The Myth of Male Power

Posted: December 27, 2011 in Foucault, Masculinities, misandry, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I had an argument on twitter yesterday – call it a discussion- about gender and power and ‘oppression’. My position, that men do not have ‘more power’ than women, and that women are not ‘more oppressed’ than men, as a group, was laughed out of town. I was told that I was ignoring the ‘facts’ and denying the ‘objective’ truth of the situation.

I also chatted to a friend online who told me he’d received Warren Farrell’s The Myth Of Male Power as a Christmas gift. When I was still a feminist, I remember a working class man I worked with talking about this book. It was the first time I’d heard the word ‘misandry’ spoken out loud. I’m ashamed to say that I dismissed the man’s points, and went home to look up Farrell – deciding he was a misogynist and anti-women, anti-feminist, without even reading his book!

I still haven’t read the book but I am a lot more sympathetic to its themes, and the way it describes some of the injustices men face in a gendered society. For example, as regular reader stoner has pointed out, the selective service for men in America:

”In post offices throughout the United States, Selective Service posters [reading “A Man’s Gotta Do What A Man’s Gotta Do] remind men that only they must register for the draft. If the Post Office had a poster saying “A Jew’s Gotta Do What A Jew’s Gotta Do…” or if “A Woman’s Gotta Do…” were written across the body of a pregnant woman…” 28 

http://www.warrenfarrell.org/styled-2/summary.html

I am also reminded of Mark Simpson’s work. In fact, I think he mentions Farrell in Male Impersonators. In that book he also includes an incredible chapter about the miners’ strike in the UK in the 80s and its aftermath in the early 90s. He writes:

‘But it is a Star leader that makes explicit the reduction of ‘the workers’ to the ‘real men’. In a crude style not without resonance on the left, it jeers: ‘If Labour cannot do better for the miners, the founding fathers of the movement, it will prove conclusively that the party is now fit only for polytechnic lecturers, leftie lawyers and twittering* women teachers – NOT the workers’.’

The bitter irony is that media eulogies of the miners have only been possible because they are now so weak, and traditional masculinity so enervated. The Mirror offered a poster of an attractive, exhausted young miner slumped on a bench in a locker-room,posed in a sweaty singlet with a ghostly winding tower super-imposed, emerging from his leg as a kind of hazy memory of the phallus. In inviting pity, this male image also invites the gaze in a way that would have been impossible without the very changes in gender roles that it seems to lament.’

I don’t have a BIG POINT to end on. I am probably left with Foucault, as usual, and the idea that ‘power is everywhere’ and much more complex than we allow for.

__________________________

Thanks to stoner and White Mischief for input.

*twittering has another resonance now which brings me back to the start of this post!

Comments
  1. Henry says:

    Farrell is wonderful – a sane voice in all the gender nonsense. Oddly, I think his target audience is women rather than men, whereas I think it is men who need a kick up the backside to get them to think about these issues.

    There are many videos of interviews with him on YouTube – you’ve linked to the best one QRG. He argues almost any point from feminism. Like you – and like many of us – he has obviously come face to face with the same attitude: if you question the central tenets of feminism, you are laughed at, if you provide facts to support your thesis, you are ignored. It is questioning a religious credo. Look at the unpleasant behaviour Neil Lyndon got for questioning these beliefs in print…

    I don’t agree with everything Farrell says, but it is remarkable, when you think about it, that these notions – that women are in some general (unspecified) way ‘oppressed’, and have less ‘power’ than men – are so quickly accepted as established fact.

    Farrell makes the point that a man who is forced, by law, to pay large amounts of alimony for a child he sees 4 times a month – and is therefore less able to enjoy a good relationship with his child(ren), may see things somewhat differently. Where is his ‘power’ that the feminists so envy him for having? Apparently not the power to influence the single most important aspect of his life, where he is rather at the mercy of one of the ‘oppressed’ people.

    What about the unemployed fathers in impoverished circumstances who find themselves kicked out of the home, because the mother will receive better benefits that way? Or a father-to-be who – having listened to noble talk of equality in the home, most of his days – finds that he will receive no paid leave to look after his children: the wife will have all the choice, the closer relationship with the child, etcetc

    These men may be forgiven for thinking that society and the law don’t actually care about fathers – except to dilligently strip them of any meaningful role in their child’s life.

    On these matters feminists remain mysteriously silent, except to pop up in the Guardian with some doublespeak to the effect that when men were paid more it was discrimination, but that now some groups of women are paid more it must be right and proper – or that unemployment is a feminist issue (about 50% more men are unemployed in the UK).

    I am concerned that if the current crop of feminists get their way, what we will have is not equality at all, but a bum deal for men (which might not, incidentally, help women much). So I think men and women should find out more about Farrell and what he says – watch the video list QRG links to, and learn.

    • leta says:

      “: if you question the central tenets of feminism, you are laughed at, if you provide facts to support your thesis, you are ignored. It is questioning a religious credo. Look at the unpleasant behaviour Neil Lyndon got for questioning these beliefs in print…”

      That is what annoys me most. I think its sad that anger is encouraged so much in feminism. So many times I have seen rational debate and an understanding of statistics as being anti-feminist or sounding like a mra. Like the skepchicks article and comments that suggested an economist should of changed his language when he suggested that female choice had a lot to do with the wage gap. Not that his data was wrong but his language. Not that his argument was wrong but because women weren’t equal everywhere. A female self described skeptic who is having an emotional response to someone’s reasonable deduction from the data.

      I remember meeting a few female ex soviet scientists when i was young they had left after the soviet collapse and emigrated and had gotten jobs at a local university. The idea that women were terrible at logic or terrible at maths was actually a foreign concept to me when i first went to uni. The only time I have ever had a thought that women are overly emotional and irrational is when i have debated feminists online. And each time that happens I stop arguing and leave the room and tell myself off.

    • Eagle33 says:

      Henry: “On these matters feminists remain mysteriously silent, except to pop up in the Guardian with some doublespeak to the effect that when men were paid more it was discrimination, but that now some groups of women are paid more it must be right and proper – or that unemployment is a feminist issue (about 50% more men are unemployed in the UK).”

      There’s one other argument they’ll use in regards to the issues that men struggle against.

      “Patrarichy Hurts Men, Too.”

      Sexist gender roles that hurt women the most also hurt men. Sexist gender roles enforced by the partiarchy hurt men.

      Nevermind that Patrarichy means “Roll of the father”.

      Sure, feminism nowadays (or most of it) has changed the meaning of Patriarchy as “Instituional systems that harm both sexes”. The problem is, why do they use Patriarchy if that’s what they want to communicate? We’re still talking about “Roll Of The Father”, it’s root meaning.

      Makes your head spin

  2. Jonathan says:

    “I still haven’t read the book but I am a lot more sympathetic to its themes, and the way it describes some of the injustices men face in a gendered society.”

    Yes, because he redefines power in the more meaningful sense of an individual’s control over their own life. And power here is about stratas, so that an individual’s status and power depends on all sorts of interconnecting factors, of which gender is only one — i.e. most “men” don’t really have much power either.

    If you want to read Farrell, I’d suggest starting with the more recent “Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men?”, which — quite topically here, given Tom Martin’s case — is prompted by a perceived bias in gender studies courses. (You can ignore Sterba’s counter-arguments if you like ;).)

  3. Quiet Riot Girl,

    Thanks for the shoutout-I have read “The Myth of Male Power.” I’m not ready to call myself a “Masculinist” at this point…. I think you will find it interesting however disagree with many points. He equates men to being “success objects” in contrast to the so-called objectification of women. (almost contradictory to “meterosexuality.”) He equates a man’s losing his income to a woman being raped. I know I’m oversimplyfying, but I think his critics will call it a “false equivalence.”

    It is interesting how many Feminists just write off any man who uses the term misandry as a bitter misogynist whiner….

    Amanda Marcotte has done that and I’ve compiled a few of her quotes here:

    http://stonerwithaboner.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/some-creepy-quotes-by-amanda-marcotte/

    • Henry says:

      I had a minor altercation with a lady on CiF that illustrated this. She basically tried to set people thinking that the men arguing against feminism were potentially violent towards “someone they knew in real life” without quite saying as much*.

      I put to her what it was she was doing, her reply was something fairly catty along the lines of “you’ve so much anger…it’s bad for your health”. Nice…

      Her style of argument tells you a lot about how these people operate. Same old tactics – undermine the person you’re arguing with, change the subject, never say something clear enough that people could check it for accuracy. Gotta love the feminism of this day and age…

      *so she could deny it later

  4. oh, I know I mentioned this before but here is my canned response when someone tries to shout down opposition by saying “privilege.” My attempt to re-rail honest conversations about gender and power….

    —-

    Well, next time you are at a blog and someone says “you are so privileged.” Just fire back like this:

    How do you know? Have you ever walked a day in my shoes? I doubt I can use my so called “privilege” to buy an expired soda at the 99 cent store. Is there an official criteria you are using or are you just making this up as you go along?

    This is the definition I found on an online dictionary:

    a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor : prerogative; especially : such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office

    Really I don’t know what definition you are using but I suspect that it is not in good faith and you are only engaging in “Identity Politics” as a way to discredit my words. I am here to debate ideas, not to be trampled on.

    If they don’t like it, Fuck ‘em….

    And if you like this, feel free to cut and paste it as a response, just remember to give me some link love ;)

    http://stonerwithaboner.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/the-privilege-argument/

  5. anyways, I think we are getting near something “taboo.”

    when enough males “opt out” and refuse military service, law enforcement…

    when enough males realize that they should not be the “disposable class”…

    when enough males realize their health and feelings should matter just as much as everyone else’s….

    certain classes will realize how much they’ve relied on the blood, sweat and sacrifice of “lower caste” males…. They will see how much of their position in life and safety (at others expense) is unearned…..

    I think this is the real reason why David Fucktrelle hates Men Going Their Own Way….

    This is why Joe Biden and his ilk spit on lower status men….

  6. Great points everyone!

    I’ll try and add something tomorrow when I’ve watched Farrell’s video.

  7. […] that as an important gender issue.The constant whining by well-heeled feminist women about so-called male privilege, was probably the final straw for me as far as my relationship with feminism was concerned. […]

  8. Lyall says:

    I stumbled upon The Myth of Male Power late last year (around the time all the protests were happening in Toronto). Warren Farrell wrote some praise for the excellent No More Mr. Nice Guy book by Robert Glover I was reading and the preposterous idea of male power as a myth intrigued me and already being interested in masculinity I had to get the book.

    Considering my feminist sensibility reading the Myth of Male Power really felt like a dangerous book and it was because I didn’t have a feminist sensibility afterwards. I was scared and excited.

    I’ve added Male Impersonators: Men Performing Masculinity by Mark Simpson to my wish list.

  9. […] constant whining by well-heeled feminist women about so-called male privilege, was probably the final straw for me as far as my relationship with feminism was concerned. […]

  10. […] konstanta gnällandet från välbärgade feministiska kvinnor om så kallade manliga privilegier, var förmodligen sista droppen för mig vad min relation till feminismen anbelangar. Privilegium? […]

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