Monday, October 6, 2008

Boys and Feminism

John's comments to the Feminism discussion (along with Kate's) do open another can of worms which I feel may be deserving of its own post and thread. How are men and boys affected by feminism? To see John's original comments scroll down in the comments section of "Feminism's Pro-woman is not my Pro-woman." Just going to paraphrase ya, John, to make sure I read you correctly:

In the school environment the following observations can be made about the education and development of young boys:
1. LIT CLASS: Robinson Crusoe: good; Handmaid's Tale: bad
2. PE: Dodgeball: good; Yoga: bad
3. RECESS: good; Long recess with wrestling and war play: even better
4. DISCIPLINE: Detention for pretending to shoot an air gun at recess: bad;
Detention for drawing intricate and bloody pictures of decapitated classmates: understandable but may be extreme;
Expulsion for blogging about bombing the high school: warranted
5. ATHLETICS: Increase in women's softball funding while at the same time decreasing budget for men's wrestling: bad;
Women's wrestling: also bad
6. Male aggression: relatively normal but needs to be channeled;
Huge percentage of young boys on Ritalin: not normal

If this is an accurate interpretation of your comments, I mostly agree. But also think that much of it is equally attributable to violence in the schools and real incidences of male aggression. In light of real and violent threats in the schools, how do you recommend our culture proceeds? And do you think that some of these instances of male aggression might be exacerbated by the oppression boys feel at having been "feminized." Elaborate for us, John, and correct me if I've misread you.


John said...

Yes, that’s pretty much what I was getting at. Basically, the pendulum has swung too far, and in doing so, it acts as an obstacle for many boys as they try to grow and achieve their academic potential. Times have changed, and we need to take a step back and see who is the victim of sexism today. I think we’ll find that it’s no longer little girls being neglected in the classroom or young women being denied admission to college.

I don’t have the answers for our culture, but I do have some thoughts. I too think that a misdirected feminism is not the sole cause of the decline of the male in schools.

First, some of the changes in schools do stem from an understandable response to male aggression. Instances of male aggression have caused hurt bodies, hurt feelings, and lawsuits. Schools, by and large, want to keep their kids safe and their administrators out of the courtroom, so playground rules and playground equipment are padded. But good intentions can be misplaced and they can over reach the bounds of reasonableness.

Second, boys often wrong-headedly see non-math/non-science/liberal arts classes as “for the girls,” so they might not try to excel at them. Perhaps the mainstreaming of homosexuality triggers a hyper-hetero response in boys who feel it necessary to reject openly showing interest in academic success or showing interest in arts-based activities. Am I wrong to say that women and gays have a corner on much of the artistic market today? A culture has been developed where a boy can’t say that he wants to be a poet or a clothes designer and not have his sexuality questioned at some point or another. Fading are the days of the manly writing of Homer and Hemingway. Fading are the days of the manly designing of...the Brooks Brothers[?].

Surely, absent fathers also share the blame. In myriad ways, boys suffer by the loss of a father figure. One small bright spot of an Obama presidency might be if he continues to point out the importance of fatherhood.

Another element: pop-culture’s message. Often our culture/media portrays a very skewed and degrading image of manhood and fathers. By its portrayal of men, especially fathers, pop culture doesn’t set the bar very high for boys. Not to be humorless, but when was the last time you saw a sit-com or a cell phone commercial that portrayed a father as anything more than a bumbling, shallow, lazy, butt-of-the-joke that the mother and (other) children merely have to put up with? At best, he’s superfluous. I’m not saying that I always exist above this bar myself, but if I chose only TV as my guide I’d feel pretty worthless. Why would anyone want to be/try to be a better man? It’s not expected of you. Again though, this isn’t solely caused by feminism. Behind every joke, there’s some truth, and men have perpetuated this stereotype. But feminism plays a role. Men have a tendency to want to be useful, needed, depended on, and, in a way, heroic. But feminism tells us that the family where the father is all of these things is at best archaic, and at worst abusive. What’s a man to do but revert and revel in his superfluousness?

Also, a dwindling number of male teachers doesn’t help. I've heard that if teachers were paid more, there would be more male teachers. I'd consider it.

Lastly, for whatever reason, we have turned over the education of our children to the ultra-libs who are strongly sympathetic to the man-hating vein of feminism. Gone are the days when a Grandpa Ralph would head a school board. Throughout most of the country, libs have a hold on education K through college. Perhaps a more even-keeled school administration practicing a more even-keeled approach to hiring teachers/professors would help.

I’ll go kum-by-ya and say that the solution may lie somewhere within a happy medium, where open minds meet--Somewhere where both the good and true parts of feminism and the good and true parts of the masculine are recognized and valued. Somewhere where we acknowledge and value the differences between the sexes, but don’t unreasonably limit opportunities because of them. Somewhere where we reduce both the oppression caused by today’s political correctness and the oppression caused by yesterday’s sexism. Somewhere where girls don’t have to try to be men and boys aren’t forced to be women. Somewhere where wives are allowed to “submit” to their husbands and husbands are encouraged to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Somewhere where a true, clearly articulated natural law, along with all of its nuance, is followed.

Though I reviled the idea as a teenager, perhaps single-sex schools are a good solution. They work.

As for testosterone-based male violence, can't we just sit back, and let all of the estrogen that the Pill leaks into the environment work its magic?

Sorry, this was all over the place.

Betty Duffy said...

Just for the record, John, I love it when you blog. I think you should have posted as an actual post though rather than continuing to hide out here in the comments section.

Well done.

Rachel said...

Because I do not have the quality skill to articulate the spoken or written word as the rest of the Husted clan, I will respond to this ENITRE discourse about feminism and masculinity with a charasmatic "AMEN"!

KRousch said...

Wonderfully said John! I hear the same thing out of my English major husband and agree. I really just wanted to post a link to a book called "Save the Males: Why Men Matter and Why Women Should Care" by Kathleen Parker. I haven't read it yet, but I think I am going to have to break down and buy it as it's not at my library. After I read it, I will submit my review.