Gender discrimination: two wrongs don’t make a right

Prejudice against men is real and harmful

Graphic: Caroline Norman

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Meg Bergeron

Many feminists think misandry isn’t real. Not even my spellcheck thinks misandry is real. But it has become painfully obvious to me, as I pay closer attention to today’s social issues, that it is.

Women have been hurt – a lot. This is not news. But amidst all this hostility, men are being hurt, too. I once read an article arguing that misandry couldn’t possibly exist because women have been hurt so much more, so it must be that discrimination against men just doesn’t count. This is absurd; it’s not a contest.

I find it incredibly hypocritical that women wishing for equality in the world think it is okay to perpetuate negative stereotypes of men. I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t help. Discrimination can’t be used to fight discrimination; this makes us look petty at best and snowballs the issue at worst.

Just like misogyny, prejudice against men has become such an ingrained part of our culture that we often don’t even recognize it. I was taught from a very young age that “boys only want one thing.” It made me terrified of them. They became “the other”: people to be extremely wary of. I still struggle with this idea to this day. Clearly this notion has been damaging to me, but it has also been hurtful to the men in my life who’ve deserved more of a chance than I’ve allowed myself to give them.

So what needs to change? What exactly is the problem here? Well, the discussion around rape culture is as good a place to start as any. I wouldn’t be the first person to comment that as much as we need to destroy the hell out of rape culture, we need to be mindful that some people are going around implying that men are beasts bound by their biological impulses, unable to control themselves. My dad has trotted out the same old line that “a woman wearing provocative clothing around men is like wearing a meat suit in a shark tank.”

I’m all for caution and responsibility, but come on now. He was unaware of what a sexist statement that was. It blatantly compares men to animals. Let’s at least give them enough credit to think of them as actual human beings. Men are no more inherently animalistic than women are inherently bait. Everyone needs to have some common sense in terms of their own safety, but to think of people purely in terms of their potential for evil is to enter a bottomless pit that will drive you crazy. Let’s come up out of the dark and see people for who they really are: good and evil, men and women, all of us equal and yet each of us different.

And, yes, men can be raped too, by people of all genders. The very idea that they can’t is in itself a horribly misandrist statement that does a world of hurt to male victims, who are sometimes even more afraid to come forward than women due to the stigma that goes along with it. Not only does this idea undermine the experiences of men, but it perpetually places them into the role of the perpetrator. Always the rapist, never the victim. You can just imagine the psychological damage this can cause.

Okay, let’s take it down a notch. When it comes to movies, men get the choice roles. They get to be complex. They get to be interesting, deep, multi-dimensional, and they get to be human. Women? They’re often the love interest, the quirky underdog who just wants to find a man, or the ass-kicker in a sexy outfit, and it rarely gets any more complicated than that. I share these grievances with many feminists. But while movies may be the domain of men, the opposite can be said of modern sitcoms.

Husbands on television are so often placed in the “idiotic fat guy” trope with the smart, sexy wife that it has become almost a rule. Does this make it okay that women aren’t properly represented in the movies? Not in the least. But I feel that men’s roles in this type of programming are nothing more than a misguided attempt at overcompensation. It’s reflecting our society in saying, “women have been put down for so long by being represented as being less intelligent that now it’s men’s turn to be portrayed as idiots.” A little respect on both sides would go a lot further than this naive tactic.

Elsewhere on television, you’d swear by the commercials that household chores were 100 per cent “women’s work.” I can’t remember the last time I saw a man on television use dish detergent or a mop. But while this view is archaic and disparaging for women, it also emasculates the men who do take on their fair share of chores. It’s a relatively small thing to be concerned about, sure. But it does have a way of reflecting the bias with which society views stay-at-home dads.

Feminism is about choice, so while some women are comfortably choosing to live their lives in this way, the men making the same choices are being made to feel as though they are somehow inadequate as men. Men are instead put under so much pressure to be the providers for their families that when they can’t or choose not to, for whatever reason, they may feel like failures. We need to stop separating contributions to the household based on gender, not just for the benefit of women but for that of men as well.

Look: it doesn’t really matter that women have had it worse. It’s not a childish game of boys versus girls. This is not about who gets hurt the most; it’s about leading by example, becoming the change we want to see in the world. We all have a very long way to go, and it’s an important part of being treated with equality to treat others the same way in return. We need to show compassion towards men and most definitely towards each other. We need to be mindful that what hurts us as women often also hurts men.

Let’s stop blaming each other and just heal. We cannot let our guard down completely, not yet, but keeping it up a little too high is preventing us from seeing the good on the other side.

Remember, feminism is about equality.

7 Comments on "Gender discrimination: two wrongs don’t make a right"

  1. Great article Meg. I have often used this analogy when discussing domestic violence. Feminist say that because 1 in 3 women experience it, we must discount the 1 in 7 men. This is like saying if two daycare facilities have an accident, and 4 kids are hurt in one, and 10 at the other, we must only investigate what happened at the one where 10 kids got hurt. NO! We much think of all the kids.

    The problem here is that feminist, and for the most part their detractors, have built massive organizations around their ideologies and now make a living from their ideology. So, they HAVE to maintain a strict line and it is helping nobody.

  2. I thank you for this article. It really expresses to me some feelings I’ve had, that I could never articulate. I do believe that stereotypes hurts both men and women. That they place people in a box. A lot more men are comfortable with that box, and if they aren’t, they try to hide it leading to the psychological damage you talked about. Then they try to hide that, leading to more damage. I notice this back and forth in my husband. I see how stereotypes hurt him. I see how he can feel at times inadequate with all these things. He is hearing impaired to and that hurts his view of masculine even more. I try to tell him what I want from a man, but I myself haven’t figured out what I want from myself yet. I’m just coming out of these cultural stereotypes and I’m 4 1/2 years younger than he is. Sure I focus on female problems. I am a woman, that is personal. I just understand maybe his point of view a lot better now. Thank you!

  3. Factsseeker | October 29, 2013 at 9:52 pm |

    The deeper problem reflected in this article is more sociological, but just as serious. Throughout history even civilized societies needed to have one group to hate, to blame for everything. The hated group had to be identified as intrinsically evil and not deserving of human sympathy. In North America these target groups have historically been blacks, jews, hispanics, muslims, first nations peoples and communists at different times. The hatred has resulted in these groups being denied human rights. Today, the hateful target group is male human beings (except those male ‘heroes’ who are prepared to sacrifice themselves exclusively for women’s rights). Societies seem to need stereotypes for simplicity but also to satisfy a sadistic need to hate and control others. There is no other explanation for the banal application of gender stereotypes by the justice system and the media in denying male human rights. Other than those people who have lived in caves, everybody now knows that while some women are gentle, caring souls, other women today are monsters, egotistical, ruthless and cruel. The same applies to men. Some men are monsters. Others are just decent human beings. Those of our leaders in society who use the gender stereotype are doing just what the nazis did and what all societies have done throughout history. But we are now in the 21st century. Surely we can now move into an era of social justice where all human victims are protected equally by society ? Or are we still trapped in that primitive sadistic mode of needing some group to hate ?

  4. Thank you Meg. Well said.

    I personally think your last sentence is wrong, but I’ll give credit where t’s due… this is the first feminist article on men’s issues, outside the group iFeminists, that I’ve read that didn’t feel like it’s simply paying lip service to the issues in order to redirect the focus back onto women. Thank you for that.

    There is an article** on men’s issues that had a particular quote that realy stuck with me… it said:

    “Ironically, the argument invoked by a swath of revisionist feminists — that men have all the power in society and that they use this power to control women — actually serves to socially disempower male victims of abuse.”

    I think this is, fundamentally, fits in with what your message is saying.

    **http://www.mndaily.com/opinion/columns/2013/10/20/silenced-minority

  5. My mind can’t even bend its way around this garbage party.

    If you have paid attention to feminism lately, with the exception of the radfem fringe, you’d realize that what you’re for is actually feminism. Feminism realizes that the patriarchy hurts men too and that the gender binary hurts everyone. Every feminist I know assumes that all men are not rapists and that we give more credit to men than assuming they can’t control themselves around a sacntily-clad woman. That’s what we fight against when we look at rape culture that allows rape to happen, instead of assuming it’s an inherent part of men’s behaviour.

    Feminism is against oppression of ALL forms against ALL people, period.

    • “Feminism realizes that the patriarchy hurts men too”

      This line always reminds me of a little video clip I’ve seen…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afW3DWL-UxM

      In particular, about the 1:10 second mark… doesn’t exactly make me feel they actually give a damn about the issues black people face. Just because you identify the cause of something to be patriarchy (note: not a theory everyone subscribes to to begin with, particularly men’s rights groups. it’s too ones sided and relies on a lot of assumptions of male malevolence and sociopathy to shoehorn the theory into the realm of plausibility), doesn’t actually mean you’re trying to address these issues. For example, men get sole or primary custody less than 15% of all cases. Feminists groups like NOW actively oppose any kind of reform to address this gap (and yet, the 44/56% attendance gap in education in the 70’s was deemed a crisis)… they excuse this gap by claiming, when men take a case to court, they are more likely to get custody than when they don’t… But all this ally says is, if men put out huge amounts of time and money in order to fight for their children, judges aren’t willing to completely cut their children out of the fathers life (because custody only means they are still involved, it says nothing to what degree, and one weekend a month is still custody.)… and this is deemed a bias in favor of men, by these feminist groups…. That’s right, these feminist groups identify a man not being completely stripped out of their child’s life as an unfairly favoring men… and you want us to accept that feminism opposes oppression of ALL forms against ALL people? HA!

  6. Dear Ms. Bergeron,

    Your article is an uncommon breath of fresh air.

    You say: “Discrimination can’t be used to fight discrimination; this makes us look petty at best and snowballs the issue at worst.”

    You are absolutely correct, particularly about the “worst”. You have reiterated a very old, yet rarely practiced, adage: Do unto others….

    I’ve experienced five decades of feminism. Most men of my generation have been so thoroughly vilified and dehumanized by feminists that we will never, ever, trust anything feminists purport to offer by way of, or disguised as, a fresh start. It’s far too late for that. We’ve been made into the enemy for too long.

    Please understand that while many of us have turn our backs on feminists, it’s not because we don’t care about our mothers, our wives, our sisters, our daughters and our granddaughters. We’ve turned our back on feminists because we are sick to death of being demonized. We’re sick to death of having no defence when we are falsely accused. We are sick to death with the so called radical feminist edict that men, simply for being men, are not to be trusted.

    By the tone of your article, I suspect you may find my message discouraging. If so, I sincerely hope you have better luck entreating younger generations of men to trust your views. I sincerely hope you find better ways of settling your differences with them than have been demonstrated by your predecessors. I sincerely wish this, not just for your sake, but for your sons and your daughters.

    And for mine.

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