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Men's Manifesto

By Steven R. Van Hook
March 20, 1994
Santa Barbara News-Press

Members of all manhood, unite! (Before your manhood members need to be reunited.) Let's face it: women are slicing off men's anatomy, refusing antiquated roles, demanding better treatment. The women's tired liberation movement of the 60s, 70s and 80s has become the women's armed insurrection of the 90s.

We've come a long way, brothers -- from sister suffragettes to men simply suffering. All right, already. Let's do something about it. As men, we need to respond with more than just a wince. Let's define our terms. Let's go hunting for a peace, as it were.

Men are understandably confused. We admit it in the locker rooms, let's admit it here: when the blood flows away from our brains to other critical organs, we become a little addled. Women know how to use this to their advantage. You find it throughout nature.

Take the example of the male black rhinoceros. This two-ton behemoth must often pass a rigorous test by the female of the species before any hanky-panky begins. The love-interest will lower her head and charge him. Repeatedly. If the bewildered male is still interested after being battered about, the lady rhino might accept him as her mate. Ring a bell?

In psychological warfare, women are Ph.D.s to our correspondence school certificates. Our shortcoming here is women think with their heads; we know all too well what men think with. We turn to women to tell us what to do, where to go, when to go, and which tie to wear as we go.

We love our women and we trust them to guide us, if not in our own best interests, at least in their own best interests which somehow involve us. Our fount of confusion these days is that women, our source of behavior guidance, are themselves unsure of what they want.

Consider a case study, one of my recent relationships.

Cassandra (you know I made that name up) expected to be treated as an intellectual and professional equal. I had absolutely no problem with that. Alas, she also expected me to pick up the tabs, open doors for her, flatter her, and treat her in every way "like a lady." Needless to say, this led to frequent confrontations in a short-lived and steamy relationship.

Treated like a lady ... now what does that mean? Like a weaker sex needing a strong, paternalistic arm? (Women, beware the hand attached to that arm!) I propose the problem is not with men. Women -- as "keepers of the sex" -- have always called the shots. Come on, do you deny it? Men, doomed by nature and by our natures, are ever eager to spread our genes around whenever, wherever we might.

Women, more limited in their reproductivity, are choosier. They select carefully, and they set the criteria by which men have no choice but to abide.

So we men now sit, battered and bewildered like our black rhino brother, while women try to define the new criteria within their gender, and within their individual psyches. Women must decide, what is it to be: equality, subservience, or superiority? But they can't have it all ways, without it leading to a nation of neurotic men scrambling between poles of behavior.

Women (to paraphrase Freud): what the hell do you want? We men will oblige. Sociobiologists, gender experts, and practical experience testify that if women suddenly took a hankering to upside-down men, half the race would soon be walking on its hands.

You want a domineering father figure? We can do that. You want a whimpering wuss? No sweat (just don't dump us later for some club-toting Neanderthal). You want to walk together as equals? You have my vote. But don't expect our poor, blood-drained brains to play multiple roles depending upon unpredictable and poorly defined womanly whims.

We are the products of our environment. Though we may be on the path to becoming angels, our roots sink deep into the primordial muck. We have an evolutionary heritage of brutality, might-makes-right morality, testosterone-dominated males running about their crusades, and subservient women waiting for their men to return home full of loot and lust.

Our patterns of behavior are well set and quite likely genetically encoded. We have millennia of inherited mentality to assess and redress. As a maturing species, we can certainly deal with this. At some point, we have to stop blaming our behavior on our upbringing (ontogenic or phylogenic). Let's lay down our arms, be they hairy ones or stainless steel, and decide a new course for our progeny to follow.

In the meantime ladies, I'm sitting by my phone. Where you going to take me? What are you going to bring me? And don't forget to open the door!


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