Anthony Synnott Ph.D.

Rethinking Men

Misandry AND Misogyny

Misogyny is back in the news again—not that it really ever left.

Posted Feb 09, 2017

Misogyny is back in the news again, not that it really ever left, but now it is highlighted.

  • Donald Trump’s War on Women”: it has over 53 million hits on Google. A remarkably high number considering how short a time he has been President and his policies on women known. Worth a look, a war on many fronts (accessed 31.1.17). But 53% of white women voted for him and 94% of black women voted against him (Time 6 Feb 2017).
  • “Russia’s War on Women” headlined the Economist (28 Jan 2017:14, 46) noting new legislation by the Duma (parliament) decriminalizing domestic violence in the family unless it causes serious physical harm or is a repeat offense within one year. This is supported by the Russian Orthodox Church which affirmed “the reasonable and loving use of physical punishment as an essential part of the rights given to parents by God himself.” Thank goodness someone knows the mind of God and his gender.
  • India: 45 million girls and women are missing due to selective abortion or neglect. FEMICIDE has also been widely practiced in South Korea, China, Pakistan, Vietnam and the South Caucasus. This war this seems to be “winding down” around the world, according to the Economist (21 Jan 2017) and sex ratios are returning to normal for a range of reasons including government crackdowns, urbanization, and women’s increased participation in the labour force and subsequent earnings.
  • Saudi Arabia: videos on the Internet show women being beheaded or stoned to death. Graphic is not the word. Women’s rights there and in many other Muslim countries are severely circumscribed. Western feminists protest for the rights of Muslim women in the West. But who speaks for their rights in the Muslim majority countries?
  • Washington: The Women’s March  (headlined in Time 6 Feb 2017) numbered apparently about 3.2 million women and men and was perhaps the largest protest march ever in the U.S. (larger than for Trump’s inauguration. Ooops!), and similar protest marches were held in over 600 other sites in the U.S., and in other places around the world. The demands were multiple and indicated the range and intensity of women’s anger, and also the prime role of women in protest and resistance.
  • Add the alleged sexual assaults by Donald Trump, Roger Ailes and Bill Cosby.
  • The documentaries “The Hunting Ground” (2015) and “The Invisible War” (2012) have exposed the realities and frequencies of rape on university campuses in the U.S. and in the U.S. military, and the devastating effects on the individuals and their families, the institutional cover-ups, the police and justice failures, the difficulty of proof, and the nature of consent. The Duke University lacrosse scandal was one incident, the light sentence given to Stanford University student Brock Turner was another. Similar issues occur in Canada (see Robyn Doolittle 3 Feb 2017). Is this a rape culture? Or an anti-rape culture?

Misandry is also back in the news again. How comparable they may be is difficult to say. How many men have been killed in wars over the decades? But that is not really the point. The point is peace and equal human rights. Still, their salience in public culture is indicated by Googling “War against Women”: nearly 18m hits; “War against Men”: nearly 9m; “Misogyny”: nearly 8m; “Misandry”: over 1m. (Accessed 1 Feb 2017) (Full disclosure: I checked the numbers again and they are totally different. I don’t know why.)

My earlier posts on misandry (6 Aug 2010; and 29 Nov 2015) received mixed reviews, some heartfelt thanks and some abuse. So to disabuse the abusive: some seem to assume that if one writes about misandry, one (me actually!) must be anti-female (nope). Just anti-misandry AND anti-misogyny. Call it equal rights (often more used in the rhetoric than the reality) or equity humanism.  But the following examples indicate, I think, that misandry is now being institutionalized and becoming a cultural norm, taken for granted as the truth, (in a post-truth era); and that therefore even the right of free speech can be abandoned, and double standards normalized. A pity.

  • The London School of Economics, my alma mater, has proudly introduced a new one-year MSc programme in the Centre for Women, Peace and Security. Why exclude men? They make up most of the UN Peacekeepers and national police forces. Not just bizarre, but insulting, implying that men are the problem (rather than politicians) and women are the solution—back to the old binary: women = good, sugar and spice, and men = bad, slugs and snails, as in the old rhyme.  LSE seems to be reverting to those polarized and binary values. (See LSE Connect Aug 2016). The fund-raising flier that followed asked: “Why are women raped, tortured, kidnapped, sold into sexual slavery, humiliated and shamed during conflict?” Good question. Why don’t you also ask: “And what about men?” Perhaps they also suffer during conflict. The ignorance is contemptible.

The flier adds that men are killed but women are raped. Then adds, ironically, “We will work to make women’s equality a reality…” Presumably not in deaths or rapes. It mentions Kosovo, but fails to mention Srebenica. Who cares? This programme is about women. And it concludes that the goal is “to make our world safer for women and girls.” And the men and boys can go to hell and mass graves.

This exclusion is part of the problem. Political correctness (and bipolar feminism) wins. Equity loses. Shame on LSE.

On the other hand, certainly women around the world do suffer from a range of adversities often distinct in type or scale from those of men. The list is long and horrific: so-called honor-killing, acid-throwing, bride-burning, FGM, child-marriage, trafficking and involuntary prostitution, dress codes, denial of abortions (Economist 3 Dec 2016); and in some countries  driving rights, voting rights, equal wages for equal work and, as above, femicide. There are “wars” against both women and men, lest we forget.

On yet another hand, the idea or construct of men as the enemy was first promoted by Robin Morgan in “Sisterhood is Powerful” (1970) in a chapter entitled “Know your Enemy. A Sample of Sexist Quotes.” These quotes were negative but I suppose an equally long list of adorable quotes could be found. Morgan did not bother. This would not have suited her misandrist agenda. Germaine Greer kept going in “The Female Eunuch” (1970): “Women have very little idea of how much men hate them…” [And surely many women have a very good idea how much men love them.] This construction of men as enemy and hate escalated to war with Susan Faludi’s “Backlash. The Undeclared War against American Women“ (1992) and Marilyn French’s “The War against Women” (1992). (For references and more examples see “Re-Thinking Men.”) This theme persists with Sue Lloyd-Roberts’ “The War on Women” (2016). 

Generally, however, this militaristic hateful rhetoric of the 70s through to the 90s has subsided, displaced by intersectionality theorists like Patricia Collins and bell hooks, and new concerns about gay rights, trans rights and reproductive rights.

On the other hand (this is a short-handed octopus), there is also “The War against Men” by Richard Hise (2004) and “The War against Boys” by C. H. Sommers (2000) - (Oh yes! And a chapter in my book, and a PT post on 14 Feb 2011) - which note that men too suffer from a wide range of adversities, often distinct in type or scale from those of women. Both androcide and femicide persist. LSE please note. Plus also note the women above whose concept of feminism was less about equity and more about misandry: enemy, hate and war. Perhaps they believed that misandry would forward equity; though preaching hatred of half of humanity seems unlikely to be terribly helpful.

Again, on the 5th hand so far, this construction of women as the victims of male enemies, hate and war is so untruth—Trump was not the first on truthiness, nor were these feminists—it goes with the territories of politics and ideology—but Trump is only political, and some feminists are and were sexist. One thing to demonize Democrats, another to demonize half of humanity; still another to ignore dimensions of class and race by which the wealthy men AND women oppress the poor, both men AND women; and white men AND women have for centuries oppressed black men AND women. Allies by one variable are enemies by another. Some abusers ignore this intersectionality with one-dimensional feminist vision. Women are not the only victims, nor men the only villains.

It gets more complicated with intra-gender issues, not only within class and race relations, but also within faiths. In an article entitled “Muslim Sisterhood” in The New Yorker (21 Nov 2016) the author quotes the experiences of the Iraqi-American playwright Heather Raffo with her Middle Eastern students. On female genital mutilation in Egypt, where it is common, she commented: “it was often the mothers and aunts who were the biggest enforcers of the practice.” She added: “What has come up in my writing and other women’s writing is how cruel women can be to each other.”

To segue back to class and inequality, and indirectly to the Trump victory and the votes of the angry, Oxfam reports that the richest EIGHT men in the world “own as much wealth ($426bn) as half the world’s population combined ($409bn). There are some quibbles about the statistics (maybe nine men?) but while this may be far from misandry, it clarifies political and economic realities and intersectionality (Economist 21 Jan 2017:63).    

  • “A distressing summer of workplace sexism reminds us how far we have to go.” Time magazine columnist Susanna Schrobsdorf (5 Sep 2016) cited a PEW research survey that found that 56% of the men surveyed agree that “the obstacles that once made it harder for women than men to get ahead are now largely gone.” 63% of women disagreed. So a maximum of 37% perhaps agreed, for a maximum 19% difference. She cited the Fox scandal and some examples, and this was before the Trump scandals, so she has a point. The operative word is “largely,” (fairly meaningless: 40% 75% 90%?).  Still, I decided to check it out.  

The trouble is that the PEW report, “Women and Leadership,” actually documented how far women have come and how quickly. Not to power parity, no, but consider that at the time of publication (14 Jan 2015):  *104 women were serving in Congress (19%), a record, almost double from 1995; *26 women (5%) were CEOs of the F500, up from 0% in 1995; * 65% of women think that women face some discrimination in the labor force, compared to 48% of men [surprisingly low, I thought, given all the scandals]; * the proportion of state governors has risen from zero in 1971 to 10% in 2014, and of state legislators from 4.5% to 24.3%. Then in 2016 Hillary almost became President, to join Angela Merkel and Theresa May and about 20 other female heads of state.

Canadian research (2016) has indicated that misogyny is prevalent is in both the RCMP (the federal police) and the military. Indeed a $1,000,000 lawsuit has been filed against the Canadian military for varieties of sexual harassment. Apologies have been offered and monies set aside for compensations for career losses and PTSD, and reforms implemented (e.g. reporting offences to civilians not to the police or military authorities).  But while that “reminds us how far we have to go,” last summer reminds us how far we have come to gender equity. Half the Canadian cabinet are women. Prime Minister Trudeau was asked why: “Because it’s 2016!” he replied. There you go!

  • “The Red Pill” is a documentary by an award-winning American feminist film-maker on the Men’s Rights movement. It was recently scheduled for a performance in an Ottawa theatre. Feminist protests followed, not quite in the spirit of free speech or equal rights, and the film was withdrawn. Pathetic? Yes. Misandry? Yes. Equal rights? No. Indeed this whole demand for equity begins to seem like a camouflage behind which lurks misandry as a “righteous hatred” of half of humanity. Sad, especially given the massive support for female advancement from men, the only population that had the power to change these worlds. That and the pill.
  • The WHO announced that 1 in 3 women have experienced IPV. Typically, it ignored the proportion of men. The problem is not violence solely against women, but violence period, violence against BOTH women AND men and anyone. (See headline at Population Reference Bureau accessed 13 Dec 2016)
  • Concordia University: one of our student newspapers featured an article on  ”controlling women’s self censorship.” The article stated that the conference was supported by a theatre company “whose mandate is equal representation and feminist storytelling.” Equal but not equal. (The Concordian 17.1.2017).
  • “Women and Gender Studies” programs proliferate across North America. Gender Studies? Fine. Women’s Studies? Fine. Men’s Studies?  About time: fine. Women and Gender Studies? Not so fine. These ivory towers cannot even say the word “men” equally with “women”. Which is why some of our more misandrist sisters say “womyn” and develop these blazingly obvious sexist programmes for each other. How far we have to go?

I hope that most people in North America believe in equal rights and human rights, and practice them, though I have my doubts, and there may be some dispute about what constitutes equal rights. Not to try to summarize the recent debates, but clearly the inequalities between men and women, blacks and whites, rich and poor, and issues of racism and sexism, need to be discussed further, and resolved. It must be apparent that the Occupy Movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Tea Party movement, and the Women’s March on Washington, and the protests about Trump’s travel ban—all speak to profound discontent about gender, race, class and faith. Wide divisions. We are not done yet, not in the U.S., Canada or the U.K., not to mention France, Germany and elsewhere.

But enough complaining and victimization; I give you heroes and glory: the success of Hillary Clinton, who won the majority vote, Angela Merkel and Theresa may, and in a totally different vein, Gal Gadot, the Israeli former soldier and Miss Israel, who faced down opposition to her starring as Wonder Woman (the face of the first MS feminist magazine) stating: “”If she’s smart and strong, she can’t also be sexy. Why can’t she be all of the above?” (Time 26 Dec 2016). She echoes Madonna, Beyonce and Taylor Swift, at least. On the other side, the 11 Nobel Prize winners in 2016 in four different disciplines and the Peace Prize all went to men. Not all bad then. As to villains: in Canada nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer has just been charged with eight counts of first degree murder between 2007 and 2014, and Alexandre Bissonnette has been charged with six counts of homicide and wounding 19 others in an attack on a Quebec City mosque last month.

We do have real problems of sexism. Misogyny and misandry persist. The former is more prevalent “there”, the latter, I suggest, perhaps more prevalent “here.” Both are obnoxious, erroneous and inhumane. But it is the “here” that I am principally concerned with—admittedly the lesser of two evils globally, but the one we can deal with best. Activists protest for women’s rights and for men’s rights, asserting men’s rights and men’s wrongs. It is difficult to effect egalitarian changes in gender relations in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India or Afghanistan, but here we can effect changes.

I think it is useful to emphasize in gender relations, not so much the enmity, hate and war—these become self-fulfilling prophecies—but rather a polyphonic (triple) approach of heroes, villains as well as victims, all three, mediated by intersectional AND intrasectional aspects of identity in gender, colour, faith, disability and socio-economic status. In these lights we may approach social justice and human rights, end the hate and the wars, and be friends.

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