A Short Polemic on Men’s Rights
What do men think about Feminism? They think all sorts of things, depending on who you ask, of course. Within one demographic, of which I am a part, there is a belief that Feminism is a reasoned response to the injustice male dominance. For example, I have friendships with young men in cosmopolitan coastal cities in the US who accept Feminist principles and the women who adopt them as morally sound. These men could be more or less understood as Feminists, even if they lack a sense of urgency when it comes to imagining a Feminist future.
Growing up in the 1990’s, I imbibed the changing roles of women in society and gender parity as a desirable norm. What I did not have, however, was a sense of how entrenched men’s power is in industry and culture, let alone how far women have come since winning suffrage. Without an awareness of the magnitude of the struggle, developing solutions is difficult.
The facts show that a definite disparity remains. According to a widely cited report by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, who is based at the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film in the San Diego State University, Hollywood employment is far from equal employment. In fact, when it came to the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2017, and indeed for the past ten years at least, women have had only a small role in behind-the-scene roles in film production. The disparity remains in other key areas. A recent study by Pew Research Center showed that, although the gap is actually decreasing, women are still paid less than men for doing the same job. What’s more, millions of women across the U.S. are the victims of sexual violence each year. In fact, the numbers on the latter are in some ways the most disturbing. Although these trends are slowly changing for the better, the problem is dangerous and remains deeply ingrained in the fabric of society.
With an ethical cause and hard work, changes have been wrought from a corrupt system, but progress was never inevitable. Alongside gains in Women’s rights, there has been incessant war in the Middle East since 2001, public services and goods have been increasingly privatized, and the NeoCon movement has ushered in a nearly fascist government that has made a mockery of a decade’s struggle for social justice in a year’s time. While I am hopeful that changing gender inequality is possible, especially after the show of power in the Women’s March, there has undoubtedly been some backsliding.
Although rebuttals to Feminism have been around for quite some time, recently, arguments for male superiority have been fast losing credibility. Men no longer offer a patronizing response to the premises of Feminism, but rather, a shrill rebuke (formerly believed by them to be the sole purview of hysterical women) of women’s arguments. Now that some men believe Women’s rights and Feminism constitute a new social and political order, their cries have reached a fever pitch. Prime-time comedian and talk-show host Bill Maher demonstrates this misinformed belief. Unfortunately, for some men, transgressing this new ‘order’ is now a heroic act. Feminism, alongside political correctness, is an idol to be smashed. Only, now the vacuum is filled by Men’s Rights instead of a natural assumption of patriarchy.
How has the worse argument become the better?
I don’t pretend to have the answer, but I do have a few hunches based on the work of Warren Farrell, whose book The Myth of Male Power, called the bible of Male Rights activists by Dr. Michael Kimmel, a professor at Stony Brook university, who was quoted in a well-researched Mother Jones article, laid the groundwork for this new species of patriarchy. The arguments made in Farrell’s book point to some of the deepest contradictions in anti-Feminist and Men’s Rights. The views of the book are actually summed-up in a video of an adherent to Farrell’s thought. The main premise is that men, relative to women, are actually undervalued by society. For example, men will be pulled out of burning buildings after women and children, which shows, they claim, that women are valued above men. Or, women are inherently valuable because of their ability to carry children, while men, because a single specimen carries innumerable sperm, are irrelevant (Mind you, this is actually bad science. Without a wide male genetic pool, we would be all too likely to pair with our half-siblings).
These arguments are too poorly constructed to be taken at face-value. Something beyond a sincere desire to respect the rights of men is at work in the so-called ‘Male Rights’ position. Insecurity is a likely culprit. Men’s rights groups rarely make a positive case. Instead, they focus on the injustices women have done them. There is an uncomfortable irony here. Since the men who are most agitated by Feminism are those with frustrated desires, it is clearly they who had loved women with a passion now turned to hate. It’s no wonder why they are so frustrated, then.
I would not be attracted to a man with a propensity for violence, either. Perhaps this is an important lesson – men in a hyper-masculine culture have a difficult time expressing their feelings. Yet, these are the very men who would benefit most from a Feminist future.
Written by Quixote Vassilakis
Quixote Vassilakis is a graduate student at the CUNY Graduate Center pursuing an MA in liberal studies with a concentration in approaches to modernity. He is the editor of the Brooklyn College Review and works as a writing and philosophy tutor at Brooklyn College, CUNY. He lives in Brooklyn.