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Columns
Pitts: What does it mean to be a man in the age of the groper?

So I guess you can take men off the endangered species list.

It wasn’t that long ago we were hearing that men were in trouble. It was said that our manly maleness was under siege from a culture of runaway political correctness hellbent on snipping off our masculine accoutrements and turning us into sissified wimps who ate kale, clipped coupons and talked about our feelings. Fox “News” sounded the alarm about what it dubbed the “feminization” of the American man.

From commentator Todd Starnes warning about colleges that were turning men into women, to anchor Brit Hume explaining that people only think Chris Christie is a bully because they’ve been “feminized,” to morning show co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asking if all those unmanly men might pose a threat to national security, Fox was on this “story” like hyenas on a gazelle. Beyond Fox, people were writing books with titles like “The War Against Boys” and “Save the Males.”

The recent spate of sexual harassment and assault headlines suggests, not shockingly, that this concern was a tad overblown. Since last month, when film producer Harvey Weinstein was revealed as a porcine abuser of women, we’ve seen dozens of men unmasked as alleged predators against hundreds, maybe thousands, of victims, their reported crimes ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault to child molestation, and stretching back for decades.

It’s a dishonor roll that includes the gay (Kevin Spacey), the straight (Ben Affleck), the reporter (Glenn Thrush), the comic (Louis C.K.) the hypocrite (Roy Moore), the guy you never would have expected (Al Franken) and the guy you really never would have expected (George H.W. Bush). This column is too short for a complete list and besides, it’d probably be easier at this point to name the men who have not been accused.

Suffice it to say, it seems obvious the problem with men isn’t that they’ve become feminine. Rather, the problem is what it has always been—that, as men, we too often define manhood by the use of our (usually) superior strength and/or position to take what we want. Which makes this an opportune moment to reconsider manhood, to ask anew what being a man means—and should mean.

With that in mind, a brief story. A few years ago, I chanced to call one of my sons on the phone. He was huffing and grunting, obviously doing something that required great exertion. It turned out he was walking through a blizzard in knee-high snow on a day when every store was closed, trying to find diapers for his daughter.

I’ve never been more proud of any of my kids than I was of him right then. It was, I felt, a moment that deftly illustrated a truth about manhood that has gotten lost along the way. Namely, that our (usually) superior strength and position are not an end unto themselves. Nor are they a license to prey upon those who are less strong or in subordinate positions.

Rather, they are a gift that allows a man more ways to be of service to those around him. By itself it means little that you are bigger or more exalted. The measure of a man is what you do with those things.

It speaks to their massive failures of imagination and character that so many men can apparently think of nothing better to do with them than cop a feel. Our boys—and girls—deserve better examples. They deserve to be taught that genuine manhood, authentic manhood, requires no apologies or excuses 20 or 30 years down the line.

You see, Fox “News” has it exactly wrong. Men are not an endangered species.

Real men are another matter.


Letters
Your Views: Families better off as Trump boosts the economy

Dear President Trump,

As a marriage and family counselor, I tend to view politicians and their policies in terms of their impact on families.

Before you took office, the horrible unemployment rate meant disgruntled, unhappy men home all day with nothing to do. Feeling powerless, they sought to exert power in the one place available--the home--and the result was a huge increase in wife abuse and child abuse.

Loss of work often also means loss of self-esteem and increased drinking to mask feelings of inadequacy, perhaps other drugs if they can be procured. More family chaos.

I have policemen friends and am aware of the statistics on their calls to homes for domestic disturbances during economic downturn before you took office. Policemen must give children five minutes to pack their belongings in a bag before taking them to a safe place because parents are verbally and physically engaged in destroying one another.

Thanks to you, our economy is stronger. Many men and women are off unemployment rolls. Our stronger stock market means thriving business economy with more employment opportunities to come. Those who haven’t found jobs yet are filled with hope. Hope is huge and healing!

You’ve stood up to international bullies and restored the dignity of being American.

You, President Trump, your policies and the capable people you surround yourself with made this happen. American families and we who work on their behalf are very grateful.

JUDITH ROLFS

Fontana


Our_views
Our Views: Failed referendum sparks intriguing possibilities

Milton school officials aren’t eager to talk about redrawing district lines, but their insistence that a new high school is needed to alleviate overcrowding makes the once unthinkable more plausible.

Pointing to two failed referendums, some naysayers say the solution to overcrowding is obvious: Cede some portions of the Milton School District overlapping the city of Janesville to the Janesville School District.

By sending Janesville students to Janesville schools and Milton students to Milton schools—the logic goes—a new high school would no longer be necessary. Redrawing district lines would both save Milton taxpayers and make new space at Milton schools.

Furthermore, sending more students to the Janesville schools would help that district grow amid a declining enrollment trend. Both Janesville and Milton districts would seem to get something from the trade.

A map of the two districts appears to buttress the claim that the current arrangement is awkward. Families moving to northeast Janesville might find it odd their children go to Milton schools. Likewise, Milton residents might be surprised to know nearly 35 percent of Milton students live in Janesville.

But this is where redrawing district lines goes from being a good idea in theory to a difficult one in practice.

The biggest hurdle is current law, which sets a high bar for triggering consideration of redrawing district boundaries. A majority of residents living in the territory to be swapped would have to petition the districts, and both districts would have to approve the plan.

To expect Janesville residents living in Milton territory to file a petition assumes a great deal. For one, these residents actually voted in favor of November’s failed $69.9 referendum, while Milton voters overwhelmingly opposed it. That suggests Janesville residents are in no hurry to leave the Milton district, and it’s easy to see why.

New state report cards show Milton schools mostly perform at a high level, with one of its schools, Consolidated Elementary, scoring higher, 98.7, than any elementary school in the state. Several Janesville schools also received a high rating, but Milton is clearly doing its job well, leaving Janesville residents without motivation to leave the Milton territory.

Though changing district boundaries might be impractical, that doesn’t mean the two districts cannot cooperate to better address each other’s needs.

In general, school districts operate too much like little kingdoms, competing with each other for students to capture as much state aid as possible.

It’s no wonder Milton District Administrator Tim Schigur eschewed The Gazette’s questions about redrawing district lines. “It is a conversation I’m not yet prepared to have with the media, unless or until the board of education has any interest in the topic and directs staff to begin exploring the concept further,” he stated last week in an email.

District reorganization is political kryptonite. To shrink is to lose money, and many Milton officials would probably be content to suffer from overcrowding than to pursue a fix involving the removal of some students from the district.

But maybe there is a third way—one that doesn’t involve redrawing district lines but encourages Milton and Janesville districts to share resources. Both school boards should meet to figure out if they have common problems for which there might be common solutions. They won’t know unless they try.

Overcrowding in Milton schools won’t fix itself, and doing nothing shouldn’t be an option for either the referendum’s opponents or advocates. Now is the time for Milton officials to rethink their approach and brainstorm new ideas.


Sound_off
Sound Off for Sunday, Nov. 26

On downtown Janesville during the holidays: I think downtown Janesville looks just beautiful this year with the Christmas lights and all of the beautiful Christmas windows, and Voigt Music is absolutely stunning.

On city council priorities: The homeless definitely need help from the city and so does the humane society. Perhaps we should cancel the change of Court Street, which was rushed through even though many council members had concerns.

On leaf pickup: I’ve seen umpteen people in Janesville put the leaves right back in the street after the sweeper has been through. This is stupidity on the part of these people. They know they’re not supposed to be putting leaves out there. Why not just put an end to leaf pickup, and you only get your leaves picked up if they’re in recyclable bags?

On opposition to wearing seat belts, helmets: OK, if you don’t want to put on your seat belts or helmets, there is no reason a health insurance company or taxpayers should have to pay for your medical bills. In other words, you shouldn’t be treated at all. You shouldn’t get disability, Medicaid or free medical. You made the choice.

On government leaders: I’m just wondering how long it will take before people finally wake up and rid this country of people like Donald Trump, Ron Johnson, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker and the cancer that is the entire Republican Party.

Wow, I never knew just how corrupt our governments are until the 2016 presidential election. If the U.S. is to survive, we must start electing honest people and put a limit on all elected and appointed offices. We the people are the only ones that can do this. Corruption must go. We don’t want a dictatorship country.

On the Trump economy: Donald Trump has been in office less than one year, and we’ve already had 70 new record highs in the stock market, and we now have the lowest number of people collecting unemployment in 44 years. To be fair, though, Barack Obama also broke a lot of records. He had the largest number of people on food stamps in America’s history. He added more debt to our country than all the other presidents combined, and he had the lowest employee participation rate in 40 years, so he deserves to be recognized for his accomplishments as well.

On Tuesday story (Page 5B), “Trump promises tax cuts by Christmas”: The subhead says, ‘Nonpartisan analysis says most will pay more by 2027,’ but then when you read the article, and it says half, not most. Half is not most, so that’s misleading. The Gazette made a pledge not to run fake news, yet they continue to run the stories from Associated Press, the kings of fake news.

On allegations against Charlie Rose: When accepting a private invitation to a man’s hotel room, who would not expect to see him come out of the shower naked? Was the crime here for stupidity or her gold-digging entrapment scheme.

If you climb into the lion’s cage at the zoo at dinner time, do not pretend to be a victim.

I think it’s important that we know the difference, before we start name calling, between sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual predator or sexual molester. I think many of these terms are not being used correctly.

On Democrat handling of sexual assault: You may be wondering why so many liberal Democrats are being hung out to dry for sexual misconduct. About 30 years ago, the Democratic Party and corrupt news media decided to protect a sexual predator named Bill Clinton and smear and destroy the women who came forward to tell the country what had been done to them.

On new report card for Janesville schools: It sounds like Superintendent Steve Pophal and district officials are making excuses for poor test results.

On supposedly hungry children: A recent CBS Sunday Morning program showed a segment on harvesting grain for America’s breadbasket followed by schools providing meals to hungry children initially, eliciting a feeling of shame by the viewer. But when viewed closer, one notices fancy backpacks worn by most children and texting on cellphones by older children. This kind of diminishes the feeling of shame.