Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review July 25, 2000 /22 Tamuz, 5760

John Leo

John Leo
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Anti-male bias increasingly pervades our culture -- A FAMOUS televison newswoman told this joke last month at a fund-raising dinner for a women's college: A woman needed a brain transplant. Her doctor said two brains were available, a woman's brain for $500 and a man's brain for $5,000. Why the big price difference? Answer: The woman's brain has been used.

Most in the audience laughed, but one man stood up and booed. What's wrong? asked a woman at his table. The man said, "Just substitute woman, black or Jew for 'man' in that joke, and tell me how it sounds."

At about the same time, American Greeting Cards launched an ad campaign in Newsweek, Life and other magazines. One ad featured a "Thelma and Louise" greeting card, pasted into the magazines, that said on the front: "Men are always whining about how we are suffocating them." The punch line inside the card was this: "Personally, I think if you can hear them whining, you're not pressing hard enough on the pillow."

The newswoman, who is a friend, seemed shocked when I phoned and raised questions about her joke. "The poor, sensitive white male," she said. A spokesman for the greeting card company saw nothing wrong with a humorous card about a woman killing a man. He faxed a statement saying the card had been pretested successfully, and besides, "We've heard no protests from consumers who are buying and using this card." But would American Greetings print a card with the sexes reversed, so the humor came from men joking about suffocating a woman? No, said the spokesman, because 85 percent to 90 percent of cards are bought by women. There is no market for a reverse card.

In truth, no man could get up at a fancy banquet and tell a joke about how stupid women are. And a greeting card joking about a woman's murder would be very unlikely, even if surveys showed that millions of males were eager to exchange lighthearted gender-killing greetings. The obvious is true: A sturdy double standard has emerged in the gender wars.

"There used to be a certain level of good-natured teasing between the sexes," says Christina Sommers, author of "Who Stole Feminism?" "Now even the most innocent remark about women will get you in trouble, but there's no limit at all to what you can say about men."

Men's rights groups phone me a lot, and I tell them my general position on these matters: The last thing we need in America is yet another victim group, this one made up seriously aggrieved males. But these groups do have an unmissable point about double standards. On the "Today" show last November, Katie Couric suddenly deviated from perkiness and asked a jilted bride, "Have you considered castration as an option?" Nobody seemed to object. Fred Hayward, a men's rights organizer, says: "Imagine the reaction if Matt Lauer had asked a jilted groom, 'Wouldn't you just like to rip her uterus out?'"

The double standard is rooted in identity politics and fashionable theories about victimization: Men as a group are oppressors; jokes that oppressors use to degrade the oppressed must be taken seriously and suppressed. Jokes by the oppressed against oppressors, however, are liberating and progressive. So while sexual harassment doctrine cracks down on the most harmless jokes about women, very hostile humor about men keeps expanding with almost no objections.

Until recently, for example, the 3M company put out post-it notes with the printed message: "Men have only two faults: everything they say and everything they do." Anti-male greeting cards are increasingly graphic, with some of the most hostile coming from Hallmark Cards' Shoebox Division.

(Sample: "Men are scum ... Excuse me. For a second there I was feeling generous.") JWR columnist Cathy Young sees a rising tide of male-bashing, including "All Men Are Bastards" and "Men We Love to Hate" calendars, and a resentful "It's-always-his-fault" attitude pervading women's magazines.

Commercial attempts to increase the amount of sexual antagonism in America are never a good idea. And if you keep attacking men as a group, they will eventually start acting as a group, something we should fervently avoid. But the worst impact of all the male-bashing is on the young.

Barbara Wilder-Smith, a teacher and researcher in the Boston area, was recently quoted in several newspapers on how deeply anti-male attitudes have affected the schools. When she made "Boys Are Good" T-shirts for boys in her class, all 10 of the female student teachers under her supervision objected to the message. (One, she said, was wearing a button saying "So many men, so little intelligence.")

"My son can't even wear the shirt out in his back yard," she said. "People see it and object strongly and shout things." On the other hand, she says, nobody objects when the girls wear shirts that say "Girls Rule" or when they taunt the boys with a chant that goes, "Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider; girls go to college to get more knowledge." Worse, she says, many adolescent boys object to the "Boys Are Good" shirts too, because they have come to accept the cultural message that something is seriously wrong with being a male.

"The time is ripe for people to think about the unspoken anti-male 'ism' in our colleges and schools," she says. And in the rest of the popular culture as well.

JWR contributor John Leo's latest book is Two Steps Ahead of the Thought Police. Send your comments by clicking here.


07/18/00: Banned in Boston
07/12/00: What Jacoby had to deal with!
07/11/00: Will boys be boys?
07/05/00: Partial-sense decision
06/27/00: Attitude toward death penalty gets in the way of facts
06/20/00: Double troubles
06/13/00: Fools paradise
06/06/00: Accidental conspirator
05/30/00: Faking the hate
05/23/00: Was it law or poetry?
05/16/00: Here, there and everywhere, people have gone bonkers
05/09/00: Tufts evangelicals are punished for acting on their beliefs
05/02/00: Elian's opera isn't over until nearly everyone sings
04/25/00: All the news that fits: The media serve up many stories from a standard script
04/19/00: Those darned readers: The gap between reporters and the general public is huge
04/05/00: Census sense and nonsense
03/29/00: Hollywood message films leave no room for other views
03/22/00: The Vatican confesses, but is it enough?
03/14/00: Watch what you say: The left can no longer be counted on to defend free speech
03/07/00: McCain's malleable messages
03/01/00: Bush's appearance at Bob Jones U. will dog him all the way
02/23/00: 'Multi-millionaire' show is new evidence we're insane

© 2000, John Leo