Sunday, November 17, 2013

Munk Debates: Are Men Obsolete?

While I was waiting for the newest Munk Debate to show up on the site, I watched an old one: an excellent debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens on, of course, religion.  There's little I enjoy more than watching really intelligent thinkers go at each other with carefully and thoughtfully chosen words.  The debate was run with opening statements, a series of 3-minute rebuttals, then closing statements.   They understood and followed the rules, and they remained focused on the topic without a single barb directly at anything said outside of that arena.

So it was interesting to watch four women on next.  Now, I don't know if it's because they're women, or because there were four instead of two of them, or because they're from very mixed backgrounds where on-your-feet oral debating isn't key to their livelihood like it might be, say, in parliament, for instance, but, for the most part, they didn't debate so much as they had a little conversation.  Most of what they said was previously scripted rather than a direct reaction to anything that was said in front of them.

It was still fun to watch.

As far as debating's concerned, only Hanna Rosin seemed to get it, not surprising since her Wikipedia page says she was a debater in high school.  It showed.  She pretty much won the debate single-handedly taking her side from 18 to 44% of the votes.  Meanwhile, Camille Paglia, who forms logical argument in print so well, kept attacking points Rosin has in her book but hadn't raised during the debate.  She had over-prepared.  She was also consistently surprised by the time limits throughout the debate.  As a teacher, you'd think she'd always have one eye on the clock.  Curious.  Maureen Dowd searched her notes for pre-printed rebuttals to points which didn't quite fit, and they weren't particularly compelling points.  She was the weakest link.  The most entertaining was Caitlin Moran, a self-described Marxist.  She read her points rather than thinking them up on her feet, but they were fabulous!

So, are men obsolete?  Here's what they said, liberally paraphrased and filtered through my interest-level in the various topics - with my thoughts following in italics:

Rosin:  Men are falling in the workplace while women are rising.  Women are now a majority of the workforce.  Boys fall behind in school starting in grade 1.  There's a lack of men in the home.  In 40% of couples, the woman is the primary breadwinner.  Many single moms say having a man in the house is "just another mouth to feed."  Men are even tending their body hair now - more concerned with their appearance than their skills or character.   There's a growing "ornamentalization of men."  A certain kind of men are disappearing and pick-up trucks are becoming accessories so males can fake being manly.

That women are rising while men are falling really just points to the fact that equity is beginning to be seen in the numbers.  It's not a bad thing that women are catching up, and in some places surpassing men,  nor does it indicate that men are no longer necessary since they only have half the jobs instead of 80% of them.  Funny how her stats are couched in those terms.  I totally identify with that "another mouth to feed" thing though.  What's with that??

Paglia:  Gender is biologically based, so there's a natural division of labour that permits women to stay home.  Men have gotten us to where we are today.  "Surely women are strong enough now to give credit where credit is due."  We need to raise up the cultural status of the working men.  And we need to see the importance of not just careers, but family and spirituality.  We should be lifting the value of raising children.

Not only committing a naturalistic fallacy in the beginning there, this point doesn't even seem to address the question being asked.  Men are losing factory jobs here because of outsourcing, not because they're unappreciated. Loving them to death won't stop the fact that they have to start accepting the crap jobs women have done for years.

Moran: In areas of the world where there is the greatest poverty, there is the greatest inequality.  We waste brain power when we cut off half of society from access to education.  We shouldn't be looking at which gender is doing better because we're all in this together: "We keep being related to each other."  It's a diversionary tactic to say it's the end of men or women.  We should all be working together to stop the oppressive powers of the ruling class.  If women end up doing all the family stuff and the work stuff, we'll all be exhausted.  We definitely need men in the picture.  "Are men obsolete?  No!  I won't let you be, you fuckers!"


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