brain image
Mere "persondom"
isn't serving us well.

Today’s ways of looking at gender don’t appear to be working all that well for either males or females—or for society at large.

Not all that many years ago, a popular self-help book was entitled The Power of Sexual Surrender.  It’s hard to imagine a book with such a title and theme being released into today’s market.  Yet learning how to let go and enjoy the orgasms that come with it is a real, meaningful, and sometimes difficult achievement on the path to full womanhood.  If women never learn it, their lives will be diminished.  And if all that women are ever taught is how to struggle with men for control, how will they ever learn this?

Unfortunately, in today’s world, all too many kinds of natural, healthy womanliness tend to be regarded as signs of backwardness or dimness.  For example, it’s beginning to seem that only the most highly educated and successful of career women now have the self-confidence to be able to choose to be full-time moms when their children are born.

For our part, men have to contend these days with an atmosphere of mostly subdued, yet continually present, misandrism.  (This is a mindset that most of us don’t even know the word for.  Even Microsoft Word’s spell checker has flagged the word as a typo.  For those who are unfamiliar with the term, misandrism is to men as misogyny is to women:  an attitude of hostility toward their gender.)

Not too long ago, this sentiment peaked in television shows, commercials, movies, and elsewhere in popular culture, to the point where you literally couldn’t escape images of men being portrayed as infantile, self-absorbed, and clueless—the more so the more manly they were.  Someone seems to have finally pointed out how offensive this was (or possibly more to the point, how much revenue it might be losing), and today the phenomenon has subsided considerably. 

What’s more common now is that instead of being valued for their masculine qualities, contemporary men are continually urged or prodded into behaviors that just don’t fit.

A major example:  as our work environments grow ever larger and crazier, with distracted bosses not really knowing what their people are doing and competition largely based on what kind of show you can put on, they tend to favor classic female abilities, like juggling simultaneous conflicting priorities and projecting a constantly pleasant manner, whether in dealing with demanding (and often childish) higher-ups in continual need of soothing and reassurance, or in dealing with rivals—where it is often more advantageous today to avoid classic male “frontal assaults,” and attack via more subtle means, such as gossip.

If we’re not good at these essentially feminine styles of behavior, our organizational and social status can be diminished—and with it, our ability to have women look up to us.  

Then after being battered at work by forces we don’t entirely comprehend, we may come home to wives who, in a new environment that increasingly favors their kinds of interpersonal skills, hold higher-level positions than we do.

When it comes to raising our children, mommy-style parenting has become de rigueur for both parents.  Traditionally, moms have tended to have the softer parental touch, while it was up to dads to lay down the law when necessary.  Today, wives have supplanted husbands as the ultimate authorities on how a family's children are to be raised, and increasingly, they insist that their men use methods identical to their own.

This new prestige appears to derive mainly from having read more articles about child rearing in the popular press, which tend to be found mainly in women's magazines.

It’s important to note that what causes ideas to prevail in the popular media is not necessarily their validity or effectiveness—it’s just whether people enjoy reading them.  It’s also significant that most of our current views on parenting techniques came into vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time of widespread rejection of authority in any shape or form.  On top of that, women tend to favor gentler, less power-brandishing approaches to most things than men do. 

Given these dynamics, is it any wonder that the media’s prevailing consensus on what constitutes good child rearing has made a dramatic turn away from away from virtually all forms of coercion?  Should we be surprised, then, that during this same period, we’ve witnessed an epidemic of undisciplined, squalling, tantrum-throwing children tyrannizing their parents?

It’s reasonable to believe that if left to their own devices, most guys would be less inclined than their wives to tolerate this sort of behavior.   But today’s men are so convinced of their wives’ superior knowledge in such matters (unaware that it’s based on consumption of articles that essentially just tell them what they want to hear) that vast numbers of fathers now squelch their own natural reactions and obediently do as they’re told.

You can hear these new-style mommy-daddies everywhere you go today, braying ineffectually in Richard Simmons-like voices while their offspring treat their exhortations as just so much annoying noise.  More traditional styles of fatherhood are now widely viewed as Neanderthal, and men whose children actually listen to them, far from being the subject of admiration by other parents, may now find themselves the subject of nervous glances or whispered speculations about the possibility of abuse.

In an environment like this, it cannot be purely coincidental that so many men are abandoning their families—a little at a time via work and other “outside obligations” that may not actually be as obligatory as they sound, or more dramatically through affairs and divorces.

Can it be purely coincidental that so many women are also leaving their husbands?  (Bear in mind, it’s more typically the wife who initiates divorce proceedings.)

What’s the societal cost of all the broken families?

What we don't seem to have faced up to is that gender differences go down to the cellular level.  You can't simply declare that from now on, everybody will be just “persons,” and expect everyone to go smoothly about their business.  Yes, we’re all people, but we'll always still be men and women—and if we're forced into the wrong kinds of circumstances, we can be very misshapen and unhappy ones.