Guy Garcia’s book The Decline of Men has been getting a lot of press attention, some of it positive, some of it from the “men have everything how dare they complain?” school.
A few examples include: The New York Post’s Pity the Poor Guy (10/26/08), Vanity Fair’s Men Evolving Badly (4/21/08), The St. Petersburg Times’ Garcia’s ‘Decline of Men’ paints bleak picture (11/30/08), the UK Daily Mail’s R.I.P. MEN (12/17/08), The Boston Globe‘s Boys to Men (10/12/08), Tom Purcell’s The joke’s on men (various newspapers, 12/21/08), and others.
My own view is that both genders have advantages and disadvantages, but while we’re all very much aware of the disadvantages and problems women face, the disadvantages and problems men (and particularly fathers) face are largely ignored.
I’m quoted for several pages in the book, largely on the problems fathers face in family court and the negative depictions of men and fathers in popular culture. Below is Part I of my comments as they appeared in the book, with minor edits for updating and accuracy.
For men like Glenn Sacks, fatherhood has become nothing less than an activist obligation, a call to arms, his weapons being radio, TV, print, the Internet, and the weight of public opinion. In his TV, radio, and public appearances, Sacks focuses on what he regards as a systematic bias against men and boys that ranges from negative depictions in media to the way that fathers are stigmatized and marginalized in the aftermath of divorce…
A major sore point for Sacks is ads that play up the pejorative image of men as clueless, helpless, or hopeless, undermining their credibility as people and as parents.
In 2004, he launched a campaign against a Verizon commercial called “Homework,” in which a bumbling father who tries to help his small daughter with homework is treated with contempt by both the girl and her mother.
“The thing that really pissed off my readers about it is the way the father was being humiliated in front of his daughter,” he recalls. “It’s the kind of thing that happens with divorce, where the father is maligned to the kids, et cetera….”
After receiving thousands of letters and a drumbeat of negative publicity, Verizon yanked the ad.
“It struck a chord with these people,” Sacks says. “They’re just tired of seeing men always portrayed as idiots and clowns, particularly fathers being portrayed as idiots with their children.”
In 2007, Sacks fought to prevent Arnold Worldwide, an agency he accuses of creating anti-male ads “that make men look stupid,” from getting a $150 million dollar contract for Volvo. Arnold’s previous ads for Fidelity Investments included “Ping Pong,” in which “a father plays ping-pong with his eleven-year-old daughter, beats her, and goes into a mocking, in-your-face celebration as his daughter has the ‘my dad is an idiot’ expression on her face”; and another, called “Kid’s Toy,” which depicts a man “who makes a fool of himself playing with a kid’s toy in a doctor’s waiting room as a little girl and two women watch him with contempt.”
Arnold got the Volvo account anyway, but Volvo executives assured protesters that their new ads would not be demeaning to males, [and have to date kept that promise].