Posted Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, at 12:04 PM
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Before there was the Wayne LaPierre presser, there was Charlotte Allen. Allen's recent breathtakingly misogynist contribution to the decline of American discourse received a great deal of deserved criticism. In case you missed it: For her turn in National Review Online's symposium on Sandy Hook, informally known as the "Blame Anything But Guns Roundtable," Allen decided to blame the "feminized" culture of elementary schools, what with all the ladies teaching in them and all, where "helpless passivity is the norm." She was roundly mocked for her ignorance of history (most shootings involve plenty of grown male victims and bystanders), her poor grasp of the facts, and for substituting action movie tropes for reality. In classic right wing fashion, however, Allen has reacted to being impressively panned by doubling down. Now we have a new object to blame in the anything-but-guns panoply: Easy Bake ovens.
I am, however, blaming our culture that denies, dismisses, and denigrates the masculine traits—including size, strength, male aggression and a male facility for strategic thinking—that until recently have been viewed as essential for building a society and protecting its weaker members. We now have Hanna Rosin at Slate urging parents to buy their little boys Easy Bake ovens so they’ll be more like little girls.
Yes! She mentioned us! This new argument is even more incoherent than Allen's usual nonsensical spray of woman-hate she calls "writing." Allen's original line, which she's sticking by, is that we need to get more men into traditionally feminine occupations so that, if some violence goes down, the Man Switch inside is flipped and all the guys run up the walls and tumble through the spray of bullets so they can take the shooter's gun and kill him with it. This is obviously ludicrous, but let's pretend we buy it. Then comes the obvious next question? How do we get more men to teach elementary school? I have an idea! Start giving young boys baby dolls and Easy Bake ovens so that they can learn about caregiving and perhaps grow up to be men whose dream in life is leading a room of 5-year-olds in songs about animals and snack time.
Allen seems to believe a lot of contradictory things at once: She believes female passivity and male aggression are inborn and instinctual, but also that giving a little boy an Easy Bake oven is enough to derail him from his action hero future. She worships a hyper-stereotypical form of masculinity, but then wants men to take on jobs that aren't coded as masculine in our culture. Allen thinks that cooking—which Hanna correctly points out has already become a very male-friendly, even dominated domain—is too girly for men, but then she demands that men take over what many consider the girliest of professions.
Obviously, it would be great if more men wanted to become elementary school teachers, but not because men have unique abilities to face down semiautomatic assault rifles. It would be welcome for the same reason that gender-neutral Easy Bake ovens are welcome: because it would mean we're making more progress toward ending the stifling gender roles that Allen typically celebrates.