Feminism, Fatherhood, and the Lance Armstrong Fallacy
- 2006 8 May
My book No More Christian Nice Guy alerted America that boys are falling behind in school and that this problem is a silent epidemic. Little did I know that within a few months after its release how some of the largest names in media would pick up this problem and run with it. But what I did predict was the radical feminist response, and how they would attempt to put this problem into "perspective."
Soon after Newsweek's recent cover story about the boy crisis in education came Salon.com's article "The campus crusade for guys." Then Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, weighed in with "Biology's Revenge." The Weekly Standard had its say as well. Among the most troubling statistics: 58 percent of first-year college students are female. Because male students are more likely to drop out, their share will shrink to 40 percent by graduation.
One of the main reasons for this crisis, wrote Newsweek, is the lack of father figures in the lives of too many drop-out boys. "An adolescent boy without a father figure is like an explorer without a map." Donald Miller, author of the bestselling Blue Like Jazz, writes about his difficult life without a father in his new release To Own a Dragon. He says the percentage of dropouts, youth suicides, homeless teenagers and young men in prison who come from fatherless homes is staggering. "It makes you wonder if just having a Dad around, just by being there, reading the paper in the morning and smoking cigars at poker with his friends and having him read to us a story at night, you and I were supposed to understand something, some idea God in heaven wanted to offer us as a gift."
Feminist Professor Peggy Drexler, author of the anti-father Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men, claims that no such gift exists. Soon after Newsweek's article hit, she wrote, "I wonder what mothers like Lance Armstrong's make of such statements" that claim boys without a father figure are lost. "The assumption that 'masculine' qualities can be imparted only by men undermines the success of millions of mothers who are fully capable of raising thriving, emotionally healthy, masculine sons without a man around. Linda Armstrong raised Lance on her own and did quite well."
This is where Drexler, like the body of her work, hyper-extends and hyper-ventilates. I used to race bicycles, shaved legs and all, and I still might in the future if my schedule ever slows down (not likely). I've won a few as a low-level racer, yet my best race was when I took third. There's something about a road bike that makes me feel alive.
So I keep an eye on Lance and I'm amazed by his abilities, especially his cadence and lightness on the pedals as he flies up mountains. I'm also familiar with his background, apparently more so than Drexler. Young Lance Armstrong was not "emotionally healthy." He was, by his own admission, a lost and angry young jerk. Two trainers, Chris Charmichael and Johann Bruyneel, took him under their paternal wing and coaxed stellar talent out of his troubled body and soul. Eddy Merckx, perhaps the greatest cyclist ever, was also a huge influence in Lance's life. When others abandoned him professionally, his agent Ken Stapleton stayed by his side.
And it was another racer who, seeing young, brash, angry Lance in a field sprint with him near the finish line, who taught Lance a lesson in humility that he never forgot. The well-respected racer hit his brakes because he did not want to appear on the same podium as troubled Armstrong. This man gave up money and fame to distance himself from a young racer whose emotional immaturity and reckless disregard earned him a growing list of detractors who rightly complained that Armstrong did not know how to win well or live well.
He was not always the good ambassador of one of the world's most incredible sports that he is today. It took the intervention of some big souls to make that happen.
Notice the gender of all these influential people, the ones Drexler ignores?
I'm not going to commit a similar Drexler fallacy and undermine the love and direction of women in general and Linda Armstrong in particular. One should not return bigotry for bigotry. I'm saying all this to put the real life of Armstrong and men in general in perspective. A mother's love and nurturing is a gift from God. Ask any man who didn't get it and they'll tell you. The same is true for the unique characteristic of men. Though Drexler ignores them, Armstrong gives these pivotal men plenty of credit.
And of course a man's unique presence, like a woman's, doesn't just bless boys either. Wrote Toni Morrison, Nobel-prize winning novelist. "I am a great writer because when I was a little girl and walked into a room where my father was sitting, his eyes would light up. That is why I am a great writer. That is why. There isn't any other reason."
Drexler is right to point out the benefits of good mothering, which is an important encouragement in the lives of so many women, especially heroic single mothers. But she uses this vital role to wage war against another vital role: the blessings of paternity. Armstrong is fortunate that he grew up during a time when Drexler's views were contained to the radical fringe of college campuses instead of in best-selling books. Today's troubled boys are not so fortunate. Those who take the Good Guy Rebellion seriously will correct her kind of anti-male bias wherever they find it.
Paul Coughlin is the author of No More Christian Nice Guy and a soon to be released companion Study Guide. He and his wife Sandy are the authors of Married But Not Engaged: Why Men Check Out and What You Can Do to Create The Intimacy You Desire, due out in July from Bethany House. Visit him online at Christianniceguy.com