Suzanne Venker, Please Just…Stop

When 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 full time, Venker went ahead and published a second piece.

I really have to question Venker’s credentials here, because she appears to have literally never taken a sociology or gender studies class EVER in her life.  You can tell, because she starts going off about how women are biologically programmed to be nurturers and this is why women choose to stay home with their children, more-so than men; she also goes on to say that men are hunters and providers and loners.  What she doesn’t say is that people in our society are socially conditioned to fulfill these roles, and are taught from a very young age that these are the characteristics that they ought embrace and the gender roles that they ought perform.  It’s not genetically programmed in us; it’s just socialization.

Realize that if children grew up seeing their dads stay home and their moms work at high-powered investment banks, and little girls were given Legos-~-not pink, girly Legos to build salons with but normal Legos-~-and boys were given baby dolls, these social norms might play out differently.  Boys might grow up believing it is their role to care for children, girls might understand themselves to be providers.  Children model what they see.

In an attempt to come off as a person who recognizes what CENTURY we live in, Venker then turns around and acknowledges that we do need women to work because one salary won’t cut it.  GREAT.  Finally, a recognition of the current state of the American economy.  But just when you thought sanity might win the day, Venker goes on to say that “women are going to have to become comfortable with sacrifice and capitulation”.  No, really, she says that.  And she says that is the key to a lasting marriage-~-just ask your grandparents.

I don’t know about you, but my grandparents are…uh…old.  Like, they were born before 1950.  They grew up with a different concept of gender norms and relationships than I did.  Where I’ll likely have several serious, long-term-ish partners (or at least, in general my peer group will), my grandparents didn’t really date around.  In fact, all of MY grandparents married their high school sweethearts.  But the ways that their marriages have operated are not necessarily the way that I want MY eventual marriage to operate, because I live in a world that has changed significantly since then.  And so do all of us.  We can’t just act like we’re in the 1950s when we get home from work and say “well, it’s fine, because we acknowledge that women work and that’s a thing”.

Venker THEN goes on to say that even though our culture has told you that you don’t need a man, guess what?  You do.  And you need to surrender to that.  You shouldn’t let your career be the most important thing in your life-~-in fact, it shouldn’t really be that important at all.  She says this:

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.

I’m actually willing to say that Venker sort of has a point with her first two examples: it’s okay to let a guy pay…but not to let him hold that over you.  It’s okay to take your husband’s last name…but that’s a personal decision, and it’s also okay to hyphenate or to keep your own last name, based on what you personally think about it.  But if you can do the same job as a man, you SHOULD let him know it.  Men get away with paying women less in our society, and failing to hire women, and talking down to women, because they think they are less capable or less motivated than their male counterparts, and that simply isn’t true.

I’m not saying you should rub it in your husband’s face if you make more than him; certainly one would hope that men would not flaunt their salaries to make their wives feel bad.  But the fact remains that there are some really smart, talented women out there and their husbands should be so lucky to have them, and should recognize and be proud of that.  Saying that women should hide their achievements because their achievements make their husbands feel bad necessarily prioritizes a man’s pride of a woman’s, and says that a man should at least feel like he is worth more than his wife.  That’s an unacceptable message to continue to uphold, given that it’s 2012 and all that.

Venker’s claims that women are “equal but different” is problematic at best and, as Zach Beauchamp at ThinkProgress points out, are associated with things like excusing domestic violence and gender discrimination.  Women may be different, in that we have different anatomy, but much of what makes us “unlike men” is socially programmed and can be changed-~-and women today cannot afford to sit back, make some sandwiches, powder our noses, and say that’s good enough.

Change isn’t easy, but it’ll never happen if we heed Venker’s advice and just give up.  Social equality doesn’t start in the workplace and end in the home, and if we ever want to have a genuinely equal society, then we NEED to start having more equitable marriages and modeling gender equality for the next generations.  Women of my generation grew up thinking that it was normal for women to work because our mothers worked, and I hope that women of our next generation think it is normal for both women and men to have successful careers and to share work equally at home, for women to be leaders and for men to be active in their children’s lives: that’s a future worth fighting for, whether Suzanne Venker wants to see that or not.


~ by Randi Saunders on December 8, 2012.

21 Responses to “Suzanne Venker, Please Just…Stop”

  1. This.

  2. Typical liberal gender studies response. You are EXACTLY the type of “girl” (and I hope that offends you) that no self-respecting man would put up with, except maybe for a one night stand if you’re good looking. Go ahead and live your feminist life. You’ll see eventually that Suzanne is right, even though you may never admit it publically.

    • It’s really cool that you just assumed that I’m a) straight and b) single. I think it’s perfectly acceptable that I want a guy who respects me as a person, and it’s totally possible that I’ve met guys who do exactly that.

      Oh, and before you respond, just a head’s up: if you’re going to splatter my posts with ad hominem attacks, you’re going to be banned from this site, since my comments policy states I don’t allow hate speech or ad hominems.

      • OK, if you’re a lesbian and in a relationship, then I would assert that Suzanne’s article is not even directed at you. Furthermore, if you are gay then the typical man/woman relationships, desires, feelings, etc. are at least a little foreign to you.
        BTW: Since you don”t allow “hate speech”, how do you propose we have a serious discussion about this topic? Essentially, almost anything I say that you disagree with could be defined by you as “hate speech”. My feelings won’t be hurt as easily, so you are free to say whatever you want as far as I am concerned.

      • I classify hate speech as speech that directly targets in a deliberately demeaning or degrading manner any group based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, etc., and/or the use of slurs.

        It’s not that you can’t say things I disagree with, but I won’t allow people to go on, say, anti-gay rants. I also don’t allow people to make personal attacks on me or on other commentators on this blog.

        I’m just going to say that relationships, desires, etc aren’t specific to heterosexual relationships. And I was just saying that was an interesting assumption you made-~-as it happens, I am straight, but you automatically said I was the kind of girl that no man in his right mind would want, implying that it was a man I was aiming to get. Just pointing that out.

      • I made the assumption you were straight because 90%+ of humanity is. In fact, I assume everyone is straight, unless I learn otherwise, because I live in reality.

        One final starting point question before we continue; In your mind, can a True statement ever be considered “hate speech”?

      • See I’m a lot more anti-heteronormativity than you are, clearly. That’s why I don’t make assumptions about people’s sexual orientations-~-I know so many people who identify as gay, lesbian, bi, queer, or asexual that it seems wrong to simply assume that someone falls into a category, just because it’s the “majority”.

        Let me make this perfectly clear: if you make a factual statement, and you can back up that it is factual, it’s fine. But the SECOND you say something homophobic or transphobic, or that qualifies as a slur, or qualifies as ad hominem, your comments WILL be taken down from this site. So if you say “African Americans make up a larger portion of inner city populations in the United States”, this is a fact, I’m not going to qualify it as hate speech. But if you start telling me that Black people are all criminals, I will block the comment. I’m not sure what’s unclear about this.

      • OK, fair enough. I will do my best. I asked because I will probably say some things that might offend you or hurt your feelings, but my intent is not to hate. First off, let me tell you a little about myself. I am a 49 year old white male, married for 24 years to the same beautiful woman. I am the Head of my Household. We have 3 kids ages 14,17,20. 2 girls and a boy.I grew up in the roaring 70s & 80s, saw most of the great rock bands in concert, smoked some weed, and did most other things college kids did. We are all now active Christians. I have a Bachelors degree and my wife has a Masters. When my son was born 20 years ago she stopped working and hasn’t worked a paying job since. At the time she quit she was making more money than me. I have worked (in the private sector) since I was 15, and currently make over 250K.I am also an avid outdoorsman and hunter, although you probably wouldn’t guess that if you saw me because I don’t have “the look” of the guys on the Outdoor channel. Before we discuss the article in question, is there anything about my background that makes you uncomfortable? If so, what and why?

      • I don’t judge people’s backgrounds, but I’m going to ask that you try not to judge me based on mine.

      • OK, what is yours? Tell me a little about yourself. In your response to Suzanne you certainly make the case for “nurture over nature”, so I think its relevant…

      • I grew up in a suburban two-parent household. My dad has changed careers several times and my mom is a teacher. As you have already seen in my bio–and as you have already mocked, thanks for that, that really makes me want to have a conversation with you–I am an international development/comparative race relations and sociology double major focusing on the intersections of race, gender, poverty and health.

        As a sociologist, I understand gender to be socially constructed. This is why gender necessarily plays itself out differently in different cultures. And I also understand our gender binary to be an inadequate understanding of gender and the ways that people may perceive themselves within society. It’s not about “nurture”, it’s about the idea that the expectations that are had for us based on gender come from our society, and when society alters those rules those expectations can change, norms can change (for example: Sweden is working on this).

      • Thanks. Before we begin, I do apologize for the harshness of my two initial posts, and appreciate you staying with me.Now, I would like to discuss Suzanne’s article, and feminism in general. I would like to put forth a few points, in no particular order or importance, that we can use as a springboard for further discussion. A couple things: my points are mostly based on things I have learned or figured out AFTER college, and they are based on what I have seen in the REAL world, not on what either you or I WISH the world would be. I will be blunt, but I am not intending on being hateful or harsh.

        1) Suzannes articles are based on real conversations she has had with women & men, whereupon she has considered these conversations, wondered about them, and offered her theories/solutions based on them. You don’t agree. That’s fine.But I would suggest that it is unwise for a young person to discount “uncomfortable” positions just because they don’t fit in with your worldview. It is akin to talking to a soldier who has just entered boot camp, regarding his thoughts, assumptions, etc., compared to a soldier who has just spent 5 years in combat in Afghanistan. You are the soldier entering boot camp, and she is, and has been talking to, the soldiers who have spent “5 years” in combat.

        2) Paragraphs 2 & 3 of your response to her are patently false and have been proven so in studies and in real life. If you have a son someday you will find that out in short order. Even the article Zach links to basically says as much, before the author then quickly discounts that fact, to go into her “behavior” thesis, which better fits her preconceived worldview. I would suggest that a more honest look at the topic would reveal that throughout human history “nurture FOLLOWS nature”. That girls are raised different from boys because each shows tendencies toward their sex from the time they are born. Indeed, to do otherwise would be illogical. If/when you ever have a son I very much doubt you will be encouraging him to wear a dress, bake cupcakes, and play with Barbie dolls. If you do, I promise you that you will have a very screwed up kid when he grows up. But a bigger question is; why would you want to do that??

        3) Suzanne says that women today are angry and have their guard up, and that is a turn off to men. You may not like the assertion, but it doesn’t make it any less true. As a man I can tell you it is true. And whether you realize it or not, you are angry and you do have your guard up. Do you know how I know this without having met you? Because, by definition, gender, minority, and multi-cultural studies are essentially part of the “Grievance Industry” in this country. They essentially teach that men (especially white) are oppressive, and the cause of most of the problems in the world.

        4) Have you ever considered that feminism is really a “hothouse plant”? It can only survive in a sophisticated society with strong protective laws. When civilization collapses due to war or natural disaster, feminism disappears overnight. Men immediately fight to protect and provide for their families, and women immediately feed, take care of, and protect their children. No “theories” then, just what makes sense in order to survive. The feminist ideal of society is ARTIFICIAL and actually a denial of reality and the natural order.

        Ok, This should be a good start for us.

      • Look, I’m all for having a dialogue, but I’m going to stop you right there, because I’m in the middle of finals week and I don’t have time to perpetually respond to someone we all know I’m not going to convince. And I’m not going to convince you, because you’ve already decided that you’re right and I’m too young to see this but when I’m older I’ll understand.

        1) This may sound like batshit lunacy to you, but the world changes. Societies change. The kind of marriage that I want to have isn’t the kind of marriage that was normalized in my grandparents’ generation. I’m QUESTIONING the way things are and the assumptions we base our lives off of because I don’t necessarily agree with their premises. And if you don’t think what I have to say is of value, close out of my blog and pick up a copy of Venker’s book. I don’t have to sit here while you patronize me and tell me I’m a silly little girl.

        2) Girls are raised differently than boys because of ASSUMPTIONS made about them based on sex. What you see as tendencies sociologists see as slanted opportunities. And even if there are “tendencies”, there are people who are never going to fit that gender binary. And that’s okay. And if I ever DO have a son, and he likes to play with dolls or he likes to wear girl clothes, I will be okay with that. Researchers are now looking at the issue of gender non-conforming children and parents are just beginning to navigate this issue, but I won’t tell you that I’m just going to tell ANY child of mine, male or female, that there is something wrong with who they are just because society doesn’t like certain things about them. A son who is allowed to wear pink and play with dolls might not be your typical tough guy in high school, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be screwed up-~-that’s not an assertion you can make here.

        3) Pardon my French, but take a fucking sociology class and then talk to me about hierarchical structures and how they work, and stop using bullshit terms like “grievance industry”.

        4) Feminism is a movement. It’s a philosophy. And sure, like any philosophy, it may need some preconditions in order to be effective, I’ll give you that much. In times of crisis, people fall back on the roles they know best, which in this case are traditional gender roles that have been enforced for generations. You still haven’t proven to me that gender isn’t socially constructed, only that people fall back on the constructs with the longest histories. That’s still nurture, not nature.

      • Well, so much for the dialog. Sorry about the Finals, I remember them being tough & stressful.
        1) I didn’t intend to patronize you. What I was trying to point out is that if women who were feminists in their 20s, are now expressing regrets in their 40s, it seems wise and prudent for a young person like yourself to at least take note of that, not just dismiss it as old-fashioned, etc.Frankly, your response is like the old saying “when I was 18 I thought my father was an idiot, but when I turned 25 I was amazed at how much he had learned.”
        2) Again, Your first sentence is false and has been proven so in studies and real life. Boys and girls are innately different in many ways, but not all ways.Regarding your future son, you will find out that it is highly UNLIKELY that he will want to wear pink or play with dolls, because he is born a man, not a woman.
        3) Pardon me, but your answer sounds like you are “angry and you have your guard up”. Guess you proved my point. You may not like the term “grievance industry”, but isn’t it true that these courses generally condemn men (especially white), and blame them for oppression and most of the problems of the world? Sounds like grievance to me. Speaking of bullshit terms, how about gender binary, heteronormativity,just to name a few…
        4)Don’t you think a movement or philosphy should comport with reality? In times of crises people revert back to WHAT WORKS, because it is a matter of survival. Traditional gender roles are what works. Finally, you say that traditional gender roles have been enforced for generations. True. My question to you is “WHY do you think this is so?”

      • Yes, I am angry. Women are angry. Do you think maybe women have REASONS to be angry?

        Because you know what? I think it’s reasonable that I’m angry that I’ll make less than a man doing the same job, but I’m less likely to get hired because employers will assume I’m going to leave to raise my babies. I think it’s reasonable to be angry that I live in a culture where rape isn’t taken seriously as an issue and victims are blamed for what befalls them. I think it’s reasonable to be angry when I’m told I can’t do things because I’m female.

        Traditional gender roles AREN’T necessarily working, and even though they’re embedded in societies through laws and expectations, that doesn’t mean that they’re inherently right. There is a power imbalance that allows those who our power hierarchy favors to continue making the rules.

        And if boys were taught to believe it was okay for them to play with dolls, and that they wouldn’t be ostracized, they might choose to play with dolls. See: Sweden. AND STOP ACTING LIKE TRANSPEOPLE DON’T EXIST.

        So yes, I might be angry. And I’m going to hold out for a man who recognizes that I have value not just as a homemaker and mother, but as a thinker and an advocate.

      • You don’t make less than a man doing the same job! In one of your articles, or one you linked to, there is a discussion of female doctors and lawyers who make less than their male counterparts. Well, I have two brothers who are lawyers and one sister who is a doctor. Most lawyers and doctors up until recently, are self employed. That means that they charge and bill whatever they want to, except for some type of government rules in the case of doctors. Now, if I go to a female doctor or lawyer, I pay what they bill or I don’t go to them. I don’t decide that if they are female that I will pay them less. So your assertion is false. The only reason that a female doctor or lawyer will make less than a man is if she decides not to work as much so she can do other things, like spend time with her kids. If you decide that you don’t want to do that then you will make as much as any man. The idea that women make less than men is false, when you take into account that women are sick more often, and they take more time off to spend at home.

        You’ve brought up Sweden a couple times. Is that the country where they recently tried to pass a law that said men have to pee sitting down? Yes it is. Give me a break! The only reason Sweden is like that is because the men have been emasculated! Too bad for them.

        As far as rape not being taken seriously, you must be thinking of a Muslim country. Personally I think rapists ought to get the death penalty, or at least serious prison time. What I bet you are referring to is when a woman has sex with one or more guys willingly and then in the morning she regrets it and cries rape. Sorry, too late for her at that point. A bigger question is: why does she regret it when you and others like you are telling her that it is fine to sleep around, just like guys do? It shouldn’t be a problem. btw: try telling all your theories to a muslim or asian culture and see how far you get.

        Getting back to our original discussion about Suzanne’s article…that’s the whole point. You can wait around for your mythical husband all you want, but given your attitude you will be waiting for a long time! That’s exactly what she’s saying!!

      • Your relatives’ personal experiences are not necessarily representative of the full population, sorry to break it to you. ON AVERAGE, women make 77% less than men.

        When I refer to Sweden, I’m referring to their efforts to make schools more gender-neutral.

        HEADS UP BRO, I’m talking about America. I’m talking about TEXAS, where a 15-year-old girl was gang raped and was told if she weren’t dressed the way she was, it wouldn’t have happened. I’m talking about AMERICA. where I was personally told that my assault didn’t count as an assault because I had previously been involved with the guy. I’m talking about AMERICA, where a Stanford University student, even though she went through a SANE exam and it was known that she was drunk which means legally she COULD NOT CONSENT was told by police they didn’t think she was raped.

        I will not be answering any further comments or questions. I suspect you belong to the contingent to which I refer, the contingent that fails to understand that date rape IS rape, that marital rape IS rape, that 80-something percent of rapes are acquaintance rapes not crimes committed by strangers in bushes.

        FUN FACT: only about 2% of rape claims turn out to be false claims. But it’s good to know you’re one of those people who just assumes that women reporting date rape or acquaintance rape are just women who regret it the day after.

        You want to keep referring to studies? Citation needed. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m done.

      • Hey Randi,

        I’m back from the weekend. Hope you had a good one. Sorry to hear that you were assaulted. I would never minimize that, and hope you’ve recovered.

        Regarding the cases you cited, I would guess that those situations were a little more complicated than what you said. Unfortunately, rape cases are hard to deal with. When a case is brought the DA and prosecutor have to evaluate all the facts and ascertain whether they believe they can reasonably get a conviction from a jury. Given that the accused has a presumption of innocence, I can only imagine that these cases can be very hard to prosecute. Even more so in the case of date rape or marital rape. Especially when you consider that any good defense attorney will aggressively defend his client, as he is obligated to do. How would you solve this legal dilemma?

        You have mentioned marital rape a couple times. Thinking back to Suzanne’s article, how do you think all this talk makes you appear to prospective boyfriends and possibly a husband you are going to “hold out” for? Personally, I would stay far away from any woman I had to worry would accuse me of marital rape after we had an argument. And I would tell my son to do the same thing! So ask yourself, what kind of man would get involved with you knowing you are always “on the lookout” for rape, even including him. Frankly, what guy would want to be in a relationship like that? Not trying to hurt your feelings. But look at it from the guys perspective.

        And don’t tell me that women are as pure as the wind-driven snow, and men are one step above Ted Bundy, when it comes to these things. For example, when there is marital discord, it is a routine legal tactic for the wife to get a restraining order against the husband to bolster her case for child custody, whether violence actually occurred or not. I know because I’ve seen it in at least two cases of friends of mine. Women will lie to use the legal system just as much as men.

      • Incredibly, this has never interfered with my relationships, thanks to the fact that I haven’t dated any rapists so far. And any man who doesn’t respect me enough to want my consent doesn’t have any place in my life. I’m not “on the look out for rape”, I just understand that I have a right to say no. Just like any man that I’m involved with has a right to say no, and I would never violate that right, either.

        You are now in violation of our safe space policy, for the repeated accusation that women will just make up rape claims. I have already shown you that statistically speaking, this is not the case, and it is offensive to myself and to other survivors who read on this site that you have continued with this line of argumentation. Any further questions or comments you have can be sent to me via email. No further responses will be posted on this blog.

  3. OMG, i just read your bio, after I posted above. I am amazed at my powers of observation. College student with an emphasis in Gender & Marginalization (whatever that is) Studies. GIrl, let me caution you that what you write now WILL come back to haunt you when you are in your 40s & 50s. You will, hopefully, realize how stupid it is. Suzanne, I, and others have the wisdom of years that you don’t have yet. All the stuff your professors are teaching you is a bunch of crap. Academia is not the real world, that’s why all the crazy ideas live there.

  4. […] 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 published […]

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