Looking through the pinhole

One of the major issues between feminists and non-feminists is the feminist perspective. Feminists tend to view things through their ideological worldview, resulting in a limited understanding of social problems. This results in conflict with non-feminists because those people do not view the world the same way, and feminists tend not to be inclined to consider the other side’s positions.

This dynamic is particularly apparent when it comes to men’s issues. As John Anderson asked, “Why is it when something affects women it’s viewed as a societal issue requiring societal solutions, but when something negatively affects men it’s viewed as a personal failure requiring each individual man to correct his behaviour?”

HeatherN of The Good Men Project offered an answer:

In the fifth episode of the new Starz series Da Vinci’s Demons, we find out out that da Vinci’s love interest, Lucrezia, is being forced to spy on the Renaissance man. She very explicitly states that she is not acting of her own free will, and that she has no choice but to follow her orders. It so happens that the person to whom she says this is also under very explicit orders regarding what he’s supposed to do to da Vinci. However, he disregards his orders and decides on his own course of action.

There are many other examples of this type of scenario, particularly in our entertainment and media. A woman is forced into a situation in which she has no choice but to do what she’s told, while a man is forced in a very similar situation but entertains more freedom of choice. Think of just about every arranged marriage depicted on television, ever. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s patriarchy which denies women’s agency and decision making abilities. Patriarchal systems assume women are docile and unable to do things for themselves and therefore they are more susceptible to outside influence. Patriarchal systems place pressure on men to always be in control of their lives and assume that when something negative happens to a man, it’s his fault. That is all part of patriarchy.

When Archy mentioned the depiction of marriage on the Game of Thrones, Heather offered this explanation:

It’s kind of funny because I was going to use the Game of Thrones wedding as an example…it just would have made the thing too long. But so yeah, let’s look at Game of Thrones…when Robb Stark is ordered to enter an arranged marriage with one of the Frey women, he has his choice of which woman he will marry. On top of that, he’s shown to posses enough free will to actually back out of that agreement and marry the woman he actually loves. Then, when he orders his cousin to marry one of the Frey women instead, his cousin takes a good deal of persuading in order for him to agree. Actually, the big thing that finally convinces his cousin to agree to marry a Frey woman is that Robb brings up how his cousin had disobeyed orders before…thus exerting his free will.

What’s interesting about this, from a feminist perspective, is that the consequences of all these men exerting their free will is that the patriarchal system ends up crushing them. Robb’s cousin decides to charge ahead and not wait for Robb, ruining Robb’s military strategy…and the consequence is that he’ll be forced into marrying a Frey woman. Robb himself refuses to enter into an arranged marriage, and the consequence is…well…the Red Wedding.

Firstly, Edmure Tully is Robb’s uncle, not his cousin. Secondly, the show features numerous instances of men who have no choice.

Let us stick with House Stark, starting with Ned Stark. When he is ordered by Robert to become the King’s Hand, Ned has no choice but to take the job as a result of his loyalty to Robert and the potential military fallout the north could suffer if he refuses.

We move on to Theon Greyjoy. He is a hostage willingly given up by his father Balon after a failed coup. Theon has absolutely no choice in the matter, either as a child or an adult. Even when Robb Stark, Ned’s son, sends Theon to the Iron Islands to get Balon to help in the war against the Lannisters, Theon acts on what he thinks Balon expects of him, resulting his Theon’s downfall. He never really gets to make a decision on his own, and it gets much worse for him when he is captured and tortured later in the story.

Then there is Jon Snow, Ned Stark’s bastard son. He has no station whatsoever, even though Ned treats him as he does his other children. Jon appears to choose to join the Night’s Watch, but he is essentially conned into doing it by his uncle’s lies about what the Watch actually is. He cannot even choose to leave the Night’s Watch. Anyone who does will be executed if caught.

As for Robb, he is stuck because the Lannisters have his sisters and have killed his father. As the heir to Winterfell he must get his sisters back and avenge his father’s death. However, by virtue of being the son of a man named a traitor, doing anything other than swearing allegiance to King Joffrey will cause war in the north. Yet the Lannisters will kill the Starks anyway because they are too strong to be left on their own. In other words, no matter what he does Robb must fight. He has absolutely no real choice.

However, since Heather focused on marriage, let us look three other examples from this season: Margaery marrying Joffrey, Tyrion marrying Sansa, and Loras marrying Cersei.

Margaery Tyrell’s marriage to Joffrey Baratheon is purely a political move, one she chooses to engage in. Margaery and her grandmother Olenna Redwyne set the whole thing up. They initially tried for King Robert by trying to get rid of Queen Cersei Lannister by spreading rumors about the actual father of her children. When Robert died, they moved on to Robert’s brother Renly. When he died, they moved to Joffrey. Despite their position as women, both Margaery and Olenna choose to act on their own behalf regardless of the risk, and Olenna in particular is quite adept at manipulating people.

Margaery’s brother, however, is not so lucky. He is forced to wed Cersei in an effort by Tywin Lannister, Cersei’s father, and Olenna to protect their political interests and keep the Seven Kingdoms united. That Loras is rumored to be gay and Cersei rumored to bed with her twin brother Jamie (both true) does not help matters for the pair. Likewise, Tywin’s son Tyrion is forced to marry Sansa Stark. Sansa was originally meant to wed Joffrey, but was dropped for Margaery. Sansa is hopelessly naive to the point that she makes no real decisions on her own. However, Tyrion is far more manipulative, yet even he is stuck without a choice in this matter.

The reason I went through that long explanation is because Heather’s position is that “men’s agency is recognized…men might be punished for it by a patriarchal system, but they can exert free will. Women, on the other hand, aren’t shown to have any agency at all.” Yet that is clearly untrue. Cersei, Magaery, Catelyn Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen all defy their social stations, doing what they want using various means, often the same means as men. Arya Stark acts the same way. The only female main character who seems to lack agency is Sansa Stark. All the other prominent women in the show and the books are more than capable of expressing and acting on their own wishes.

When confronted with this glaring error, Heather equivocates:

And, as I said, that is when one views it through a feminist lens (I think the exact words I used were, “from a feminist perspective.”) Right so, war and jockeying for power within a patriarchal system are what kills Robb.

Therein lies the problem. By using a feminist lens, one can miss obvious points that disprove the very argument one wants to make. It is not the patriarchal system that kills Robb. It is actually Robb’s war against the Lannisters and his breaking of his word. Blaming the patriarchal system for Robb’s death is like blaming democracy for slavery. Just because slavery existed in democracies does not mean the democracy caused it.

The other obvious issue is that Heather relies on a fictional example rather than a real one. There is no logical reason for this. She could just as easily use a hypothetical if she could not find a real-world analogy. However, perhaps the reason she relies on the fictional example is because it is easier to twist to fit her argument.

If one looks at arranged marriages, one constantly hears about how bad the girls and women have it. Yet are not boys and men also forced to marry someone they might not want to? Are they not also oppressed by this? One could argue that men are more affected by this since they often hold the burden of maintaining the family name, legacy, and lineage. Rejecting a marriage could ruin their entire family. Imagine the pressure it puts on men and boys who love another person or cannot stand their betrothed.

Heather does not acknowledge that at all, and ends up essentially dodging John’s question. The closest she comes to answering it is this:

I also feel it necessary to point out that the trend of assuming men’s issues are all about individual failing is a dying one within feminist circles. “Toxic masculinity” and “hegemonic masculinity” are two phrases that are often used to talk about the social pressures which affect men’s lives. There are other, more specific examples, but the point is that feminism and gender studies completely recognize that society affects men.

While feminists have adopted new catch phrases like “toxic masculinity” and “hegemonic masculinity”, feminists like Jackson Katz, Michael Kimmel, and Michael Flood still lay all men’s issues on the individual failing of men, including issues like sexual and domestic violence against men and boys. These are not the result of things outside of men and boys’ control. Instead, they are direct results of “The Patriarchy,” a system men and boys, according to feminists, benefit from and contribute to. In other words, these bad things are men’s own fault, albeit an “ironic” result of their oppression of women, and men — and only men — have a responsibility to change them.

That may seem like feminists are acknowledging the broader social pressures that affect men, yet they dodges the issues entirely by pointing to a politically-driven conspiracy theory that conveniently ignores that many of the social pressures men face come from women and usually have nothing to do with “patriarchal oppression of women.” However, that may be hard to see when looking through the pinhole worldview that is feminism.

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20 thoughts on “Looking through the pinhole

  1. Pingback: Looking through the pinhole | Viva La Manosphere!

  2. i will never, EVER abandon my masculinity. i will NEVER eschew masculine traits and pursuits. i hunt, fight, and protect those i love. that will never change. and the women in my life appreciate that. i’m VERY fortunate to live in the south where such traits are admired and not frowned upon.

    and GoT owns. can’t wait for tomorrow night. then falling skies starts up again.

    stay up Brother.

  3. “And, as I said, that is when one views it through a feminist lens (I think the exact words I used were, “from a feminist perspective.”) Right so, war and jockeying for power within a patriarchal system are what kills Robb.”

    What on earth does that reply even mean? I have found she just dodges all difficult questions and just keeps going with the everything is patriarchy stuff. Thankfully I have found most people find that stuff ridiculous and don`t want to hear about radical patriarchy theories.

  4. What on earth does that reply even mean?

    I took it to mean that she knew that there are different ways to view what happened to Robb, but she was only considering the feminist perspective.

    I have found she just dodges all difficult questions and just keeps going with the everything is patriarchy stuff.

    It makes sense if you consider that she is defending feminism. I know the purpose of the section is to “ask a feminist” a question, but it is really about defending the ideology. Granted, Heather does not do a great job of it, and spends more time preaching to the converted and repeating feminist doctrine. However, there is little else she can do because if she considers the other side’s positions it undermines her underlying argument that feminism has it “right.”

  5. OP: “It makes sense if you consider that she is defending feminism. I know the purpose of the section is to “ask a feminist” a question, but it is really about defending the ideology.”

    Which makes the whole thing one giant PR Infomercial rather than a chance to tackle real issues with strands of feminist thought and theory.

    All HeatherN, and this entire joke of a series on The Good Men Project (which I expect nothing less from them), does is just give more reasons for men to distrust feminism.

    Plus I must mention it again: She denies Misandry exists. Not worth talking too.

  6. Cicero, I think much feminist thought relies on traditional tropes about men and women, and it waivers between feminists being aware of this and doing it anyway or by unbelievably blind to it.

  7. Eagle, they honestly–and given the current topic, ironically–have little choice. TGMP’s audience is mostly progressive liberal with a heavy feminist lean. They cannot publish anything that actively questions feminism without upsetting their audience. However, since it appears that TGMP is not particularly concerned about whether men, especially non-feminist men, join their conversation, this may not be a problem for them.

  8. “What on earth does that reply even mean?”

    Cicero, it means they think war is some kid of football that men go off and play if they feel like ti and if they get hurt, well, it’s their own fault. In other words, complete denialism about how elites of both genders benefit fomr wars and start them for their own reasons.

    Female Offenders is a jackpot of a site.

  9. Female Offenders is featured on Toysoldier’s blogroll titled “Male Abuse Statistics” on the right column on the front page. Jim Hopper’s (one of the founders of 1in6.org) site is also featured there with a link to this page: http://www.jimhopper.com/male-ab/

    However, Jim Hopper also have a page about Recovered Memories of Sexual Abuse which amongst other features the Widom & Morris (1997) paper which document that male survivors of childhood sexual abuse underreport the abuse to a much larger degree than women does.

  10. TS: I tried to post a comment containing a link to Jim Hopper’s page about Recovered Memories of Sexual Abuse, but it was just swallowed (the comment doesn’t even show up as in moderation). I’ve experienced the same thing elsewhere on other wordpress blogs (FC, Genderratic, Manboobz (I know I know – the futility)) where I tried to make a comment containing that link.

  11. >the patriarchal system ends up crushing them.
    >within a patriarchal system

    Waaait a second.

    >“Toxic masculinity” and “hegemonic masculinity” are two phrases that are often used to talk about the social pressures which affect men’s lives.

    Which, rhetorically, implies that there is some version of masculinity that is non-toxic, and, no doubt, feminist approved.

    >There are other, more specific examples, but the point is that feminism and gender studies completely recognize that society affects men.

    No it doesn’t. Even acknowledging men’s issues – not just criticizing masculinity – to any significant degree is fairly recent, fairly rare, and mostly reactive. Feminism is starting to realize that it can’t just keep ignoring men’s issues, given the increasing prominence of MRAs and other non-feminist egalitarians, and are, naturally, trying to duct tape it onto their ideology without reexamining their central ideology of M>F victimhood. It’s also interesting how so many feminists say the Patriarchy “negatively affects” (but not oppresses or is biased against) men, even when they’re describing how men are being killed or harmed by it more than women. And most of the time, these opinions of masculinity seem to have been formed without actually consulting any men.

    Jackson Katz, for example, spent an entire talk gendering violence as something men do, mostly to women. He claimed the issue is non-gendered, but not because men are also victims. No, it’s because men should be responsible for stopping violence (against women). His mentions of non M>F violence are token at best. He somehow manages not to mention that the vast majority of violence is M>M, despite specifically mentioning how most men are harmed by other men.

  12. PS: I also had no idea it was one of my little tumblr posts, indirectly (the first question), that sparked such debate. I’m kinda proud.

    >In general, I don’t think most feminists would say that women are more affected by social circumstances than men. Rather, I think they’d probably argue that the social circumstances which affect both men and women recognize a greater degree of human agency for men than they do women.

    That is almost an entirely logic-free paragraph. “I’m not saying women are worse off than men on a societal level, I’m just saying men have more choices on a societal level”. Which means women’s choices are more limited. Which sounds like oppression and “worse off” to me.

    And yes, “most feminists” would say that, Heather. In fact, most feminists have been saying that for decades. They drowned out #INeedMasculismBecause to say that. They held protests and broke the law when people tried to talk about men’s issues to say that. Feminists constantly talk about how women’s lack of choices is oppression, and constantly portray women as victims of men, to the extent of actively erasing other groups of victims on frequent occasions, and if you look at feminist discussions, they still almost exclusively talk about the problems of women.

    Have you noticed how needlessly verbose Heather gets when she’s trying to talk around a tricky concept?

  13. Pingback: How the Red Wedding Should Have Ended | FanFiction Fridays

  14. Pingback: A Worthy Debate | Toy Soldiers

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