20/20, Stossell & Boys

Mon, 8 Jun 1998 13:02:12 EDT

I know what follows is not too much different from a post I did a couple
months ago, but perhaps it might be helpful or at least another "spin" on the
ongoing dialogue.

Regarding John Stossel and his particular brand of "journalism":

He clearly likes to focus on issues of gender and seems to go out of his way
to perpetuate the stereotypes ala "Mars & Venus" with very little substantive
consideration of the depth and complexity of the issue at hand. We should
never expect otherwise. I am not totally faulting Stossel and certainly allow
that his reports reflect as much the "public's" need to have gender issues
simplified and not stray to far from our comfort zones...illuminate, yes, but
let's not get too far below the surface.

For me an interesting case in point with respect to how he examines (or
ignores as this case points out) gender issues was his report on Emotional
Intelligence (EI). He interviewed the author of the book by the same name,
Daniel Goleman and showed examples of children who exhibited problems in the
area of "EI"; in its broadest sense this encompasses interpersonal skills and
relationships. As with the book, the vast majority of the examples used were
about boys (in the book it is boys and men who are mostly identified as having
difficulty). Stossel, who one would think is ever on the "prowl" for a story
that reflects gender never drew attention (the book only tangentially does) to
that observation. He has done stories that required far more of a stretch to
make a point about gender. I am not trying to say that emotional intelligence
is a "male issue," but it is clear that when it comes to interpersonal issues,
there are far more examples we can all cite that point to boys and men having
difficulty in this area. In this piece on EI on 20/20 he simply chose to
ignore or simply didn't "see" the evidence at hand.

This, I believe, is not at all unrelated to why the recent spate of shootings
and overall increase in violence in schools has not been identified as a male
issue, or, at minimum, an area we need to look at that might best be handled
based on gender. I also believe this isn't being done because it requires a
certain degree of "looking in the mirror" that many of us, particularly men,
do not want to do. So, we call it something it really isn't (e.g., "southern
gun culture") or homogenize it so that it loses focus. Question: If we had
no difficulty identifying mathematics/science as a "girl problem," why is it
so hard to look at violence (e.g., dysfunctional emotional intelligence or the
extreme form of "disconnection" such as Terry Real discusses in his book) as a
"boy problem?" Apparently John Stossel is not willing to risk his
journalistic reputation to even ask the question. While not an attempt to
answer my own question, it would appear that there is a lot at stake to do
so...uh, er, like the dismantling of institutional and cultural patriarchy?
So, how do we deal with this issue in a meaningful way while also not
personalizing as if it is a sweeping indictment of every man or boy we know?
Perhaps this is the real question.

Enough for now...work calls.


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