“Be it Resolved: Men are Obsolete.” That was the topic of a recent Toronto debate. Maureen Dowd and Hanna Rosin defended the resolution. Camille Paglia and Caitlin Moran were opposed. Much of the commentary was tongue-in-cheek. Dowd noted, for example, that men have played so recklessly with the globe “they nearly broke it.” So, she said, we are going in a new direction. “Heck, men wouldn’t even ask for directions.” But it was Camille Paglia’s electrifying opening statement that stole the show:
If men are obsolete, then women will soon be extinct—unless we rush down that ominous Brave New World path where females will clone themselves by parthenogenesis, as famously do Komodo dragons, hammerhead sharks, and pit vipers.
A peevish, grudging rancor against men has been one of the most unpalatable and unjust features of second- and third-wave feminism. Men’s faults, failings and foibles have been seized on and magnified into gruesome bills of indictment. Ideologue professors at our leading universities indoctrinate impressionable undergraduates with carelessly fact-free theories alleging that gender is an arbitrary, oppressive fiction with no basis in biology.
Paglia not only defended men, she had a rare good word for free market capitalism and its benefits to the fair sex. In her words:
History must be seen clearly and fairly: obstructive traditions arose not from men’s hatred or enslavement of women but from the natural division of labor that had developed over thousands of years during the agrarian period and that once immensely benefited and protected women, permitting them to remain at the hearth to care for helpless infants and children. Over the past century, it was labor-saving appliances, invented by men and spread by capitalism, that liberated women from daily drudgery.
According to the “males-are-in decline” crowd, the future belongs to communicative, consensus-building, emotionally intelligent women. Men, with their brawniness, risk-taking and general penchant for mayhem have overstayed their welcome. Dowd wondered if they would finally become extinct, taking “video games, Game of Thrones on a continuous loop and cold pizza in the morning with them.” Paglia politely but firmly reminded her sister debaters that today’s busy, multi-tasking, alpha-females may be joining men in running the world, but they are hardly replacing them. And their brilliant careers are made possible by legions of hard-working, risk-taking, innovative men. To quote Paglia again:
Indeed, men are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments. It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall. Every day along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, one can watch the passage of vast oil tankers and towering cargo ships arriving from all over the world. These stately colossi are loaded, steered, and off-loaded by men. The modern economy, with its vast production and distribution network, is a male epic, in which women have found a productive role–but women were not its author. Surely, modern women are strong enough now to give credit where credit is due!
Despite several decades of girl power, women show little or no inclination to enter many traditional male fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 90% of the nation’s construction workers, electricians, roofers, aviation mechanics, refuse collectors, crane operators, firefighters, pest controllers, plumbers, pipe-fitters, heating and refrigeration installers, telecommunication line repairers, and electrical engineers are men. It is still men who file more than 90% of patents. In the early 1980′s the cartoonist Nicole Hollander, creator of Sylvia, ran a strip in which someone asks Sylvia what the world would be like without men. Sylvia’s reply: “No crime and lots of happy fat women.” Paglia’s prediction of extinction may be more like it. Her statement is worth reading in full.
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