Monday, August 11, 2008

Major Ken (IRR) is back

Major Ken is back because,

I served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming leaving the service to become a contractor in 2004. I needed a place for everyone from to visit if they wanted to learn a little more about me. If anyone wants to post feel free to do so but I doubt many will debate in this forum. All previous blog posts were removed with the exception of my challenge to Des Moines Register opinion columnist Rekha Basu regarding her column about angry white men.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Rekha Basu Challenge

I challenge Rekha Basu pull the records on every Polk County divorce over the last four months (broken down by judge as well as the overall score) and report the following:

1. Total divorces granted
2. Primary Physical Custody awards by gender
3. Joint Physical Custody awards (equal physical custody)
4. How many were by bench trial vs. consent
5. How many involved claims of abuse
6. Claims of abuse resulted in the claimant winning custody
7. Gender of party if forced to pay other party's attorney bill
8. Average amount $ of award by gender
9. Average Alimony $ of award by gender

Responding to her column

In search of angry white men

Around the country today, one landmark event in women's history is being remembered, while another could be in the making. It was 87 years ago that the 19th Amendment was certified, giving American women the right to vote. That may have special significance this year because for the first time, there could also be a major-party woman presidential nominee to vote for.

On the other hand, in Iowa, we have yet to vote a woman into any major office. No Iowa woman has ever been elected governor or member of Congress.
Is that just circumstantial or a reflection of anti-woman sentiments out there? If you're not convinced that those exist, just check out some of the online chat on the Register's Web site.

Start with the bounty of demeaning comments about women that usually follow any story about Hillary Clinton's candidacy. One respondent, for example, lists names of Clinton's female supporters and calls them ANGRY IOWA FEMINAZIS. On another chat page, Clinton backers are referred to as HOOCHIE-MAMAS. A particularly mystifying post blames Clinton for her husband's womanizing, alleging, "I guess if you are a good lib like Clinton, you get a pass on the womanizing stuff from the feminist types."

But the anti-Clinton tirades are only a small piece of the sexist backlash on the Web. Any story or column about gender inequality or efforts to correct it usually brings on charges of male bashing, or of some hidden Register agenda to promote women at the expense of men. A story about Register publisher Mary Stier leaving to form a media company aimed at women drew postings about a Register feminist bias and even one reference to bra burning.

Stories about women crime victims bring out a rash of victim-blaming comments. A recent piece I wrote about a woman whose deceptive husband has been charged with murder provoked a caustic, "Quick, somebody get this woman sterilized before she reproduces any further."

What's driving this? Are angry white men growing in number or just getting more vocal, now that they can do it anonymously?

Of course I'm not saying all white men are angry or that all angry men are white. I'm talking about the particular subset around whom the term was coined after the '94 elections, when angry white men were believed to have flexed their voting muscle as a group, triggering Republican takeover of the U.S. House.

With a few exceptions, those who post online don't say why they're so irked by feminism, or how it has diminished their lives. I will give credit to one regular contributor who complains about fathers getting cheated in child-custody decisions. At least you know what his agenda is, whether or not he has a legitimate case. But most of the rest just scorn or demean.

I want to know what's making them so mad. So this question is to them:

What's your problem?

As a group, you control the White House, and most of the high offices and top jobs. You make more money than most women. You don't have to worry as much about physical safety, either on the street or in your home. You don't generally have to do as much juggling of child care, house work and jobs.

You're not as apt to be missing out on child-support payments or dealing with workplace sexual harassment.

Why not make your grievances known in a way that might convince someone? Post your responses online under this column, or e-mail me and let me know if I can quote you, preferably by name. If you really believe equality for women is harmful to men, might as well use Women's Equality Day to start getting it on the table.

REKHA BASU can be reached at or (515) 284-8584.


September 9, 2007
Section: Sunday Opinion
Edition: DM
Page: 1OP

What makes some men so angry?
Basu Rakha

Anger: A feeling of displeasure resulting from injury, mistreatment, opposition, etc. and usually showing itself in a desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling.

- Webster's New World Dictionary

Rekha BASU

Why are they so angry?

After months of reading comments that lash out at women who support women candidates, or accuse the media, the courts and/or the government of an anti-male agenda, I put this question to the men who write them, especially online: What's your problem?

I was wondering why white men, the demographic group that still controls the White House and most of the high offices and better-paying jobs, are casting themselves as the ones being discriminated against. And, when Iowa has never elected a woman to a national office, why are women who support Hillary Clinton labeled "Feminazis?"

Who or what do these angry men think has done them wrong?

I got an earful.

Dozens of people responded directly, and 130 posts were logged under the column online. I got stories, theories, put-downs, rants and some earnest attempts to communicate grievances.

Along with the angry men were a few angry women who agreed with them, plus a number of men who disagreed.

More than 30 years after the modern women's movement was launched, there's clearly a backlash. It's not just against the growing rights of women but also against the liberalization of society in general. Some men say they've been hurt by relaxed divorce laws, child-custody presumptions or child-support rulings, or workplace attempts to diversify.

Later columns will explore whether the facts support those claims. The goal of this piece is to first identify the sources of their discontent.

This is a different type of piece than I usually write (and a more difficult one). I'm mostly keeping my own views out to give other an airing - because I asked, and people were cooperative enough to answer. The hope is that this will be the start of a public conversation on issues we can't usually seem to disagree on civilly, but which are increasingly polarizing our world. It will work best if you, the readers, weigh in and make this a community-wide discussion.

Here are some of the things men say they are angry at: The court system. The Des Moines Register (and me in particular). Ex-wives. Affirmative action. The move to normalize gay life - or, in the words of some, the move against traditional or religious values. The criminal-justice system and what are viewed as unfair prosecutions of men.

"The pendulum has swung so far, the rights of men are being trampled without consequence when we consider false rape cases, husband-murderers walking free, and my ever-favorite - women winning single custody 93 percent of the time," Ken Richards of Des Moines wrote from Uganda, where he's working under contract to the State Department. "There is a backlash..."

His figure is challenged by advocates for mothers who were denied custody, who claim men get custody most of the time they seek it. (More on that in an upcoming column.)

Brian Iehl of Waterloo, who with Richards leads, a group for noncustodial fathers, faults the media for using terms like "Deadbeat Dad" and "Angry Men" to sway opinion. Both accuse some feminists of going beyond the drive for equality.

"I believe arch-feminists want traditional marriage destroyed at almost all costs since they despise men," wrote Richards. The opposite is not true for those in the father's movement as we seek equal relationships during marriage."

Trying to uphold 'traditional' values

The idea that traditional values are under attack by feminism and diversity movements came up in several letters, including one from Brad Friest of Roland, who wrote: "I believe that this country was founded on the premise of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit... In today's society, most of these beliefs are under attack... Many people that stand opposed to my beliefs have suggested or implied that I should put up with different points of view for the sake of 'diversity.'

"For me to accept homosexuality, I would be going against what I believe is God's will."

Only a Scripture-based argument could change his mind, he said.

So he thinks it is unfair to require an organization like the Boy Scouts to include gay leaders. And he resents being told by groups such as PETA that it's wrong to eat meat. "If diversity were really the end goal, wouldn't they celebrate that I can eat meat while they are vegetarian?" he asked.

Women's gains at men's expense?

Roger Olson, writing from Waco, Texas, said that while he supports equality, some advances for women are coming at the expense of men. Among his claims:

- That medical research and media health campaigns are skewed to women's health.

- That men face an educational crisis, with only 73 young men graduating from college for every 100 young women who do, while educators focus on girls' needs.

- That men are not presented as admirable role models in the entertainment media, but rather as stupid or sinister, whereas women appear strong and competent: "All kinds of stereotypes about men are perpetuated publicly, but the same cannot be done with regard to women."

- That men are hitting a glass ceiling at work as women are being promoted over more qualified men.

Perceptions of feminist hypocrisy

Most of Des Moines resident Dan Frommelt's anger centers on his perception of feminist hypocrisy. Such as, in his view:

- Wanting to be judged on her merits but depending on her spouse to draw crowds.

- Expecting motherhood to be a job consideration but only to their advantage.

- Wanting equal job opportunities but expecting unequal requirements to qualify.

- And this: "A woman dresses like a hooker and then reacts with disgust when she gets gawked at."

Frommelt also believes feminism encourages women to pursue "meaningless" careers at their children's expense. Robert J. Schneider of Urbandale explained white-male rage in the context of the charges of rape against Duke lacrosse players, which were later dropped.

"What irritates the 'angry white man,' " he wrote, "is the prism through which the media and the professors chose to view the accuser's story. It is a liberal prism and one that assumes we live in a racist, sexist society controlled by white men who will force their will (in this case, quite literally, according to the accuser) on the poor and nonwhite."

Seeing laws tilted to favor women

Jim Peterson of wrote from Finland to decry what he termed "victim-feminism."

He claims both the Republican and Democratic parties are feminist-dominated and blames President Bush and Karl Rove for adopting "the man-hating ideology of radical feminists."

Referring to several federal laws, including the Violence Against Women Act, Peterson charged that Bush's advisers have promoted the "feminist" idea that "every man is a sex offender waiting for an opportunity."

Jeff Mallory of Stuart wrote, "I do not agree with how fathers are treated by the courts. I do not agree that people raping and murdering should be let out of prison, ever. They should be executed. I don't think that if a woman is fighting with a man, and the police come, they should take the guy to jail. They should not. Print that."

Maja Rater of Casey, who has been in the forefront of Iowa efforts to get the state to enforce child-support obligations, wrote that men do sometimes get mistreated by the system along with women. One man she mentioned is caring for his child but his wages are still being garnisheed, and the state hasn't helped him.

Rater said her former husband is "an angry white man" who opposes welfare programs because if they didn't exist, she couldn't have afforded to leave the marriage.

Some men write to criticize men

At the other end of the spectrum are men like Giles Fowler of Ames, who attributed the roots of male rage to sexual anxieties. Such men, he wrote, "fear for - or secretly doubt - their maleness." Kevin J. Pokorny of Des Moines, who supports female candidates but noted that some women don't, asks, "Why are we still struggling with this issue in 2007, when our society is more diverse now than ever before?"

One reader offered an analogy from George Lakoff's book, "Don't Think of an Elephant," which theorizes that a conservative's view of society is an extension of a family model in which a strict father is the leader and women are not considered equal. The idea is that the world is dangerous, amoral and full of evil and only a man can be trusted to lead the country and the household.

"It is not just feminism that draws their anger," wrote another man, John E. Barker of Des Moines. "Environmentalism, racial equality, social programs, the progressive income tax, in fact any and all interests that can in any way be equated with a liberal mind-set bring out an intense anger in some people."

Feminism should liberate men, too

So, what to conclude?

For one thing, the gulf in basic assumptions about what constitutes equality is huge and seems to be growing, leading people to demonize one another based on half-truths.

Though statistics would show men still have more of the better jobs, there will be that man who doesn't get promoted because, all things being equal, an employer wants to put a woman in a position in which there are too few. Though the larger intent is equality, it may not feel very fair to that man who doesn't get the job. Feminism is about liberating both from sex roles. But the reality is, when you're trying to equalize an unequal situation, it can be messy in the short run.

If men are being neglected in school or in medical studies, that has to be fixed.

But as the arc of rights is extended to groups that didn't have them, it's bound to bump against some people's beliefs, reopening the debate over what principles - religious or secular - America was founded on.

Some of what critics identify as systemic bias boils down to competing viewpoints that are now being heard but once weren't - for example, from vegetarians or gays.

A group like PETA may have no actual power over a meat-eater, but the fact that it can now hold a rally and get a hearing contributes to the meat-eater's sense of being under attack.

That said, if efforts to be more inclusive don't equally draw in those who were there first, they might be left feeling undervalued, which isn't to anyone's benefit.

More choices for women should also mean more choices for men, including the choice to stay home and raise kids. As women make more money, that becomes more of an option. But it also might leave men feeling more dispensable.

Most feminists would agree that women in the military should do the same things as men. I don't want the draft, but if there were one, it should be applied equally to both sexes.

But not everything is or can be equal. Men can't have equal reproductive rights because, fortunately or unfortunately, women have the wombs.

With dialogue, there can be hope

The heartening thing to come out of this is hearing from people on all sides who are willing to put their grievances to constructive use. Ultimately, we need a lot more discussion on where feminism has succeeded, where it hasn't and where perceptions don't match reality. But dialogue becomes impossible when some people resort to harassment to silence others.

Barker, for example, stopped writing letters to the editor of the Register after some, published in 2000, resulted in anonymous "insulting and bullying" mail sent to his home. One was overtly threatening.

A woman blogger from Ohio who came across my column wrote to tell me about female - and in particular feminist - bloggers being harassed and demeaned to the point where they stopped blogging.

Anger is sometimes necessary and appropriate when constructively channeled, but not when it degenerates into incivility or gets aimed at the wrong targets. And we're all too well aware, as we approach a painful anniversary this week, that anger that isn't addressed can turn ugly and destructive.

REKHA BASU can be reached at or (515) 284-8584.

"I am not angry because others don't believe what I do. I am angry because I have been asked to change my core beliefs based on poor arguments and propaganda, I am angry because I have been told that I am uncompromising and narrow-minded, and I am angry because the media and pop culture are doing these things with no respect for diversity or true core beliefs."

- Brad Friest, Roland, Iowa

"Even an anthropologist or psychiatrist might be hard-pressed to trace the roots of male rage. My guess is that it taps into some primal fear as crazy and visceral as fear of the dark or of thunder."

- Giles Fowler, Ames

What do you think?

Let's keep the discussion going: What do you think about the concerns raised by respondents in this essay? Are there other factors driving male anger? And what should a female response look like? E-mail Basu or share your thoughts online.