Fox News, Annie Get Your Gun, and a Glance at the Calendar

Dearest Readers,

You may have inferred this about me, but I am no great lover of Fox News.  Every so often, though, they come out with something that I just can’t ignore, and yesterday was one of those days.  For those who missed their article, “The War on Men”, I’ve linked it here-~-but like most of Fox News’ reporting, this piece is generally devoid of facts, citations are desperately needed, and for the most part it’s just incredibly off-target.  I sort of imagine the writer pulling a Clint Eastwood and talking to an empty chair called “Invisible Woman”.

Let me just clarify something for Fox News.  When we say there is a “War on Women”, we are referring to systematic efforts to diminish women’s rights.  We are referring to the fact that politicians today are pushing back on social progress and re-instituting inequality along gendered lines.  Realize that this isn’t happening to men.  No one is trying to take away men’s rights.  No one is trying to limit men’s bodily autonomy.  We don’t live in a matriarchal system that oppresses men.  Stop pretending that this is the case.

But back to this op-ed that Fox News published.  It’s based on the same exact logical fallacy that the musical Annie Get Your Gun is based on.  And you know what?  I’ve never liked that show, for the exact reasons I’m about to outline.  In Annie Get Your Gun, the protagonist, Annie Oakley, is a great shooter.  She’s just incredibly talented, but when she falls in love, the guy gets all in a twist because having a girlfriend who is talented and successful is a threat to his male ego, and he leaves her.  To get him back, Annie throws away her shooting career, to prove that she needs him.

This is how you know this play wasn’t written by a feminist.

Confined to a fictional scenario in a play written decades ago, this message would be easy to just discard as an expression of now-outdated gender roles.  The problem is that Fox News is STILL espousing these views, and you can see that incredibly clearly in “The War On Men”.  The author, Suzanne Venker, argues that “women aren’t women anymore” and that now that feminists have convinced women to push men off their pedestals, “men have nowhere to go”.  Then she makes the same strange claim that Rob Ogden made in a piece I responded to last November: that men are unable to become self-sufficient and mature adults because they don’t have to worry about bringing home the bacon for their women/their families.

This, of course, makes absolutely no sense.  First, because men likely need to become self-sufficient in order to take care of themselves.  Second, because if, as Venker claims is true (she actually has a citation for this so we’ll buy this argument for the moment), many women WANT to get married, then men DO still have to worry about things like taking care of their families.  Moreover, just because men aren’t the SOLE breadwinners doesn’t mean that their contributions aren’t incredibly important: many families would not be able to live comfortably if they didn’t have two incomes, so it isn’t as though women’s contributions somehow make men’s obsolete.  That just isn’t the case.  But third, the idea that men no longer have responsibilities in a relationship is equally nonsensical.  Feminists still expect their partners to contribute-~-that they should be contributing equally, in fact, instead of having to put in the lion’s share.  The idea that men can “live with their girlfriends with no responsibilities” is just rubbish.

Looking at the other arguments I mentioned though, it’s clear the Venker (and Ogden, if you look back at the piece I argued against a year ago) are hung up on the idea that if women don’t fulfill the TRADITIONAL gender roles that we were practicing at the start of the last century, they aren’t women.  This, again, is nonsense.  Venker ends her piece by saying this:

…women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.

So what is “femininity” then?  People like Venker-~-institutions like Fox News-~-would have you believe that femininity is weakness, it’s docility, it’s domesticity, it’s (dare I say it?) submissiveness.  It’s playing second fiddle to men in society.  It’s letting men bring home the bacon.  It’s everything that feminism argues that it isn’t.

Because feminism doesn’t argue that women shouldn’t be feminine: it argues that femininity doesn’t have to be this pitiful secondary concept.  Femininity and strength aren’t mutually exclusive.  You can be beautiful and empathetic and caring and still be smart and ambitious and successful.  Feminism says that we got our idea of femininity all wrong, that we underestimated women and what they’re capable of for centuries.  Anyone who says that you can’t be feminine and a feminist is lying to you, or doesn’t understand feminism in the slightest.  Feminism says “yes we can” when the Patriarchy says “You can’t, now make me a sandwich”.

And it’s not women who need to sort their issues out: it’s men, and it’s people like Suzanne Venker.  Women don’t need to go back to acting like it’s 1952: men need to catch on to the fact that it’s 2012.  It’s entirely possible that Annie Oakley made the wrong call, and that it wasn’t that she couldn’t get a man with a gun-~-she just needed to hold out for a man who respected her instead of giving in to the ego of the first guy who ever noticed she was a woman.

And maybe that’s what we all need to do: hold out for men who realize that a woman who works, a woman who thinks, a woman who fights for what she believes in…is still a woman, and is a woman worth getting to know, worth building a life with.  Claims that men are turned off by success and that women need to hang up their power suits and don their aprons are just echoes of a time that I had hoped we were past, and that women can’t just give up and go back to.


~ by Randi Saunders on November 27, 2012.

4 Responses to “Fox News, Annie Get Your Gun, and a Glance at the Calendar”

  1. Love your intro, especially the part about nobody is trying to take away your rights. That’s the difference between the war on men and the war on women. One is about changing social norms and the other is about the right to bodily autonomy and legal equality.

    One is real, the other is not.

  2. […] Fox News published Suzanne Venker’s first op-ed, The War on Men, I and other feminists shook our heads in frustration.  In response to the outcry of women who don’t dream of being arm candy and changing babies […]

  3. […] notably “The War On Men” and its follow-up.  Followers of this blog may recall that I published responses to theses pieces, because Venker gets a number of things wrong in them.  This week, she […]

  4. […] 6. Fox News, Annie Get Your Gun, and a Glance at the Calendar […]

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