Kathleen Parker's back! The columnist who recently suggested that female soldiers get raped by their fellow officers because "male soldiers and officers have ... been forced to pretend that women are equals, and men know they're not" made another trip to gender fantasyland this weekend, leaving me momentarily keyboard-bangin' mad.
I hesitate to spill any more ink over Parker's smirky, aw-shucks punditry. But this Ann Coulter wannabe really seems to be getting the podium time lately: She's a syndicated columnist with Washington Post Writers Group and gallons of ink have already been spilled in reprinting her writing in newspapers across the country. So it seems worth a little effort to write a rebuttal.
"Women Rule," Parker's column this weekend, touted a thesis we've heard before: Since women on average have longer life expectancy than men and birthrates of females are on the rise, "the allegedly stronger sex, it turns out, is really the weaker and more vulnerable -- from conception until death do us part."
To bolster her claim, Parker cites research suggesting that there are more female babies and fewer male babies as a result of environmental pollutants, individual stress or societal crisis. This is interesting and, in the case of environmental factors, deeply disturbing. But turning these findings into a story about gender relations is perverse. "With lower levels of male hormones, lower sperm counts and fewer male babies, things are not looking good for males," she writes. Oy.
Parker also trots out the argument (dear to the hearts of anti-feminist conspiracy theorists) that health research is biased toward women and neglects poor ailing men, a claim that focuses on the disparity between breast cancer and prostate cancer funding. Never mind that the ample funding for breast cancer awareness and research is an exception, not a rule, or the fact that equating breast cancer with prostate cancer is spurious, since far fewer men die of prostate cancer before the age of 65 than women die of breast cancer before that age. This argument also overlooks the point that for decades the vast majority of health studies used male research subjects, allowing researchers to miss important information about how strokes, heart disease and other diseases manifest in women (and possibly leading to the rise in stroke and heart attack death rates among women, at the same time those rates fell among men).
Ignoring all this, Parker's "Don't bother me with facts" approach endorses the idea that women -- via the evil "pinkification" of products from toasters to yogurt in our breast-cancer-obsessed universe -- have become a dominant gender bent on the eradication of males. Her solution? That we need to recognize that "males are in trouble and that a world without men, while perhaps calmer, would be far less interesting and fun." How can we show that we recognize this? "Perhaps it's time for a blue toaster."
Just to make sure we remember this is a piece about the perils of female dominance, there's Parker's kicker: "As we've recently witnessed, when women want something, they usually get it." Which is cute and all, but she should try telling it to the young girl stoned to death in Iraq, the women who are mass-raped in Sudan or the 1,400 American women who die as a result of domestic violence every year.
Parker never admits that she despises or fears her own gender; instead she insinuates that women (or the dangerous feminist policies meant to empower them) are taking over the world in various vague and frightening ways. Nasty as this is, her casting health and environmental issues as matters for the gender wars is worse. When disease is causing premature mortality in either gender, it's cause for more research. And when environmental pollutants are destroying our species' capacity to produce viable sperm or equal members of both sexes, it's not a matter of "saving the males" but of waking up to a massive environmental crisis.