Embracing the Differences

Posted: Feb 08, 2014 12:01 AM
Embracing the Differences

At the end of the classic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day off, after the credits role and the music stops, actor Matthew Broderick shatters the fourth wall and tells the audience, “It’s over. Go home.”

Hanna Rosin has essentially the same message for human males. It’s over. For you.

Rosin is making a career out of writing that the traits that have made men successful throughout time are out of phase in modern society.

She insists she’s writing more in sorrow than in anger with her book The End of Men, her lengthy article on the end of men in The Atlantic magazine, and her latest essay on the topic in TIME magazine. “Toronto’s mayor, a shining example of modern manhood, is what I would call the canary in the coal mine, only he’s not quite as delicate as the canary,” Rosin begins.

Well, using Ford to represent manhood would be akin to using Miley Cyrus to represent womanhood. She’s famous, mostly, for sitting naked on a wrecking ball and twerking (nearly naked) on national television. Selling sex works for her, as it has worked for countless actresses, singers and swimsuit models throughout time. But that doesn’t mean all women, most women or even many women, use sex to get ahead.

Rosin goes on to cite her reasons why men are obsolete, and education leads the list.

“In nearly every country, on all but one continent, women are getting 60 percent of college degrees, which is what you need to succeed these days,” she observes. “Many boys start falling behind as early as first grade, and they fail to catch up. Many men, meanwhile, still see school as a waste of time, a girl thing.” Well, maybe they see it that way because that’s what they’re being taught.

“Boys are disciplined more because teachers -- overwhelmingly female -- find stereotypically male behavior objectionable,” college professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds noted last year. “Girls are quieter, more orderly, and have better handwriting. The boys get disciplined more, suspended more and are turned off of education earlier.”

We could stop telling boys they’re more trouble than girls, and that they’re not as smart as girls (another message that Reynolds says comes through loud and clear). We could start allowing them to be boys, instead of reaching for pharmaceuticals the first time they act up. Children learn by observing. If we treat boyhood as a disease, of course boys are going to assume there’s something wrong with them.

Meanwhile, here’s a news flash from the dawn of time: Men and women are different. Men tend to be physically stronger, and that’s often important. Women tend to be more compassionate, and that’s also often important.

It’s why men predominate in the military. Only three women have ever passed the Marine’s challenging infantry course, and no woman has ever passed the more difficult officer’s version. The current debate in the Marines is how to mask the fact that men are better at pull-ups than women. But we shouldn’t mask it.

No one questions whether our society puts a premium on empathy and getting along. These are traits women tend to excel at. Yet the only reason civil society can celebrate civility is because our military makes it possible by standing guard and protecting the homeland against foreign foes who want to take away our freedom.

Traditionally male traits are needed in local policing as well. A few years back, my brother returned home to find his home had been broken into. The first police officer, a woman, wasn’t allowed to enter the house. The second officer, also a woman, wasn’t allowed to either. It wasn’t until the third and fourth officers (men) arrived that they were able to clear the house.

John Adams comes to mind here. “I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy,” he wrote in 1780. “My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.”

True, but a society that forgets how to fight wars and only makes pottery will be quickly subsumed by invaders. It needs both male and female traits to survive.

Men have an irreplaceable role to play in society as a whole. We need to bring our traditional traits to fatherhood and marriage, to our working lives and our recreational ones. “Man up” needs to be more than just an expression used to sell light beer.

There’s no need for a war between the sexes. We’re different, and that’s okay. If we’re willing to celebrate diversity, and embrace our differences.