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Outrage that uppity girls

Ally Fogg reviews Michael Kimmel’s new book at Comment is Free.

When one looks at the horrific abuse meted out to feminist campaigners such as Caroline Criado-Perez for having the temerity to ask that a woman should feature on British banknotes, to Laura Bates for fighting back against street harassment and everyday sexism, or to Anita Sarkeesian for highlighting sexist tropes in video games, it is hard to see it as anything but aggrieved entitlement. The hate campaigns seem firmly rooted in outrage that uppity girls should be intruding upon men’s inalienable right to behave how they like, harass who they want, control culture as they wish and shape society in their own image. Like: “You’ll prise Lara Croft’s skimpy shorts from my cold, dead hands.”

It is easy, and indeed essential, to condemn such misogynistic hate campaigns. However if those attitudes are at least partially stoked by very real and profound economic and social changes that have left some men feeling disempowered, marginalised, maligned and neglected, is it enough to simply demand that they suck it up and deal with it? I’m not sure.

No, but that’s not the question. The question is, is it still reasonable to demand that they stop bullying women regardless? I am sure. Yes it is. Whatever the sources and roots and origins of your rage, they don’t entitle you to persecute other people. Period. That’s true by definition. Persecution is by definition not justified.

The gender script for women has been largely torn up – a young girl has unprecedented freedom to grow into a doctor or a nurse, a soldier or a solicitor and/or a wife and mother while men, to a large extent, are stuck with a script for a role that barely exists. To be a real man, our culture still insists, is to be the protector and provider within a society that no longer guarantees to deliver that opportunity, and where male protector-providers are not entirely necessary. It is not much of a stretch to assume that this causes immense stress and psychological conflict, which is sometimes directed inward in despair and depression, sometimes outward in anger and violence.

Hang on. A young girl has unprecedented freedom to grow into a doctor or a nurse, a soldier or a solicitor and/or a wife and mother, but she is still very likely to be punished and bullied for doing so. That gender script hasn’t been torn up at all, in fact it’s been turned into a whole Library of Congress worth of scripts.

Comments

  1. Tecolata says

    Yes, she can grow up to be blah blah blah, always with the understanding that she does not have a forced pregnancy/birth. Or a sexual assault does not break her spirit. Or that she is not told she’s too stupid like all girls.

    Just another man whining about what victims they are.

  2. says

    …is it enough to simply demand that they suck it up and deal with it?

    Who, in Ally’s experience, is making such a demand? I, for one, do NOT demand that men “suck it up;” I merely demand that we address the REAL cause of our problems and stop crippling ourselves by scapegoating people who aren’t the cause of our suffering.

  3. karmacat says

    I like a lot of what Ally’s doing for other men. But he needs to be careful in talking about the causes of all this male anger. Not all men are angry and have adjusted to the changing culture. the other question I have is which men are feeling disempowered and marginalized. the other question I have is how frequently is the anger directed towards women over the decades and centuries. I think a hundred years ago, 2 hundred years ago, women were abused, told to shut up. Just a few thoughts off the top of my head. Have to get back to work

  4. llamaherder says

    Even when one assumes the gender script for women has successfully been torn up, that’s no less true for men’s scripts.

    Are men no longer allowed to be stay-at-home dads?

    If he’s saying they’ll be persecuted for doing so, then what on Earth does he think happens when a woman gets a career in, say, technology?

  5. besomyka says

    I forget where I read this previously — if I find/recall the author I’ll post attribution — but to paraphrase the idea: the problem here is toxic masculinity, and that’s a very strange thing to expect women to fix.

    It’s also a product of patriarchy, so… you know… women are still not the problem here.

  6. iknklast says

    Well, what ever happened that shut men out of all those choices women have? This article makes it sound like women have all these wonderful choices, and men…don’t. It seems to me that what many of these men want is the freedom not to do housework.

    And who is it that’s making those demands on men that they be all these things? Mostly men. The women I know would be perfectly happy if men would quit insisting on the macho script and just be people. My husband is a retired librarian; he is not threatened, he is not disempowered, and he loves the fact that I am fully independent and could walk out on him any time I wanted – because I don’t. He knows I don’t need him (at least in the traditional sense), so he also knows I stay because I want to stay.

  7. besomyka says

    Ah, found it! It was @coda tweeting about women in tech

    It’s not so much a “women in tech” problem as it is a “toxic masculinities in tech” problem, which is an odd thing to expect women to fix.

    It applies here as well.

  8. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    a young girl has unprecedented freedom

    Yes. In some parts of the world.

    while men, to a large extent, are stuck with a script for a role that barely exists.

    I don’t understand what that but while is doing there. Some women have it better than they ever had before. Mostly in places where life has improved for men as well. Some of it is due to greater gender equalities, but that’s just one kind of progress, which usually goes hand in hand with better living conditions, economic status, etc.

  9. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    That “unprecedented freedom” bit just bugs the hell out of me.
    Yeah, women had a shit deal for most of history. Really shit deal. Things (for some women) got better… and suddenly it’s all “OMG, you lucky bitchez, you never had it this good! I haz a sad because I’ve gone from privileged as fuck to yeah, there are some bad sides to this shit“.

  10. says

    Are men in mainstream (as opposed to religious culture) still being told they have to be provider-protectors (i.e. moreso than women have to be)? I’m doubtful. Yes, they’re told that they have to financially support their kids even if they’re no longer with the mother who’s looking after them. But is that a “script for a role that barely exists”? Really?

  11. A Hermit says

    I appreciate much of what Ally writes, but I think he’s missing the boat here.

    From the comment I left at the Guardian:

    “I’m a 54 year old middle class white male and I have no patience for the “poor menz having to adapt to the scary new world where women have rights” idea. We can choose not to be horrible to women. We men have lost nothing to feminism and the positive changes for women in our culture must not be used an excuse for the selfish, destructive anger we so often see from men, especially young men.”

    I also took exception to the “school shooters are bullying victims” analogy Ally makes. There’s a bit of a myth out there that villains like the Columbine shooters were subjected to intolerable bullying, but this is not true; they were themselves prone to bullying others and had an overblown sense of entitlement which turned perceived snubs into justifications for violence. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/assessment/2004/04/the_depressive_and_the_psychopath.html

    Bullying doesn’t explain school shootings, and cultural change doesn’t explain misogynist harassment campaigns.

  12. Rey Fox says

    is to be the protector and provider within a society that no longer guarantees to deliver that opportunity

    Women aren’t guaranteed that opportunity either. Sure, there’s fewer institutional barriers now, but that just means that women are now competing with men for the few jobs out there.

  13. says

    The common feature, he argues, is their shared belief that certain degrees of status, privilege and social advantage, perceived to be their natural or god-given rights, have been snatched away by sudden social change. The resulting anger is targeted not at a globalised neoliberal economic system that has declared ordinary people expendable – irrespective of their race, class or gender – but immigration, civil rights and feminism. In a sense Kimmel is describing the irrational emotional fallout of the economic gender revolution detailed in books like Stiffed and The End of Men.

    What? What happened to the globalized neoliberal economic system? (And by the way, its harms have NOT been “irrespective of…race, class or gender” by the wildest stretch of the imagination.)

    It’s fascinating that he doesn’t see fit to engage with or consider feminist responses. Not a good review.

  14. says

    And who is it that’s making those demands on men that they be all these things?

    Oh, feminists, for sure.

    ***

    Isn’t a women featured on EVERY British banknote?

    Isn’t this idiotic comment featured on EVERY thread that touches on the matter?

  15. Anthony K says

    And who is it that’s making those demands on men that they be all these things?

    Oh, feminists, for sure.

    You’re joking of course, but not one single feminist has ever called me a ‘mangina’. That’s telling in itself.

  16. footface says

    @8: Yes, I believe that script still exists. I think men are still told by mainstream culture who and what they’re supposed to be in that traditional provider-and-protector sense. I don’t say this to claim persecution or to compare the typical burdens placed on men vs. women. Just saying that I do believe in many ways, men are (still) told or expected to fit that “old role.” I also believe it’s not only deadbeat dirtbags (those who complain at having to support their children financially after losing custody of them) who are under pressure to conform.

  17. Gordon Willis says

    To be a real man, our culture still insists, is to be the protector and provider within a society that no longer guarantees to deliver that opportunity, and where male protector-providers are not entirely necessary.

    Oh bugger. Can’t they just get on with being doctors and nurses and soldiers and solicitors and husbands and fathers? Why isn’t that enough? How much does a person want, for god’s sake? Why this special need to be God Almighty?

  18. says

    Women have the freedom to go out there and do jobs that used to be reserved for men, and get paid less than 3/4 of what their male colleagues are paid for doing the same thing!!! (And possibly doing it better, at least, my first boss used to say “Why should I hire men when women will work harder for less money?”) Why isn’t there dancing in the streets? Women can do anything men can do — and look at the annual reports for major companies! There almost always one or two women and one or two men with dark skin in that 2-page spread of white males posing in the boardroom. What’s left to complain about? Women write the majority of books, too, while poor threatened men have to make do with only having their books preferentially reviewed in major publications. All those men who are being shut out of jobs in schoolteaching and nursing and secretarial/admin jobs and eldercare by heartless women — really, the government ought to do something about it. I feel so sorry for them, I really do.

  19. Amy Clare says

    Thank you for this, I have read quite a few CiF pieces about ‘the crisis in masculinity’ lately and they leave me in a rage. Is it really so difficult to just be a person? Surely it should be welcomed by men that they are no longer required to be a ‘provider-protector’ because it’s less pressure. It is welcomed, by some. For the others, they’re not angry because they don’t know what to do with themselves, they’re angry because they are losing power and status in their little worlds.

    My boyfriend always laughs at the idea of a masculinity ‘crisis’ because he literally doesn’t understand what the problem is. He works and also does his share of looking after the place we both live in; we make joint decisions about our future and treat each other equally. Only difficult for a man to do if he’s holding onto old notions about needing to be the boss of a woman. And that’s wrong in itself, as OB says.

  20. says

    while men, to a large extent, are stuck with a script for a role that barely exists.

    And the reason that they refuse those other roles is that those other roles are associated with women and so regarded with contempt. Men who choose to fill those other roles are seen as lesser because they’re doing things associated with women. It’s not just that men are held to rigid roles – it’s that they’re discouraged from and choose to avoid roles they recognize as being associated with women and therefore unworthy.

  21. Anthony K says

    The gender script for women has been largely torn up – a young girl has unprecedented freedom to grow into a doctor or a nurse, a soldier or a solicitor and/or a wife and mother while men, to a large extent, are stuck with a script for a role that barely exists.

    Yeah, tell that to my sister in the construction industry who has to endure all kinds of shit, because OMG! tits!

    My boyfriend always laughs at the idea of a masculinity ‘crisis’ because he literally doesn’t understand what the problem is. He works and also does his share of looking after the place we both live in; we make joint decisions about our future and treat each other equally. Only difficult for a man to do if he’s holding onto old notions about needing to be the boss of a woman.

    That’s kind of my attitude too, ever since my then pre-MRA/PUA friend started gushing over Iron John a couple of decades ago. But this does appear to be a thing that bothers some men—often the ones who like to call other men ‘manginas’, but not always—so I don’t see that it should be dismissed out of hand.

  22. theoreticalgrrrl says

    This might seem a little OT, but it does tie in to the idea that young girls have it so good these days. My 17-year-old niece just asked this question on FB yesterday: ‘Why do people talk bad about strippers but no one says anything about the people who go to see them.’
    The male FB friends who commented said basically it’s because the women are whores. DUH. She and I tried to argue with them about the whole concept of labeling women “sluts/whores” and why it is that men can do pretty much anything sexually without being vilified in anywhere near the same way. Which they didn’t seem to get at all. They asked, what’s wrong with us, how could we defend “whores”?!? This went on for quite a while, and these guys just got progressively worse in their comments. But they insisted they weren’t being sexist or chauvinists or anything…

    I’m so proud of my niece, the way she responded to these comments and the fact that she sees it as the double standard that it is. She even commented to me, “and people wonder why we need feminism.” I haven’t seen her in years, and her parents are pretty conservative, so I wasn’t sure what her views were on feminism. It’s was so heartening to see her embracing the term, it almost had me in (happy) tears. When I was a teenager, I was very careful about openly using the “F” word.

    But at the same time, it is very painful for me to see that she has to deal with these issues at all. As her aunt, I feel very protective of her and there’s a part of me that doesn’t want her to know about these things at all. I know how incredibly stressful it is, especially when you’re a young girl. There are some things that I definitely wish I could un-know, just for the sake of my psychological health.

    Just because girls have more freedoms than they did in the past doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with some pretty nasty sexism and misogyny every day. So, I’d like to ask Mr. Fogg , what about the “immense stress and psychological conflict, which is sometimes directed inward in despair and depression” that women and girls frequently experience? And why are we not given a pass to direct that outwardly in the form of anger, let alone violence? He has some nerve blaming women for male violence and anger just because girls and women have more freedoms then they had in the past, freedoms that most men take for granted.

    I don’t understand how men are being stopped from providing for or protecting their families. It’s what parents have to do all the time.

    *hope that made sense, typing on Percocet kind of muddles my brain and I go off in all sorts of directions. :/

    ** have chronic pain issues, that’s why I’m typing on Percocet…

  23. Stacy says

    An awful lot of men feel “disempowered” and “marginalized” simply because men can no longer rely on being automatically respected simply for being men. Yet even in the days when the notion of male superiority was taken more-or-less for granted, things weren’t that simple for men.

    A lot of MRA sympathizers (they’re not really activists) think of the 1950s as the good ol’ days. Yet in the ’50s the pressures on them would have been much greater. They would have had to prove their masculinity, over and over. Other men would have despised most of these guys.

  24. leni says

    besomyka:

    It’s also a product of patriarchy, so… you know… women are still not the problem here.

    Have you met Phyllis Schlafly? Real charmer, that one. Almost as unproblematic as Debbie Pearl.

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