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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Houston Rescuers Prove the Lie of ‘Toxic Masculinity’



Men. We are just the worst, with our toxic masculinity and patriarchal privilege. We are the source of literally all the world’s problems, from war, income inequality, and “rape culture” to the misogynistic microaggressions of “mansplaining” and “manspreading.” If we are ever to create a nonviolent, truly gender-equal world, we must rip away the false, culturally-constructed façade of masculinity. We must free ourselves from the strictures of macho posturing, embrace vulnerability, and redefine what it means to be strong.
That is the message being promoted incessantly today from celebrities like John Legend to the halls of academia to media outlets such as Slate, Salon, and HuffPost. Seemingly overnight, our culture has unquestioningly embraced the term “toxic masculinity.” Male nature itself is the problem, we are told, and the solution is the deconstruction of our understanding of what it means to be a man. But photos and news reports coming out of the devastation wreaked in Texas by Hurricane Harvey are putting the lie to this subversive idea.
In addition to the men among law enforcement and first responders, whose daily mission it is “to serve and protect” while putting their own lives on the line, thousands of volunteers among regular citizens have stepped up and made their way to the region to bring aid to those endangered by Harvey. Some examples among them, which the media singled out:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Do We Need Men Anymore?



Considering how much time Grayson Perry has spent pondering masculinity, it’s disappointing how little he seems to value or understand it.
An award-winning artist, author, television presenter, and BBC Reith lecturer, the London-based Perry is also a transvestite and, as he rather simply puts it, “a man.” Not long ago he pursued a thoughtful if flawed exploration of masculinity in a three-part BBC TV series called All Man, and now has written a short, self-illustrated book on the subject called The Descent of Man. The book poses and attempts to answer the question that men of no other century have ever had to ask: “What does it mean to be a male in the twenty-first century?”
Masculinity is the source of a great deal of handwringing and finger-wagging in our gender-confused time. It is viewed by many as resting somewhere on a scale between problematic and abominable, and there is an increasing urgency to do something about it. Grayson Perry, who considers himself very masculine, sees it as the very source of all our troubles. “I sometimes watch the evening news on television and think all of the world’s problems can be boiled down to one thing: the behavior of people with a Y chromosome,” his book begins. “The consequences of rogue masculinity are, I think, one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest issue, facing the world today.”

Want Teenage Boys to Read? Give Them Books About Heroes



Studies show that teenage boys lag behind teenage girls in reading. Even in adulthood, women are far more enthusiastic readers; two out of three adults who say they never read books are male. Debate rages about whether biology or culture is to blame, but the fact remains that girls simply seem to enjoy reading more – how do we inspire a greater love of reading in boys?
Musing upon this question, Daniel Handler, the author of children’s books under the pen name Lemony Snicket, considered what drove him to be a voracious reader as a teen. He came to the conclusion that all of the wide variety of books he read in those years had one thing in common: “they were filthy.” He noted that novels like Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus moved and fascinated him, not least because of “the dirty parts.” Handler thus offered this solution in the New York Times recently: “Want Teenage Boys to Read? Easy. Give Them Books About Sex.”
It’s “offensive to pretend, when we’re ostensibly wondering how to get more young men to read, that they’re not interested in the thing we all know they’re interested in,” wrote Handler. “I believe in the power of literature to connect, to transform, particularly for young minds beginning to explore the world… Let’s not smirk at their interests. Let’s give them books that might engage them.”
Having once been a teenage boy and a voracious reader myself, I thought back to those thrilling days of yesteryear and to the intense curiosity aroused by the forbidden mystery of sex. I spent long stretches in bookstores and at drugstore book racks skimming through books with lurid covers for naughty passages that offered even a glimpse beyond the veil.

Pop Culture’s Peter Pan Problem



In 1983 The Peter Pan Syndrome, a pop psychology book which examined the phenomenon of men who seem locked into perpetual adolescence, struck a chord in the culture and became a bestseller. Nearly thirty-five years later, the phenomenon doesn’t seem to be any less prevalent. Now a recent op-ed for The New York Times suggests that there is an ugly racial and sexist dimension to it as well.
In “The Men Who Never Have to Grow Up,” Jennifer Weiner complains that Americans have a soft spot for such “manolescents” – as long as they are white. We are charmed by roguish “good ole boys,” she says, and excuse even their crimes as mere boys-will-be-boys hijinks, but we don’t extend the same amused tolerance to nonwhites and women.
As examples, Weiner lists YouTube clowns Rhett McLaughlin, Link Neal, and Colin Furzelike, all in their late thirties; radio and TV stars Ryan Seacrest, Chris Hardwick, and Billy Bush, all in their early-to-mid-forties, who “have ridden boyish charm into lucrative ubiquity”; and swimmer/reality star Ryan Lochte, 32, whose drunken vandalism during the Rio Olympics was forgiven by officials even after he invented an armed robbery to cover for it.
In graver examples, Weiner cites Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, convicted at 20 of sexual assault but given a slap on the wrist by a judge concerned about how the conviction might impact the young man’s future; the late Ted Kennedy, who was 37 when he abandoned Mary Jo Kopechne to die in the car he drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, for which he received a mere two-month suspended sentence; and 39-year-old Donald Trump, Jr., whom Weiner accuses of colluding with the Russians to skew the 2016 presidential election.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Do We Really Want Men to Be More Vulnerable?



In a piece last week for Vanity Fair with a title that perfectly captures the magazine’s signature tone of grandiosity and giddy celebrity-worship – “Jay-Z, Prince Harry, Brad Pitt, and the New Frontiers of Male Vulnerability” – Monica Lewinsky praises the trio of celebs as refreshing examples of men liberating themselves from the straightjacket of traditional masculinity and embracing an endearing vulnerability. But is that really the kind of masculinity we want?

“[T]hanks to public declarations from these three men,” Lewinsky says of Jay-Z, Harry, and Brad, “masculine stereotypes [have] given way to something different—something soulful, engaging, vulnerable, and even feminist. Hallelujah.” Yes, thank goodness we have celebrities to lead the way to new frontiers!

She begins by celebrating Prince Harry’s recent openness about his personal struggle with mental health after the death of his mother, Princess Diana. Harry confessed to being unprepared not only for the loss of his mother when he was a mere twelve, but for the burdens of royalty. It was an emotional transparency that was out of keeping with the stiff upper lip expected of a royal.

Moving on to “the mature cowboy” Brad Pitt, Lewinsky states approvingly that he has “evolved.” In a recent profile in GQ, Pitt discussed “looking at my weaknesses and failures and owning my side of the street.” He’s in touch with his feelings again, he says: “[Y]ou either deny them all of your life or you answer them and evolve.”


Why You Should Pursue Meaning, Not Happiness



A recent article in The Washington Post identified a rising “sea of despair” among the white working class and a surge in suicides from 1999 to 2015, when a record high of 600,000 Americans took their own lives. In a country as free and as prosperous as the United States of America, where the pursuit of happiness is enshrined as an unalienable right in the Declaration of Independence, why do so many of its citizens seem so increasingly, desperately unhappy?
That paradox is what drove Emily Esfahani Smith to write the important new book The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. Smith, with a master’s degree in positive psychology, is an editor at Stanford’s Hoover Institution where she manages the Ben Franklin Circles Project, the aim of which is to build community and purpose across the country. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Criterion, and more.
Smith points out that the boom in positive psychology since the late ‘80s has spawned an army of personal coaches, motivational speakers, and celebrities pushing the “gospel of happiness,” but the “happiness frenzy” has failed to deliver on its promise. “Indeed,” she writes, “social scientists have uncovered a sad irony – chasing happiness actually makes people unhappy.”

The Left’s Next Step: Redefining ‘Hate Speech’ as Violence



An article in the Sunday Review section of the July 16 New York Times posed a question which, once upon a more innocent time, would have been considered nonsensical: When Is Speech Violence? The response of any person who cares about the clarity of language would properly be “Never,” but Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, asserts in the Times piece that the science is settled: speech that bullies and torments” is “literally a form of violence.”
It might seem obvious, Barrett begins, that “violence is physically damaging; verbal statements aren’t.” Yes, that should be obvious to anyone except illiberals, who know that whoever controls the language controls minds. So they are hell-bent on weaponizing words to advance their totalitarian agenda.
The left has spent decades successfully normalizing the intentionally vague term “hate speech” in the culture, even going so far as to insist that it should not be protected by the First Amendment. But what is “hate speech”? It’s anything the left wants it to be, of course. When the media elites of CNN or HBO or The View or late night talk shows openly bash Christians or the traditional values of flyover Americans, it is never, ever condemned as hate speech; but those same elites leap to denounce virtually everything the right says as such. It is a brilliantly effective way to delegitimize conservatives and their ideas, and to exclude them from the public sphere.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Justice Roberts’ Commencement Address Stresses Humility and Gratitude



Commencement addresses typically urge graduates to look to the future, and contain bland, predictable nuggets of inspiration such as “reach for the stars,” “change the world,” and these days, “#Resist Trump!” But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. upended expectations when he delivered the commencement address for an elite boarding school last month; instead, he wished the graduates failures and setbacks, and emphasized a couple of virtues that have fallen out of style in American culture: humility and gratitude.
Roberts’ address at the Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, New Hampshire, for boys grades six through nine, didn’t attract much attention at the time, but it has been gaining traction since being uploaded to YouTube. Even The Washington Post, no ideological ally of the conservative Chief Justice, recently published an admiring article about the speech.
What many are finding noteworthy about the twelve-minute talk is that Roberts touched on neither politics nor the law in it, although each of the graduates did receive an autographed, pocket-size Constitution along with his certificate, according to the Post. “Instead,” wrote the newspaper, “the address was personal, understated and popular probably because it touched on universal themes, such as a parent’s worry about whether he or she is making the right decisions for their child.”
He began by inviting the students to rise from their seats and applaud the parents for their sacrifice. He painted a touching picture of those parents dropping off their young boys at the beginning of their time at the school and returning home on a “trail of tears” to an “emptier and lonelier house.” That image was all the more poignant because Roberts’ own son was among the graduates that day, and that personal element is what gives this speech its moving, bittersweet edge.

The Compassionate Left and the Coldhearted Right



Shortly after Ronald Reagan first moved into the White House in 1981, a single-panel cartoon appeared in The New Yorker depicting an older, wealthy, white couple strolling down a sidewalk past a homeless man begging for change. Referring to the beggar, the female half of the couple – stereotypically wrapped in a fur coat, dripping in jewels, and nose in the air – said to her equally haughty husband something like, “To hell with him. There’s a Republican in the White House now.” I’m probably butchering the punch line but it wasn’t any funnier in the original, and in any case it wasn’t intended so much to be funny as it was to reinforce the left’s bigoted perception of Republicans as rich, old, white, and most significantly, heartless.
I was reminded of this old cartoon by a rather pathetic recent Huffington Post essay called, “I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People,” which embodied this common misperception of conservatives as unfeeling, greedy monsters who hate the poor, the sick, the underprivileged, the nonwhite.
The writer of the article – Kayla Chadwick, described as an Emmy Award-winning video editor in New York – began by expressing her exasperation over trying to explain to conservatives “why they should care about other people.” I am skeptical that she has ever actually had a conversation with a conservative about this except perhaps with strangers in the disputatious realm of social media, but she clearly assumes that she, like her fellow Progressives, is a normal, decent, compassionate human being; that the right is inhumanly and incomprehensibly cruel, almost a completely different species; and that struggling to thaw a conservative’s frozen heart is a lost cause.

Friday, July 7, 2017

False Black Power?



Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House was the culmination of the black struggle to attain the pinnacle of political power. But decades of that obsessive focus on black political advancement has not yielded the results that civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson promised. Even after eight years of Obama, racial gaps in income, employment, home ownership, academic achievement, and other measures still exist, and many civil rights leaders both new and old– including Jackson – explain that by pushing the self-serving narrative that blacks in America are still the victims of systemic racism, and that continuing to pursue political power is the answer.
Jason L. Riley, a Wall Street Journal columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, disagrees. The thrust of his slim but significant new book, False Black Power?, is the politically incorrect conclusion that black “political clout is no substitute for self-development”:
The major barrier to black progress today is not racial discrimination and hasn’t been for decades. The challenge for blacks is to better position themselves to take advantage of existing opportunities, and that involves addressing the antisocial, self-defeating behaviors and habits and attitudes endemic to the black underclass.
Riley argues in False Black Power? that the left’s politically useful argument of white oppression serves only the interests of the people making it, not blacks themselves, and that “black history itself offers a compelling counternarrative that ideally would inform our post-Obama racial inequality debates.”
Mr. Riley, also the author of Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, consented to answer some questions about the book via email.
Mark Tapson:         When America elected its first black president there was widespread hope that he would accomplish everything from healing our racial divide to slowing the rise of the oceans. What was the actual legacy for American blacks of eight years of Barack Obama?