Misandry, the hatred of men, is rarely identified in popular Canadian culture, and yet it seems—to my increasingly sensitive ears—to be growing in popularity. It is difficult to know whether or not misandry is, in fact, now more prevalent in Canada than its anti-female sibling, but it is clear that, whereas misogyny has been effectively pushed to the shadows (such that it is politically dangerous for any public person to be perceived as under its influence), anti-male sexism is openly practiced on our public airwaves every day.
SETHBLOGS UPDATE: Reviewing this post after many years of studying the battles of sexism, I see that—in these next paragraphs—I will be guilty of that which I accuse present-day Western culture. That is, I will presume that, during certain times and places (for instance, Western society’s deep past), sexism has been much harsher against women and girls than it has been against men and boys. I now see that such an assumption is not as easily assumed as I assumed. As with those I accuse in the present, my no-nuance conclusion relies on me forgetting to consider the obligations and privileges of both sexes.
For instance, while, yes, team men acquired the franchise before women as a group , those men were simultaneously being drafted into wars that their female counterparts were not. Certainly, in that past—as well as in current-day religion-run cultures—gender was a thicker dividing line which restricted women’s freedom, but I negelected to observe that it also demanded particular duties of men. I stand by modern agnosticism that I don’t know which sex has in total been most mistreated by gender expectations, but I retract my unearned conclusion that women necessarily suffered greater mistreatment in our past than men did. As with those who jump to that thesis about men and women today, I was riding a stereotype, which may or not have been right.
Nevertheless, the spirit of this post remains a match for my current feelings. Regardless of the status of the historical scorecard, in modern discussions of sexism, the consensus is that women are the sole victims of it, and men are the leading perpetrators. I believe such generalizations are sexist and have potentital to hurt our society, and so I intend to take them on.
And now back to SethBlogs 2014 oversimplifying the backstory.
—SethBlogs, April 2021
I believe that, in the history of this world, anti-female chauvinism has had more power than the reverse, but, as we’ve seen in the last century, our society can change rapidly. As George Orwell expressed in Animal Farm, the oppressed can become the oppressors if we don’t scrutinize them with the same intensity as we did their predecessors. It is not my intention to argue that public misandry in Canada is as influential today as misogyny may have been previously (and perhaps continues to be in nations where chauvinistic religious teachings overpower secular democratic philosophy); instead, I am arguing that no one should be the victim of bigotry, even if one’s gender-similar ancestors started it.
Thus, with this post at its launching pad, I intend to write an Anti-Misandry series within SethBlogs (simply click the Sethics vs. Misandry link in the Categories to the right of this post to see all future arguments). In this introduction, I am not yet making the case that misandry is running free in our public discourse: I will leave that to my upcoming posts. However, I will suggest here, for those who are skeptical that such pervasive sexism against men could possibly exist in a world that has for so long been ruled by Kings before Queens, that the swinging of the pendulum may be an inevitable result of human nature.
For the average human ego, a disadvantage is as good as an achievement. We will often highly esteem in ourselves the obstacles we believe we have endured as much as we appreciate our official results. (It’s simple mathematics of the ego: if getting to the top rung on whatever ladder of success one is climbing is considered good, then arriving there from the bottom rung is more impressive than inheriting the position.)
The tricky thing is, then, since most human egos yearn to see their life in the most complimentary possible analysis, we will want to credit ourselves with as many disadvantages as we can get away with. This means that, even if the freedoms and opportunities for our particular group improve, our natural tendency will be to resist noticing or acknowledging when things change for our better. (This is not to say that those who claim disadvantage are incorrect, but merely that we cannot, as many gender analysis studies do, take self-reporting as infallible.)
Moreover, on the other side of the distinction, it is also predictable that those people who are accused of continuing to enjoy condemned historical advantages will be reticent to question their accusers (especially if they want to be seen as progressive). Many men, for instance, who believe in gender equality—or at least want to be perceived so—would prefer to err on the side of anti-male language (and get credit for being a friend to all women) than to admit to feeling skeptical of a feminist claim.
These two inevitable forces, under the influence of politically correct rage against divergent opinion (as depicted in my posts, NO QUESTIONS ASKED and ONE OPINION FITS ALL), has yielded a media culture that is collectively incapable of critically assessing chauvinism. I have no doubt that there is still much anti-female sexism lingering in Canada, but—in the absence of genuine criticism of modern feminism—it’s difficult to know where we’re at.
(See, for instance, my post THE USEFUL CRUELTY OF SCRUTINY which documented CBC’s forced and condescending “International Women’s Day” piece regarding three allegedly disadvantaged women of Bay Street in Toronto.)
Thus, in opposition to these one-sided sexism discussions, this Anti-Misandry series will seek to identify cases of anti-male language which are allowed to roam free in the public discourse, unchecked by the Canadian (and sometimes American) media.
This is not meant to be an anti-feminist production. (That is, it is not opposed to feminism’s stated goal of persuing equality.) On the contrary, it is an egalitarian project: to my mind, the best nutrition for any philosophy is not to patronize it, but rather to criticize it so that only its best arguments persist.
Don’t take my word for it: before sampling my rant-filled waters, I suggest reading the foremother of anti-misandry, one of my philosophical heroes, Christina Hoff Sommers, in particular her book, Who Stole Feminism?
4 thoughts on “MEET THE MISANDRY”
Your theory of the psychology of the misandrist oppressors and the oppressed is compelling. My ability to run for 30 minutes is not particularly impressive on its own, but when I casually mention the background of my out-of-shape state when I began to run, how hard it was initially, my decidedly un-athletic lifestyle, my perpetual suffering in school gym class, my partiality to sweets and butter-infused products, and my childhood diagnosis as mildly asthmatic, it becomes much more noteworthy for bragging purposes; to some, perhaps, it could be construed as a heartwarming tale of a weakling overcoming adversity 🙂
As well, the reluctance of the oppressed to question the status quo for fear of seeming reactionary and even bigoted is commonplace, as the First Nations situation and your blogs on this subject have shown. We have already seen this phenomenon in both casual and more formal discussions of race. It is evident in how the historically advantaged tiptoe around and trip over what to call the historically disadvantaged. E.g.: Is it “black” or “African American”? Don’t say the wrong one in some circles! If you unknowingly utter the politically incorrect name, or bring up the issue of race for any reason besides that of pointing out racism, you might be viewed as racist. Case in point: I teach at a school designed to help children who have come to Canada from a particular country overcome certain linguistic challenges. One of my students, a little boy, came to the following perfectly neutral, harmless, and above all, true realization: “Hey! Only *purple* people come to this school!” There was nothing wrong with this observation, and I felt that, for someone of his age, it showed, in a delightful way, his burgeoning awareness of his surroundings. I was about to reply cheerfully with, “That’s right!”, when he, feeling auto-guilty, apologized for what he said almost immediately, saying, “Sorry, that was so racist.” When I asked him what he thought was racist about his statement, he couldn’t say. This is a poignant example of how we’re taught from a young age to be hypersensitive to any reference to race that is not a complaint about racism, even in the case of an innocent observation. The situation is similar with the sexes I think.
Thanks Natalie. I like your example of your retroactive running-adversity enjoyment. Given that our society has an intrinsic respect for obstacles and those who overcome them, it is problematic when we forget to question statements of disadvantage in the same way that we would other self-promoting claims (even though, as I said in my blog, such claims of adversity might turn out to have been righteous, or partially so).
I also agree with your comment re the fear that mainstream culture has with saying the wrong thing to or about the historically disadvantaged. (Ironically, as I attempted to demonstrate in The Useful Cruelty of Scrutiny, I think such condescension is more harmful than criticism.) The mainstream Canadian media, I think, is a major negative player in this regard as they’re terrified of seeming to be taking the wrong position on a discussion regarding a person or population defined as disadvantaged. The result is an atrophying of objectivity in journalism regarding certain sensitive issues.
Your student’s sudden fear that his innocuous statement was racist is an interesting symptom of this. Because most public discussions of race and gender are so one-dimensional (i.e. you either possess the acceptable opinion or you’re a bigot), they lack the perspective possessed by topics that are allowed more nuance. Our original justification for being opposed to bigotry has mutated into a language that allows neither nuance nor contemplation; it seems that the auto-offended are winning.
I recently finished “Female Chauvinist Pigs” by Ariel Levy which has some interesting points as well (review) “… brilliantly laying bare the contradictions and evasions and self-deceptions that pass for empowerment”.
It seems more and more often I run into the situation where I am presented with a male who feels the need to put down his own gender in order to be looked at with favour to women. Granted, he is misrepresenting his true opinions – never good – but it also hits me every time that this is becoming the very accepted norm. And most women jump all over it, heartily agreeing with him and nudging up his “respect” points just a little. I tend to blast the poor fella, telling him that I don’t need to hear such drivel; I find it condescending and hurtful to one or both sexes (usually not in such harsh words, but that’s the quick gist of it).
I know that it throws them as they’ve been trained that man-bashing is not only okay but encouraged. Like you mentioned, Seth, sometimes the oppressee becomes the oppressor… sad state of affairs.
Thank you, Tamsen. You’ve identified what I think is the problem in more direct terms with your example. Whether consciously or not, much of the discussion on topics like this are set up to reward people for adhering to the “correct” opinions. As I’ve tried to argue in this and other posts, respect is not, in fact, the act of pre-approving all opinions of a particular group, but to treat them as equals worthy of genuine consideration. Anything less is prejudice, while anything more is condescension.