Op-Ed Response to CNN's William J. Bennett and â€œWhy men are in troubleâ€
created 10/06/2011 - 12:30am, updated 10/06/2011 - 12:31am
Do Video Games Make Wussies of Men?
An Editorial Response to William J. Bennett and “Why men are in trouble”
By: Lawrence Napoli
Ah, once again the elderly wish to let loose the dogs of ignorant elitism to cast a finger down upon the young and everything they indulge in. Video games and gaming culture continue to be very popular targets for politicians for one reason and one reason only. Old people vote with regularity, and young people do not, and in today’s American politics, rallying against one side is equivalent to backing the opposite. “But wait a minute!” the reader might be asking. “Wasn’t Bennett’s article about how men, as a gender, are being adversely affected by video games?” After reading his article (and I suggest that you all do so here), I got the distinct feeling this was less about men in general and more specifically about young men in particular. Make no mistake; this “editorial” conceals its disdain for youth in the guise of emasculation. It also reads like an all too familiar rant by Roger Ebert which got under my skin, prompting my own counter-editorial on CBN here.
These kinds of “news pieces” frequently make me chuckle after the initial wave of anger passes over me because it truly shines light on every wrinkle, white hair and bald spot that represents the worst of what the elderly have to offer: indignant hubris. This is something I cannot stand for because I appreciate the elderly greatly when they take pride in their roles as social mentors. I’ve learned life lessons from my parents and grandparents for as long as I can remember, but I also distinctly remember tuning them all out whenever conversations transitioned to judgments, and the tone of “You’re not what I want you to be!” corrupted general civility to awkward conflict. I’ll let you all in on a little secret. No one! Young, old, male, female, white, black, red, yellow, blue, green and anywhere in between likes being told that especially when the individual finds any redeeming value and satisfaction within what they choose to do and who they choose to be.
Without saying these exact words, Bennett suggests that video games not only induce hobo-ism, but is contrary to what it specifically means to “be a man.” Please note, Bennett makes no attempt to specifically define this notion either, but states that, “The Founding Fathers believed . . . that industriousness, marriage and religion are a very important basis for male empowerment and achievement.” How do those things only fall under the male realm of interest in the first place? How have those specific aspects of society been proven as good in and of themselves in light of history? I’d also recommend for Mr. Bennett to refrain from dragging the Founding Fathers into any comparative opinions of today’s America because I’d be fairly certain they’d be shocked to realize that there is very little of “America, the country” left as it is being replaced by “America Inc.” which is owned by China and the UAE.
Bennett references some college graduate statistics that do not show men having as much success as women in recent years. Let’s disregard the fact that we don’t know where on Earth he’s pulling these numbers from, and consider some other issues that impact these “numbers” more so than video games. How many male student athletes get recruited to colleges across this country for their athletic ability and don’t happen to make the grade? Has the impression of college as ritualistic hedonism demanding “boys to be men” via dangerous consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs not led to dropouts and even deaths? What about an ever evolving disinterest in college debt because universities do not and cannot guarantee employment. There aren’t any jobs available because old people hang on to their jobs because they live longer and retire later, which simply makes a bad situation worse when considering the indefinite inflation of class size by every university and how it regularly floods the job market with “over-qualified” individuals. Let’s also not forget the very nature of America’s service based economy, which naturally gives advantages to women, because whether customer service is good or bad is really irrelevant to the corporation so long as its image is sexy because sex sells.
I wonder if Bennett is assuming a hard line, feminist take in regards to his image of man, namely, a perfect man who is intelligent to procure gainful employment but will never hold it over women, is adventurous and spontaneous to provide ample diversion but will never be overbearing with it, is a sex god that will always respect women the next morning, knows what women want before being told, has perfect paternal instincts and always, ALWAYS leaves the seat down. Now if that isn’t a perfect, AAA rating for eHarmony, no man has a chance because even Jesus didn’t do all those things. Clearly, with his references to religion, phantom responsibilities to raise families and his deep concern for boys getting the “wrong idea” of man through media perversions like video games, proves that he at least has a highly romanticized definition of manhood and that kind of tunnel vision can lead us down the path of intolerance. How can a person of even reasonable intelligence jump to the supposition of “do we even need men?” just because women are graduating at a higher rate and becoming bigger players in the job market?
My definition of being a man is as far removed from Mr. Bennett’s as his is from a man from the 1920s, the Renaissance or even the Middle Ages. The only problem is that my “definition” is an idea that revolves around my own personal idiosyncrasies and ethics that only allows my sense of manhood to be resolute for me alone. It is an idea, neither right nor wrong and ideas of man and woman will constantly change due to the socio-economic trends of the current time. The only thing that does not change in regards to the two genders of humanity is the base mechanic of reproduction that ensures the survival of the species and any man, from the Wall Street tycoon, to the meathead athlete, to the closet nerd can get that job done.
I am very upset with William Bennett because he’s trying to bully me into a soulless Office Space lifestyle so I can settle down with average Jane down the street to create a family of younger me’s to grow up to do exactly what I did with my life: get into debt and spend the rest of my life paying it off to my indentured masters of capitalism. Always doing what you’re told and expected of isn’t being a man, it’s being a tool. I suppose this is something Bennett must have some experience with because what other kind of person defies men to “man up” by getting “off the video games” which are somehow preventing men from pursuing a marriage and a “challenging job.” Being a complete imbecile didn’t stop Dubyah from becoming the president. How in the world could Mario, Link, Kratos, Drake, Master Chief and (insert random GTA jerk here) prevent me from being a responsible citizen who pays his bills, doesn’t murder his neighbors and tries his best to make a positive impact in life. That’s what I think about when it comes to being a real man.