Thursday, April 29, 2010

The politics of victimization doesn't work: we can't empower our daughters by insisting they are powerless

In a video message to voters for the November mid-term election, President Obama called on certain groups to help the Democratic Party in 2010, and he left out white males:  "It will be up to each of you," the President said, "to make sure that the young people, African-Americans, Latinos and women, who powered our victory in 2008, stand together once again. It will be up to each of you to keep our nation moving forward." 

Surprised? Go to the White House's website and click on "issues" -- -- what do you see?  There's a "women" section, but not one for men.  Click on "women" --  --  and see what you get. 

Can this mean that men, at least white men above a certain age, apparently have no issues of their own worthy of the White House's attention, even though men lead women in virtually every social pathology known to humanity?  Sadly, it isn't surprising at all. It's politics. The Atlantic recently studied the Obama coalition. Among other things, it found the following: "Single women voted by better than two to one for Obama over McCain (70-29 percent). In a post-election analysis, the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosser concluded: 'Barack Obama would have lost the women’s vote and the 2008 election if it were not for the contribution of the unmarried woman. All told, Obama split men 49-48 percent, but lost married women 47-50 percent. Unmarried women, however, delivered 70 percent of their vote to the Democratic candidate, up from 62 percent in 2004." 

Obama's declared indifference to men is, of course, merely the latest, but among the more overt, examples of a corrosive gender divisive group identity politics that has been creeping into our culture for several decades. This mentality elevates the interests of self-anointed victim groups above the common good.  Although it isn't confined to the Democratic Party, it seems most comfortable there.  (And by the way, black men, too, have reason not to feel especially allied with Obama. In his famous "Father's Day" speech two years ago, primarily directed to black men, he said that too many fathers "have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.")

For a long time, Americans were proud to live in a melting pot. Each immigrant group that came to our shores was assimilated into the grand American stew, adding a new flavor with each addition.  To America's great shame, one group was not permitted to join in the stew.  The civil rights movement was the natural, and proper, response to a culture that hung out a sign on the American Dream that read "Blacks need not apply." Blacks, who by any measure, were oppressed and marginalized, needed to be empowered. (I will note as an aside that starting in the 1960s, well-intentioned social engineers unwittingly helped turn the inner city into a cistern of dependency and hopelessness by, among other things, paying women to kick fathers out of the house -- remember Aid to Families with Dependent Children's old "Man out of the house" rule? The result? In 1960, 22 percent of children in the inner city were born into fatherless homes; today, that number is 70 percent. What happened?  Did the men develop a "deadbeat" gene in that time? Of course not. But know this: there was an unmistakable correlation between the absence of dads and the rise of crime, drug use, early pregnancy, poor educational performance, abject poverty, and pretty much every other bad thing. By any measure, the "War on Poverty" has been a failure, and much of it has to do with the alienation of men.)

But by the late 60s, something other-worldly occurred.  Other groups decided that they, too, wanted to stake a claim to the victimhood that uniquely marked the black experience, even though they were neither black nor victims. Most notably, feminists balked at the gender roles that women, mostly, have assigned to women and men since the beginning of time. Feminism, deigning to speak for all women even though few women deigned to identify with it, arrogated unto itself the right to construct a self-schema for all women that insisted their entire gender was marginalized and oppressed by the dominant culture, which they called "patriarchy," a code word for "anything with a penis." Extreme feminists rejected as "misogyny" even the suggestion that such a characterization was too all-sweeping, all too lacking in nuance, all too simplistic to the point of childishness.  And progressive, guilt-ridden white men, told they could not possibly understand women's experience, bought into it.  So when it came to gender, the American ideal of equal opportunity was scrapped in favor of equal outcomes, but only when skewing the outcomes favors women.

When the dust had lifted the new gender landscape revealed itself: the group that controls most of America's wealth, that controls the ballot box, that is awarded the vast majority of college degrees, that trumps men in virtually every measure of educational achievement, that is assured equal opportunity in every sphere of American life and is provided financial assistance in many simply because of its gender, that maintains a death grip on control of the domestic sphere, including children and family law courts, that earns more than its same age male peers in large urban areas until its members drop out and have children, and that lives significantly longer than men -- that group -- insists it is marginalized, oppressed, and not regarded as equal human beings. It supports this insistence with vapid epiphanies like the gender wage gap (even though it has been fairly established that the gap is not due to discrimination); with mantras like "women do more housework" (even though men work more outside the home to even things out) and "men monopolize positions of power" (which is largely due to choices women make, and not mentioned is that men also make up the vast majority of citizens at the bottom of society, living on the streets -- but that couldn't possibly be a gender issue, right?).

They thought they could somehow empower people who didn't need empowering by declaring them powerless.  But the "equality" manufactured by insisting that women are powerless -- by mandating equal outcomes at the expense of equal opportunity, by insisting that young women can get drunk and engage in sex play but still have no free moral agency, by denigrating the other group as oppressors -- is the cubic zirconia of equality, a sham, a garden variety hoax.  The more we "empower" women by heaping artificial advantages and privileges on them and by excusing them from accountability for their actions, the more we reinforce the notion that women need special treatment because women really aren't equal.  The more that women act like victims, the more they become victims.

Studies on diversity training show that it is ineffective at getting companies to hire and promote women and minorities. Worse: ". . . those that were mandatory or discussed lawsuits - the vast majority of the programs the researchers examined - slightly reduced the number of women and minorities in management."

Why? "Required training and legalistic training both make people resentful, the authors suggest, and likely to rebel against what they’ve heard."

Instead of a melting pot, we have a victim group mentality.  Instead of assimilation, we have gender division.  Instead of equal opportunity, we have equal outcomes.

All of this is common sense. When the coach lets his son play ahead of kids more deserving, the other kids resent the coach's son and will never accept him. 

But, you see, feminism doesn't really care if the women it "empowers" will ever be accepted.  Their plan all along has been to institutionalize victimization, and they've done a damn good job of it.

The only way to empower people is to treat them like everyone else.  The only way to empower women is to treat them like men -- as responsible adults endowed with equal opportunities and the full capacity to live with the consequences of the decisions they make.

I've used this analogy before: gender relations in the 21st Century resemble my local golf course where the women's tee box is a lot closer to the hole than the men's.  I stumbled across a report of a study that led me to conclude that the women's tee isn't just a metaphor, it actually highlights the very truths I'm trying to get across.  "On average, women's tee boxes are about 50 yards closer to the hole than men's. The greater the distance between tee boxes, the study finds, the fewer women will there be in management and marketing in that geographic locale and the less money will those women make."

Why is this?  For one, the physical separation doesn't allow women to network. But just as important: "Greater distances . . . 'may portray a negative belief about the golfing abilities of women -- and perhaps by extension negative beliefs about other abilities. Significant differences in tee placements between men and women may reinforce biases against women, not just in physical terms but also intellectual terms.'"

In short, the bigger the "victim" sign a woman wears around her neck, the more special advantages heaped upon her just because she's a woman, the less chance that she will be accepted as an equal.  The less chance she will . . . assimilate. 

That melting pot doesn't sound like such a bad idea, does it?

If women want true equality and not just the pretense of it, they need to line up with the guys at the men's tee, join in the sometimes raunchy language without being "offended" or filing a discrimination suit, and take their best swings. On average, they probably won't hit it as far as the guys, but you know what? They'll be "one of the boys." And they might just end up running the company someday without people resenting them.

That's if they want real equality and not just the pretense of it. Lots of women want the former; most women's groups are content with the latter.