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on January 16, 2003
Lionel Tiger is one of many people who pose no real threat to feminism but who wind up on the feminist "enemy's list" anyway.
In his 1969 book "Men in Groups", Tiger popularized the concept of "male bonding", and his studies of gender behavior in Israeli kibbutzim also raised some feminist ire.
In this more recent book, however, he notes the decline of males in terms of economics, reproduction, and morale and attributes it to the "pill". His explanation is convoluted and riveted in the observation that the "pill" enables females to have complete control of reproduction. Both partners are aware if the male is using a condom, but with the advent of the pill and intrauterine devices, only the female is aware of the likelihood of conception.
While one would expect these developments to have a significant impact on mating (if one naively assumes that the female partner ALWAYS has a zone of privacy large enough to keep such things secret), they hardly seem relevant to or adequate explanation for the near-complete disenfranchisement of males that Tiger alludes to, in virtually all industrial societies, even those with less advanced birth control methods. This disenfranchisement includes male declines (relative to females) in employment, educational attainment, and real wages; disengagement from their offspring; and the prevalence of male-bashing.
Interestingly enough, while Tiger expresses some inward trouble with male-bashing, he has no hesitation in quoting male-bashing sources approvingly to support his points. His bibliography is replete with articles titled with such endearing epithets as "Are Men Necessary?" and he expresses the wish that someone would republish Kate Millett's "Sexual Politics".
Tiger compares the women's revolution to the Marxist revolution and he goes off on the wrong track by deciding that the women's revolution is "different" somehow. Communists rebel over the means of production; women rebel over the means of reproduction. Tiger spends too much time sniffing bedroom sheets to allow it to occur to him that the causes of women making war on men in the name of feminism are the same as those that were behind the Communist revolution: envy and treachery.
Because the fact is that Tiger is not an anti-feminist. The ire that he raises among feminists stems from his occasional willingness to stray from the party line and to notice the real world behaving differently from the model suggested in feminist ant farms, as well as his willingness to consider human behavior in terms of evolutionary inheritance. He occasionally asks some tough questions of the feminists, but he asks them as innocuously as a timid student approaching a bombastic professor. This Tiger doesn't deliver the raw meat. His questions all boil down to the same thing: "What's to become of the males?"
And you get the idea that Tiger's mildly-expressed interest in saving the males is largely for preservationist reasons - the same reasons that might be advanced to save the spotted owl. He has no real sense that men have value other than as curiosities, and he's careful NOT to urge that males be saved at the expense of the matriarchal status quo.
Males are actually not fully human in Tiger's eyes. He has bought into the doctrine of the mutant Y chromosome and the oft-repeated notion that "basic" humanity is represented by the female structure.
And if he quietly bemoans what is going on today, he still wouldn't change a thing. He acknowledges that children are at increased risk in the presence of step-parents, but homosexual parents raising children (by nature, a step-parent arrangement) suits him fine.
The huge growth in the phenomenon of the single mother would appear to be a principal cause of isolating men from their offspring, but he spends much of this book singing paeans to single mothers. The world is overpopulated, in Tiger's eyes, when he wishes to defend the decision of women to pursue careers at the expense of childbirth and underpopulated when he wishes to praise the fertility of single mothers. By the way, if homosexual parenting and single motherhood raise some moral hackles, Tiger doesn't care. He has the soul of an intellectualoid, and he just CAN'T STAND moralizing.
The traditional system of men working for a family income and women wiving in exchange for support from that income SEEMED to work with less stress than imposed today, but Tiger certainly doesn't suggesting returning to it. Because, you see, women are not only more human than men but have economic skills that men might not have and he wouldn't dream of restricting them.
Why does he think this? Well, as an anthropologist, he notices the acquisitive behavior of single mothers as well as networking abilities of women in the West African marketplace and is suitably impressed. Yet the coiner of the concept of "male bonding" sternly calls for the breakup of male-only private clubs (whose existence would themselves suggest a male facility for networking, if he didn't choose to look at THESE networks through female-jaundiced glasses) because he finds them harmful to the legitimate career aspirations of women.
Couldn't women use their vaunted economic skills to form their own exclusive networks? Of course, Tiger SHOULD be well aware that they do just that and that these networks, unlike the male ones, have the blessing of the law and of society. It's the same old story: male advantages are described in terms of "oppression"; female advantages are described in terms of innate ability.
Tiger's solutions at the end of the book are puerile and don't amount to anything other than "Can't we get along?" He brings, not even a knife, but a sponge to the gunfight. His response to the degradation of males and (he acknowledges the possibility) the literal phasing out of the male population is as depressing as are the conditions that he describes. It all leads to the depressing conclusion that before men are able to convince women of the fallacies behind the concept of male inferiority, they will first have to convince themselves.