Archive for September, 2009

Masculism vs Feminism

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Feminism is a well established movement that’s been around for more than 200 years; perhaps the starting point can be said to be when Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792. Masculism (a k a men’s rights activism), on the other hand, has been around for a few decades at best, while only gaining some traction in the 2000s. Apart from the fact that feminism is a movement which is much older and stronger than masculism, is it possible to compare these two movements, and can men’s rights activists (MRAs), learn something from feminism’s strategies and theories?

First of all, what does feminism contain, what are its different components? The way I see it, the major components are:

  1. A desire to work with women’s issues
  2. A political conviction that women as a group are oppressed by men as a group, and therefore need to be liberated

Performing the same kind of overview of masculism, yields these results:

  1. A desire to work with men’s issues
  2. A political conviction that feminism does not fit with the facts, and needlessly vilifies men

The key difference here is that feminism paints men as a group as a problem in society, while MRAs paint feminism as a theory (and its vocal proponents) as a problem in society. As I see it, it is crucial for any and all masculists around the world to keep differentiating between feminism and women, since it is only as long as masculism takes a step into the future and learns from the past mistakes of feminism that it can reasonably be said to take the moral high ground in the discussion on gender issues.

Another important distinction that arises from the two lists above is that you needn’t be a feminist to work with women’s issues. You can work on all kinds of important women’s issues around the world, political or otherwise, without buying into the political ideology that is feminism or radical feminism. Personally I believe that there are still lots of important women’s issues around the world that need to be dealt with, and while I am not a supporter of feminism or feminists, I fully support people who work with women’s issues.

The core agenda of masculists is to work with men’s rights and men’s issues. However, since feminism dominates the political discourse on gender issues in most countries, the need to deconstruct feminism and point out its inconsistencies and factual errors, becomes just as important as the core agenda. Criticizing feminism is not an end unto itself, but a means to simply create the space needed to infuse men’s issues into the gender discourse. If feminism were to be replaced by interest groups that work with women’s issues without attacking men, and without trying to monopolize the gender discourse, then masculists would be able to focus completely on working with men’s issues, without needing to analyze and criticize feminism. However, that is not the world we live in.

Many feminists would of course claim that feminism isn’t anti-male, and that feminism is simply a political movement working for gender equality. This might seem reassuring at first, and some men actually exert a lot of energy instructing masculists that they should simply joint the feminist movement and work for gender equality under that banner.

But what feminists forget to mention is that a prerequisite to be part of the feminist movement is that you accept the ideology that men as a group systematically oppress women as a group, and that women’s issues always take precedence over men’s issues. That stance is hardly attractive to a man (or a woman) who has taken a deeper look at gender roles and seen that both gender roles can be problematic in a range of different ways, with many men’s issues (such as male disposability) being so acute that they simply cannot take the back seat to women’s issues. Furthermore, feminists’ primary claim that feminism isn’t anti-male, is contradicted by their secondary claim that men as a group (i.e. all men) oppress women as a group (i.e. all women).

My conclusion can only be that masculism is a movement that is much needed in the world today, both as a force to put important men’s issues on the political agenda as well as a movement that dares to confront the political ideology that is feminism–without attacking women and without attacking people who work with women’s issues.

CNN

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

I was contacted by CNN today, and offered to join them for a live interview on Saturday afternoon. However, when they realized I wasn’t based in the US, they retracted their offer. Still, I take it as an encouraging sign that they find my work to be of significant quality.

The article they wanted me to comment on was The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, that I first wrote for the blog and then reposted on Men’s News Daily.

Child Abuse Allegations In Divorce Cases

Monday, September 21st, 2009

As a person working for gender equality from a non-feminist perspective, I’ve heard several anecdotes and personal accounts from fathers, claiming that mothers are increasingly using allegations of child (sexual) abuse, as a way to shut out the father from the child’s life and getting sole legal and physical custody. As interesting as these claims might be, I’ve avoided writing about the subject for the most part, since I am adamant about having some kind of fact or research backing up such claims, before legitimizing them.

Recently I was pointed to a report from the Dutch Public Prosecutioner’s Office, where the Dutch National Expertise Group on Special Cases of Sexual Misconduct have investigated 42 allegations of child sexual abuse in divorce cases. The full report can be downloaded in Dutch, but for those of us who only understand English, a Google translation of the official Dutch summary will have to suffice for now. Here’s a key excerpt from the translated summary:

In 69% of the cases from the period 2003-2007 the Expertise Group concluded that there was insufficient evidence (contradictions, errors, impossibilities, serious weaknesses) and was advised to stop the investigation. In 9% of the cases were advised to stop the investigation, because the file contained insufficient information relevant to an assessment by the Expertise Group, while further research was meaningless because of crucial errors in the history of the case.

In 18% of the cases the file contained insufficient information for a relevant assessment by the Expertise Group, but further investigation was reasonable and were tracing recommendations. In 4% of the cases presented Expertise Group concluded that there were no failures in the history of the accusation and there were sufficient facts that supported the declaration, and was advised to proceed to prosecute the accused. In declarations of sexual abuse after divorce was 95% of the cases recommended stopping the study (86% severe shortcomings, 9% further investigation useless).

In other words, 7 out of 10 cases contained contradicitions, errors, impossibilities and/or serious weakness. Even though this is a small study, and though it doesn’t conclusively prove anything (more studies are needed, one study is never enough), it gives us a hint that some mothers likely abuse the system by using false allegations to get sole custody of their children.

None of this needs to be a problem in a modern democratic society, if the legal system works as it should, and only convicts people when there is proof beyond reasonable doubt. However, in Sweden–and in many other Western countries–courts have become politicized to some extent, and the widespread dissemination of feminist ideas have led to men being convicted more easily in cases where a woman accuses a man of rape, assault or child (sexual) abuse. As such, it is vital that we preserve the integrity of our legal systems, and defend the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.

The other side of the coin is of course that children need to be protected against abusers, because abusers do exist. In order to do this we need to distinguish between:

  1. Taking every report of child abuse seriously
  2. Automatically believing every report of child abuse

Every report needs to be investigated promptly, in order to keep the child safe, but whether the report is true or not cannot be decided beforehand, and the report on its own–without being investigated–shouldn’t be used to determine who gets custody of the child.

Where Are All the Men’s Organizations?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

This question is something I’ve been thinking about lately. Considering that half the population is male, it would make sense for any country to have lots of men’s organizations. Still, I don’t seem to be able to find them. Now, it’s not that we don’t have any men’s organizations of course, because we do, for example the following kinds:

  • Father’s rights organizations
  • Organizations where men practise commitment and accountability (à la Promise Keepers)
  • Ethnic organizations for men (Million Man March)

But these aren’t really the kind of men’s organizations I’m looking for. Where are the large, coherent organizations that stand up for men’s rights, and speak up about how the male gender role affects men negatively? Wikipedia has a list of women’s organizations, but the list of men’s organizations is conspicuously absent.

The absence of strong men’s organizations became painfully evident recently in Sweden when there was a prominent debate in the media about male circumcision (there is no Swedish tradition to circumcise men, but we have lots of Muslim immigrants and also a small Jewish community that practise circumcision). The only ones who spoke up against male circumcision were a few male surgeons who refused to perform the procedure, even though the Swedish government has ordered hospitals to offer this service to those who want it. A survey later showed that two thirds of surgeons were reluctant to circumcise healthy boys.

Anyhow, the main point is that no men’s organization spoke up because there are no men’s organizations in Sweden that could speak up. Where the men’s groups should have been, was only a compact vacuum.

This is a stark contrast to the numerous women’s organizations that exist in Sweden, feminist or otherwise. The end result is that male circumcision is still allowed in Sweden, even though female circumcision has been banned for almost three decades (Swedish people don’t practise that either, but some African immigrants do).

The more I work with men’s issues and issues of gender equality, the more I realize that no substantial progress will be made until men self-organize in larger units that can then speak out for men’s rights. Individual efforts are great, but in the long run organizations have more staying power than any one individual.

Do Women Really Work More?

Friday, September 11th, 2009

We often hear the claim that women do two jobs, one in the marketplace and one in the home, while men do only one. The conclusion is that women work more than men and men need to start doing a lot more housework. However, as with many feminist claims regarding gender equality, actual research does not back up this assertion.

An international study by three economists, Michael Burda of Humboldt University in Berlin, Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas, and Philippe Weil of the Free University of Brussels; demonstrate that in the Western world, men and women work the same number of hours every day.

An article in Slate summarizes the findings in this way:

Throughout the world, men spend more time on market work, while women spend more time on homework. In the United States and other rich countries, men average 5.2 hours of market work a day and 2.7 hours of homework each day, while women average 3.4 hours of market work and 4.5 hours of homework per day. Adding these up, men work an average of 7.9 hours per day, while women work an average of—drum roll, please—7.9 hours per day.

Personally this comes as no great suprise to me, since the national statistics in Sweden (no translation, sorry) consistently show that men and women work the same number of hours every week.

The authors of the study have also investigated the widespread myth that women work much more than men:

In a survey by the authors of this study, 54 percent of economists and 62 percent of economics students thought that women work more than men, as did more than 70 percent of sociologists. And while the gender equal-work phenomenon has been noted before, “it has been swamped by claims in widely circulated sociological studies … that women’s total work significantly exceeds men’s,” as the authors put it.

My interpretation is that feminism has been so successful at getting its message across (women work more), that no one has really bothered to check the facts.

Unfortunately, the list of feminist myths is growing long:

  1. Women work more than men
  2. Intimate partner violence means men beating up women
  3. Women earn less than men when performing exactly the same job
  4. Women don’t lie about being raped
  5. Girls are shortchanged in schools
  6. The main reason for women not reaching the top of society is the “glass ceiling”
  7. And the biggest one of them all: the female gender role is much worse than the male gender role

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