A screenshot of the “War on men” article on Fox News.
In a Fox News column published earlier this week entitled “The war on men,” author Suzanne Venker presented an argument that has stirred controversy over the issue of gender equality — that women are to blame for the declining interest in marriage and the ongoing battle of the sexes.
The number of young men (ages 18 to 34) for whom a successful marriage is a top priority has dropped six percent, from 35% to 29%, since 1997, while the number of women sharing this view has risen from 28% to 37%, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center that Venker cited in her column.
Claiming the existence of a “war on men,” Venker blames women for the poll’s results.
“Women aren’t women anymore,” wrote Venker, explaining that ever since the sexual revolution, women have become “angry” and “defensive,” “raised to think of men as the enemy.”
The new female mindset, contributed to by the rise of women in the workforce and attainment of higher education, has created a “women good/men bad” dynamic, in which men have been blamed for failing relationships since the rise of feminism in the 1970s, according to Venker.
“Now the men have nowhere to go,” she wrote. “Men want to love women, not compete with them. They want to provide for and protect their families — it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them.”
Venker proposes that since women are the cause, they can also be the solution.
“Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around,” she wrote. “All they have to do is surrender to their nature — their femininity — and let men surrender to theirs.”
There has been reaction to Venker’s piece in the media — from a strongly worded response by Jezebel editor Laura Beck to a mocking discussion by Stephen Colbert to a response by Stony Brook University sociology professor Michael Kimmel, published on CNN, who regards the “war on men” as mythical.
“Venker paints a most unyieldingly awful portrait of men, one that is happily belied by actual, real, American men. And we won’t stand for the sort of male-bashing Venker offers,” wrote Kimmel. “We want it all also — and the only way we can have it all is to halve it all.”
Venker’s piece has also stirred debate among members of the public.
Carnegie Mellon University student Alex Zwiren, 20, said he believes in the existence of an ongoing battle of the sexes.
“Recently there’s been such a huge movement towards individuality and equality,” he said. “[Women] not only need to differentiate themselves from men and prove that they’re better, but also from other women, making them increasingly competitive.”
The competition causes women to constantly worry, which in turn may cause them to become angry or defensive, Zwiren said. Contrary to Venker’s insistence on the dearth of marriageable men, however, he plans on getting married someday.
As does Carlos Hernandez, 21, a petty officer 3rd class in the U.S. Navy.
“Most guys I know feel the same way, too,” he said. “I don’t know any guys who feel victimized by women.”
Hernandez does see truth to Venker’s statement that modern women are reluctant to let men take care of them.
“The last couple of girls I dated didn’t even want me to buy them dinner,” he said. “They insisted on splitting the bill.”
But as for Venker’s solution of women surrendering to their femininity, Hernandez finds it “extreme.”
Similarly, Stephanie Guzman, 21, a junior in Cornell University’s Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, finds Venker’s assumptions that femininity is inherent in all women as insulting.
“This woman’s post speaks to the patriarchal gender binary so deeply embedded in her mind,” she said. “It’s sad that by trying to ‘help’ women land a man, she set us back years for now acknowledging that feminists, which is who she’s really bashing, may not be concerned about landing a man.”
While Jackie Johnson, 20, a junior majoring in sociology at Boston University, is open to the possibility of participating in a commitment ceremony in the future, she has no current plans of getting married, unlike the women Venker discusses in her piece.
“I don’t think I could ever get married and invite my friends to my wedding knowing that they couldn’t get married,” said Johnson. “There are so many things about the institution of marriage that I think are embedded in inequality.”
Johnson also feels strongly against the “cult of domesticity” that she believes Venker is arguing for and thinks that there exists a war on women rather than on men.
“Women have a louder voice, but I still don’t think that they have the loudest voice, which is what she’s trying to argue,” she said. “I legitimately think that there’s grounds in the argument that there is a war on women, especially with rights to our own bodies. I think people classify what constitutes the war on women differently, but I think there’s definitely been a lot of recent attacks on women and their human rights.”
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