And it’s time for Ozy’s five least favorite reasons that some feminists believe that if they talked about men’s problems ever that their copy of Gender Trouble would light itself on fire. I don’t think most of these are well-thought-out positions; I think they’re things people tend to say without thinking, often when someone is being legit annoying in a comment section.
Commenting note: if you’re a feminist and you feel like I’m misrepresenting one of your views, please comment and tell me so. I do not want to argue against a straw person; I think these arguments are weak on their merits. Also, all readers would please note that I am a feminist and I’m criticizing my movement from the inside, as it were, because I love it, think it has very much potential for good, and want to make it better.
Other commenting note: if you are NOT a feminist, could you kindly avoid using this article as a means to explain that feminism is the worst oppression men face and attempting to destroy men and in fact Satan incarnate? My comment-deleting finger will get RSI.
There. Is that clear enough?
1) Men are the ones that hold up the patriarchy, and therefore if they want to stop being hurt by it they should stop holding it up. This is absurd, because most of the people I’ve seen using this argument are thoughtful people who can easily think of women who are holding up the patriarchy and, in fact, making millions doing so. As a random example off the top of my head: Phyllis Schlafly, a woman, was one of the major forces behind the United States not ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. As a logical consequence of their argument, because a woman led and benefited from the campaign against the ERA, we should not care about not having it.
…Except that is manifestly and obviously stupid. Similarly, even if it is mostly men who perpetrate a patriarchal trope that hurts men, we should still argue against that trope! I mean, obviously!
2) Men should just stop having their social conditioning. Again, this puzzles me, because the people who toss forward this argument are empathetic and thoughtful people who would rightly call out someone who said “well I think women should just stop feeling like they’d be unattractive and unfeminine if they were good at math.” It’s not that simple, and the blame should logically be placed on the people who are making them feel that way, not the women themselves. Similarly, one should not say “well I think men should just stop feeling like they’d be wimpy and unmasculine if they did elementary education.” It is literally the exact same situation! Why do some people seem to think that if women aren’t present in a discipline it’s because of sexism and unwelcoming environments and assholes being all “well, you’re probably ugly,” but if men aren’t present in a discipline it’s because of Mysterious Dudebrainz Reasons.
Also anyone who explains this by saying that men don’t want to take crap jobs like elementary education and nursing needs to check their internalized misogyny. Why exactly do you think that all female-dominated jobs are terrible again?
3) Men’s issues are rooted in misogyny. My answer to this is… so?
I don’t necessarily agree that all men’s issues are about misogyny, but let’s grant the premise for the sake of argument. Let’s take an issue that is fairly uncontroversially caused to a certain degree by misogyny: women not being allowed in combat in the USA. A lot of that is because people believe that women are inferior and incapable of the work, or will get pregnant to get out of combat zones. (Some of it is also because people believe that men will either protect women whenever they get injured or rape everything, but never mind that for now, I’m presuming it’s all about misogyny.) So, uh, does that mean that being far more likely to die in combat ISN’T a disadvantage? Because it’s rooted in misogyny it’s instantly totally awesome to be shot in the face?
Of course, nowadays there’s really no front line in wars, which means that not being in combat positions disadvantages women that might experience equal danger but not get equal hazard pay. But that doesn’t mean “men have had it really awesome for all of forever,” it means “shit is complicated.”
4) Talking about men is derailing feminism. Notice that giant clusterfuck in the previous point of stereotypes about men and stereotypes about women, disadvantages towards men and disadvantages towards women, all feeding into and supporting each other? You literally cannot fully understand the “how do we get women in combat?” problem unless you also understand the aspects that are about men. Even some things that pretty much just hurt men will often end up, when circumstances change, looping around and hurting women! It’s all a big ball of wibbly-wobbly patriarchy-watriarchy stuff. Even if you for some reason only care about how patriarchy hurts women, not talking about men is a tactical error, because it’s all connected.
5) Men should just have their own movement and stop expecting feminists to do the work. Because of course there are no male feminists, sexism against women and sexism against men are not remotely linked, and the single largest movement about gender equality would have nothing to say about a particular kind of sexism. Feminism can– and should– be a broad tent, encompassing the gendered issues of many different demographics. It is totally possible.