Maybe you've seen this fast-food commercial already (it will help if you've been watching sports on TV lately):
A young man is sitting on the couch with a younger man, presumably watching sports. The young man tells the younger man, who, we learn, is his brother, that he (the young man) is going to teach the younger man his Rules.
Rule #1 is never own a lap dog.
Rule #2 is never date a woman with a dragon tattoo.
Rule #3 is always eat the restaurant's fast food in a certain way.
At that moment, a tall, raven-haired woman with a dragon tattoo trailing down her bare arm and shoulder stuffs a Pomeranian into the young man's lap and says, as if she's sick and tired of having to say it over and over, "Walk your dog!"
I laughed long and loud over that one, but I felt guilty afterwards, because it reinforces and makes a joke out of exactly what Dr. Leonard Sax's Boys Adrift tells us is wrong with America (and America's boys) today.
1. The two men are sitting on a couch watching sports. They are (most likely) unproductive slugs, couch potatoes, totally unmotivated to get jobs and have real families.
2. The young man is attempting to "mentor" the younger man, but the content of his mentoring (apart from the food advice) is hypocritical and worthless.
3. The woman is the responsible one, coming off simultaneously as a long-suffering mommy type as well as a dominatrix. She has the power in the relationship, but the viewer wonders what she gets out of dominating such a worm.
4. Fast food seems to be the men's only comfort, the only thing over which they can have control.
The fast food restaurant seems to be saying that in a universe where women have taken over and one's own character is morally bankrupt, the best thing to do is eat its food.
Enter Dr. Sax, who wrote the revisionist Why Gender Matters in an attempt to reverse the trend-- helped along by feminism-- away from inculcating children with traditional gender roles. Boys Adrift is in the same vein. Without directly faulting feminism, Sax writes that boys have lost the traditional paths taken to responsible male adulthood, and are now "adrift," underachieving in school, staying home after college in a holding pattern known as "failure to launch," and searching for an identity that seems not to be there anymore.
The slacker phenomenon, in other words, has reached epidemic proportions among boys and young men.
Sax targets five causes of this phenomenon, among them overprescription of ADD drugs such as Ritalin, modern non-competitive, girl-optimized pedagogical strategies, video games, toxic, emasculating plastics in food (fast food restaurants, take note), lack of adult male role models, and...
the stories we tell our children.
To Sax, this commercial would be poison. It makes legitimate the narrative that men are powerless, hypocritical peons. If you see it over and over again in combination with other messages, it can change your attitude about yourself for the worse.
I agree with Sax's thesis here, and I think that the challenge of the 21st century is going to be to find a balance between the male-dominated social model of the 1950's-- with the happy (female) homemaker on Valium-- and the male-slacker phenomenon of the 20 oughts, which is everywhere, not just in one commercial.
One of Sax's remedies for the Boys Adrift crisis is to have more boys-only schools, and to give less attention to desk-oriented, sitting-still reading and math and more to practical knowledge that you learn by doing. I'll second that emotion.
Sax's is one of those theories that you'd like to see implemented just to see what would happen. I am all for more responsible men, men with backbones, men who believe in something and act accordingly (see my 3:10 to Yuma post). I don't know that Sax has the answer, exactly, but I do think he's put his finger on a problem.