As I read Susan Dench’s latest diatribe on men in the BDN, I was reminded of advice from a seasoned college journalism professor: Do not generalize without data; do not stereotype and base conclusions on your terms; do not use pejorative language unless pointed toward specific issues with remediation plans; do not assume everyone shares your background.
I have been a college English and journalism teacher for 27 years, 18 of those at Eastern Maine Community College. I have worked with many students: male, female, young, old and whatever other classification chosen. I have dealt with students from all across the board: They are all individuals, and I love them all for what they have taught me.
First, Dench stereotypes young men as “kids” who linger on their parents’ insurance and stay at home to avoid responsibility. In her words, these “oversized kids live a coddled life … hanging out with their buddies, playing video games and chasing multiple women.” This generalization would have made my college journalism professor roll her eyes and slap an F on the editorial: Where is the support? What is your value-based attitude, and how is it corrupting your writing?
From teaching on the college level, I note that many young men stay on their parents’ auto and health insurance in order to save money since rates are astronomical (especially for the 25-and-under bracket). Their connection to their parents is less “teat sucking” than financial common sense, something any card-carrying Republican Woman of a Certain Age should appreciate.
As for “chasing multiple women”: most young male college students I know are chasing not multiple women but chasing financial aid and low-paying jobs just to make ends meet. They are often in monogamous relationships and work full-time or on shift work. As if they had the energy and spare time to chase multiple women.
Moreover, Dench mentions the horror of “women doing things alone.” Perhaps she is afraid of her own independence: I have done much on my own without a man; I have traveled abroad on my own, without a tour or a protective male, to England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, and I have encouraged students, both male and female, to do the same. Gender is not an issue: talent and confidence are. When will Dench get this?
Last, Dench relates her Hallmark-esque relationship with her father. Fine, but not everyone comes from that golden background: My father demeaned me, ignored me, hit me with a belt for any perceived misdemeanor, dissed my accomplishments, and even into adulthood told me I was a loser. How do I reconcile that with Happy Father’s Day? I’m sure I am not alone in having had a turbulent relationship with my father. For Dench to romanticize and project is not only stupid but insulting, isolating, ignorant and demoralizing.
In the end of her diatribe, Dench notes that we should return to “the simpler society in which, generally, men protected and provided, and women nurtured and comforted.”
Has Dench looked at her calendar? This is 2014. Men do not need to protect women; men do not need to provide for women; women do way more than nurture and comfort.
What an insult to women and men.
Carol Lewandowski is an English instructor at Eastern Maine Community College.