The New York Times has finally caught on that there is a gender crisis in America that concerns men, not women. That is hard for much of the media to absorb, given the dogmas of feminism, with its perpetual battle against intransigent sexist forces. Even at my college, which is one of the last all-male colleges in the nation, professors still talk about how disadvantaged women are and how privileged men are. In fact, being at an all-male college makes them work even harder to sustain the myth of male privilege, in order to secure their classroom power by keeping their students in a state of unrelieved guilt. If they were to open their eyes to the dismal state of men in all levels of education today, they might be forced to think about what makes an all-male college unique and successful, but that would betray the feminist argument that there are no differences between the genders unless those differences demonstrate how unfairly men treat women.
The latest evidence of the New York Times’ begrudging acknowledgment of the new gender crisis was the article ” Men Not Working, and Not Wanting Just Any Job ,” which appeared in the July 31, 2006, issue. The article points out that millions of working-age men are not counted in the jobless rate because they have dropped out of the workforce. Rather than showing sympathy for these “missing men,” however, the article is thoroughly condescending. The article basically tells these men to grow up and face their responsibilities, a sentiment that I find heartily appealing. But since when has the New York Times blamed economic problems on personal morality rather than society or conservatives?
Surprisingly, the article does blame the government for contributing to the problem with federal disability insurance, which is depicted as the new welfare system. “Many of these men could find work if they had to,” the writers claim. The poor need welfare, but not white men with back pain. Men wear their bodies out with jobs that require hard labor much more frequently than women do, but that wins them no points here.
The article focuses on three men who have ended up, for quite different reasons, out of work, and the demeaning portraits are almost comically drawn. The first man spent thirty years working at a steel plant before being laid off. Now, the article states, “He often stays up late and sleeps until 11 a.m.” My goodness, perhaps he is just worn out! He is portrayed as lazy because he reads books about the origins of Christianity and tries to publish the escapist westerns that he writes. Meanwhile, his wife “tolerates” him and spends her time taking in sewing and baking pastries for parties. The article never asks why she does not look for better-paying work, only noting, with much sympathy, that she had been in an auto accident that forced her out of her last job. What bothers the writers of this article the most, it seems, is that this “powerful man” who had once been a warehouseman was now perfectly happy spending his days reading, writing, and posting the occasional review on Amazon. He sounds suspiciously like a tenured English professor to me.
The second man highlighted in the article found himself with custody of his three children after a divorce. One had behavioral problems, so he dropped out of work and then found it hard to get back in. In spite of his example, the article still bluntly states, “Many women without jobs are raising children at home, while men who are out of a job tend to be doing neither family work nor paid work.” All of a sudden, the New York Times is praising homemakers who rely on their husbands rather than chiding them to have careers of their own.
The third man, who has a prison record, is portrayed with the most sympathy, because his unemployment can be blamed on the kind of discrimination that better enforcement of federal legislation might solve. He actually has a low-paying job, so what he is doing in this article is a mystery to me, except that it gives the Times another opportunity to take a jab at our heartless economy and low minimum wage. What struck me about his predicament was that he had a girlfriend he wants to provide for, which keeps him grounded. Men work hardest when they are supporting their family.
The article predicts that the economic prospects for men will only get worse as more women¯with higher rates of education¯enter the workforce, while manufacturing jobs continue to decline. The fields that are growing, like teaching, health care, and retailing, employ women at a much greater rate than men. Maybe the Times should look into the likelihood that they discriminate against the stronger sex.
You know the idea of manhood is in a state of crisis when the Times derides men who “fall back on wives or family members” when out of work. Feminists have put men in a tight double bind. They are not supposed to be providers and protectors anymore, but they also are not supposed to stay at home or be overly reliant on their wives and friends. This article unwittingly shows that it is not enough to face the fact that the gender crisis has changed course in the last few years. We also need to drop the feminist double-talk that makes this crisis so hard to discuss.
Needless to say, there are no signs of a post-feminist appreciation of the American man’s sad state. At the 1978 NOW convention, Gloria Steinem introduced Kristin Lems, the woman who sang what would become the feminist anthem, “We Will Never Give Up.” Listen to its words carefully, and you will find a prophecy fulfilled: “We will never give up, we will never give up / We will never give in, we will never give in. / You will lose your youth, your sleep, your arches, your strength, / your patience, your sense of humor, / And occasionally, the love and support/ Of people you love very much.”
Confronted with abundant evidence that men are having a harder time in education and employment than women, feminists would rather keep fighting than give up outdated ideas. Feminism has thus become an ideology that cannot be falsified, no matter how much it is proved false. Kristin Lems warned women in 1978 that they would lose their sense of humor, as well as the support of the people they love. She was right on both counts.
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