“The End of Men” is headline writing for shock value. Cameron Conaway will show you why.
This piece is part of a special series on the End of Gender. This series includes bloggers from Role/Reboot, Good Men Project, The Huffington Post, Salon, HyperVocal, Ms. Magazine, YourTango, Psycholog
I know times are tough and intellectual readership is down. But it’s not fair to jerk around the readers still left, nor is it healthy for society to be repeatedly exposed to stereotypical media-spun shock value to fulfill your own needs. Believe it or not, writing still plays an important role in shaping societal norms and values. To take this power and abuse it on your influential platform has made me lose respect for you. Believe it or not, the way debates are shaped matter in terms of the debate’s outcome. If you were truly looking to have a discussion about the changing roles of men and women in society, you would address it as such. If you are looking to pin our backs against the wall to spark a heated debate that will draw plenty of viewers (because viewers = $) but ultimately leads nowhere, you would present it as you’ve done. Believe it or not, language matters. What happens when a woman who says she’s been raped lives in a culture where the word “rape” is a commonly used term for how one football team beats another? I don’t know precisely, but something does. Something that is not good. Something your Men are Finished publicity stunt is only adding to. Men and women both deserve to be given credit for who they are and what they’ve become. When you say, “Men are Finished” I think you mean “Men are Finished… fitting the stereotypes they are cast into.” But that’s not sexy. And lowbrow sexy sells. Good work, Slate. I’ll be excited to tune in and see if your panel consists of characters in scantily clad vampire getup. That would sell too, you know.
(1) Men are muscle and muscle means dominance. This is embedded in everyday language, interactions, film, etc. and is a key difference that will always remain between men and women. It’s more than opening a jar or reaching the plates on the top shelf or being physically strong. Six-pack abs. Shredded. Cut. If you think men are playing fantasy football while women are astronauts, maybe you should step into a typical gym and come up with a more accurate stereotype: Men lift weights, train anaerobically, and grunt and strain while the women cardio bunnies gently sway on their elliptical and flip through Cosmo to find out how to please their man in the bedroom. ::A woman’s voice enters:: Well what about Jillian Michaels? Yes, Jillian Michaels is one of the hottest fitness personalities, but it’s in large part because she fits the beauty/brawn sex mold that always sells—that MEN love and MEN propagate. She is an intense and fit woman who can yell to inspire. Her technique, on the other hand… Jillian’s great, but there are thousands of men throughout the world just like her, better even. She is where she is not because her techniques are great or because her teachings are fundamentally sound. She is where she is because she’s personable, fit, sexy and the finale: manly. That sells. Not only are men physically dominant, but we’re also embracing our emotional capacity. See 3. Uh-oh. Does this mean Women are Finished? Only if you’re a Slate headline writer.
(2) Biology is drive, too. We no longer have to stalk animals through forests and stab them with crude weapons just to survive. Most of us have jobs where we sit most of the day in temperature-controlled environments. Does this favor the less physical gender? Yes it does. Does it shut off the intense drive males have to survive and work to protect their families? No. Not only has this fueled men to the top of business and innovation, but it’s also allowed men to develop their emotional intelligence and empathy. Of course, physicality is seen as manly; fighting is manly. And so is this worldwide phenomenon thing called sport. But where is women’s football? Where is women’s MMA? Where is women’s basketball? Only on the radar of a few. And even when a female sport captures the world’s attention, it’s often because the athletes are sexualized. And if not, they will be in order to maintain the public spotlight. Biology changes s-l-o-w-l-y.
(3) Emotion & Mind. The entire argument you’re making is based on women succeeding in the post-industrial age where information and innovation thrive. From this it can be assumed, again, that this means women thrive where there is less physicality. ::A woman’s voice enters:: I bet a woman is Poet Laureate then, since poetry is sharp emotional and mental insight. No, it’s Philip Levine. Well, before that. No, it was W.S. Merwin. Throughout history, men have been fueled by competition, and we still are. But it is because of our openness and willingness to change that (insert politically incorrect caution) men have allowed women into the positions of power you brag about. Are men finished? No. Are we changing? Yes. Just as women are embracing what we deem as more “masculine” qualities, men are embracing more “feminine” qualities. This does not and will not ever mean there will be an end to gender or an end to the essential benefits of both men and women using our collective strengths. P.S. Regarding Innovation: Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple and LinkedIn. Man, man, man, man, and man.
(4) War, presidency, and power. Sure, brave women fight in wars. Sure, we may have a female president in future years. But our culture sees war and presidency as something for men. Whether it’s the familiar continuation of historical roots or something else. Men are more accustomed to—and perhaps because of this—still better equipped for positions of absolute power.
—Photo Urban Aquarium Video and Light/Flickr