An Intellectual Who Can't Fix Things . . .
Fast and Loose with Facts
The Gang of Four
Like too many intellectuals, I don't know how to fix things. Unlike many intellectuals, though, I have done a lot of manual labor. Unfortunately, it was all the unskilled kind. The heavy lifting sort of work that builds muscles but doesn't exercise the brain. I'm glad I don't have to do that sort of work for a living, but I do wish I'd learned about things like plumbing, wiring, carpentry, and the like. I admire men who can do those things. I should add that I admire women who do those things, too. But building and repairing things seems to be mainly a man's world.
That brings me to a fact that I'd never really reflected on before -- and here, in reflecting, is where being an intellectual comes in handy -- but it seems to me that much feminist literature focuses almost entirely upon the dreadful ways in which women's choices have been limited by patriarchy, which apparently lurks everywhere, but says little on the ways in which women's lives have been made easier by the modern world constructed primarily by men. There ought therefore to be some balance in the feminist assessment of men. Yes, there has been patriarchy, but let's think outside of that box for a bit. I was brought to these thoughts by two bloggers I read every day: Malcolm Pollack and Bill Vallicella. Malcolm had noticed some thoughtless musings of Maureen Dowd in a debate:
So now that women don't need men to reproduce and refinance, the question is, will we keep you around? And the answer is, 'You know we need you in the way we need ice cream -- you'll be more ornamental.'Malcolm didn't much like that coquettish condescension, so he linked to someone who didn't like it a whole lot more, Mr. Fred Reed, who really pushes men's accomplishments in Ms. Dowd's face:
Listen, Corn Flower. Let's think over this business of obsolete men. Reflect. You live in New York, in which every building was designed and built by men. You perhaps use the subway, designed, built, and maintained by men. You travel in a car, invented, designed, and built by men -- a vehicle that you don't understand (what is a cam lobe?) and couldn't maintain (have you ever changed a tire? Could you even find the tires?), and you do this on roads designed, built, and maintained by men. You fly in aircraft designed, built, and maintained by men, which you do not understand (what, Moon Pie, is a high-bypass turbofan?)And the list goes on and on and on, though I think he ought to have left out "peeing on hydrants" (and, anyway, isn't that sort of peeing done exclusively by male dogs). Interestingly, another feminist at the same debate where Ms. Dowd mused about the uselessness of men, Camille Paglia -- hat tip to Bill -- spoke her contrarian mind:
In short, as you run from convention to convention, peeing on hydrants, you depend utterly on men to keep you fed (via tractors designed by men, guided by GPS invented, designed, and launched by men, on farms run by men), and comfy (air conditioning invented . . . but need I repeat myself?)
[M]en are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments. It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall.Damn, that almost makes me proud to be a man . . . except that I don't know how to fix things. But I do see that I have a responsibility to point out the role played by men in our modern world whenever men are denigrated solely as useless oppressors.
Every day along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, one can watch the passage of vast oil tankers and towering cargo ships arriving from all over the world. These stately colossi are loaded, steered and off-loaded by men. The modern economy, with its vast production and distribution network, is a male epic, in which women have found a productive role -- but women were not its author. Surely, modern women are strong enough now to give credit where credit is due!
Not that I intend to be heavy-handed about it . . .