Look, I'd just as soon avoid getting too heated up about this latest mainstream diss on video games. But CNN's William Bennett has forced my hand, penning a new article about the decline of the American male titled "Why men are in trouble." Leading the article is a stock image of a gray-flecked adult holding up a PS3 controller, presumably to show it to someone in the room. Because no one actually holds a controller like that.
In the piece, Bennett (who was US Secretary of Education under Reagan) says that women are claiming a growing percentage of the job market, and are outpacing men earning university degrees and improving their salaries. (Let's leave aside the fact that the findings are relative and track changes from 1970 to 2006, where much of the change was due to women finally righting the scales after decades of imbalance in pay and educational opportunities.)
Halfway through the article comes the money quote. When pondering man's response to our presumed decline, Bennett says the following:
Man's response has been pathetic. Today, 18-to- 34-year-old men spend more time playing video games a day than 12-to- 17-year-old boys. While women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married and not raising families. Women are beginning to take the place of men in many ways. This has led some to ask: do we even need men?
For starters, "Man's response?" He says it as though we're organised! Men aren't activating the secret emergency network or calling late-night Man-Club meetings. We don't have a phone-tree. We're way too busy playing video games to organise that kind of thing. Also, we are busy enjoying the company of women and not plotting against them.
Anyway. Once again, we've got an unfair and lazy maligning of video games based on the assumption that they are only proper entertainment for children, and that grown-ups should, presumably, only watch TV and read books. As to that final question, anyone who has ever read Y: The Last Man can say with certainty, "Yes! We do need men! Seriously, otherwise shit gets crazy."
The Founding Fathers believed, and the evidence still shows, that industriousness, marriage and religion are a very important basis for male empowerment and achievement. We may need to say to a number of our twenty-something men, "Get off the video games five hours a day, get yourself together, get a challenging job and get married." It's time for men to man up.
Sigh. I'm all for encouraging people so step up and get a job (Look ma, I'm blogging), but can we leave the cheap video game slams out of it? I get that it's an easy shortcut to illustrating the kind of social maladjustment that the article describes, but it's just so lazy. Furthermore, abstractly invoking video games does little to actually illustrate Bennett's broader point, which may very well be something worth talking about. All I get from this is "These numbers say that men play video games, so of course that is part of the problem here." Specific examples, please!
Hrmph. Maybe Bennett should just stick to going on talk radio and saying that if we were to abort all black babies it would lower the crime rate.
Why Men Are in Trouble [CNN]