Confusion Reigns as Tradition Decays

Kathryn Lopez
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Posted: Mar 21, 2009 12:01 AM
Confusion Reigns as Tradition Decays

According to an article in the Boston Globe, an informal poll taken among 200 teenagers has revealed that almost half of them blame the pop star Rihanna for her recent beating, allegedly by her boyfriend, Chris Brown.

It's just one survey. But it's very bad news. And feminists are to blame.

I don't say that to bash Gloria Steinem or whomever the most easily blamed feminist would be at this point. I say it so we can collectively get our heads out of the feminist fog in which we've been lost.

I appreciate the kids wanting Rihanna to take some responsibility for her situation. She's an adult, after all, as is Brown. If Rihanna is getting beaten, she should get the heck away from the person responsible. And as a best-selling artist, she has the financial freedom to extricate herself from her trouble. But where's the outrage over what Brown is accused of doing? There's something off when so many people blame the victim, not the aggressor.

As one male reader e-mailed me: "The only times I can remember my father hitting me was for fighting with my sisters. I resented it as a child, but I told my father, shortly before he died at age 90, that it was the best life lesson he taught me of many."

He added: "I am stunned by the number of women, young and old, abused by men. There isn't a hell hot enough for men responsible for the injustice of abusing women." Now there's an appropriate reaction!

What has happened -- and what Rihanna and Chris have to do with Gloria -- is that by inventing oppression where there is none and remaking woman in man's image, the sexual and feminist revolutions have confused everyone. It's natural for us to expect men to protect women, and women to expect some level of physical protection. But in postmodern America, those natural gender roles have been upended by academic jargon and political rhetoric. The result is confusion.

And perhaps, too, a neo-feminist backlash.

The need for some return to sanity forms the subtext of an article in this month's issue of O, the Oprah Magazine. The article explores how some women find themselves abandoning heterosexual relationships in favor of partners of their own gender.

One recently divorced academic describes what attracted her to a future female lover. "She got up and gave me the better seat, as if she wanted to take care of me. I was struck by that. ... she took initiative and was the most take-charge person I'd ever met."

This article isn't about closeted homosexuality; it's not asserting that there's a vast population of women who were born to be with women, and are instead trapped in unfulfilling heterosexual arrangements. No, this article, despite its celebration of unconventional lifestyles, boils down to something much more orthodox: Femininity and masculinity mix well together. And women are taking masculinity where they can get it, even if it's in the arms of a fellow female.

Normally, one might dismiss an article that explains that "more women may be stepping out of the conventional gender box," -- but this is O magazine. The piece, "Why Women Are Leaving Men for Other Women," appears in an issue that features an exclusive interview at the White House with Michelle Obama. This is mainstream stuff.

Last year, author Kathleen Parker published a book called "Save the Males." What a perfect title, what a necessary cause, I thought at the time. As Parker wrote: "For the past 30 years or so, males have been under siege by a culture that too often embraces the notion that men are to blame for all of life's ills. ... While women have been cast as victims...men have been quietly retreating into their caves." Sometimes, of course, women are victims. There are many Rihannas that do not have the escape hatch of fame and wealth. But while feminists whine about false pay gaps and oppression that doesn't exist, we ignore the mess that we created by rejecting nature and tradition We've so confused ourselves that almost 100 teenagers in Boston are excusing Chris Brown. Why wouldn't they? Men and women are equal, but we've conditioned ourselves to expect a lot less of men, and maybe too much of women. "Save the Males" needs a follow-up: A Woman's Memo to Her Sister Feminists: Let's Call the Whole Thing Off. Or instead of another book, why don't we just reboot? Was it really that bad when men didn't have to pretend to be what they weren't and women didn't have to try to reinvent themselves to make up for what they lost?