August 14, 2013


The Oldest War : Remember when the battle of the sexes was a laughing matter? (ANDREW FERGUSON, 8/12/13, Weekly Standard)

I don't know if we're in the post-Second Wave or pre-Third Wave period of feminism, but war talk is once again in the air, spoken with the same clenched-jaw severity that made Second Wave feminism so excruciating. Except nowadays, instead of a war between men and women, women (some of them, anyway) talk about a war on women and (some) men talk about a war on men. This bifurcation of the ancient war is in keeping with our galloping individualism and self-absorption. We interpret a mutual antagonism as a one-sided assault on me and mine.

The war on men is the particular concern of the newest incarnation of the "men's movement." Older readers may remember the earlier men's movement, from the 1990s. It was invented and led by such aging hippies as the poet Robert Bly and the author Sam Keen. The former LBJ hatchet man Bill Moyers filmed a documentary with Bly called A Gathering of Men, which served as the movement's manifesto and ran like a tape loop on PBS. The movement made for easy trend stories in the newsmagazines and newspaper lifestyle sections because it was so eccentric. Feminism was pushing women into traditionally male domains, was the theme; and men were escaping out the other side, lost in confusion about their roles as husbands, fathers, and cogs in the postindustrial machine.

The confusion took strange forms. In the Moyers-Bly version, men were trying to recapture their true natures. They did this by gathering in forests, removing crucial articles of clothing, adorning their hair with feathers, and beating drums in an attempt to stimulate orgiastic dancing. It often worked, and the dancing wasn't pretty. The trappings were heavily indebted to New Age spirituality, American Indian-division, and the purpose was meant to be therapeutic​--​it was a rare Gathering of Men in which some burly fellow didn't burst into tears.

After a year or two the men's movement went the way of all trend stories and vaporized. The new men's movement that has recently emerged is far less suited to lighthearted features on the evening news​--​even if there were still such a thing as "the evening news." The feathers are gone and so are the drums. At the heart of the new movement is a loosely defined notion of "men's rights," which have become casualties in the newly discovered war on men. This spring, a manifesto of the new movement was published, to much praise. Men on Strike is the work of Dr. Helen Smith, a psychologist from Tennessee. She writes a popular blog, called Dr. Helen, on the conservative website If the old men's movement got men crying, the new one hopes to get them complaining.

Posted by at August 14, 2013 4:37 AM

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