Why anti-men examples are usually anti-feminism

I started making notes for this post last week, but it has become even more relevant since @NatalieDzerins introduced me to the worrying world of MRA.  Men’s Rights Activists claim to defend the rights of men, and dismiss feminism as misandry.  Natalie wrote a great post explaining why she won’t support one particular MRA Rites of Manhood, and discussing why MRA groups are not helpful.  Natalie’s included my response in her post, so I won’t repeat that here, but I did want to look further at the idea that men are now discriminated against.

One of the things that is most likely to make any feminist start bashing their heads on their desk, is the battle cry “men are discriminated against now”.  They argue that feminism has gone too far and has not just achieved equality, but gone past it to a world where men are at a disadvantage.  But if you look at the oft-quoted examples of anti-men discrimination, they often turn out to be anti-feminist rather than post-feminist.

Lets take advertising as an example.  Advertising in the 1950s seemed to centre on the idea that for most women, a sparkly home was their upper-most ambition, and pleasing their man was their life’s work.  Now, we may have moved away from the overt statements of this, and I’m glad we’ve pretty much seen the back of the promotion of domestic violence as part of life (see this great post from The Wave with some brilliant images of ads).

But, advertising still seems to rely on stereotypes. And to argue that these stereotypes are anti-men is just disingenuous.  Every time we see a man failing to do some simple domestic task, and needing to be rescued by a woman, this reinforces the idea that women are better at domestic tasks.  When Dad is treated like a third child, needing to be looked after by a woman, this might be insulting to men, but it is also a feminist argument.  Men are just as capable as women as looking after a home.  Exactly as women are just as capable as men at doing things outside of the home.  So it always strikes me as incredibly un-thought-through to use these adverts as an example of how feminism is now over and has achieved all it needs to.  While it is still acceptable to suggest that a woman’s place is in the home, feminism is still needed.

The preponderance of male nudity is also cited as an example of feminism now being over.  Feminists have won, and can now see male nudity whenever they want.  Not just after the watershed, but in pretty much any BBC drama.  Men are so discrimated against that it seems impossible for them to work without getting naked.  But again, lets look at this.  I haven’t seen the stats, but I’m willing to agree with the premise that male nudity is now seen on screen more than female.  But  I would disagree completely that this is proof that feminism has won.  Female nudity is still proscribed, at least before watershed, because of the sexual nature.  But female sexuality is still seen as passive, and so it’s acceptable to show male nudity at any point, as it’s not really sexual.   I don’t want to get into the obvious arguments here about the assumption that all viewers are heterosexual.  But I do want to emphasise that again, this argued anti-men discrimination is actually anti-feminist.

Which brings me to my point.  Feminism is about equality, not misandry.  Stereotyping women or men into particular roles in the home, or into particular ideologies of sexuality is anti-feminist.  It doesn’t matter whether a woman or a man is the butt of the joke, or the one being made to look stupid.

So next time the cry goes out that men are discriminated against so much nowadays, perhaps they should start counting themselves as feminists, and join in the fight together.

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24 Comments on “Why anti-men examples are usually anti-feminism”

  1. Henry says:

    (this will probs be my last post on your or Natalie’s blogs. I’m getting tired of my own voice – let alone the people I’m arguing with!)

    I agree with much of what you say on parental vs maternity leave. Rather heartening actually.

    But…

    If people really believe in equality then why call themselves feminists? Shouldn’t we just ditch the word? It sounds too much like the woman I talked to who said feminism was “about women’s equality” as if women could be equal to men without men being equal…Which is daft innit? 🙂

    So despite the fact that many men I know take equality very seriously I don’t see why any should call themselves ‘feminists’ for that. Seems skewed already, by the name

    The feminist = misandry thing largely comes out of the way feminists behave. There are PLENTY of quotes from Catherine McKinnon, Andrea Dworkin etc that you need to disown before men trust that you don’t have just a bit of anti-male feeling floating about somewhere 🙂

    Not just these writers either, as far as
    I see it men and women need each other, and find each other bloody difficult 🙂 sometimes leading ordinary women to express attitudes towards us that if we said the same about women we’d be crucified.

    Just trying to tell you how it looks from the other POV. Good luck

    • Kyle says:

      Couldn’t have said it better. A name change could get rid a lot of the misinterpretations from people about the goals of Feminism. A lot of the misinterpretation comes from the name and then the small crowd of loud mouths who claim to be feminists but really just hate on men could be squeezed out. Every group is stepped on in some way and it should really be about human rights. Since Humanism is already taken, maybe Anti-Sexism, Pro-Human Rights, or even reverting back to the old forgotten word of Equality.

  2. Joanna Pollard says:

    Henry
    Until we are at the point where 50% of board members are female, where 50% of MPs are female, where women earn the same amount as men (I could go on) people who believe in equality have to be feminists because it’s women who have to make these gains in order to achieve equality. It baffles and appals me that girls do consistently better than boys all the way through the education system and still earn on average 16% less. This fact alone shows that the disparity is not to do with ability – something in our culture is skewing the results in favour of men. So yes, we do want men and women to have equal opportunities, and yes, that’s why we’re feminists.

    • Jarrod Moore says:

      What about the fact that men are four times as likely to experience a violent crime than a women, or that women are all but guaranteed custody of a child in divorce. Or how about men are four times as likely commit suicide than women, or that a man is more likely to be homeless than a women.

    • Paul says:

      So wait, when girls were consistently doing worse in schools it was seen as a disadvantage for girls… but now that (by yuour own admission) boys are doing worse in schools… girls are still at a disadvantage?

      • jenniesue says:

        Paul, Joanna was making a particular point about the unfairness of women earning less, when it can’t be based on ability as girls perform better at school now.

        But this comment was about employment, not schools. Take a look at this article published this week based on an Ofsted report, showing that girls are still being pushed down “feminine” career paths.
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/apr/12/schools-girls-careers-ofsted-survey?INTCMP=SRCH

        I think Joanna’s point isn’t contradictory – she’s showing that there’s blatant discrimination in employment that’s not based on ability.

        But it is just one comment, and there are a lot of factors that go behind the statistics of school acheivement. Factors about poverty, about learning styles, about the attitudes of teachers towards boys and girls, reinforcing gender stereotypes (Boys will be boys and so on).

        Hope this is fair to your comment Joanna.

      • Paul says:

        Jennie:

        Okay fine, but the problem with that is you can’t look at kids in school now and their middle-aged parents and treat them like they’re the same people.

        The girls who are excelling in schools past their male peers are not the same women who are making less then the men around them.

        Now if, in say 10-20 years such a gap persists, then perhaps you’d have a point… but I find it unlikely. Especially given that (at least in the USA) women now make up the majority of the workforce, and (according to some) the majority of middle-range supervisors as well.

        I contend that if this education gap persists unchecked the pendulum will swing far past the middle. Seems fairly likely when the majority of college degrees are now awarded to women.

  3. Mandy says:

    I can’t agree with much the mens site is saying, but I do have strong feeling about what ‘Young Men’ are experiencing. With so many split and melded families, many young men do not have role models to look up to, who aren’t gob spitting footballers, or overnight singing / rapping sensations. Where are they to get their sense of ‘what a man is’?

    40 years ago (how I HATE writing that) there was a line that was crossed when leaving school. If you left school at 16, you went to work, often in a similar line to your family. If you were bright and studious, you went to college or Uni, to study something that you NEEDED to get the job you thought you wanted.

    Now, young people are expected to stay in education till well past 18 regardless of their abilities. The alternative is to have / do nothing. Meanwhile, we have concentrated (a little more) on getting girls to have ambitions, which I believe the employment stats reflect.

  4. Nick says:

    Is there any reason why, say, the ad stereotypes can’t be both anti-men and anti-feminist? Yes, I see that the implication that doing things around the home is a feminine skill is playing to old ideas of a woman’s place. But as a man, I do find the dolt of an advert dad thing annoying (not massively so, but it’s a bit irritating). The stereotypes shown here do no one any favours.

    Apologies if you were saying exactly this. I wasn’t quite sure from how it was written.

  5. jenniesue says:

    Thank you all for commenting. And contradictory as it sounds, I agree with all of you. As Joanna shows, we are called feminists because women are still at a disadvantage both here and around the world. But as Mandy points out, that doesn’t mean men aren’t having an easy time, and I agree with Nick that these types of stereotypes are insulting to both men and women. I believe that the feminist goal of equality will help everyone.

    I’ve also been thinking a lot about Henry’s suggestion that the term “feminist” is no longer helpful, and I am going to write a separate post about this as I think it’s an interesting issue. But in a couple of lines; although there are some negative connotations to the term feminist, and I would seek to distance myself from some extreme views within the feminist movement, I don’t want to change the label. For all the negative connotations, there have been some incredible achievements made by feminists, and I wouldn’t want to distance myself from these. And I’m not sure that there is a suitable alternative word that I can use.

    Thanks again for all of you taking the time to post.

  6. […] Why anti-men examples are usually anti-feminism […]

  7. cat says:

    “I haven’t seen the stats, but I’m willing to agree with the premise that male nudity is now seen on screen more than female.” This is how you demonstrate your British-ness. In the US, this is certainly not the case. Female nudity is everywhere and male nudity is nowhere. The only US films I have ever seen with full male nudity were films made by and for gay men (not porn, well, not just porn).

  8. TotallyDorkin says:

    This post is ridiculously essentialist. Feminism is not about “Equality between men and women”. This statement reinforces the gender binary which is harmful to women everywhere. The creation of the gender binary is what allows for discrimination against women as a class. The goal of equality between men and women is oxymoronic because, by society’s definition of “men” and “women”, equality between the two cannot exist.

    Until these harmful hierarchies of race, gender, class, etc are broken down, there will be no true equality.

  9. duncan macleod says:

    ok in terms of keeping the term feminisim because of the positives and keeping it irrespective of the feminists you try and distance yourself from , it cant work like that the anti male extreme form of feminisim is to ingrained in modern society , men cannot subscribe to something that views them as inhernatly inferior in morals , in genetics and in emotional ability.

    An extreme example but a true one, some of the biggest leaps in medicine of the 20th century came at the hands of nazi doctors experimenting on jews, so because of the good that came out of that could modern nazis make the claim to ” keep the name because of the positive moves made my good nazis ” , you cant keep something that now is synonimous with hate because of things that happened in the past .

  10. You’ve only examined the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the men’s movement.

    Men have grown up in a society which attempts to maximise autonomy for women. This means that women no longer uphold their side of the older civilisational bargain. So the sacrifices and restraints that men were once expected to make no longer make sense either.

    The men’s movement is divided on what response to make. Some think that men should “go their own way” and have little to do with women. Some think that the older civilisational norms should be restored. Others think that men should aim to maximise their own autonomy even if this means civilisational decline.

    I suspect that feminists are not going to like developments within male culture over the next 20 years. There will be many more men who will expect women to agree to relationships on male terms; in other words, the man will not be expected to make sacrifices for the woman – he will not be expected to be monogamous, nor provide financial support, nor commit to joint living arrangements.

    The main opposition will come from more traditionalist men who, from a concern for their own society, will want to restore the norms which create incentives for men to work and to commit to family life.

    But what you’re not likely to get as a long-term outcome is a double standard in which women expect the traditional sacrifices from men whilst they themselves expect maximum autonomy.

    • Kimberly says:

      I’m so late to this thread but I have to question why you think monogamy and joint living arrangements are only a male sacrifice or that they are a sacrifice for some men at all?

      • jenniesue says:

        Hi Kimberly,
        Thanks for your comment, but I’m a bit confused – I’m not sure where you got the idea that I think monogamy and joint living arrangements are a sacrifice? If you could expand a bit I’d happily explain – I’m not trying to argue either of these things.
        I’m simply trying to make the point that many arguments that are used to say “feminism has gone to far” are actually incredibly sexist.

      • jenniesue says:

        D’oh – just worked out, you were replying to Mark not me. I’m going to use the excuse that it’s been a while since I looked at this post! Sorry Kimberly – J

  11. Jon says:

    This is ridiculous. If this is really the best argument you have for this specific case (anti-male = anti-feminist), then you’ve really got a long way to go here. Just looking at this post has deterred me from looking at the rest of your site. That’s how idiotic this article is. Good day.

  12. kloo2yoo says:

    qoth Joanna Pollard:

    “It baffles and appals [sic] me that girls do consistently better than boys all the way through the education system and still earn on average 16% less. ”

    Supposing what you say is true, isn’t it affirmative action to give compensatory recompense for all of those years spent disadvantaged in the educational system?

  13. L3mon says:

    What a load of crap. Yet another attempt by feminists to take away any credit given to entrenched male discrimination. Clearly you are not concerned with equality, which should be our common aim.
    Ironic that you subscribe to the patriarchal idea of the weak woman needing help and the stoic man just getting on with it.
    Like Jon, I won’t be reading your blog again.

  14. Charles Jericho says:

    “Feminism is about equality, not misandry”

    I hear this argument all the time, and I see it as contradictory.

    If feminism was truly for equality, it would not label itself as “feminist”, but “humanist”. If I was to create a political movement based around the equality of all races and call it “Latinoism”, it wouldn’t have credit.

    Now please correct me if I’m wrong, but I have searched to quite an extent for feminist activists who have campaigned on male inequalities. The inequalities I can cite are numerous, but here’s a few major ones.

    – Women recieve 40% lower jail sentences on average than men
    – Women win the majority of cases against men for custody of children
    – Women are not enlisted in the draft of any constitution (that I know of)
    – Despite domestic violence being equally shared between males and females, the courts overwhelmingly support the female.

    If you are to contest these points, please do not strawman your argument by claiming that these figures aren’t true (The first I can cite from the US department of justice, 2011) but actually adress my overarching point; how can feminism argue for equality when its agenda is a female one?

    The second reason I show no sympathy for the feminist movement is it seeks advantages rather than actually addressing the core problems you claim to face. Women receiving lower jail sentences is incredibly sexist, but against women primarily; it represents a notion in the courts that women are incapable of rational action, and subject to emotions. It defines women as weak-willed and impulsive, like a child would. But I have never seen a feminist aruge for stricter sentencing against women.

    Feminism picks and chooses the issues it tackles to the advantage of women. This movement has nothing to do with equality. And do not say that “Because men have advantages, women should have advantages” as a justification; that’s like saying “Because blacks commit the largest proportion of race crimes, other races should be equal in their crimes against blacks”. Gandhi said “An eye for an eye makes us all blind”, and if feminism seeks to capitalize on its advantages without question rather than seeking true equality, then you are hypocritical and lack morality in your movement.

    • jenniesue says:

      Hi,
      Thanks for your comments.
      My point is that by discrimination is wrong, and all the inequalities you cite, are examples of anti-feminist behaviour;
      Women having shorter jail sentences than men – as you say, this is based on the idea that women are more emotional, weak-willed, more likely to be led-astray. Treating women like children is a feminist issue. It’s also often based on women being seen as primary carers of children, and courts are much less likely to consider the impact of sending a father away – again, a feminist issue that children are seen as women’s responsibility. And this argument also works for your point about custody cases.
      Women not being enlisted in the draft – well, they are in countries with a modern-ish draft system, for example Israel. Women are frequently not allowed on the front line as they would be a distraction – men might feel the need to protect them. Again, a feminist example.
      Finally, on domestic violence – I haven’t seen the stats that suggest that male victims are less likely to be supported in court than female victims. I think all victims of domestic violence deserve better services, systems and protection. I think that domestic violence is largely ignored, and it’s only highlighted as being important thanks to the feminist movement. Isn’t that good for all victims?

      I do agree that perhaps the name feminist isn’t ideal “supporters of gender equality” is a bit of a mouthful though. So until I see a better name, I’m still very proud to call myself a feminist, and see no hypocrisy in this at all.

  15. Antifeminist says:

    Once again a buased article regarding feminism. Feminism is akin to racism as it seeks to elevate womens rights above all others. This results in negative stereotyping ofof men to acheive that goal. The stereotyping of males by feminism is far beyond any stereotyping of women in the past. Men regularily lose their children due the negative stereotypes of men my feminism. Feminism is all about power. Due to the hijacking of original feminist principles by hardcore radicle feminists the true feminism has been lost. Yesterday’s feminism has become today’s fascism. All aware intelligent people should strive for non gender basedhumanism.


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