My original idea for this column was to discuss the degeneration of the feminist movement as exemplified in pop culture by eye-candy pop princesses and their fashionably misogynist counterparts, but I couldn't steer away from the fact that perhaps this degeneration is due to the currently sorry state of masculinity.
A professor last year told the class that in the past decade or two, it seems the only thing men have to define their masculinity is violence. Now that women are working and out of the kitchen, the man is no longer necessary as a provider. In the age of artificial insemination, the non-stigmatization of divorce or single motherhood, he is no longer necessary as a father. He may not even be necessary as a lover. With no wild beasts from which to protect his family and no wars to fight, the average, post-modern man is suffering from one heck of an identity crisis, and the happiness and peaceful coexistence of both genders seems to be what's at stake here.
One issue that has never ceased to tear apart men and women, and even people within the two genders, is abortion. While I am still unsure about my stance regarding whether the practice should be legal, at a lecture I attended last year, "The Feminist Case Against Abortion," the speaker said when women in the 1960s chanted "It's my body, my choice," what they were telling men was "It's my problem." By eliminating the man's input regarding whether she should have a child, the woman was assuming complete responsibility for its life and taking away the aspect of that responsibility he should have to take on.
Feminism, as it is packaged and taught to the youth of today, is enough to make a man's hair stand on end and his stomach churn. He hears the word and automatically has images of women who hate him, blame him for all problems, struggle to succeed at any cost and find him rather useless in any capacity. What men fail to comprehend or realize, and women for that matter, is that feminism was about equality, pure and simple. Equal pay for equal work, equal access to resources and opportunities, equal say in social and political issues, and a sense of possession of herself. Feminism wasn't about trying to be like men or getting back at men; it was about redefining what it means to be a woman.
The backlash resulting from misconceptions about feminism and the modern man's feelings of diminished masculinity has resulted in the current trends that we have now, in the form of hyper-macho male media icons and sex-toy starlets. Fred Durst "did it all for the nookie" and Britney Spears, who has come to represent all that is shallow and contrived, is a "slave 4 u." Eminem can't be any girl's "superman" and Christina Aguilera bears a frightening resemblance to Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister.
Anyway, my favorite case in point regarding the decline of masculinity is the Comedy Central show "The Man Show." The show, whose Web site boasts, "a half-hour of joyous chauvinism hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla," centers around the theme of drinking mass quantities of beer and engaging in all sorts of idiotic activities while accompanied by buxom "Juggies," who alternate bending over suggestively and lying spread eagle while fawning over whatever pathetic slob "guest" happens to grace the stage. And how can anyone forget the scantily clad "girls on trampolines" that conclude each show?
I am not as offended by the show as I am saddened by what its theme implies about the audience it caters to. In a nutshell, the message is that men are pigs, but not just ordinary pigs. They are pigs castrated by everyday living, forced to endure a mind-numbing cubicle job and at the end of the day, they must cower from the wrath of a nagging wife. They need that "half-hour of joyous chauvinism" because they don't feel like men anymore, and what better way to feel like a man than to get drunk, degrade women and engage in activities that might cost him an arm or leg?
The messages men are being fed can be quite confusing. They are supposed to be sensitive, but sexually aggressive. He's supposed to give her room to have her own career and do her own thing, but he darn well better be out there making himself a ton of money to support the high-maintenance lifestyle she requires. She is sexually liberated and can sleep with whomever she would wish, but don't you dare call her a tramp! At this point, it seems men have tried to stop understanding women and with no defined term for a woman's role, he cannot see his role as a man clearly at all.
No matter what some self-help gurus may say, men and women are not from different planets, and there is no reason they should constantly be at odds. One gender's self-realization should not come at the expense of the other's. Men benefit by having a woman who is self-sufficient, educated and intelligent, and who is willing and able to meet him halfway. In the way women took steps to change the meaning of femininity 30 years ago, men need to start taking a closer look at what masculinity is right now and where it should go in the future.