hell are the parents?

My second is, "Who expects boys to straighten up and fly right at 17 (or 19)?" They aren't "finished" yet. They still need parents - mostly to kick them in the ass when they act immature.

I raised two boys with "bookend" personalities. They could not be more different. Both had different challenges but the expectation for both of them was exactly the same: when you turn 18, you WILL go to school full time or you WILL move out, get a job, and support yourself. The "motivation" here is simple - if you don't eat, you will starve. Sometimes it really is that simple.

Now that's a painful and scary thing for any child but it is also absolutely necessary if they are to be independent, strong, happy adults.

I've had male friends all my life who were, for the most part, happy successful and self-confident. And every single one of these men has, at some point, said the same thing to me: when I was a teen, I was really out of it. And I didn't get a clue until [insert 'the military/marriage/my parents/life'] kicked me in the ass - hard.

I really think the problem is not women, or teachers, or feminism but lack of accountability. Parents who set high standards for their kids and then hold them accountable (lovingly!) don't tend to have kids who drift aimlessly. It's not a perfect system but this is something that cannot be delegated.

IOW, it ain't "the system" that's the problem here. I really do think that is kind of a cop out. I think that insidiously, all of us (and I include myself) have allowed this sort of 'victimization creep' to skew our priorities. Part of this is b/c kids *won't* starve anymore if they don't work - everywhere we look these days, the world is full of safety nets.

Kids in 3rd world countries don't spend a lot of time mired in self doubt - they go out and find work or they die.

Kids in America, on the other hand, have the luxury of self doubt largely because the adults around them secretly don't think they can survive without "help". This is going to sound really cold, but these kids get plenty of help. What they need is not more help, but perhaps a big dose of reality.

Or, as my Dad likes to say, "Pain is a wonderful motivator" :p

I'm going to post more about this. Sorry if it's not terribly well fleshed out but I have family responsibilities today and can't take the time.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 12, 2010 11:27 AM

One more thought. Re:

I did - and do - take offense at the argument that women are to blame ... when it's applied to things they are not responsible for. Children have 2 parents - a mother and a father - and BOTH are 100% responsible for the rearing of their progeny. If one parent defaults on that obligation, the other parent doesn't get a pass to do likewise.

Earlier I got annoyed at the suggestion that women/feminists/feminization are to blame for everything. As I said earlier, I really think this is the world's biggest excuse. It's not just wrong. It's destructively wrong.

That said, I absolutely AM willing to blame feminism for one thing: women not being in the home to raise their kids. I do think the notion that you can do a job as well in 1.5 hours a day as you can in 12 hours a day is utter nonsense. We would never accept that argument about being an accountant.

Why do we accept it when it's applied to being a parent?

BUT - and it's a big but (pun fully intended) - parenting is NOT the woman's sole responsibility. To the extent that women have, in moving into the workplace, largely abdicated their role as moral teachers and parents, I absolutely do blame women/feminism.

But that doesn't let men off the hook. Boys need mothers (and that's something we rarely hear). We talk about how much boys and girls need father but we hardly ever hear anyone talk about how very much boys need mothers.

But they do. What mothers do is vitally important.

The thing is, boys need engaged fathers too. I think that's more true now than it has ever been because life is more complicated. So, as with most things, I reject the simplistic argument. We don't get to blame women for everything, but at the same time women do bear a large share of responsibility.

And I reject blaming men. They bear part of the responsibility, but not all.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 12, 2010 11:36 AM

Organized women's groups are either unconcerned, or they are applauding this trend. The American Association of University Women released a notorious position paper last which basically said, "we deny that there's a problem, but if there is, it's because males are genetically inferior." Other groups are lobbying against any funding to fix "the boy problem" because it might take money away from girls' programs. (Noticed how cleverly they constructed the problem as a zero-sum game -- in order for one group to gain, another group has to lose.)

Isn't this exactly how conservatives responded to all those idiotic "we must help girls!!!!" initiatives? All these things have been said about girls ('they are behind boys because they're inferior', etc.) I grew up with that expectation set and with bosses who all but told me to my face that girls weren't as capable or smart as boys.

I didn't buy the arguments of the "girls are helpless victims" then and I don't buy the "boys are helpless victims" stuff now. I have always thought this a spectacularly ill advised argument to make and I'm really dismayed that conservatives are buying into the very arguments they rejected when the shoe was on the other foot.

If a public school system has any obligation to kids, it is to provide a relatively orderly means for THEM to learn in. It's up to parents to set the tone, make kids do what they need to do, etc.

My boys used to say, "School isn't fair" all the time.

My response was always, "You know what? You're right. Which makes it an excellent preparation for a world that is profoundly unfair. Your job is to figure out what you want/need and then figure out how to get what you want from the system because it's not going to change simply because you don't like it."

Obviously this topic has me a bit exercised :p I'll shut up now and brace for your responses! You may fire when ready :)

Posted by: Cassandra at June 12, 2010 11:53 AM

Sometimes I get wrapped around the axle about things. Personality defect on my part.

If I offended anyone, I'm sorry. As I said, I didn't mean to beat people over the head with my opinions. Dave's comment just touched on something that I've been stewing about for a long time and I guess it all just came out.

I am sorry if I came on too strong. I should have displayed better judgment.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 12, 2010 02:53 PM

You just wrote exactly what I was thinking: I was hearing a strong echo of the old complaint that women graduated from public school permanently cowed and incapable of getting anywhere in professional life.

Now, it's true that I believe women have struggled under a load of garbage in the past, and that it's no small matter when everyone in your life gives you a message that it would be absurd for you to try to assume a place in the world because you're just a GIRL, after all. So I'm not deaf to the notion that boys are hearing debilitating messages that have a real effect. You're just a BOY, you're some kind of testosterone freak. You're BLACK, you can't ever amount to anything.

But for boys as it used to be for girls, or for blacks, or anyone else who gets a snootful of rotten messages about the hopelessness of their future lives, the trick always is going to be for students and their families to make their own reality. As you say, school is where we're supposed to learn stuff, not where personalities and characters are supposed to be inserted in us. Part of the kids' job in growing up is learning when to laugh at the opinions that others have of their limits. It's not a problem that ever will go away, even after they leave school.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 13, 2010 11:44 PM

FWIW, I never - even once in all the years my boys were in school - heard of any teacher, anywhere giving them the message that boys are bad, masculinity is bad, et cetera ad nauseum.

Never. Not once.

I hear this accusation all the time and it always puzzles me. I'm not saying it doesn't happen - I'm just saying that in a combined 24 years of schooling encompassing 10 different states, I never encountered that.

In fact, the biggest problem I had with schools and any kind of pernicious message was the complete lack of standards/accountability (IOW, the focus on self esteem over hard work and results). THAT is what I had to work to overcome - not schools who battered my kids' self esteem but schools that told my kids it was OK to do badly, OK not to try hard, they were smart and wonderful even if they couldn't pass a freaking test.

I don't claim to be an authority on parenting or boys. All I bring to the table is my own experience with raising my two boys and many years of doing home day care (in which I was able to observe other people's kids as well). So my opinions are just that: opinions.

I found that my boys had a better opinion of themselves when they were challenged. I think kids in general NEED to fail occasionally: that's how they learn. When that happens, you teach them to analyze what went wrong, pick up the pieces and try again. I think occasionally failing teaches them that it's really not the end of the world. I used to stress stories and biographies of famous people who failed several times before they eventually succeeded to show my sons that failure is normal and natural. If you're not failing, you're probably not trying hard enough (or trying hard enough things).

What I was trying to convey, though obviously I didn't do a very good job, is that kids aren't stupid. They pick up on it when adults take the normal ups and downs of growing up too seriously and I don't think that's good for them.

I read somewhere a while back that a very large percentage of CEOs are dyslexic. Because they have a learning disability, they are forced to develop coping mechanisms that are extremely useful and contribute to their eventual success.

Like you, I'm not deaf to the fact that words can be hurtful and damaging. But this is one of the skills parents need to teach their children: not to let other people's opinions define them.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 14, 2010 07:23 AM

Just one more aside, because I think this is incredibly important.

When I was raising my boys I did a lot of reading and I couldn't help but notice the great, yawning gap between how our parents and grandparents raised boys and how children are raised nowadays.

Back then, most societies actually put obstacles in a boy's way - really hard or painful things that had to be endured or overcome. Learning to deal with that sort of thing built character - taught a child that he was stronger than he thought. This is what Marine boot camp does - it pushes recruits to the limits of exhaustion and in the process they learn just how strong and resourceful they really are.

Now we act as if the slightest difficulty will prevent a child from ever accomplishing anything.

I just cannot understand it.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 14, 2010 07:28 AM

Cassandra, I just cited your last couple of comments at my post a culture war in miniature.

Posted by: david foster at June 14, 2010 08:20 AM

FWIW, I never - even once in all the years my boys were in school - heard of any teacher, anywhere giving them the message that boys are bad, masculinity is bad, et cetera ad nauseum.
[snip]
THAT is what I had to work to overcome - not schools who battered my kids' self esteem but schools that told my kids it was OK to do badly, OK not to try hard, they were smart and wonderful even if they couldn't pass a freaking test.

To some extent these are two sides of the same coin. In some schools competition is actively discouraged exactly because it treats doing badly as *not* OK. And while this is not purposefully aimed at boys (rather I think it is a consequence of teacher self-selection for security rather than challenge) I think it does have a disparate impact.

As for what we should do about it, I think we need to change our attitudes. Men are used to the challenges of "You can't beat me". That can get us up on our feet. That's a direct, in your face dare to do better. We aren't used to the challenge "Competition is bad". There's no one to puff up your chest to. It's like trying punch fog. It's unsatisfying and you look silly doing it. But a challenge it is, and we should do a better job recognizing it as such.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 14, 2010 10:19 AM

What's the major culture in the world today that promises every man a starring role? Islam.

I think gangs take that distinction. Whether it's the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, or Hell's Angels, they are much more prevalent. Gang violence is just smaller in scale, more common, and almost always directed at other gang members so it's easier to let slip into background noise. A young male looking to cause trouble doesn't have to look anywhere near as far as Mecca to do it.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 14, 2010 10:57 AM

Hmm. Cass, the one thing I'd ask you to do is recognize that things have changed since you and I were in school. And in fact, I had a teacher in third grade (and this was back in the '60s!) who was plainly misandrist, and she made no bones about it. She punished boys in the class more or less randomly, while the girls in class did at least a few pretty outrageous things just to see what the limits were, and never got more than the mildest rebuke. She also graded boys' papers much tougher than she graded girls' papers (I didn't find this out until much later).

Perhaps the most significant difference between then and now is: the parents of course ignored the boys' complaints at first (what elementary-school student doesn't complain about teachers?). However, as the months went by, the parents of some of the boys started to get concerned at the consistently low grades. I remember my father and I going over several math homework papers on which I had been graded poorly. I pointed out to him several problems that I thought I had right, but were marked incorrect. He checked my math and verified that I had the right answer. I take it from what my parents told me over the next few weeks that other parents were finding multiple instances of this.

Eventually, just before Christmastime, a group of parents went down to the school en masse to meet with the administration. It wasn't just boys' parents either; several of the girls' parents were every bit as upset, over the fact that their daughters were being allowed to slide. Well, whatever they said to the principal, it must have worked, because after the first of the year, the teacher's attitude changed. Now, instead of just being grouchy towards the boys, she was grouchy towards everybody. But she did start grading the papers more even-handedly. And the tensions that were building between the boys and the girls in the class dissipated.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is: you can't expect an eight-year-old to stand up to the world all by themselves. They need to have someone in their corner, at least when it really matters. And yes, ideally that should be the parents. But we all know that there are a huge number of boys being raised in non-ideal circumstances these days, specifically fatherless boys. The number for certain minority groups now is, what, two-thirds of all boys being raised without an adult male in the household? Eight-year-olds who get the message that the world has no use for them will, if nothing is done about it, grow up into 19-year-olds who get the message that the world has no use for them.

There's a difference between putting challenges in front of a child, and putting insurmountable obstacles in front of them and then telling them that their inherent worth is based on surmounting the insurmountable obstacle. Yes, I fully acknowledge the barriers that girls of your generation faced, Cass. But you ever told that you were the source of all of the problems in the world, and that the world would be a lot better off if there were a lot fewer of your kind? Were you ever told that the best thing you could do for the world would be to kill yourself? That's what's happening to a lot of these boys today. Asking second- and third-graders to stand up to authority and to the law -- while at the same time telling them that they will have to do it all by themselves -- is a bit much. Acknowledged, sometimes these boys need to be told how it is... but let's not go to the opposite extreme of blaming the victims.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at June 14, 2010 02:19 PM

Dave:

I don't think that I blamed the victims here (or at least I didn't think I had). Nor am I relying only on how things were when I was in school. As I said, I just finished bringing up two boys of my own, so I've got pretty recent experience with schools in quite a few states. I also have a couple of nephews in various grades and they seem to be doing quite well in school despite being unrepentantly boyish :)

re: Asking second- and third-graders to stand up to authority and to the law -- while at the same time telling them that they will have to do it all by themselves -- is a bit much.

I don't think I advocated this, did I? I fully understand that children should not be presented with insurmountable obstacles. Any teacher who tells little boys that they are the source of all problems in the world (and that the world would be a better place if there were fewer of their kind) should be fired.

I was not aware that this is a widespread practice (let alone widespread enough to account for the declining school performance of boys society-wide). But obviously I cannot rule it out either. I guess I think that that's the kind of assertion that requires some evidence to back it up. Since it doesn't match my experience, I don't think that's an unreasonable position to take - I'm not saying it isn't true, just that I haven't seen it myself.

What surprises me is that it was my recollection (growing up) that boys DID get in trouble a lot more. Boys have always had a harder time sitting still and following directions, just as girls have a harder time doing certain things than boys do.

Most of my Dad's family are teachers and I've never heard any of them spout the kind of anti-male rhetoric you mention. Just as I am extremely careful about labeling any interpersonal conflict involving a woman or girls, "misogyny", so I am careful about labeling interpersonal conflict involving boys or men, "misandry".

Both girls and boys need to learn to get along with others. I had a teacher in school who hated military kids and singled us out in class. I've had bosses who (as I've said) flat out told me that even though I deserved a promotion, they wouldn't promote me because I was female.

That angered me but it wasn't a soul crushing event in my life. Part of the job of a parent is to help kids deal with life as it is (not as they wish it were). If a teacher is being blatantly unfair, the parents should get involved.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 14, 2010 02:44 PM

"If a teacher is being blatantly unfair, the parents should get involved."

No argument there. And maybe the take-away from all of this is that parents today aren't involved nearly enough.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at June 14, 2010 03:15 PM

As a mom, I wonder declining parental involvement might not explain a lot of the problems boys are having?

I stayed home with my boys, but when they were in HS I went back to work and back to school as well. I could not have done it before then - it just took way too much of my time/attention to keep up with their schoolwork and even in HS (when you would think they would have the right habits ingrained) I found that unless I kept on them, they didn't do as well in school as I wanted them to.

I always got the impression from talking to my friends that girls were mouthier but tended to obey better. Of course this is a broad generalization. Boys, on the other hand, didn't mouth off so much but DID disobey more. They also got caught a lot more when they misbehaved.

I think I must have been more like a boy growing up. I loved my parents very much and never wanted to embarrass or hurt them, but I also was very determined to do what I wanted and of course my parents didn't know as much as I did about ANYTHING! :) I didn't tend to get caught when I did disobey the rules.

I wasn't a helicopter parent by any means - I let my kids take risks, go places and do things. But I did spend a LOT of time engaged in what I'd call sort of mentoring - keeping apprised of what was going on in their lives, talking to them about possible ways to solve problems and about general morality. I don't really understand how you do that part time, though I have seem some parents who do seem to be able to do it (my brother and his wife come to mind). But they BOTH make the effort - my brother is a hands on Dad.

So although his wife works, his children have the benefit of two parents who are engaged and paying attention. From talking with my daughter in law (she taught elementary school) the parents are the single biggest factor in how well or poorly kids do. I tend to agree with that from what I saw over the 2 decades my boys were growing up.

Maybe parents are just too busy and schools are less supportive of the attitudes kids need to succeed (hard work and accountability)? Not sure.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 14, 2010 03:32 PM

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