Sometimes I like to read things that I know are going to piss me off. Like picking at a scab. It hurts a little and you know you shouldn’t do it but you can’t resist anyway. That’s what men’s rights activists (MRAs) can be to feminists- an itchy, ugly scab. And the kicker is, sometimes, I don’t get why.
Take an article published on Men’s News Daily a couple days ago called The Myth of Women’s Oppression. The basic information isn’t new and it’s what you’d expect of a men’s rights activist intent on blaming feminism for male woes. To sum up: women were never really oppressed because they were pampered, protected and treated like royalty while men were charged with providing, protecting, and even laying down their lives for them. So it’s the essential argument for the supposed female privilege (again) which I won’t get into debunking because loads of people have already done that. (Finally Feminism 101 has a great definition and more resources including a link to male feminist’s thoughts about female privilege).
What I think is great (really, I mean that) is how perfectly this article illustrates how men and women have been stuck in a centuries-old patriarchal system that harms both sexes. From the tone of the article, I’m sure it’s unintentional, but it is there. This system tells us that “real men” are expected to act a certain way: tough, macho, strong. These macho men can fight in combat, can slave away at the office and bring home food. Is this fair? Of course not! And any actual feminist knows this. Labeling men like this hurts women too.
While men are forced into this specific gender role that has endowed them with power- economic power and authority- women have been stripped of it. They’re tender princesses so what kind of power would they want? Their traditional role is to have babies, to take care of the children and the husband. Not all women want this role either. (When the patriarchal system says that women are the tender caregivers and not men, is it really any wonder why the courts are biased in favor of giving women child custody?)
Both men and women should be allowed to choose for themselves what they want, not have it dictated to them by an oppressive system. This comment on the Men’s News Daily article from Masculinist (who I gather from reading his comments blames feminism too) illustrates the bizarre disconnect between men’s rights activists and feminists. The point of the men’s rights movement, which, oddly enough, sounds an awful lot like feminism is “…to break the shackles of a society that tries to shame us men into ‘taking it like men,’ giving, and ‘enduring pain’ so that women can have ‘crying privileges’, ‘pampering’, pleasure, and be able to take the fruits of men’s labors.”
The blame game played out in this article, with MRAs and elsewhere that point to feminism as the reason why life is prejudice, sexist and unfair is unproductive and false. The machinations of a system don’t have agency- it’s like blaming god for burning down a wooden house after a storm. God doesn’t exist either- the lighting caused the fire, and the wooden structure kept it burning.
Yeah, it’s a hell of a lot easier blaming someone, some specific group. It at least gives you a target, a place to vent your frustrations and rage. But instead of playing the who is really oppressed or who is really privileged games, it makes tons more sense to be working together to dismantle a system that has institutionalized the notion that women should be the delicate protected and the men the macho protectors. It’s not feminism, it’s not women, it’s not men that are at fault- it’s the system that we’re all entrenched in.
EDITORS NOTE (December 5, 2009)
Given the volume and the nature of the comments we’ve received about this post so far, we’ve written the following Comments Policy:
Comments containing personal attacks or any other kind of hostility directed at us will be promptly deleted at our discretion. If you disagree with us fine, let us know what you think. But anything accusatory, anything that threatens to devolve a civil discussion into a yelling match will also be deleted and the users will be blocked. This is our space and if you don’t like what we’re saying and want to bad mouth us, save it for your own space.
In response to the comments on this post, I (Christina) wrote a separate response to collectively address the 20 or so comments we received up through today in a new post called Comment on Comments.
If you’d like to comment or read further about the definition of feminism or the relationship between feminism and men, please go to Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog.