The Macho Paradox?

On Thursday evening I attended a presentation by author and gender-activist Jackson Katz called ‘The Macho Paradox – how some men hurt and how all men can help’. This lecture was the first in a week-long series at Vanderbilt University called ‘Healthy Masculinities Week’. Mr. Katz is an accomplished social theorist who, in addition to being a member of the Department of Defense’s Task Force on Domestic Violence, has authored a number of articles and books on complementary subjects. He has lectured widely across the country and has without question contributed substantially in the cause against domestic violence. Considering his credentials, I was absolutely astonished by what I witnessed at this talk – a two hour stream-of-consciousness, collectivist rant that seemed specifically aimed at the persecution of anyone doing anything that might be deemed offensive with no absolutely no regard for Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association or the Right to Privacy.

This awkward and loose monologue was simply a recitation of soundbytes and liberal aphorisms wherein Mr. Katz essentially promoted amending of the definition of violence to include “any unwanted verbal, emotional, or spiritual acts.”

The central message here is very clear – that we are all victims and as victims we are to regard those who hold opposing views as violent aggressors.

Mr. Katz begins his presentation by instructing us that contemporary men lack the mental and emotional capacity necessary to comprehend the struggle of modern women. “Now, why do I say that? Well, it’s simple… when men hear things like ‘human rights’ or ‘community health’, they’ll always think blah, blah, blah. That’s not for me. And that is why this is a men’s issue.” He then draws a very curious racial comparison by saying “just like white people are nervous talking about race. When a white man hears about a black man who hit a woman or something he thinks well, that’s a cultural thing. That’s just what they do.” He is quick to inform everyone that we must “redefine what it is to be man” yet it seems that his new vision of men is that we are mostly bumbling, sex-mad idiots with absolutely no regard for anyone but ourselves.

He adds “now, there are a lot of men who say, yeah, but I’m a good guy. I have a wife and I respect women… well, these men have been policed into silence and their silence is consent” and continues to say that “men don’t speak up because there is a price to pay for their honesty.” These brainless “men’s rights types” may become defensive when confronted with accusations of “promoting a rape culture” or aiding in the creation of “unsafe places on the internet.” 

He gives us an example wherein someone is at a restaurant and seated next to a couple who are having a conversation about a woman’s appearance. By overhearing someone engaging in offensive speech or espousing “the same old ignorant thinking” then “you are not a witness but a victim” and as an “Empowered Bystander” it becomes your responsibility to intervene by confronting the “abusive peers.” 

Indeed, I may very well become defensive if I were to be confronted by a young adult wearing a t-shirt that says ‘diversity’ for say, having a private conversation about how I truly cannot comprehend how saying that someone has a pretty face equals fat shaming.

He mentions that rape prevention clinics started appearing in the seventies, as well as shelters for battered women but then tells this group of young adults who weren’t even alive at the time that they should feel ashamed that “we waited so long to establish those services.” To hold the same moral lens that we have today against something which occured forty years ago is a mistake. Might it have been more useful to explain that there are now thousands of them across the country? Maybe take the approach of giving out information about the shelters and talk about how to get involved; about the value of giving your time to make an impact on someone’s life? Not here. To hold the same moral lens that we have today against something which occured forty years ago is a mistake.

Throughout the presentation whenever I looked around the auditorium at the two hundred plus Millennials I couldn’t help but to feel some pity. I watched their faces as they tried to process phrases like “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words leave lasting damage.”

It’s important to realize that we are dealing with people who are straddling adolescence and young adulthood who, for the most part, have lived as dependants in an era where government campaigns and lawsuits are used to quell the behavior of bullies. For these young adults the world has become one of thought crimes and hate speech. I’m not sure they fully understand that the price one pays for living in a free society is tolerance and that there is an individual responsibility to tolerate ideas you don’t like as well as views you don’t share. Freedom of speech is not freedom of the thoughts we like but rather the thoughts we don’t like.  

In the twenty years since Mr. Katz began his career as an opponent of domestic violence violence against women has decreased by over sixty percent and that the number of rapes has decreased by fifty percent. There is no mention of this. The terms have changed. By drawing attention away from the inspiration that can be found in the forward progress of gender equality – across the country in nearly every area of contemporary culture from Ronda Rousey to Loretta Lynch to Carly Fiorina – people like Jackson Katz are assured a long career of activism.

For the past several decades we have been knocking down wall after wall only to hear about the countless ways in which today’s Americans are being oppressed and oppressing others. The crowd is told that “we have a responsibility to make people uncomfortable to enact social justice”, that there are “systemic forces at work everywhere” and always be looking put for any behaviour that might “violate social norms.” 

What I find particularly interesting is that despite our “desperate need for a paradigm shift” it is Western Civilization that made feminism (and any other ism) possible. Five thousand miles away there are cultures that would stone a woman to death for adultery and then tell that same woman as she is being murdered that she should be happy and content because her death has been ordered by God and is therefore required by law. And while that is happening we can feel free to read articles with titles like: How You Can Tell If You’re Being Sexually Empowered or Objectified or Five Ways Taylor Swift Exemplifies White Feminism And Why That’s A Problem.

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