Man-bashing is profitable, but is it fair?

February 18, 1992|By Dallas Morning News

A woman walks down a street, past two open manholes. One has a sign that says "Men Working." The other has a sign that says "Women Working Just as Hard for Less Pay."

The cartoon is from "Men! The Cartoon Book," a little $4.95 paperback that has sold about 31,000 copies nationwide and made its editor, Cindy Garner of Austin, Texas, the darling of lots of radio talk shows.

Not into cartoons? Try another of Ms. Garner's books, "How Are Men Like Noodles? The Ultimate Jokebook About Men." Or buy her other book, "Everything Men Know About Women." It's filled with blank pages.

In books, in songs -- even greeting cards -- men are being made the brunt of jokes. They're sloppy. They lie. They feign ignorance of how to operate a washing machine.

Some people, even a few males, say men finally are getting what they deserve and it's perfectly OK for clever entrepreneurs like Ms. Garner to profit by making fun of them. Others say such slams are blatantly sexist, the equivalent of dumb blonde jokes.

"There is a tremendous amount of male hate in our country -- and some people can't see beyond the dollar sign," says John Macchietto of Stephenville, Texas, director-at-large of the National Coalition of Free Men, a men's rights group.

Chris Arnold, promotions director for the Improv in Addison, Texas, says comedians often take jabs at men, but not at women: "It's too risky," he says. "The women just start moaning and groaning."

So why isn't what's good for the gander also good for the goose? Stuart Waymire would like to know.

He's written a book called "Men Are Pigs and Deserve to Die" under the pseudonym Sonya Steinem. Orders are coming in every day; some women buy copies for 10 or 12 of their friends. Support groups for co-dependents and single parents have even ordered the book so they can discuss it.

Thinking he had really seized on something, Mr. Waymire, who lives in Las Vegas, Nev., wrote a similar manuscript from the male perspective. It's called "Men Who Hate Women Just for the Hell of It."

"I took it to a birthday party to try it out on people," he reports. "The women read it and thought it was horrible. The men thought it was terribly funny."

Mr. Waymire decided not to publish the book.

"I don't think it's fair, but that's what's interesting about this," he says. "A similar book, a mirror image of the 'Men Are Pigs' book, will draw a different response and I will be attacked."

Mr. Macchietto is trying to balance the scales a little. He and other members of the National Coalition of Free Men have been writing letters to Hallmark Cards Inc., asking the company to discontinue some of the cards in their Shoebox line that the group feels are biased against men.

Hallmark has pulled one card from the shelves. On the outside it says, "Men are scum." On the inside it says, "Excuse me. For a second there, I was feeling generous."

For Mr. Macchietto, though, that's not enough. Hallmark is still selling cards that say, "There are easier things than meeting a good man; nailing Jell-O to a tree, for instance." There are others with similar messages.

"I'm a very good humorist, and I think that could be a funny joke," he says. "But they don't have a card like that about women."

Renee Hershey, a spokeswoman for Hallmark, says the cards are intended to help build friendships between women by using a topic virtually all of them can identify with.

"We also have cards in the Shoebox line that talk about positive relationships with men. And women can relate to those cards, as well," she says. "Our purpose is to offer thousands of greeting cards to fit a variety of senses of humor."

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