Saturday, 30 July 2011

Patriarchy shmatriarchy

I hear a lot about patriarchal oppression within feminist circles, and in my opinion, I think it's largely a load of hooey.

This is not to say that I don't believe that patriarchy has been around for the vast majority of our species' time on this planet--of course it has. And this is not to say that I believe women haven't suffered from oppression throughout the course of history, or that strict enforcement of gender roles isn't harmful to individuals.

But the feminist interpretation of patriarchy as a system of oppression of women...it seems to be kind of wilfully detached from the reality of human history. It seems like a concerted effort to marry the idea of patriarchy with the concept of oligarchy into a single two-headed, double-penised beast known as Patriarchy Theory. This marriage of two completely disparate sociological concepts is, to feminists, a self-evident truth, simply because the majority of the agents of the oligarchy are, and always have been, male.

Oligarchy IS indeed a system of oppression, where the majority of real power and influence is held by a small network of individuals and families, who depend on the subservience of everybody else. While it may not always include barbed wire, machine guns and a police state, it is designed in such a way as to suck resources from the masses and funnel them, and the power they afford, to the members of the elite.

Because those elites have such power, they are able to influence legislative policy in such a way as to maintain and increase their power. And yes, the US is an oligarchy--it may be a democracy, where individuals are able to cross lines of class between modern serfdom and the top tier, but the 500 richest individuals in the US hold as much wealth as the bottom 150 000 000 combined. That, my friends, is oligarchy.

Oligarchical power structures, by their nature, tend to be self-perpetuating. As the saying goes, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, usually until someone says something about peasants and cake, something snaps among the masses, and the pitchforks come out. Given how well off even the least wealthy members of western civilization are (children aren't dropping like flies for lack of a loaf of bread), that isn't likely to happen anytime soon. Oligarchy is the root of classism, and classism is the root of much of racism, and yes, sexism as well.

Patriarchy, however, is not an inherently oppressive idea. It is simply a way that the base-unit of society--the family--was organized. And it's been the way that societies, large and small, have been organized pretty much since the dawn of time, and for good reason. Families were led by a male head of household, major decisions lay under the aegis of those family leaders, and lines of descent passed through males. That is, quite simply, all patriarchy is. And up until very recently on the continuum of human history, it was the most beneficial system for both men and women. And contrary to what feminists would have you believe, in the west patriarchy is mostly a dead system.

Feminists often point to capital P Patriarchy as the culprit behind all sexism, all oppression of women (though they're finally admitting that "patriarchy harms men too", which is something of a victory for common sense, however small), and the "Othering" of women by men. The way they approach the stark reality of most of human history is from the standpoint that men somehow consciously or willfully constructed and directed femininity for their own benefit, and that women just kind of had to go along with it because they were physically weaker. They presume that masculinity developed under the influence of men alone in such a way that it became attached to characteristics of agency, like strength, action, and virility. 

They believe men imposed this system on women, essentially Othering women as a class, and turning even the simple partnership of marriage into a contract of servitude and oppression of women for the benefit of men. What they fail to realize is that patriarchy imposed other characteristics on men than those of agency--disposability, utility, self-sacrifice and resource acquisition--and for the vast majority of our evolutionary past, women were the main beneficiaries and enforcers of these patriarchal gender norms.

Look at it this way. You have a rich man. This is his primary characteristic open for discussion, and he has all kinds of agency--he has flipping great wodges of money to purchase whatever he requires, servants to do his purchasing for him, to cook his meals, clean his house, maintain his vehicles, drive him around, and because he's wealthy he has friends and hangers on who "bask in his glow". Until his money is gone. And then he becomes C. Montgomery Burns on an episode of the Simpsons, unable to even dial a phone, standing in the supermarket for 15 minutes wondering if there's a difference between ketchup and catsup. He can't fix a doorknob. He can't microwave a Mr. Noodles. He can't even find his own clothes. He had agency, but it was dependent on his wealth.

This is a very tempting way to live a life. It really is. If you didn't HAVE to ever clean your own gutters or change the oil in the car or go out and risk your life killing and gutting an animal or defending your village from the assholes down the valley, why would you?

Men were, in many ways, all through human history, a servant class, not a class of oppressors. This is because even in the earliest stages of human evolution, we had an instinctive understanding of the ultimate equation. 10 women + 1 man = 10 babies, and that switching the numbers around pretty much meant the end of the whole shebang for us.

Dangerous work was the work of men, and it still is. Physically taxing work was the work of men, and it still is. Going out into the big bad dangerous world to get resources while women stayed safe was the work of men, and it still is. Those among our ancestors who were born without some pattern of these gender roles in their brains would have ultimately been unsuccessful wrt passing on their genes. The woman who decided to go hunt mastodon rather than staying home in the cave was much more likely to end up dying young.

And as has been demonstrated through genetic research, individual women were much more successful throughout the whole of human history at passing on their genes. 80% of the females who have ever lived had children. Only 40% of the males who have ever lived have done the same.

Because all those small innate gender differences feminists view as insignificant now, were generated and reinforced by one HUGE difference, and that is that females, not males, are the limiting factor in the perpetuation of any species. A human settlement survived through the toil and sacrifice (often of the lives) of its men, and through the safety of its women and children. This is simply the way things had to be throughout the majority of human evolution, and when they weren't, natural selection selected those individuals out of the species.

It's so easy to sit back in the comfort of our cushy lives right now and think that going outside the house to work is fulfilling, action-packed, exciting, kick-ass and an avenue to agency. But for the vast majority of our evolution, leaving home base meant taking your life in your hands--it was dangerous, physically taxing, and often ended in death. I lived in a wilderness area for 18 years. I know whereof I speak. We used to bring the dog on walks in the woods so we'd have something to throw at the cougars while the rest of us ran away.

Masculinity and femininity have indeed been bred into us, to varying degrees depending on the individual. Women developed a type of agency all through evolution. They had more reproductive agency than men have ever had (some social scientists estimate that double-digit percentages of men are raising children not their own, without their knowledge). And they had a kind of secondary agency, through the direction and manipulation of men. While a man used a scythe to get grain, the tool a woman used to get grain was...well, a man. While a man used a spear to defend his home from invaders, the weapon a woman used was--yup, you guessed it--a man.

I would guess that the average man has always had much less agency, even now, than most people believe. Is it agency if you HAVE to do it to survive? Is it agency if you're doing it at the behest of another person--whether that person is partner or child? And while feminists are busy deconstructing those aspects of masculine and feminine gender norms that have been restrictive and costly for women, women, on the whole, still seem perfectly fine enforcing male gender characteristics that are of benefit to them--utility, self-sacrifice, disposability and resource acquisition--and feminists don't seem that interested in changing this. In the advancement of women's interests, they've dismantled most of the benefits men enjoyed under patriarchy, while leaving the costs and responsibilities untouched. 

Feminists are infamous for looking at the past through the lens of the present. To take what the domestic and public spheres look like NOW, and apply that to their vision of history. But the nature of work outside the home was a very different beast throughout most of history than it is now. Feminists don't ask themselves what it might have been like to hew coal out of a tunnel by hand for 12 hours a day, or to cut hay by hand for 16 hours in the August heat before mosquito repellent or sunscreen were invented, or to split an entire winter's worth of firewood in the month before the snow fell. The majority of men's work in our past was as different from public sphere work today as a cauldron and a laundry mangle is from a digital, front-load washing machine. And because most of the few dirty, dangerous, physical jobs left out there are still the domain of men (and one which feminists are perfectly happy leaving that way), feminists have no yardstick by which to measure what being a man might have been like in the past, or that women were privileged to not have to put their hands to men's work.

On the microscale of society, men and women could be said to have oppressed each other--the whole concept of marriage could be considered a two-way street of oppression (if one were a "glass is half empty" kind of person, I guess) where both parties benefitted from their oppression of the other. A kind of cost/benefit arrangement where, human nature being what it was, could certainly lead to one party contributing more than the other and benefitting less. Sometimes that was the woman, but I'd have to say that it was probably just as often the man. But while marriage used to be a cost/benefit arrangement for both parties, women now reap disproportionate benefit while men pay disproportionate costs. And while women now work outside the domestic sphere, the 93% workplace death gap demonstrates that even feminists are just fine with men continuing to embody utility and disposability for the benefit of women and society. 

The application of the concept of Othering to gender norms is...a wilful blindness to the reality of human evolution. Othering is the offspring of colonialism, and last I checked, women had never had their own society where they were going along minding their own business, and a bunch of men invaded and took over. This simply isn't how it happened. Symbiotic gender roles evolved through an interaction between the importance of women as the limiting factor in reproduction, the extremely dangerous world we inhabited for the majority of our evolutionary past, and genetic paths of least resistance. Given the nature of what our world was like, patriarchy was simply the most functional, successful way humans stumbled on to deal with the world as it was, no more diabolical or purposeful than the way ant colonies or wolf packs organize themselves. Like democracy, it's the worst possible system, except for all the others. And when you consider the nature of the labor, sacrifice and demands placed on men in the past, I would guess that most women saw male authority as a fair trade for what they got out of the deal.

Patriarchy was, essentially, a collective, evolutionary human survival strategy. Arranging society that way created stability in a turbulent world--a world where a single loaf of bread could mean survival or starvation--and allowed us all our best chance to pass on our genes. And for most of history, people were too busy just surviving to tinker with such a successful system. This, I believe, is why gender roles are typically so much more strictly enforced in places where life is hard, cheap and soon over. Those roles offer both women and men living under extremely severe conditions the best chance of surviving long enough to create another generation. In other parts of the world, our lives are safe and relatively easy, and everything is much more relaxed.

That most oligarchical oppressors have been men rather than women is a result not of men being oppressors, but rather the result of men's gender roles, which are themselves a result of the path of least resistance in the way societies tend to organize themselves due to our biology and the fact that, up until very recently, almost no one had any time, energy, wherewithal or luxury to challenge their roles. The oligarchy does, indeed, have an interest in maintaining the status quo for as long as the status quo benefits the oligarchy. For the majority of human history, oligarchies depended on patriarchy to maintain stability and generation of resources, but any feminist who believes the world would be a kinder, gentler place under female rule would be advised to read a little about Elizabeth Bathory. Oppressors gonna oppress, no matter their gender.

If we're going to build a better society for everyone, we're going to have to let go of the idea of Men as the main oppressive force in Women's lives. It simply isn't how it was, and it isn't how it is, either. Am I arguing for a return to patriarchy? Absolutely not. I'm a bisexual, slightly genderqueer, divorced mother of three who writes dirty books for a living. I'm not interested in having my gender enforced, thanks. I have agency (inasmuch as my children allow it :P), and I'm not prepared to hand it over to anyone, even if it means I'd have an easier life. We as a society no longer have the business of bare survival as the dominant force in our lives. In the distancing of humans from the task of basic human survival, we are freer to explore our humanity, and consider the happiness of individuals as more important than just getting by. 

BUT. And this is a big but. I understand the reality of the natural world, and how different that is from what my life is like in a house, with heat, electricity, hot and cold running water, cars, frozen pizzas, toaster ovens, plastic, easy work, an overdraft and streets that are safe to walk on. I realize that in nature, life is hard, cheap and soon over, and that very, very few animals ever die of old age. And were we living in a post-apocalyptic dystopia where life outside of walls was as dangerous and brutal as most of raw nature is, and where hay would have to be cut by hand without mosquito repellent or sunscreen? I think I'd absolutely be okay with letting the men have their "agency". Being stuck at home ain't that bad if it means the gruelling, dirty work of survival belongs to someone else, and you get to stay alive.

Something to think about.

17 comments:

  1. Wow, this is so amazingly well written and insightful! Inspiring stuff!

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  2. I really enjoyed this, can you tell me what you think of the 'progressive stack'?

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  3. Hi HarveyVdarski, and thanks. :)

    The progressive stack is, IMO, a way of silencing either majority stakeholders or those who (are perceived to) hold power.

    If it were used with any sense of social responsibility, it wouldn't be that problematic--you let those who are underdogs speak their concerns first, because their voices count too, but they don't have the collective lungs and voting power to be heard unless a space is cleared for them. But honestly, it becomes a "What about teh menz" tactic to make any self-concern on the part of a powerful group (or a group that is perceived to have power, real or not) come across as not worth consideration.

    It's a tool to marginalize groups that are socially-sanctioned targets for hate--white and male being a huge one. The practical, real-world (rather than ethical or theoretical) consequences of this is that any group that is seen to have privilege is denied a voice even when they're being marginalized, which further disenfranchises them, and as long as you keep up the "but they're privileged" and the "but all these other people have bigger fish to fry" talk, well...there is just no end to the number of people who will be in the front of that line. Those who have a chance to speak to one issue, they don't go back behind the white males when it's time to talk about the next one--they get to go in front again. You spend all your time talking about "real" problems until the group at the back who's been told to shut up are so marginalized that helping them is like digging them out of a giant pit. And no one wants to help them even then, because they haven't even been allowed to speak up when hateful things have been said about them, or they've been vilified by those who have the floor.

    "Be silent while we turn the world against you" is really what it is, even if that isn't the intention. I heard there was a woman at one of the Occupy protests holding a placard that said "Eradicate Men". The longer men step to the back and politely decline addressing such things, the more acceptable it is to openly display and encourage hatred toward them as a group. And that hatred is coming from "oppressed" groups, so it's seen as either justified or harmless.

    I hate the idea of it. We're all people. We all have concerns and interests and problems, and regardless of how severe or not those problems are in the eyes of other groups, they deserve attention, right?

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  4. I found your writing through a link from The Punch discussion. Glad I did :)

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  5. Nope. Don't agree with your criticism of capitalism. Marx's ideology was condemned from the start by his belief that capitalism was a zero-sum game and that all money rightly belonged to the worker.
    He thought that the "poor were getting poorer" so that "the rich get richer"(zero-sum, right there).
    The fact is ; modern proletarians live like kings (For the record, I'm broke). Think about it : If Richard III would have given his kingdom for a horse, how much kingdoms would he have given for a TV ?
    If Marx saw us today, he'll admit his theory was bollocks. The elites aren't syphoning anyone.
    Feminists, despite what they say, no doubt influenced by Marx, still believe in the zero-sum power game. Be it in the home, or in the marketplace. "Make the personal political" is all about applying Marx's stupid economic war-theory to a personal gender-war.
    They added a penis to the beast. But the beast didn't even exist in the first place. Oligarchy shmatriarchy.

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  6. You make many good points, but gender roles aren't nearly as biologically determined as you think. You write:

    It is simply a way that the base-unit of society--the family--was organized. And it's been the way that societies, large and small, have been organized pretty much since the dawn of time, and for good reason. Families were led by a male head of household, major decisions lay under the aegis of those family leaders, and lines of descent passed through males.

    But this is wrong. It mostly is true for large, agricultural societies, especially ones using the plow, as some recent interesting research has shown: cultures using hoe agriculture have less gendered separation of labor. (The paper that article is based on also has some tantalizing conclusions about the transfer of gender roles, I recommend it. )

    But such societies have not existed since the "dawn of time": for by far the largest part of human history we did neither use plow nor hoe. We were hunter-gatherers.

    When the plow seemingly had such a large impact on gender roles, there's pretty little of gender roles left to be explained by decisions about hunting mastodons. And indeed, hunter gatherers have much less separation of gender roles than people believe.

    So you're doing us a disservice when you're saying it is "natural". It is "natural" only under the conditions of an expanding agricultural population, and it's culture that's driving it, not genetics (as evidenced by the more gender egalitarian hoe-using cultures).

    Am I arguing for a return to patriarchy? Absolutely not.

    You are a great ally to men, but you should beware getting your ideas about anthropology from gender traditionalists. They seek validation for their beliefs in biological inevitability, but the facts just aren't on their side.

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  7. A very insightful and relevant essay. As a man with a verbally abusive wife, I've offered my thoughts on my own blog about why men enjoy the degradation of women, particularly through pornography, and wrote a short piece from experience in response to a review of the new book on Henry Miller.

    As society becomes more post-industrial, the relative positions of men and women have changed greatly in favor of women. As men have been made redundant, and women have become dominant in offices and the liberal professions they still demand that men be capable of supporting them, while competing against them for agency. The problem is that there is just so much room at the top, so it does become a zero-sum game in which the presence of women makes less room for the men.

    Being the creative type, as opposed to the brawny type, I found the careers that were open to me increasingly dominated by women and left the country years ago to find other opportunities. After pursuing that career for fifteen years, I find that post-industrialization is making a lot of men redundant and employment policy now favors women in my chosen field. So I find myself, as an immigrant male with a family to support and a wife who insists on staying home, facing competition from native females backed by government policy. My friends and I, primary breadwinners all, worry for our futures, and the well-being of our children, of course.

    My wife, meanwhile, could not be less helpful or supportive. She thinks that a man is her ticket to the good life, would have me working 16 hour days if I could, and hates it that she cannot compete with the ladies in the uppity neighborhood where she demands to live.

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    1. Nothing has changed in favor of women OR men. Patriarchy is a concept that some men use to justify oppression of women and some women use to make their husbands feel all responsible and miserable. "My wife, meanwhile, could not be less helpful or supportive. She thinks that a man is her ticket to the good life,"

      I hope you can think over the real reason for the last quote now... And can reach to a conclusion that it has nothing to do with the overall welfare of women.

      The problem you face in your job sphere is again, not what we women determined. I don't know what your job is, but professions like teaching are said to be 'tailor made' for women because they get to take care of the house and the job too, is the nurturing kind.

      The questions we have here are why are jobs (whichever ones) predefined to be fit for a particular gender? Be it joining the army or the school? how about deciding according to each INDIVIDUAL and not according to 'what's-between-your-legs"?

      As long as we keep fighting the battle of the Genders, we will all only lose. How can both ends lose? Simple. Men and women are not on the opposite sides anyway. The reality is oppressed people are battling the oppressors.

      Your wife is abusive doesn't mean thousands of Feminists are going mad over nothing. Doesn't mean females are better off. Doesn't mean the rape, trafficking, domestic violence on women statistics are overrated.

      Just like there are some rapists out there doesn't make the majority of the men savage.

      " presence of women makes less room for the men. "

      Bang on! This is the concept of Patriarchy. Make more room for some men and women by slighting off most men and women based on absolutely irrelevant gender roles.

      This is exactly why women get lesser pay for the same job than men. And this is why more women than men have to keep dodging or give into sexual advances from the boss.

      Hence your justification about "why men enjoy the degradation of women" is absolutely ridiculous. You may understand how unreasonable your statement was if you get slapped by a random woman on the road because she was frustrated with some other males feeling her up in the public transport.

      Sorry I never found this flawed blog earlier hence I didn't see your comment either. I never said you're not on the 'oppressed' side. What I'm saying is, just because you ARE, doesn't mean women are not.
      The real war was never between real men and real women. All the best.

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  8. Harald Korneliussen makes a pretty good point. You can argue that it's a quibble, because if you'd said "since the dawn of what we think of as civilization" then most of that quibble would go away.

    Still, study of hunter/gatherer societies--which some would quibble is a form of civilization, but really, never was effective enough to form the vast enterprises that we think of as civilization such as cities, libraries, granaries, lifelong job specialization, armies, complex systems of trade beyond bartering--does indeed show that while there definitely are gender roles, they tend to be much more blurry. Although even there we can see gender roles still being quite real; for example, in most such societies, while women sometimes hunted men did most of it, and while some men gathered women did most of it, although you'd occasionally find the male or female who broke that mold without upsetting anybody.

    Also, study of hunter/gatherer culture has shown this: the more a group or tribe depended on hunting, the more patriarchal it tended to be, and the more it depended on gathering the less patriarchal it tended to be. The ultimate example being the Inuit (aka "Eskimo"), for whom about 99% of their diet was exclusively from hunted meat and fish for 9 months out of the year or more, and in which the outward status of females was lower (but men predictably suffered shorter lifespans and more injury--go figure!).

    To me some of this is a quibble, but it's worth looking at. Pre-agricultural societies do still have gender roles, but generally nowhere near as extreme as developed in larger, more complex civilizations.

    And since complex agricultural society is only about 10,000 years old, that does matter to evolution, because we've existed quite a bit longer as a species than that, and because 10,000 years is only when the first humans went agricultural, others came much much later (and some arguably still never have, although they're tiny in number).

    What this suggests to me by the way is that while gender roles are part of who we are as a species, our vast genetic inheritance probably allows for far more flexibility than we might suspect. For example, the universal imperative that women must be protected at all costs and men are disposable, while probably a tendency we all have, probably isn't a bright line in the sand. I like to think that that's so, when I start to despair that the more destructive of the feminist forces will always get their way.

    Because I am sometimes tempted to think, "we're completely hard wired this way, no one but mutant freaks like me will EVER view the cause of men's rights and men's issues rationally." But no, I do think the sweep of human evolution suggests it's not--entirely--so. I think protectiveness toward women is probably built into the species, but it needn't be quite so brutal as it has become in some areas.

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  9. By the way, I'd like to issue you something of a challenge. Consider doing one entirely positive essay on feminism, and keep it handy for those who consistently misinterpret you.

    Here's why I mention it: I was watching one of your videos the other night and my wife came in maybe halfway through it, and she became rather angry. So much so I couldn't get her to look at any of your other videos for context. Now why is that?

    My dear wife considers herself a feminist, and yet, is not particularly political in the sense that she keeps her head plunged into it. Instead she has experienced rather angry people using "feminist" as an abusive epithet toward her for expressing egalitarian points of view. My wife is the soul of decency when it comes to gender equity. She can't stand sexism toward men. She has seen, firsthand, the psychological and physical brutality of some women, and how men are often given the short end of he stick. She knows I'm a men's rights advocate and only rarely disagrees with me. We have one of the most egalitarian marriages you could hope for. But she's always believed that "Patriarchy" was fundamentally based on oppression of women and that it is feminism that works to defeat that—I think because it's so rare for ANYBODY to point out that this is a highly questionable point of view (although I intend to share this article with her, because I think you articulate very well WHY it is so questionable).

    Let's face it, in our part of the world the overwhelming message of media and academia IS all about female oppression throughout history and women overcoming and empowering themselves in the face of sexist oppression. I mean, I don't need to explain that right? It's EVERYWHERE, and perfectly sensible, intelligent, liberal-minded people cannot be blamed for thinking "feminism" is fundamentally about justice.

    None of this is to say you need to back down on anything. But it might help smooth out the rough edges if you have an essay/blog to point to that says, in clear language, "Look, here are all the great things feminists have accomplished that I'm really really happy about," without ending it with any massive "buts." Leave the "buts" for all the other vlogs/videos. ;-)

    Here's a quibble I have with you, and it might relate to my proposal/challenge. You write:

    “This, I believe, is why gender roles are typically so much more strictly enforced in places where life is hard, cheap and soon over."

    I think there may be a flaw in this assertion. I'm not sure that when life is nasty, poor, brutish, and short, gender roles need much in the way of authoritarian enforcement, because Mother Nature takes care of most of that for herself. While there's may be a little human authoritarian enforcement, mostly these roles just plain make sense and don't need enforcing any more than you need to force your kids to learn how to walk on their feet instead of their hands.

    Bu when there is a large social change, it scares and confuses the shit out of people. Not just those at the top of political power, but everybody. If you're one of those daring trailblazers, you find change thrilling, but most people feel lost and confused and threatened. And let's be clear, not all change is good. If evolution teaches us anything, it teaches us that the conservative impulse has a very effective survival advantage: while sometimes change represents a net positive, if everyone ran around wanting to change every social structure all the time the wheels of civilization would almost certainly fly off overnight.

    I cannot prove it, but I suspect that gender roles may very well have been most strongly enforced in our part of the world in the first couple of decades after World War II than they were at any other time in history. (continued in next comment)

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    1. I'm not going to do a positive essay or video about feminism. Quite simply because:

      "Let's face it, in our part of the world the overwhelming message of media and academia IS all about female oppression throughout history and women overcoming and empowering themselves in the face of sexist oppression. I mean, I don't need to explain that right? It's EVERYWHERE, and perfectly sensible, intelligent, liberal-minded people cannot be blamed for thinking "feminism" is fundamentally about justice."

      Feminism--its theory and dogma--is not fundamentally about justice. It's about a one-sided, unrealistic and completely bogus view of what the world looked like before feminist theorists came along to bestow original sin on masculinity and cast women as a perpetual victim-class. Even the suffragettes had plenty of hypocrisy to taint their cause. All such a video or essay would be is me telling pretty lies to people who already believe them.

      I will, in response to your wife's reaction to my videos, do a video about WHY I am anti-feminist, and what exactly I mean when I say "feminism" and "feminist".

      Good enough?

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    2. Ha! You don't owe me anything but sure, good enough! Your idea may even be better than mine. Stronger, less apologetic (and you have nothing to apologize for).

      There's kind of a larger motive to my challenging you on this: I've become convinced that for more reasons than I'd care to list (at least a half-dozen), the men's rights movement cannot get much further off the ground without the staunch of support of a good number of women. MRAs taking themselves out of the gene pool certainly isn't going to fix it. And women are a majority of the voters anyway. And for reasons that may be partly sociological and partly biological, if we do not find a way to kick in women's protective instincts toward their menfolk (and women do have these, I'm convinced), we can't win, because the chivalrous (and more negative) impulses of other males makes them unlikely to stand up for their brothers unless there are women (like you) who are there saying "I'm with you, brother."

      I would also point out that in other places you've been very eloquent about not calling yourself a feminist. That is completely your right. But similarly, I would point out that no one owns the title "men's rights advocate" or "masculist" either. Which means that, potentially, anyone calling themselves an MRA or a Masculist must in some way associate themselves with the screaming-in-rage misogyny that some in that movement express. The first time some MRA goes fucking apeshit and kills someone in the name of men's rights is going to fuck us all up. If everyone who calls themselves a "feminist" has to own Andrea Dworkin, Valerie Solanas, Betty Freidan, and Mary Daly, then we're going to have to own every apeshit misogynist--and I don't want to have to own all those people, even if I do fully understand the anger of some of them.

      I don't know if you saw it or not, but I quoted you in a piece I wrote for my blog (and for The Moderate Voice) on why I won't even use the word "feminism" in polite company in most cases. In company where I'm with a friend and we both understand what we mean, I'll use it. I might use it here because I know you won't mistake me either. But I find that in a larger audience, I'm better to never even touch the damned word, and I explain why here:

      http://deanesmay.com/2012/05/09/musings-on-the-f-word/

      Here's one thing I'm convinced of: there are women out there, and also men, who are right on our side on the big issues until the second someone calls them or someone they care about a "cunt" or a "mangina." And I wince when I see it, because I think, "wait a minute, we need some of these people." Not all of them, but, seriously, acting like he-men who are just going to go "on strike" is just a way to exit the gene pool and not much more than that, y'know?

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  10. Go back 200 years and while there would have been some "enforcement" of gender roles, rarely would you have to drill most gender roles into children. While some individuals would always have chafed at the predominant social order, most gender roles just made sense. Even if you had some tomboy who thought "I wanna go be a soldier," by the time she had her first pregnancy (most likely well before her 18th birthday!) such fantasies would have flown away. A boy who said "I wanna stay home and help mama sew clothes" almost certainly would have gotten a "Nuh-uh, we need your back behind that plow."

    I suspect that the stereotype of the angry father who says "Girls can't do that!" (and the forgotten but just-as-real mother who did the same) may have been more a feature of a society undergoing wrenching change than a centuries-old custom of enforcement. Which would probably leave a lot of feminists--especially feminists 10-30 years older than you and I--remembering a time when they were belittled and demeaned in inappropriate ways, and concluding that society was ALWAYS like that. I don't think most of them stopped to think, "Maybe my parents are so conservative just because they fear change."

    I look at Saudi Arabia as an example of this: you will have to work hard to find a society that is more authoritarian toward its women. But I don't think they were like that 200 years ago. I suspect they got that way because they saw the forces of modernity coming in and they decided that shit was scary--and in a non-democratic system, it was much easier for their government to brutally stop change than it ever was in our society, where free speech and free press and free elections are encoded in our cultural DNA.

    Something I've been known to say that drives some feminists batty is this: the most remarkable thing about women and the vote in America was just how little time it took for it to happen. Some have flown into an outright rage at me for saying that, but seriously: until the 18th century, almost no one could vote. Then, mostly only wealthy male property owners. Then, over the course of the 19th century, more and more men, and some women, were given the vote (Wyoming had women voting from day 1, for example). Then, after only a half-century or so of arguing about it, men gave all women the vote.

    Did I just say men gave women the vote? Yes. Women only started asking for the vote in any significant numbers in the middle of the 19th century. And only some of them asked. Other women found the issue irrelevant to their lives, while still other women said it was ridiculous. But by persistently just asking, and with a few brawls here and there, men within only a couple of generations ratified the 19th amendment, even over the indifference and sometimes outright resistance of some of their wives, sisters, and mothers.

    This will I think amuse you: I once drove two old-line feminists into a fit of apoplexy when, in referencing the 19th amendment, I said, "On behalf of my grandfathers who ratified the 19th amendment for you: You're welcome." Hey, I'm not above stirring the hornet's nest either. :-)

    I suspect that on the whole, gender roles were nowhere near as rigidly "enforced" (as in, "imposed by authority") 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 years ago as they were just 50 years ago. Although historically certainly there was some authoritarian enforcement, most of it just made sense most of the time. A lot of misandrist feminism may have its roots in an older generation of women who were more mistreated than their grandmothers and great-grandmothers and they just don't realize this.

    So maybe there's room to say "OK women of the feminist movement, here's where I thank you, and where I add no 'buts' to that." Just a thought.

    I love your blog. I wish I'd found it sooner.

    Cheers!

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  11. Are you Jewish? Shm-reduplication is very Jewish.

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  12. Hi,

    Do you have some source about your claim that 40% of men pass their genes along when 80% of women did ? I'm really interested by the matter.

    BTW, awesome writting in general. I'm happy to see that some people write actually some sensial stuff on the subject.

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  13. Do better research and think for yourself before you blog.

    For the flaws in this blog, they are way too many to list.

    Some of the most obvious flaws being your understanding of gender roles and the ulterior motive for the structure of society turning Patriarchal. (It was matriarchal initially simply because people are born out of women and only the mother's identity is obvious.) One long long time ago when 'bastard' wasn't a concept. Simple BIOLOGY was treated simply.

    The way you have portrayed the 'servitude' of men is flawed too. Of course men have disadvantages and so do women and this categorizing of gender roles came in with Patriarchy.

    Yes, I do write Patriarchy with a capital 'P'. I AM a Feminist because I believe that irrespective of what's between their legs, people should do what they're capable of and what they want to as long as they're not disrespecting other living beings.

    You'll surely differ from me on what Feminism is cuz you obviously don't know that True Feminism is not what I call feminazism.


    You kept focusing on the problems of men in an attempt to claim that women never had real problem in Society, well, there's no gender based radio button to choose which gender to oppress.
    The degradation of women IS Patriarchy. And this same Patriarchy makes men all responsible to make only a FEW MEN AND WOMEN all powerful.

    That IS Patriarchy. Oppression of women and MEN by other men and WOMEN too, with the excuse of gender roles.

    Feminism only opposes the idea of gender roles and Society's irrational expectation out of men and women.

    With real Feminism you don't need a separate institution for 'Men's Rights' because Feminism covers it. Anti-Patriarchy, Anti-Sexism and Pro-Choice are the mantras of true Feminism and we DO NOT stand responsible for how many people misuse it as a shield for their selfish acts.

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    Replies
    1. Hey, please, just tell us: why a mouvement which covers women's AND men's rights should be called "Feminism" ? Women are not the greatest victims of History. They were preserved form harsh conditions when men where diying for them and their children.

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