It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
Laura Waters, an academic scientist, wrote an article for the Guardian explaining why she does not call herself a feminist. The piece focused on Waters juggling her work with motherhood, and she challenged the notion that feminism should play a role in that:
I’m a scientist but not a feminist. Yes, we could do with more women choosing a career in science and yes, we need more women at the higher levels of management but that doesn’t make me a feminist: I’m an ‘equalist’. I believe that all scientific outputs should be judged on their content rather than on the fact the author was a female or male scientist. Regardless of gender, ethnicity or any other factor, what matters most is achieving the results by having the best person for the job – male or female.
It is a simple point: she does not want politics playing a role in who is the best person for the job. Waters argued that it is unfair to say women have it harder than men. She would rather people judge these things on an individual level.
Molecular biologist and feminist Andrew Holding had a different view. Instead of responding directly to Waters’ comments, Holding decided to defend feminism:
If you think feminism is a dirty word, or some kind of female ‘supremacist’ movement, you’ve been had. This slippery-slope sensationalism is the same old dirty trick we see when anti-equality campaigners make ridiculous arguments about marrying their sons in an effort to stop marriage equality, or suggest that giving all genders an equal chance in life is some how going to lead to the oppression of men. It’s ridiculous, and those who protest are typically those who have the most to lose from equality.
There are individuals who dislike men, in a hand-wavingly general sort of way, but that does nothing TO men on the whole. There is no power structure in place – and never has been – that causes men to be systematically disadvantaged compared to women. That is misogyny, the history and the culture and the actions of individuals that pile up to create a hostile environment to women in work, life and play, and in a country where a woman’s attractiveness is still seen to be more important than her achievements it is impossible to miss.
He went on to claim that the solutions to men’s problem is “more feminism.” I found Holding’s arguments less than convincing, so I asked:
I am curious, Holding: what are feminists doing to help single fathers, prevent male suicide, or challenge the notion that all men are rapists and pedophiles?
I ask because I know of no current feminist activity trying to get aid to single fathers, no attempt to challenge the discrimination those men face when it comes to government assistance or dealing with teachers and doctors, let alone general support for these men raising children by themselves.
Likewise, I know of no feminist groups that actively reach out to young men contemplating suicide. All the feminist-run men’s groups I know of focus their attention on preventing men’s violence against women.
The same goes for presenting all men as inherently sexually dangerous. No feminists I know of challenged British Airway’s decision to bar men from sitting next to unaccompanied children. When Kate Harding wrote her Schroedinger’s Rapist article, it got nothing but feminist support.
What are feminists actually doing to help men?
Holding did not respond. That was expected, and it demonstrates the problem many feminists have when they attempt to address men’s issues. Rather than listen to men’s complaints and address what men actually say, feminists swat them away and drone on about how horrible the world is for women and how great feminism has been for men without showing any examples of this.
For instance, some feminists cite the recent change in the FBI’s definition of rape as an example of feminists helping male survivors. Yet the actual focus for change was to expand the definition to include date rape and other types of assaults against women. These assaults were not counted by the FBI because they were not forcible vaginal penetration. This included the anal rape of women. Obviously, women are not the only group who can be anally raped, so men were included by default. However, the definition pushed by feminists failed to acknowledge women as potential rapists. Forcing a male to penetrate someone does not count as rape, and neither does forcing a male or female to perform cunnilingus or analingus.
That kind of oversight is not accidental. It is unlikely that it never occurred to any of the feminists who pushed for the change that women can force men and women into sex. They more likely did not consider those acts rape, thereby resulting in the FBI continuing to exclude most of the assaults against males.
The same thing is true about feminist outreach to men and boys. To my knowledge, all the feminist-run men’s groups focus on preventing violence against women. None of these groups, like Men Can Stop Rape, do any outreach to prevent violence against men and boys. They do not hold forums about the violence young men experience, they do not talk about the issues and pressures young men face, and they rarely acknowledge that men and boys can be victims of abuse at all.
I cannot think of any feminist group that attempts to prevent male suicide. I cannot think of any feminist group that actively reaches out to male survivors of abuse. I cannot think of any feminist group that actively supports single fathers or fathers in general. I cannot think of any feminist group that opposed British Airways’ decision to bar men from sitting next to unaccompanied children. I cannot think of any feminist group that opposes the notion that all men are rapists or pedophiles.
When the best that feminists typically do is respond with hostility, mockery, and disdain for those talking about those issues, they cannot claim that “the answer to these problems is more feminism.” If more feminism were the answer, how is it that these problems continue to exist given feminism’s prominence? Better yet, how is it that these problems are more prevalent among feminists than the general public? After all, no conservative wrote “Schrodinger’s Rapist,” a piece that stated that all males, until proven otherwise, are rapists. That was written by prominent feminist Kate Harding, and scores of feminists approvingly reblogged and commented on it.
Yet more curious is that Holding completely missed Waters’ point. Her point was not that feminism was “teh evil,” only that she sees no need for it in her life. She does not think that people should be judged by their sex, but by the merits of their character and their actions. While many feminists may protest and claim that is not what feminism is about, it is difficult to make that argument when feminists complain about panels of men discussing abortion and sexual violence or President Obama appointing “too many” white men to his cabinet.
Feminists set themselves up for this kind of response. By focusing so much on women and making every situation an “us versus them” conflict, feminists presented themselves as viewing women as inherently better than men. They presented themselves as thinking that it is not about the best person for the job, but the best woman for the job.
Coincidentally, Holding never disagrees with that position. He instead focuses on defending feminism’s worth:
We need a word because it provides focus, a banner to rally behind and, in the case of feminism, a history. Yes, equality is great, but we wouldn’t expect those fighting against racism or homophobia to drop their banner because a few people want to make it into something it’s not. We all need, in the words of Geraldine Horan at Bright Club recently, to ‘grow a pair of ovaries’ and start calling ourselves feminists.
Here is the problem: the banner that feminists rally behind has a sordid, sexist history. If a label gets to the point that it prompts people to mistrust your intent, the label is useless — unless it accurately depicts one’s intent. The problems feminists have are not a matter of a few people trying to make feminism into something it is not. The problems they have result from their own actions. Feminism is unfortunately an anti-male ideology. Its history is so littered with examples of this that it is delusional and stupid to claim otherwise.
It speaks volumes about the true intentions of feminism as an ideology when the simple statement by a scientist that she does not call herself a feminist prompts a feminist to explain how feminists do not hate men. Why defend yourself against a complaint no one made?