Misogyny is not the appropriate response to misandry.
By Jeffrey Seeman
From the beginning, one of the main purposes of The Backlash! has been to put an end to the Cycle of Sexism. Each phase of the cycle lasts about 3 generations, which is typical for long wave cycles, and it fluctuates between pervasive misogyny and pervasive misandry. The excesses of each phase spawns the next. In the article below, Jeffrey Seeman addresses the seeds of the misogynistic phase that were beginning to take root near the peak of the misandric phase, in 1994.
Seeds of Misogyny in the Men's Rights Movement
1995 - Earlier in 1994, in an issue of The Liberator, a letter writer observed that women want to dress like men, but men generally don't want to dress like women. "Isn't it the case of the monkey wanting to look like the organ-grinder, but the organ-grinder not wanting to look like the monkey," he asked. Meanwhile, the Men's Advocate features a cartoon of a naked woman with a hideous monster face, above the caption "If you're rich, I'm single." Over at Aladdin's Window, one writer refers to women as "testicularly impaired" while another offers grisly revenge fantasies aimed at Lorena Bobbitt. And right here at The Backlash!, one columnist recently suggested that O.J. Simpson should go free, even if he's guilty, because women have so frequently gotten off after killing their husbands -- a valid point, to be sure, but brought to a regrettable, irresponsible conclusion.
What's going on here? For a movement that condemns gender bigotry and hatred, we seem to be dishing out a bit of it ourselves.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not about to turn my back on masculism or trade in my tattered copy of The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege for a used edition of Sexual Politics. Nor do I want to overstate the problem. The phenomenon of which I'm speaking seems to be mostly confined to obscure writers on the back pages of certain masculist publications; one would be hard-pressed to find such sentiments in the writings of Warren Farrell, Aaron Kipnis, David Thomas, or any of the movement's other leaders. Still, I've encountered this attitude often enough to find it disturbing.
Repeating the Feminist Mistake?
So what? you may ask. Don't gender feminists say even worse things about men? Don't they stereotype and make sweeping generalizations about the entire male gender? Don't they write the most hateful things imaginable about us -- things that make the comments cited above seem tame by comparison?
Yes, they certainly do. And that's why they're despicable.
But keep in mind two things. First of all, the majority of women aren't feminists, let alone "gender feminists." To vent one's frustration at feminism by putting down women in general is misguided. Opposed to feminists? That's good sense. Opposed to women? Sorry, that's bigotry.
Secondly, by engaging in the same hateful tactics as gender feminists, we're giving up the moral high ground and lowering ourselves to their level. Ethically speaking, a man who puts down women as a group is no better than Andrea Dworkin or Marilyn French. Creepy thought, eh? In other words, the moment we begin bashing women, we've completely sacrificed any right we have to complain about male-bashing. Can you spell hypocrisy?
On a more pragmatic level, bashing women ultimately doesn't serve us politically, as we risk alienating women (and men) who might otherwise support our goals -- precisely what feminism has done with its incessant misandry. I see no reason why we should repeat feminism's mistakes.
We Can Do Better Than the Feminists
But don't men have a right to be angry at women? If a woman divorces a man, has him thrown out of his own home, denies him access to his own children, falsely accuses him of abuse, and still expects him to pay her bills, doesn't he have a right to be furious with her? Of course he does. But there's a huge difference between being angry at one particular woman and being angry at women in general. Just because one woman has abused you doesn't mean you have the right to take it out on a whole group of people. What's required here is a modicum of plain old-
fashioned maturity -- a characteristic that's been sorely missing from the feminist movement. Personally, I think we can do better.
For example, to read some masculist writers, you'd think that all women judge men by how much money they make. But this is no more true than the stereotype that all men judge women by how they look. There is certainly an element of truth to both generalizations, because that's how the genders are raised in our culture. But everybody knows that mature adults, both male and female, are much more complex and multifaceted than that. Women who believe that all men look at them solely as sex objects just don't understand men. And if you're a man who thinks all women are after is your wallet -- well, you've definitely been hanging out with the wrong class of women. You've got to start getting out more often, guys.
The Paglia Factor
Is it even necessary to mention that some of the best pro-male (or at least anti-feminist) books of the past few years have been written by women? I refer to this growing phenomenon as The Paglia Factor. Consider the works of Camille Paglia herself (most recently, Vamps & Tramps), as well as Christina Hoff Sommers' Who Stole Feminism?, The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism by Katie Roiphe, and Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women's Studies by Daphne Patal and Noretta Koerge.
And there are a slew of others -- books by American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen (Defending Pornography), Rene Denfeld's The New Victorians: A Young Woman's Challenge to the Old Feminist Order, Network for Empowering Women founder Riki Robbins Jones' Negotiating Love, columnist Cathy Young's Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality, Karen Learmen, and Judith Sherven.
Playing Into the Feminists' Hands
In fact, the whole notion of "men and women as enemies" is a gender feminist paradigm, created to inspire fear and anger in women and thereby to feed the ranks of the feminist movement. In truth, most men and women desperately want to love and be loved by each other. (I say this without regard to sexual orientation, even gay men and lesbians want to be loved by their parents of the other gender.) Our struggle is not against women, then, but against a particular anti-male ideology that can be held by people of either gender. (Quick, name the misandrist: John Stoltenberg or Susan Jeffers?) And, on a deeper level, our struggle is against a repressive sex-gender system that is harmful to both women and men.
Any time we get into the "male vs. female" mode of thinking, we are actually playing into the hands of gender feminists. For feminism (at least in its current incarnation) may profit from gender divisiveness, but masculism is ultimately about gender reconciliation -- that's the avowed goal of every major masculist thinker.
Again, I don't want to overstate the problem. In contrast to the feminist movement, the tendency toward gender stereotyping is not pervasive in masculism. You would be hard-pressed to find even a trace of bigotry in the works of Farrell, Kipnis, or any of the men's movement's acknowledged leaders; the same certainly cannot be said of the leaders of the feminist movement. But I do not want to see the masculist movement begin to go down this path and end up making the same mistakes that feminism has made. Personally, I don't want to be part of a movement that bashes anyone.
After all, this isn't about winning the so-called War Between the Sexes. It's about ending it.