Let’s look at two classic sexist and oppressive stereotypes.
The one you probably know about:
Women are expected to be beautiful. They are objectified on this basis, and pressured into fulfilling this expectation, often leading to unhappiness. If they fail, they are treated as less of a woman as a result, and will generally be treated worse and will find it harder to find friends or a partner.
The one you probably don’t:
Men are expected to be successful. They are objectified on this basis, and pressured into fulfilling this expectation, often leading to unhappiness. If they fail, they are treated as less of a man as a result, and will generally be treated worse and will find it harder to find friends or a partner.
This is what we were naturally selected for in the early days of our species, and the commercial society that we live in has just made both expectations ridiculous. There is also, thankfully, now a slight overlap (successful women and beautiful men are appreciated), but for now the two sets of expectations can still be seen as quite distinct.
Now, let’s see the four ways this bias can cause suffering:
- Women who aren’t beautiful are at a disadvantage
- Men who aren’t successful suffer are at a disadvantage
- Women who want to be successful are at a disadvantage
- Men who want to be beautiful are at a disadvantage
So why do we only care about number 1 and 3? Why don’t we notice that misandry is the equal and opposite partner to misogyny, and that the existence of two roles necessitate that the two means of oppression are closely linked and never act alone? Why don’t we acknowledge that the patriarchal stereotypes oppress men too?
Well, there’s another stereotype.
You’ll have heard of this one too:
Men are strong, women are weak.
In normal life, this again oppresses both men and women equally and oppositely. Women are patronised as weak and find it hard to succeed as a result. Being considered ‘strong’ is not inherently good, however, and so men suffer as well. On the surface it seems like being allowed to lead and fight and succeed is pure happiness and privilege, but it’s expected, not allowed. Men are expected to lead, and fight, and succeed. We’ve looked at how the last one causes suffering above, and a quick glance at history shows that the first two stereotypes have been fatal for literally millions of men who have been forced to compete and kill one another, whilst ‘weak’ women were excused. Privilege, once again, works both ways. Even today men are expected to fight, are given the more dangerous jobs, die earlier as a result, are rejected and seen as less of a man if they aren’t powerful or wealthy, are constantly ridiculed if they don’t live up to the tough guy stereotypes, and face the issue of chivalry (which, in its extreme cases, can be fatal). So yes, surface impressions aside, these stereotypes aren’t great for anybody.
Outside of ‘normal life’, bias against men gets worse. You see, these stereotypes bring connotations, and will therefore be translated for purpose. When the purpose is justice - including both legal justice systems and activism for social justice (including, unfortunately, the gender equality arena) - this is a big issue. ‘Men are strong’ becomes ‘men are the more likely violent criminals’, and ‘woman are weak’ becomes ‘women are the more likely innocent victims’. In a court of law this can lead to bias, and men face unfairly disproportionate prosecutions as a result.
Other systems of justice fair little better. Feminism, the dominant voice for gender equality, is unfortunately made up of individuals who are just as biased as an jury - and once again, men suffer. Feminists are also more inclined to see men as the aggressor and women as the victim. This leads to the model of men oppressing women to be adopted for all sexism, and that in turn leads to the dismissal of numbers 2 and 4. Male suffering is dismissed, and so once again men find it much harder to find justice; whether this is in individual cases (feminists, like the rest of us, are much more ready to see men as rapists rather than rape victims, and that causes real issues) or in terms of the bigger picture (blaming men for the patriarchy is not cool, because not only does it stop egalitarians from fighting the big problems with misandry, but it encourages them to add to it by perpetuating wholly unwarranted anti-male sentiments).
Lots of men seeking justice therefore choose to reject the feminist movement for one which actually addresses their needs, such as anti-feminist egalitarianism or equalism or masculism. I chose both, and identify proudly as both a masculist and a feminist - but if you are to walk in feminist circles, be wary. The moment you hear the mocking sarcasm of ‘what about the menz?!’, or the apathetic dismissal of ‘mansplainer’, or lazy exclusion on the basis of ‘male privilege’ (as if female privilege isn’t an equal obstacle on issues concerning both genders), then you’d do well to get out of there. Anti-masculism, and the misandric stereotypes which cause it, are alive and well in the feminist movement. Handle with care.
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