That men are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to be incarcerated, and more likely to be portrayed as a buffoon in a commercial for oven cleaner is actually a “neglected form of sexism” perpetrated by feminists, says David Benatar, head of philosophy at Cape Town University and author of The Second Sexism. He has conjecture and out-of-context statistics to prove it. And of course the Guardian eats it all up unquestioningly, delivering Benatar’s time-honored MRA talking points as if they’re established and undeniable facts.
Do Benatar and Farrell have a point? A handful of statistics seems to bear out their thesis. Not only are men more likely to be conscripted into military service, to be the victims of violence, and to lose custody of their children in the event of a divorce, but tests conducted in 2009 by the programme for international student assessment, carried out by the OECD thinktank, showed that boys lag a year behind girls at reading in every industrialised country. They work longer hours, too: in 2010 the Office for National Statistics found that men in the UK work an average of 39 hours a week, compared with 34 for women. Healthwise, men develop heart disease 10 years earlier than women, on average, and young men are three times more likely to commit suicide.
Men also get teased in commercials and sitcoms, and men are more likely to be victims of violence. And it’s all the fault of what Benatar calls “partisan feminists,” who care only about advancing the cause of women at the expense of true equality and, evidently, dominate government, business, and the entertainment industry.
Jo T at the f word and Melissa at Shakesville have excellent, thorough, fact-by-fact (or I suppose “fact”-by-“fact” would be more accurate) takedowns, and I recommend–nay, insist–that you read them. They are informed and insightful, whereas all I have is
A firm yet sympathetic open letter to the dudebros
Dudebros: When you’re a proud member of a class that has been dominant for millennia, and occasionally you find yourself not on top, that’s not oppression–that’s backfiring. It’s a side effect. No system is perfect. When you create and enforce a system of gender roles in which “real men” are strong, fearless, stoic, and violent; and “real women” are delicate, emotional, compassionate, and nurturing; you will occasionally find yourself held to those same standards. When you establish combat and money-earning as “men’s work” and childrearing and caregiving as “women’s work,” you will occasionally find yourself stuffed into an assigned role. Even when they aren’t your standards or your preferred roles, per se–when you personally want to diverge from them and are being punished for it–it’s still your system, your patriarchy, and you’re still soaking in its benefits.
And while I know I might come across as unsympathetic here, sincerely I’m not. I’m right there with you. If you want to know how damaging it can be to function under a patriarchy, ask a woman–or, for that matter, a gender-nonconforming man who probably did try to tell you about it until it became apparent that society was okay with you punching him.
So no, a delicate, emotional little flower of a woman isn’t going to be sent to the front lines in combat, is going to be automatically assigned custody of a kid, isn’t going to find accommodations in the workplace that make it feasible for her to return to work full-time, and is going to be shuttled into a career arc that assumes she’s going to bail the moment her biological clock rings. And it isn’t because feminists are rubbing their hands together and crowing, “Pack up your pants and grab your pearls, ladies! The 1950s Express is rolling in–destination: you!”
The good news is that women aren’t all fragile and emotional, and some of them want to fight on the front lines, and some of them don’t want to have kids, and some of them want to do both! The bad news is that patriarchy is your baby, so if you want any of this to benefit you, you have to stop calling other men pussies and women bitches when they don’t conform to those gender roles you love so much, and you have to stop accusing women of handing out beejers when they excel in the workplace, you have to stop committing violence against us and each other (for Christ’s sake), and you have to stop talking about “babysitting” your own kids whenever you take care of them. And that’s just to start with.*
So relax, dudebros: You’re still the first sex. You’re just going through something known to some as “marginal loss of male privilege.” Don’t panic–you still have a ton of it left.
*I have no idea what to do about the heart disease. Maybe lock your windows at night so partisan feminists will stop climbing in under cover of darkness and injecting Velveeta into your femoral artery? … Uh, which we’re TOTALLY NOT DOING.