Writing for The Atlantic in September of 2012, Hanna Rosin argued that the “hookup culture” so prevalent on college campuses and in the lives of young adults is “an engine of female progress—one being harnessed and driven by women themselves.” She wrote:
To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.
In other words, women have succeeded in becoming the men they hated.
Earlier this month, during her annual campaign fundraiser called “The Ultimate Women’s Power Lunch,” Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois prefaced her introduction of Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards with the declaration that “humanity is at a crossroads on this small planet and that our survival as a species is dependent on women taking charge, taking the world in our own hands.”
If forensic psychologist and men’s rights activist Helen Smith is correct, Schakowsky and her friends may have their hands full of the world, and sooner than they think. In her upcoming book Men on Strike, Smith offers up statistics and her own research to suggest that men are consciously boycotting marriage, fatherhood, and the “American Dream” because they feel beaten down by politically correct preferences and practices—in school, in the workplace, and in society in general. If the women want the world and all the power, the thinking goes, they can have it; the men will simply retire to whatever man-caves they are permitted.
Smith suggests that after several decades of giving particular attention and encouragement to female students, with good results, it may be time for schools and society to pay attention to the males, and to observe what has happened to those boys less-celebrated, who are now men feeling left behind and lonely. In a recent column for the New York Times, Ross Douthat cited troubling statistics: “The suicide rate for Americans 35 to 54 increased nearly 30 percent between 1999 and 2010; for men in their 50s, it rose nearly 50 percent.”
The sexual revolution's promise that women could “have it all” has always been oddly paradoxical: It encouraged women to find their best selves by aping men and conforming to traditionally male valuations of worth and relevance. Mistaking the word “equal” for the word “same,” these “hookup feminists” have become precisely the shallow, insincere, career-fixated, people-users that early feminists decried. From spare button-down shirt in the office, to meaningless sex, Don Draper has not disappeared; he has just changed his name to Donna. Women replace men, but the story—contra Schakowsky—stays the same.
Schakowsky’s hope for a world led by women is also challenged by Mary Eberstadt’s just-released book How the West Really Lost God. Eberstadt challenges the accepted notion that faith supports marriage and the family, asking whether it is not actually the other way around—that the forming of families leads to faith.
Eberstadt makes the case that through committed human love we find God, and that this is particularly true in the transcendent experience of parenthood. The utterly new love that enters the world through childbirth leads us to acknowledge something that is greater than ourselves, and worthy of our gratitude.
Bit by bit we can see in such meditation the beginnings of an intuitively resonant account of how Christianity (and likely other religions too) really waxes and wanes in the world. . . . The Christian story itself is a story told through the prism of the family. Take away the prism and the story makes less sense.
Parents are the most fundamental defenders of life; they will die for their children’s sakes. Disrupt the family and you disrupt life, but not death. Death goes on. Our increasingly secular society sanctions abortion and euthanasia and battles to celebrate sterile unions that cannot naturally populate the world. We are in dissolution, so lonely that we are killing ourselves, so earth-bound in our thinking that we throw people away.
Gender politics have so confused us that the complementarity of the sexes has become a quaint notion, but Jan Schakowsky’s conceit is that we may “save the species” by putting one sex in charge of the whole world.
And people of faith are told they are gullible.
Elizabeth Scalia is the author of Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols of Everyday Life and the managing editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos.com, where she blogs as The Anchoress. Her previous “On the Square” articles can be found here.