The Magazine

Daddies Dearest

A 'shrewd, witty' look at the men in our lives.

Jul 28, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 43 • By MYRNA BLYTH
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A recent, chilling case that seems to prove Parker's observation that we have become the society where fathers hardly matter: the news report of 17 pregnant teenage girls, none older than 16, in a high school in Gloucester, Massachusetts. According to the high school's principal, one of the girls chose a "a twenty-four-year-old homeless man" to supply her with the necessary sperm. Obviously, she was not concerned with what kind of dad he would be, because the girls were planning to raise the children together. And though one might say that these immature and foolish teenagers were more influenced by last year's hit movie Juno than by any serious anti-male sentiments, even in that movie the seemingly tidy ending is when Juno, the teenage mother, hands her baby over to an older childless woman--but one who is about to divorce her hapless, immature husband and will raise the child alone.

Parker lays the blame for the marginalizing of males to the modern feminist movement, which began in the late 1960s and belittled men as much as it encouraged women to achieve. She does quite a job on some longtime feminist icons, especially those who focus on encouraging women to enthusiastically celebrate their sexuality, such as Eve Ensler, author of the spectacularly successful Vagina Monologues, and other "Vulva Sherpas" such as Dr. Betty Dobson, a sexologist "who teaches women how to pleasure themselves." Parker is at her funniest in this chapter, entitled "The Vagina Diatribes and the Sacred Clitorati," where she writes, "There is yet another sentence that makes no sense to men. Women have to be taught?"

She also complains that feminism's daughters and granddaughters--the Sex in the City hookup generation and their pre-puberty little sisters wearing "Future Porn Star" T-shirts--may have been encouraged to embrace their sexuality perhaps too enthusiastically, and to their detriment. Just think of those pregnant Gloucester teens. And, Parker notes, if one expects very little of young men in the way of responsibility or caring, that is exactly what young women get in return.

Yes, there are now lots of misunderstandings, blunders, and sexual harassment suits in the new war between the sexes. Parker writes:

Torpedoed by cultural messages that are relentlessly sexual, by pole-dancing moms and prostitots decked in baby hookerware, [men] are nevertheless expected to treat females as ladies. Except don't call them 'ladies' which is insultingly patriarchal. .  .  . The deal is basically this. Females can flaunt their foliage when, where, and how they choose, and you men have to be psychics to respond appropriately.

Throughout Save the Males, Parker is full of good sense and sympathy but, at the same time, is realistic about men the way only a wife and the mother of sons can be. She kept telling her family that they had better shape up or she simply couldn't keep writing this book. But she says she plowed ahead, not only because she wanted to save the males but because she is interested in saving females, too.

She believes our families and our country need men who have those old-fashioned virtues of honor and courage, and accept their responsibilities. For when we expect and allow men to be men, at the same time we greatly benefit women and children.

Myrna Blyth, former editor in chief of Ladies' Home Journal, is most recently the coauthor of How to Raise an American.