Men’s Reactions Towards Feminism

March 26th, 2009 by Pelle Billing

Regardless of what many feminists might claim, feminism is one of the largest and most influential movements of our time. There are very few ideas that have gained as much influence and universal adoption as the idea that women are the oppressed gender and men are the privileged gender. The core of the feminist message is no longer considered to be ideology, it is considered to be the truth.

There are a couple of defining characteristics that shape feminism, and therefore also shape the public’s opinion of gender issues:

  • Feminism will not see or acknowledge that gender roles developed organically, as a functional fit to external circumstances.
  • Feminism will only deal with male privilege and female suffering, not female privilege and male suffering. A splendid example is talking about male privilege in the workplace, while forgetting female privilege in the home and male suffering in dangerous workplaces.

When the same message is repeated time and again without any serious rebuttals, which is how the feminist message is treated by the media and policy makers, you create new stereotypes or even caricatures of the sexes.

Women are portrayed as helpless victims with high morals who are desperately trying to fight for their rights, while men are portrayed as insensitive brutes with questionable morals who actively oppress women and who want to keep their privileges at all costs. Since these distorted images of men (and women) are broadcast to us all, whether we want to or not, there is a direct impact on men’s self-esteem and emotional health.

Men and Feminism

So how do men react to being told that they are oppressors and potential rapists? There are a number of possible scenarios, and it’s possible to go through several of these phases, one at a time:

  1. Experiencing guilt and shame. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when we are told that men are bad, men oppress women, men cause wars, men are violent and all men are potential rapists. Who wants to be an alleged oppressor? As a result many men experience conscious or unconscious guilt and shame whenever feminism or gender issues are talked about. Feminist shaming is especially toxic for boys growing up with feminism.
  2. Silence. This is a very common response. Men bow their heads, want to make amends and apply the standard male formula of working harder to achieve a certain goal. Men have been largely silent as more and more feminist institutions have been created and as feminism has increasingly influenced public policy.
  3. Surrender. Some men become feminists themselves, which allows them to despise other men and how they continue to “oppress women”. Feminist men usually give off an aura of being smug and ungrounded at the same time. They are smug since they think they know better than other men, and they are ungrounded because they are basically supporting the view that men are inferior to women. A huge payoff for male feminists is that you get to talk about women as victims, so as a male feminist you are actually still being the quintessential protector of women, in accordance with the gender roles and gender dynamics that have been around since the dawn of humanity!
  4. Cracking the code. Once you can see past feminism and understand how the male gender role truly works, then you’re on your way to reclaiming your power as a man. When you get a more accurate picture of the traditional male gender role you also begin to see how one-sided and limited feminism is, and that feminism has shamed several generations of men, especially those who grew up with it.
  5. Anger and contempt. These feelings are very understandable, once you’ve seen past the intellectual constructions of feminism. How can you not be angry at and feel contempt for a movement that more or less tells you that you are intrinsically bad, simply for being born a man? While these emotions can be needed for a while, they are not constructive in the long run, and we need to avoid becoming stuck in this place!
  6. Taking action. You don’t have to come a political activist, simply because you’ve realized that feminism only talks about half of the gender issues. If all you do is change your own outlook and stand up for your views when talking to others, then you’ve done something very important towards changing the future of the gender discourse.

As men, we run a serious risk of losing our personal power, unless we find a healthy way to deal with feminism. We do not want to collapse, and become feminists ourselves. Neither do we want to stay overly tense and rigid, by staying perpetually angry at feminism. The healthy way forward is one of standing up for our own views, without adding more bitterness and polarization to the ongoing gender dialogue.

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33 Responses to “Men’s Reactions Towards Feminism”

  1. Bj0rnborg Says:

    In terms of personal development, I believe men go either one of these ways by feminism:

    1. Unaffeccted. Feminism feels irrellevant since its not applicabal on the reality you live in. Neither the describtion of women nor men seems to fit.

    2. Hypermasculinity. Trapped in a double bind of guilt, damned if you do damn if you dont, you simply go f”’k it all. Out of sheer spite you become the kind of person they hate. (and what do you know, it works pretty well for you. For instance you get all the ladies you want).

    3. Selfdevelopment. Trapped in a double bind of guilt, you realise that something most be wrong with the message of feminism. You start to question, but soon realise that you first need to find you own inner voice, your inner reference, before you can separate right from wrong in the debate.

    4. Cowed. Trapped in a double bind of guilt, you are crushed under the emotional pressure. You do whatever they want you to do, become however they want you to be, just aslong as you a freed from the guilt. (but sooner or later you realise that you will never be truly free of that guilt, its all encompassing, it dosent matter who you are aslong as you are a man). You will become a “henpecked husband”, or even a feminist man, but you will never become free of the guilt.

    5. Selfcontempt. The guilt is so strong you start to hate yourself, your own maleness. Maybe you will even project this on other men, since that way you can pretend you are just a little better since you try to do something about your own corruption.

  2. Pelle Billing Says:

    Good additional points Bj0rnborg. I think self-development may be the most important point that you mention that I had forgotten about. Feminism can be so weird a phenomenon to a man that you simply have to develop yourself and your ability to analyze a situation and take new perspectives in order to make sense of the world.

  3. skeptical_guy Says:

    Easy fix. Go to Asia and marry a nice young lady that listens to her heart instead of out of touch Barbarian-women (or wannabe men). It’s that simple.

  4. Ann Ekman Says:

    Hello there!

    I must say that this new wave of masculinist movement has actually helped me to see the world a bit more out of mens perspective regarding the relation between the sexes. I can see a lot of the bad sides for you. BUT; I also see a movement that takes the same form as the so detested “feminism”. Destructive, aggressive and without nuances, even if there are a few acceptances on the issue of real opression of women thrown in here and there. Thing, is – you can´t get your fellow sisters to want to contribute to a better world and for men with this attitude. My immidiate reaction is contempt and to turn my back on you. So – what you do is just to dispose your frustration and anger and to start a new war between the sexes. Sorry.

  5. Pelle Billing Says:

    Ann,

    If feminists acknowledged male problems the way I acknowledge female problems, then I would be thrilled.

    I agree that there are men’s rights activists that are just as unhealthy as the worst feminists, however, I am not one of them.

  6. Chris Marshall Says:

    Ann:

    I can see a lot of the bad sides for you. BUT; …

    Really? What bad sides do you see for men specifically?

  7. andrea Says:

    Hi Chris,

    I can’t answer for Ann, but I can answer as a feminist. And, the bad sides for men that I see are pretty much what Pelle articulated in his post…the messages that “all men are oppressors and rapists” or “maleness is intrinsically evil” causes young men and boys who hear it and internalize it to suffer a great deal of unwarranted self contempt and shame. And, this is not okay. As has been stated elsewhere on this blog, there are many voices within feminism, and many are admittedly inflammatory and coming from a very angry place. And, I also will admit that some of us feminists could take a cue from #5 in the OP, move past the anger that we feel, drop the shaming, and move towards a place that is more constructive for dialogue. After all, if you are trying to turn a perceived enemy into an ally, it’s probably best to stop shooting at them.

  8. Pelle Billing Says:

    Thank you for your comment andrea.

  9. Chris Marshall Says:

    Andrea:

    Thanks for your post. Do you know of any feminists (or feminist blogs) that view gender liberation the way Pelle does (i.e. that men did not historically oppress women to their own advantage, but that societies, in order to perpetuate themselves and conqueror their neighbors often use men and women, in different ways, quite callously)? I would be suprised if there were very many, although I may just be looking in the wrong places.

    To answer my own question, my view of the serious challenges men and women face boils down to:
    1) men are disposable. Men are encouraged to take great risks with their lives and are easy to shout down when they complain on that score (“quit whining you coward”). Attempts to make it harder for society to dispose of men at will are met with the cry “but then who will defend us?”

    2) women should raise children and not seriously develop their talents or ambitions. It was no big deal if a woman wasn’t able to get an education and develop her talents, so long as she was able to raise a family. It was a big deal if she did not raise a family, even if she otherwise accomplished great things (despite society’s hostility). Early moves to open up education and business to women were met with the cry,”but then who would care for the children?”.

    I realize there are a lot more issues than that. I’m just trying to pick out the most common unifying themes that I can see.

    Admittedly, I am not nearly as sensitive to what woman face and what men face.

  10. Chris Marshall Says:

    Ann:

    In case it wasn’t clear from my earlier reply, it’s ironic that you accuse Pelle and/or the men’s movement in general of showing only token acceptance of serious women’s issues

    even if there are a few acceptances on the issue of real opression of women thrown in here and there.

    when you only offered this nod toward the existance of serious men’s issues:

    I can see a lot of the bad sides for you. BUT

    In other words, you let on that you see some bad sides but don’t mention which you find significant or why.

    A token acknowledgement if ever there was, offered whilst accusing us of offering only tokens!

  11. Pelle Billing Says:

    Nice summary above, Chris.

  12. Danny Says:

    Yeah where I’m from we refer to what Chris is pointing out as lip service. Talk about it just enough to apply for ally street cred (which is interesting given the feminist mantra of caring about all people) but not really take a stand on an issue.

  13. Andrea Says:

    Hi Chris,
    I’d probably point out Helen Fisher, a feminist anthropologist whose work actually introduced me to the concept of evolutionary psych. She actually speaks of gender
    roles pretty positively as something that helped the species survive and thrive, and now that they are less necessary for survival, they are passing away. I’ve never encountered anything in her work that would imply that men were anything but wonderful and certainly no talk of a sinister male conspiracy.

    Also, I’m not particularly religious, (though my upbringing was in the Bible belt Southern US and my family is still deeply enmeshed in conservative Christianity…so I feel compelled to tune in to how they are hashing out the gender question) but feminists in religious circles don’t usually talk that way either. Their discussions, however, are framed from within a religious worldview, so it doesn’t seem very relevant to the culture at large. But, I’m mentioning them because they do identify as feminists, and their rhetoric typically does not include telling men to shut up and get out of the way so the ladies can usher in world peace.

    And then, I know some male feminists who have spent some time discussing how gender roles are harmful to men. Michael Kimmel comes to mind. But I know Pelle has expressed some discomfort with many of the male feminists. I think I have heard Kimmel use phrases like “male priviledge,” which can be recieved as shaming, so perhaps that cancels out anything helpful he might have to say.

    But, again, like you, Chris, I’m much more sensitive to my own injuries than I am to anyone elses, so I think only you can say where you are being condescended to or dismissed or left feeling invalidated. That’s why I think these conversations are important to have.

  14. Pelle Billing Says:

    Andrea, your comment is a breath of fresh air, and I’m sure the other men here agree with me on that.

  15. denizen Says:

    Dear Sir ,
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    please visit this most wonderful male friendly site where men dont have to apologise for being men and theres genuine discussion about mens interests
    http://www.angryharry.com
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  16. Andrew Says:

    I grew up with the woman’s movement. My mother was really passionate about it. from my perspective it came out like blast out of cannon. The reality of most women in the 1960′s and 1970′s was pretty dismal economically and socially. The philosophy was meant to empower women and give them tool to look at their situation with new eyes. Unfortunately that came with allot of anger. It came with allot of blame and shame and like most people learning something new there not good teachers of it or good teachers at all. I mean as a boy or youth you really don’t know enough about the world or what masculinity is you’re a kid concepts of masculinity and femininity are abstract as is domination, patriarchy, gender roles and subjugation . The redstockings really heated it up with no sex with men till equality was achieved and worse. The value of history as dead white guys really too away from them any good man in history. They essentially assassinated all male role modals – fathers, coaches, military men politicians, sports, firemen, policeman, priests, whole intuitions as aggressive, demeaning, prejudiced, brutal – to women….nothing went untouched – even sex or the type of sex…..men had to be changed to something – the sensitive guy…. The poet the artist but only the good ones not Hemingway or Not Burkoski or few others known for drinking and skirt chasing……as boy that pretty much flattens you…. You have no role modals and of the sensitive guy they wanted in the 1970’s he was crushed 99 out of 100 times. No girl or women is going to date him…they want the star football player and the guy with the cash successful.

    But here is what feminism was up against and women. In 1970 and beyond. A man could beat his wife up or ex-wife and not even get a ticket. He could rape her too – nothing –zip. He could hold out on child support. There was no law to garnish his wages he paid pretty much what he wanted to. Even if the woman wanted to get a lawyer – ha with what money! She pretty much was sent into a deep poverty. I mean deep. If she wanted to go to work she had to get in line behind men usually with a high school diploma – even if she had a college degree she did not have resume. If she got a job- there was no sexual harassment law and many employers did not like hiring mothers. They liked hiring young single women. Hell women could not join the army, the police, the fire department and politically there were no women –zip anywhere in government – nowhere in upper management .

    Children without fathers lack the support – that a man brings. There is a house now with no man and other men know this. The women is vulnerable and her kids. Then since she was divorced principals, police, doctors all looked down on them as used women. A divorced woman was pretty much dirty word.
    Next I say this to men – as group we were pretty twisted not all of us but 99.9 of the sexual perpetrators are men. In the 1970s the laws were not that strong and the enforcement really came down to the childes words against the man’s. From priest to coaches to camp counselors –sex with children has been pretty common event. And what has been known is usually less then what has happened because people are ashamed.
    So when feminist spoke about a change in men – yeah men as group have been pretty bad. Still I think feninist over shot the mark and lacked some teaching and reality skills. I am writing a book about growing up with it

  17. Pelle Billing Says:

    Thank you for your comment Andrew.

  18. hopeless_case Says:

    Andrew:

    I really like your comment. Your expression of what it was like to have your positive sense of manhood crushed was insightful.

    But here is what feminism was up against and women.

    You make it sound like the average woman in society had a much harder time than the average man. I sincerely doubt that.

    And I also doubt the accuracy of this statistic:

    Next I say this to men – as group we were pretty twisted not all of us but 99.9 of the sexual perpetrators are men.

    This is just not true. In fact, most of the sexual (and other) abuse of children occurs at the hands of women.

  19. Jim Says:

    “But here is what feminism was up against and women. In 1970 and beyond. A man could beat his wife up or ex-wife and not even get a ticket. He could rape her too – nothing –zip. He could hold out on child support. There was no law to garnish his wages he paid pretty much what he wanted to.”

    Andrew, I have a couple of issues wiht some of your points. For instance:

    “In 1970 and beyond. ”

    If you recall, this was the period in which 50,000 American men died in a war in which something like a whole SIX American women died. During this period American men but not women were subject to military service on pain of prison sentences that could go as long as 20 years. And this was a war in which support and opposition were divided quite evenly on gender lines, giving the lie to the conventional wisdom that if women ran the world there would be no war. Women hardly spearheaded the oppsition to the Vietnam War.

    “…or ex-wife and not even get a ticket. He could rape her too – nothing –zip.”

    This is a flat out falsehood. At no time was it ever legal for a man ro demand sex froma an ex-wife. I don’t know what lies you have been listening to, but no one who was alive during that period would be able to say that with a straight face unless it was some pathological liar who had a gulible young listener to tell it to.

    “He could hold out on child support. There was no law to garnish his wages he paid pretty much what he wanted to.”

    This begs the question of why he was even expected to be paying child support, why he did not have custody in the first place. After all the children were his and he should be raisning them. And this is one more point that demolishes this whole oppression of women narrative.

    Men’s lives were disposable under this cultural regime, we had no right to raise our own children and access to them was mediated through a breeder, and yet the chivalrous nonsense that women were fragile trembling damsels in need of protection from a white knight in the form of legislation was allowed to become a core doctrine of feminism. It’s just stunning misogyny, as well as misandry.

  20. Farah Says:

    I totally love this article, and it acually helped me alot in my research paper about women rights and the men’s reactions, so Thanks :) .

  21. Pelle Billing Says:

    I’m glad I could be of help, Farah!

  22. AlexNY Says:

    My 6 year old son and I were looking for a “Thomas the train engine” video at my public library last night.

    I was shocked to see the children’s section of the library feature posters from New York’s new “anti domestic violence campaign”.

    While there is nothing new about the feminist hate campaign against men, I had assumed that denigrating toddlers with disturbing images of violence against women was beneath even the most cold hearted feminist.

    It makes me sad that I was wrong. The campaign features extremely graphic and disturbing pictures of brutalized adult women, along with young boys with goonish expressions and gang-like attire.

    Here is the message:

    Don’t play with matches.
    Finish your homework.
    Respect women.

    Violence against women is a tragic reality.

    We must teach our sons early and often what it means to be a real man – that women deserve honor and respect, and that violence never equals strength. A safer world is in their hands. Help them grasp it.

  23. Pelle Billing Says:

    I found some of the images online. Horrible stuff.

  24. AlexNY Says:

    I have a friend in Brazil who is interested in how US libraries work, and the staff at my library were kind enough to let me take some pictures. Looking over my pictures, I can see the horrifying domestic violence campaign displayed in the toddler movie section, next to the fish tank.

    I cannot imagine that the target of the campaign has anything to do with prevention of violence. There are no posters in the adult sections of the library. The purpose is to destroy the masculin identities of young children, in preparation for a lifetime of re-education and double think that would make the propaganda minister of North Korea pround.

    This is revolting. How can feminists target young children in their vile war on men?

    I have to go outside and get some air.

  25. Pelle Billing Says:

    I’m going to post some of the images on my Swedish blog, to let people know what’s going on in NY.

  26. Inte bara i Sverige… Says:

    [...] En av mina bloggläsare på min engelska blogg skriver att han sett den här typen av bilder på barnsektionen på sitt bibliotek, när han var där med [...]

  27. Misandry hits NY Says:

    [...] you Alex for letting us know about [...]

  28. Time_before Says:

    So we go to far and not look at the positive and reflect. There are some pretty ourageous claims on the men’s side here. The women folk have theirs. So let is find common ground and seek debate not stone throwing.

  29. B Says:

    I would say that I relate to #5 on the list. I bought a drink for a girl the other night and was talking to her for a while. Sorry she asked me to buy her a drink and like a fool I did so and then she gets a phone call from who. Take a guess. Her boyfriend. I wanted to strangle her.

  30. Pelle Billing Says:

    B,

    Never buy a woman a drink! Unless she’s your buddy or your sexual partner.

    If you don’t buy a strange man a drink then why a strange woman?

  31. Concerned Says:

    The real problem with getting any sympathy form most women over men’s problems is that men have always had more power to solve their problems than women. Whereas women have always had both legal and societal pressures against them (& yes, there have always been women who were against the women’s movement, too (which I count as seriously starting in the 19th century, even if it got occasionally interrupted)), men have only had societal pressures – where they had at least, if not more, power than women to overcome them. Don’t want to go to war, but you’re a man, so you’re forced to? Well, then, don’t declare war (Yes, I am being simplistic for the sake of brevity – but we must all acknowledge that men have historically had the power of declaring war/peace, not women). The same goes for more immediate/personal issues. Don’t want to be the bread-winner, but the stay-at-home parent? Well, what’s stopping you? Only societal pressure – & the fact that women still don’t earn as much as men, on average (yes, I know in specific circumstances women out earn men slightly – this has been overblown to try to show that “feminists complain too much”). I could go on, but I think these 2 examples cover at least the ends of the spectrum, & can be filled in from there.

    The tone I get from “men’s rights” groups is at best whiny, and at worst, frightening. Men have been historically trained to use their power on others, not themselves; they should take a page from the women’s movement & start “conscious raising”. Ask themselves what they really want, & then go out & do it, rather than blaming women for doing the same. Yes, I fully realize that some women have turned the women’s movement into a “blame men”, but rather than attack all women, why not just correct the falsehood? Women had to learn to behave differently in order to better themselves; men will, too, or they will be trapped in the same prison, which has been historically disguised with male privilege.

  32. T. Rose Says:

    What are you talking about, men face plenty of legal challenges that favor women.

    Legally a male rape victim has far less power than the traditional female rape victim

    The same goes for abuse,education,divorce,and even affirmative action

    Also it’s impossible to “go out and do it” and not “blame women” when every time you try to correct the falsehood,you aren’t taken seriously. And lets face it women are to blame to some extent as are other men. Or are you trying to say women are innocent,actionless people? Plenty of events say otherwise

    And no men do not have more power to overcome them because frankly they aren’t taken seriously enough at anything because of people with your attitude.

    I will not deny that there are some MR groups that have become everything they tried to fight against,however there are still some that aren’t like that.

    There is nothing more naive than to spout stuff like “Oh men aren’t legally discriminated” or “Oh men right’s just blame women and aren’t trying”. They are,but the movement isn’t as massive so the effect is not so strong

    You are right that people must learn to behave differently or become the monster they tried to slay.However the feminist movement has at this point not encouraged that.

  33. J Says:

    I’m going to end this once and for all. Women earn the same amount as men when controlling experience, educational level and other variables. The only reason for the so called “gender gap” was that women were most likely to A) work part time jobs B) choose jobs that allowed them to spend time with their family C) Take time more time off when they had children D) more likely to change jobs than men. So this “gender gap” argument is a myth. With the argument that is societal pressures forcing these roles I would partially agree to that. I feel that the societal roles grew from biological basis. Men in general have a more innate drive to provide and protect their family. This instinct served man-kind for millions of years as the one who provided for and protected his family ensured that his children would survive till adulthood and reproduce. These traits were continually passed on to present day, so it is not gonna be easy just to say you don’t wanna work you don’t have to when the impetus is there from society and biologically. As destructive war is the main reason for the gain of resources. By gaining someone elses resources you increased the survival of not only yourself, but your family and ultimately your country. Women have had the great privilege of not fighting for these resources, but benefiting from their access, so war is not exactly a good example.

    As for calling Men’s Right Activist whiny does nothing to help the cause. It could be argued from their stance that feminist are whiny and all they are trying to do is “raise consciousness”. What needs to happen is both sides need to sit down, display their grievances and work to better themselves. Name calling will not solve the problem.


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