Kathleen Parker's Quest To Save The Males

W. Thomas Smith, Jr

7/25/2008 8:48:49 PM - W. Thomas Smith, Jr

Years ago, my then-girlfriend urged me to read John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. So I did. It was an interesting read. But it was really nothing I and any other red-blooded American male didn’t already know about the differences between men and women, and how the two – very differently-wired human sexual creatures – might better interact with one another. But it was in a neat little one-volume package that we males could refer to whenever we screwed up, which – according to our female counterparts – was and is often.

There have been a number of related-books written since – most of which are categorized in the self-help section of the local bookstore – but very few addressing the recent social and cultural degradation of all that used to be good and noble about being a man.

Fact is, for the past three-plus decades there has been a deliberate effort in some circles to make sure the proverbial wind has been taken out of the sails of manliness – I suppose in an attempt to create a more balanced playing field for women – but it has been done at the expense of manhood: Hence, strong, level-headed fatherly figures like Andy Griffith and Ward Cleaver, and far too many of our hard-riding cowboy heroes have been replaced with the likes of Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, and that bunch of milquetoast unmanly men on Friends (There are exceptions like 24’s Jack Bauer, but not without his multitudinous masculine flaws).

Enter author Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist who frequently champions both men and women, but never one-over-the-other because of gender. Parker appreciates the differences – subtle, obvious, and complimentary – between men and women; and her new book, Save the Males, explains “why men matter, and why women [and men] should care.”

As expected Parker has taken some heat from PC watchdogs whose backs have been bowed by Parker’s courage, cleverness, and the book’s ruthless honesty. After all, “Most men don’t know they need saving,” Parker writes. “Most women consider the idea absurd.”

According to Parker, men have been “screwed – and not in the way they prefer. For the past thirty 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.” So in an attempt to create a more “female-friendly world,” a culture has emerged that is not only “hostile toward males,” she writes. But “contemptuous of masculinity, and cynical about the delightful differences that make men irresistible, especially when something goes bump in the night.”

The basic nut-graph of Save the Males is Parker’s on-point, commonsensical argument: Manliness and the unique characteristics of men really do matter.

Of course, this argument essentially skewers political correctness, angering the extreme Left, and forcing moderates to consider revisiting the approaches taken by unwavering old-school feminists, who would argue that in combat – for instance – a woman can push a button as well as a man.

Problem is, it’s not that simple.

Which brings me to what I – and surely others like me who have served in-and-with ground combat units in peace and in war – have found most interesting in Parker’s book: That is, there is a crystal-clear reason why – for instance – the U.S. Marine Corps continues to train men and women separately during boot camp, and why infantry and the other ground-combat-arms fields (including ground-based special operations teams) remain all male.

Of course, Hollywood's portrayal of females in action – Demi Moore basically whipping-up on a Navy SEAL in G.I. Jane or some 120-pound female martial-artist kicking a trained male-assassin nearly to death in an episode of Walker Texas Ranger – would lead those who scoff at maleness and who don't understand the actual dynamics of the battlefield, the football field, or the lockerroom for that matter to cheer; even believing the utter nonsense they see in movies and on TV, which according to Parker, helped spawn the myth of the heroism of real-life U.S. Army private Jessica Lynch.

Save the Males covers everything from how we got to this point culturally, the unfortunately related “porning of America,” why boys need men, to the increasingly popular notion that men and masculinity are simply irrelevant.

What is however relevant – particularly to active and former military guys like myself who clearly understand how the continued track of gender-norming in the armed forces could ultimately erode national defense – is that, as Parker writes, "As a rule, most women are physically weaker than most men" and “There’s a reason there are no women in the NFL.”

I know: We're not supposed to actually say those things. But it's critical when one considers the fact that in the infantry – even the modern infantry – physical strength (along with high-tech equipment and great leadership) is key to dominance on the battlefield. But don't take Parker's or my word for it: Ask any rifleman who had to slug it out tooth-to-eyeball with the enemy during the Battle of Fallujah – thus far the Super Bowl of the Iraq War – which by the way, Parker examines in Chapter 7.

As I previously said, the truth hurts: and this book is going to sting some, especially those who do not want to let men off the hook. For the rest of us – men and women – willing to take a good hard look at why men matter – looking at the issue as objectively as Parker has – it is a very important read.