The new movie " The Intern" stars Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway in a comedy about the return to the work place of a 70-year-old widower. They play Boss and Senior Intern, respectively. It is cliched, predicable and at times overly sentimental, but a worthwhile effort nonetheless. It in part is this week’s movie metaphor.
Midway in the film, the Hathaway character, after being helped by De Niro and the office staff to dodge a major bullet, toasts in gratitude her Millennial employees. But in her tipsy state, she finds them wanting in contrast to the Medicare recipient standing nearby. She praises the efforts of Feminist supporters in advancing women in the workplace, but laments the sorry state of contemporary males, finding they pale in comparison to older men. It is this dichotomy, the simultaneous rise of the female psyche and the decline of male self-imaging, that merits discussion.
Since the dawn of time, tracing back to Adam’s involuntary donation of a rib, the relationship between the sexes has been the source of much consternation. It is true that for the most part, women were held in a subservient role. Unable to vote, own property or make legally binding agreements on their own including marriage, the female was in a state of dependency enforced by law and culture. Then came the last three decades of the 20th Century. Out went 6,000 plus years of traditions, to be replaced by the nebulous dawn of the Feminist movement. With advances in equality at work, in the home and in society so was lifted the female psyche, resulting in a very unfortunate victim of collateral damage in the cultural wars.
As the movement to advance all females took place, the effect seems to be particularly striking in young girls and boys. For a variety of causes, the upward movement of one gender seems to have resulted in the forced decension of the other. Simply put, while girls are encouraged to have no limits and strive for unlimited horizons, boys are not allowed to be boys. This "politically correct" driven agenda attempts to deny the basic truth that boys are different than girls...they play with different toys, have different likes, different drives. This desire to homogenize the genders, while aimed at elevating young females, seems to have cast the young males into a state of confusion, certainly with disastrous effects.
Pediatrician Dr. Meg Meeker has a wonderful book, "Boys Should Be Boys." Her treatise states that the path to healthy adult males is to embrace masculine virtues, allowing boys to be rambunctious, high spirited. In a society that increasingly discounts and is hostile to such virtues, Dr. Meeker encourages their nourishment. Aggressiveness and competitiveness are not vices, but natural male instincts that, when properly nurtured, do line the path to proper adult development. Confusion is certainly the result of leaving one gender behind, while promoting the other. The sins of the past create no license to an inequitable future. You create no lasting peace by escalating one group, while marginalizing the other.
Such notions as "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" are wonderful examples of efforts to bring girls into the work arena. But no companion day exist for her Brother, leaving him to wonder and fend for himself in a rapidly changing landscape that seems to de-value that which his hormones will not allow him to deny. Such obvious seeds of confusion are the result of the march of feminism, unintended though it may be.
I am the very proud grandfather of three little girls, who I love beyond words. We have two more coming soon, in November and March. By choice, the expecting parents do not know the gender. But do I hope that one is a boy. More importantly, I hope and do even pray that the world he inherits will step back a bit...and value his masculinity, and allow him...at school, at play, at work...to revel in his testosterone. It is good to bring all children to the place where they can reach their maximum potential. But to do this requires a recognition and regard for the essential elements of difference in both genders. You must be prepared to trust the instincts that have guided humanity since the Garden of Eden. Be not afraid.