Monday, March 11, 2013

The Girl Scout Fallacy

Yesterday's 11 AM Mass included a blessing of the Girl Scouts and Brownies from our Catholic grade school. It was a lovely event and the front pews were overflowing with bright and cheerful young ladies. Across the way, I spotted a woman wearing a t-shirt with this slogan.
As a blogger and natural curmudgeon, it actually bothered me. It's uplifting, empowering and encouraging, but it's not true.

Girls can't do anything. Witness the six billion people in the world, each of them created with the help of a man. How about NFL linebackers? No girls there. I'm not trying to pick nits here, I think there's something deeper going on. It's a current running through modern culture: the fallacy that women don't need men.

I'm not singling out the girl scouts here. "Girls don't need boys" is not something they invented and it doesn't live by itself. It's part of our societal feedback loop which includes easily available porn, acceptance of illegitimacy, lower standards for manhood, decreased importance of having children and general cultural sloth. If all the available boys are slackers, then it's best to teach your girls independence.

... and if girls don't need boys, chivalry is a pretty hard sell.
Like I said above, the thing that bugs me the most is that it's not true. A culture that embraces a foundational principle that is untrue is in for serious trouble.

After church, my wife and I talked about it and she had a similar reaction. She's much more accepting of the slogan, but she hoped it wasn't taught exclusively. That is, girls should be able to do anything, but it's still OK to need boys. I'd go beyond that.

If I'm going to be the best version of myself, I need my wife. I need her in a chivalrous, courtly love sense. I need her as an inspiration and a motivation. When I sin, the thing that bothers me most is that I am less worthy of her. That's absolutely crucial to me and it defines me as a man. If I thought that she didn't need me, I'd be done with the whole thing. Newcastle beer, British soccer and total sloth would be my daily diet. I'd still go to work and do what I needed to do to survive, but my standards would be about 1/4 of what they are right now.

That can't be wrong. Classic literature is filled with stories of men striving to be worthy of the women they love. It spans all cultures and all generations. It's a constant within the human race. I get that the modern world and 21st Century Western culture has frayed the traditional bonds between the sexes, but is that something we want to continue to reinforce?


Jeff Burton said...

I feel very strongly about this culture current, especially since I have five boys. This thought is often expressed as "Girls can do anything boys can do." You hear it even among very conservative people. It manifests as enthusiastic cheerleading whenever girls undertake something that is traditionally a boy activity.

Besides not being true, it creates this asymmetrical value between the sexes - boys basically become superfluous drones, because the boys never, never, ever attempt to encroach on girl territory. And no one every says "My son can do anything a girl can do."

And there is a hidden burden placed on girls who have no desire to be "super boys". Believe me, this anxiety is out there - you just don't hear it because of the triumph of this mindset.

tim eisele said...

Jeff Burton:

"because the boys never, never, ever attempt to encroach on girl territory"

I don't even know what "girl territory" you think you're talking about. Cooking? Cleaning? Staying home to look after the kids? Taking jobs like nursing, teaching, or secretarial work? I personally know guys doing all of those things. And even the guys who don't do those things, certainly *could* do them, they've just convinced themselves that they don't *want* to.

I'll grant that boys can't have babies, but that's the only "girl thing" I can think of that guys can't, and won't, do.

Jeff Burton said...

Tim, honestly. I'm talking about boys and girls. Here are a few things boys won't do.

* Wear dresses/make-up
* Visit the pink aisle at Tar-Mart
* Take dance lessons
* Play with dolls (don't start with action figures, you know what I mean).

Yeah, you are going to find the occasional misfit boy who might do some of these things, but I think you'll find the percentage is roughly equivalent to that of the incidence of male homosexuality.

And my point is there is zero, and I mean zero encouragement for a boy to do this stuff. Still waiting to hear any parent say "My son can do anything a girl can do." This is what I mean by asymmetrical value. And you will find parents who will even express this explicitly - they'd rather have daughters, because girls can do everything boys can do, without all that nasty testosterone.

tim eisele said...


I don't think it's a symmetrical situation at all. In my experience as a kid and a parent, the girls *want* the boys to play dress-up, and dolls, and take dance lessons with them, and will actually go to some lengths to get the boys to play with them. The boys just won't *do* it, mostly because they're afraid of what the other boys will say.

The people who keep the boys from playing with the "girl stuff" are the same as the people who have historically kept the girls from playing with "boy stuff" - the boys.

Jeff Burton said...

Go ahead and blame the boys if you want. Fine. Doesn't matter. My points are these

* boys are devalued
* femininity is devalued

Jedi Master Ivyan said...

Both masculinity and femininity are vilified in this culture. There seems to be a progression towards androgyny. No one wants to admit that genders really are different and so any evidence to the contrary is squashed.