The question itself is man-hating. Imagine the indignation if you asked what women are good for. What a brute you would be for even asking.
But anyway this question has been banging around in the culture for years now, since at least the 70s when Gloria Steinem came out with her clever little bon mot “A woman needs man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Munkdebates is planning a debate on whether men are superfluous or not, with all four participants women.
Janet Bloomfield smothers this debate in its cradle. She quotes some actual numbers by way of laying out exactly what would happen if men vanished. She starts out:
“Modern, feminist inspired liberal democracy has destroyed women’s role, by and large, with plunging birth rates across the developed world, but they cannot destroy men’s traditional work, or we all perish. What they want is for men to do the work silently. With no acknowledgement. For no reward.
There’s a word for that: slavery.
Let’s see what happens when the slaves revolt, shall we?”
… and then goes down the list: Men make up the overwhelming majority of workers in the power grid, sanitation and sewage treatment, all aspects of the airline industry and the federal system of flight control except for cabin attendants, all train engineers and brakemen are men, and the overwhelming majority of police, firemen and EMTs are men. She goes on, but you get the picture. Without the labor men provide, civilized life just stops.
She winds up with this:
You will often hear feminists barking on about male privilege, usually in a well-lit room, comfortably warm, with her iPhone close at hand, buzzing with updates from her latest #mensuck Twitter feed, with zero awareness that every single one of those luxuries is provided by men.
Male privilege is the idea that men have unearned social, economic, and political advantages or rights that are granted to them solely on the basis of their sex, and which are usually denied to women. – from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male_privilege
“But Meisenbach said the trend of the female high achiever and the male slacker is a tall story that women tell each other to compensate for the fact that most career-orientated women feel an “overwhelming sense of guilt” over their role and less of a mother and a wife.
“These women are struggling with the intersections of their status as the breadwinner and other gendered societal expectations,” she said. “By highlighting stories of how men have to be told or asked to do specific chores in the home, these female breadwinners are making sure they still fit gender boundaries of a wife as someone who manages the home and children.
“By directing the housework done by their husbands, they maintain a sense of control over the traditionally feminine sphere of the home,” she added. “This path of expressing control of and responsibility for both home and paid work may be essential for working mothers to manage competing discourses of ideal worker and intensive mothering.”
So really it’s just a sly inversion, a tactic for coddling that fragile female ego.
Kathleen Parker can be counted on to come up with the right answer, as usual. She refers to the question and then basically brushes it aside. She points out that children need their fathers and then goes on to ignore how useful men are or are not to women. And to me that’s the right answer.
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