In a somewhat recent appearance on Fox News, Fox News writer/click-baiter Suzanne Venker was interviewed about one of her columns, Why women still need husbands, in which she seems, at least, to be writing in the interests of men:
Over the past several decades, America has witnessed a profound change in the way women view men and marriage. It began with the baby boomer adage “never depend on a man.” … In time, “never depend on a man” turned into the full-blown belief that men are superfluous.
How dare men be viewed as superfluous! (And I agree. They’re not. No more than anyone else, anyway.)
A visit to Venker’s Facebook page reveals just how popular she is with a certain type of audience, due to her strong “defense” of men. Women who cling tightly to conservative gender roles love her, and men who cling equally tightly love her. And most of the men who love her have many nasty things to say about feminism/feminists.
For example: Venker shared (copied and pasted onto her Facebook page) a letter sent to her by a woman who disagrees with Venker’s message. The woman writes in the letter,
I was raised to believe that I had no business getting an education, or letting my own voice or thoughts be heard. I was to be submissive, not to my FATHER, but to my MOTHER, who was the head of OUR household. My father was gone 5 days out of seven for his job, and the only time we ever saw him, he was uninterested in anything except fighting with, or having sex with, our mother.
To say that we were raised by dysfunctional idiots is an understatement. You and your crazy rants remind me SO much of my mother, who was SO determined that I live in ignorance and poverty my whole life, that she backed me into a wall when I was 14, with a large butcher knife to my throat, saying “I’ll see you dead before I see you go to college”. Sound like a hero of yours?
Venker introduced the letter by saying, essentially, that feminists are clearly using feminism as a crutch, a healing agent to fix a dysfunctional family background:
Because I want people to understand the scope of what we’re all dealing with, I’m copying and pasting a letter from a woman whose name I will not disclose—for her sake. It’s without a doubt the most extreme story I’ve heard, but this I can tell you for certain: every single person who writes me to tell me how terrible I am has a shockingly awful family background. Feminism became a lifeline for these people. Rather than cope with the individual circumstances they were dealt and direct their anger there, they turned against men and society as a whole.
And so on. Her male followers jumped right in line, with comments like, “Very sad for this woman to have been raised the way she was. Absolutely a product of her upbringing,” and “I’m glad she’s proud to be a feminist, because she sure ain’t happy being one,” and “show me a happy feminist!”
I’m not surprised some women who don’t want to work outside of the home support Suzanne Venker. The woman is an evil genius whose every public message is in support of women doing whatever they want (as long as it doesn’t involve providing financial support).
It’s also a big, fat “Neener!” to men. The more Venker I see and read, the more convinced I am that she’s certainly no equality-loving, just-want-to-live-my-life feminist – she’s a crafty, plotting, man-hating feminist in housewife’s clothing.
This, from “Why women still need husbands,” is what I suspect certain men latch onto when they read Venker:
In 2010 Jennifer Aniston claimed women needn’t “fiddle with a man” to have a child.
Financial independence is a great thing, but you can’t take your paycheck to bed with you.
This may strike you as an isolated case of stupidity, but Aniston’s willingness to put it out there speaks volumes about modern cultural attitudes.
What these men see: “Venker is on our side!” “All these uppity women saying they don’t need men – Venker is right. Burn them!” “Hell yeah, a woman who says she doesn’t need men is stupid. We aren’t worthless. We have value. Thank you, Suzanne Venker!”
But they are somehow completely blind to the hole Venker is digging for men as a sex. It’s a hole that benefits all women, and only a few men (the men, that is, who already want to make all the money and do all the outside-of-the-home work and be the only one responsible for paying for the house and the wife and her clothes and her gym membership [you'll see why this is included later - it's not a comment on the job of a stay-at-home mom, but the role Venker wants women to take advantage of] and the daycare and the clothes and the bills and the hospital visits and the groceries and the dinners out and and and and and…)
I say the man-hole benefits all women because as much as Venker criticizes women who work (while she makes money writing her column and books and being on Fox News, all for criticizing women who have goals the way she has goals), women still have the option to work, and she knows it’s here to stay. Working women who want to be working women aren’t her audience, and she’s probably secretly thrilled that we’re quite happy doing what we’re doing.
But she’s trying very hard to convince women who maybe don’t really want to work outside of the home to recognize that they have the freedom to not work, and to do ANYTHING THEY WANT – if they just nab a husband and have a baby.
Because he’ll pay for all of it.
Don’t want to have to work and take care of a child at the same time? Make the man do it.
Fortunately, most women come to the realization that they do, in fact, need a man—at least if they want a family.
Otherwise, what good are they, right?
Want to be financially secure? Don’t do it in a way that requires a pesky job – that’s for men. Make your money with a marriage contract.
Financial independence is a great thing, but you can’t take your paycheck to bed with you. And there’s nothing empowering about being beholden to an employer when what you really want is to have a baby. That’s dependency of a different sort.
Hear that, men? It’s your job to be beholden to an employer. We wanna have babies!
Women, don’t you just want enough time in the day to do all the things you want to do? Research says you do. Venker writes:
Research shows that what women want more than anything else is not to work full-time and year-round but to live balanced lives.
Want to know how you can do just that? Venker tells you:
‘Round and ’round we go, asking how women can gain more control over their lives. How can they spend more time with their children? How can they make time for exercise or even a social life? How can they keep their houses in order and still have time to cook? The answer is obvious.
Lean on your husband.
She supports this female employment option as logical and right using a sentence from a Pew Research report, which says, in part, “dads are much more likely than moms to say they want to work full time.” However, that report also says, “[R]oughly equal shares of working mothers and fathers report in a new Pew Research Center survey feeling stressed about juggling work and family life: 56% of working moms and 50% of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance these responsibilities.”
Ladies – stop working! Relieve your stress! Let the man deal with all that.
Oh, and never mind, men, that wanting to work full time is one thing, and feeling required to work full time is another. Venker probably won’t show you this because it would contradict the mandate she’s trying to implement that all men slave away at whatever job (even if they hate the job) so women can have exactly the lives they want, but here:
Rosalind Chait Barnett, director of the Community, Families & Work Program at Brandeis University, noted in a lecture that “the majority of men now rank having free time with family as one of the most important factors in [choosing] their employment,” according to a paper published by Harvard University.
But how much free time can you possibly have, how much freedom in employment choices do you have, if you’re the only one working and the pressure is on you to make enough money to pay for everything? Oh, well. Never mind.
What’s more, when Venker isn’t cleverly obfuscating her intent to enslave you with well-crafted and ego-stroking blog words, she’s being very straightforward in her goal to beat you down:
Why not let husbands bring home the bulk of the bacon so women can have the balanced lives they seek? There’s no way to be a wife, a mother and a full-time employee and still create balance. But you can have balance by depending on a husband who works full-time and year-round.
And here’s what she said in a recent interview on Fox News about the “balance” women get to have if they get a husband (it includes having kids and running a household):
having friendships, and exercise, and shopping, and all kinds of things that women want to do that are going to feel strapped that they can’t do if they’re working full time.
I assume, based on what Venker writes, that men really have little they want to do besides work. Yes?
Wait – it doesn’t matter! Wonderful if they already want to be the traditional breadwinner with the stay-at-home wife and mother, of course, but if they don’t want it…well, they’d better. Otherwise, what kind of “men” are they? Look, even research says men only feel like men if they fulfill a certain role. You want something else? You don’t want to be the traditional breadwinner? What are you, a girl? Venker piles on the subtle pressure [craftily using the fallacious bandwagon appeal] here:
Unlike women, a man’s identity is inextricably linked to his paycheck. That’s how most men feel a sense of purpose. Indeed, research shows men see it as their duty to support their families even when their wives make as much money (or more) as they do!
Perhaps that’s because men can’t produce life the way women can—let’s face it: those are some serious shoes to fill—but they can produce the means to make a child’s life secure. As a nation, we dismiss this integral part of masculinity. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
I have respect for anyone and everyone who has the guts to live the life they want to live, whether that life is as a stay at home parent, a working parent, or a non-parent. But there’s no reason anyone, male or female, should feel like only one life or role is the “right” life or role based on what hangs, or doesn’t, between their legs, and while women are the ones who seem to be most enraged by Venker, I think it’s the men who should saying, “What the fuck…?”
[For more on the dangers of gender-stereotyping men, check out this great video I found on Upworthy, an interview with Jackson Katz.]