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The Commodification of Men

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Last week, author Susan Patton was on Fox and Friends with Steve Doocy and the resulting segment has become a source of some controversy not just among the usual feminist crowd but also among even some conservative professional women. ThinkProgress summed up the exchange thusly:

The controversial author criticized today’s women for “acting like such an entitled princess” and prioritizing careers ahead of their families. Men, Patton told the Fox hosts, must be appreciated and respected, perhaps with a drink at the end of a long work day or gratitude and kindness. After all, should a woman alienate her husband, she’ll spend the rest of her life searching for a suitable replacement.

“If you are in your mid-30s or older the idea that you’re going to find yourself another husband, almost impossible,” Patton predicted. “And if you don’t believe me ask your maiden aunt, she will tell you when she’s done feeding the cats.”

A sampling of the outrage these comments have generated can be found here, and even some conservative women I know and respect seemed highly offended on twitter by Patton’s remarks.

I would like to propose a thought experiment to anyone offended by Patton’s remarks. Try switching out “men” for “women” in the above remarks, and see if anything she said would be considered controversial by absolutely anyone. Would anyone at all have criticized anyone for making the following statements on television?

  • That men should not act like spoiled, entitled brats
  • That men should not put their careers ahead of their families
  • That men should appreciate and respect their wives and greet them with a gesture of kindness when they return home from work
  • That even though men often think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, they’re unlikely to find a better woman than the one they’re married to
  • That failure to appreciate and respect the wife of your youth can lead to dying bitter and alone

Not a single one of these statements would elicit even a raised eyebrow from anyone on either side of the political spectrum. Yet, the suggestion that women should accord reciprocal respect to men in a marriage is apparently call for near-universal outrage from everyone. The reason for this is simple – the societal expectation pendulum has swung so far that women are allowed and even expected to demand being treated like a princess by their husbands. Husbands, on the other hand, are not permitted to ask or expect anything from their wives in reciprocity at the risk of being called a neanderthal. The man’s presence in a marriage is, for societal purposes, a fungible good that exists only to the extent that it can bring pleasure, respect, and adulation to the woman.

I hasten to point out that the above is not the case, at least in the main, on Main Street. But it is without a doubt the case among the intelligensia and talking heads on television. Nowhere outside of a select few (and increasingly shrinking number) church pulpits is any sort of contrary message being put forth at all; and when it is, it is roundly shouted down. And the more this circle is reinforced, the more it becomes the reality of expectation on Main Street, which makes marriage itself seem like an increasingly bad deal for men at large, which has all sorts of troubling societal implications that we ought to be working hard to avoid.

It is doubtless true that for a long time, women were in large part taken for granted by many men and by society at large; as with many necessary societal corrections, the danger of overcorrection looms and its problems may result in worse evils yet still.

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