Last week, I interviewed Kathleen Parker about her new book, Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care.
What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Now, the average left-wing feminist response to your book is probably akin to, “Ah, men have the advantage in every way. Why would anyone need to ‘save the males?’” What would you say to that?
You’re exactly right. I get a lot of that and what they point out generally is that men head most of the corporations and men dominate in the Congress. While that is statistically true, what I try to do in Save the Males is show where our current trends are leading.
Men still lead in the top tiers, but men and boys in the middle and lower strata are not doing so well and will continue to do less well in the future if current trends continue.
One of the many interesting things you said in your interview with National Review was that “feminism has morphed from being pro-woman to anti-male.” Can you talk about that a bit?
Yes, I think at some point in the process we ceased to be focused solely on making the world better for women and starting (trying to) marginalize males.
Male bashing has become the great bonding agent among women. …In the case of women, if a guy has been bad to a woman, then all men are bad. We have a tendency, I think, to universalize our experiences and then get together in groups and bash men. There is a trickle down effect, so that boy bashing is even acceptable in some circles.
The t-shirts came out a couple of years ago, that little girls were wearing, that said things like “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them.” You can well imagine what would happen if we had boys wearing t-shirts with slogans that were anti-girl; we simply wouldn’t tolerate it.
…If you go into other mass media messages, like television, you almost always see men portrayed as either the doofus dad, a pedophile or a rapist or in some way, negative. The zeitgeist now is defined by those messages — I don’t know if they are consciously anti-male — but the effect is to convey a message that men are bad.
Do you think a man should have a right to legally veto an abortion?
No. I am merely making a case that when we get to the abortion issue, that men are left out of the procreation discussion. They are asked to provide for their offspring, as well they should, but at the same time, they have no power when it comes to deciding when they have offspring. From their point of view, it seems like there is an imbalance there.
On the one hand, we want them to be good fathers and we have certain requirements by which we judge their qualities as fathers and then on the other hand, we simply say, “No, this is not any of your concern.”
What I have learned through my years on earth and through talking to men is that they actually have feelings. (Oftentimes) they…have suffered as a result of abortions in which they’ve lost a child and not even been included in the discussion. So at least, I think there ought to be some consideration that men are involved in the consequences of terminated pregnancies.
Along similar lines, do you think men are treated like 2nd class citizens by society when it comes to parenting?
Well, except when we want them to be first class citizens when it comes to parenting. Again, men are waiting to be instructed on how they should feel, how they should behave and perform. We want men to be good fathers, we want them to be providers — except when we don’t.
Let’s say you have a divorce and go to family court. You can rest assured that the father’s value to the children will be given less consideration than the mother’s. …Now, I could argue for a lot of ways we could do this differently because I think tiny children need their mothers more…and 7 year old boys need their fathers more — but, never to the exclusion of the other parent. That’s common sense. We know things when we are in a whole family, when we are sitting at home with our mother, father, and children. We know exactly how these things shake out. But, suddenly you get into family court and they start imposing all these academic templates that have nothing to do with real life and real human beings. The fathers are going to be the ones who are considered least important.
I know, in my own husband’s case, he’s the most wonderful father ever, but when he was divorced from his wife, he got to see his kids four days a month. Four days a month is not parenting. That’s not having a father in your life. These are things that really need to be addressed.
The bottom line is…there’s not reason to assume that the father is less necessary to his child’s life. ..
You also say that you think pornography is having a major negative impact on relationships and not just in the bedroom. Tell us a little about why you think that is?
Now, it’s not what I think, it’s what studies show. I have interviewed scientists, researchers, sociologists, and so on who have really looked into this. You know, not that long ago, pornography wasn’t as prevalent as it is today. Now, it’s accessible 24×7.
Thank you, internet. (Laughs)
Yes, thank you, internet. Children have access to it. Kids in high school are looking at pornography — younger than that even. So, we’ve never before had such saturation. Only now can we begin to say, “Is this harmful,” in a more serious way than we were able to do so before. I mean, 40 years ago how many people were there who could say, “Yes, I am a regular consumer of pornography, ask me anything?” (Laughs) Didn’t do it.
Now, the research shows lots and lots of marital problems and relationship problems where guys have a very unrealistic view of what an intimate relationship is supposed to look like and women are feeling insecure about what’s expected of them as a result of this new model of intimacy. They don’t feel like they can compete with the look or the expectations of performance — they’re not prepared to do or don’t even want to do (the things women do in porn movies.)
For guys who have spent a lot of time with porn, a real woman is kind of a bad date. (Laughs) It’s not working. I’m laughing because it’s awkward to talk about these things, but they are serious problems. Men are becoming addicts. I hate to use that word because there is some serious debate about whether it is truly addictive in the way we think about addictions, but apparently the same part of your brain lights up when you’re watching porn as it does in your brain when you use cocaine. This is from a study out of the University of Pennsylvania.
But anyway, both men and women are having problems and lots of psychologists and family counselors report that they are dealing with this issue more and more.
Along similar lines, you say the over sexualized culture we have, where women are more openly sexual than they used to be, has done great harm to men. Can you explain why that is and what would you say to people who say, “Women act that way to please men, so aren’t men just getting what they what?”
That’s a good question. First of all, let’s change the terms here: I don’t want to go so far as to say it causes harm. It causes confusion. There’s no sense any more that there is ever an appropriate time and place for certain attire. We’re dressing our little girls like streetwalkers now and any street today is a banquet of flesh — not always attractive, I have to say.
So, here’s the thing, let’s be real: we are animals in the animal kingdom and one of the things you do when you want to convey to the opposite sex that you are sexually available is you reveal and present yourself in certain ways. The cues that I grew up with are no longer applicable. Guys today may see a girl who is displaying her womanly attributes in a way that would suggest to him that she’s available and yet, if he were to approach her as if she were available, he might well be rebuffed in an enthusiastic way. I think it’s confusing. The signals are all messed up. Men don’t know what they’re supposed to do and quite frankly, I don’t think all women know what they’re doing.
We have forgotten that women have tremendous power in the presence of men and I think women, young girls, teenagers dress to be appealing because we all want to look good and want to be appreciated for our beauty — so we try to enhance it the best we can. I don’t think some 16 year olds running around dressed like hookers may realize what they really are attracting. I am not going to put the blame on girls, but I think the culture has lost sight of human nature and is trying to pretend these things don’t matter, but they do matter.
Anything else you’d like to say or promote before we finish up?
The most important thing in the book to me is that fathers need to be brought back into the family and in a big way. They’re marginalized and minimized and we’ve gone out of our way to embrace the single mother as just as good as the married couple with children and without passing judgment on individual choices, I think we need to decide as a nation whether we want to go towards the model of family where there is no father present. Our social scientists have actually spent some time trying to prove that fathers aren’t essential. I have to ask what would be behind that kind of research and who would benefit? Certainly not the children.
Kathleen, I really appreciate your time.