Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Men in Need of Advocacy?

So Michel Martin over on NPR had another interesting piece up today on men’s incessant gender crisis, that quite frankly has evolved in different forms for centuries and has been documented by academicians for decades.

The 13-minute piece is titled “Men Need to Feel Empowered Too.” A student group appears to be arguing that because men recently have fallen behind in test scores, GPAs, are falling victim to depression and don’t know how to cope with it, have higher suicide rates and so forth, college-aged men need support groups.

The student stated that his group only focuses on college-aged males, and therefore, pointing out that women are still heavily under-represented in government and Fortune 500 is less relevant to his group. To the student’s credit, he noted that the ills some men do face due to typical patterns of masculinity could lead to intimate partner violence.

The other guest on the show, Warren Farrell, argued that men need advocacy due to society’s “misguided” definition of power, claiming that power should not be defined in terms of finances when one cannot control his own life.

Farrell claims men in 2009 are where women were in 1959, stuck in confined gender roles, the most dreadful he says is the obligation to earn money. He notes, for instance, that men are more likely to die in the workplace, taking a disproportionate amount of the hazardous jobs, and if men don’t get jobs, women won’t marry them (heaven forbid).

Holy crap! Are you freaking kidding me? Farrell claims males are confined to being “1-option men,” only allowed to be the bread-winners and not hold multiple roles in society (I suppose this would mean family men, community men). Really? You don’t know hard-working, fully employed upper- and working-class men who also volunteer in their communities or kids’ schools and spend tons of quality time with their children? I know quite a few.

Words from Dr. Farrell:

"...94% of the people who die in the workplace and taking all of the hazardous jobs are dominated by men, and taking 24/25 of the worst jobs according to the Jobs Rated Almanac are 85-100% male dominated jobs. We always look at the Fortune 500 and we say 'men in power,' but we don't look at the glass cellar as opposed to the glass ceiling and say men also are the homeless, are most of the ones that are the garbage collectors. Men are also the ones dying in construction sites that aren't properly supervised..."

Well, I suppose then, this also depends on what we define as work. Farrell seems to be hinting at hazardous jobs requiring physical labor in the formal and informal economies where men are over-represented. How about prostitution? True, men are involved in that profession world-wide, I would think most of whom are not heterosexual. And more to the point, the over-whelming number of prostitutes are female. Is that not a hazardous profession? In short, his analysis (at least that expressed on the show) is extremely narrow.

And yes, men are over-represented in criminal/deviant groups, such as drug traffickers and gangs. Guess what, those cultural groups tend to be extremely patriarchal as well.

If you want men’s support groups, fine, but have them target patriarchal issues that were mentioned briefly but ultimately glossed over in the piece, such as how traditional masculinity leads to intimate partner violence, suicide, sexual harassment, male-on-male violence, etc.

There’s no societal need to provide greater networks and training that funnel men as a whole into white-collar professions or other positions of power, especially not men from privileged majority groups. Heck, when you do, as pointed out over on The Global Sociology Blog, too many times, you just end up perpetuating violence and corruption.

(Picture was too priceless not to put in)

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