Thursday, March 19, 2009

Should we have a White House Council on Men and Boys? Should we have a White House Council on Women and Girls?

Last week, President Obama created a "White House Council on Women and Girls."

Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review has the obvious response:

Where's the White House Council on Men and Boys?
Marybeth Hicks elaborates:
A council on men and boys would promote stable marriage as the best avenue to improve the lives and living conditions of America's women and families. A council on men and boys would address the crisis in American manhood that results in the scourge of infidelity, divorce, lack of commitment and fatherhood with multiple partners.
Dr. Helen doesn't like the idea, or at least not Marybeth Hicks's version of it:
If Ms. Hicks wonders why men have no interest in a "stable marriage," or commitment, she need only look as far as her own dripping disdain for men and her lack of insight into a culture that holds men responsible, portrays women as victims, and then sets up a "council" to correct a problem that women spend over 30 years in the making. A council on women is about expanding their opportunities. A council on men is about controlling them.
I don't buy that explanation for why men screw up society. Men have been screwing up society forever. It's not the result of a few decades of anti-male feminists.

But I want to get back to the thing that actually happened -- the "White House Council on Women and Girls." What I want to know is: why is this really necessary?

Unequal pay? Obama loves to say that women are paid only 78 cents on the dollars relative to men. It's not at all clear to me that women are paid unequally. But that's a complicated enough topic that I want to leave it for a whole other blog post. (If you have actual evidence on this question that controls for all the relevant variables, please let me know in the comments. I cannot emphasize that italicized part enough.)

I'm particularly wondering about the "girls" part. They pointedly chose to put "girls" in the title, not just "women." Why do we need a White House Council on girls rather than, say, boys? This is not a rhetorical question -- I'd be interested to see any answers in the comments.

Lorrie Moore (a family friend) wrote a New York Times op-ed last year that seems mostly outdated because it was about the Hillary Clinton campaign. But it had one insight that's not about the presidential race and is still very relevant:
The children who are suffering in this country, who are having trouble in school, and for whom the murder and suicide rates and economic dropout rates are high, are boys — especially boys of color, for whom the whole educational system, starting in kindergarten, often feels a form of exile, a system designed by and for white girls.

In the progressive Midwestern city where I live, the high school dropout rate for these alienated and written-off boys is alarmingly high. Some are even middle-class, but many are just hanging on, their families torn apart by harsh economics and a merciless criminal justice system. Why does it seem to be the Republicans who are more vocal about reforming our drug laws? Why has no one in the Democratic Party campaigned to have felons who have served their time made full citizens again? Their continued disenfranchisement is a foolhardy strike against these men and their families.
UPDATE: One of the commenters on my mom's post that links to this post makes a good point:
[T]he message here seems to be that no matter how bad things get for boys/men, well, they're men, so they can look after themselves.

Women, on the other hand, need a Presidential Council to make sure they're doing all right, even if by many metrics they are outperforming men.

I think I'd be vaguely insulted if I were a woman.
Another commenter has this ground-breaking idea:
The White House Council on Women and Girls should be merged with the White House Council on Men and Boys to create the White House Council on People, the goal of which is to promote policies that help people. President Obama should head the Council, and its name can be shortened to the White House.


Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

As I recall, when President Obama was Senator Obama there was a significant disparity in pay between men and women on his staff. Perhaps a bit of soul-searching on his part would do more to reveal the nature of the underlying problem than inflicting another robustly-funded commission on the American taxpayer.

Melissa said...

"I think I'd be vaguely insulted if I were a woman."

I'm a woman, and I am insulted- but being the capable and non-dependant sort, that's not a new feeling to get from the feminist types.

LemmusLemmus said...

From Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate, p.357:

"And in fact a recent study of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that childless women between the ages of twenty-seven and thirty-three earn 98 cents to men's dollar."

He cites:

Furchtgott-Roth, D., & Stolba, C. 1999. Women's figures: An illustrated guide to the economic progress of women in America. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute Press

Unknown said...

Obama should just create the "Department To Promote Everyone Except White Males" and be done with it.

Paul Ciotti said...

This council on women and girls is Michele's baby. She grew up in the seventies and never got over it.

Ronnie Schreiber said...

We lost another 650,000 jobs last month. So far in this recession we've lost millions of jobs, but it's not an equal opportunity recession, it's a men's recession. Over three quarters of the people who have lost jobs have been men.

For thirty years the gramscian feminists have been making the educational system more and more hostile to boys and the way boys learn and grow into men. As a result, 60% of bachelor and masters degrees go to women, and some professional schools, like veterinary schools, are overwhelmingly female.

So men are becoming less likely to get the high paying jobs that require college degrees. Until the current economic meltdown, men had options outside of the college track, like the building trades and technical computer support. That's no longer. Housing is in the toilet, manufacturing has lost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of jobs, financial firms have been laying off large numbers in the wake of the Wall Street mess. The vast majority of the job losses have been men. I'm sure it's only coincidental that the part of corporations that handles things like hiring and firing, Human Relations, are typically dominated by women.

This recession has disproportionately affected men. Meanwhile the Obama administration is concerned about women and girls.