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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Opinion: Suzanne Venker is Waging a Made-Up War

Maybe Suzanne Venker wasn’t aware, but the United States has been battling this little thing called a recession since 2008. Which just so happens to be the same year the U.S. Census Bureau’s Community Survey shows the start of a decline in marriage among American adults.

What many of us recognize as a natural response to shrinking salaries, economic uncertainty, and an overall increase in stress in general, Venker paints as a dark consequence of the rise in influence of the modern woman in her recent opinion piece for Fox News, “The War on Men.”

It would be easy to attack Venker’s claims based on their sheer absurdity, but what’s most troubling is her apparent desire to unwind the progress women have fought so hard to achieve and demote women from their place as equals in society—and to do so recklessly, without an ounce of verifiable research to back up her claims.

The statement that kicks off Venker’s piece—that women want to be married, but that men don’t want to marry them—is a figment of her imagination. She references findings from a 2010 study from the Pew Research Center, which notes that 37% of women between ages 18-34 surveyed reported that a successful marriage was one of the most important aspects of their lives—up from 28% in 1997. Men however, reported a decline from 35% to 29% for the same period. To Venker, this shift was an indication that men were losing their interest in getting married.

Yet she cites no real research to back up this claim—only anecdotal conversations she’s had with hundreds (wait, maybe even thousands!) of men, she herself describes as being part of a subculture. Last time I checked, subcultures don’t exactly reflect the general population, so from the start, her logic is already flawed.

She goes on to blame the sexual revolution for changing the way men and women interact, claiming that while women have changed, men haven’t. But the truth is, men have been growing with the times, too. While more women are entering the workforce than ever before, so too are more men taking on the challenges of running a household. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010, 32% of fathers with a partner in the workforce took care of their children at least once per week, which is up from 26% in 2002, and of the fathers with children under the age of five, 20% were the primary caretaker. I’d say men have changed their roles pretty significantly in recent years.

Statistics, it would seem, however, are not enough for Venker—or, maybe it was just because she didn’t have any—so instead she jumps from one baseless conclusion to another, claiming women are angry and defensive (often without knowing why), they’ve deprived men of their rightful place on the throne, and now, sadly, these poor, helpless men have no place left to go.

In sum, women have overthrown men. According to Venker, anyway. Which got me thinking, if that were the case, wouldn’t women make more than men? If this war on men Venker speaks of really had happened, she makes it sound like the women won. If so, where are the spoils of war?

If women had raged so relentlessly against their true feminine nature, as Venker calls it, wouldn’t it follow then that women were the new captains of industry, overflowing the rosters of corporate boards, running public companies, and essentially, ruling the world? If only.

But it isn’t enough for Venker to simply trash women for sending all the marriageable men running for the hills. She adds insult to injury when she states that women's place isn’t in the workplace, but at home—that women need men to “pick up the slack at the office—in order to live the balanced life they seek.”

Venker’s lazy attempt to imply that one change in our country’s demographics over the course of the biggest financial crisis in recent memory is the root of all dysfunction in marriage is irresponsible, and does little to support her apparent crusade to demote women from their equal positions with men in the workplace (although not yet equal pay), and leave them barefoot, pregnant, and subservient (but thank heavens, married!) to their well-deserving and clearly superior men.

If anything, though, Venker’s unorganized rant may light a fire under both men and women to help further the call to equality in the workplace (and everywhere else). So for that, I suppose, we should thank her.

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