Suzanne Venker Wants a Truce

The author of Fox News’ terrible “War on Men” piece wants you all to know that she didn’t really mean to be gender-essentialist. Her new article, “Let’s Call a Truce in the War on Men” (title case added, because—despite my maleness—I am not some kind of barbarian) clarifies what she was really trying to say:

Here’s what we know: Females, in general, are nurturing and relational beings. They like to gather and nest and take care of people. They like to commiserate with other females—a lot. That’s why girls can talk for hours on end. It’s why more women stay home with their children than men. It’s why the teaching and caregiving professions are still heavily female. Not every single woman in the world falls into this category, but that doesn’t make the generalization any less true.

Males, on the other hand—in general—are loners. They’re content to mill about in their man caves. They like to hunt. They like to build things and kill things. If you don’t have a son, this may sound strange. But again, that doesn’t make it untrue—nor does the fact that not every single man in the world is like this. Men also take pride in caring for their families. They can’t carry babies or nurse them, but they can provide for them. So let them.

See? Not gender essentialism at all.

Venker also wants to be sure you realize she was not telling all you ladies you have to stay home cooking and cleaning and cranking out babies; she just thinks you should de-emphasize career a little.

Just because you make your own money doesn’t mean your guy can’t pay the bill. Just because you value independence doesn’t mean you can’t take your husband’s last name. Just because you can do the same job a man can do doesn’t mean you need to let him know it.

Surrendering to your femininity means many things. It means letting your man be the man despite the fact that you’ve proved you’re his equal. It means recognizing the fact that you may very well want to stay home with your babies—and that that’s normal. It means if you do work outside the home, you don’t use your work to play tit-for-tat in your marriage.

So in this case, de-emphasizing your career just means pretending you don’t have one even though you do. Also, consider not having one but staying home and having babies instead.

Insidiously, those last couple paragraphs from Venker’s piece contain a number of quasi-truths. You shouldn’t necessarily be the one writing the checks to the utility company. You shouldn’t feel compelled to keep your last name if you get married. You shouldn’t rub it in if you have a better job or make more money than your boyfriend or husband. You shouldn’t feel compelled to keep working full-time if you would really rather have children and stay home with them. And you certainly shouldn’t foster a domestic relationship where you keep score against each other to see who wins the game of doing the most to keep the machine running.

Of course, Venker is actually implying that you should change your name, overtly or implicitly lie to your man about your career success to make him feel more “manly”, let him manage all the money, quit work or work less after you have children, and expect that if you do keep working your husband will not lift a finger to do any of that pesky “woman’s work” so you won’t turn into a crazy person.

I’d be much more cranky about this whole thing if it weren’t for one important realization:

The one calling for a truce is usually the one who’s losing.