A Quick Book Review (and some shameless self-promotion)

I’m going to take a break from ranting about gender issues to share some exciting personal news: I’ve participated in an essay project that got me published for realsies, in an actual book that you can buy and hold in your hand.  I’m more than a little excited, and also a bit intimidated, since some of the figures in the men’s movement that I greatly admire are co-contributors to this book (notice me, senpai!).  The book is called Daughters of Feminism, and for what it’s worth, I’m credited under the name Elizabeth Jack (non-coincidentally related to the name Jackalope).

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You can get yourself a copy here.

The editor (whom I’ve been corresponding with lately for another project) compiled essays written by women about their personal reasons for supporting gender egalitarianism rather than ideological feminism, intended as a sister publication to Janice Fiamengo’s Sons of Feminism, where men describe their experiences with discrimination and other men’s issues in the context of a feminist world.

I knew I was going to eat this up regardless of its content, because I’m in it and only human, but please don’t take my ringing endorsement with a grain of salt.  There are some really fabulous, engaging, insightful essays in this book.  It opens with a transcript of one of my very favourite talks, given by Cassie Jaye on the subject of motivated reasoning and ideological tribalism (if you don’t wind up reading Daughters of Feminism, please watch this talk — it’s magnificent), and ends with an insightful critique of the feminist movement written by Fiamengo.  The authors run the ideological gamut, from gender liberals like me who just want a more balanced approach to the progressive discourse, to hard-line traditionalists, and everything in between.  Some women explain why they were never sold on the feminist narrative, while others detail long and often painful personal journeys from feminism to gender balanced or men’s rights activism.  Some focus on the reasons they feel our current paradigm harms and demeans women, others list their personal experiences with men and men’s issues.  One woman provides a fascinating analogy between the progression of a romantic relationship, with all its excitement, lulls, and opportunities for toxicity, to the trajectory of the relationship between men and women as groups in the West.  There is something here for everyone.

Of course, I don’t agree with all of my co-contributors.  Some of their life philosophies and conclusions are polar opposite to mine.  But I love this because it demonstrates that one can come to an egalitarian perspective from any direction.  Regardless of your personal ideology, all it takes is compassion and an open mind to agree to the shared goal of gender equality.

It’s worth a read.  Go get yourself a copy!

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Filed under activism, antifeminism, equality, feminism, men's rights, misandry, personal, Uncategorized

On the Reporting Problem: An Addendum

In a previous article, I supposed that due to various stigmas, fear of reporting, the refusal of police and social workers to act, disparity in social acceptability of assault depending on the gender of the assailant, and other problems, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg with respect to male victimization.  Since then, the CDC has published a special report of data collected between 2010 and 2012.

Past-year CDC data from 2010, 2011, and 2012 reports on the prevalence of sexual assault called rape of women and called made to penetrate of men. These are the same act committed in opposite directions (forcibly penetrating a person, vs. forcing a person to penetrate you, either vaginally, anally, or orally). I use italics to indicate that I’m using these terms the same way that the CDC uses them, since any reasonable person would agree that made to penetrate is also a form of rape as it’s colloquially understood. (So when I say rape and rapists, I am referencing forcible penetration of the victim, whereas rape and rapists reference forcible intercourse in either direction.)

Here are the definitions, taken directly from p17 of the report (which even goes so far as to clarify that all instances of made to penetrate were completed, since attempted acts did not happen):

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The reason the two terms are separated for data collecting purposes has been described several times by Dr. Mary P. Koss, a prominent sexual violence researcher with the CDC, whose justification is as follows.

From a 1993 paper:

Although consideration of male victims is within the scope of legal statutes, it is important to restrict the term rape to instances where male victims were penetrated by offenders. It is inappropriate to consider as a rape victim a man who engages in unwanted sexual intercourse with women.

From a 2007 paper:

We acknowledge the inappropriateness of female verbal coercion and the legitimacy of male perceptions that they have had unwanted sex. Although men may sometimes sexually penetrate women when ambivalent about their own desires, these acts fail to meet legal definitions of rape that are based on the penetration of the body of the victim.

From a 2015 interview on the radio show “You are Here”:

Theresa Phung: So I am actually speaking to someone right now.  His story is that he was drugged, he was unconscious, and when he awoke a woman was on top of him with his penis inserted inside her vagina, and for him that was traumatizing.  If he was drugged what would that be called?

Mary Koss: What would I call it? I would call it unwanted contact.

In other words, Koss rejects the possibility that a man can feel legitimately violated by having his penis used against his will, so she has insisted on classifying this phenomenon differently from female victimization. The result is that the CDC only publishes conclusions regarding male-perpetrated rape and its female victims, since male-on-male rape is far less common (most people are heterosexual) and women who force men to have sex with them are placed into a separate category to be ignored.  These definitional shenanigans enable the CDC to claim that the vast majority of rape victims are female (since, thanks to Koss’s categorization, the majority of rape victims are female).

Fortunately, the above mentioned comprehensive 2010-12 NISVS special report gives data for the gender of perpetrators of several listed acts across those three years. Women reported that between 91.1 and 100% (depending on the state) of their rapists were male (I averaged to 95.5%). Men reported that women were their rapists (made to penetrate-ists) at an average of 78.5% of the time (reported range between states of 71.8 to 89.7%). There were reported gender perpetrator breakdowns of male rape victimization, but I have left that out of the following analysis, since there was not a statistically significant amount of men forcibly penetrated in 2010-2012 past-year data, and also because the reciprocal act (female victimization of made to penetrate) was not broken down by the gender of the perpetrator, so there would be nothing to compare it to, biasing my analysis in favour of male perpetrators.  Instead, I am comparing the two opposite-but-identical acts of forcible penetration of women (rape) and forcible envelopment of men (made to penetrate). All the figures on perpetrator by sex are provided on page 4 of the report (though your PDF viewer will likely call it page 18).

To be clear, I focus on past-year data rather than lifetime reports because it is much more reliable (Alison Tieman provides one reason for this here), and also because it is important to observe trends (either in the frequency of events or the willingness of victims to report them) as they change from year to year.  I also focus primarily on opposite-sex assault, not because I wish to prioritize it over same-sex assault, but because the available data makes it easiest to compare male-on-female to female-on-male incidents.

Here is my analysis of that data, complete with screenshots that include the CDC web address from which they’re taken.  As a disclaimer, I am not a statistician.  What I have done is simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Feel free to check my math if you are skeptical.  I have provided every number I’ve used and its source.

2010
2010 f          2010 m

1.1% of women reported having been raped, estimated at 1,270,000 women.

  • Range of male-on-female victims: 1,157,000 – 1,270,000 women
  • Average estimate of male-on-female victims:  1,213,000 women
  • Average estimate of female-on-female victims: 57,000 women

1.1% of men reported having been made-to-penetrate, estimated at 1,267,000 men

  • Range of female-on-male victims: 910,000 – 1,136,000 men
  • Average estimate of female-on-male victims: 995,000 men
  • Average estimate of male-on-male victims: 272,000 men

It should already catch your attention that exactly the same 1.1 percent of men and women reported forcible intercourse in 2010.  Factoring in the gender breakdowns of perpetrators (on p4 of the NISVS special report) based on the average estimates of victims by gender (1,231,000 women and 995,000 men), 45% of opposite-sex rapes in 2010 were perpetrated by women and suffered by men, meaning that men and women perpetrate and are victimized at similar rates.

2011
2011

1.6% of women reported having been raped, estimated at 1,929,000 women.

  • Range of male-on-female victims: 1,757,000 – 1,929,000 women
  • Average estimate of male-on-female victims:  1,842,000 women
  • Average estimate of female-on-female victims: 87,000 women

1.7% of men reported having been made-to-penetrate, estimated at 1,921,000 men

  • Range of female-on-male victims: 1,379,000 – 1,723,000 men
  • Average estimate of female-on-male victims: 1,508,000 men
  • Average estimate of male-on-male victims: 413,000 men

In 2011, the percent of men actually slightly exceeds the percent of women reporting past-year victimization, which should be a big deal, and yet it has barely been reported on, if at all.  Again, once you factor the genders of perpetration, opposite-sex rape breaks down to about 55% male-on-female, 45% female-on-male.

2012
2012 m          2012 f

1.0% of women reported having been raped, estimated at 1,217,000 women.

  • Range of male-on-female victims: 1,109,000 – 1,217,000 women
  • Average estimate of male-on-female victims:  1,162,000 women
  • Average estimate of female-on-female victims: 55,000 women

1.7% of men reported having been made-to-penetrate, estimated at 1,949,000 men

  • Range of female-on-male victims: 1,399,000 – 1,748,000 men
  • Average estimate of female-on-male victims: 1,530,000 men
  • Average estimate of male-on-male victims: 419,000 men

Staggeringly, male victimization for 2012 is reported at almost twice the rate of female victimization, with men estimated at over 700,000 more rape victimizations than women (and again, radio silence on the subject).  When factoring in perpetrator genders, opposite-sex rape, this time, is about 57% female-on-male, 43% male-on-female, more than reversing the gap that existed in the previous two years.

Even if you want to play it safe and compare the highest possible male-on-female rates to the lowest female-on-male rates, that still places our numbers at about 53% female-on-male, 47% male-on-female, with female rapists still in the lead.

It’s important to remember that these are not magic statistics representing the exact rate of crime as it’s committed.  No researcher was a fly on the wall for these events.  They are self-reported.  So we should bear in mind that it is less likely that significantly more men were raped in 2012 than in 2010 as it is that more men in the recent survey were willing to report having been raped, showing what may be a more accurate representation of the rates of male victimization than we have seen in the past.

The 2012 data may be a fluke.  2010 and 2011 both demonstrate a more balanced and consistent breakdown of male and female perpetration and victimization.  However, we should keep an eye on past-year data over the next few years and see what trends emerge.  It could very well be that we are starting to see more of that iceberg.  As the 2012 data suggests, there may very well be more men raped by women than women raped by men.

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Filed under men's rights, rape, sexism, sexual assault, Uncategorized

Things That Are Not Misogyny (because they’re misandry)

Let’s talk about a phenomenon commonly discussed on the Left:

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When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

This sentiment comes up frequently in feminist rhetoric, usually along with the truism that people rarely give up power willingly.  The idea here is that people don’t often recognize the advantages they have, because these conditions are part of their daily lives and they have nothing with which to compare their own experience.  This is the philosophy behind the concept of privilege checking.  A white person, for example, is unlikely to acknowledge all the ways in which he doesn’t suffer the particular types of racism that affect black people, simply because he’s never suffered them.  He doesn’t know what his life might be like as another race, so he might not realize some of the ways in which his life is different from theirs.  When he’s talking to a cop who is less likely to perceive him as a potential criminal, it often won’t occur to him that the experience he has might not be a universal experience.  He might argue, “I’ve talked to lots of cops, and I’ve never seen them behave this way.”  His argument is sincere, but limited, because he hasn’t seen the way some cops treat other people.

Generally I agree with this sentiment and the importance of trying to think outside one’s own bubble to understand the experiences and perspectives of others.  While I strongly disagree with the way privilege checking and its surrounding philosophy is used to shut down conversations and silence people perceived as privileged, a metric to determine someone’s credibility and moral authority on the victim hierarchy, its original purpose before identity politics and tribalism misappropriated it was to facilitate understanding between groups with vastly different experiences.

The white person in my cop example might roll his eyes when he hears about police brutality, feeling that the situation is blown out of proportion and that white people are under unfair scrutiny in the pursuit of more equal criminal justice.  The cop himself might feel even worse when he is held to stricter standards that might prevent him from acting on a prejudice, but might also increase his risk of harm in the line of duty.  In these ways and many others, it’s easy to perceive a move toward equality as a step away from it, if you are the one who was advantaged in that arena, causing you to feel harmed or attacked and oppose the change. When you feel this way, it’s beneficial to try to think outside yourself to understand the situation from the perspective of someone else.

While a lot of the above arguments might come across as uncharacteristic or unusually SJW-esque to much of my readership, the reason I bring this up is because I’d like to turn it around on one of the movements that likes to use this type of rhetoric the most.

If you’re a regular reader, you might already be familiar with my article “On Gender and Privilege,” in which I compare many of the statistics and phenomena used to identify racism against black people to the experiences of men and boys.  I’ve said many times before that women are the white people of genders, but many women don’t see it that way.  I would argue that this is due to a combination of confirmation bias and the fact that most women, by virtue of their singular perspective, don’t see the ways in which they are actually advantaged in western society.

When I say confirmation bias, I refer to the way women are taught by socially ubiquitous beliefs and references to expect that others will mistreat them on the basis of their gender.  Because of this assumption, commonly held from an early age by many women and girls, universal human experiences and individual events will be interpreted through a very specific lens.  For example, when someone refuses to take a man seriously, he is likely to interpret the experience as a single event, perpetrated by a single actor.  He’ll think, “that person is an arrogant jerk,” and leave it at that.  But for a woman, this is often interpreted as having a gender-prejudiced motive which represents not just the attitude of the actor, but of society at large, even when there is no evidence in the conversation itself on which to base this interpretation.  While the man might think, “that person is condescending,” the woman will think, “that person is mansplaining.”

Similarly, if a man is passed up for a promotion, he may think, “nepotism is the worst,” or “my boss doesn’t appreciate all my hard work,” or “that person must have buttered him up somehow.”  Or even “maybe I’m not as good as I thought I was.”  A woman in the same position is more likely to presume that she was passed up because of a gendered prejudice on the part of her boss, conscious or unconscious (especially when that assumption prevents her from having to face potential shortcomings of her own).  Now, repeat this difference infinitely, through bad communications, rude interactions, workplace misfortunes, poor treatment, and other unpleasant experiences throughout life.  You can see how any negative interaction, to a feminist woman, might appear to corroborate her view that many people are prejudiced against women, regardless of whether or not any of those experiences came with evidence of that prejudice.  And since she has never lived outside female experience, and she likely won’t listen to men about their own, she’s been unable to debunk this misinterpretation by comparing her experience to someone else’s.

Women are given by popular culture and ideology the cognitively distortionary tools to believe that they are disadvantaged beyond what an objective observation of their experience might suggest, and this exacerbates the effect described in the quote above.  An individual is already unlikely to see many of the privileges they enjoy, by virtue of only having experienced life as themself.  Add in a foundational belief that they suffer oppression or discrimination on a broad and institutionalized scope, and they are even less likely to see their own advantages.

As for women’s privilege, Fred Hayward put it well in The Red Pill:

If women are so different from men that men can’t understand the female experience, and we need to listen to women describe it, then the male experience is so different from the female experience that you can’t understand it.  You need to listen to us.

Women have a great deal of social and institutional advantages that most of us simply don’t see, because we have no idea what it’s like to not be a woman.  The result is that we often refer to many phenomena as misogyny when they simply aren’t.  Sometimes this is a normal human experience being perceived through the lens of confirmation bias, sometimes it’s a move for equality that upsets a position of privilege and makes us defensive, and sometimes an advantage that a woman does not find satisfactorily advantageous is perceived as a disadvantage.

The following examples have come from talking to men about their own perspectives, or simply experiencing life while considering what it might be like to not be a woman.  These are phenomena that are often perceived as examples of misogyny, which I will use to argue that the true underlying phenomenon is actually misandry or female privilege.

 

Growing Old and Online Harassment

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Men don’t age better than women, they are just allowed to age.

We’ll start with something simple.  This famous Carrie Fisher quote was meant to communicate the belief that women past reproductive age have lost all societal value, that actresses are washed up once they are no longer conventionally attractive, and that regular women are too.

I, of course, don’t agree that society stops valuing women once they reach middle age, and I think the likes of Betty White and Maggie Smith would agree with me, as they continue to be well respected and consistently employed figures in media entertainment, known for both their work as actresses and their charitable work off the screen, and continue to receive awards and recognition well into the years most people would have long sought retirement.  No, they’re not being cast as protagonists in romance flicks, but neither are Brad Pitt or Leo DiCaprio.

So what’s really happening here?  When you’re an attractive young woman in the media, you’re on the cover of women’s magazines, hired for commercials, known as iconically sexy, and you turn up in the fantasies of millions of men and boys.  You’re the center of attention and an example of what to be, constantly interviewed about your lifestyle, nutritional regimen, and the beauty products you use in the hope that other women can be like you.  You’re practically worshiped.  What this looks like for regular, non-famous hot women is that people are extra polite to you in public spaces, they go out of their way to strike up a conversation, they buy you drinks, compliment you, laugh at your jokes, and are more willing to help you when you need it.  You’re even at an advantage in interviews and the workplace.  In short, attractive women get treated way better than other people.

Feminists will argue that this is merely self-serving behaviour: men are more polite, more giving, and more accommodating to attractive women because they have hopes of sleeping with them.  My answer to this is so what? Not only is this nicer treatment not exclusively from men, but if someone goes out of their way to treat me nicely, I don’t really care why they’re doing it.  The result is the same.  I’d still be getting doors held for me, drinks bought for me, and help carrying heavy things.  If I have to say “I’m flattered, but I’m afraid I’m not interested” a few times in exchange for almost universal better treatment, that’s a deal I’m more than willing to make.

But what happens to this attractive woman when she hits her forties or fifties and the free drinks start to dry up?  She starts to feel invisible or neglected.  She worries that she’s done something wrong, or that her time is over, or that she’s not valued as a human being anymore.  I can understand where the feminists are coming from, for the same reason I can understand how a white person interacts with a cop and doesn’t see what the big deal is.  It’s easy to see how, when Carrie Fisher aged out of her position of Hot Actress DuJour, or when Jane Smith the Regular Hot Lady stopped being greeted every day on the sidewalk, either of these women could feel slighted or ignored and criticize society for this, because neither of them realizes that now that they’re not hot women anymore, they’re being treated the same as everyone else. Meanwhile, the woman of average or lower attractiveness (let alone a man) would kill for a free drink or the kind words of a passing stranger, and to them, Fisher’s comment that women aren’t allowed to age comes across as entitled and ignorant.

It’s not that women aren’t allowed to age, it’s that attractive women who have aged no longer get treated better than the average person.  To them, equality feels like oppression.

 

A similar phenomenon is the way women react to treatment in online spaces, particularly gaming spaces and anonymous forums.  Women frequently report rudeness and harassment from other users in these contexts, and it has become a major feminist issue discussed extensively by people like Anita Sarkeesian.  What the women who experience this treatment don’t seem to realize is that online shit-talking is a fairly universal behaviour, directed at anyone and everyone, regardless of their sex.  But women are used to being exempt from the sort of banter-insults familiar between men and boys.  Women aren’t used to being told things like “OP is a faggot” or given death threats for dying in a game, so when they enter online spaces where a culture of hyperbolic banter is already established, or where anonymity facilitates nastier treatment of all, they interpret this behaviour as targeted, gender-based harassment.  Even though online harassment is understood to be experienced about equally by both sexes (while threats of violence are more commonly directed at men and sexual remarks at women — who’da’thunk that someone trying to get under your skin might tailor their insult based on what will get the biggest rise out of you?).

Once again, women who are used to generally polite treatment feel targeted or mistreated when they experience normal treatment.

 

Chivalry

My boss is from a more conservative, traditionalist country.  Recently he raised a lot of eyebrows by suggesting that the men should bring chairs in for the women before staff meetings, so that we don’t have to do it ourselves.  Many of my coworkers over the next couple days, particularly male coworkers, were overheard complaining about the sexism of this request: how demeaning, to imply that women can’t carry their own chairs.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate being stood up for when I think it’s warranted.  But I didn’t feel at all insulted by this incident.  From where I’m sitting (comfortably, in a chair brought for me by somebody else), chivalry doesn’t look misogynistic.  It isn’t a gesture to imply that women can’t open their own doors, must sit while men stand to preserve our fragile frames, or that basic tasks are beyond us.  There is absolutely no reason to assume anybody thinks these things. (Are the rich perceived pathetically weak and incapable of cleaning their own houses?)

Chivalry is a code of conduct used to condition men to be women’s servants, in many of the same ways that nobility was served in older times.  Holding doors, offering seats, standing while others sit, performing simple favours, and deflecting any suggestion that he ought to do otherwise are all typical forms of deference offered by a lord or lady’s attendants.

Men have been taught to serve women, and like my coworkers, they only question this when their service is considered offensive by their masters.  It’s so hard to find good help these days.

 

The Military and Representation

When the military is all-male, women often see this as exclusionary or discriminatory.  I see where they’re coming from.  There is no reason to prevent a capable person from pursuing their interests.

This is related, I think, to women’s frustration with fiction, particularly of action heroes where male characters dominate, as well as the male majority in high profile careers.  Women look to these things and hypothesize a glass ceiling preventing us from success in the fictional and non-fictional worlds.

A much simpler explanation is that throughout history, as it has been women’s burden and repressive role to bear children and manage domestic tasks, it has been men’s burden and repressive role to protect and provide for women, risking their health and giving up time with their loved ones to fulfill these demands.

Heroes in fiction (and in reality) are usually men because it is men’s blood we have always demanded, men who have been required, by norms or by conscription, to risk life and limb to protect their family, community, and country while women are kept safe.  It is men who have been taught that it is honourable to fight and die so that women and children might live.   Exemption from this requirement is an expression of love and compassion, not condescension.  While fiction is thankfully more flexible than reality, it stands to historical reason that male characters are more often associated with these burdens.

As far as the military, it represents the very epitome of male disposability.  Until very recently, like the Colosseum, the military has been an institution of male slaves, torn from their families and forced into a bloody death for the glory of their leader.  A woman being angry that she hasn’t been asked to join the military is like a white person being angry that she hasn’t been asked to pick cotton.

Similarly, there will never be gender parity in any field of work as long as there is not gender parity in the social pressures for success.  While women have the social freedom to pursue any career interest, men are viewed as failed husbands or failed men if they do not make a living that allows them to provide for their families.  This pressure leads to the predictable male majority in fields that provide money and prestige at the cost of sleep, peace, privacy, and time with their families.  Since women are not seen as deadbeats for doing so, they tend to pursue lower-stress careers with better hours, offering them more time and energy to spend with the people they love and on tasks they enjoy.

Which is to say, women are less represented as action heroes, scientists, elected representatives, and business executives for the same reason we are less represented on oil rigs, garbage trucks, the battlefield, and coal mines: women are not expected on pain of ridicule and ostracism to pursue these paths for the benefit of others.  We have the advantage of pursuing them only when we are interested in doing so.

 

Transmisogyny and Homophobia

It is often said that trans women and gay men are ridiculed and discriminated against because they are feminine, and the feminine is seen as “less than.”  This philosophy is also applied to any stigmatized male behaviour (cross dressing, interest in stereotypically female activities, showing emotions, etc.).  It is said that there is a hierarchy of gendered expression, with masculine males at the top and feminine females at the bottom.

There are some major flaws in this interpretation.  Most obviously, women aren’t stigmatized for feminine behaviour; they’ve historically been encouraged toward it. If the feminine were categorically stigmatized, women wouldn’t be encouraged to be feminine.  They’d be punished for it.  This makes it apparent that it isn’t femininity which is seen as “less than,” but deviation from one’s prescribed gendered role.  This is most severe in males, since 150 years of feminism have granted women virtually infinite socially acceptable mobility along the gender spectrum.  Trans women (seen as men by everyone who mistreats them) are significantly more stigmatized than trans men, and most reports of violence and murder in the trans community affect trans women.  Meanwhile, gay men are subject to four times as much hate crime as gay women.  Women who deviate from their gendered role, thanks to generations of activism and normalization, are at most congratulated, at least seen as standard.  Women who wear pants, appreciate sports, or work outdoors are commonplace.  Men who wear dresses, appreciate makeup, or knit sweaters are subject to ridicule, ostracism, and in some places even violence.  This isn’t because masculine things are good and feminine things are bad.  It’s because female deviation from pre-industrial roles has been painstakingly and relentlessly normalized by gender equality movements, while the male role has remained largely untouched and unexamined.

The phenomenon of transmysogyny, therefore, isn’t hatred of a trans woman for being a woman, and homophobia toward gay men isn’t hatred of the stereotypically feminine, but rather both are discrimination against a person perceived as a man who is behaving outside the narrow and repressive boundaries of the male role, a type of discrimination from which females have long since been liberated.

 

Dating, Romance, and Sex

Women are quick to describe the experience of relentless harassment, objectification, and other unwanted attention by men who want to date or sleep with them.  This is treated as a major feminist issue.

I wrote about the heterosexual dating dynamic in my last article, and the criticism I received was largely based on its perceived bias, painting women as advantaged in the sexual marketplace.  I did my best to detail as many pros and cons of both sides as I could, but ultimately I own this bias, because women are, unequivocally, advantaged in the sexual marketplace.

Women have been taught to see validation, appreciation, and the desire for love as sexist imposition.  While a woman may experience a deluge of messages in her Okcupid inbox as pestering and reading them as a chore, a male user will stare forlornly at his empty inbox and wish for a shred of the validation women are accustomed to.  He must put in endless effort, reaching out to as many women as he can in the hopes that someone will return his interest, knowing that few women will unless he is clever, funny, charming, thoughtful, handsome, and confident without being too forward.  Meanwhile, she sits on a digital throne sorting through supplicating suitors, and has the nerve to call this a women’s issue because most of them fail to meet the unreasonable standards she has set to impress her.

If she does decide to meet someone, he is now met with the task of impressing her in person.  He is expected to pay for her meals, drinks, and cover charges while they are out, unless she is a member of the particular branch of feminism which sees this as demeaning or an expression of the expectation of sex.  If this is her interpretation, she fails to see that the expectation that he pays isn’t an insult to her, but a statement that her time is worth more than his.  She has the privilege to eat and drink for free, because he knows that his task is to win her over.

In a relationship, she is to be treated like a princess, proven his worth, pampered, pleased in bed, and showered in gifts and affection.  There is very little suggestion or expectation of the reverse.  Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, and even weddings are about pleasing her and giving her a day she’s dreamed about.  Even music indicates this dichotomy.  When a woman is singing about pursuing the right man, she don’t want no scrubs, that don’t impress her much, and you gotta rub her the right way.  When a man is singing about pursuing the right woman, he would buy a big house where they both can live, he’ll be your hero baby, and when a man loves a woman, he’ll give you everything he’s got.  It’s clear: in love it is a man’s task to impress, provide for, protect, and make her comfortable.  Reciprocity is not expected or required.

If she is on the street, she is likely to read staring, compliments, and even greetings as harassment or a demand of her time and attention.  Instead, like a monarch of the ancient world, she expects men to avert their eyes and speak only when spoken to, a level of deference not due anyone else in a democratic society.

The idea that women are at a disadvantage in the dating scene could only be arrived at by the ignorance inherent in significant and staggering privilege.

 

It is common for women to interpret any perceived slight, inconvenience, or discomfort as sexist disrespect because women are used to being pampered, validated, and pandered to, usually without even realizing it.  When any other group expresses this misconception, they are called privileged and told that their feelings are invalid, only felt due to their ignorance of the struggles of others from which they themselves have been exempt.  Why is it, then, that when women are exempted from conscription, showered in gifts, given male servants, treated like princesses, and constantly validated, do we accept the argument that women are oppressed? How is this different from the white supremacist claim that white people are treated the worst of all?

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Filed under antifeminism, feminism, gender roles, misandry, misogyny, privilege, sexism, Uncategorized

Men Hunt and Women Fish

hunting and fishing

There’s a lot of debate and moralizing about modern sexual interaction, including but not limited to the acceptability of catcalling and other compliments in public spaces, what constitutes creepy behaviour or harassment, and who has the most power in the sexual marketplace.  There seem to be a great deal of misunderstanding and miscommunication between men and women regarding these kinds of questions (and many others), and it all seems to center around the differing experiences men and women have within the sexual dynamic: men hunt and women fish.

What I mean by this is that, in heterosexual situations (generally speaking), when a man finds a woman attractive, he actively pursues her.  He approaches her, chats her up, tries to find topics to discuss with her, asks for her number, and other active, planned methods of initiating the dating process.  Men hunt.

Meanwhile, when a woman finds a man attractive, she dresses up nicely, behaves in a more friendly way when he’s around, and makes herself look as appealing as possible.  She puts out the signal that she’s available and interested, but passively, and she waits for him to come to her. Women fish.

To be clear, despite existing connotations, when I use these terms, they’re not meant to imply any kind of inherent predatory behaviour.  Hunting and fishing are both strategies which can include predation, but most people don’t prey on others.  For the purposes of this essay, assume that these are value-neutral terms.

In any case, this male hunter/female fisher dynamic is an interesting one, because of how it contrasts with the majority of the animal kingdom, where it’s typically males with the brightly coloured plumage doing a mating dance to attract attention until a desirable female approaches.  But in the human species, it is females who wear the bright colours and dance to attract attention, and the males who approach them.  In both cases, however, the females select the males.

This is generally accepted to be the result of the disparity in risk that either sex takes on in the reproductive process: a male can reproduce nearly as often as he wants without expending many resources or risking harm to himself, whereas a female can only reproduce (in the case of humans) a little more than once a year, and must accept risk to her health, great expenditure of bodily resources, and meaningful vulnerability for extended time in order to do it.  For these reasons, the female of many species is necessarily more selective than the male when choosing a mate, in order to ensure that when she does take on that risk she minimizes her odds of harm to her health in the process and produces a child that is healthy and successful.

I’m not usually that interested in evolutionary psychology as an explanation of human choices (as a broad theory, I find it leaves little room for basic agency).  Indeed, in previous articles I made it clear that, for the most part, I see gender as a combination of roles that were necessary only in the pre-industrial world, and purely constructed cultural norms that sprung up around them, but for better or worse, this risk disparity does appear to inform a lot of behaviours, both in the animal world and the human one, even though modern technology has more or less mitigated the risk disparity for humans (and in may cases reversed it).  Hunting and fishing may have evolutionary roots and be chosen in a somewhat unconscious way by those who follow gender roles without examining them, but they are choices, and those choices have consequences.

FISHING

Like any human dynamic, the “hunting and fishing” relationship comes with pros and cons for all.  The pros for women include the following:

  • A fisher’s experience in the sexual marketplace is one of constant validation.  Men must approach her in order to win her attention, and they must do so often and with many women in order to have a chance of success, so (especially if she’s conventionally attractive), she will be constantly approached.  This means that the average woman will receive regular compliments, appeals to her interest, offers of free drinks, and other forms of validation that keep her feeling attractive and appreciated.  On dates, men will try to impress her with creativity and knowledge of her interests, pay for her drinks and meals, and do their best to charm her so that she chooses them.
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  • Fishing comes with the benefit of very little up-front effort.  Constructing the bait can be time consuming if the fisher chooses (depending on how she styles her hair, makeup, clothing, etc.), but most of fishing is sitting peacefully in a boat and waiting for something to bite.  She may not have to do anything at all in order to be approached.  On dates, she is generally expected to make an effort to be attractive and interesting, but she is rarely expected to plan or pay.  She gets to sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience that someone else has curated for her.
    _
  • Fishers enjoy a buyer’s market, due in large part to the disparity in selectiveness discussed above.  Because a hunter must play the numbers game, many hunters are constantly vying for her attention.  This makes her interest, sexuality, and beauty extremely valuable.  For this reason, not only is it much easier for her to get a date than it is for a hunter, but she also has the ability of profiting monetarily from her own sexuality in ways that men are less able to do, via modeling or sex work, but also by virtue of the many opportunities that arise for a woman who is seen as attractive (any job where her beauty will be an advantage to her when interacting directly with clients, from waitressing to sales to reporting the news).

But these benefits, of course, come with drawbacks:

  • When you fish, you are simply putting out the signal that you are available and interested, and that signal is broadcast to everyone who can see you.  This means that every available and interested hunter is going to approach you, whether or not you find him sexually attractive, putting you in the awkward position of regularly rejecting any hunters who were not the target of your initial signal.  If this happens often enough (and depending on the amount of social energy a given fisher has), many fishers will stop experiencing a deluge of hunters as validation and start to perceive it more as pestering, especially those who attract mostly hunters they don’t find attractive.
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    Especially given our culture’s particular sexual morality which casts overt sexuality as demeaning, dirty, or rude, in addition to the guilt and awkwardness of regularly rejecting others, the knee-jerk disgust reaction toward overt sexual interest expressed by someone perceived as sexually unattractive, and the feeling of being pestered, it’s common for fishers to develop a prejudice against hunter (male) sexuality that is composed of the assumptions that it is base, superficial, irritating, disgusting, or even predatory.  These prejudices and assumptions are, of course, also a disadvantage for the hunter, but they make it difficult for fishers who possess them to fairly and objectively evaluate hunters for the qualities they are seeking.  Prejudiced fishers have a very hard time finding dates, because they see most hunters as “not my type” (or worse), even when they’re not.
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  • Fishing is not a proactive strategy.  Someone who fishes simply casts the line and then waits.  Depending on their location, it may not take long for someone to bite, but the target of interest may not be among those who bite, or even be aware that a line has been cast.  Choosing to fish makes it very difficult to ensure interaction with the person you’re attracted to, and gives you little to no initial control over interactions.

HUNTING

Hunting comes with more or less reciprocal pros and cons.  Their advantages are as follows:

  • Hunting comes with the advantage of a great deal of up-front control.  Hunters get to determine, to a large extent, who to interact with and how.  They decide the terms and circumstances of how and when to approach someone.  They have creative control over the details of most dates, and because their strategy is direct, they make many of the decisions at the start of this process (for better or worse).  They are also almost never approached, so they very rarely have to reject anyone.
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  • Hunters have typically been raised as such, taught through the male gender role to actively pursue women.  This gives them a lifetime of experience approaching others, getting used to rejection, and asking for what they want, developing a thick skin and assertiveness that will serve them in many other aspects of life.

However, the disadvantages are many:

  • The high energy and effort one must keep up in order to be a successful hunter are nearly untenable (especially for introverts).  Hunters must constantly approach fishers and endure rejection time and again before any fisher accepts their appeal.  Attractiveness, charisma, and other positive characteristics increase their chances of success, but even the most attractive hunter must put in the effort of approaching and impressing fishers just to determine which fishers are attracted to them.  Even after finding an interested fisher, hunters must obtain phone numbers, initiate dates, and plan everything out.  They are also usually expected to pay for any food, drinks, or cover charges in further encounters.  And while a date for a fisher is a relaxing, curated experience (assuming the date goes well), for a hunter it’s more like a job interview.  He knows that in order to compete with the other hunters who are all vying for that fisher’s attention and affection, he must be charming, witty, interesting, generous, respectful, and just the right amount of invested, so that he appears interested but not desperate, flattering but not aggressive.  This is as stressful as it sounds.
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  • A large concern with hunters is that fishers don’t communicate much while fishing.  The hunter must read his audience carefully, because he needs to know exactly how to appeal to someone whose desires and preferences are unclear.  Most of hunting is trying to determine exactly what a given fisher will find attractive, charming, thoughtful, or interesting, usually without clear language.
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  • Since many fishers read initiating as pestering, harassment, superficiality, degradation, or foolishness, hunters run the risk not only of rejection, but also of ridicule, being labeled a creep, or worse.  This places the hunter in a catch-22 situation, where he must initiate to find a partner, since women almost never hunt, but any initiating can be read as disrespect or impropriety (often based entirely on his attractiveness, rather than his actions), so that the only remotely effective strategy men have at their disposal is to subject themselves to many forms of disapproval, from regular rejection, to disgust, to ridicule, to offense taking, to even fear or lashing out, on the off-chance that the target of his interest also finds him attractive.
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  • This collection of disadvantages inevitably leads many hunters who lack the social energy, confidence, patience, or luck necessary to maintain this strategy to disillusionment, loneliness, and depression.  When the only effective method for finding a partner requires constant effort and subjection to disappointment, in a world where most people have very little free time and come home from work already exhausted, the hunter often doesn’t have the time or energy to pursue love or sexual gratification.  Those who are less confident or unlucky in love often find this entire situation too daunting to even start, and I talk to such men all the time.

MISUNDERSTANDINGS

I mentioned at the start of this essay that I see a lot of misunderstandings between men and women that stem from this dynamic, due to their wildly different experiences in the sexual marketplace.  Perhaps one of the largest factors in this misunderstanding is that fishers, by the nature of their strategy, communicate their desires very infrequently.  For many fishers, this is because she wants to determine if a given hunter is genuinely the type she is seeking, rather than running the risk of hunters simply saying what she wants to hear in order to win her over.  Others want to be swept off their feet by someone who automatically knows what she wants.  Others still are too timid to communicate their preferences, or aren’t sure what they want in the first place.  Nevertheless, any interaction in which one party is decidedly non-communicative is bound to be frustrating.  Women often complain that men don’t understand their needs and boundaries, while men complain that women don’t communicate their needs and boundaries.

Perhaps one of the most dangerous manifestations of this failure to communicate is the game of playing coy.  Many women will feign disinterest because they enjoy being pursued, sometimes leading her to say no when she means yes.  This phenomenon is not unknown to men, which puts them in a difficult position.  They must gamble on every sign of disinterest, and every “no,” which could mean “prove how much you want me” or “I’m sincerely not interested.”  What this means is that conscientious hunters will take every “no” at face value, so a lot of secretly interested fishers will go home with their hands (and so will those hunters).

Meanwhile, more enterprising and perhaps less scrupulous hunters will win over fishers playing coy, but also run the risk of taking a genuine “no” as a secret “yes.”  This means that fishers who play this game will sometimes be rewarded for lying at the expense of honest women, and those who don’t play this game will suffer anything from the annoyance of not being taken at their word to downright sexual assault, because hunters have learned from experience that “no” sometimes means “yes.”  This puts both parties in an ugly situation: the hunter who is now labeled a consent violator for doing what other women have taught him to do, and the fisher whose consent was violated because other fishers aren’t honest about their intentions and desires.  Because of a lack of clear and honest communication, everyone loses.

Another concern that seems to inform a great deal of misunderstandings is the “buyer’s market” aspect of the dynamic.  Because women are constantly approached and appealed to, their perception of this experience is going to be different from that of men’s.  While women with more social energy enjoy this flattery, those with less find it tiresome (before you add in the ideological interpretations, such as the feminist assumption that it’s meant to demean or control women).  Hunters hear from both kinds of women, and this often feels like a mixed message.  Hunters aren’t sure what degree of engagement is appropriate, because different women have different preferences and comfort levels.  And fundamentally, hunters struggle to understand how fishers could be annoyed or unimpressed by being constantly complimented and sought out, since the average hunter, who endures rejection and disapproval as a necessary part of seeking dates, would kill for a fraction of the validation or appreciation that the average fisher receives.  While a fisher may consider a given behaviour superficial or harassment, a hunter may see it as a sort of genuine human connection for which he feels starved.  Similarly, (largely because of the sexual morality of our culture) fishers see their ability to profit from their sexuality and beauty as cheapening or dehumanizing, whereas many hunters just wish they could do it.

Less of a miscommunication between the sexes and more of a broad misunderstanding, the hunting/fishing dynamic leads to perception of males as more sexual and females as less sexual than they actually are.  Because hunters must play the numbers game, they are perceived as “always on” or being driven by sex.  Meanwhile, because fishers play the gatekeeper, they are perceived in the extreme as frigid or asexual, in the less extreme as having a default of disinterest.  This leads to asymmetrical sexual advocacy, in which women are protected from sexuality like Victorian-era prudes (even by progressives), and men are excluded from advocacy against sexual misconduct, because someone who always wants sex can’t fail to consent or be victimized by harassment or assault.  This isn’t just a misperception between the sexes.  Generally speaking, I have seen that women perceive women this way and men perceive men this way, too.

Finally, because the bait for fishing is mostly physical beauty (as well as its value and profitability outside the sexual marketplace), many women suffer from the misconception that a woman’s societal value is limited to her physical appearance.  Because of this, they worry that they will become devalued, less respected, or less appreciated as they age.  What these women don’t realize is that just like women, men value physical attractiveness and a wide variety of personality traits in their partners, and that once a hunter learns that a given fisher is far more beautiful than she is interesting, he’s likely to move along, just as a woman might do with a man who is more beautiful than he is interesting.  Furthermore, her value to society is not, and never was, limited to her value to a prospective partner.  However, any fisher who worries about this can assuage her worries by being sure to cultivate a personality and a variety of practical skills (which is something that hunters must do in order to have even initial success, since they appeal to fishers with attributes like charisma and wit).

SOLUTIONS

I’ve outlined a lot of problems that result from the wildly different experiences men and women have in dating and sexuality, from the initial drawbacks of either side to the ways men and women fail to understand each other through the lens of these differing experiences.  Here are my proposed solutions.

Most obviously, men and women simply need to communicate more, on an individual level and in groups.  On the individual level, women need to say what they need out loud and be willing to clearly communicate their boundaries, or men are going to continue to live in the dark.  Women need to stop playing coy, because this leaves everyone lonely at best, and harms other women at worst.  On the group level, men and women need spaces to air their grievances and be heard as equals.  No privilege checking, no victim contests, no arguing over which side has more pros or cons.  Everyone needs to be willing to listen in earnest, with an open mind to the existence of real problems and drawbacks on both sides.

Second, I’ve noticed something with the rise of the normalization of queer relationships: it’s helping break down gender roles for all, including heterosexuals.  Who should pay for a date between two men?  When two women are attracted to each other, who should ask the other out?  How should an existing poly couple approach a prospective third?  These kinds of questions inherently raise questions about the necessity of dividing the roles in heterosexual dating so simplistically as they have been in traditionalist societies.

When there’s no default role for any party in the pursuit of relationships (when both are the same sex, for example), roles develop naturally as a result of individual personalities, rather than individuals feeling that they have to fit gendered expectations of how to approach interaction.  The result is that queer relationships, especially in media representation and discourse on relationships present public examples of alternatives to the male hunter/female fisher dynamic.  The availability of such examples have, I’ve observed, led to more heterosexuals choosing an approach that suits them better.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, women need to bite the bullet and start hunting.  I started doing this at a young age (when I was only dating men), but it became even more important when I started dating women (since most women, even queer women, tend not to initiate).  From the very beginning it dramatically shifted my perspective on the entire dating process, and I think every woman would benefit from hunting at least sometimes, and men would benefit too, in the following ways:

  • Women would share in the burden of constant rejection and the up-front effort of approaching targets of attraction.
  • This basic role reversal will help men and women better understand each other’s experiences, perspectives, and complaints.
  • Women will start to understand that hunting isn’t predation, harassment, or the purview of the shallow
  • Men will get a piece of that sweet, sweet validation pie.
  • Women won’t have to sit around waiting for a partner to come along.
  • Even if only some women choose to start hunting, this will start to shrink the massive disparity in sexual value between men and women.  When more women are actively pursuing men, more men will have a chance at dating.
  • Experience on the hunter side of the dynamic will give women more of an opportunity to develop thicker skin and assertiveness.
  • A role reversal will reduce the perception of women as chaste and men as always on, leading to more respect and understanding for women’s sexuality and men’s capacity for non-consent.

In short, I constantly hear from men who are at a loss because they struggle to find the time and energy needed to be successful hunters, the patience and determination necessary to endure rejection, and the finesse required to navigate the catch-22 of sexual morality.  They suffer from loneliness and depression, and often self-loathing, and don’t know how else to proceed.  They could try fishing, but with so few female hunters, it’s not a viable strategy.  As is so often the case, what needs to happen is the breakdown of gender roles.  Men need to try fishing sometimes, and women need to try hunting sometimes.

 

EDIT: Understand that these assessments of human behaviour and experience are meant to be comparative, not absolute.  So while I understand that women who fish experience some rejection, for example, which varies with level of attractiveness and other factors, I think that this is substantially less the case for a given woman/fisher than for an equivalently attractive man/hunter.  Furthermore, for hunters it is more direct and explicit rejection, as opposed to the subtle and arguably less painful rejection of simply not being approached by the target of your interest.

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Filed under equality, gender roles, sexuality, Uncategorized

On Gender and Astrology

 

open-cluster-in-perseus_shutterstock_55193803

For the amount that I write about gender, I’ve never really attempted to define or explain what I think it is, much past its relevance to the social and political sphere.  In truth, gender as a personal identity was never something I could quite wrap my head around, and here I’ll try to explain why.

When I was growing up I was super into astrology.  And so was a lot of my family.  I even had a grandmother who learned how to draw up those elaborate charts for people.  As it happens, I thought my sign fit me like a glove.  It was uncanny.  So I would memorize my chart, read my horoscopes, and even read up on who I was supposed to date and be friends with based on my sign.  “Yeah, I never stop talking — I’m a Gemini!”  I liked it so much that I thought about who I was through this lens.  It was more than just fun, it was part of my identity.

I would also try to guess what signs other people had based on their personalities, and sometimes I was even right.  And I noticed something: unsurprisingly, the people I met who were as into astrology as I was, like me, felt that their signs fit them perfectly.  As for the folks who felt no connection to their signs?  They tended to reject the zodiac and pursue other interests.

As I got older I started to do the same.  I realized that the list of characteristics associated with my sign didn’t describe me nearly as well as I’d thought.  I might be gregarious and communicative, but I’m not superficial and two-faced.  If anything, I’m brutally honest and even blunt to the point of rudeness, more like an Aries.  And I don’t flit between friendships without committing much to any.  I’m fiercely loyal to the people I love, like a Cancer.

If I wanted to, I could choose one of these as a new sign to identify with.  I could come up with some explanation, like “this is my rising, and it fills in a lot of the gaps in describing me,” or “these signs appear more on my chart than Gemini does,” or even “I was born a month before my due date — I’m actually supposed to be a Cancer.”  And I actually did so some of this rationalization, but a much better explanation is that my mother is blunt and honest and my father is loyal, and I acquired these traits through my upbringing as most people do.

Don’t get me wrong.  Astrology is a fine source of entertainment when it’s done light-heartedly, and I don’t begrudge the people who buy into it and enjoy it.  It’s an easy way to group personalities (if you don’t mind simplifying them), and it can be fun to compare yourself to these archetypes.  But if your sign doesn’t fit you, it’s not because you need to discover what your real sign is.  It’s because astrology isn’t real, and the quasi-spiritual musings of the ancient Greeks were never meant to predict human personalities and behaviour several thousand years into the future.  If your sign does fit you, it’s a coincidence, not the workings of some mystical part of the universe that has a tap on your true inner self.  I’m not really a Gemini or a Cancer.  I’m a person who is both talkative and loyal, and the fact that those traits exist in some archetypes from the ancient world is completely irrelevant to who I am as a person.

This is exactly how I feel about gender.

There seems to be a fairly heated debate here on the internet about whether there are two or many more genders, and I’m of the firm opinion that this is the wrong question to ask.  I don’t see gender as a fundamental truth about a person that needs to be discovered and actualized.  A gender is a series of traits, tasks, expectations, and stereotypes associated with a traditional sex role, which was (and still is in many respects) used to pigeonhole people.  It’s not something that’s found in oneself as some personal but objective truth.  It’s something that’s placed on a person based on stereotyping, which some individuals choose to use as the language through which to self-identify.

In most western cultures, there are two of these pigeonholes, though some eastern cultures and much of the ancient world seem to have a more nuanced approach (which is to say, three or more pigeonholes). Theoretically we could construct as many as we want, on the societal or individual level. But since we have modern technology and a fairly progressive first world that is trying its darnedest to move away from pigeonholing people (by gender or by any other demographic features), it strikes me as counterproductive to identify ourselves and others using this outdated and limited system.

If I say that I identify as a woman, I most likely mean one of two things: that I am comfortable with my female biology, or that my personality is more in line with the feminine gender role than any other. In the former case, I consider this fair but superficial. My view of my body, positive or negative, is worth addressing, but it doesn’t define who I am as a person. In the latter case, my identifying as a woman may well fit the typical feminine description, but it’s superfluous. If I were a devoted mother who liked shopping and fashion, and those aspects mattered to me, they could be part of my identity without validating stereotypes, just as I can see myself as talkative and gregarious without validating astrology by claiming that this is because I’m a Gemini.  It’s reasonable to acknowledge and discuss the physical reality of one’s body, how one views or feels about that body, or which archetypal traits apply to one’s personality.  These linguistic shortcuts make sense in context and I have no objection to them.  But I differentiate meaningfully between an acknowledgment of any of the above and a personal identity.  To proclaim that one’s perception of one’s body or one’s degree of adherence to a given pre-industrial sex role is what fundamentally makes someone who they are is superficial and sexist.

If I haven’t made it clear, I am a staunch social constructivist.  That obviously doesn’t mean I think that genders were invented by The Patriarchy(TM) to oppress women (or the reverse).  Indeed, they were once necessary to survival.  But just because I am the only person in my household who could bear and nurse children doesn’t mean that’s the most fulfilling occupation for me as an individual or an inherent aspect of who I am as a person.  The very basics of pre-industrial division of labour — men use their muscles to provide and protect, women use their female anatomy to produce and nourish children — were biologically dependent and necessary to functioning society before modern technology, but the cultural practices and beliefs that sprung up around those roles over the millennia — women are better at cooking, men are better at driving, women like shopping, men like sports, etc. — are probably arbitrary and socially constructed.  A substantial amount of these assumptions are outright wrong (the best chefs in the world are predominantly men, and women are less likely to get into car accidents, for example), and even those stereotypes that are borne out in trends of human behaviour have enough outliers to be poor predictors on their own.  This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many people who adhere, to a large extent, to these descriptions, and it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with those who do.  But what it does mean is that, since these aren’t natural kinds of people determined by some mystical force, there are going to be a lot of us who just want something different out of life than the pre-made cookie cutter existences labeled “masculinity” or “femininity.”

In short, after all the hard work that’s been done to liberate many of us from these expectations, I don’t see the point of constructing an identity based on the degree to which I do or don’t adhere to them, and I find it confusing that anyone who views themselves as anti-gender-roles or anti-sexism would want to do so.  I don’t know how many genders there are.  I guess the answer to that question depends on which culture or how many cultures you’re looking at when you ask.  But the more important question, which nobody seems to be asking in these terms, is how many genders should there be?  To that I argue zero.  Zero pigeonholes.

To be clear, this essay isn’t meant as an instruction for how one ought to self-conceptualize, a judgment upon others’ self-expression, or some TERF manifesto — by now you should have noticed that my thoughts on this subject apply as much to cis identities as it does to anyone else.  I support the vast array of human expression, and I want to see more people feeling free to act and live the way they prefer, whether or not that fits in with a prescribed role.  But I question the act of self-labeling to communicate that this makes one more or less of a man, or more or less of a woman, as if there were traits or interests that a man or woman somehow must or couldn’t possess.  Those stereotypes need to be eliminated, not reinforced by a gender discourse which identifies individuals within them (as I would argue for astrology, were it used to enforce expectations and judgments upon others).

The fact that I am good at party planning, painting my nails, and reading people doesn’t validate female gender stereotypes or make me a woman any more than the fact that I like whiskey on the rocks and combat sports and sit with my knees far apart validates male stereotypes or makes me a man.  I could do any of these things as a man or a woman.  The fact that I, like every other human being living or dead, possess some combination of both stereotypically masculine and feminine traits also doesn’t necessarily validate the concept of alternative genders.  What these things say about me is that, like everyone else, I’m a real human being who is too complex an organism to place neatly onto this clumsy spectrum that is better suited to illustrating the differences between Betty Boop and Johnny Bravo than it is to understanding human identity.  As I see it, the fact that everyone deviates from the poles of this spectrum in some ways does less to validate the idea of many genders and more to invalidate the idea of gender as a natural kind.

And this spectrum is not just a poor basis on which to identify people, but I also see it as a strange preoccupation.  Identity really shouldn’t be something that must receive external validation in order to exist or bring satisfaction, and yet most people, cis or trans, are so tied up in their gendered interpretation of their identity that they are concerned with how that gender is perceived by others.  This is utterly alien to me.  Just as I’m not concerned with whether or not someone can guess my astrological sign (or my race, sexual orientation, national origin, etc.), I can’t imagine being bothered that someone perceives me as a man.  This is not only because there’s nothing wrong with being a man, but also because these demographic tidbits tell you nothing meaningful about a person.  My identity isn’t built on superficial things like race, sexual orientation, anatomy, or where I fall on some simplistic imaginary spectrum.  It’s built on things, such as being gregarious and speaking frankly, that make me who I am, traits which I feel lend me toward virtues I value.  These are things that I think matter about myself, that affect how I see myself and make me proud of who I am, and they are things I can be and do regardless of my sex or what time of the year I was born.

Is there any reason it should matter to me whether another person perceives me as a man, woman, or neither, provided they respect me as a person?  Is there a reason I should perceive myself through that lens at all?  At what point do we simply acknowledge that gender archetypes are not the best tool for describing people and not a basis on which to build a human identity?  Instead, we should acknowledge that an identity is something that is based on one’s personality and accomplishments, and any labels which have been constructed for us by a myopic and limited past society are nothing but superfluous to that process.

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Filed under gender roles, Uncategorized

A Critique of #NotAllMen

no one thinks all men

A lot of feminists have a bee in their bonnets about the hashtag campaign “not all men,” on the grounds that it detracts attention from the conversation asserting that men cause certain problems, and because, as they argue, exceptions don’t disprove the rule.

I suppose I’m glad that there are folks out there who at least acknowledge that ALL men aren’t responsible for the ills caused by some, but I maintain that #NotAllMen, far from being a distraction from a more important conversation, isn’t good enough at absolving men as a group from blame for social ills.  “Not all men” still implies that a significant enough proportion of men behave in these ways (oppressive, sexually aggressive, violent, etc.) to discuss it as a male behaviour in the first place.  The overwhelming majority of men do not do these things.  This would be like rebutting the racist statement “black people steal!” with “not ALL black people steal!”  This rebuttal would be questioned on the grounds that most black people don’t steal, and describing stealing as a black behaviour at all (rather than a human behaviour that anyone can engage in) is still racist.

#NotAllMen isn’t good enough because it still implicates men as a group, or the majority of men.  It doesn’t communicate the reality that the group responsible for the problems described is not a significant proportion of men, but rather a tiny minority of people consisting of men and women, and it’s just as sexist to describe rape or violence as a male behaviour as it is racist to describe theft as a black behaviour, regardless of whether or not you acknowledge “exceptions.”

I suppose hashtag campaigns aren’t meant for clarity or nuance, but far closer to the truth would be something more like #ASmallProportionOfMenAndWomenAreViolentAndDangerousButMostPeopleSimplyArentLikeThatSoWhileWeShouldCertainlyAddressItWhenItDoesOccurYouCanStillGoAboutYourBusinessFeelingRelativelySafe.  I know, it just don’t roll off the tongue the same way.

So, while the above meme is clearly presenting the image of throwing a bone to men’s advocates and those who oppose the feminist narrative, it still manages to maintain the overt sexism of any claim that all men do engage in the aforementioned behaviours.  OP is essentially saying that as long as she acknowledges that there is at least one man in the world who doesn’t, it’s okay to continue to describe men as a violent group whose behaviours justify fear, distrust, and hatred from women.  This is like saying, “I acknowledge that SOME Jews aren’t greedy!  I’m not an antisemite!  I just want to address Jewish greed as a social problem!”

If you follow my posts, and if you read the studies I link to, by now you probably know that the vast majority of men aren’t violent toward women, and that the small proportion who are is comparable to the proportion of women who are violent toward men.  I shouldn’t need to remind you that violence is not a male problem.  It is a human problem, with perpetrators and victims on both sides.

Sure, all women have met a male asshole, but this is a disingenuous way to frame the phenomenon of assholery, let alone the phenomenon of violence.  All people have met assholes of both sexes.  The existence of male assholes says no more or less about maleness or men as a group than the existence of female assholes says about femaleness or women as a group, just as the existence of some number of Mexican rapists in no way justifies Donald Trump’s implication that this behaviour characterizes the Mexican people.

By now, over the course of my blog, I’ve probably repeated most of these points ad nauseam, so I want to talk about another problem related to the debate between the #NotAllMen folks and the #YesAllWomen folks.

“All women” is a ridiculous claim.  This meme and a truly astounding number of people I’ve spoken to assert with a straight face that most or all women have had experiences with individual men that caused and justified fear.  I’ve written at length about the popular and horrendously inflated violence numbers that are peddled to us by the media.  The wildest of these is the infamous “one in three” statistic, followed closely by the “one in five” statistic, whose studies suffer from severe definitional skewing, double standards applied to classification of men and women who perpetrate or are victimized, sensational reporting, focus on unreliable lifetime data, biased or small samples, poorly worded survey questions, and a number of other methodological problems and biases.  But even if we take the highest and most skewed statistic, 1 in 3, at face value, this still falls remarkably short of “all women,” or even “most women.”

This is important, because there is a very popular narrative that male bad behaviour toward women — everything from disrespect to discrimination to violence — is institutionalized, culturally acceptable, and ubiquitous.  Women are taught that they should be afraid of passing strangers, that they should be cautious when men approach them or are in the same spaces as them.  We’re taught that strangers want to hurt us, that there are gatekeepers throughout education, business, and academia who seek to prevent us from success.

We are taught to expect men to hurt us, even though the majority of men won’t hurt anyone, and the majority of women won’t be hurt.  We are taught to expect to be paid less for the same work, even though apples-to-apples comparisons show that in much of the country the truth is the opposite.  We are told to expect discrimination against us that harms our careers, even though only ten percent of women, according to Pew Research, believe they have ever had a negative impact on their career due to gender discrimination, and even though some studies indicate that many women enjoy discrimination in their favour in the workplace.  We are taught that we live in a culture that condones violence against women, even though the reverse is closer to the truth.  We are taught that the criminal justice and social work systems will treat us with disbelief and ridicule if we try to report violence victimization, even though these systems are so dedicated to protecting women from men that it routinely treats male victims as perpetrators, and even though we lock away enough innocent men that one small organization has already identified and exonerated hundreds based on pre-existing DNA evidence alone.  We are setting women up with expectations of harms they are unlikely to encounter, and this itself harms women.

We have been taught to be paranoid in public spaces, on edge with male friends, suspicious around potential male partners, and to feel a complete lack of bargaining power with male employers and coworkers.  We are teaching our young people to live in fear, and I have met many women who have swallowed this narrative wholesale, who are very much afraid.  This alone is a crime against women.  There is no good reason to be afraid of an entire demographic of people, and I think we can all agree that part of a good life is being able to relax and enjoy your time, rather than being hyper-alert and fearful of others.

When I see this false narrative repeated over and over, and I see the number of women who believe it so wholeheartedly that they are desperately upset, I can’t help but wonder:

How many women are raped, assaulted, or discriminated against, and do nothing about it?  How many don’t report it, don’t go to the police, don’t talk to HR, and don’t try to seek help because they assume that what happened to them is so common and culturally supported that no one will help them?  We are teaching young women not only to be afraid of others, but to believe that there is no recourse for them if they are actually victimized.  Would you report your rape or domestic assault victimization to the police if you thought they’d blame you for it?  Would you talk to HR about sexual harassment or discrimination if you thought they supported it?  This BJS study shows that many women don’t, and that the proportion is growing of female victims of sexual assault who have this fear of the system.  From 1994 to 2010 the proportion of female victims who did not report due to the belief that the police couldn’t or wouldn’t help them increased from 8% to around 15%, almost doubling.  I imagine it is no coincidence that this increase seems to have coincided with an increase in the prevalence of activists claiming that we live in a culture that accepts or condones victimization of women, and that police and social workers routinely blame and shame women who report, claims for which in ten years of research and dedication to these topics I have found not the remotest shred of substantiation.

These toxic misconceptions aren’t just harming women’s ability to comfortably move through the world.  We are teaching women an ideology that, if believed, will cripple their ability to seek help if something terrible happens to them.  What a horrible thing to do to women.  This narrative of all men, or most men, all women, or most women, needs to be dismantled and set on fire, not just because of the flagrant misandry that underpins it, but also because of what it does to the quality of life of the women who believe it.

The fact that the harm done to women by this fear mongering and rampant misinformation isn’t a major feminist issue alone makes me highly suspicious of the feminist movement.

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On Gender and History

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I’m really surprised that I haven’t written on this yet, since it’s something that so fundamentally underpins my perspective on gender issues and relations. Unsurprisingly, my view of gender, history, and power is not the commonly accepted view. I don’t see men and women as part of a gendered hierarchy by which women are subordinated under men’s power. And even more controversial, I don’t think it has ever been that way.

Gender roles are and always have been a division of labour by biological aptitude, a set of reciprocal entitlements and responsibilities under which neither gender was objectively better off than the other. If women can be said to be oppressed by their expectation throughout history of motherhood and relegation to the household sphere of duties and childcare, despite their entitlement by virtue of being female to any protection and provision their male relatives could provide, then I see no reason not to say that men were equivalently oppressed by the expectation of hard and dangerous physical labour, providing for their families, and participation in war, despite being entitled to more overt political rights in some socioeconomic groups. Even in modern times, can we really say that the women who are not allowed to drive or leave their homes without an escort in oppressive theocratic nations are definitively worse off than the men who are tasked with going out into the very dangerous world and enduring hard labour to provide for them, or drafted into the military as adolescents or children? Gender roles aren’t unilaterally harmful. They’re restrictive and harmful to everyone, especially under pre-industrial or third world conditions.

Sure, women didn’t have individual property rights until fairly recently in history, but they had the right to occupy, use, and benefit from the property of their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons, who were tasked with providing them food, shelter, and protection. Women didn’t have overt political rights, but they ran their households, which gave them influence over their husbands and sons at home. Further, almost every woman had a household to rule, but very few men throughout history had the chance for any political power at all. Just because the tiny minority of politically or religiously powerful people in the pre-industrial world usually constituted far more men than women doesn’t mean that men had more power or advantage than women across the board. That tiny proportion of powerful men tells us very little about what it was like to be the common man or woman.  The average male peasant through the vast majority of generations had no more ability to influence his government or state than his wife did.  He had no more opportunities than his sister to become a lord or cardinal.

Under gender roles, women were expected to spend their days cooking, cleaning, and caring for children, and to risk their lives in childbirth. Similarly, men were expected to spend their days wearing out their bodies in fields. They were expected to risk their lives by protecting their families from intruders or wild animals, to go to war where many would experience indescribable suffering, and to be the last pulled out of a burning building. Yes, women were kept in the kitchen, patronized, and talked down to. But men were used as pawns whenever the king or lord wanted to squabble with neighbouring powers.  Women were treated, in many ways, like children, but men were treated like cannon fodder.  Both sexes suffered from a lack of freedom, respect, and human dignity, but in different ways.

The word “patriarchy” gets used a lot to describe this division of roles, but it seems simplistic and disingenuous to refer to the above scenario as a system of male dominance and female subordination or a system where men benefit at women’s expense. Men and women benefited in ways, but men and women were subordinated to their roles. Men benefited by having some property and political rights, and having their homes taken care of. Women benefited by having a near-guarantee of protection and provision, and exemption from compulsory projects like the draft. Men were subordinated to a role that destroyed their bodies in wheat fields and risked their lives on the battlefield. Women were subordinated to a role of labour in the home and the more dangerous labour of bearing children.

But neither of these roles were implemented out of spite. In a much older world, they were necessary. We didn’t have factories, breast pumps, baby formula, tractors, or many of the other modern conveniences that allow practical mobility along the gender spectrum. We had women, who could bear and nurse children, which made them incredibly important but also very vulnerable. And we had men, who were built with far more muscle mass and bone density, and thus the physical strength and constitution to dig ditches, work iron, build walls, and fight wars. Thus, over millennia women and men were separated, as they are in the rest of the animal kingdom, into roles that were suited to them by their respective unique physiological abilities. A man couldn’t stay at home and feed the baby even if he’d wanted to, and a woman couldn’t go out and lift heavy things for 16 hours, physiologically speaking. (Women could do less physically demanding jobs, though, and in fact, brewing and weaving were common enough female professions that the surnames Webster and Brewster have been historically passed from mother to daughter. Baxter – for bakers – is another example, and midwifing was a more or less exclusively female profession for most societies.)

Then the industrialization happened. Up sprung the factories, allowing traditionally male work to be done by just about anyone (including children – there’s a downside to everything). It is no coincidence that this was when feminism also sprung up.  However, by the time most women were physically able to do what had been men’s role for all of human history, it was a long established norm that each gender had their sphere, and ne’er the two shall meet.  So, like any other harmless deviation from long-established norms, they had to fight for their right to mobility across those spheres, even though the physiological barriers no longer applied. Which is to say, women weren’t kept out of male spheres because they were considered “less than.”  Women were kept out of male spheres, and men out of female spheres, because we had a very specific, socially enforced, bilateral division of labour.  You’ll notice that now, 150 years later, there is no stigma for women working outside the home, but men who want to do what was traditionally women’s work (from nursing and childcare to being a stay-at-home dad) still face a great deal of stigma and ridicule.

This is because when feminism arose, it sought to eliminate women’s gendered role, and the disadvantages associated with it. I am glad we have had a movement to liberate women from relegation to the home. I’m glad I can vote, choose any profession, go to school, buy a house, and use birth control. I’m glad for Roe v. Wade and the Equal Pay Act. But I am so disappointed in the unilateral nature of the movement that gave us these things. The feminist movement took a one-sided look at a complex and bilateral problem, and addressed half of it, the half that affects women.

Without a broader gender equality movement exploding into the mainstream sphere as feminism did, men are still held to exactly the same traditional male roles, from the trivial (it is normal for women to wear pants, but men cannot wear skirts without severe judgment) to the extremely disadvantageous: men’s historical role as protector means that men alone must sign the draft registry, although muscle-dependent swords and shields have long since given way to tanks and jet planes; and similarly men’s historical exclusion from the female sphere of childcare means that men lose the majority of custody battles, while still being expected to foot the bill for their children’s care, even though men could just as easily be the primary parent or women the primary breadwinner in today’s society.  Men protect, and men provide, and there’s very little else that they have the opportunity to do, because we have done nothing to change the role they filled when feminism started to address women’s.

Men also face a tremendous amount of disadvantage due to schemas associated with being seen as the actors, protectors, and aggressors of society.  For example, every criminal justice bias we point to as evidence of racism also affects men. Because men are seen as aggressors and agents, people who do not need protecting, people who commit but do not suffer violence, they are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced than women. Men on average receive 63% longer sentences than women, when controlling for the crime, criminal background, and other relevant factors. Women, on the other hand, are regularly dismissed as perpetrators by judges who do not believe such a thing could exist, or who know that no jury will convict a woman. This disparity evokes the days when a man could be arrested for his wife’s crimes or held responsible for the debts she incurred before marriage. Men were, and still are, viewed as actors and do-ers, while women, any time a man is involved, are viewed as beings to whom things are done.

This is especially troubling when we get into issues of domestic and sexual violence, which, due to the prejudices I listed above, we view as male-perpetrated acts of violence against women, even though they are committed at least as often by women against men. There are only two men’s shelters in the US, so when men seek refuge, they are regularly turned away. When men call domestic violence hotlines seeking help, they are routinely referred to batterer’s programs. When they report victimization to the police, they are about as likely to be assumed the primary aggressor and arrested as they are to be assisted. Never mind the disappointingly prevalent police officers who will unabashedly laugh in your face if you try to tell them a woman raped you.  This is a clear manifestation of the traditional belief that men can and should take care of themselves, be stronger than those who would try to attack them, and protect others.  A man who cannot defend himself from an assailant is not a protector, and thus renders himself invisible or worse.

For some background information, the MRM is fundamentally a human rights movement that seeks to dismantle men’s traditional roles, not a group of outdated traditionalists as the popular myth suggests. An MRA is necessarily opposed to gender roles, which are the cause of most of the issues we raise. It is important to understand, for example, that we as a society permit men to be drafted, circumcised, and socialized to take dangerous jobs because their well-being was not and is not valued under a gender role system. They are labourers and protectors, not the protected.  It’s “women and children first,” “end violence against women,” and headlines like “60 Confirmed Dead, Including 4 Women;” not “save as many as you can,” “end violence against everyone,” or “60 Confirmed Dead, Most of Them Men.” It’s #bringbackourgirls, not #avengeourboys.

Men’s job, according to their gender role, is to wear down their bodies to provide for their families and risk death to defend them. In centuries past, we couldn’t afford compassion for people in that role.

This goes well beyond “patriarchy hurts men, too.” If we lived in a system adapted for men’s benefit at women’s expense, in which women were seen as less than, men wouldn’t be the majority of the homeless, overworked, and suicidal. They wouldn’t be asked to sacrifice themselves in mines and on oil rigs so that their wives and daughters can have food on their tables.  They wouldn’t get half the federal funding for their cancers that women get for ours. They wouldn’t get their genitals cut at birth, while girls are protected by law and basic human decency from ever having to experience that. Men would always have access to their children, and they wouldn’t be extorted for their care when women have every reproductive option available to be or not be a mother. In a patriarchy, women would be punished, not ignored or enabled, for raping or abusing men. Women wouldn’t be the only victims we care about, and men wouldn’t be the majority of those shipped off to die in times of war.  In a patriarchy, men, not women, would be the group whose issues get attention and redress, rather than an elaborate network of women’s organizations and government initiatives forwarding women’s issues while widespread censure and protest stand in the way of the same progress for men.

The popular understanding of gender roles is skewed and one-sided. Patriarchy Theory is a polemic oversimplification that ignores half or more of the gender issues we face as a society. Men didn’t make this happen. They aren’t accidental casualties of their own arrogant folly. They are and have always been just as much a victim of the narrow and now-obsolete system of gender roles as women.

The only difference is that we’ve spent the past century and a half addressing women’s side of the problem.

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Filed under antifeminism, feminism, gender roles, men's rights, patriarchy, Uncategorized