Archive for April, 2009

Real Concerns for Women

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

As you may already have noticed, I’m not a big fan of feminism. I don’t believe that the feminist worldview is a source of much good, nor is it very helpful for boys and men who want to become integrated men who contribute meaningfully to society.

However, I also don’t believe that feminism is serving women. The focus on woman-as-victim and woman-as-oppressed, simply induces bitterness in women who would otherwise be perfectly capable of shaping their own life.

This is not to say that feminism has never served women or that it currently isn’t serving women in some ways. The main positive impact of feminism is that it has described in some detail the constrictions and traumas of the female gender role, which has helped women to evolve as well as given women a whole range of new choices.

Does this mean that I believe that there no longer are any real problems or concerns facing women? Has the feminist dominance of the gender field eradicated the need for any more reforms for women? Since I mostly write about male issues and the missing perspectives on the male gender role, this is definitely a valid question.

The answer is that I do believe that there are real concerns facing women today, but distilling those real concerns from the confused set of ideas that is feminism, is no easy task. It’s all too easy to get caught up in feminist thinking, since it is so prevalent these day.

I’ve done the best I can though, and here is a list of what I believe are the most pressing issues facing women (in modern countries):

  1. Rape and sexual assault. Women still need to worry about being raped, and that is something they simply shouldn’t have to worry about in a civilized society. However, since rape is still very much part of life, women need to be taught how to stay as safe as possible. 
  2. Being a homemaker is often isolating. Not all women want to work full-time or part-time, instead opting to dedicate themselves to raising children. While this is a legitimate choice (especially when raising small children), it can lead to being isolated during the day, and a lack of contact with other adults.
  3. Enormous pressure to look good. Taking care of yourself and looking your best is one thing, but having an impossible standard to live up to is inhuman.
  4. Too many bad role models. In the TV series Sex and the City for example, shallow and promiscuous women are portrayed as warm and caring (while promiscuous men are portrayed as cold and unreliable).
  5. Feminist myths that cause damage. Telling women to focus on their careers and encouraging women to have children late in life can lead to infertility. Teaching women to feel oppressed, leads to bitterness and believing that it’s impossible to succeed as a woman. Applauding assertiveness in women is fine, but when it leads to labeling softness in women as something bad – then we’ve got a problem.
  6. Immigrant girls and women who are not allowed to make their own choices in life, the way we expect all citizens to be free in modern democracies, is perhaps the most pressing female issue – and something that feminists should focus on far more if they truly care about women.

What other real issues do women have to face today?

Defining Gender Equality

Friday, April 24th, 2009

For an expression that is much talked about, you rarely come across a clear definition of what gender equality actually means. I’m pretty sure different people mean very different things when talking about gender equality, and many people probably aren’t even aware of exactly what they mean.

Not defining words properly is a sure recipe for discussions and debates that lead nowhere, and heated arguments that are as passionate as they are meaningless.

I believe that by defining what we mean by gender equality, we can avoid intellectual sloppiness, and clarify our own beliefs in this area. Furthermore, you cannot hit a target unless you know what the target is, and for most people gender equality is a desired outcome.

My definition of gender equality rests on five different pillars:

1. Men and women have the same intrinsic value

I’m hoping that you find it self-evident that men and women have the same intrinsic value. This is simply the basic moral insight that all people have the same intrinsic value, regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

2. Men and women are equally valuable to society


Are men and women equally valuable to society? I guess you could try to make the case that either gender is more valuable, but the burden of proof would rest squarely on you. Research has shown that the male and female brains are sometimes good at different things, but there is no overall difference in brain capacity. This indicates that the two genders have equal potential to be valuable.

Men and women still have very or somewhat different roles in most societies, with men more often fulfilling roles in the public sphere, and women more often fulfilling roles in the private sphere. Regardless of whether you think this will change in the future or not, and regardless of whether you find this division of labor desirable or not, I’d say it’s safe to presume that men and women are equally valuable to society.

Society would not function without the roles that men perform or without the roles that women perform.

3. Men and women should have equal rights and responsibilities

The important thing to note here is that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. If you want to claim a right for yourself, you should be prepared for an accompanying responsibility. As the economists are fond of saying: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”.

A good starting point for making sure that men and women have equal rights is to check that legislation and public policy are gender neutral. If either sex has responsibilities that the other one doesn’t have (such as the draft or military service), or if either sex has rights that the other one doesn’t have (such as access to women’s shelters), then we need to take a closer look at those imbalances.

4. An absence of discrimination (a k a equal opportunities)

Discrimination is a word that is used frequently in gender discussions, especially when talking about the labor market. But what is and isn’t discrimination? How do we define it?

Discrimination simply means judging someone by their race, gender, religion, sexuality or age – instead of judging them for their competence. The definition is very simple, but implementing it can be a lot harder!

Sometimes the word discrimination is used incorrectly. For example, you can hear people say that women are discriminated against if they don’t have 50 percent of the important positions in society. However, that is not discrimination unless you can show that men who are less qualified than competing women are given the top jobs.

As long as competence determines who gets a job, we may have 80 percent women in a certain workplace or 70 percent men, without any discrimination occurring. Read more about discrimination in this dedicated post.

5. Realizing that equality need not mean sameness

Equality between the sexes means that the sexes are valued equally, and given equal opportunities, as outlined above. But this need not mean that men and women become the same! Men and women may continue to make different choices when it comes to work, family and hobbies – while still being perfectly equal.

In fact, it is irrelevant to gender equality whether men and women make the same choices, as long as each man and each woman is truly free to choose whatever path seems right to him or her.

We know that biological differences between the sexes exist, but we do not yet know to what extent these differences would influence the choices of women and men in a culture that allows you to go beyond stereotypes.

However, it would be naive to assume that men and women would start making exactly the same choices, even in a society that is completely open-minded. By dropping the criterion of sameness, gender equality becomes much more achievable, and does not limit individual freedom.

Misandry in the Media

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

As I wrote in my last post, misandry in the media has become increasingly common. Misandry simply means hatred of men, and corresponds to the more commonly used word misogyny (hatred of women).

In this post, I’ll explore some of the ways that this anti-male bias is showing up, as well as give some examples to illustrate.

Tracking the ongoing misandry in popular culture and the media can be a very useful exercise, since those entities are very good at tuning into what is happening in society and  in the public’s consciousness.

Priciple # 1: Men Are Stupid

Check out the TV ad below. The man is not only portrayed as stupid, but almost retarded, and very submissive as well.

 

Can you imagine the outrage and public outcry if a woman was portrayed in this way?

Principle # 2: Men Need Women to Get Anything Right

Have a look at this banned Verizon commercial, where the man is clueless and needs the guidance of his wife as if he were her child.

Principle # 3: Only Women Must Evolve

Feminism has worked tirelessly to give women more rights and more benefits, while simultaneously presenting a worldview that prevents society from doing anything about male issues (because there are no male issues in the feminist worldview…).

This means that there is no public discussion about the pressure on men to perform, in fact, you can still get away with attacking a man for not performing the way you think he should!

Check out these horrible lyrics by Destiny’s Child:

At first we started out real cool,(cool)
Taking me places i ain’t never been
But now your getting comfortable
Ain’t doing those things that you did no more
You’re slowly makin me pay for things
Your money should be handling

And now you ask to use my car (car)
Drive it all day and don’t fill up the tank
And you have the audacity
To even come and step to me
And ask to hold some money from me
Until you get your check next week
(bridge)
You triflin’,good for nothing type of brother
Silly me,why haven’t I found another
A baller, when times get hard he’s the one to help me out
insted of, a scrub like you who don’t know what a man’s about

(chorus2x)
can you pay my bills
can you pay my telephone bills
can you pay my automo’bills
then maybe we can chill

I don’t think you do
so you and me are through

What they are basically saying is that it’s a man’s role to pay for everything, and the women of Destiny’s Child can only imagine being with a man if he starts paying for everything. As long as he doesn’t, he’s a “triflin’ good for nothing type of brother”.

Women, on the other hand, are immune to any corresponding slurs about the female gender role, such as a woman’s place being in the home, since anyone saying such a thing is being misogynistic and discriminatory.

Do you have any examples of misandry in the media?

(A shoutout to James Barrow who inspired me to write this post!)

Is There Anything Good About Fathers?

Friday, April 17th, 2009

It’s not easy being a father nowadays, as you can tell from the question in the heading.

Canadian researchers and authors Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young have written about the persistant anti-male bias in the media, in their two books Spreading Misandry and Legalizing Misandry (you can read a short summary of their work on Wikipedia).

Fathers are an important subgroup of men that are under attack in the media. Directly or indirectly, they are portrayed as:

  • Wife beaters
  • Child abusers
  • Child molesters

Furthermore, we hear a lot about deadbeat dads in the media (i.e. dads who are avoiding paying child support), but hardly anything about all the men who desperately want to see their children but who have been denied any kind of custody.

Something we almost never hear about are the specific benefits that fathers can bring to their children, even though fathers keep young men away from crimes and a range of other psychosocial problems.

Can this really be true, that fathers have a vital protective effect on their children that their mother cannot replace on her own?

The Facts

In the book The Case for Marriage, the authors review the available evidence about single parent households (i.e. fatherless families) and conclude that these children are more likely:

  • To be poor
  • To have health problems
  • To have psychological disorders
  • To commit crimes
  • To exhibit conduct disorders (other than crime)
  • To have poorer relationships with their family and peers
  • To get fewer years of education

This list holds true even when controlling for parents’ race, income and socioeconomic status.

Other research (Harper and McLanahan, 1998) has shown that boys living without their biological fathers are twice as likely to have spent time in jail. These results also hold up after controlling for race, income and parents’ education. Having a stepfather, however, does not decrease incarceration rates – the protective effect comes from a biological dad alone.

In his book Fatherless America, sociologist David Blankenhorn states that:

“Despite the difficulty of proving causation in social sciences, the wealth of evidence increasingly supports the conclusion that fatherlessness is a primary generator of violence among young men.”

Swedish studies (Weitoft, Hjern, et al, 2002) have found that children of single parents are twice as likely to develop a psychiatric disease, to attempt suicide or to have an alcohol-related disease.

Conclusion

The status of fatherhood needs to be upgraded immediately. The available research clearly demonstrates that growing up without your father puts a child at a real disadvantage in a host of ways. Courts who are nowadays awarding sole custody to the mother “in the best interest” of the child, aren’t doing their job in a satisfactory way.

Shared custody needs to become default ruling in all custody cases that go to court, unless one parent is obviously unfit to raise a child (eg. drug addicts, convicted sex criminals, proven abusers, etc).

Furthermore, parents need to start cooperating after a divorce, instead of using the children as “collateral”. Children are not a way to extort more money from your spouse after a divorce, nor are they a tool to feel good about yourself.

All parents owe it to themselves and to their children to live close to each other after a divorce, so that shared custody can be practically implemented and so that the children can stay close to both parents.

When Personal Accountability Is a Challenge

Monday, April 13th, 2009

I’ve recently written about Intimate Partner Violence (part 1, part 2), and some time ago I wrote about the Culture of Victimhood and the absence of personal accountability in feminist rhetoric.

In this post I’ll combine the subjects of physical abuse and personal accountability, by publishing an edited version of a piece that I originally posted in an online forum, in a response to a woman who had been abused both when growing up and later on in her marriage.

The gist of what I’m trying to get across to her is that it’s possible to hold ourselves responsible for our actions no matter how difficult the situation is, and that holding ourselves responsible is not the same thing as blaming ourselves.

I feel a lot of compassion for your experience, and I agree that placing blame on a victim doesn’t lead to anything constructive, but like J, I would like to make a few distinctions.

You cannot be responsible for another person’s actions. If someone beats you up regularly in your own home, then you have zero responsibility for their actions. The person who’s doing the beating has full responsibility for his/her actions.

You however, have full responsibility for your response/reaction. You can respond in a host of different ways (maybe not when the actual beating is going on, but afterwards). You can stay, you can leave, you can call the police, you can go talk to a friend, you can do nothing, etc..

This is not to say that you are to be blamed for your response! Blame leads nowhere, and has no purpose except to put another individual down, or to put ourselves down.

But as long as you are responsible for your actions, then you can choose a different, and better, response. So holding you responsible for what you do is not about blaming you, it’s about believing that you can make better choices for yourself. It’s about trusting your innate power and the fact that the path to empowerment remains open for every human being during their whole life.

Nothing of this denies the fact that if you had a terrible upbringing then it may be awfully hard to respond in a constructive way, and to get out of a destructive relationship. Even if you didn’t have a bad upbringing, you can get sucked into a bad/abusive relationship, to the point that you hardly can see your options. But you are still responsible! You still have access to your free will, and saying that you are responsible is a way of honoring your integrity and autonomy, and not treating you like a child.

Because children… are not responsible. When you are under a certain age, you simply are not a fully autonomous individual with full access to your own free will. Therefore society has an extra responsibility to look out for children that are being abused, because they cannot even be expected to call out for help, and it is developmentally incorrect to refer to them as response-able individuals.

So children can be, and are, helpless victims of abuse. But when we extend that view to adults, as has often been done in feminist literature aimed at women who have been abused – then we start to disempower adults, and that is something I simply cannot agree with.

The “helpless victim” line of reasoning is sometimes even extended to persons who molest children, and the reasoning is then that they are simply repeating the behaviors that they themselves were subjected to when growing up. However much compassion I may feel for what these persons were exposed to as children, I still hold them responsible for their own actions. They are adults, with access to their free will, and if they choose to molest they should go to jail. And should they be pathological to the extent that they have lost access to their free will, then they have no place in a free society anyhow – they have then become “automated response mechanisms” that are programmed to do damage in society.

Again, I feel deep compassion for people who have been subjected to abuse. However, once we are adults we have choice, and we can be empowered, and as a consequence we have responsibility. I consider holding another person responsible one of the most loving things you can do. Because by doing that you show them that you believe in their ability to make better choices for themselves, and their ability to break free from destructive relationships.

None of this negates the fact that you can help abused people by being a friend, offering them a place to stay, driving them to the police or to a hospital, etc. But if you help people without holding them accountable for their own responses, then you are simply helping them perpetuate their personal tragedy.


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