We need to strike a balance in this 'war of the sexes'
Published 16/01/2013 | 08:00
We can all see that relations between the sexes have altered substantially in recent decades and, in many respects, for the better.
But is there really "a war on men", as the American writer Suzanne Venker has been alleging in her controversial book The War on Men?
You might think, looking at the appalling incidence of rape in India and elsewhere, and the "gendercide" abortions taking place in the UK - in which unborn females are disposed of - that there is more of a "war on women".
However, Ms Venker is looking at America, where she has noted that the number of men who regard marriage as a priority has gone down and the number of women for whom it is a life-goal has gone up.
In 1997, 35% of American men said that having a successful marriage was one of the most important things in their lives; by 2012, this had dropped to 29%.
By contrast, more women now regard a successful marriage as a central goal in their lives: so, among females, the aspiration to wedlock rose from 28% to 37%.
And Ms Venker, who is also a broadcaster for the conservative Fox Channel in the US, says that this mismatch between male and female goals is caused by feminism and the rise of "angry, defensive" women.
For an increasing number of men, she claims, "women aren't women anymore". They have been "raised to think of men as the enemy. Armed with this new attitude, women have pushed men off their pedestal and climbed up to take what they were taught to believe was rightfully theirs. Now men have nowhere to go."
Ms Venker's thesis follows others in a similar vein, such as Hanna Rosin, who published The End of Men last year.
Ms Rosin noted that, for the first time in history, there are more women than men in the US workforce and predicted that women were overtaking men in education, the professions and other fields of achievement.
The situation is such that recently the minister for universities and the sciences, David Willetts, suggested that "white, working-class boys" should be treated like a disadvantaged minority in education.
One outcome of this changing gender profile, according to Ms Venker, is that there just aren't going to be enough decent men to go around. Underachieving males aren't going to be worth marrying and mating with, anyway.
The picture Ms Venker draws is not entirely new. Historically, men have always been slightly more reluctant to marry than women. Moreover, the male sex has always tended to greater extremes than the female. As Camille Paglia succinctly put it: "There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper."
Men are more likely to be either outstanding, or hopeless. Thus, there has always been a numerical shortage of average, marriageable men - especially for intelligent women.
Men just don't want to compete with women, writes Ms Venker. "Men want to provide for and protect their families ... but modern women won't let them."
Her theory is over-generalised, though there's an aspect of it that would have been echoed by our mothers and grandmothers. They warned that few men wanted a blue-stocking for a wife.
Much traditional lore suggested most men did not like to be outsmarted by women. We wouldn't want to go back to those attitudes.
But we do want our granddaughters to have a choice of good men, who regard marriage and commitment as important.
There's a balance to be reached here somehow.