Seriously, Hicks? You’ve got to be kidding!

18 03 2009

Today in the Washington Times, Marybeth Hicks has a piece on how Obama’s new White House Council on Women and Girls is sexist. She begins with cynicism and wonders why feminists are so happy about the establishment of this new council since it’s probably not going to do much good for women and girls anyway. Besides, she says, it’s sexist to have a council devoted only to one gender while completely omitting the other. She writes, “If Mr. Obama wanted to actually do something significant for America’s women and girls, he would have created instead a White House Council on Men and Boys.”

A Council on Men and Boys instead? According to her, this will solve women’s issues better than a Council on Women and Girls would. How? Well, “the best thing anyone can do for American women and girls is to encourage men and boys to ‘man up'”.

Manning up, huh? Meaning encourage men and boys to embrace traditional norms of masculinity, which is predominantly violent masculinity, which also happens to significantly contribute to women’s (and men’s) oppression? Embracing traditional gender roles and gender norms does not equal liberation.

And then she goes on:

A council on men and boys would promote stable marriage as the best avenue to improve the lives and living conditions of America’s women and families. A council on men and boys would address the crisis in American manhood that results in the scourge of infidelity, divorce, lack of commitment and fatherhood with multiple partners.

What is this manhood crisis that is threatening our women and families? Besides, women cheat as well, not just men! Women are the ones who initiate divorce sometimes too, not just men! Men aren’t the only ones who don’t commit, women are capable of having commitment issues too!

And way to reinforce the nuclear family, which happens to be a strong arm of patriarchy. And how exactly is marriage the best way to improve the lives of American women and their families? I suppose it’s because women need men and therefore need to get married. We can’t possibly survive on our owns.

Marriage feeds into a lot of neoliberal discourse that promotes capitalism and consumerism and privileges the nuclear family as the site where individuals should seek and receive social services, like health care or elderly care. Neoliberalism justifies the state privatization of social services that everyone should be entitled to. So, if you’re poor, if you’re sick, if you’re too old to take care of yourself, the state doesn’t care. Go home to your family and they’re supposed to take care of you.

She goes on to write:

A council on men and boys would seek to eliminate the objectification of women in the media. It would battle our hypersexual culture by fighting against the “hook-up” mentality that defines the way in which young men view young women. And most importantly, it would stamp out the violence against women that emanates from men’s widespread exposure and growing addiction to pornography.

This assumes that women do not participate in or enjoy hooking up, which is not true for all women. Furthermore, while the pervasiveness of pornography does influence the way men view women, it also influences the way men view men, the way women view women, and the way women view men. It isn’t the root of violence against women, but it does contribute to it.  Objectification of women and our hypersexual culture are legitimate problems. But having a council on men and boys is the way to combat it? I’m also curious, how exactly would this hypothetical council “stamp out” violence against women?

Then, she again returns to emphasize the need to return to the nuclear family because apparently “women’s issues” stem from the “collapse of the American family”:

A council on men and boys also would address the underlying problems that create “women’s issues” such as child care, inadequate pay and domestic violence. These aren’t “women’s issues,” but issues related to the systemic collapse of the American family.

By the “American family” she means the 1950’s prototypical model of the nuclear family where Mommy just stayed home and baked cookies, cooked and cleaned, and waited for the kids to come home from school and for Daddy to come home from work. Gosh, why did women ever start or get involved with the women’s lib movement when we already had everything we ever wanted or need back then?

And then her conclusion:

Believe me, I’m not man-bashing. Rather, I think the feminist agenda is a false promise. A council on women and girls that seeks to infuse feminism across the government propels us further from real solutions. Our government just isn’t man enough to fix what’s wrong.

“The feminist agenda is a false promise?” And what a sexist and contradictory last sentence, to go from being all “I’m not man-bashing” to “Our government just isn’t man enough to fix what’s wrong”. So Hicks thinks that only “real” men can find all the solutions, and women should just sit back and not get involved at all.

What is also confusing about Hicks’ article is that she frames her argument and her claims as opposing “the feminist agenda” but mentions legitimate feminist concerns like the objectification and hypersexualization of women in the media as well as violence against women. She also says:

Such a council would work to train a new generation of boys to become real men, who honor and uphold women as equals in the workplace, the community and the home – not because the government regulates such an attitude, but because it’s right.

And is it just me or is “honoring and upholding women as equals in the workplace, the community and the home” a part of what feminism has been pushing for? But then she idiotically says that instead of having a sexist Council on Women and Girls to have a Council on Men and Boys. Because having a council devoted to a historically (and presently still) marginalized group and actually acknowledging and including them for once is sexist.


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