BOOK REVIEW: Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care 

A Tiresome Backlash: Controversy becomes conventional in Save the Males

Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care [Buy Now]
By Kathleen Parker
Random House, 240 pages, $26

Are men an endangered species?

In her new book, Save The Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care, Kathleen Parker attempts to make the case that manliness is under assault by a loosely organized movement of “vagina worshipers” and other representatives of our boorish “hookup culture.”

Talking about sexual politics in America today is no easy task. To get anywhere, one must ignore politically-correct mandates and circumvent orthodoxies, particularly when they fly in the face of common sense.

Parker has no problem doing this. The chapter on women in the military is a good example, as she makes a solid, common sense case that women do not belong in combat, particularly on the modern battlefield, where asymmetrical warfare is the norm. Parker also does a good job exploring the complexities of sperm donation, child support payments, and no-fault divorce laws.

While these topics may seem silly or irrelevant, they constitute the basis on which most anti-male hysteria is born, and Parker is right to shed light on them. Railing against the dangers of single-parent families may be an established political talking point nowadays, but it is rarely explored with as much detail as Parker provides here.

In particular Parker notes: “Girls ... are at risk of being too controlled by their adoring fathers ... You don’t suppose there’s a corollary between father-deprived daughters and an inability to relate well to males of the species? Or, just possibly, that teenage girls’ early sexual activity is related to a misplaced search for male attention and affection?”

Parker is not the first to make this point, but her plainspoken manner is more welcoming than the standard gobbledygook coming from D.C.’s think-tank intelligentsia.

Parker’s choice of controversial sources, like sex-positive feminist Wendy McElroy and University of Texas Professor Robert Jensen, are interesting. Being generally a mainstream media figure, it seems that Parker would not normally rub shoulders with far left socialists like Jensen or quote anarcho-capitalists like McElroy.

That she cites both as authorities on the subject of pornography (representing opposing views) suggests our corporatized media culture may be paying more attention to the fringes of respectable discourse than is often assumed. Perhaps these examples are merely indicative of the author’s quirky nature, which at times is a detriment to her arguments.

Parker goes to great lengths to make the case that the media portrayal of men as little more than dopey goofs is unfair and inherently destructive. As a man I am not totally unsympathetic to this view.

Still Parker’s tone jumps wildly from cynicism to seriousness and back again. Her pithy one-liners and sharp-witted observations often make for laughs, but they take away from the serious discussion her book seeks to become a part of.

At times, the book comes across like a string of op-ed columns tied together by a narrative loosely based around a distrust of contemporary, hyper-sexualized consumerism.

Parker’s instincts may be right and her prose can be delightful, but the scattershot tone of the book is a weakness.

While cultural criticism is the book’s strength, the general thesis has less to do with rejuvenating the diminishing status of men, than it does attacking the modern, feminist ethos, a subject of which Parker is no pioneer.

Such books undoubtedly have a preconditioned choir to preach to (thanks to a sound-bite culture and talk radio), but offer little new to long time observers of the culture wars — let alone those seeking a fair-minded assessment of the battle between the sexes.

The largest problem with Save the Males has little to do with Parker herself. Parker has an authentic personal attachment to the subject matter and it shows (she came of age helping to raise a house full of boys). Still the pile-on nature of backlash culture, while socially and politically understandable, is just as tiresome as the ideological models it is hell-bent on skewering.

There are dozens of books dedicated to assaulting the excesses of feminism, and while Parker presents her offering as a defense of men, it is primarily an assault on the sexual egalitarianism of modern society.

If taking on controversial subjects becomes conventional, does controversy become extinct? At the end of the day, that is the real question posed by books like Parker’s.

The never-ending squabbles over sex, feminism, and manhood may be fertile ground for the publishing industry, but they become increasingly boring and stagnant as time goes on.

Parker’s book is not a bore, but it is not a must-read.

In a market this saturated, nothing is.


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