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Bashing Men as the New National Pastime (The Male Advantage–part 1)

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 18, 2012

My latest, for Men’s Health magazine:

On a radio show one morning recently, a female professor at a well-known university tossed off the thought that, if men are just going to hang out with their pals at the bar every night, women will take a pass on having kids with them.   She didn’t cite any studies, and she almost certainly didn’t know any men who fit that description.  But it didn’t matter.

Casually disparaging the entire male gender is not only the last socially acceptable prejudice, it’s a national pastime.  Later I asked some friends to name a few things men do well and the answers ranged from “Leave the toilet seat up” to a flat out, “Nothing.”   Men have become a necessary evil—and maybe not all that necessary, once artificial sperm moves out of the laboratory and into the real world.  At the same time, women have become so disproportionately admired by both genders that psychologists have dubbed this the “Women Are Wonderful Effect.”

And, Lord knows, they are.  But I was hoping someone would pipe up to say that men and women aren’t really all that different, and that both do plenty of things well.   Feminists used to say something like that, for the purpose of moving women into jobs traditionally held by men.  So you would hardly expect them to argue now that men are a defective or inferior gender–unless they have completely forgotten how destructive it was when such things were said about women.

And yet that has somehow become the default assumption for society at large:  Boys raise their hands in class more often than girls so they need to be ignored.  Boys are disruptive in school so they need to be medicated (almost three times as often as girls).  Boys drop out of school more and fail to attend college or grad school at the same rate as girls, so let’s forget them and focus on helping the girls.  Young men are more likely to be aggressive and violent, so instead of spending money to educate them, we should spend it to lock them behind bars (especially if they are young and black, a group which has seen its incarceration rate rise to five times what it was 20 years ago).  Above all, men are defective as fathers.  So 40 percent of kids are now born to single moms, up from about five percent in 1960.  And hardly anyone acts as if this is a catastrophe in the making, even though the numbers are much worse in low-income homes where kids–and moms–need dads most.  When marriages end in divorce, finally, custody of the children still goes to mom seven times out of ten.  Because conventional wisdom says dad is a bum.

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