A friend of mine linked me an article that she said pissed her off, and when I responded she asked me to turn the response into a blog post because she said I articulated her thoughts better than she could. I have elaborated on my response a bit here for more clarity. The article in question is here. Reading at least a portion of it will put my response in context, but I suspect many of you have read posts by the men’s rights and so my response might just make sense on those grounds. For the record, I think the article has some valuable points that are worthy of further discussion.
As is often the case with these types of arguments some valid points are mixed in with just some unnecessary vilification which makes me less apt to take it seriously. I would agree that if we are going to tear down men for their inappropriate sexual behavior then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have those same standards apply to women, and in the article he discusses an incident involving Mariah Carey. I do think there is a case to be made about men not being believed when they are victims of domestic violence or harassment. However when this argument is framed in devaluing the experience of what women have gone through I think this is where this person and others like him begin to lose my sympathy.
I think one can see part of the reason why the person feels the way they do because they sort of give the game away with rejecting the idea of systemic oppression. The model isn’t flawed it’s just more far reaching than he is able to recognize. First, his analogy about terrorism is a poor one, because he’s the reason why we don’t take Muslim deaths at the hands of Christians seriously is because of systemic anti-Muslim prejudice, not because terrorism isn’t systemic oppression. In a way his analogy actually contradicts his argument about systemic oppression of women. More importantly what all such people like this lose sight of is that the systemic oppression of women does oppress men as well. And a lot of feminists get that. For instance, if we value some hyper-masculine version of man the result of this is that it defines both women AND men in a certain way. In a binary view of gender, whatever a man is, a woman therefore is not. Any deviations outside of those category definitions results in criticism and a loss of freedom for both genders. Both genders suffer. The man holds the power to be sure in some respects and this is his advantage, but his humanity is diminished. Want to be emotional? You can’t. Want to think football is stupid? You can’t. Hate cars? Too bad. Want to become a florist? You’re being a pussy. So men do suffer in at least some ways (maybe not as many ways) from the systemic oppression against women.
I would also suggest that most of the “disbelieving” of men comes not from unsympathetic women (and sure there are likely some) but more likely from other men who maintain this hyper-masculine view of society. I mean let’s ask why you might not be believed as a victim of sexual harassment or domestic abuse. The arguments might go something like this:
“I mean you’re a man, you’re supposed to be tough. Just hit that woman back, show her whose boss. And if you did get hit, well you’re a man, you’re just supposed to suck it up.”
“Did you get sexually harassed? You’re a man you’re supposed to like women touching you, anywhere and at anytime. It’s sexy when women want you. You must be gay if you don’t like women coming on to you. I mean every man wants to be as irresistible to women as you are.”
Such attitudes are the result of systemic oppression of women in which hyper-masculinity is valued and femininity is not valued. The quote on the cover photo here is about a male victim from another male, but one could easily see how such a dismissive attitude would even be enhanced if the perpetrator was a woman. Complaining about sexual harassment, being the victim of violence inflicted by a woman, these are all considered feminine qualities and are devalued in a patriarchy. Thus you are treated just like a woman. Disbelieved at best, and at worst ridiculed for being essentially a traitor to your gender. The attitude can even be bore by women, because we are all born into a society that normalizes the patriarchal structure.
As I’ve always argued, being feminist has advantages to both men and women. The sooner we tear down the patriarchy, we improve the condition for all genders and sexual orientation.