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Bashing boys is, like, not OK

By Danna HarmanStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 31, 2004



LOS ANGELES

The T-shirts say things like "Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them" or "Boys are goobers... drop anvils on their heads" and feature cartoon-figure boys on the run. There are accessories to go with them, too: "Boys are smelly" lip balm or "Boys lie - make them cry" bubble gum.

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Cute? Funny? Or rather, as radio talk show host and self-proclaimed men's rights activist Glenn Sacks sees it, a blatant example of misandry.

Misandry? What's that?

Well, ignorance is part of the problem Mr. Sacks says he is out to redress. Over the past two months, he has been using his increasingly popular weekly radio show here, "His Side," to rail against what he sees as the anti-male, or misandry, merchandise line.

"When males insult females we call it 'woman-hating' and 'misogyny.' When females insult males, apparently it's OK. No more!" is his battle cry.

The campaign he has instigated against stores that carry the merchandise has had results. Three retail chains - Seattle-based Bon-Macy's and California-based Tilly's and Claire's Stores, an international chain that runs more than 2,800 stores in North America, Europe, and Japan - have yanked the products, which are manufactured or licensed by David & Goliath, a T-shirt company based in Clearwater, Fla.

Universal Studios in Hollywood said that it, too, would soon take the offending T-shirts off its company store shelves.

"Everyone always says girls in school suffer; they have low self-esteem; teachers make them feel second best, blah blah blah," says Sacks, sipping a soda on a recent overcast afternoon in Los Angeles. "But it's obvious that, in general, girls are doing better in school, and boys are falling behind."

What is also "obvious," continues this former grade-school teacher, is that most of the "behavioral problem kids" are boys, too. Most of those who "get bullied" and "don't fit in" - not to mention the ones who later get into problems with drugs and gangs - are, pretty much, all boys, he says.

"So, do you really think with all that [that] we need a T-shirt saying: 'Throw rocks at boys'? " he asks, exasperated, his arms flung wide.

"Puh-leeze," moan the feminists, noting that they are busy trying to raise awareness of real-life problems, such as recent sharia rulings in Nigeria calling for unfaithful wives to be stoned to death. "No, I don't think the shirts are cute," says Helen Grieco, executive director of the National Organization for Women (NOW), California chapter. "But I spend every day on life-and-death issues and don't have time for T-shirt campaigns."

Other critics, citing everything from First Amendment free-speech rights to a sense of humor to a sense of perspective in defense of the T-shirts have also ridiculed Sacks's mission. ("You would think a male version of Hooters just opened up," writes columnist Jane Ganahl in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Oh, sorry - bad analogy. Hooters is just good, clean, inoffensive fun.")

Shrugging off the criticism, Sacks is working to transform his 15 minutes of fame into a soap box to discuss other men's and fathers' issues. Judging from the attention his campaign gathered, the near-celebrity status he has maintained since, and the hundreds of fan letters he receives weekly, his strategy seems to be succeeding.

"I don't believe that men are oppressed and women are privileged or the other way around. I think both genders have advantages and disadvantages," explains Sacks. "But, what I have come to believe is that the disadvantages women face are in the public domain. Everyone knows about them. But few understand men's needs and dreams. That is what I want to shine light upon."

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