City & Politics, Essay

So… I guess we’re in a fight?

Fox is no slouch when it comes to getting knickers in knots. According to Suzanne Venker’s recent article, The War on Men, the battle of the sexes has reached its apex and the doomsday device has been set in motion.

She describes how modern women want to have a successful marriage but men are simply rejecting marriage outright. Women go to College now, and want to have careers. And they brought this lonely spinsterhood on themselves.

Hanna Rosin has seen a trend of women’s advancement, where the men have been left behind. In her treatise “The End of Men”, women maraud into higher education and upper management, dominating the hell out of their male counterparts and leaving them “rootless and obsolete”. Rosin paints a future where women reign supreme, and men are left threatened and impotent by the escalating power of women.

Venker sees the writing on the wall, and wants us to know that men aren’t threatened, they’re just mad. And women, with their newfound inability to submit, are to blame for the lack of ‘good men’. She states:

“Contrary to what feminists like Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, say, the so-called rise of women has not threatened men. It has pissed them off. It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family.”

In response to the Balderdash that is Fox’s hilarious bluffing game, I call bullshit. Venker suggests that women are the cause of problems with men because they unilaterally embraced the following: feminism, working outside the home, and putting out on the first date. Men are angry because the women took their jobs and sense of purpose and so they refuse to marry women. That makes women livid, so they carry out their frustration on the men in their lives. Lather, rinse, repeat.

She goes on:

“They want to provide for and protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them.”

She makes no mention of the materialistic, debt-laden economic situation that we were born into. Among my peers, unemployment and underemployment are endemic, not from lack of trying, but from lack of possibility. Where our parents could rely on constant, reliable employment and relatively secure pensions, we have barista jobs and unpaid internships. Hell, even when my parents were starting out my mother supported my father until he finished articling and got his practice started. I have yet to meet a woman who has prohibited her partner from trying to provide for her.

The median income for an individual in Canada is $29,250. That leaves about $2437.50 per month to live on. I live in Toronto and the average decent 1 bedroom apartment downtown will easily run you $1300. Factor in student loans, debt repayment and the basic standard of living and you’ve got a pretty insecure situation. I know few people my age that can afford to buy a house, let alone support a family. Almost half of young people in Toronto still live with their parents. Those who do not are often shacked up with roommates, not an idyllic situation for marriage and children.

To remedy this sorry situation, Venker suggest women need to simply return to their “femininity” (whatever that means isn’t clear. Should women stop working? Eat more salad? Wear dirndls?)

Then the kicker:

“So if men today are slackers, and if they’re retreating from marriage en masse, women should look in the mirror and ask themselves what role they’ve played to bring about this transformation. Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs. If they do, marriageable men will come out of the woodwork.”

This all smacks of a return to ‘traditional’ values. The problem there lies in its acute impossibility. In the wake of rapid technological advancement and global industrialization coupled with rampant individualism, the idea of going back in time to ‘a better place,’ is laughable.

Let’s then remand civil rights, the birth control pill, the automobile. Let’s go back to that bucolic netherworld where men could be men and women could be women. If traditionalists are so determined to revisit the glorious past of yesteryear, then lead by example and stoically march away to be annihilated in the trenches, or return home as thankless provider. The womenfolk can remain at home and tend to hearth and home, slavishly giving up their sanity to maintain the illusion of peace.

But the center didn’t hold before, and it sure as hell won’t now. There is no end game to technological advancement. Its nature is amoral – it seeks only its own advancement, with no consideration of ramifications.

Venker’s article is the latest in a growing trend towards assuring us that men and women are more at odds than ever before, that we should blame either women or men and that the situation merely calls for a return to a traditional situation so we can all be happy again.

I have never been married. I am no expert on relationships. I have been in amazing relationships, and I have been in terrible ones. For the demise of some, I was to blame. The dude was to blame in others. There is a danger to reducing entire relationships to such a militant binary: men are at fault, or women.

In the extreme gender war that the internet posits, MRA (men’s rights activists) are on the boys team, and extremist feminists are on the girls. MRA-activists have their own shrieking battlecry: grievances of their paternal rights being impinged upon, forced to live in a world where women make off with ‘half their income’ and bask in a paradise of alimony payments in the wake of the divorce that was instigated by their cheating wives.

Some feminists aim to make waste of the men’s rights advocates, wildly overreacting to the innocuous statements of imbeciles and blowing them out of proportion. They point them out as all-encompassing indicators of violent oppression. This pointless dialogue permeates twitter and the social networks, the blogs and the news. Like communism and fascism, both polarities when brought to their extreme, become one in the same. And to no avail: complaining about things on the internet is the worst way to get things done.

Indidvidual men, pissed off at their own situations, are readily welcomed into the MRA community and taught that their personal problems are a result of a global feminist conspiracy to undermine them. Feminist publications can often fall into the trap of snarkily dismissing the very real concerns of the men that are drawn to those fringes.

A smidgen of understanding from both sides would be a massive step. Over the internet, people are rewarded more when they are surly, when they have a caustic retort, when they get a few more like-minded followers. It can almost feel like a real connection, the very thing they both need most.


Tiffy Thompson is a writer and illustrator for the Spectator Tribune.  Follow her on Twitter at @tiffyjthompson.

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