Category Archives: privilege

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

Women’s Rights Part 1: On Reproductive Freedom

I find myself more and more often repeating this sentence in debates with feminists: American women have more rights than men. To most people this is a shocking and unreasonable statement at first, due to how directly it contradicts conventional doctrine, but I think anyone reading this would have a hard time coming up with a legal right that American men and boys have in 2016 that women and girls do not (if you can come up with one, I’d love to hear it).

Now consider, for example, that baby girls have the right to bodily integrity, and are not permitted to be circumcised at birth. Or that women are not required to sign the draft registry at 18. Or that women and girls have access to shelters, hotlines, and other state-funded and prescribed services specifically geared toward them when they are victims of partner violence. I could write an essay on each of these, and I eventually will. This is the first in a series of essays that address cases of female legal privilege, rights that women and girls have in the first world that men and boys do not.

As if my ideas aren’t controversial enough, today I’m going to talk a little about abortion. More specifically, about reproductive rights.

This debate has been ongoing and ugly. Its emotionally charged nature has led it to become one of the more polarized topics of discussion our nation has seen. As a result, both sides have been reduced to absurdist straw men. Liberals who believe in bodily autonomy have been painted as baby killers who have no respect for human life. Conservatives who believe a fetus is a person have been described as flagrant misogynists who are pretending to care about protecting the unborn so that they can wage a war on women out of pure spite. This is a debacle that I’d like to think we’ll all be embarrassed by in a decade or two.

Personally, I fall squarely in the pro-choice camp. I think bodily autonomy is one of the most important human rights, and the freedom to choose to or not to be a parent is definitely up there too. Becoming a parent should always be a choice, one that is well thought out, decided out of a genuine interest in child-rearing, and never forced upon anyone by circumstance. I side with the (reasonable) feminists in that a woman’s right to contraception and abortion, women’s reproductive freedoms, should be secured, maintained, and expanded.

But here’s the side of the coin that almost never gets discussed: What about men’s? Even with the difficulties women face in this arena, we have far more reproductive freedom than men do.

First off, we have access to the overwhelming majority of contraceptive options, from pills and patches to shots, to IUDs and Nuvarings, to emergency contraception, and that’s just a brief summary. We can discuss if or to what extent these should be provided to us at low or no cost by insurance companies or the state, but the fact is that we have them. They were developed for our use and we are free to use them.

Should any of these myriad options fail us and we do become pregnant, we still have an array of options. We can choose to terminate the pregnancy (albeit with some difficulty, depending on things like location and wealth). We can carry the pregnancy to term and give the baby up for adoption. Or we can surrender the baby to a police station, hospital, or other safe haven, no questions asked (in most states, this is immediately considered legal parental surrender, and the infant is adopted as a ward of the state, at no legal risk to the mother), and we can do this or any of the above without so much as asking the father.

Alternatively, we can choose to become pregnant, have the baby, and raise it, needing no one’s permission to do so.

While it’s reasonable and admirable to fight to maintain these rights and make them more accessible to all women, in the most basic sense, we have the right to every imaginable resource in the process of deciding if we are parents or not.

Men aren’t so lucky.

In terms of contraceptive choices, men have condoms, and that’s about it. No pills, no shots, no patches, no implantable devices.  Granted, condoms are nice because you can see them, and most of us can feel whether or not one is in place. It’s obvious if a condom isn’t being used, is being used incorrectly, or fails. You don’t need to say that you trust someone to use a condom. It will be immediately apparent if they are not. This is not the case with women’s contraception. A man must trust that the woman he’s sleeping with is being honest about her contraceptive choices and is using them correctly. (This is not an accusation of deceit toward women as a group, by the way. Some women deceive their partners, just as some men do, but there are also women who are uninformed about the use of their chosen contraception. For example, not all women know that some forms of birth control are less effective while taking certain antibiotics.)

Legally, a man has no say in whether or not his female partner becomes pregnant, or what measures she may take to ensure or prevent pregnancy. She isn’t legally obligated to to adhere to his wishes, or even to disclose this information to him.  Should a condom break, birth control fail, or a female partner has been dishonest or poorly informed concerning her contraception use, sexual intercourse is treated as consent to fatherhood, even though it is not consent to motherhood. Obviously, he does not have the right to demand that she not become pregnant or have an abortion (which is admittedly reasonable – it is her body that is in question), but the only way for him to ensure he doesn’t have a child, with all its entailed responsibilities, is to be abstinent. She gets the final say on all baby-related decisions, and regardless of his opinion on the matter, he foots the bill.

A non-custodial father is responsible for child support regardless of his consent for the child to exist, regardless of his awareness of the child’s existence at birth. According to one Chicago judge, he can even be held responsible for the support of a child conceived with sperm he didn’t use for vaginal intercourse. The woman in this news report used sperm from oral sex to impregnate herself against her partner’s will, and the court has ordered him to pay $800 a month in support of that child. Even more outrageous, this expectation can apply even when the woman became pregnant by sexually assaulting the father, even when the father was a minor at the time of the conception. Sex with a woman, any sex, even non-consensual sex, is legally taken as consent to fatherhood.

I want you to take a moment to picture what the evening news report would look like if a judge had ruled that a female statutory rape victim must pay her rapist child support so that he can raise her child.

As a man, you can find out that you’re a parent, which you had no interest in becoming, even if the mother deceived or raped you, you owe hundreds or thousands of dollars, and whether or not you have that money, it’s a felony offense to fail to pay it. There are very few ways in which an American citizen can be imprisoned for poverty, but according to a 2009 South Carolina survey, one in eight inmates was incarcerated for failure to pay child support. That’s over 1200 people in the state of South Carolina alone, just in 2009, who were imprisoned for the heinous crime of having sex while poor.

A friend of mine (who has given me permission to tell this story) has been arrested on such charges. I’ll call him Mike. The child in question had been the result of an unplanned pregnancy, conceived long after he and the mother had discussed that Mike wanted no part in fatherhood, but she decided that she wanted to keep the baby. When the child was born, the mother, who did not live with Mike, agreed to take care of the infant herself, needing no help practically or financially, until she discovered that in order to access services like Medicaid, she needed to make an attempt to collect child support from the non-custodial father. She filed the claim and an amount was set. He was far too poor to make the payments by any reasonable standard, working a minimum wage job and barely making ends meet before child support came into the picture, but that didn’t stop the state trooper, who pulled him over for a dead tail light, from arresting him and carting him off to the county jail, where he was stripped, searched, and thrown into a cell for two days, most of that time having no idea why he’d been arrested in the first place. Mike has emphasized to me over and over what an unpleasant, confusing, and dehumanizing process it was.

The day of the hearing, the judge was disinterested in Mike’s insistence that he barely made enough to support himself alone, and did not have the money they were asking for, or else he’d gladly pay what was owed. The judge was accustomed to and tired of such pleas.  Mike was told firmly that he’ll pay, or he’ll go to prison. After being released, he wound up dramatically cutting his own living expenses in order to avoid another arrest. This required moving from his apartment to a camper on a friend’s property and eating so little that at one point he was close to starvation. All for the care of a child he hadn’t planned, hadn’t asked for, and to whom it had once been agreed that he would not be responsible.

Later, the mother of Mike’s child admitted to him that she did not need the money to meet the child’s needs, and could have ended the requirement at any time after being approved for the health insurance. But she enjoys receiving several hundred dollars in the mail every month, and doesn’t want to stop the flow of free money. So every month Mike pays. He is fortunate enough to have a better paying job now, and is in no danger of starvation, though that doesn’t stop me, as his friend, from being angry with his ex for putting him through all this, and angrier with the system for allowing such exploitation.

Mike’s case may sound extreme, but there are millions of men across the country who struggle to pay court ordered payments on pain of imprisonment.  In fact, a majority of child support arrears are owed by the very poor, parents with an income of $10,000 or less, whose median dues are set at 83% of their income.  Imagine being charged more than three quarters of your income for the crime of fathering a child.

Is this shameful extortion really the best way to ensure that the children of separated parents are appropriately cared for? You can’t feed your child from prison, after all. And when you get out, it’s not so easy to find a job that will support both you and the non-custodial child. Less severe deterrents include confiscation of the delinquent father’s driver’s license, another measure that does nothing to assist him in collecting an income that would help him make his payments. These methods seem better designed to punish men for being poor than to provide funding for the care of a child.

Court ordered child support is a violation of men’s reproductive freedom. Just as women are permitted by law to surrender all parental rights and responsibilities even after a child is born, men should have this right as well: the right to choose parenthood, rather than being forced into it. Many MRAs refer to this concept as “financial abortion,” but I would compare it to the safe haven laws that women have access to. Men who wish to be in their children’s lives, as many fathers do, are free to financially support those children to the best of their ability, and men who have no interest in fatherhood should be free to waive all rights and responsibilities associated with a child that may have been conceived and born without their consent, just as a woman has the right to waive her parental rights and responsibilities.

As far as ensuring the well-being of the child after such responsibilities are waived, we already have many social programs for helping single mothers raise children they wish to keep, from Medicaid to WIC to housing and heating assistance to other grants, and I’d be happy to see these programs expanded, unified, and made gender neutral (since some custodial parents are fathers) to ensure that no child goes hungry. A child’s well-being should not depend on its parents’ willingness or ability to pay for its needs. Child support should be a social program, not a punishment for an unwilling father. This solution would be far more effective in ensuring that the child’s needs are met, without extorting the non-custodial parent into poverty and cyclical incarceration.

Now let’s take a look at the other side of reproductive rights: the right to parenthood. A woman needs nobody’s permission to be a mother. If she can become pregnant, she can be that baby’s caregiver, barring any extreme behaviours that any reasonable person would agree would make her an unfit mother (such as severe drug addiction or child abuse).

Men who are separated from their children’s mothers, on the other hand, are unlikely to see their children even as often as the mother does, even if he is paying child support. According to 2009 census data, only 18% of separated fathers are the custodial parent. More comprehensive data from 2007 showed that a mere 20% of fathers had equally shared custody.  More specifically, to counter the frequent feminist point that this disparity is because men simply do not sue for custody, in a five-year study of 2,100 Massachusetts fathers who sought custody, only 29% were awarded primary custody of their child.  Other similar studies have had different findings, but the fact remains that many custody courts favour mothers.  I have known many loving and devoted fathers who have been fighting ongoing legal battles for years just for the right to see their children at all.  Meanwhile, women’s rights organizations like NOW have unapologetic published stances in favour of a “primary caregiver presumption” for mothers, arguing that fathers who seek primary or equal custody of their children are merely abusers trying to get closer to potential victims.

Some feminists will argue that the expectation that a woman is more suited to parenthood than a man is an an unfair assumption of women, part of the female gender roles we should dismantle. I can’t say I disagree with this (being myself a woman without an ounce of maternal instinct to speak of), but this argument misses the point.  Yes, it is wrong to assume that a woman is especially fit for parenthood just because she’s a woman, but fortunately courts do not routinely award women child custody against their will.  They do, however, often reject men’s appeals for custody.

In short, despite the many salient and necessary conversations that are ongoing about women’s reproductive rights, men are left completely out of the discussion, even though their rights are far scanter.

A woman has the right to use a vast array of contraceptive options, become pregnant, terminate a pregnancy, give a baby up for adoption, surrender a baby to a safe haven, or give birth and raise the child, and all of these are her choice and hers alone. For a woman, sexual activity can be an expression of love, a source of physical pleasure, or an intentional step toward parenthood. She gets to choose. A man has the right to ask nicely, and cross his fingers and toes in the hope that his wishes will be considered.

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Filed under activism, feminism, men's rights, privilege, reproductive freedom, sexism, women's rights

On Gender and Privilege

I haven’t mentioned this much here, but I talk all the time about misconceptions people hold concerning privilege.  Privilege isn’t a binary.  A group that suffers a disadvantage in one arena may enjoy an advantage somewhere else.  The problem with the assumption that it’s a binary is that it’s used to make assumptions about people and dismiss their experiences.  This is one of the reasons I (and other egalitarians and MRAs) face so much pushback and friction when we discuss men’s issues.  Men are assumed to be the ones at the top of the hierarchy, always benefiting and always doing better than women, often at the expense of women, so when men and their supporters try to address issues that affect them, it’s often dismissed or even derided.  I’ve talked at length about the disadvantages men face when they are victims of violence, largely due to the fact that they are perceived as the perpetrators of violence.  But let’s consider some of the other consequences of this perception.

An interesting tactic I’ve seen occasionally in anti-feminism and men’s rights is to illustrate the bias and bigotry in certain parts of feminist ideology and its adherents by replacing any use of the word “men” with “black people” in tweets and arguments.

Some examples:

“Men are the greatest threats to women and children. Saying #NotAllMen is just a way to deflect the blame.”

“I hate #NotAllMen. All men have seen other men harass women. Stop saying #NotAllMen and do something about it! #YesAllWomen”

“If men get upset by #KillAllMen, then maybe they could start by stopping raping, abusing, and murdering us?”

Just make a few simple changes…

“Black people are the greatest threats to women and children. Saying #NotAllBlacks is just a way to deflect the blame.”

“I hate #NotAllBlacks. All blacks have seen other blacks harass whites. Stop saying #NotAllBlacks and do something about it! #YesAllWhites”

“If black people get upset by #KillAllBlacks, then maybe they could start by stopping raping, abusing, and murdering us?”

And Presto! We have easily recognizable hate speech. This is a handy little litmus test for sexism. Is it a bigoted thing to say about black people? Then it’s a bigoted thing to say about anyone. This is useful because most reasonable people experience an immediate, visceral discomfort at the sight of blatant racism. Even re-writing those tweets with the racial edits made me compulsively look over my shoulder, and I’m sitting at my kitchen table. This reaction is so instinctive and immediate (for anyone who isn’t an asshole) that it’s hard to disagree when it’s used to point out the bigotry in a statement.

These all come from actual tweets, by the way, which are justified, presumably, by the belief that men as a group are, in fact, violent or oppressive. Sure, these are extreme examples, and you could easily write off the women responsible for these statements as hateful idiots (and they surely are) who don’t necessarily represent anyone or anything, but the perception of men as violent is as pervasive as it is damaging, and blatantly evident in women’s distrust of men (which I flesh out a lot more in my piece on sexuality and my piece on violence). At first, this little litmus test was merely amusing to me, and I applauded it for its efficacy, but then I started thinking about what parallels actually exist between our perception and demonization of racial minorities as violent or criminal, its effect on real people’s lives and livelihoods, and the similar stereotypes and assumptions we hold about men. After all, a great deal of women’s behaviours and perceptions are influenced by the assumption that men are violent or potentially dangerous, and as I’ve addressed many times, this perception does inform both policy and culture.

Let’s start by considering a couple scenarios. This first one comes straight out of Karen Straughan’s blog (sorry, Karen, if you ever read this, but it was such a fantastic example that I couldn’t pass it up): Imagine I’m a woman walking down the street at night. I’m headed home, I’m alone, it’s late, and suddenly I notice a man walking behind me.  Now I’m a little uncomfortable.  Maybe I feel a bit more wary, or even unsafe.

This is common experience. Women are often uncomfortable in the presence of strange men, especially when they are otherwise alone, because they are aware of a potential for danger. Many men are so aware of this fear that they will cross the street or change their route out of respect for the woman, not wanting her to feel afraid that he is following her or planning to rob or hurt her.

Here’s another scenario: This time, imagine I’m a woman at a bar.  I’m sitting at a table drinking when a man I don’t know approaches me and starts to talk to me.  I find myself maintaining an arm’s length between me and the guy and keeping a much closer watch on my drink.

In the first example, you may have nodded along, having remembered times when you’ve been that woman, uncomfortable at night on a sidewalk. Maybe you weren’t having the conscious thought “he’s a man, and men are bad, so he might hurt me,” but you were aware that sometimes men hurt women, and that sounds like a pretty reasonable cause to be uncomfortable. And in the second example, many reasonable women would be wary of their safety and their drinks around strangers, and some women would tell you that this is due to the fact that sometimes men are sexually aggressive or violent toward women. Again, at face value, this sounds rational, not hateful or biased. It is true that sometimes men hurt women. That’s a fact. But let’s go back to that litmus test for a moment.

What if I were to tell you that I was walking home alone last night, and felt uncomfortable because I noticed a black person walking behind me? Say I was walking for a while, hoping that black person would cross the street so that I could feel more safe, but they didn’t, so I eventually just took my turn a couple streets early. What? I’m not being racist. Sometimes black people rob white people. It’s a fact, that’s all.

And maybe I was walking home from the bar. Maybe at that bar someone came up to me while I was drinking. I felt the need to keep physical distance from them and careful watch on my drink because that black person was a total stranger, and sometimes black people are sexually aggressive or violent toward white people. Just look at Bill Cosby.

Yikes.  I felt uncomfortable writing that just now. Did you feel kind of gross reading it? When we make statements like these about someone based on race, they are apparent in their bigotry and fallacy. Nobody would doubt my flagrant racism if I actually said those things to people, and I’d probably be corrected or criticized.  If I said them in public I’d probably also be the sort of person who flies confederate flags and asserts that everyone should speak American.  But when we make them about men, suddenly we are just women looking out for ourselves, and that inherent judgment is not even questioned. Making the judgment that someone is violent or means to harm you based on their sex is no better than making such a judgment based on their skin colour, and those assumptions can lead to real-world consequences.

For the record, I’m not advocating against watching your drink in a bar or paying attention to your surroundings on the street. I’m merely pointing out the bias when we do so based on gender, when we assume we are less safe because we have cast a certain group of people as the default predators. Just as most black people aren’t robbers, most men aren’t rapists, and assuming otherwise is playing into harmful and discriminatory stereotypes. Go ahead and keep an eye on your drink – that’s practical – but do it around everyone, not just one race or gender.

Maybe you’re not convinced that this comparison is fair. Maybe you see it as somehow different.  Maybe you’re asking yourself, “Well what’s the harm? Racial minorities are disadvantaged and mistreated by the system. There are institutionalized systemic biases that affect them. It isn’t the same to say these things about a specific race, because they aren’t in a position of privilege, like men, that we are attempting to dismantle with this type of language.”

It’s funny you mention that, because I did a bit of research.  Remember what I said about privilege and binaries?

What are some of the things we point to as evidence that some races suffer systemic discrimination? What are some trends that are cited as disadvantages people suffer on the basis of race?

For the purposes of the following barrage of statistics, consider these demographics: Men make up about 49% of the U.S. population, women 51%, white people 62%, and black people 13%. I focus specifically on these four demographics because some of the studies I found are not more specific in their delineation of race, and also because no reasonable person will argue with the assertion that black people suffer systemic discrimination and other well documented disadvantages compared to caucasians.

So let’s start with poverty, since that’s usually the first thing we point to when we’re talking about social disadvantage. According to a 2010 fact sheet published by SAMHSA, men make up about 62% of the sheltered homeless. A prior study cited within the publication placed that number between 67-80%. For comparison, the percent of homeless people who are black is listed as 37%, just slightly lower than the percent who are white (40.1%). Both men and black people suffer gross over representation in the homeless population, with men constituting as much as 4/5.

And when you talk about poverty, you’ve got to look at education. The most recent relevant Common Core data on high school graduation rates (2008-9) demonstrates a gender disparity of about 7% (73.4% for males, 80.6% females), and a racial disparity of about 18% (63.6% for black students, 81.8% for whites). And those disparities hold true, and more extreme, in post-secondary education. About 41% of college graduates from associate to doctorate level (in 2009-10) were male, 11% of graduates were black, and 71% white. Obviously the gender disparity here is less pronounced than the racial one, but it exists at every level, within every permutation. An interesting relevant fact is that the dreaded wage gap is beginning to reverse. Young, unmarried women are starting to out-earn their male counterparts (particularly in cities) by a national average of 8%. In some cities, that number climbs to as much as 21%. Could this be influenced by men’s dropping graduation rates? Perhaps many of these young men and women are the recent graduates (or non-graduates) of that post-secondary trend entering the work force.

Or how about violence victimization? I had to do some digging at the Bureau of Justice Statistics to make these comparisons (hence the inconsistency in the types of statistics), but men suffer violent crime at a rate of about 1.2%, versus women’s 1.1%, whites’ 1.1%, and blacks’ 1.3% (as of 2013). This is a slight over representation in terms of both gender and race, but let’s focus on a few more specific types of crime. If you examine violent victimization by a stranger (2010), men are nearly twice as likely as women to be victimized, at a rate of about 9.5 per thousand. Black people suffer these types of crimes at a rate of 13.3 per thousand, white people at 9.2. But homicide is the kicker (this time from the census). As of 2008, 48% of victims were black, 49% white, and all of 78% were male. Now that’s a disparity.

But wait, there’s more! Why don’t we take a look at the criminal justice system. Most conscientious people agree that black Americans suffer unfair treatment at the hands of law enforcement and the courts. After all, they are given on average 23% higher sentences than white people for the same crimes, were 28% of arrests in 2011, constitute 37.5% of the prison population, and are generally treated more harshly by law enforcement. This is such a widespread and serious problem that it has led to protests, extensive discussion about policy and corruption, and violent riots.

So you may be interested to know that men are given, on average, 63% higher sentences than women, are 74% of arrests, and make up 93% of the prison population. Men suffer a sentencing disparity that is nearly three times as much as the racial disparity, and are the overwhelming majority of American prisoners. In addition to receiving 63% harsher sentences for the same crime, men suffer a further bias: that same study, conducted by law professor Sonja Starr of the University of Michigan in 2012, found that women are significantly more likely than men to avoid charges and avoid conviction, as well as being twice as likely to avoid incarceration when they are convicted. When comparing equivalent crimes, criminal histories, and other relevant factors, men are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged when arrested, more likely to be convicted when charged, more likely to be incarcerated when convicted, and more likely to face a harsher sentence when incarcerated. For exactly the same crimes. And we wonder why almost all prisoners are male.

But it doesn’t stop there. In 2008, the BJS conducted a study of police-public contact. Police interactions with the public were analyzed from that year. This analysis more than hints at what we already know about police tendency to single out or be harsher toward people of certain races. While they found that black people had been stopped while driving only at a slightly higher rate than white people (8.8% vs. 8.4%), they were arrested at a traffic stop at a rate of 4.7% (compared with 2.4% of whites), had their vehicles searched at a rate of 12.3% (compared with 3.9%), and experienced a threat or use of force at a rate of 3.4% (versus 1.2%).

Now, according to that same analysis, men were stopped at a rate of 10% (versus women’s 7%), arrested at a stop at a rate of 3.5% (versus 1.4%), had their vehicles searched at a rate of 7.4% (versus 1.6%), and experienced threat or use of force at a rate of 1.8% (versus 1%). For those of you keeping count at home, some of these numbers show a significantly greater disparity than the racial one above. And remember that most of the instances of racial police brutality have targeted males, not females. In fact, according to BJS data, cited in an article about race and police shootings, less than 5% of arrest related deaths between 2003 and 2009 were female. For comparison, about a third were black (while the article doesn’t consider this a dramatic number, remember that this is nearly three times the percent of black representation in the population as a whole).

Bear in mind that most of these links come from organizations that rely on the Duluth model (indeed, the BJS states outright in some of the studies linked above that its statistics on sexual violence apply only to victimization of women and girls), so if there is bias between the lines, it is not likely to be in my favour. And yet, all these studies have demonstrated pretty conclusively that disparities in violent crime victimization, education, homelessness, arrest, incarceration, and treatment by law enforcement, all arenas capable of ruining lives or worse, follow similar patterns for gender as they do for race. Men suffer very much the same types of biases and discrepancies that we point to as evidence of a need to level the playing field for the races.

“But Jackalope!” you may be saying, “aren’t most of these gender disparities the result of male aggression and other cultural male behaviours? Can we really say they reflect an institutional discrimination against men?” To that, I’ll just go ahead and refer you back to my litmus test from earlier. You wouldn’t be saying “they bring it on themselves” or “they’re really just that violent” or “they don’t work as hard” if you knew I was about to replace every instance of your usage of “men” with “black people”.

It may be that men are, to an extent, more prone to crime than women due to some social or even biological factors, but our assumptions about men and violence, aided by the Duluth model which is entrenched in just about every institution we have to deal with violence, have led to a widespread bias in the very institutions we employ to identify, examine, and correct violence. Pervasive characterization of men as default perpetrators and criminals has led to men being treated as such, from basic police contact to arrest, to conviction, to sentencing, and I see no good reason to differentiate this from the way the cycle of bias against black Americans affects their treatment by the law. If the system treated men fairly, we wouldn’t see that 63% difference in sentencing for the same crimes (or the gaps in all the other steps of the process).  And the chasm between our innate compassion for women and cavalier attitude about the suffering of men has certainly exacerbated this problem.

Most people are vaguely aware of some of these trends, but write them off as the result of male behaviours and culture. Isn’t most violence male-on-male? If men want to be better educated, more financially stable, less involved with criminal justice, less likely to be the victim of violence, and viewed in a more positive light on the whole, if men don’t want to suffer stigma and bias, they should be less violent, work harder, and dedicate their energies more toward educating and bettering themselves. But male culture doesn’t lend toward those things. If they behaved differently, if they had different priorities, they wouldn’t have these problems.  If men want to be treated better, they should stop acting so darn masculine. But doesn’t that sound just a little familiar? I’ll let you apply that litmus test on your own if you need to.

So am I saying that being a man in the U.S. is exactly the same as being a racial minority? No, not exactly. Every group (indeed, every individual) has its own circumstances, advantages, and disadvantages. But most of the disparities we point to in order to illustrate institutionalized racial discrimination affect men, too, sometimes significantly moreso, as you read above. And yet nobody seems to be all that concerned with the institutionalized sexism in these arenas (I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that it benefits women).  Not only does nobody seem concerned, most still assume that men are in a position of unambiguous privilege

But even though women have a staggering advantage in these areas that would make Jezebel shit its collective pants if it were reversed, a quick google of “women and criminal justice” has turned up this total garbage, this propaganda-riddled study, and a slew of other articles and editorials that use statements directly contradicted by the statistics above, decrying the small rate of incarceration women do experience, casting women as the victims (what else is new?) of criminal justice bias and mistreatment, and urging for even greater leniency on behalf of women.  These articles vie for leniency by arguing that many women are driven to crime by desperate circumstances, have a history of trauma, addiction, or mental illness, or are mothers who shouldn’t be separated from their children.  But they don’t seem to consider the fact that many male criminals are also driven to crime by desperate circumstances, have a history of trauma, addiction, or mental illness, or are fathers.  Why are these arguments only being made about women?  Since the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and the highest prison population, why aren’t these arguments being made as an effort to limit the millions of citizens funneled into our prison system as a whole, instead of focusing just on the extreme minority of women incarcerated?

In fact, this directory of assistance programs has the nerve to exist, and appear on the first page of results, in order to aid women (yes, specifically women) who have been incarcerated to reenter the civilian world. By all means, let’s focus on the 7% of prisoners who aren’t male with hundreds of maddeningly specialized programs nationwide (California alone has 23, and Wisconsin has 10, to give you an idea) which funnel money, time, and effort into helping the proportion of the incarcerated population that may even need it the least. It’s pretty clear where the public priority lies.  Can you imagine if these articles and programs existed specifically for the aid and defense of white people?

Finding the comparisons I listed above took me more than a day of poring over reams of data and digging through many organizations’ publications, none of which were particularly easy to find, and most of which didn’t even have the information I was looking for. This wasn’t a simple Google search of “systemic biases against men”. (In fact, when I did search that, Google provided me with links about racial discrimination instead.) So why isn’t this forward in the gender equality discussion? Why does everyone still think men are privileged and women are disadvantaged, period? Not only are there no riots or protests about this, no #MaleLivesMatter, and no public outcry. It’s barely discussed at all, while similar trends for a different group are practically provoking a sociopolitical revolution. And rightly so, since people are having their lives ruined and lost as a result. Those are some very real, tangible, tragic social consequences that can be traced pretty neatly back to stereotypes and unfair perception of a group as violent and criminal. But when the same information applies to men, it’s suddenly on the back burner. This could be one of the most pressing gender equality issues of our time, so why is nobody talking about this? I guess catcalling and manspreading are just that much more important.

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Filed under criminal justice, discrimination, men's rights, privilege, racism, sexism