Roger Olson, Rosemary Ruether, and Male Aggression

From Roger’s summary of Ruether’s study:

Now, how does Ruether’s view support my own? It seems to me that the root cause of the present male malaise is resentment arising from the perception that males are viewed by society as, at their core, inferior to females. One education expert noted (in Newsweek’s “The Boy Crisis” cover story (January 30, 2006) that in today’s public schools boys tend to be treated as “defective girls.” Boys and young men cannot help but pick up the not-very-subtle messages in the media that boys and men are fundamentally flawed. Many young men were raised solely by women with no male role models other than sports celebrities or rock stars. Most companies give women six weeks to six months off for maternity leave; most give fathers no time off when their child is born. There’s a whole complex of problems that are almost too subtle for most people to notice, but they go deep into social psychology. The feminist movement has done wonderful things for women, but it has had the (mostly) unintended consequence of making young men feel insecure about themselves. The result goes two directions—either toward acting out in anti-social ways or toward retreat from the pursuit of prestige and power into game playing.

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  • I think plenty of women would beg to differ with the idea that society treats them so well. Perhaps we should wait until women receive equal pay for the same work as men before we start bemoaning the deficiencies of maleness. Also, it’s an odd time to be writing this, given the political debates currently taking place over whether or not a group of mostly male politicians and religious leaders should have the right to deny low- and middle-income women the access to affordable health care, including the ability to regulate the cycles and systems of their own bodies.

    To the extent that society worships women, it is solely in relationship to their ability to provide pleasure for men. Which is not exactly healthy for either gender, but it certainly is not an evidence of women being treated as superior to men.

  • Darren King

    One thing I have noticed over time is that, in advertising media, the trend seems to be, when portraying a family situation, to make the man/husband/father look like a imbecile. This is probably strategic, in that women make most household purchasing decisions. However, that said, if our goal is gender equality, this is a step backwards.

    That said, on the other hand I’m still shocked by the degree to which highly sexualized portrayals of women pervade in advertising, and in society in general. Take GoDaddy commercials for instance: I am honestly shocked that more women don’t stand up and say “boycott this company, they treat women like objects.” Even in professional sports, cheerleaders are dressed like strippers. This is family-friendly entertainment? Come on, I don’t want either my son or my daughter seeing those portrayals – it hurts them both. And I love me some basketball!

    Stop the insanity!

  • John Inglis

    Aside from the fact that the “no equal pay for equal work” is a myth (i.e., apparent differentials in received income relates to factors other than doing the same work, even where the same nominal is used to categorize data), Roger’s point is about men, not women. I’m sure that Roger (who believes in women pastors and teachers) would be first in line to state that women get a raw deal and should be better treated. Roger is trying to understand where male failings can be traced to. Part of it is a social and cultural context.

  • Elaine

    This sounds more like a white male “problem” than a male problem in general. Black males have been dealing with the so-called “deficiency” problem for most of modern American history.

    Males of several ethnic groups have been singled out as “deficient” in times past – native American males, then Italians, Chinese and Hispanics.

  • Kyle

    Paul, many of your points are valid, but there’s a whole batch of truths being peddled that women possess a more dynamic and therefore intelligent way of problem-solving within interpersonal contexts, which is almost every context. “This is the era of negotiation, of shades of gray, of multitasking, of verbal reasoning and communication. This is the era of the woman.” That’s a rough paraphrasing of a sizable minority of psychological and sociological tracts these days, and while it’s not my point to address the veracity of these claims, these claims are omnipresent enough that at least one critical and pervasive conversation has men often feeling a step behind their female counterparts. Gender inequality can be domain specific and affect both genders adversely.

  • Joe Canner

    Dr. Olson notes that one of the solutions Ruether offers is: “Men and women must share fully the parenting of children from birth and the domestic work associated with daily life.”

    This proposal, if valid, would require a substantial shift in the way most people think of parenting. It wouldn’t be enough for men to do more around the house in the evenings and on weekends. In my estimation, to achieve true equality, it would require women going back to work, at least part-time, withing the first year or two (say, after weaning) and would require men cutting back and shifting hours so that they could be the parent when the woman is at work (because the mother is usually seen as the primary parent even when the father is present).

    It’s an interesting proposal, but I doubt that there are many couples who would be up for it.

  • EAB

    #6 I know quite a few couples who would be up for both parents working part time or three quarter time so that both parents can be with their kids more, but I don’t know of many companies that would be accommodating. This would require a huge paradigm shift in the American business world.

  • Kenny Johnson


    Really? Do you think that’s so unusual? My wife works part time (about 30 hours) and I work full time (40 hours). And we both share parenting and domestic work. In fact, I probably do the bulk of the cleaning, etc. Because my wife work’s part time, she definitely does more of the parenting than I do as she’s just with him more, but otherwise I’d say it’s pretty equal.

    I also take time off for things. For example, we will both be going to the Kindergarten “orientation” coming up. I took the day off.

  • Joe Canner

    EAB #7: Yeah, the kind of job flexibility required for the arrangement I envision would be hard to come by, even for those couples who had the desire.

    Kenny #8: Perhaps this is more common than I realize, but I’m not just talking about men doing equal chores. Ruether’s proposal is that child-rearing be equal. This would only work if the working hours were such that both parents were with the kids the same amount of time and both shared equally in the parenting when they were both present. The former would require significant job flexibility (as per EAB #7); the latter would require a significant paradigm shift compared to traditional child-rearing considering how the mother is usually seen as the primary caregiver and many fathers would defer to her if they were both present.

  • ft

    sounds like shame. I just listened to a Ted Talk on Shame. The speaker shared how men and women experience shame. here is the link. I think it pertains.

  • Mike M

    Let’s see: men have no say (denied the right) in whether their partner has an abortion or not. Men are imprisoned because they are unable to pay child support. Courts consistently deny parenting rights to men because “mom knows best” even if she is crazy, incapable, and/or a highly skilled manipulator. Men are barred from marrying their partners because governmenment subsidies cease once the vows are spoken. A 13 year old girl can legally kill her fetus and obtain “Plan B” abortificants and hormonal birth controls yet a 40 year old man can be imprisoned for using anabolic steroids. Hmmm, seems the stuff rage is made of. The poular phrase “keep government out of the bedroom” seems to apply only to gays and women and not straight men. Once the government legalizes and then pays for prostitution will I believe this is a just and honest society.

  • Diane

    I listened to a keynote speaker recently bemoan all the ways people kick poor Indiana (that state) around and had my moment of truth: Everyone believes they are the victim. Thank you, Elaine, for pointing out this is about white men, not men in general. This post reads as snarky “payback” for the legitimate complaints women have raised at males hsitorically being treated as normative.