Summer 2002

Family and Relationships

Review

Assault of the Gender Benders

David F. Lloyd

On Men: Masculinity in Crisis
On Men: Masculinity in Crisis

Anthony Clare. 2000. Chatto & Windus, London. 262 pages.

The Sex-Change Society: Feminised Britain and the Neutered Male

Melanie Phillips. 1999. The Social Market Foundation and Profile Books, London. 370 pages.

Men have to reinvent themselves or become extinct. At least, that’s the view of Anthony Clare as expressed in his book On Men. Clare, a psychiatrist and BBC Radio personality, contends that men are redundant reproductively and that women no longer need them around the home or in their beds. And men who define themselves by their work had better wake up, he says; there’s nothing uniquely male about any of it. The sisters have arrived, and in the new workplace their skills are superior to men’s. Patriarchy and male control are dead. Get over it. Move on.

Melanie Phillips, a widely read social commentator who writes for the London Daily Mail, takes a somewhat different approach. Her book, The Sex-Change Society, amounts to a blistering attack on public policy that demonizes men as intrinsically violent and that seeks to radically reverse the roles of men and women in order to feminize the state. The result, she says, is an antifamily policy in which ultimately there are no winners.

Both books are wide-ranging and marshal a host of statistical details to back up their statements. Between them, the authors examine the workplace, male violence, androgyny (the feminizing of men), single parents, and the impact of family breakdown and divorce. A disturbing picture emerges, and both authors believe it requires urgent action.

Men at Work 

Men, says Clare, can expect little sympathy from women when it comes to the storming of that bastion of male power, the workplace. Women are making immense strides in gaining equality.

Clare acknowledges that men still hold most of the levers of power in the professions, business and politics, but it is the more vulnerable, poorly educated men that Phillips is concerned about.

Many physically oriented manufacturing jobs have been filled by robots or replaced by the service industries. Women, generally better communicators, compete strongly in services. And part-time work often suits employers and mothers far better than it suits men, who tend to seek full-time employment. One result has been the marginalizing of the unskilled and poorly educated—particularly males. The lack of suitable employment prospects adds a further twist in the destabilization of many young men in their physical prime, especially in areas of high unemployment.

However, not all is rosy in the female employment stakes either. Phillips spends more time examining this side of the coin than Clare does. She finds that for all the talk and government attempts at social reengineering, career women still face significant problems once children come into the picture.

Businesswomen continue to focus more on the home than do their male equivalents. One of the reasons women do not progress up the greasy management pole farther than they do is because, for many, their families still come first, so they are unwilling to work the crushing hours required to get ahead.

In Phillips’ view, we are seeing immense pressure being applied by unrepresentative females; that is, those with high incomes and lifestyle preferences to match. Many ordinary women would prefer to place their families ahead of career, are often content to work part-time, and are simply not as concerned about their status in the workplace as men are. But the airing of such views is no longer permissible.

In all of this, according to radical gender feminists (those who would drastically revise the roles of the sexes), men are the villains. They are to blame for continuing to oppress women and for not, in the main, being willing to be socially reengineered as “new men” in the feminized role that has been created for them.

Feminism and Male Violence 

On Men devotes two chapters to male violence. Violent crime is indeed overwhelmingly perpetrated by men (and young men in particular), as Clare illustrates with numerous statistics and case studies. Yet, as Phillips points out, such statistics are a far cry from indicating that most men are violent, which is the gender-feminist position.

Ironically, it is the redefinition of what constitutes a family, driven by a liberal, anything-goes society and egged on by aggressive feminism, that is widening the social breeding ground of crime and violence. Clare and Phillips reach a similar conclusion: It is unattached, rootless, unemployed males—unsocialized from family relationships and responsibilities—who are wreaking much of the criminal havoc.

The state of maleness is being portrayed by a variety of commentators as equivalent to a deviant state, a pathology.”

Anthony Clare, On Men: Masculinity in Crisis

In concluding his chapter “Men and Violence,” Clare remarks: “As the new century begins, the state of maleness is being portrayed by a variety of commentators as equivalent to a deviant state, a pathology. The very traits which once went to make us the men we think we are and would like to be . . . are now seen as the stigmata of deviance. The very traits which once marked women out as weak and inferior . . . are increasingly being seen as the markers of maturity and health.” So the historical pendulum appears to have swung from one extreme viewpoint to another.

The Sex-Change Society designates the 1970s and 1980s as the period when this new view became the warp and woof of the educational, civil service, legal, medical and public sector establishments. It has been one of the key drivers of the political agenda since that time.

The malevolent impact on public policy in the United States and Britain is that the male has been defined as a pariah. In support of this view, much research has been conducted and, according to Phillips, deliberately skewed. In addition, researchers who dared expose incidents of female violence toward men were hounded. Yet, she states, “there are now dozens of studies which show that women are as violent towards their partners, if not more so, than men.”

Another myth that has been shattered by statistics from both the United States and the United Kingdom is that men are responsible for most of the violence committed against children. Phillips cites a recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, which states that women aged 20 to 49 were almost twice as likely as men to be “perpetrators of child maltreatment.” This statistic is logical insofar as mothers spend far more time with children than fathers do, but it nonetheless gives the lie to the feminist myth of the predomination of male violence.

Another twist in the statistical tail—notable by its absence from the U.K. Women’s Unit data on domestic violence—is that the risk of violence is greatly increased for unmarried partners. Clare quotes extensive U.S. statistics from 1970 to 1987 that show the same pattern. “Marriage,” he declares, “whatever its critics may feel, appears to provide a strong safety factor for women rearing their biological children. . . . For every married pregnant woman who reported being abused by her husband almost four unmarried pregnant women reported being abused by their partners. Indeed, cohabitation is the strongest predictor of abuse” (emphasis added).

The presumption of male violence, sexual and otherwise, is the driving justification for obliterating sexual differences altogether.

Yet the presumption of male violence, sexual and otherwise, is the driving justification for obliterating sexual differences altogether.

The Feminizing of Men 

Because men are seen as the problem by their very nature, gender feminists and other social engineers have been foisting androgyny upon us. They believe that the aggressive and dominant nature of men must be educated out of them, or, where that doesn’t work, men must be marginalized at work and in relationships. Thanks to in vitro fertilization, women can perpetuate (and feminize) the human race and treat relationships with men as optional.

“The promotion of androgyny, despite its rhetoric of equality, is profoundly hostile to men,” warns Phillips. “It wants to bring about equality on women’s terms alone. . . . It’s a development of the most powerful element in feminist thought: that men are the enemy and have to be defeated.” Scratch the androgyny agenda still deeper, she adds, and the feminist antipathy to the two-parent family is clearly unmasked, with the objective of sidelining men in family life. Unisex parenthood must be along the female model, with male distinctiveness distorted, caricatured, ridiculed or dismissed. 

Phillips cites studies indicating that most men want to work and most women still want the primary role in raising their children. And most aspire to marriage and rearing their children in that environment. But the stresses from an increasingly amoral society, as well as from powerful pressure groups hostile to the traditional family, have made the going increasingly tough.

Dysfunction and Disadvantage 

Phillips exposes the notion of the independent single parent as a myth perpetuated by gender feminists and a minority who can afford to live such a lifestyle in comfort. The truth for most is that far from being independent, lone parents are effectively married to the state. In her analysis, the root of the problem of lone motherhood is not a dependence on welfare but a lack of dependence on men. In other words, welfare dependency is an effect, not a cause.

In some poverty-stricken areas, a catastrophic cycle of illegitimacy follows. Feeding the cycle, and at the same time resulting from it, are impoverished single-parent units headed by females, and rootless, unemployed, uncommitted males. (And, as Clare observes, it is the rootless young male who perpetrates much of the crime and violence in our Western societies.)

The result is that “a new sexual order [has] emerged, driven by women and based on the collapse of conduct,” says Phillips, noting that there has been a concerted attack on the family, with ordinary people having been forced to accept changes they did not want, including no-fault divorce. As divorce became progressively easier in the United Kingdom and the United States, a divorce culture emerged, with bad conduct such as adultery being viewed as generally irrelevant to settlement and custody.

With most pressures for self-restraint removed, and simultaneously freed from biology by the contraceptives revolution, twice as many women as men are filing for divorce.

But once the male has been ejected from the nest, the gender-feminist prescription for males is reversed. Often deprived of his children and his home, the ex-husband is now compelled to fulfill his role as breadwinner and provider for his ex-wife and offspring. No legal account is taken of the fact that an ex-wife may take another employed male sexual partner into her home. So an ex-husband may find himself in the position of bankrolling a reconstituted family unit from which he has been ousted.

And what about the children? Phillips cites an immense body of data proving that children fare best within a traditional family; i.e., one that includes a two-parent marital unit. Yet officialdom flees from any endorsement of such evidence because that would be seen as a de facto put-down of those who aspire to alternative lifestyles.

In the United Kingdom, statistics show that married people are more faithful to their partners than are those who merely cohabit. Unmarried cohabitants are much less likely to stay together long enough to raise their children.

In the United States, an extensive 1994 study concluded that children who lived apart from one parent were disadvantaged in many ways. The study pointed to increased high school dropout rates, teen pregnancies and unemployment. Single mothers, it reported, are far more likely to perpetrate violence against their children, and nonbiological fathers are four times more likely to sexually abuse children in their care.

Countless studies show the catastrophic outcomes of fragmented, fatherless families.

Phillips points out that countless studies show the catastrophic outcomes of fragmented, fatherless families. Family breakdown clearly hurts children.

Whence Manhood? 

Clare concludes that men can’t fight these trends. His solution is for men to change the way they function in order to survive: “First, we must acknowledge where we are. And where we are marks the beginning of the end of male control. That is the reality. As men we can deny it, struggle against it, project our frustrated and angry feelings against what we see as the source of our growing weakness, be it the individual women in our lives or the feminist movement in general. But if men insist on doing any or all of these things, then men are doomed. Acknowledge the end of patriarchal power and participate in the discussion of how the post-patriarchal age is to be negotiated and there is hope.”

Phillips would undoubtedly view Clare’s prescription of negotiating the post-patriarchal age as tantamount to holding up the white flag to radical feminism. In terms of government policy, she concludes that a major rethink is required: “This means establishing three crucial concepts: restoring proper freedom of choice, giving incentives for social rather than antisocial behaviour, and re-establishing the link between conduct and its consequences. . . . All three objectives involve putting the muscle back into marriage.”

Phillips does not accept that current trends cannot be reversed, pointing out that Britain moved out of the amoral 18th century into the Victorian era, which was noted for the sanctity of marriage and the value of family life.

Though these two books differ in their perspectives, the moral that emerges from both is that society works well only when men and women work together in mutual respect for the distinct qualities of the other. The war of the sexes in the workplace, the increase in immorality and alternative lifestyles, along with the breakdown of the nuclear two-parent family, are interconnected in delivering unhappy, stressful and unfulfilling lives to ever increasing numbers of adults and children.

The authors also agree that the institution of marriage is the best foundation for healthy sexual relationships and the raising of children—if we are to save ourselves and future generations from the social and moral wilderness created by self-gratification and noncommitment.

How interesting that these conclusions so fundamentally endorse the biblical perspective. We often forget that the Bible says marriage is an institution created by God (Genesis 2:18, 24), founded on the husband as head (1 Corinthians 11:3) and on mutual love, respect and submission between husband and wife (Ephesians 5:21–23, 25, 28), with children honoring and obeying their parents (Ephesians 6:1–2).

Why does Western society seem so hell-bent on disrupting and reengineering these relationships? On what basis does it believe that it can construct something better?

Reading these books ought to make us stop and seriously reconsider the direction society is charting for itself. Whether men and women can lift themselves out of the quagmire created by our liberal, post-Christian society is another question.