What inspired you to write “Save the Males?”
Boys. Men. Specifically, mine. My father raised me after my mother died when I was three. I then had a baby boy and helped raise two stepsons. So my experience of the male of our species has been all about the good things. I discovered early that men are human and have found they respond well to that understanding. I also noticed during the past 20 years or so that the culture was hostile toward males and, well, I’m a mom. Don’t mess with my boys.
You mention in the book that you have three sons, and that your family has impacted your view of the world. Can you elaborate on that? How do you see them–and other young men–being affected by today’s culture?
Once I started viewing the world through male eyes – unavoidable if you live only with men, as I have – then you begin to see the hostility out there. Not just from the culture, but from girls and women. Male-bashing, the great bonding agent among women, has trickled down to boy-bashing. Otherwise, anti-male messages are everywhere and insidious. From TV shows that advance the Doofus Dad to cultural messages that men are presumptively predatory, men and masculine traits are generally treated as something that need to be treated, like a disease. Or “fixed.” Kind of like Sparky so he’ll leave the fire hydrant alone.
What kind of response is the book getting? When you talk to people, do you find a lot of support for the idea that males need to be saved–or do you get a more skeptical response?
So far, response has been fairly positive. At first when I told people what I was writing, they looked at me like I was crazy. Why would anyone want to save males? Why would anyone think they need saving? Women who’ve had a bad boyfriend or a messy divorce seem to think men need to be punished. Men don’t know they need saving unless they’ve been through the grinder known as “Family Court.” Then they look at me with doleful eyes and try to wash my feet. Once people actually read the book, they’re surprised to see all the dots; once they connect them, they want to move Thailand.
What has been the most controversial part of your book?
That depends on the reader, I guess. The chapter titled “The Vagina Diatribes and The Sacred Clitorati” seems to get the most attention. I can’t imagine why. Maybe because it’s the lightest; it was certainly the most fun to write. But the military chapter is probably the most controversial because I challenge the idea of women in combat. This is tricky terrain since women are currently at risk, but this is also the first time in history when we’ve been in a position to really evaluate whether women ought to be put so close to the fighting. I hope I make a strong case against it.
In the book, you call for a more “sensible feminism.” Where do you think feminism has most gone astray over the past thirty years?
Sensible feminism (SF) recognizes that men and women should be equal under the law and enjoy equal opportunity given equal merit (except in cases such as the military where the more compelling consideration of military effectiveness should prevail over personal preference). But SF also recognizes and honors the unique gifts and differences of men and women. We are not, in other words, always interchangeable. Yet, radical feminism has tried to order a world in which men and women are essentially the same – to the detriment of all.
As I was reading “Save the Males,” I kept thinking that you must have been kind of disappointed that the “pregnant man” story broke after the book went to press. Any comment on that as it applies to the general argument of “Save the Males”?
Ah, yes, the pregnant man in Hawaii. That was a stop-the-presses moment for sure, but I had many of those after the book was finished. The world is reliably nuts. Factually, however, the pregnant “man” was really a pregnant woman who mutilated herself and grew a beard. She kept her reproductive organs, had her breasts removed and took male hormones. Sometimes stories are too bizarre to mean anything beyond the immediate insanity and this one probably shouldn’t be universalized to any significant extent. That said, he/she would have fit nicely into the section about men who wish to have babies of their own and the whole notion of fake uteruses. They’ll be here soon and whether they’ll be used so that men can reproduce without women remains to be seen. Women have figured out how to procreate without men, so it’s likely there are men who would seek these “equal” experiences. What this all means, I’m not sure, but as we become less shocked by these episodes of human experimentation, then we become inured to the gender-bending subtext. It’s not that one couple in Hawaii is messed up, but that Anything Is Possible! What’s possible, inevitably, will be done. Incrementally, the idea that men and women have different biological functions that define to some extent their social roles will become extinct. It already has to a large degree, but we’ve gotten ahead of our psycho-evolutionary development. Our societal norms are often in conflict with our hardwiring. Prozac can only do so much.
“Save the Males” is often very funny, and ventures into some goofy territory. What was your favorite research moment when putting together some of the more colorful sections of the book?
Thank you. I wanted the book to be fun and not so deadly serious, even though the subject is serious, so I did follow some goofy trails. There were so many moments that I found myself laughing – and so much of my favorite stuff got cut – that it’s hard to pick just one. I do think that I had the most fun shopping for sperm online, watching women who narrow their choices according to whether their kid will have to use sunscreen or worry about dieting. The lack of self-awareness as these would-be moms projected their own anxieties onto the children they were going to create with a vial and a turkey baster was stunning, if darkly amusing.
There has been some very interesting commentary on the rise of perma-adolescent “child-men” in our society, and you also mention this trend in “Save the Males.” In instances like this, at what point do we need to stop blaming culture for men’s problems and start blaming the “child-men” themselves?
That’s a very good question. I’ve heard from men – Real Men – who say the same thing. They don’t blame women or the culture, but call upon men to put on their big boy pants and deal. I like that in a man. And they’ve got a point, but they’re also missing one. The biggest obstacle to boys becoming men is having no man – their father – to guide them. Fathers guide their sons into mature adulthood. Too many boys now have no father or no access to their own, but are raised by well-meaning mothers in a feminized culture. So yes, child-men have to grow up, but they need someone around to show them how.
You mention the Duke Lacrosse case as an example of the demonization of men. However, it could also be argued that the public vilification of the Duke players had as much to do with the media’s obsession with race, class, and victimhood as it did with gender. How do you think these broader cultural elements tie together as applied to your general thesis in “Save the Males”?
Another good one. I don’t think we can separate those other factors from the total picture. All certainly played a part and the media get the lion’s share of the blame. But. Here’s what we know: Women similarly charged would have been given the benefit of the doubt. Women’s groups would have rallied around them – as would the school, town, administrators and other officials – demanding due process. In our culture, women are treated fairly, while men are guilty until proven innocent.
In your conclusion, you write that “This book was harder to write than I had expected for reasons that are probably apparent by now: Everything in it could be restated as an argument for saving females.” It’s true that women are often the ones who are ultimately hurt by some of the dogmas brought on by the sexual revolution. What is your advice to young women navigating our culture today? And your advice for young men?
My usual advice for both is don’t speak to a member of the opposite sex until you’re both at least 30, but very few pay me any mind. The best advice I can give young women is project yourself the way you hope to be treated. Men will follow your lead. At least the good ones will. As for young men, learn to cook. If you meet the right girl, you’re golden. If you don’t, at least you’ll eat.