Are men obsolete?
I used to watch a lot of atheist/theist debates. Like a lot a lot. At least one or two a day. Needless to say, I got burned out on it and eventually shut down my old debate review blog. Still, I love an engaging debate every now and again, and here is one that you might should look into, if you’re into that sort of thing.
The resolution was “men are obsolete” and was expounded at some length by the debate moderator:
[T]onight, ladies and gentlemen, we want to expand the focus of this debate for the first time beyond geo-politics, beyond international economics, to consider one of the big sociological questions of our time, that being the decline of the performance of men, relative to women, in the family, in the workplace, in schools and universities, and in once all-male bastions such as politics and business.
Is this a broad and permanent trend in post-industrial societies such as Canada, one that will fundamentally reshape family life, gender relations, our workplace, and society at large? Or, and it’s a big or, are the millennial-old power structures — economic, political, cultural — created by men for men, still firmly embedded in our society, suggesting that men and maleness is anything but a spent, civilizational force?
Of course, there are at least two separate questions here, one of them is a factual statistical inquiry about the performance of men, on average, relative to women in a given socioeconomic context, and the other is about who should get the chance to helm the “millennial-old power structures,” none of which are clearly identified at the outset. Winning the debate would be a matter of framing the resolution in terms of one of these two distinct inquiries. Hanna Rosin and Maureen Dowd argued in favor of the resolution that men are obsolete, while Caitlin Moran and Camille Paglia argued against it.
Hanna Rosin’s opening statement (with only light editing) may be found in print here. She makes the argument that men are (as a statistical assemblage) falling behind in the areas that traditionally defined manliness: earnings, head-of-household status, machismo, violence, and hairiness. The last three of these arguments are of questionable value, since it is somewhat difficult to see how these traditionally male characteristics are worth keeping around. Come to think of it, would it not be a far stronger argument to note that our society no longer values machismo and the tendency to settle disputes with violence so much as it used to? Then again, perhaps this is what she is getting at, only somewhat indirectly.
Camille Paglia was the first to speak against the idea that men are obsolete, although it really felt to me more like she was having a go at modern feminism and the notion that men should be obsolete. More ought than is, if you know what I’m saying:
A peevish, grudging rancour against men has been one of the most unpalatable and unjust features of second- and third-wave feminism. Men’s faults, failings, and foibles have been seized on and magnified into gruesome bills of indictment. Ideologue professors at our leading universities indoctrinate impressionable undergraduates with perilously fact-free theories alleging that gender is an arbitrary, oppressive fiction with no basis in biology. . . .
It was always the proper mission of feminism to attack and reconstruct the ossified social practices that had led to wide-ranging discrimination against women. But surely it was, and is possible for a progressive reform movement to achieve that without stereotyping, belittling or demonizing men.
She also said some oddly off-topical stuff about how men will be totally necessary after the “next inevitable apocalypse” which leads me to think that she’s into the same movies that I am.
Maureen Dowd, so far as I can tell, said nothing of any relevant substance at any point in her opening statement. There was something about preying mantises, green spoon worms, and female midges all of whom devour their mates, and something else about the Y chromosome getting smaller. Basically, just a load of well-phrased and mildly clever cocktail repartee, with no real impact on either of the questions framing the debate. I felt really bad for Hanna Rosin having her on side. Then again, maybe it was her assigned role to connect with the bits of the audience which were there mostly to be entertained rather than informed on the question at hand.
Caitlin Moran’s opening statement (like all good Marxist invective) looks up to the topmost stratum of society, the aforementioned power structures:
If men are obsolete, then I personally aspire to this level of obsolescence — holding 99 percent of the world’s wealth, holding sixty-six of the spots on Forbes’s seventy-one “Most Powerful People in the World” list, being every single pope, American president, and secretary-general of the UN, and in charge of every military force on earth. If this is men becoming obsolete, I’m intrigued to see what they will be able to achieve once they’ve downloaded some manner of software update.
She got in some pretty decent arguments, but like her teammate Paglia she was mostly working the ought rather than the is side of the ledger.
If feminism if the simple, truthful observation that women should be equal to men, then the future is that we must do everything to achieve that, whether in some cases it’s men helping women achieve equality or in other cases women helping men achieve equality. We need with urgency to stop terming things in terms of problems of men and problems of women, and start seeing all problems for what they are — the problems of humanity. Women cannot win if men are losing and vice-versa, because we all live quite near to each other; we keep having sex with each other and giving birth to each other, and being related to each other.
After the openings, they went into a lightly moderated back and forth round-table mode. It was worth seeing, but one part struck me as particularly interesting:
Moran: Why aren’t men discussing this and working on what they are going to do next? You know, a world where…
Rosin: You know why they’re not discussing it? Because they’re just pretending it’s not happening. They just sort of crawl off and pretend it’s not happening. It drives me nuts.
Someone really needs to introduce Rosin to the Men’s Rights Movement. She might be surprised to find that there is a group of men who do almost nothing but grouse about how oppressed and obsolesced they have become in modern society. At least I think that is all they ever do. If at some point they actually moved human rights forward, for anyone, someone please let me know.
Enough about the debate, you can check it out yourself if this post has piqued your interest. If you have any thoughts about whether men are indeed becoming obsolete, please do leave them in the comments. Thanks!