Each and every woman I know who had the displeasure of stumbling across Suzanne Venker's opinion piece for Fox News, "The War on Men," bristled at its sweeping generalizations about women and men. Come on: Any piece that directs women to "surrender their nature -- their femininity" (and by "femininity," here we clearly mean "kitchen"), isn't going to go over well with the modern-day working woman. But, oh, if you ask Venker, it's because we're all "angry" and "defensive."
I could sit here and itemize the offensive little gems in this piece, explain why they denigrate women, reduce the concept of "femininity" to marriage and childbearing and essentially condemn women in high-powered careers," but Jezebel and Feministing already did a nice job of that.
I want to know why more men haven't reacted to these ideas, because Venker's rhetoric is just as offensive to men as it is to women.
Firstly, there's the image of the "tired" man, who has been in the "backseat" and "brow-beaten." His ability to provide for himself, Venker writes, has been "undermined." He hasn't changed much at all, but has "nowhere to go." Who is this pathetic guy? He sounds like one of those guys who doesn't even put real pants on every morning and spends a lot of time on Chatroulette. Oh, wait -- Venker is describing the modern American man in the face of the "rise of women." Instead of praising men as worthy of respect for their contributions to their families and the workforce, Venker essentially just tells women to feel bad for them because they've become pathetic in the face of women with -- gasp -- careers!
Furthermore, Venker writes that "men want to love women, not compete with them." She doesn't even bother to merely imply that men are uncomfortable with successful women; she FLAT-OUT SAYS IT, as if this insecurity is universal, as if it's a fact. I guess somebody should go tell Beyonce that Jay-Z ain't a real man, since he's apparently totally cool with a little competition with women in the same biz. And I, for one, did not realize that my male colleagues in my master's program and at my workplace were so shaken by my presence there. If only they would have said something, perhaps I would bake their cookies and hem their pants.
Now for my favorite snippet of woman-on-woman sexism by Venker: "Feminism serves men very well: They can have sex at hello and even live with their girlfriends with no responsibilities whatsoever." Ah, yes, the underlying assumption that all men want is sex and cohabitation, and all women want is marriage and commitment. Venker dusted this little trope off from my own Catholic "sex" education. Please, by all means, disregard the scores of men who do desire a lifelong partnership or the countless women who date for fun. Don't you know that we're just a bunch of living stereotypes, livin' on Mars and Venus respectively? If we women don't force it, they'll never make honest women out of us!
So, if you're keeping score at home, Venker has 1) implied that young men are pathetic, 2) flat-out stated that they don't want to compete with women and 3) suggested that, if not corralled, all men want is sex and meaningless relationships without responsibility. If that isn't offensive to men, what is?
Venker refers to the hundreds of men upon which she bases her opinions. But these men she describes bear no resemblance of the young men I know, who celebrate the successes of women in their lives and value them for their professional contributions. Until both men and women alike are offended by sentiments like Venker's, there will always be someone telling women to "surrender to their feminity" (read: seriously, get back in the kitchen).