By Rod Van Mechelen
Before I understood that feminism is a blight that will ultimately serve only to spawn another hate movement, one aimed at women.
1989 Bellevue, Wash. - A real feminist is one who seeks to empower women without disempowering men. But some feminists, among them the most strident and widely published, promote a gender elitism that prompted Barbara Amiel to write, in the London Times, "extreme feminism is now a state religion in America." (The Seattle Times, October 25, 1991, Feminism is America's new extremism, Bob Wiemer)
These extreme feminists do not agree on everything, but they do agree on one thing: all men are guilty of historically oppressing women, and all men must pay. Such "feminists" sacrifice humanity to "truth." (In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development, Carol Gilligan, p 104)
Should we condemn them for this? While we may condemn their actions, we would do better to treat them with compassion because, in the discussion about women and men, feminism and sexism, who has oppressed whom, how, how much, and when, we sometimes ignore the validity of the feelings that motivate
Brought up to believe in equality
As a child, I was raised to believe women and men are utterly equal (although my father did cater to the idea women need to be protected from harsh realities, a minor point of contention between us for many years). But when I went to college
in 1971, I met for the first time people who sincerely believed women were in some way inferior to men.
As a child I had heard of the women's movement and women's liberation, and I had actively supported women’s rights in school, but it had always been a distant thing. Now, out in the "world," I was confronted with the reality of really blatant sexism for the first time, and I began to listen to the feminist messages with care.
Like many men, I sympathized with their cause, and slowly, without meaning to, I bought into the idea men were not very nice people, that we were abusive of women and rapacious. I ended up not liking men very much.
Years past, and I tried to make up for all the harm men had caused. It did no good. I found that no matter how hard I tried, nothing placated the hostility and anger of women. I was still a member of the rapacious sex. Moreover, it began to seem that the more diligent I became in my efforts to do the right things, the more hostile women were toward me.
"Women and Hate" by Sheer Hate?
In 1987, things only got worse for men.
I very distinctly recall when Shere Hite's book, Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, came out in 1987. For several weeks, it seemed like all we heard about was "male bashing." I knew I was going to have to read that book. So, in 1988, I picked up a copy and began to read. From January 1, 1989, to January 1, 1990, I read, analyzed, and
struggled over her grim portrait of men in America. When I finally finished, I felt violated.
After a year of reading all those terrible things about men and trying to understand why and how they could be, I was appalled by what I now believed was the grave and unjust meanness of women, and I came to possess a deep compassion for men, and to accept them, and myself, as human beings in a way I never had before.
A monstrous injustice
I despaired. Most men must feel what I felt, but was I the first lonely one to see, understand, and articulate this monstrous injustice? This burden was heavy, and I became desperate to complete this book. A book I hoped would free men of this undeserved guilt.
Then, I happened across a reference to an article by George Gilder, and looked it up in Bill Buckley Jr's magazine, The National Review.
The name of the article was The Princess Problem. It spoke of how women give the cold shoulder to struggling single men in favor of affairs with successful married men whom, they hope and believe, they can persuade to divorce their aging and less-exciting wives to marry them. The article was excerpted from his new book, Men and Marriage. I wanted to read more, and ordered his book.
In Men and Marriage, he developed this, and other themes even more. Here, I found a kindred spirit and heard a voice speaking directly to my own experiences, hopes, fears, and deepest needs. His messages filled me, anointed my soul, and set me free in a way I had neither expected nor was prepared for, but welcomed.
It was almost a religious experience, as if I'd wandered a desolate land, devoid of love, crying out against the biting wind of rejection and the hot sand of loneliness, and then, discovering an oasis, I was filled with it, bathed myself in it, and stood in holy ecstasy shouting in exultation that here was a like mind who understood my plight, the pain of all men, and had shown us the way.
A new perspective
Later, after this upwelling of emotion subsided and I was able to rationally compare it to what Hite had written, I realized how she, and others, must have felt reading another book that must have had a similar impact on them: Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique.
In 1963, there were no other books that so directly and with such compelling insight addressed the plight of women coming out of the stultifying and oppressive fifties. Thinking about that, I tried to experience in my mind how I would have felt, as a young woman in 1964 reading that book. The likely answer was: no difference; not now, not 26 years ago.
It could have been so easy for Gilder's truths to sweep me away in a tide of revelation, carrying me out to be caught in the undertow of his few sexist errors. Without the benefit of the feminist movement, that might have happened. How much harder must it have been for women -- having no comparable counter-balance -- to resist the tremendous temptation to become what, ultimately, so many are today: hateful and suspicious of men.
Now, when I read pop-feminist rhetoric, I believe I understand how they have come to feel as they do. For a time, I felt that way, too. And even if I do not agree with them, none, I believe, have the right to invalidate the feelings that motivate them, nor to use their extremism as a reason to deny to women the same equality we should demand for men.
Unfortunately, the socio-sexual disenfranchisement and alienation of a growing number of men is one result of this extremism. Another is that few women, even those who otherwise agree with the fundamentals of feminist thought, are willing to identify themselves with feminism anymore.
With the passage of time
2012 Olympia, Wash. - Now, of course, we know that Betty Friedan lied about the prevalence of clinical depression among housewives in suburban America. Although following publication of her book and the pervasive attacks on the nuclear family, coupled today with the great recession and possibly incipient global depression, clinical depression is on the rise, or so it would seem given the insane amount of antidepressants now prescribed to American women.
I do not feel now as I did 20 years ago that what I called feminism, then, ever played much of a role. What I called "pop-feminism" has long dominated the dialogue. Those who would simply empower women have served as a distraction, a reasonable facade behind which the hatemonger's hide. We could say they have more in common with the men's rights movement than they do with the feminist movement but for their symbiotic relationship with the hatemongers, whose extremism they dismiss despite the millions of families destroyed by it.
Feminism is a blight that will ultimately serve only to spawn another hate movement, one aimed at women.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.