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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Feminism vs. masculism - are they the same?

( you might also be interested in this: A Dose of Reality for Both Genders)

A while ago, a feminist web site, jezebel.com, posted an article in defense of feminism by Lindy West. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t think feminism needs any particular defense.  The article prompted some discussion on a men’s site when one poster said he thought he understood feminism better now.  (Really? On a men’s forum?)

It occurred to me that if the article supposedly explained feminism so well, it should be able to do the same for masculism also, just by flipping the gender references.  So I rewrote it to defend masculism.  My changes are in color.  Is it really a cogent argument for either side?  You be the judge.

If I Admit Your Argument for Feminism is Cogent, Will You Admit the Same Argument Works for Masculism?

Okay, so maybe you are a woman. Maybe you haven't had the easiest ride in life—maybe you grew up in poverty; you've experienced death, neglect, and despair; you hate your job, your car, your body. Maybe somebody (or multiple somebodies) pulverized your heart, or maybe you've never even been loved enough to know what a broken heart feels like. Maybe shit started out unfair and became irreparable and you never deserved any of this. Maybe everything looks fine on paper, but you're just unhappy and you don't know why. These are human problems and other human beings feel for you very deeply. It is hard to be a human. I am so sorry.


Though it is a seductive scapegoat (I understand why it attracts you), none of these terrible, painful problems in your life were caused by the spectre of "misogyny", nor by the spectre of an alliterative “war on women”. You can rest easy about that, I promise! In fact, the most powerful proponent of misogyny in modern internet discourse is you — specifically, your dogged insistence that misogyny is a genuine, systemic, oppressive force on par with misandry. This is specious, it hurts men, and it is hurting you. Most men don't hate women, as a group (we hate the legal system that disproportionately favors women at the expense of men), but — congratulations! — some men are starting to hate you. You, the person. Your obsession with misogyny has turned misogyny into a self-fulfilling prophecy. (I mean, sort of. Hating individual women is not the same as hating all women. But more on that in a minute.) Are you happy now? Is this what you wanted? Masculism is, in essence, a social justice movement—it wants to take the side of the alienated and the marginalized, and that includes alienated and marginalized women. In fact masculism wants to take the side of marginalized women to the exact same degree that feminism wants to take the side of marginalized men.  Please stop turning us against you.  

It is nearly impossible to address problems facing men—especially problems in which women are even tangentially culpable—without comments sections devolving into cries of "misogyny!" from women and replies of "misogyny isn't real" from men. Men are tired of this endless, fruitless turd-pong: hollow "conversation" built on willful miscommunication, bouncing back and forth, back and forth, until both sides throw up their hands and bolt. Maybe you are tired of this too. We seem to be having some very deep misunderstandings on this point, so let's unpack it. I promise not to yell.

Part One: Why the Men's Movement Has "Men" in the Name, or, Why Can't We All Just Be Humanists?

I wish, more than anything, that I could just be a "humanist." Oh, woman, that would be amazing! Because that would mean that we lived in a magical world where all humans were born on equal footing, and maybe I could live in a big log cabin and dogs would fetch my beer for me or something. Humanism is a gorgeous dream, and something to strive for. In fact, it is the exact thing that the men's movement is striving for right now (and has been working on for decades)! Yay, masculism!

Unfortunately, the reason that "men" is a part of the phrase "men's movement" is that the world is not, currently, an equal, safe, and just place for men (and other groups as well—in its idealized form, the men's movement claims to seek to correct all those imbalances, but let's face it, nothing is ideal). To remove the gendered implications of the term is to deny that those imbalances exist, and you can't make problems disappear just by changing "men's movement" to "humanism" and declaring the world healed. That won't work.

Think of it like this. Imagine you're reading a Dr. Seuss book about a bunch of sentient creatures living on an island. There are two kinds of sentient creatures: Fleetches and Flootches. (Stick with me here!) Though the two are functionally identical in terms of intellect and general competence, the two are biologically different, in function, statistical size and strength. Also Fleetches are in charge of pretty much everything. They hold the majority of political positions, they make the most money (Terra-bucks!), they dominate the Terran media, they enact all kinds of laws infringing on the bodily autonomy of Flootches. The Flootches have fewer areas where they are the dominate creatures, but some nonetheless. Individually, most of the Fleetches are perfectly nice Terrans, but collectively they benefit comfortably from inequalities that are historically entrenched (emphasis mine) in the power structure of Terra Island. So, from birth, even the most unfortunate Fleetches encounter fewer institutional roadblocks and greater opportunity than almost all Flootches, regardless of individual merit, in the opinion of Flootches. One day, a group of Flootches (the ones who have not internalized their inferiority) get together and decide to agitate to change that system. They call their movement "Flootchism," because it is specifically intended to address problems that disproportionately disadvantage Flootches while benefiting Fleetches. That makes sense, right?

Now imagine that, in response, a bunch of Fleetches begin complaining that Flootchism doesn't address their needs, and they have problems too, and therefore the movement should really be renamed Terranism. To be fair. The problem with that name change is that it that undermines the basic mission of the movement, because it obscures (deliberately, some people would warrant) that Terran society has, in addition to inequities against Flootches, elements inherently weighted against Fleetches, in a misguided attempt to balance past inequities. It implies that all problems are just Terran problems, and that all Terrans suffer comparably, which cripples the very necessary effort to prioritize and repair problems that are Fleetch-specific. Those problems are a priority to Flootches because they harm all Flootches, systematically, whereas Flootches believe Fleetch problems, which Flootches know next to nothing about, merely harm individual Fleetches. Fleetches, on the other hand argue a complementary position and make the exact same argument, but in reverse.  To argue that all problems are just "Terrans problems" is to discredit the idea of inequality altogether. It is, in fact, an idea the Flootches choose to be insulted by, having embraced and internalized the idea of inequality, whether they believe they have internalized it or not.

Or, if you didn't like that one, here's another less than ridiculous metaphor: When men say things like "misogyny isn't real," we mean it the same way you might say, "Freddy Krueger isn't real." The idea of Freddy Krueger is real, Freddy Krueger absolutely has the power to scare you, and if you suspend your disbelief it's almost plausible to blame all of the unsolved knife-crime in the world on Freddy Krueger. Additionally, it is totally possible for some rando to dress up like Freddy Krueger and start murdering teens all over the place. But that doesn't meant that Freddy-Krueger-the-dude is literally real. He is never going to creep into your dreams at night and murder you. He has the power to frighten, there are isolated forces in the world that resemble him, but he is ultimately a manufactured menace.

He is manufactured to explain all the random evil knife crimes, because if we identify a single source of those bad things, we feel we have some possible recourse, if only we could catch Freddy.  It's less comfortable to deal with truly random evil knife crimes, because we have no recourse against randomness.  Of course, in some cases we do have marginal recourse.  The backlash against individual celebrities by both men and women for for inappropriate statements (or perhaps they are simply sensationalistic, designed to attract publicity) shows that some random attacks can be addressed.

Part Two: Why Claiming that Sexism IS Real Is a Sexist Thing to Say

We live in a world of measurable, glaring differences. While we conveniently tend to look at politicians and CEOs, we should also look at obstetrician/gynecologists, nurse anesthetists , pharmacists, optometrists, and senior marketing managers, and on and on and on—these fields are dominated by women. (And, as men, we don’t really care which races these women belong to.) To claim that there is a systemic inequality keeping men out of those jobs is to claim that women (people like you) are just naturally better. If there is no social structure favoring women, then it stands to reason that either women simply work harder and/or are more skilled in these specific high-level specialized fields, or that men are less skilled at these fields.  Furthermore, to ignore these fields in which women excel is to denigrate women’s accomplishments.

It's fine (though discouraging) if you legitimately believe that, but you need to own up to the fact that that is a self-serving and bigoted point of view. If you do not consider yourself a bigot, then kindly get on board with those of us who are trying to proactively correct inequalities. It is not enough to be neutral and tacitly benefit from inequality while others are left behind through no fault of their own. Anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia—that's where we're at now. Catch up or own your prejudice.

Part Three: Why People Being Shitty to You Is Not the Same as You Being Systematically Disenfranchised

There might be a lot of men in your life who are mean to you, but that's just men not liking you personally. Men are allowed to not like you personally, just like you are allowed to not like one of us personally. It's not a war on women; it’s not misogyny, it's mis-Rita-dry, or mis-Susan-dry. Or, you know, whoever you are. It is not built into our culture or codified into law, and you can rest assured that most men you encounter are not harboring secret, latent, gendered prejudices against Ritas or Susans that could cost you a job or an apartment or your physical sanctity. That doesn't mean that there aren't isolated incidents wherein mean men hurt women on purpose.  But it is not a systemic problem that results in the mass disenfranchisement of women; it is simply random shit, which we can't control and makes us fearful.

There are some really shitty things about being a woman. You are 100% right on that. You are held up to unreasonable expectations about your body and your career and your ability/desire to conform to traditional modes of femininity (just like men are with traditional masculinity), and that can be oppressive. There are radical masculinists, radical feminists and deeply wounded men and women who just don't have the patience for diplomacy anymore who absolutely hate you because of your gender. (However, for whatever it's worth, I do not personally know a single man like that.) That is an unpleasant situation to be in—especially when you also feel like you're being blamed for the seemingly distant problems of people you've never met and towards whom you feel no particular animus.

The difference is, though, that the Red Pill community does not currently hold the reins of power in every civil court in the United States (even in courts with male judges, the political and legal power structures pay more attention to issues of women.) You do, abstractly. No, you don't have the ability or the responsibility to fix those imbalances single-handedly, but refusing to acknowledge that power structure is a slap in the face to people actively disadvantaged by it every day of their lives. You might not benefit from matriarchy in any measurable way—on an individual level your life might actually be much, much worse than mine—but the fact is that certain disadvantages are absent from your experience (and, likely, invisible to you) because of your gender.

Maybe you're saying, "Hey, but my life wasn't fair either. I've had to struggle." I know it wasn't. I know you have. But that's not how fairness works. If you present fairness as the goal—that some day everything will be "fair" for everyone—you're slipping into an unrealistic fantasy land. Life already isn't fair, because of coincidence and circumstance and the DNA you were born with, and we all have to accept the hands we're dealt and live within that reality. But life doesn't have to be additionally unfair because of imposed systems of disenfranchisement that only affect certain groups. We can fight against that.

The men's movement isn't about striving for individual fairness, on a life-by-life basis—it's about fighting against a systematic denial of rights that infringe on men's basic freedoms. If a woman and a man have equal potential in a field, they should have an equal opportunity to achieve success in that field. It's not that we want the least qualified man to be handed everything just because they're male. It's that we want all men to have the same opportunities as all women to fulfill (or fail to fulfill, on their own inherent merits) their potential. If a particular man is underqualified for a particular job, fine. That isn't sexism. But he shouldn't have to be systematically set up, from birth, to be denied access to jobs because of quotas.  That IS sexism.

Part Four: A List of "Women's Rights" Issues That Men Are Already Working On

Men do not want you to lose custody of your children, but the assumption that men are naturally worse caregivers is part of the feminist views.

Men do not like commercials in which bumbling dads mess up the laundry and competent wives have to bustle in and fix it. Nor do we like TV shows that portray men as bumbling incompetents and parodies of masculinity.  The assumption that men are naturally worse housekeepers, and that men who attempt to be more masculine are comical are part of feminist views.

Men do not want you to be denied alimony payments or child support (assuming the child is the man's; if not, he does want the real father to pay up instead.) Alimony is set up to combat the fact that women have been historically expected to prioritize domestic duties over professional goals, thus minimizing their earning potential if their "traditional" marriages end. We also know that women are competent and do not need to be supported forever.  The assumption that men should make money and women be supported forever is part of matriarchy.  Frankly, women should be insulted by the implication that they cannot support themselves after a divorce, but the feminist view supports their inability to earn money, and their supposed right to bilk a man of money for years.

Men do not want anyone to get raped, ever. Permissiveness and jokes about rape are part of an imaginary rape culture, which is part of matriarchy.  Rape culture is one of the Freddy Krueger imaginary demons; it does not exist.  Rape is a random act of evil, yet the feminists continues to believe rape culture exists.

Men do not want anyone to be falsely accuse them of rape. False rape accusations discredit rape victims, even when laws, proposed or otherwise, allow women to make such false accusations with no repercussions.  The woman's supposed right to cry rape for no reason, reinforces imaginary rape culture, which is part of feminism.

The men's movement does not want you to be lonely and we do not hate "ugly girls." The idea that certain people are inherently more valuable than other people because of superficial physical attributes is a belief of feminism.

The men's movement does not want you to have to accept a free dinner from us. We want you to have the opportunity to demonstrate your financial independence and pay for your share of a date. The idea that women should be coddled and provide for by men, or that sex and can be used to reward and control men, is condescending and damaging and part of feminism.

Men do not want you to do cushy secretarial work and various yarn-themed activities while we are maimed or killed in industrial accidents, or toil in coal mines . We want to let you have any job that you are physically suited for. The belief that women have long been shut out of dangerous industrial jobs that benefit from men's statistical strength or size advantage is a belief of feminism, as well as a persistent historical issue based on obsolete gender roles.

The men's movement does not want you to commit suicide. Any pressures and expectations that lower the quality of life of any gender are part of matriarchy. The belief that depression is characterized as an effeminate weakness, making men “grow a pair” and be less likely to seek treatment, is part of feminist beliefs.

Men do not want to be viewed with suspicion when we take our child to the park. The assumption that men are insatiable and untrustable sexual animals, combined with the idea that it's unnatural for men to care for children, is part of feminism.

Men do not want you to stay home and iron stuff while we are drafted and then die in a war. The idea that women are too weak to fight or too delicate to function in a military setting reflects the statistical physical differences between men and women, as well as the previously mentioned persistent historically based obsolete gender roles.  The belief that men discriminate against women this way is part of feminism.

Men do not want other men to escape prosecution on legitimate domestic violence charges, nor do we want women to be ridiculed for being raped or abused. The idea that men are naturally violent and never victims is part of feminism.

Men hate feminism when that feminism seeks to deny their masculinity and deny them basic human rights. We do not hate you.

If you really care about those issues as passionately as you say you do, you should be thanking men, because the men's movement is a social movement actively dedicated to dismantling every single one of them and developing higher quality men. The fact that you blame men—your allies—for problems against which they have been struggling for decades suggests that supporting women isn't nearly as important to you as resenting men. We care about your problems a lot. Could you try caring about ours?

Part Five: I'm Sorry That You Are in Pain, But Please Stop Taking It Out on Men

It's not easy to swallow your own privilege and weaknesses—to admit that you're a Flootch—but once you do, it's addictive. It feels good to open up to perspectives that are foreign to you, accept your complicity in this shitty system, and work on making the world better for everyone instead of just defending your territory. It's something I had to do as a man, and something I still have to work on every day, because it's right. That doesn't make me (or you) a bad person—it makes me an extremely lucky person who was born into a male body in a great family in a small, conservative city in a powerful, wealthy country that historically supports male bodies in the physical workplace over all other bodies. The least I can do is acknowledge the arbitrariness of that luck, and work to tear down the obstacles facing those who are disadvantaged by the historical predilection to male advancement. Blanket defensiveness isn't going to get any of us anywhere.

To all the women who have had shitty lives and mistake that pain for "misogyny": I totally get it. Humans are not such complicated creatures. All we want is to feel like we're valued, like we deserve to exist. And I'm sorry if you haven't found that so far in your life. But it's not men's fault, it's not my fault, and it's certainly not masculinity's fault. The thing is, you're not really that different from the men you rail against so passionately—the men who are trying to carve out some space and assert their value in a world of other powerful men and women. Plenty of men know exactly what it feels like to be pushed to the fringe of society, to be rejected so many times (by both men and women!) that you eventually reject yourself. That alienation is a big part of what the men's movement is fighting against. A lot of those men would be on your side, if you would just let them instead of insisting that they're the villains. It's better over here, and we have room for you. So stop trying to convince us that we hate you and I promise we'll start liking you a whole lot more.

As a final reminder, this is just a reimagining of the original article.  The rewrite attempts to simply test the hypothesis that the article can be flip flopped to support a men’s movement.  Personally, I would approach feminism and masculism in a different way, as you will read in later posts.

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