Funny right? Ok, if you thought that was funny watch it again, only this time pretend it's the wife "helping" the daughter and the husband telling her to walk the dog.
It's not so funny anymore, is it?
Well if that's putting you down I recently heard about this great new show that might cheer you up. Its about this guy who chases after women who neglect their children. He hunts them down and harasses them until they put their kids up for adoption, does things like repos their car or foreclosing on their house.
What? Not funny? Did you know that Fox actually aired that show? It was called "Bad Dads" and it was the basically the same scenario I outlined above, only the host chased after dads who didn't pay their child support. If your first thought is "that's much more reasonable" consider that two thirds of men who don't pay child support earn poverty level wages. Fortunately, Fox canceled the show after a letter writing campaign by "Fathers and Families." It was later picked up by the Lifetime channel as "Deadbeat Dads." From what I can tell it was never aired though, mostly thanks to another letter writing campaign.
Two more examples:
These ads were run by a women's shelter in Dallas back in 2008. They were taken down after backlash from men's rights organizations. You can read about the full story here.
All these examples are to point out that misandry is now rather common in popular culture. On TV its practically a trope. Homer Simpson, Tim "the Toolman" Taylor, the father from Paul Hennessy (8 Simple Rules), all of these are examples of men who were portrayed as clueless dolts on TV. There are many more I could list, I'm sure you can think of a few.
Popular culture has taken a turn from the days of "Father knows best." Today men are often portrayed as, at best, bumbling, dim-witted fools, and at worst, bullies, brutes, deadbeats and criminals. Now while the majority of criminals are men, men are after all naturally stronger and more aggressive than women, this doesn't justify the way men are often portrayed in popular culture. What's especially striking is the complete lack of positive male role models on TV.
Now before I go any further I want to talk about women's rights and feminism. This is not an "us versus them" argument, the sexes are morally and legally equal. The legal part of that being largely due to the efforts of the feminist movement, which is a good thing. Misogyny is almost universally recognized to be wrong, and is almost entirely shunned in popular culture. The same is not true for misandry though, which if the sexes are indeed equal must be just as wrong as misogyny. Feminism, so far as its aims are to edify women and not put down men, is not the problem here. This issue isn't about men versus women, it is possible to respect both sexes. There isn't some limited amount of respect that the sexes have to fight over, we can work together on this. Really, its only when the sexes are equally respected that they are at their most edified. The abuser is never held in higher esteem than the abused, it doesn't matter which way the abuse goes.
Anyway, with that out of the way, let us continue.
I suppose now that we are aware of the misandry in the popular culture we should ask if it confined to it. Tentatively, I will say no. A 2008 study in the UK (reported by the Telegraph here) claims that sixty-six percent of 2000 men surveyed felt handcuffed by political correctness. Fifty-two percent said they had to live by women's rules. Somehow, at least in the UK, men have gotten it into their heads that its a woman's world now. This is not terribly surprising, after look at all the examples of men who are basically parented by their wives on TV.
Before you dismiss this argument, remember that the early feminist movement objected to how women were portrayed on TV. I think that men are even more sensitive to this for one major reason. Throughout most of human history societies have had a rite of passage that served to transfer a boy into manhood. These rites were essential to the boy identifying himself as a man. Men are different from women in the sense that men need assurance that they are in fact a "real man." That means different things to different people but its a question all, or at least most, men ask themselves. "Am I really a man?" Women do not seek the same assurance of their identity as women. That's why you've never heard of a female rite of passage.
While rites of passage differ greatly between cultures, they all have one element in common. They are carried out by the other men. When a man asks, "Am I really a man?" the only person capable of answering that question is another man. Not a boy, not a woman. So what happens when there are no men to answer the question? No men to challenge the boy to become a man? Men are still going to ask the question, and they'll look for the answer where ever they can find it. That is where the representation of men in the media comes in. Without some "real men" to challenge them, men will get their identity from the popular culture.
When the only "men" guys see on TV are lazy, idiotic, bumbling fools, their idea of manhood will be skewed into something more akin to adolescence. I think this explains the phenomena of falling male enrollment in college. You don't need a degree to play xbox all day. Besides, why would a man want to compete with today's highly successful and driven women?
I'm not saying women are too good and should tone it down so men won't be afraid to step up. I'm saying the opposite. What we need today is for men to step and mentor younger men. Boy don't grow up into men, they have to be taught what it means to be a man.
I was fortunate enough to be a Boy Scout. Boy Scouts of America served, at least to some extent, as my rite of passage. The Scout Law is as good of a definition of manhood as I can think of. "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent." I was also fortunate enough to have a father that cared enough about me to spend time with me, to get me involved in Scouting, and to take me on small adventures outside of Scouting. I will always remember canoeing with my dad. Stopping to explore little water falls, or maybe wrecked cars stuck along the river bank for who knows how long. I was fortunate enough to have many good examples of manhood.
Unfortunately, my story is fast becoming abnormal. More than 26% of children in the US are raised by a single parent. Of single parents, 84% are the mother. That means almost a quarter of America's children are being raised without a father, according to the US Census Bureau (PDF warning). Now I'm not trying to beat up on single mothers, they have a hard job and many of them do remarkably well for how hard a position they are in. They can't replace a father though.
So what's the lesson here? What's the solution to the rampant misandry seen in the popular culture? The first step would be to show a complete intolerance for both misandry and misogyny. It took a feminist movement to make misogyny unacceptable, we need a masculist movement! To a large degree I think this has already begun. Websites like The Art of Manliness certainly fit the bill. They don't put down women, rather they are lifting up men. Men really need to be lifted up right now.
Just as important, if not more so, is to raise up the next generation of young men. They need to be challenged by older men or they will remain boys. Manhood is something that needs to be cultivated, it does not happen by accident. Hopefully in another generation we'll all be able to look back on the popular culture of today and think is as wrong as the misogynistic culture of the 50's*.
(Disclaimer: as I was not alive in the 50's, I have no idea if it was misogynistic or not. That's just what they told me in my predominately public education. Also this)