By Denise Noe
Popular radio and commentator Dr. Laura Schlessinger, or just “Dr. Laura” as she prefers to be called, is well known for her blasting of feminism and championing of traditional morals and values. This has given her something of a reputation as pro-male. However, it seems that a disdain for men simmers just below the surface.
One of her most famous books is called The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. What is wrong with this title can easily be seen by imagining how appropriate the title of a book would be if it were The Proper Care and Feeding of Schnauzers or The Proper Care and Feeding of Parakeets. It can also be seen by imagining public reaction to a book entitled The Proper Care and Feeding of Wives. Such a book would be considered condescending and patronizing to women because it makes them sound like pets.
Dr. Laura repeatedly tells her presumably female audience that, “men are extremely simple creatures.” She seems oblivious to just how belittling this is to men. After all, we generally consider organisms to be more fully evolved depending on their complexity. A dog is a considerably more complicated creature than a shellfish. A monkey is more complex than a dog. A great age is more complicated than a monkey and we usually consider human beings the most complex creatures known to exist on this planet.
To proclaim men “simpler” than women is to proclaim them inferior. It also seems bizarre to pronounce as simple the sex that has given us the majority of our most esoteric philosophies and psychologies and produced so much that is extraordinary and subtle in the fields of art and literature.
It may be true that men’s and women’s minds often dwell on different facets of existence but that hardly makes one sex simpler than another.
Dr. Laura is a female supremacist.
On June 21, 1915, then Governor of Georgia John Slaton commuted the death sentence of one Leo Frank to life imprisonment. The Governor had been convinced by recently available evidence that there was a good chance Frank, a factory supervisor, was innocent of the crime for which he had been condemned, the murder of 13-year-old factory worker Mary Phagan. A painstaking examination of the evidence led Slaton to conclude that Frank had been the victim of an over-zealous prosecution coupled with a public hysteria that had a strong and odious undercurrent of anti-Semitism.
Two weeks after Slaton’s commutation, a lynch mob stormed the prison where Frank was kept, pulled him out, and hanged him.
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a gifted comedian of the silent film era, hosted a party on September 5, 1921. A young actress who attended that event, Virginia Rappe, died soon afterward of a ruptured bladder. Another attendee, Bambina Maude Delmont, a woman with an extensive criminal record that included extortion, bigamy, and fraud, accused Arbuckle of raping Virginia and so causing her death. The comedian was arrested and endured three trials. Newspapers played up the sensational story, blasting Arbuckle as a brutal sex fiend. His weight worked against him as he went in the public eye from a lovable fat man character to a kind of obese ogre.
The third jury to try him returned an acquittal. At its own initiative, the jury that found him not guilty also issued an apology in which it declared Arbuckle the victim of a great wrong.
These cases bear some striking parallels. The first is that men were publicly demonized for crimes of which they were innocent. A second is that personal characteristics of the men -- Frank’s ethnicity and religion, Arbuckle’s weight – fueled prejudice against them.
A third parallel is that these men became scapegoats for wrongs about which society as a whole was validly concerned. Those concerns were about the possible sexual exploitation of women in factories and in Hollywood. They were also about the children who might be born of such exploitation and were likely to be ill cared for or neglected.
That society as a whole urgently wanted to protect women and girls is a point to give one pause. Some people seem to see our social system as created by “beastly” men out to “use” women. The truth is that that vast majority of men have traditionally been sensitive to the special problems women experience because of pregnancy along with the female vulnerability to sexual violence that is embedded in the biological construction of men’s and women’s sexual organs. The desire of men as a group to protect women from the minority of vicious men can be seen in the harsh penalties for forcible rape and in the very existence of the statutory rape laws.
The Leo Frank and Roscoe Arbuckle cases were tragedies in which individual innocent men were caught up in a maelstrom of societal outrage and made scapegoats.
At this point the reader probably expects me to make a point about the alleged rape of a stripper by Duke University lacrosse players. But the point of the Frank and Arbuckle cases goes well beyond any current case and applies to all criminal cases. It is that we must never allow general societal concerns, no matter how well taken, to warp the course of justice for individuals.
By Denise Noe
A waitress my brother worked with frequently griped about her disgust with men and with the way she sees feminism as having altered men’s attitudes toward women for the worse. In the spirit of the old “chivalry is dead” lament, she complained that her daughter had, with great difficulty, brought a heavy and unwieldy piece of furniture into her (the daughter’s) house. Two able-bodied men had been close by and had failed to rush to the rescue and bring the thing in for her.
However, the daughter did not ask the men for their help. This reminds me of an incident that occurred (many moons ago!) when I was in high school. I have even less strength – quite a bit less – than the average female. I picked up a big, heavy typewriter and took it from one desk to another, an action difficult and painful for me. “Aww, you didn’t have to do that,” one of the boys said in a voice full of sympathy. “I would have carried it for you.”
Why didn’t I ask a guy for help? Was I making an “I am woman, hear me roar” statement? No. I just did not think to ask.
On other occasions I have asked men for help because of their greater strength. One time I was in an apartment complex laundry and one of the washing machines had its coin receiver stuck. The female apartment manager tried to pull it out several times and then I tried to pull it out. A man of about average build was around and I said, “Could you do this? It takes a man’s strength.” He did not respond with a lecture about how feminism has made it obsolete for men to help because of their strength. Instead, he immediately obliged, pulling on the coin receiver several times but to no avail. It was in fact simply stuck.
In general, I have found that even in this “post-feminist” era, men do not on principle refuse to aid women in heavy lifting and similar activities. However, men, like women, are not mind readers and may have their thoughts elsewhere when their help is needed. It is incumbent on an individual who needs help to ask for it. If we don’t, we shouldn’t blame anyone for our not getting it. We should also be realistic. Strength varies among men. The muscles on elderly men or chronically ill men have often withered. However, those men who are able to easily lift something will usually do so when asked. This is less a matter of chivalry than of decency and most men are decent.
Updated 8th-August-2008 at 02:19 AM by Denise Noe
By Denise Noe
113-year-old Kaku Yamanaka, the oldest person in Japan recently died. For those unfamiliar with Japanese names, Kaku was a woman. Japan boasts of long average life spans with the average age at death being 85.81 years old for women and 79 years old for men.
That Japanese women tend to outlive their men for a full six years is a point to give one pause. Japan is frequently thought of as one of the world’s most deeply “patriarchal” societies. It is a society in which, until fairly recently, women were expected to walk behind their husbands. They were expected to wash their husbands’ feet and scrupulously obey them. (To what extent this is still the case I do not know.)
Yet Japanese women live a good many years after men. Why?
It seems to me that this points to several things. One is that, as is of necessity true everywhere in the world, those jobs in Japan that require the most physical strength and are the most physically dangerous, are usually filled by men.
It also indicates that male dominance is often a cover for greater male responsibility. Men in Japan bear the burden of financial support and this burden may lead them into a life that is seriously unbalanced and leaves them little time for the joys of the families that they are supporting. Phyllis Schlafly once observed that most husbands are easier to please than most bosses. The relative life expectancies of men and women in Japan appears to shore up that point.
There is a current trend toward more stay-at-home-moms. An article in a 2003 issue of Jet commented, “According to a recently released census report from the U.S. Census Bureau last year, nearly 11 million children under age 15 are raised by a full-time stay-at-home mom, a 13 percent increase from less than a decade ago.”
Most articles and programs about this phenomenon center around the importance of respecting women’s choices and why more women are making the choice for fulltime homemaking. A segment of 60 Minutes was typical in interviewing group of well-educated former career women who decided to stay home fulltime after their babies were born. The program also featured a woman who objected to this choice because she thought it was bad for women as a group.
Men are usually left out of this discussion altogether even though they make it possible for mothers to quit the labor market. The 60 Minutes segment was typical in not interviewing or even showing a single husband.
Yet the impact on a man of having a wife who stays home with the baby can be enormous. It means that he becomes the only source of income at the same time that the family’s expenses have gone up.
An irony of the position of American men is that they are widely assumed to be the dominant sex yet are in crucial areas supposed to submit to women’s preferences and, in the case of SAHMs, enable those preferences without complaint. Just as men who wanted their wives to be fulltime homemakers a generation or two ago were blasted as chauvinists, today men who do not want to shoulder the entire economic load are criticized as slackers.
Some men object to supporting stay-at-home-moms. Awhile ago, Dear Abby published a letter from a woman who had just had a baby and wished to stay home but whose husband strongly wanted her to cont inue working outside the home. That man is not alone. Dr. Laura Schlessinger, an advocate of stay-at-home parenting, has written that mothers have asked her what to do about “husbands who threaten divorce if they stay at home to raise their children.” Dr. Laura condemns men who have such sentiments, saying they “are used to material possessions and diminished responsibility for the family.”
The objections some men have to a sole breadwinner role are not without merit. Being sole breadwinners can put enormous pressure on men. At the lower economic levels, a breadwinning father may accept physically dangerous jobs because they pay more. At the upper echelons, being sole provider may lead a man to cut ethical or even legal corners to make more money for his family. Being sole breadwinners also frequently means that men at any economic strata must spend extra time at work, diminishing their emotional influence on the children for whom they are worki ng. It can leads to great stress and the illnesses that can result. Finally, in our fast-paced and ever-changing economy, it is only too easy for a one-paycheck family to become a no-paycheck family. Tension can hover over a sole breadwinner afraid for the security of his job. That security may crash down on the entire family if he loses it.
There is nothing wrong with the trend toward more full-time homemakers and much that is right with it. However, any discussion of this trend must recognize that this is not solely a women’s choice since it must be made possible by men and consider the effects, both psychological and physical, that stay-at-home-motherhood has on the men who foot the bill for it.
By Denise Noe
Think of a bum and what comes to mind? Someone in ragged clothes, shuffling around. Someone who doesn’t work and probably for reasons that are blameworthy. Think of a wino and a similar image comes to mind only with a bottle these time and perhaps reeling around.
In both cases, the image these pejorative terms conjure up is inevitably male.
Sometime in the 1970s and 1980s, the bums and winos of our society became known as “the homeless.” Why? Warren Farrell in The Myth of Male Power pointed out the probable reason: because they were joined by an appreciable number of women when the mental hospitals went through “de-institutionalization.”
Interestingly, female homeless are called “bag ladies.” The last word of the two-part term seems like an attempt to soften it by giving them the status of “ladies.” The first part of the term refers to the places where these homeless keep their belonging s. Taken as a whole, “bag lady” has none of the disgust attached to the words traditionally associated with men who sink to the economic bottom.
Even with the growth of female homeless, 85% of those in this category are men. If those figures were reversed and the majority of those sleeping on the streets or on park benches were women, would society as a whole be more determined to address this problem?
Teenager Nathan Warmack of Jackson, Missouri tried to attend a high school dance in a Scottish kilt. The school’s principal ordered him to change into pants. Warmack would like to be allowed to attend the prom in his kilt. Other teen boys have tried to wear kilts to school or school functions and been sent home because of it.
While some observers might be tempted to dismiss Warmack as a stereotypically rebellious teen trying to get attention, it appears that his kilt wearing comes out of a healthy historical interest and ethnic pride. Of Scottish descent, he became interested in his heritage after seeing the Mel Gibson film Braveheart. He began reading books about Scotland, visiting websites to trace his family’s genealogy and sometimes donning a kilt.
That his kilt wearing has caused controversy is symptomatic of the limited clothing options considere d acceptable for boys men in American society. Women and girls can show up to almost any function attired in pants, skirts, or dresses. We can wear ribbons and lace and ruffles and we can wear starched shirts, jackets, and ties.
By contrast, boys and men have much less freedom of choice. Their clothing tends to run a narrow range between the t-shirts or turtlenecks and pants of casual attire and the coat, shirt, tie, and pants that is the quasi-uniform of male business and formal wear.
It might help those trying to expand the choices of boys and men in this area to be reminded that American women have not always had the freedoms we now enjoy. Indeed, we have clothing liberty because our courageous foremothers fought long and hard for it.
On December 29, 1852, Emma Snodgrass was arrested in Boston for wearing pants. Throughout most of the 19th Century and to some extent into the 20th, a woman in trousers was someo ne rebellious and scandalous. Mary Walker Edwards, a physician who was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for her service during the Civil War, found the acceptable apparel for women of her time period overly restrictive and “immodest” so she often dressed in slacks. As a result, she was frequently arrested for impersonating a man. During the same time period, suffragette Amelia Bloomer won notoriety for championing women’s wearing of the ankle-length loose-fitting pants that would be called “Bloomers” after her. Many suffragettes took up wearing Bloomers but most soon abandoned it because women in pants were subject to so much ridicule that they feared they harmed their other causes by it.
Within the lifetimes of many of us, women wearing trousers were sometimes disdained. Boze Hadleigh in Hollywood Lesbians quotes famed costume designer Edith Head as speaking derisively in the 1970s of “women’s libbers in pants.” An online arti cle called “Trousers in History” notes that “Until 1970 it was not fashionable and sometimes against the law for women to wear pants in offices, classroom, and restaurants in the U.S.”
American girls and women have achieved clothing liberation. Let’s hope our boys and men win a similar freedom.
Fashion show with woman holding man on leash
By Denise Noe
Recently, in my capacity as Community Editor of The Caribbean Star, I reported on a fashion show. The holders of the show helpfully sent me some photographs taken at the event. Two were of women modeling clothes.
One was of a male and a female model on the runway together. Both were very attractive and both were smiling. However, this photograph cannot be said to exemplify gender “equality.” The woman is attired in high heels, a loose-fitting skirt with an uneven hem, and a leopard spotted top while the man is barefoot and wearing only a leopard spotted loincloth and dark glasses. The woman is standing and holding a leach attached to a dog collar around the man’s neck. He is in a crawling position on all fours.
I couldn’t help but think that there would have been a roaring public outcry at the fashion show had the positions of the man and the woman been reversed.
Has Andrew Borden’s reputation suffered as the result of misandry?
The general perception of Andrew Borden is of a singularly unpleasant man. He is frequently written of as a cold, tyrannical patriarch and, most especially, a miser. Like the tight-fisted fictional characters of Silas Marner and Ebenezer Scrooge, he is believed to have been constantly scrounging for money and pathologically vigilant in holding on to it.
An overview of various descriptions of the elder Borden will help frame the mythology that defines our modern understanding, and hopefully, allow us the opportunity to explore the historical Andrew Borden in ways not yet attempted.
Ann Jones in Women Who Kill writes that Andrew “made money—lots of it—for the sake of making money. Yet, as a Christian, Andrew Borden knew that money could be the root of all evil—if one took pleasure in money and used it as a source of enjoyment. The trick then, for a good Christian capitalist, was to make money but to enjoy it not at all. And that skill Andrew Borden had perfected.” Andrew’s tightwad ways, she continues, meant the Borden house lacked “those amenities one might reasonably expect in the household of a man who was well on his way to becoming a millionaire” including “even a toilet.”
Frank Spiering in Lizzie defines Andrew’s character in terms of his thrift, declaring that saving money “became his obsession, and with it a dread of ever falling into debt. He boasted that he had never signed a promissory note or borrowed a penny.” Spiering later elaborates, “He was considered brusque, dour and tight-fisted.” Using an inaccurate understanding of Andrew’s business, Spiering states that Andrew Borden began his career as an undertaker and that his reputation for penny-pinching triggered some truly macabre stories: “It was rumored that he cut off the feet of corpses so that he could cram them into undersized coffins that he got cheap.” Spiering also claims that Andrew showed a peculiarly penny-pinching fanaticism on the day of his death. Seeing a broken lock on the floor of his business, he “picked up the broken lock and slipped it into his pocket.” The author sardonically notes, “It was Andrew’s final act of thrift.”
Arnold R. Brown, in Lizzie Borden: The Legend, the Truth, the Final Chapter, also portrays Andrew as an extraordinary tightwad. His Andrew likewise was maniacal about saving his money, and Brown states that while thrift may be a virtue, Andrew “made it a vice.” Andrew’s penurious ways meant hardship for his family:
Andrew refused to have his home connected to gas mains (the primary use of gas at that time was illumination—cooking and heating quickly followed). Kerosene was good enough for his household, and he sternly restricted its use. Electricity was not yet commonly available, but telephones were. Andrew did not have one because he could see no use for it nor for the added expense.
There was no hot water in the house other than what a teakettle or pot could produce. The better wood and coal burning kitchen ranges had water-warming reservoirs built in; the range in the Borden kitchen did not. When Andrew bought the house, it had running water. He declared the running water on the second floor an unnecessary luxury and had the plumbing changed to cut it off and limit the running water to a sink room off the kitchen and one in the basement.
David Kent, in Forty Whacks, also writes of Andrew as a cheapskate and says that Andrew’s “penurious thrift was practiced in 14 hour days of saving this, reselling that, and hoarding the other.” Like Spiering, he sees Andrew’s actions regarding the lock as symptomatic of an obsessive concern with saving: “How typical it was that on the morning of the day he was murdered, he had picked up a broken, discarded lock, wrapped it carefully in a bit of paper, and taken it home with him.”
A hysterical stinginess is not the only failing attributed to Andrew. Brown accuses him of adultery and claims that when Andrew Borden was still married to his first wife Sarah, mother of Emma and Lizzie, he had an affair with Phebe Borden, wife of Charles Borden. Brown never says what the relationship of Charles and Andrew was but claims a child was born of the doubly adulterous union between Andrew and Phebe.
A far nastier accusation of sexual misconduct has been laid at Andrew’s doorstep by several authors, including Marcia Carlisle, Stephen Kane, and Eileen McNamara—that of incest. Carlisle postulates that Andrew had sexually abused both Lizzie and Emma, and assumes the acquitted woman’s guilt. However, she says the motives of jealousy and greed usually ascribed to her do not adequately “account for the extreme violence of the crime.” Carlisle sees in the sheer physical brutality of the slayings “the awakening rage of the incest survivor.”
The well known
“Guys don’t get serious.” The young woman who made this statement was not a feminist but a member of a conservative religious sect that despises feminism and believes men were supposed to be “over” women. She seemed to believe that men are incapable of deep romantic love.
Camille Paglia has objected to Valentine’s Day being christened “V-Day” by “Vagina Warriors” in connection with Eve Ensler’s controversial play, “The Vagina Monologues.” Paglia says it turns “Valentine’s Day, the one holiday celebrating romantic harmony between the sexes, into a grisly memento mori of violence against women.”
Perhaps it is significant that this day celebrating that celebrates romantic love is named after a man.
However, the precise reason for that naming is shrouded in the mists of time and legend. According to History.com, “One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius I decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men.” The priest Valentine secretly continued to perform marriage ceremonies between women and young men despite the decree. Emperor Claudius I had him executed for officiating at these illicit weddings.
Another legend says Valentine was jailed for trying to help persecuted Christians escape from Roman prisons. In this version, Valentine sent the first “Valentine.” Writing to the woman he loved just before his execution, he signed the epistle “Your Valentine.”
Either way, the legendary origin of Valentine’s Day lies in a man’s commitment to romance. It would seem that the continuing tradition of it does the same. Indeed, this holiday leads to a peculiar but significant case of sexual role reversal in buying habits. According to the website Holiday Insights, “While 75% of chocolate purchases are made by women all year long, during the days and minutes before Valentine’s Day, 75% of the chocolate purchases are made by men.” It is a virtual certainty that the men buying chocolates are buying them for women.
Although men read few romance novels, there is some evidence that men are in fact the more romantic, and perhaps more romantically vulnerable, gender. A study by Zick Rubin, Anne Peplau, and Charles Hill found that “men tended to fall in love more quickly than women, and that men rated the desire to fall in love as a more important reason for having entered the relationship than women did.” Studying couples who had broken up, they learned that “women were somewhat more likely to end the relationship’ and that “men reported feeling more depressed, lonely, and unhappy after the end of the affair than women did.”
Perhaps instead of a time to reflect on violence against women, Valentine’s Day should be a time to put to rest a sexist stereotype against men.
“Guys don’t get serious.”
But they do. They really do.