The Feminization of America: It Is Time to Dismantle the Nanny State

January 26, 2011 05:40

Adults in that older, freer America understood that one of the prices of liberty is that sometimes painful or unpleasant things happen. When they did happen, a low-key common-sense approach to handling the problem was usually best.

By Pete Farmer at Center for a Just Society

A Foxnews story titled, “Small Knife in Lunchbox Gets N.C. Student Suspended, Charged With Weapon Possession,” (read it here) tells of Ashley Smithwicke, a standout 17-year high school senior, who has been suspended for the remainder of her senior year and charged with a misdemeanor for having a small paring knife in her lunchbox. Ms. Smithwicke apparently had taken her father’s lunchbox instead of her own when leaving for school, and the knife was found in a random search of her possessions for drugs. Lee County School Superintendent Jeff Moss told the Sanford Herald that he couldn’t discuss the specifics of Ashley’s case.

This is an outrage at so many levels it is difficult to know where to begin. What has happened to this country? A fine young person, headed for great things in life, now has a criminal record because we have become panic-stricken over a paring knife? What is happening here?

Many factors are in play – nanny statism run amok, a lack of common sense and good judgment, bureaucratic covering of posteriors, fear of lawsuits, and a misguided “war on drugs” – but at bottom, this case is about the feminization of America. More specifically, it is about the cult of safety and the pursuit of a non-existent absolute security at the cost of our freedom.

Respected radio talk show host and public intellectual Dennis Prager has noted that in the personal “micro” sphere of life, the stereotypical feminine values of compassion, fairness, and the seeking of security/safety have many positive effects. Who among us wants a small child to be severely injured or perhaps lose his life because his parents did not teach him how to cross the street safely? However, as Prager notes, taken to extremes in the public “macro” sphere, the predominance of feminine values can have disastrous effects, especially if they are not counter-balanced by the traditional masculine traits of independence, risk-taking, and self-sufficiency. Just as the blending of feminine and masculine traits in individual men and women can produce a well-rounded adult, the same effect can occur in society.

Remove the masculine values from the equation, and what is the result? The nanny state run amok. Prager has noted that, in many ways, modern-day America has become a nation of hysterics who panic at everything from global warming to Alar pesticide on apples to a paring knife in a student’s lunchbox. We have a TSA which panics at the prospect of a passenger taking a pair of nail clippers on a plane. It is hard to argue his point, especially as concerns the political left, who have formed the strongest base of support for the nanny state. Is it coincidental that we also have more and more young males in America who seem unable or unwilling to make the jump into adulthood and full-fledged manhood? They are unwilling to join the military in sufficient numbers, so their mothers, sisters, and daughters do their fighting for them. Young men are unemployed in greater numbers than their female counterparts (i.e., the “Mancession”).

The “cult of safety” has also given us a society without diving boards at municipal pools and school officials too meek or afraid of lawsuits to allow their children to play dodge-ball at recess. Little boys can no longer settle their differences fighting on the playground; instead their parents – or school officials – call the cops, and everyone “lawyers-up.” The result? An ever-so-concerned public official or politician goes on camera and announces that a new law outlawing bullying has been passed, and that henceforth little boys who tussle a bit on the playground will be subject to criminal charges. Ditto for nice young women who bring a paring knife to school so they can eat their lunch. And this is how we lose our freedoms, the very same ones won at such cost by our forebearers…not with a bang, but a whimper.

Not all that many years ago, things were very different in America. A man could go about with a pocketknife – a useful tool for everyday life – on his person, without risking the SWAT team showing up. You could even take it on the plane with you. Someone who got alarmed at this would have been politely laughed at. Young boys and male teens occasionally got into fist fights, and no one lost their minds. Occasionally the police were called if things got out of hand, but most of the time, school officials – typically a vice-principal – settled matters. Sometimes, the kids themselves settled things after tempers cooled. Adults in that older, freer America understood that one of the prices of liberty is that sometimes painful or unpleasant things happen. When they did happen, a low-key common-sense approach to handling the problem was usually best. Children were free to run and play as they chose, supervised by adults at times, but other times not. Sure, they skinned their knees, but that’s how little Johnny or Jane learned not to go so fast on a bicycle when turning. Life was gloriously free and had a little more of the spice of risk and danger. The kinds of adults, female as well as male, produced by the America of the past were independent and cherished freedom. They knew, as Benjamin Franklin did, that “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

It is time for Americans of good sense, regardless of political affiliation, to end this madness. Proponents of big government have found the “nanny state” to be good camouflage for advancing their agenda, namely an ever-expanding public sector, more funding, and more government power. They and their enablers in the business, educational and legal establishments have to be stopped. Enough is enough. As Prager notes, “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen,” and he is absolutely correct. The government cannot serve as a surrogate parent nor can it take the place of good judgment, strong character, and sound values in our daily lives. America cannot be a great nation without great people, and we cannot make great people in a society that has grown afraid of its shadow. It is time to realize that there is no such thing as “absolute” safety, not without surrendering our freedoms or weakening our character as individuals. Even if there was a completely safe society, who would want to live in such a joyless, bureaucratic, and regimented place? The well-lived life requires the willingness to take risks, and, on occasion, experience danger. The nanny state must be dismantled and masculine virtues returned to their rightful place in our society.

Peter Farmer is an historian, scientist and healthcare professional, with masters degrees in history and biochemistry/biology. Please email your comments to

The CJS Forum seeks to promote an open exchange of ideas about the relationship between faith, culture, law and public policy. While all the articles are original and written especially for the CJS Forum, they do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for a Just Society.

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