Let me share with you two troubling — and, I believe, closely linked — news reports. The first, from this weekend, comes courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry. In one chart, he highlights the dramatic and growing gender gap in higher education. In short, women are dominating:
“The enduring narrative of the American dream is that if you study and get a college education and work hard, you can get ahead,” said Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI. “The survey shows that many white working-class Americans, especially men, no longer see that path available to them. . . . It is this sense of economic fatalism, more than just economic hardship, that was the decisive factor in support for Trump among white working-class voters.”
Make no mistake, if these numbers showed an equivalent (and increasing) educational gender gap running in the opposite direction, the feminist Left would declare a cultural emergency. Indeed, it has declared a cultural emergency in spite of the dominant educational performance of women. As Perry notes, our colleges are full of “women’s centers” and “gender equity” initiatives that are dedicated exclusively to female success (or almost exclusively; some non-gender-binary folks get gender-equity aid as well). When will there stop being a crisis for women on campus? When they reach two-thirds of the higher-education population? When three out of every four college grads are women?
But beyond fatherlessness is the increasing feminization of even the intact, two-parent household. Models of domestic life intentionally crafted to break old stereotypes and cultural norms increasingly treat parents not as “mom and dad” but as “Parent 1 and Parent 2.” Kids aren’t brother and sister, but “Child 1 and Child 2.” There are no longer different paths for boys and girls but instead unique paths for special snowflakes. Who’s to say what’s masculine? Who’s to say what’s feminine? The one thing we do know, however, is that stereotypically male characteristics of aggression, risk-taking, and high-energy work and play are “toxic” and need to be medicated or educated right out of the home.
Adding to the feminized home is the feminized school, complete with its zero tolerance, mortal fear of anything remotely martial, and its relentless emphasis on compassion and nurturing rather than exploration and adventure (unless the adventurer is a woman). We love the Earth. We don’t conquer it. Elementary school is a place of hugs, not conflict, and play is to be peaceful above all else. No more re-enacting the Battle of the Bulge. No more toy guns. No more drawings of tanks mowing through stick-figure Nazi hordes. And when nature asserts itself against the ideologue’s wishes? Medication and education take their toll.
In place of teaching men to channel their aggression and adventurous spirits in productive ways, we ask them to stifle their truest natures.
Finally, one graduates to the increasingly feminized workplace. Part of this is a function of political correctness, and part of it is simply a function of the changing economy. We don’t need as many strong backs and strong arms to make America great. There are more cubicles, more people typing, and more people talking. It’s great to be glib. Strength is strictly optional. Oh, and when cubicle-working men do try to carve out their own spaces for hobbies, sports, and other pursuits, they’re often mocked. Why does an accountant need a Ford F-150? Look at that lawyer buying a chainsaw. Doesn’t he know how ridiculous he looks?
In place of teaching men to channel their aggression and adventurous spirits in productive ways, we ask them to stifle their truest natures. In place of teaching them to protect others, we lie and declare all violence to be bad. Instead of telling the truth that men and women are different, we try to transform men into women. We privilege the stories of those who found traditional gender norms oppressive (like gay men and their metrosexual cousins) and celebrate the demise of traditional masculinity that better served the vast majority of men and boys. Is it not possible to preserve masculinity while demonstrating compassion for those who don’t conform? Must we burn it all down?
There are few sights more profoundly meaningful than watching a son grow up with a good father, to see him take on his dad’s best characteristics, while at the same time forging his own path. It is important to see and know that throughout that young man’s life, his dad wasn’t just nurturing him, he was also challenging him — pushing him to be stronger mentally, physically, and emotionally. To that end, it’s time to remember that strength is a virtue, rightly channeled aggression creates and preserves civilization itself, and there is nothing at all inherently toxic about masculinity. The feminization of everything doesn’t just fail our boys; over the long run it will fail our nation.
— David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.