Gender Wars

“[Moral] Indignation… supplies the wise person with the energy… to act virtuously…  But

most of those who publicly bemoan the plight of women… are moved by more dubious passions

and interests. Theirs is a feminism of resentment that rationalizes and fosters a wholesale

rancor in women that has little to do with moral indignation”

Christina Hoff Sommers (“The War Against Boys”, “Who Stole Feminism”)

 

“The New Feminism emphasizes the importance of the ‘women’s point of view,’ the Old Feminism believes in the primary importance of the human being”

Winifred Holtby

 

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.”

Gloria Steinem

 

 

I believe men are equal to women. Does this make me a feminist?

 

Sadly, many feminists would say no. If the feminist position is that women are equal to men, then logically it is also the position that men are equal to women. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

 

The woman’s rights movement was born out of a need to redress severe and genuine inequities between women and men. Though there have been significant improvements, these changes have done the disservice of giving the false impression that the work is done. It isn’t.

 

Unfortunately, feminism today is not what the woman’s rights movement once was, or what made it great. Many women today genuinely believe, on some level, not in their equality, but in their superiority to their male oppressors. This is a phenomenally serious problem.

 

Journalist Norah Vincent spent a year living as a man named “Ned”, observing male behavior from the inside. What surprised her most was the treatment she received at the hands of women, particularly while dating. Women all assumed “Ned” to be inferior, a cad, and a jerk. Most of Ned’s social time with women was spent trying to work his way out of a perceived moral and ethical deficit which they imposed upon him- the image of man as oppressor, as sexist and close-minded, unable to cherish women for their individuality.

 

It never occurred to any of these women that they were the ones being sexist, close-minded, and unable to cherish Ned for his individuality. The women in Vincent’s book saw the stereotypes they imposed as “honesty”, while viewing stereotypes imposed by men as “oppression” – the same argument previously used by males.

 

Most modern men have resigned themselves to this type of hostility, and the increasing general hostility, debasement, and degradation of men by our society, as a fact of life….

 

  • Television shows (“Everybody Loves Raymond”, “King of Queens” and “The Simpsons”) increasingly place the women in roles where they are smarter and more mature, while the men play the role of “doofus”.
  • I know no man personally who hasn’t been struck by a woman at least once. I have been struck three times, each time by a woman who expected me to have greater control over my anger than she over hers.
  • Newspapers and television consider the deaths of men to be less important (“The boat sank, killing all 1000 people on board, 600 of them women and children”).
  • Men are seen as objects of commitment. As it has historically been thought that women did not enjoy sex, so has it been thought that men fear to commit. Both are false. Women do not enjoy being a sex object any more than men enjoy being a commitment object. Women often see commitment as an opportunity to change a man, to improve him, and to show him off to her friends and family, and that marriage is the first step in molding the man into who the woman wants him to be. I can think of no one who would feel comfortable with the thought of marriage under those conditions. But instead of men’s concerns being thought of as legitimate, they are relegated to the realm of an immature fear of commitment, a failing on their part- as if that could be the only possible reason for a man not throwing himself at a woman.

 

Most women wouldn’t believe any of this. If this were true, why wouldn’t men speak up? Because to do so isn’t masculine. Because to do so invites ridicule and laughter. Because women don’t want to hear it, or think men are being silly. Because there’s no support system for men. In short, for all the same reasons women didn’t speak up for 150 years.

 

Suggesting that men also suffer at the hands of sexism tends to evoke rage in women. There are many causes for this. Some feel that it implies an argument that men have suffered as much as, or more than, women. Some because they define themselves as having the monopoly on being victims of modern oppression. Some feel that to argue that men also suffer from sexism belittles their own suffering, as if there were a finite amount of sympathy or justice in our society. None of these is true.

 

Women above all should realize the detriment to men, living in a culture where they’re constantly being told that they are animals, insensitive, inferior, mature slower, are not as smart or evolved — and are told their concerns are meaningless or even sexist when voiced. I am not allowed to say I’ve been oppressed, or hurt by sexism, because to do so attacks and insults women.

 

The truth is that the emancipation of women has been one of the greatest things ever to happen to men in this country. Forget that it is a just cause, forget that the subjugation of women has been an incalculable loss for our society (loosing out on valuable contributions women could have made to a diverse number of fields); men should vehemently support equality for women if for no other reason than unadulterated self-interest.

 

For centuries men have been reinforcing the idea that women cannot survive without them, that women need their guidance. This has caused generations of women to feel they need men to “complete” them. This in turn places an unreasonable burden on men to define not only themselves, but also their spouses. Men become responsible for the entire family, for financial decisions, generating income, disciplining the children, and even their children’s grades. The weight of this responsibility creates in men a fear of failure so overwhelming that any sign of weakness, no matter how small (like admitting you’re lost on a road trip), is an attack on their very manhood. The image of Ward Cleaver as the perfect father is an ideal no person can live up to.

 

This level of responsibility is unnatural for any group in our species. It is why men suffer the majority of heart attacks, live shorter lives, and are four times more likely to commit suicide.

 

Men need to relinquish not only the privileges, but also the burdens of their domination. And the rewards for doing so would be not only longer and healthier lives, but also healthier and happier partners to share those lives with, not to mention the genuine contribution brought by the feminine perspective to politics, arts and sciences.

 

It is easy for one sex to be dismissive of the suffering of the other, overlooking the truth which is that the fate and well-being of each sex is inexorably tied to that of the other. For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. For anything one gender does to damage the other, it invariably hurts itself by the same amount.

 

This makes female equality a goal we must all share. Sadly, however, the women’s rights movement has stalled. It has lost sight of its own goal of equality, and in many cases replaced it with anger, prejudice, and even martyrdom. Many women, earning seventy-five cents to the dollar, have become complacent, choosing not to fight for their remaining twenty-five cents so as to not risk the seventy-five they have. Some resent that decision, and take it out on men. Some women don’t want women’s liberation to succeed, if for no other reason than they would no longer have an enemy to fight or loathe – because with a sense of oppression comes a sense of superiority to your oppressors.

 

It is a feeling natural to all people, but it the antithesis of true liberation and equality. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. respected his oppressors as “brothers” and recognized that the best weapon against inequality was love; that to degrade, attack, or even blame whites for the oppression of blacks was both counterproductive, and disingenuous. He hated the phrase “White Devil” as he hated all racial epithets.

 

If the belief that men are equal to women is not feminism, than Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul were not feminists. Indeed, they were Quakers – Gender Egalitarians, and believed in the equality of men and women completely and unquestioningly. Like Dr. King they objected to any attempt to blame their oppressors, or to make them feel inferior, or to use suffering as an excuse for emotional hostility or a sense of superiority. They believed that all injustice, even against their oppressors, was to be abhorred and fought. They respected men.

 

I have found that these prejudices against men have taken a larger toll on me than I had previously realized. I have heard the cries of the oppressed, and I have sat and waved as I honestly wished them luck and then walked away. Why? Because I saw no need to help those who took pleasure in hurting me, no matter how just their cause.

 

It is that flaw in my character, which I believe is the flaw within the woman’s movement today, that anger, that sense of being wronged, and being unwilling to forgive for a better, common future. It has drained the women’s movement of some of its just voice, and replaced it with bitterness, anger, resentment, and even censorship.

 

That is not the voice of all those who call themselves feminists, but it is a loud voice in our society today, a growing voice, and the voice men most associate with feminism, and that’s not good. I truly believe that it is the tolerance and legitimizing of that perspective that has turned the women’s rights movement into a feminism that has set men up as “the enemy”, and that has splintered, and taken some of the justice out of, a once great movement.

 

There can be no justice in a society in which members of any gender, race, or religion are belittled or mitigated, told that their voice does not count. For their own sakes, men must come to a genuine understanding of the justice of the women’s rights movement, and of the true equality of women to men – they must encourage debate and discussion of the issues involved. But the reverse is also true; for their own sakes, women too must be willing to accept that they are not the only ones to suffer injustice, and that they have sometimes caused injustice themselves – that traditional gender roles have been bad for everyone, and that to move past them we need to work together, to love each other, and to push past blame.

 

Until that is done, we will not have a liberation movement. We will have a gender war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

* The social sciences differentiate between sex and gender, and rightfully so. The social sciences refer to “sex” as a biological distinction, and “gender” as a sociological one. However, the word “sex” cannot always be distinguished between the physical act of having sex, and the biological differentiation between the sexes.  Therefore, I use the word “gender” when I believe the word “sex” may imply the physical act, as opposed to a biological (or even perceived sociological) distinction. In all cases, “sex” and “gender” in this newsletter refers to the perceived distinction between the male and female sexes.

 

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