Last night I reached out to 20 male friends of mine aged between 22 and 65. I asked them the question “What do you think is the major contribution towards male mental health issues, like depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation?” One of the most interesting responses I received from several of the men, was that for them, Feminism is causing internalised misandry for males. Misandry meaning a hate towards men. Men hating men for being ‘men’ and men hating themselves for being ‘men.’
Now before I continue I would like to state that I respect all worldly views and am open to education of different perspectives. I am choosing to write about the potential harmful effects of the system of Feminism only because it seems to be a prevalent issue for many of my male identifying friends.
My intention and hopes for this article is to inspire radical acceptance of self and others no matter how one identifies or what they believe. I encourage respect and understanding for all individual models of the world. For it is my personal belief that each of us live in our own self-made realities that are constantly being influenced by external input and that how an individual thinks, perceives and believes is very much true and real to them. That is not to say we have to accept behaviours we label as offensive and frightening. We hold the right to dismiss ourselves from harmful encounters when necessary.
I would like to pose the thought that depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation are not contributing factors to men’s mental health issues. Instead they are merely symptoms of a systematic problem. The problem being that we live in a capitalistic society which is intrinsically patriarchal in nature. This is not our fault and the courage of our younger generations are proving to awaken and unravel the intergenerational trauma of the previous but still very much present Judaeo-Christian nuclear family dynamics. Which has caused so much confusion around purpose and identity in the modern age.
What Exactly Is Feminism?
If you look up the meaning of Feminism in the Dictionary you will find 4 ways to describe it.
- The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes
- The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
- The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
- The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men
At its root, feminism is about equality between men and women, not “sameness.” Many individuals argue that because women aren’t “the same” as males, there can’t be equality. In other words, because men and women’s bodies are different (many argue “weaker” and smaller), and because men and women have differing physical capabilities, equality is impossible.
It’s crucial to realise that “same” does not imply “equal.” It’s all about equal rights and equal access to opportunities in this case. To enjoy the right to equality, men and women do not have to be physically identical. If there were two young boys in a classroom, and one was physically weaker and smaller than the other, would we believe it’s right to stop the weaker, smaller boy from having the same access to the teacher, to learning, to the computers, to the books and class resources because he didn’t have the same physical strength as the other boy? No, we wouldn’t think it’s right.
Why Are There So Many People Who Hate Feminism?
Many individuals are concerned that Feminism will undermine long-held customs, religious beliefs, and gender norms, and that feels scary and wrong. Many people believe that Feminism will result in negative changes in relationships, marriage, society, culture, power and authority dynamics, as well as in business, career, and economic prospects, if and when women are treated equally to men. Not to mention that Feminism has been associated with strong, forceful and angry women, and our society continues to punish forceful women. (source)
How is Feminism causing Misandry?
It’s not. The statement “I am a feminist” has become synonymous with “I hate men.” The concept of feminism is being misinterpreted as a hateful attitude towards men. It’s become a widely spread belief that feminism represents the idea of switching the power structure so that men are on the bottom and women are on the top; however, this is a common misconception.
The correct word choice for a man-hater is a misandrist. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, misandry is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against men or boys. Misandry can manifest itself in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of men, violence against men, and sexual objectification of men.
The causes of Misandry could be rooted in theories of radical feminists such us Valerie Solanas, who is best known for attempting to murder Artist Andy Warhol and Author of SCUM manifesto which calls to “destroy the male sex.”
Feminism and The Fixation of Men Behaving Badly
Radical feminism is a perspective within feminism that calls for a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts.
Radical Feminists say the man-hating label is either a smear or a misunderstanding. Yet a lot of feminist rhetoric today does cross the line from attacks on sexism into attacks on men, with a strong focus on personal behaviour being bad.
Personal attacks towards men for the way they talk, the way they walk and even the how they sit (the spread) Meanwhile, similar accusations of women would be considered grossly misogynistic. This gender antagonism does nothing to advance the unfinished business of equality.
Men Feel Scared To Be Men
With the amount of male slander that happens it is understandable why men are so afraid to exist. Consider, for example, the number of neologisms that use “man” as a derogatory prefix and that have entered everyday language. “mansplaining,” “manspreading” and “manterrupting.” Are these primarily male behaviours that justify the gender-specific terms? Not necessarily.
Perhaps insulting and berating males isn’t the most effective way of demonstrating that the feminist revolution is about equality. The message that feminism can help men, too by placing equal value on their role as parents or by encouraging better mental health care and reducing male suicide is undermined by gender warriors like Australian Feminist Clementine Ford, whose “ironic misandry” often seems entirely non-ironic and who has angrily insisted that feminism stands only for women. Jokes about “male tears” on a T-shirt sported by Feminist writer Jessica Valenti seem particularly unfortunate if Feminists are serious about challenging the stereotype of the stoic, pain-suppressing male.
Dismissing concerns about wrongful accusations of rape with a snarky “What about the menz” is not a great way to show that women’s liberation does not impede on men’s civil rights. And advising males that their role in the gender equality movement is to listen to women and patiently endure anti-male slurs isn’t the most effective strategy for support.
Valenti and others argue that man-hating cannot do any real damage because men have the power and privilege. Few would deny the historical reality of male dominance. But today, when men can lose their jobs because of sexist missteps and be expelled from institutions over allegations that’s a narrow view, particularly since the war on male behaviour can often target individuals’ complex transgressions.
Men In a Pressure Cooker
Undermining of traditional male roles by the likes of feminism has led to social emasculation of men, their feelings of isolation, irrelevance and marginalisation. And perhaps the decline of the manufacturing sector and the decline of contact sport have exacerbated the problem.
By stigmatising male behaviour, some Feminists in power have already influenced policy to the detriment of men. Under the influence of organizations such as the National Coalition for Sex Equity in Education, the Department of Education and schools across the U.S. have tried to combat male aggression by policing how boys play, targeting games such as dodgeball and tag.
Male health and academic performance are declining, and two education researchers were worried that such initiatives would worsen this decline by undermining boys’ psychological development. Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo attributed the decrease in part to “political correctness,” explaining that men are given “a set of rules about what not to do, but no guidance about what they should do.”
Act Like A Man
The pressure to “act like a man” begins in preschool or even before. Throughout men’s lives, they receive messaging that they should be stoic, strong protectors.
In an article by MEL Magazine, Matthew Nielson investigates gender pressure felt by 480 sixth grade boys and girls in Arizona (including white, Latinx, Asian, Native American and Black students). The results of his work are surprising. Boys who are trying to be typically masculine feel as much pressure in many ways as those who are gender non-conforming. In fact, the gender non-conforming kids often are much more confident in themselves.
“In a patriarchal society like the U.S., boys consistently show higher levels of pressure to be masculine than girls feel to be feminine, which is predicated on them having more power, and therefore, more to lose. Basically, if you’re not a traditionally masculine man, you’re afforded less power and privilege” says Matthew.
What the above means, is that if a man feels the need to label himself as an ‘athlete’ or ‘footy player’ for example, then he will feel an internalised pressure to ‘keep up’ that identity in order to be accepted by his peers.
What Men Should Be Doing
There is no one answer for this question. There are hundreds if not more possible answers. However, I think a blanket answer could suffice.
Men should be learning to feel comfortable with who they uniquely are. To learn radical self-acceptance and compassion. There is no reason a man should feel guilt for existing. Not only men, but all humans could find value is learning to accept each other for their differences. Differences in language, differences in appearance, material assists and differences in beliefs and values. We are all so diversely unique and on unique and individual life paths with differing lessons to learn.
When we can learn to accept ourselves and others unconditionally is when true equality can prevail.
There are thousands who believe in equal rights but find “feminism” a word and a movement that doesn’t align with their personal beliefs or values. It’s abundantly clear that our specific views on these issues are rooted deeply in our own personal and direct experiences, rather than on any data, research or science surrounding the issues.
In other words, If we’ve personally faced discrimination, we know beyond a doubt that it exists. But if we haven’t faced it ourselves, we often doubt that it happens. Listen to the stories of others and empathise. We are all humans living in such different realities. Divide and Conquer can only exist when we reject due to fear.
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