Senator Josh Hawley (MO)

Senator Josh Hawley and American Masculinity

by Sean Kullman

Sunday, November 14 2021

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has received praise and criticism after his speech regarding the plight of boys and men at the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Florida. From Fox News and its more positive stance on Hawley’s speech to other news organizations, who hold him in disdain, Senator Hawley is touching a nerve.

In the last week, the Atlantic published two pieces on Hawley’s speech, one by David French, “Populists and the Masculinity Crisis: Physician, Heal Thyself: When role models matter, the new right has the wrong answer” and another by Ronald Brownstein, “How Voters Feel About Josh Hawley’s Attack on Men." The Washington Post printed an opinion piece by Kathleen Parker (author of Save the Males), “Josh Hawley is unfit to raise the flag on behalf of males.

David French, more than the others, rightly acknowledged the plight of boys and men before his criticism of Hawley. And while the others tangentially address the plight of boys and men, French, Brownstein, and Parker are in agreement that Hawley is not the man to lead the charge when it comes to understanding and defending masculinity in America.

But like so many conversations regarding the challenges of boys and men, the realities associated with opioids, suicide, education, fatherhood, healthcare, and homelessness, remain on the back burner while these articles stoke the fires of the culture wars. Political opposition to Hawley takes center stage and little is done to address the policy front and systemic challenges boys and men face on a state and federal level.

The state of California, for instance, spent 12 million in the past two years on its California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls according to state budget reports, offering no such commission on the status of boys and men during the midst of a covid pandemic and opioid and suicide crisis grossly and disproportionately impacting boys and men. A 2021 report by the Global Initiative for Boys and Men on the Status of Boys and Men in California exposes alarming and disparate outcomes regarding the well-being of boys and men in a number of measures. Reports on other states are showing nearly identical numbers and national data only compounds the social realities of the systemic challenge facing our nation’s sons, lending credence to Hawley's concerns, including the role and acknowledgement of fathers in American life.

Percentage of CA opioid deaths that are male is based on 2010 to 2019 data. Data from 2017 (70%), 2018 (71%), and 2019 (73%) reveals an increasing trend.

US COVID deaths disproportionately impact males. Men 65 to 74 are 60% of COVID deaths and only 47% of the population. Males 75 to 84 are 55% of the COVID deaths and only 44% of the population.

The percentage of Coloradans who died of suicide and opioids in 2020 are predominately male . Males accounted for 79% of suicide deaths in 2020 and 77% from 2010 to 2020. Males accounted for 64% of opioid deaths in 2020 and 62% from 2010 to 2019.

Political exclusion happens on the national level as well. In January of 2021, President Biden established the White House Gender Policy Council, a continuation of the Obama era White House Council on Women and Girls. While the title of the Gender Policy Council gives the impression of inclusion, it specifically excludes boys and men, mentioning the word women 13 times, girls 8 times, and no mention of boys and men. The program was introduced during a COVID pandemic disproportionately killing men and growing concerns by the Centers for Disease Control and American Medical Association regarding the increase in opioid and suicide deaths during the pandemic as a troubling national crisis, particularly for males.

One cannot deny that politicians have been displacing boys and men for decades and our country is now reeling from its affects. Whether Senator Hawley is the one to take up the mantle of male apathy and inclusion in public policy and law is yet to be seen, but Americans are not foreign to polarizing national figures and perhaps Hawley is one of them. Gloria Steinem feared that supporting equal parenting-rights would "undermine its political base" and drive membership away from the National Organization of Women (NOW). That decision knowingly subverted the needs of children and undermined fathers rights in order for NOW to gain a political advantage. Feminist Erin Pizzey (a Brit who opened the first women's shelter) became a casualty of popular culture because of her belief that "we must stop demonizing men and start healing the rift that feminism has created between men and women." Pizzey knew "women and men are both capable of extraordinary cruelty" and was unafraid to say it. Hawley, like Pizzey, is keenly aware that the culture wars have demonized men for decades.

But the portrayal of Hawley as a radical insurrectionist whose persona does not warrant any serious consideration when it comes to masculinity belies the reality that few, if any, politicians are openly talking about the place of boys and men in our public and political life. As one aid to a senator asked me, "how do you even begin talking about boys and men in today's climate and maintain a political career?"

Though many politicians seem privately empathetic to the plight of the American male, few if any have the courage to speak openly about it and even fewer have the courage to enforce equal protections under the law. Contemporary and feminist movements of the past as well as contemporary movements regarding race have become radicalized and reaped the benefits of public policies and a national demand for change. Although we can argue Hawley's credentials as a representative for the cause of American masculinity, we cannot deny that radicalism works and we cannot deny that Hawley is correct regarding our nation's boys and men. It is very likely that Hawley is tapping into a cultural consciousness after decades of frustration and inert policy action, and this realization stokes fear and rebuttal from political oppositionists.

But as our national media focuses on Hawley's imperfections, his words are resonating with millions of mothers and fathers somewhere in America reeling over a son's future opportunities and the real concern of growing up male in America.

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