“It’s worth noting, that a man could never get away with writing about a comparable list of disgraced women.”
This is not a review of the new book Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation by Laura Kipnis. Let’s get that out of the way first. This is a review of a book’s promo blurb. I simply could get no further than the promotional copy. (And yes, Ms. Kipnis, you are welcome for my help in promoting your book. It’s not lost on me that I’m doing so.)
To quote the book’s promotional copy:
It’s no secret that men often behave in intemperate ways, but in recent years we’ve witnessed so many spectacular public displays of male excess—disgraced politicians, erotically desperate professors, fallen sports icons—that we’re left to wonder whether something has come unwired in the collective male psyche.
So, I suppose I’m free to say:
The unrelenting schizophrenia of the modern women, who is torn between a firebrand’s demand for independent equality and a pop culture fascination with nostalgic expressions of being provided for, condemns men to a lifetime of chasing the endless relational moving target that is the restless, unhappy modern wife.
If I generalized about women in this way, I would be strung up in the internet town square by a wide range of outraged individuals. And justifiably so. Why? Because all women aren’t the same. Accordingly, generalizing about women is ignorant and abusive. (Just thought I’d share that.)
Welcome to the intersection of man bashing and pop culture. Where Ms. Kipnis can get huge coverage for saying things like this:
Kipnis points to the “New Man” described by Martin Amis – the post-1970s guy with wounds, rights and “whimpers of neglect.” According to Kipnis, “The updated versions of male panic are no less irksome than the old” – that being the hypermasculine angst of Hemingway.
(The reviewer’s quotes, not mine.)
Kipnis is compulsive in her need to generalize about men. Would it kill her to insert the word “some”? As in, “some men are blah, blah, blah. Yet, because she is going after men, she gets a pass on generalizing, which is a highly oppressive form of discourse. She cloaks her generalizations about men and masculinity in an affection for “bad boys” while eviscerating men in general, by holding the failed men in her book up as representative of wider male tendencies.
Although this calculated whipping of the gender wars will drive sales, Kipnis is adding to the problems we are all trying to address. Driving more wedges between people isn’t helpful. Its irresponsible. And it fuels the anti-progressive backlash that is making change more difficult.
In a thoughtful review of Kipnis’ book, reviewer Andrea Palpant Dilley points out:
It’s worth noting, by the way, that a man could never get away with writing about a comparable list of disgraced women.
A man who takes issue with Kipnis’s hipster screed on “the collective male psyche” would likely be accused of not having a sense of humor. But turn it around, have a man make generalizations about women to this degree, and see how far do you think he would get telling women “you have no sense of humor.” I’ve seen it done. It doesn’t go over well. Not at all. And certainly don’t look for a book deal and international promotional tour.
So what are we to take away from all this? Women’s complaints are serious and valid. Men’s complaints are “whimpers of neglect.” Is that really where we want to end up? Is the really our path forward to change?
It should be noted that Dilley’s review goes on to explain why Kipnis’s book has both depth and value. But Kipnis is promoting the book via gaudy and unrepentant generalizations about men. Her promotion relies on the seductive thrills of man bashing.
We already know that generalizing about men is culturally acceptable, even encouraged. Hollywood and TV commercials bank on the stereotypical dumb dad or housework averse husband. The open acceptance of these memes suggests that in many ideological circles, its not demeaning generalizations within our public discourse that are actually at issue. It is the context in which they take place. Generalizations, blanket critiques, negative statements gainst men? Funny. Hip. Worthy of a book deal. Generalizations against gays, children, women? Not okay.
Its a double standard, plain and simple.
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