Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We Don't Hate Men

Organizations like ours often get accused of hating men. We must admit, sometimes it gets tempting to get mad at all men. After all, we've spent 25 years helping women pick up and start over after the damage that men have inflicted on them financially, emotionally, and physically. But each of us have men in our lives whom we love - fathers, brothers, husbands, friends, children, etc. We also know that the vast majority of men don't use violence.

It's the MRAs (Men's Rights Activists) that really seem to hate men. For example, men who wear this label are the type of men who feel that women are to blame for their own sexual assaults if they wear sexy clothing that sends men mixed signals. When feminists are saying that men are rational human beings who are able to make the conscious decision not to rape (because most men don't rape), MRAs say that men are animals who are ruled by their libidos and thus just can't restrain themselves if the see a thigh or a little bit of cleavage. Who sounds like they hate men?

Hugo Schwyzer is an ally to women who wrote an article for the Good Men Project claiming that MRAs have their ideas of feminism all wrong and that feminism is actually good for men, too. An excerpt:
The cause of men’s very real unhappiness isn’t a biased family court system, or feminist college professors, or the perceived injustices of Title IX athletic funding. The source of men’s anguish and uncertainty is the straitjacket of traditional American manhood. Men are suffering because their emotional, psychological, intellectual, and sexual potential is stunted by their own efforts to live up to an impossible masculine ideal.

Whether they got it from their fathers or their older brothers, whether they learned it from peers or pastors, coaches or drill instructors, almost all American boys grow up learning the “guy rules.” As Deborah David and Robert Brannon first showed in their landmark 1976 book on men, The Forty-Nine Percent Majority, the rules are crushingly simple: Big boys don’t cry. No sissy stuff. Be a “sturdy oak.” “Be a big wheel.” “Give ’em hell.”

Being a man, in other words, is defined by divesting oneself of anything remotely associated with femininity (like kindness, sensitivity, intuition, empathy). When heterosexual masculinity is defined by violent obtuseness, these “guy rules” rob boys of their chance to develop emotional skills to thrive in relationships with others. This frantic effort to shut down a whole aspect of one’s potential isn’t caused by testosterone or Y chromosomes. It’s caused by the longing to live by the “man code.”


Most MRAs agree that the “man code” exists and that it does great damage to young men. But they blame women for these cruel and limiting rules. According to many MRAs I’ve spoken to, it is women’s sexual desire for the alpha male that forces boys to compete ruthlessly with one another. “Women say they want one thing but choose another: they always go for a**holes,” so many guys say. If women would broaden their sexual appetites to include “betas” and “omegas,” their reasoning goes, boys would feel less compelled to compete ruthlessly with one another. (The men’s rights activists tend to be wildly off-base about what women actually want, but that’s another topic.)

It’s a typical but tragic mistake: MRAs wildly overestimate women’s power, sexual or otherwise. Men, they insist, are helpless by comparison. But that claim ignores a long and unmistakable history of male domination in human history. And if there’s one undeniable truism about our species, it’s that the rules are made by the dominant group. The “man laws” or “guy rules” were created by and for men. Historically, winning validation from other men has mattered more than getting sex or love from women. (If you don’t believe that, think for a moment about how hard boys will work to please a demanding football coach.) Males are raised to be “homosocial,” which means they’re taught to get their primary affirmation from other men rather than from women. Working too hard for female approval just makes you a “mama’s boy” or “p***y-whipped,” and the frantic efforts young men make to ensure neither of those labels apply to them tells you all you need to know about who it is they are really trying to impress.
Amanda Marcotte on the same site breaks it down even better and with more detail. She looks at four examples of causes that MRAs take very seriously and shows how the feminist solution to all of them is better for women and for men. Those issues include:
  • Men are more often the primary or even sole breadwinners of nuclear-family households.

  • Men have to do all the work asking women out, and women are often hostile to men’s overtures, which hurts men’s feelings.

  • Men are more likely to get killed at work.

  • Ladies Night, where bars often extend a drink special to women and not to men.
Still think we're the man haters?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I'm glad to finally stumble upon someone writing about these groups. Your blog is great overall, and I'll be following it from now on. :)