If your ears have been tuned to the web at all these last few months, you’ve heard plenty of invective about male and female gender roles. Writer Hanna Rosin’s Atlantic magazine article “The End of Men,” along with her TED talk and book release, have prompted a range of responses from all over the web. But the latest barrage came entirely out of right field.
A Nov. 26 Fox News article by Suzanne Venker, a so-called American family and pop culture expert, blamed women for essentially dethroning men as the dominant gender, saying the ladies have “undermined [men’s] ability to become self-sufficient.” As if there’s only room on top of the pedestal for one set of social stereotypes. If only women would “surrender to their nature — their femininity,” they’d “have the power to turn everything around.”
Venker’s article, called “The War on Men,” stemmed from one statistic from the Pew Research Centre: since 1997, the number of women today who rank having a successful marriage as one of their top priorities has risen nine percentage points (to 37 per cent), while the number of men placing a high priority on marriage has decreased by six percentage points (to 29 per cent). Venker pointed out that many ladies won’t be able to snag a man interested who is interested in marriage — and that this is women’s fault for taking too much power away from men.
The same study reported that more women than men between the ages 18–34 rate their career as a high priority. Venker’s article blatantly disregarded this and other key findings. For example, the study suggested that “the increased value placed on marriage and family [by women] does not necessarily reflect the broader societal trends in these areas.”
Other facts Venker conveniently left out? That among both male and female respondents, having a successful marriage and being a good parent “rank significantly higher on their list of priorities than being successful in a high-paying job or career.” That young adults today are marrying at lower rates and at later ages than ever before. That the number of men middle-aged and older who say a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their life has increased nine per cent in the same time frame. That women still earn only 80 per cent of men’s salaries, despite advances in universities and the workplace.
Venker isn’t the only crusader for the cultural stone age. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, has been getting some angry criticism for comments she made in a recent Vogue magazine interview. Bruni-Sarkozy, who was born into a wealthy family of Italian industrialists, said her generation “doesn’t need feminism” and that she is not an active feminist herself. While she has since apologized and attempted to rephrase her remarks, she serves as a reminder that some women are already doing what Venker suggests and surrendering to what Venker sees as “their nature.”
The movement for gender equality still needs its proponents, especially as long as public figures like Bruni-Sarkozy are actively pushing it backwards. And as for you, Suzanne Venker, the Martlet will take its cue from Stephen Colbert and look forward to your retirement from the writing business. As Colbert put it, “clearly, it’s not in your nature.”