Why anti-men examples are usually anti-feminismPosted: March 22, 2011
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.