The Oppression of Men
By Rod Van Mechelen
Conspiracy of the Evil Male Hegemony
1992 Bellevue, Wash. - Men are not, as a rule, conspiring to hold women back. (Women Vs. Women: The Uncivil Business War, Tara Roth Madden, pp 177) In fact, in relationships with women, men confront a struggle more arduous, a hostility more profound, and poignant sadness of depth few women plumb.
Men treat women as equals, and many women respond with accusations of sexual harassment. Men communicate with women as equals, and women respond with conflicting signals and expect men to read their thoughts and know without being told just what it is they want and need:
One minute we wanted to be liberated; the next, we wanted to be taken care of. We went to work and learned to support ourselves, but we still expected a man to hold the door for us on the way into our office. We begged men to open up and show us their vulnerabilities, but found ourselves getting turned off when they started sounding weak. -- Secrets About Men Every Woman Should Know, Barbara De Angelis, p 5
Women said they wanted sensitivity, so men gave them sensitivity. Women reward this by calling it "byronesque and self-involved". (Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 249) No matter what men do, it's not good enough for the female supremacists.
Pop-feminists discovered that, contrary to Betty Friedan's assertion that women become more radical as they age (a function not of gender, but of alienation), most women are too conservative to rise up en masse and assume the equality feminism proffers. So they are demanding that men change, instead.
They are successfully changing the law to force men to accommodate the unsettled ebb and flow of female evolution, and to cater to women. Hence, through women, pop-feminists now dominate and oppress men.
It's easy to blame others for our problems. Easy for women, easy for men, too.
Often, that's what our complaints sound like. Like the women who are unwilling to work at their careers with single-minded dedication blaming their lower earnings on the men who do. Or the men who can't "get laid," blaming women for their own inadequacies.
But that's not always the case. We have seen, for example, how there was a "glass ceiling." Workplace-imposed limits that made it all but impossible, no matter how hard they worked, for women to earn as much money or achieve as much recognition as men. Sometimes, this still is a problem. As feminist author Tara Roth Madden notes, there is a glass ceiling, but it "begins at about the $75,000 to $100,000 salary level and seems to get worse the higher one looks." (Women Vs. Women: The Uncivil Business War)
Hardly a concern for most of us, nor a problem caused entirely by sexist management -- women contribute to the problem, too. Sometimes by taking extended vacations from the fast track, often by holding other women down.
Regardless of how little relevance the problem may have to most of us, or how much women, themselves, contribute to it, we did recognize the glass ceiling as a legitimate gripe, and have done much to rectify it. So much, in fact, that many men feel things have gone too far. That women now get unfair advantages to make up for the way things used to be: Affirmative action, unofficial quotas, judging women by lower standards than the ones we use to judge men.
This is a problem. How do you justify un-oppressing one group by oppressing another? Because the latter formerly oppressed the former? Because men have oppressed women for a billion years, and to oppress men for a generation or two to make up for it is a small price to pay? This makes no sense. The vast majority of white women have never been oppressed, and the vast majority of white men have never been oppressors. We could even argue that, throughout history, men have been just as oppressed (or unliberated) as women.
With more than a little historical justification, pop feminists frequently respond to this with the observation that white men have benefited from the oppression of women. But this ignores that women have benefited, too. If it is true that men have generally benefited from women's role, then it is just as true that women have generally benefited from men's role. In fact, as Warren Farrell points out in The The Myth of Male Power, it wasn't until men had become successful enough at fulfilling their traditional role that women could afford to feel the limitations of their own role as oppression. In other words, far from oppressing them, the objective reality is that men liberated women.
Objective reality, however, seldom means as much to us as our own subjective experiences, and for many women their experience has been that of emerging from millennia of men oppressing women. Against this backdrop, what need is there to justify a little counter-oppression of men? Just to make up for the way things used to be.
Dying in Our Youth to be Resurrected as Men
But men's experience is different. I look at my paternal grandfather (who died in 1994), for example. Almost seventy years ago, his back was crushed in a logging accident. They said he would die. He lived. They said he would never walk. He exercised, and a few years later, was able to run. Thereafter, he dedicated his life to worker safety. Studied, then taught first aid. Became a safety engineer, and made a career of a passion that arose from the bleeding wreckage of his life. To him, it was a responsibility -- a sacred obligation. To the woman he later married -- my grandmother, who had never suffered a severe trauma in her life -- it might have seemed male privilege.
To many men, the experience of "male privilege" is just like that -- dying in our youth to be resurrected as men who must shoulder heavy responsibilities and obligations.
For this, we are penalized: In many ways, women now have more rights than we do. In the workplace, they have the right to wear their hair long or short. Generally, we do not. Generally, they can cry sex discrimination if they believe they are not receiving equal treatment, where, even in the face of blatant discrimination, we must remain silent. Then, while women continue to expect men to make the first move in asking for dates, the merest hint that they feel sexually harassed can end a man's career. And employers often give priority to hiring women, even when the best candidates are men.
The Nanny State: A Raw Deal
Add to this the growing number of tax-funded Women's Rights offices, but no offices for men's rights, the women's studies programs that go unchallenged by any men's studies programs, and the government offices and agencies that cater to women's needs more and more, while catering less and less, if at all, to men's needs, and it becomes increasingly clear how women's liberation is a raw deal for men.
Many women agree that it is unfair to men. Few, however, are willing to give up any advantage, no matter how unfair. To the extent, then, that women take advantage of the benefits pop feminists have gotten for them, but do nothing to curb the androphobic extremism, they are responsible for oppressing men. They have become, in other words, everything the New Rage women say they despise in men.
What should we do about this?
When we saw how men apparently oppressed women, it was necessary and appropriate to heed women's anger and give attention to their issues. Can we do any less, now, when women oppress men?
Rod Van Mechelen