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:
Feminism never causes problems for men
When I read that David Benatar wrote a soon-to-be published book about sexism against men call The Second Sexism, I knew there would be a feminist backlash. There is always feminist hostility directed at anyone publicly talking about men’s issues, especially when that person wants to present a reasoned argument.
So it comes as no surprise that some feminists are taking Benatar to task over a book none of them have (or likely will) read. Melissa McEwan offered her insightful commentary:
The primary decision-makers—the legislators and cultural leaders—who shape and facilitate societies in which violence against men is tolerated and in which men are not valued as nurturers (some of Benatar’s other complaints) are not women, but men. And privileged men, at that.
The oppressions of men identified in the article are natural outgrowths of the Patriarchy—and of the Kyriarchy, which disadvantages queer men, men of color, men with disabilities, poor men, etc. But MRAs are so intractably invested in the idea of the binary “battle of the sexes” that they cannot see their argument is not with feminists/womanists, never has been and never will be.
Men like Benatar shake their fists and aim their rhetorical arrows at feminists, because they don’t want to hold other men accountable. Thus do they effectively mask the real sexism that is directed at men—the Patriarchal narratives that continue to encourage displays and expressions of a “traditional masculinity” (and the systemic misrepresentation of that construction as evolutionary imperative to discourage alternative displays and expressions) which are increasingly at odds with modern culture.
MxEwan wrote that despite Benatar stating in an interview:
It’s a neglected form of sexism. It’s true that in the developed world the majority of economic and political roles are occupied by males. But if you look at the bottom – for example, the prison population, the homeless population, or the number of people dropping out of school – that is overwhelmingly male. You tend to find more men at the very top but also at the very bottom.
While some of the issues men face existed before feminism came along, others are a unique result of feminist views, and even the prior problems are often worsened by feminist policies. For example, the number of boys dropping out of school, being held back, and failing to graduation is a direct result of changes to the educational system pushed by feminists which were made in an effort to help girls. By shifting the focus to girls, many schools ignored boys’ needs, assuming that boys could just make it on their own. The push to remove competitiveness from school activities is also a feminist position, and that position kills one the very things help boys learn.
McEwan gives the typical “men brought it on themselves” feminist response, yet she never actually addresses Benatar’s point, making her argument, if one can even call it such, come across as a pathetic attempt to absolve feminists of any responsibility for the aftermath of their own policies. Feminists made women the focus of gender issues, they pushed policies that downplayed, ignored, or denied male suffering, they actively oppose efforts to address men’s issues, and then blame men and boys their own problems. No matter what social expectations existed before feminism, there is no denying that our current dismissal of men’s plight is primarily feminist in origin, something another feminist blogger went out of her way to show.
Jo T took issue with Benatar’s position, and like McEwan, her analysis relies solely on feminist rhetoric rather than critical analysis, which is how Jo manages to grace us with such gems as:
“…[men are more likely to] to be the victims of violence…”
Overwhelmingly, this happens at the hands of other men [PDF – see page 13]. And this formulation also elides and downplays the horrible reality of violence against women and girls.
Many feminists trot out this line, and it usually happens because the feminist argument is about who has it worse. Since feminists argue that whoever experiences more violence are most in need of help, by their own logic men should be the focus since men are more likely to be victims of violence. However, that would put a damper on the “women have it worse” argument, so feminists switch to “who commits most of the violence.” But it does not matter who commits the violence because the issue is who are the victims of the violence, and the overwhelming majority of victims of violence are male.
(Coincidentally, the report Jo linked confirms Benatar’s positions: “Men are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than women. […] Around 15 per cent of men and 7 per cent women of this age reporting that some sort of violence had been used against them. Domestic violence is the only category of violence where the risks for women are higher than for men. Risks of stranger violence remain substantially greater for men than for women, with men four times more likely than women to suffer this form of attack.”)
Of course, that argument is obviously stupid, so in order to negate it some feminists will throw out the “you’re silencing women” line. Except acknowledging that men are more likely to be victims in no way downplays violence against women for two reasons. One, because violence is not a mutually exclusive act. It can happen to two groups at the same time. Two, male victims are typically mentioned as a result of people like Jo only talking about women as victims.
Jo went on to add little nothings like this:
“…Boys lag a year behind girls at reading in every industrialised country.”
How is this the fault of women and/or feminists? I’d say the “man box” view of masculinity, combined with a culture which views reading as a “sissy” activity, has rather more to do with it than a conspiracy of women looking to give their daughters an educational boost.
“[Men] work longer hours, too…”
Was this statistic adjusted to take into account the fact that women, who are much more likely to be primary care-providers for children as well as for other relatives, tend to work part-time a lot more than men? Again, is this evidence of “sexism” against men – or of devaluing women in the workplace? By itself, it’s pretty much worthless.
Never mind that the primary reason boys lag behind girls is because of the shift in the educational system to focus on girls. Never mind that women make up the majority of teachers, the people responsible for teaching children and making sure they pass their classes. And never mind that there is a stark difference between working at a business in which one gets paid and taking care of one’s children and home.
But perhaps the most insidious comment was this:
“…young men are three times more likely to commit suicide.”
This is an issue I feel especially strongly about, and it disgusts me that MRAs often cynically use it to back up their points. The thought that young men in severe emotional distress may feel unable to talk to others about their problems or to seek help should be of concern to everyone.
It should be, but it is not. One does not see anyone talking about male suicide, unless the males are gay or someone wants to make fun of the issue. One certainly does not see many feminists talking about male suicide, let alone reaching out to boys and men thinking about killing themselves. To my knowledge, no pro-feminist male organization like NOMAS or Men Can Stop Rape ever reaches out to men and boys to specifically help them with their own problems. One does not see Michael Flood, Jackson Katz, or Michael Kimmel talking about this unless they want to beat down “teh Patriarchy.”
Jo blames the lack of concern about male suicide on said “Patriarchy”:
But again, this is a consequence of patriarchy before anything else. “Boys don’t cry”, “stiff upper lip” and the “strong and silent type”: society teaches boys that to be masculine is to be self-contained, to be in control of one’s emotions. Talking about feeeeeelings is ‘girly’, right, and we all know that – for a boy – being called a “girl” is a terrible insult, yes? All this sounds like old-fashioned sexism (rather than MRA Bizarro World anti-male sexism) to me.
Yet she spends the bulk of her post basking in nonchalant, sexist tropes as she attacks men’s rights groups for essentially “whining.” She does the very thing that leads men to keep their emotions to themselves — mocking them and their pain and — and she does it as a result of her feminist views (and a heaping dose of jackassery).
Her entire post punishes men like Benatar for daring to say, “I don’t like the hand I was dealt, and I don’t like that these people over here — these feminists — keep telling me my hand doesn’t suck as they put shittier cards in my hand.”
McEwan and Jo’s posts are examples of the very misandrist hostility Benatar is getting at. This idea that men’s problem are their own, that men caused them all on their own and must solve them all on their own (while also arguing that their problems are not “real” problems) is sexist, it is the predominant view in our society, and it only comes from feminists. Benatar is not pointing at the wrong people; he has got feminists dead to rights.
One can see why some feminists like McEwan and Jo, or those quoted in the Guardian article, would pitch hissy fits over someone calling feminist bigotry and sexism for what it is. No one likes to be called on their bull, especially when they are having so much fun talking shit.
Nevertheless, Benatar’s book is not even out yet. A handful of interview quotes does not an objective analysis make. So before feminists jump all over Benatar for his positions, wait until his book is published so you can read his actual arguments first.
Do not worry. You will have plenty of time to grace us with your stupidity.