Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fish need bicycles

It’s been around a century, more or less, since Sigmund Freud threw up his hands and asked the question all men have asked since Adam bit the apple: “Woman: what does she want?”

The answer appears to be that women don’t really know, either.

On Saturday, the online edition of the Wall Street Journal published an extract from Kay S. Hymowitz’s Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Turned Men into Boys, under the title “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” And, as Jennifer Fulweiler reports in her blog on the National Catholic Register, “Only hours after it was posted, it had 300 comments, most of them from men who basically said: ‘Right back at’cha.’ They wanted to know where all the good women have gone.” (The extract has been “liked” over 60,000 times as of this writing.)

According to Hymowitz, women are no longer satisfied with “guys”, i.e. men in their twenties and thirties stuck in an “Animal House” mindset, not really caring about careers, content to spend long hours at the PlayStation with their buddies, drinking beer and downloading internet porn … “a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance” now being called “pre-adulthood.”

Men aren’t completely satisfied with it, either.

A little over a year ago, I wrote about the Dockers “Man-ifesto” campaign:

Dockers "Wear the Pants" ad
… [W]hat happened along the way was not that men got stranded between adolescence and effeminateness. Rather, men were told—by women!—that they no longer had to be polite. They were told that they weren’t necessary for child-rearing, that women would make all the reproductive choices, thank you very much. Men could help provide a home, but their financial contribution wasn’t essential so much as it was helpful: if necessary and desired, women could go it alone on the breadwinning, too. Holding the door open was chauvinistic and patronizing. Children didn’t need fathers (except maybe as once-a-month nannies to take the whiny little brats off mama’s hands for a short weekend). Hell, the only reason to have a man around the house was that dildos can’t take out the trash!

This has been largely the tenor of the men responding to the WSJ piece. As one man said, “Feminism’s goal was to make men irrelevant. Now feminists are complaining that men are irrelevant. Sorry ladies, but you get what you pay for.”

But as true as it is, it only tells part of the story. If women now behave as though they no longer need men, it’s because a generation or two of feminists hectored them into that behavior. They were indoctrinated into believing that, to be fully equal to men, they had not only to take on traditionally male roles but to eschew traditional wifehood and motherhood as intrinsically demeaning and degrading. They were told men only wanted them for breeding and housekeeping, for a ritualized slavery, so that’s what they had to avoid doing at all costs.

Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and their clutch of intellectual thugs might have only been partially successful in poisoning the relationship between the sexes had not Alfred Kinsey produced in 1948 and 1953 two brilliantly corrupt reports on human sexuality that still exert a malign influence over us. Then, Hugh Hefner coincidentally(?) began the industry of manufacturing an idealized single man’s life with the first issue of Playboy in 1953. When the FDA approved Enovid—the first iteration of “the Pill”—for contraceptive use in 1960, the last ingredient needed to effect the divorce of the sexes was added to the mix.

Now, let me tell you all a secret about men.

Some men are ambitious for their own sake, and do find it easier to reach the pinnacle of their careers when not slowed down by such mundane considerations as women and children. However, more men advance their careers only when driven to do so by the knowledge that they have a wife and children to provide for, even when they’re not the sole wage-earners. If we don’t have them, then we lose that competitive edge. We’re content to poke along in lesser-paying jobs, so long as we have a place to sleep, a car to drive and some extra money to spend on toys and games.

But the toys and games only serve to distract us from the empty spot in our lives. It’s not just the companionship and the sex. We men want to feel needed—not as a drug addict needs a fix, or as an amputee needs a prosthetic leg, but as one half of an incomplete puzzle needs the other.

It’s that feeling of being needed that drives us into maturity, that forces us to grow up. And the longer we’re left to stew in our irrelevancy, the harder it is to break out of it. It’s not good for the man to be left alone (Gen 2:18).

I suspect the same thing is true about women, too. It wasn’t just that being a mother and housekeeper were hard, tiresome jobs, but that too often some women felt that they weren’t needed, that they were simply obligatory accoutrements for their husbands. But taking on careers doesn’t fill the half of the incomplete puzzle left by the absence of a husband.

And so many career women go through the rest of their lives alone, feeling vaguely haunted by the ghost of a slogan: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

Fish don’t need bicycles, but men and women do need each other. They’re built to need each other—not as props, not as crutches, but as incomplete images of God. That’s what the Catholic Church means by complementarity. That’s what Scripture means by “… [A] man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24; cf. Mt 19:5-6).

And what God has joined, let no stupid theory of sexuality put asunder.