Fox News is at it again. Yesterday, Dana Perino warned that women should “make better decisions” to avoid being beaten or killed by their abusers and today, Suzanne Venker at Fox News is warning us all that men are retreating from marriage because “men said women are no longer women.” She suggests we all get in touch with our feminine side to remedy this matter post haste. This piece is a follow up to her “war on men” post.
The premise of men retreating from marriage is unproven to me; she doesn’t offer statistics on it and I haven’t seen it in my personal life, so I’ve got nothing but her imagination to go on here. But I’ll take a ride on the Venker express. Let’s say men are retreating from marriage. How can you keep that man from retreating from marriage (assuming you are not running away yourself)?
You begin by accepting that men and women are different. Equal, but different. This means you’ll have to reject feminist dogma since feminism has taught you that equality means sameness.
Bashing “feminism” by moving the goal post is the standard, lazy cop-out of the Right. Feminism is not about a woman being the same as a man; it’s about egalitarian values that acknowledge the equal value and rights of all, including men. How this value gets translated into movement is another story and an ever-changing one at that. Feminism does not require a rejection of femininity; quite the contrary. It offers a choice for the individual and values the feminine, per its name. Without such easy distortions, the Right has no argument against real feminism.
Cognitive studies suggest that all humans share both feminine and masculine traits. It’s my contention that when we value both of those traits equally, the human species will be better served. This would set both women and men free from the gender based expectations that are becoming harder and harder to fulfill.
We won’t ever get to the truth when we pretend things haven’t changed, which is what Venker is trying to do. Hey, ladies, all will get better if you just “let” your man be a man (I had no idea that “real” men as imagined by the Right were stopped from being men by mere ladies, but okay):
Just because you make your own money doesn’t mean your guy can’t pay the bill. Just because you value independence doesn’t mean you can’t take your husband’s last name. Just because you can do the same a job a man can do doesn’t mean you need to let him know it.
Surrendering to your femininity means many things. It means letting your man be the man despite the fact that you’ve proved you’re his equal. It means recognizing the fact that you may very well want to stay home with your babies – and that that’s normal. It means if you do work outside the home, you don’t use your work to play tit-for-tat in your marriage. It means tapping into that part of yourself that’s genuinely vulnerable and really does need a man – even though the culture says you don’t.
The feminist movement she degrades so shallowly never suggested that some women would not be happier at home – quite the opposite- they suggest that choice is the goal. That women should be free to make choices about their lives, based on what suits their individual character, and this is predicated on having the option to make those choices, which is predicated on having the option of being self-sufficient. If she were to replace the word “need” with “want”, we might be able to have a meaningful dialogue on the subject – but when she assumes that women “need” a man, she removes the underpinnings of freedom, without which real equality can’t exist. And that fact is hardly the fault of women, who have been trying throughout history to make marriage work without freedom and finding it lacking.
It means women shouldn’t let their success in the workplace become the biggest thing in their lives. If the ultimate goal is lasting love, women are going to have to become comfortable with sacrifice and capitulation. Because those are the underpinnings of a long-term marriage – for both sexes. If you don’t believe me, ask your grandparents. Or anyone else who’s been married for decades.
Venker wants to cause a ruckus with her 1950’s propaganda. It’s obviously a siren call to beat-me-up daddyism, glorifying dependency on the benevolent patriarch. It’s amusing that Venker never sees the hypocrisy of her Palin tirade – a woman getting paid to tell other women to follow daddy or else they won’t get the man.
The premise is a fail because the bad news is that some of us don’t want or need to get the man – not that man, anyway. Not the man Venker is selling – the one who can’t feel like a man unless his woman is dependent upon him. She over-simplifies the entire matter, until she’s selling nothing but the stale Republican cheese of the rape deniers so infamous within her Party. In order for these men to have things their way, women must accept the blame and renounce their freedoms. Things were so great back in the day!
Expecting men to be “traditional” in the modern world is part of the problem – men are no longer the sole bread-winners. They have their own roles to wrestle with, including pressing societal expectations that can’t realistically be met as easily they were in the 1950’s. Feminism acknowledges these struggles as part of the problem.
The fallacy of the man who will take care of everything and treat you with respect is sold to us from birth; the Princess is saved from the castle, but they never tell you that the Prince might use those same powers to dominate and control and even hurt the Princess after he “saves” her. What to do if the Prince finds another Princess who needs to be rescued, abandoning his former Princess and their children? What to do if the Princess finds that sacrificing herself is not as easy as she had hoped? Venker leaves no room for the growth of the human spirit, she doesn’t acknowledge the history of women abused by traditional marriage throughout history – treated as animals instead of humans, not allowed to own property or vote.
The collective conscience remembers these things and fights against them. It is real. The problems are not solved. There are still laws on the books that allow men to beat their wives in this country. You can’t expect to have a loving relationship built on the fundamental premise of inequity, nor do statistics back up her idea that if you simply give in to the benevolent patriarch, all will be well.
Domestic violence is a killer in America. Three women die every day as a result of domestic violence. (War on men?) Marriage is lethal for too many women. Her argument has been used to justify violence against women throughout history – if you are a good girl, he won’t kill you. Of course, this is a dangerous fallacy not supported by any evidence and as such, it’s exceptionally harmful to all, not just women. If men are the caretakers she claims they are, then they would be holding their kind to those values and making it socially unacceptable to abuse women (rape/molest/kill/beat/etc). Fox News’ Party (GOP) isn’t working too hard on those issues – in fact, they are still refusing to pass the Violence Against Women Act. Thus we are left with the blame the woman foundation of her argument.
It’s a fairy tale she’s selling – that if you give in all of the way, you’ll get your lucky Prince. I note that she has not given in all of the way, or she wouldn’t be writing at all. The history of the female writer is something she would do well to look into.
So we see that the women who sell us these stories are often not the women they are telling us to be. In her mind, I would be the evil feminist ruining marriage, whereas she – because her words are different – is the graceful feminine receiver of male approval. The truth is that she is empowering herself with her words – speaking her “truth” just as I am.
The only difference is that I know enough to be glad that she has never had to face the sort of challenges that many of my female friends have had to face resulting from the inequities inherent in modern day marriage, child-rearing and pay.
Venker’s belief is rooted in patriarchal fundamentalism that has been undeniably abusive to women throughout history, and yet is completely at odds with “There but for the grace of God go I.” Empathy and truth are ignored in service of a cheap argument that is as archaic as the behavior it seeks to justify.
Venker would serve herself well by looking deeper than blaming women for men’s “retreat”. If a woman being self-sufficient and independent means a marriage won’t work, then there’s a problem with the tenets of modern day marriage, not with women. So, too, the relationship between slave-owner and slave was not to be once slaves were granted freedoms. Huh. Perhaps the problem lay in the offering, and not the unwillingness of one party to sacrifice all. She notes that sacrifice is required of both sides, but spends all of her time telling women that it’s their job to do it.
Love today has become a power struggle, largely because women have been conditioned to keep their guard up – as though men and marriage will swallow them whole.
No, Ms. Venker, “love” (I note she uses “love” interchangeably for marriage and relationships with men) has always been a “power struggle”, and it’s not because modern day women have been taught to keep their guard up. Throughout history, women have been warned against men’s passions. For example, women have been blamed for getting pregnant outside of marriage and thus warned to have their guard up against men, and as things change, they stay the same. Now it’s okay to get pregnant outside of marriage, but there are other things to keep your guard up against lest your reputation as a “valued” (by men) woman be tarnished. The very people creating those societal expectations are ironically the only ones telling us all to stop fighting them.
Were it not for the feminists she decries, Venker would not be able to publish her writing, even in its cloying justification of women’s subordination. She may wish to ponder that, as by exploring the factual history of women’s suppression at the hands of patriarchy, she would have to face the inevitable silliness of her argument that she is only free to make because of the fights of the feminists before her, whom she so blithely targets as responsible for men’s alleged retreat from marriage.
Of course, the truth is that for those who distort feminism to automatically infer a rejection of feminitity, there is only one opinion, and that is the “right” opinion, which just so happens to coincide with the patriarchs’ opinion, and thus the ride is much less bumpy for those women. It’s always easier to sell the plantation owner’s point of view in the name of “freedom”.
There are issues with modern day marriage, but the answer isn’t to go back to what was not working before or imagine that if women will only live in service of the alleged male ego all will be well. A more enlightened view might treat both men and women as equally responsible for their behavior toward their “loved” one and would not be so afraid to hear the voices of women from the trenches.
Were the Right serious about their old-fashioned ideals of masculinity, they would show it with a dedication to cherishing and protecting women and children. We have yet to see that in action. Instead, all we get is more blaming women for not being feminine enough, and thus righteously incurring the wrath or rejection of the all important marriage material. And the Right wonders why they aren’t appealing to more women.