Month: October 2019

Man Out

Other than when a man or women is jokingly referring to themselves or a good friend of the opposite sex–or sarcastically making fun of mildly sexist language–I don’t especially like words like “chick” and “dude.” A man saying, “Hey, dude,” to address another man is one thing, but for a woman to disparagingly refer to some largely undefined group of men as “dudes” in a newspaper column–as Washington Post writer Monica Hesse did the other day–is sexist and prejudicial.

The object of her wrath was Pete Buttigieg, who served in the Navy in Afghanistan, and told Beto O’Rourke in Tuesday’s Democratic debate: “I don’t need lessons from you on courage.” He was “the kind of dude we had seen before, a sort of megalomaniacal Eagle Scout,” Hesse wrote.

Pete Buttigieg is a good man–a veteran, Rhodes scholar, Harvard grad, and gay–not exactly the kind of man whose remarks should incense even the most hyper-sensitive feminist ears.

Let’s roll the clock back to 1988, when Lloyd Bentsen, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, memorably zapped Republican Dan Quayle in a debate, saying, “You’re no Jack Kennedy.” Or, four years before, with Mondale’s “where’s the beef?” ad.

Good political candidates have always been tough in debates, using clever, biting one-liners that both put down an opponent while at the same time emphasizing their own strengths vis a vis their opponent.

Instead, Hesse seems to see Mayor Pete’s rejoinder as a form of “mansplaining,” a denigrating term that has entered the popular argot.

I would have the same reaction if a male writer snidely referred to Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris as “the kind of chick we knew in high school.”

Bad form.

Actually more than that: Prejudice, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is “an unreasonable dislike of or preference for a person, group, custom, etc., especially when it is based on their race, religion, sex, etc.

OK, Hesse acknowledges deep into her column that her impression may be “unfair,” but such statements by self-styled progressives that make negative judgments about people based on their sex, race, ethnicity, social class, sexual preference, etc. are not much better than ones that Donald Trump and others make based on being a member of a particular group.

It’s trite but true to say: We need to heal the divides between women and men, whites and people of color, thoughtful liberals and thoughtful conservatives. We don’t need to keep stoking them, as this unfortunate column does.

Man Out

Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic front-runner, has now gotten into the business of not-so-funny man-bashing before a national audience.

She was asked during the other night’s debate how she would respond if a voter said to her: “I’m old-fashioned, and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman”?

Warren responded: ” “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that. And I’m going to say, ‘Then just marry one woman — I’m cool with that.’” She paused: “Assuming, you can find one.”

As the Washington Post correctly said, it gave the audience “the chance to snicker along about the evident cluelessness” of men and laugh about how pathetically unappealing men in general, (most? some?) men who ask a question like that? must be to (most? all?) women. Her answers also were dismissive of anyone who might have opinions that differ with hers.

This trope that men are clueless and good for a laugh has become all too common among many women. It’s offensive.

Substitute “Catholics,” “Jews,” “African Americans,” “Chinese,” etc. for Warren’s “men,” and such a remark would be called for it is–blatant prejudice. If a male candidate–Democrat or Republican–had said dismissively, “it must have been a woman,” and that certain women would have trouble finding a man, he would be crucified.

While men have always bashed and trashed women, the way to end bad male behavior like that is not to trash men.

Nor is this the way to win over the voters that a candidate would need to be elected president. As I have said, in my book, Man Out: Men on the Sidelines of American Life, and in op-eds in the Washington Post and USA Today, Democrats (and Republicans) need to pay attention to serious issues affecting men–from dropping out of the work force and poor physical and mental health to fathers’ rights (and children’s rights to their fathers) and alienation and isolation.