Someone challenged Aron Ra to explain feminism to him via a Youtube video, begging every single one of the seven questions. Aron Ra gave laudable answers, though PZ Myers pointed out some errors and some of the pitfalls that Aron Ra stumbled through (owing, entirely, to the framing of the questions — just look at the expectation of an autocratic hierarchy with an authoritarian power structure).
In the comments at PZ’s, the thread rapidly became a “what about the men” derail by someone who apparently, genuinely, just wanted to explore the topic. He suggested an apposite inverse to feminism would be “masculinism”, which deals with the ways that men are disadvantaged in society.
I had done, some time ago, a piece on the disadvantages of being a man. Strangely enough, all of them stemmed from the current structure of our society, which undeniably advantages men disproportionately. There are a few corrections that need to be made to that essay, which I’ll try to touch on in here. I feel the need to talk about “masculinism”, “egalitarianism” (in reference specifically to gender relations), what it could look like, and why it’s particularly incomplete without integrating into feminism.
Sociology applies the term “patriarchy” to a society in which men are the leaders, the doers, the actors, the ones burdened with the grand task of moving society forward; sociology also applies the term “privilege” to any axis of systematic advantage that someone might enjoy. Applying these two terms to the very real power structures that are observable and demonstrable objectively about our society is often enough to send some folks screaming for the hills, but I employ them unabashedly, because they are the correct terms. And so, if you’re one of those types who might be despoiled of an essay by their use, sorry. Either stick it out, or scram. Don’t hit the comments unless you’ve read and at least understand what I’m arguing here.
Our society is undeniably patriarchal, though as time marches on, that patrairchy is undergoing significant erosion. Men still have far more of the highest-paying jobs; men still make more for the same work; men still have access to all the levers of power with which predominantly-male legislative branches pass laws restricting women’s bodies with an alarming alacrity and frequency. Men have such entitlement to every sphere of public life that any engagement with women on their own terms within these spheres is viewed as encroachment. Men are capable of doing a great deal of damage to women either systematically or directly, with relatively few consequences. And every instance of someone going off the rails with violent or rapey rhetoric, or escalating from that rhetoric directly to actual violence, sexual or otherwise, is dismissed as an isolated incident, and not a part of a vaster pattern.
The erosion that this patriarchy is undergoing has come with a few repercussions. With the erosion of patriarchy has come a backlash of people who feel the gains made by women in society represent feminists “going too far”. There is, among some of these backlashers, palpable fear that women are trying to subjugate men — that they are lazy beasts who are trying to yoke men into providing everything for them, organizing society such that men have to sacrifice everything — their children, their time, their very lives — while women have to sacrifice nothing whilst eating bonbons and collecting a fat alimony cheque.
(Incidentally, as a sidebar, I was suckered in by a myth in my original essay on the disadvantages of being a man, about “women and children first”. Statistically, men were only slightly disadvantaged in escapes from boats, and the trope was actually used — and is still used to this day, erroneously — to argue that women did not need voting rights or other societal autonomy because the entire “women and children first” paradigm proved that men were good stewards of women’s lives.)
Interestingly, it is the rigid gender roles that come with a patriarchal society that impresses upon men that they are the breadwinners, the doers, the fighters, the politicians who have to run everything; the very same rigid gender roles that make men sacrifice their lives in combat also impugn a man’s character if they’re unwilling to make that sacrifice. And those roles suggest that women are incapable of making those sacrifices, and so the “men’s rights activists” demand that women take on combat roles, even while other MRAs scoff at the idea that weak, pathetic women could ever handle combat situations.
So patriarchy suggests that men sacrifice everything, in exchange for all the power. Feminism seeks to overturn that paradigm, and for the most part, feminists (barring some particularly fringe ones who have prejudices of their own) seek true equality for the sexes.
Some folks — men and occasionally the odd deluded woman — in discussions around feminism will often, disingenuously or otherwise, suggest that the word “feminist” is the problem, that feminism seeks to elevate women above men, because they see disadvantages like those I’ve itemized and think that that means the word “feminist” can’t possibly describe what they want. They either seek only to address the issues men face, or seek to address only the disadvantages they themselves see, or only those disadvantages that don’t involve admitting that the whole Gordian knot has been woven around the core that is the patriarchy.
An egalitarian (used only in the sense of gender — remember, an egalitarian also believes other things with regard to economics and politics!), would want men and women to be equal. Men and women are demonstrably not equal now — men, even while enduring challenges systematically simply because they’re expected to have all the responsibilities, are also disproportionately advantaged by those same. A feminist recognizes that disparity and attempts to address the power imbalance.
In the same way, in race relations in America, whites disproportionately hold all the power; they are the privileged position on the axis of race. Ferguson’s protests and the overzealous, militarized response by predominantly white police is iconic of this imbalance. While everyone understands that racism is “bad”, nobody understands what racism actually IS, or that it played a significant role in the shooting of the unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, or the framing thereafter of protests as “thugs” and “looting” when the vast majority of the actual violence happening on the ground was unidirectional, aimed AT the protesters by the police. Despite the fact that the white man in that encounter had all the power over the black man, people still attempt to put some spin on the situation wherein the black man, because he was “no angel”, somehow deserved being shot at eleven-ish times while fleeing and ultimately having his life ended while surrendering.
All the power imbalance, in this respect, is pretty starkly evident. And yet you still have people pushing back against the narrative that is borne out by the evidence, suggesting that people claiming race plays a part in this pageant are “playing the race card”.
The people pushing back against feminism, who see disadvantages that they’re affected by directly but who will not see that these disadvantages arise from power structures that otherwise significantly and disproportionately advantage them over women, they are repeatedly and unabashedly crying out that people are “playing the sexism card”. Not in exactly those words, though. They usually use other words, like “feminazi”, or the ever popular “cunt” — you know, slurs that prove the point feminists are trying to make.
Masculinism as an ideal, fighting the disadvantages men endure, is as unnecessary in the context of our current society as white power movements. Whites already have most of the power. Men already have most of the power. If you want to fix the disadvantages men face, you have to actually understand the context of the society you seek to change, and that context is inescapable to women.
The arguments of the anti-feminists, the framing that you will see with crystal clarity when you step back and survey the whole landscape, is that people who want men to stop controlling and dominating women are feminists, and that feminists are somehow attempting to therefore dominate men in turn. That context is borne out of fear that the power structure might be directly inverted, rather than levelled. With regard to the anti-feminists who spend all of their time fighting feminism, and none of their time helping men, who are subject to that fear, it’s telling that they tacitly admit that the power structure we see today is flawed. It’s even more telling that the thing that they fear is being subjugated in the same way that women are subjugated presently.
So if you want egalitarianism, feminists are fighting for that cause. Masculinists, if there are such things outside of the scope of feminism, are therefore equivalent to white-power advocates — afraid that the script might get flipped on them, but not actually comprehending the tilts in the playing field they’re on.