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September 29, 2004



I have biting my tongue during this "oppression" series, but this entry is over the top. It's all well and good to say "just because you don't know you're privileged doesn't mean you're not," but the flip side is just because Hugo "knows" you are privileged doesn't mean you are. Another possibility, which appears to have been left unexplored, is that Hugo's privilege and oppression theory is a bunch of crap. Or maybe not, but if not, it's up to you to demonstrate that, not expect the readers to assume it.

Existing laws do a pretty good job of ensuring equality for women, in just about every respect imaginable. They don't always do that for men. The fact that men originally created the system is as immaterial as the fact that a once all-male electorate chose to constitutionalize women's suffrage - at a time when many, many women weren't even sure they wanted that right.

Today's laws are, by and large, gender-neutral, and those that aren't are more likely to favor women than men. Examples include, among other things, (1) a nearly-unrebuttable presumption that the mother is the better custodial parent in the event of a divorce, (2) the fact that men can be drafted but women cannot, (3) the very existence of a taxpayer-funded "Glass Ceiling Commission," whose sole purpose is not to study objectively whether or not men and women get equal pay for equal work, but to compile whatever bogus statistics they need in order to "prove" that they don't, and (4) the law that allows rogue D.A.s like Gil Garcetti to collect child support from "deadbeat dads" who are neither deadbeats nor dads. I'm sure there are many more examples, as well. Can you proivde a single concrete example of a law that systematically favors men over women to the same degree that these four examples do?

Spare me the rhetoric about how men supposedly hold all the real power. Each citizen gets one vote. The individuals who wield any real power beyond that are a tiny segment of the population, and one that does not include you, me, or in all likelihood, anyone who reads this blog. All other things being equal, these men probably act like other men, in which case they are far more likely to cut breaks to the ladies than they are to give any special dispensations to other men, whom they don't even know, simply for being men.


XRLQ, you're assuming that oppression is rooted in law. I never argued that. I'm talking about a culture that exploits women's bodies, forces them to make Sophie's choices between ambition and reproduction, and still has informal ceilings to women's success. That's social oppression rather than legal oppression.

Have the laws been changed to provide greater opportunity for women? You bet. Yay. Has the way men treat women changed as rapidly? I don't think so.


Hugo, you're far, far, far more patient and polite with these sort of people than I could ever be. I think that's probably a good thing, but I'm not entirely sure about that.

Xrlq says:Today's laws are, by and large, gender-neutral, and those that aren't are more likely to favor women than men.

I could take issue with a number of things in this post, but I'm going to limit myself to just this one. Surely you can't seriously take the neutral language of law automatically translates into fair treatment. This is often very far from the case--law can have a very hard time penetrating long standing social patterns and practices. (Example: The civil rights act of 1876 is very similar in content to the civil rights act of 1964)

Take the area of employment. I'll begin with an example from my own life. I worked at a pizza place many years ago. The owner, a lonely single man in his early 30's with a drinking problem, wouldn't even consider hiring women unless (his words) they were over 50 years old or 250 pounds. (His discrimination was appalling, but his reasoning was tragic as well--he simply didn't trust himself to not develop feelings for them and sexually harass them--and, when at my badgering he did hire a young woman, he lived up to the low expectations he had set for himself). Was his "policy" illegal? Yes. Is there really any practical way for anti-discrimination laws to penetrate this practice? No. The whole outfit had 10 workers and got a handful of vaguely similar applications for any position we had available. Proving the descrimination would be virtually impossible, and not worth the effort even if it weren't.

(I could give you another example of gender discrimination from my current employment situation, but since I'm not anonymous I don't feel comfortable dishing the details. But this took place in a left-wing department at a left-wing university).

As for more systematic evidence, sociologist Charles Tilly is a good place to start. In his book Durable Inequality (which I can't recommend enough to people who are trying to understand the dynamics of persistent categorical inequality in society), he examines how employees in large firms and institutions end up in the roles they're in and finds women being "sorted" into traditionally female types of work and training as they enter such organizations with a high degree of regularity. The biggest difference between now and the pre-civil rights era is that these sorting mechanisms are informal rather than formal. Doesn't change their impact.

There are numerous other examples, and I agree Hugo hasn't proved the positive in this post, but asserting the neutral language of law as evidence for no residual gender oppression of women doesn't pass the laugh test.


xrlq, no state gives any kind of formal presumption to women during custody disputes. When custody is disputed, there are probably some states and some circumstances in which women are favored, but there are also states and circumstances in which men are likely to be favored. You are at least 25 years out of date in you assumptions.

Trish Wilson

Hugo, don't fall for the pithy rhetoric of the National Coalition for Free Men. If you want to know what that group is really all about, read this blog entry of mine.

Regarding Warren Farrell, I have several pages on my web site about him and the "positive incest" statements he made for 1977 Penthouse article that he has been trying to keep under wraps for over 20 years. The man has no credibility whatsoever.

Also, contrary to xrlq's claim, no state gives presumptive custody of children to mothers. In fact, most divorces settle out of court with both parents deciding on their own most often that mom will have primary custody of the children. They make this decision without needing a judge to make it for them. So, no, dads are not discriminated against in court because courts ostensibly "routinely" award custody to mothers. Also, when dads do contest custody, they get some form of it (mostly joint legal) more than half the time anyway, even if they were absent, abusive, disinterested, or simply not the children's primary caregiver.

Don't let the men's/fathers' rights commenters get to you. They seem to have very thin skins and love to go on the attack. You see your manhood questioned. I'm called a "fucking man-hater." They are reacting to their senses of entitlement being threatened. In a sense, when they come after you it means you're effective.


Thanks, Trish; I'll put your link up front and center!


Hugo: I don't think it makes a lot of sense to talk about the "architects of the system" without referring to the system of laws. If you're not talking about laws, then I have to completely reject your claim that men alone are the architects of anything. Allowing women the choice between pursuing career paths on substantially the same terms that men have traditionally done, on the one hand, vs. being stay at home moms, on the other, is not oppression, social or otherwise. Got any better examples?

DJW: I'm sure you've heard the saying before, but the plural of "anectdote" isn't "data." Show evidence of a broad trend of men refusing to hire women, and you may have a real point. But merely citing one quirky individual at a pizza joint doesn't add anything of value to the debate. Tilly's book may or may not. Better if you could yourself provide a coherent theory as to why you think men systematically oppress women - aside from the simple fact that you already subscribe to an ideology that says things are supposed to be that way.

Barbara: I think you'd be very hard pressed to come up with a single state that systematically favors men in divorce proceedings. Feel free to try, though.

Trish: The fact that most divorces settle out of court does not refute, or even affect, my statement that most states favor mothers over fathers in deciding custody battles. In court or out of court, the same laws govern. And given your own track record, you might want to think twice before attacking anyone else for being thin-skinned.


Actually, Xrlq, no state "systematically" favors either sex. I know this may be hard for you to accept, but there are studies that show that in contested custody disputes, men are awarded custody at least as frequently as women. I know it's hard to let go of victimhood status, but at least you can celebrate that if you get divorced and fight for custody you have a decent shot at winning. (Note that many fathers voluntarily relinquish primary custody, mostly because the mother has held primary caretaker status). The younger a child is when divorce occurs the more likely it is that mothers will obtain custody. But in any event, the most common form of custody now is "joint custody," much maligned though it may be, it was intended to encourage greater paternal participation in child rearing, and to avoid really ugly custody disputes.

Trish Wilson

Xrlq, your statement is false. Most parents decide on their own that mom should have custody, and when dads make an issue of custody in court the courts give them some form of custody more than half the time. So, dads aren't discriminated against by courts that supposedly most often give the kids to mom. That is only your opinion, not fact. The rest of your comment was an attack against me and it was completely unnecessary and inappropriate.


My parents' divorce is pretty much like what Trish said--my dad let my mom have custody without a fight, because he just couldn't bear to take her children from her or us from our mom. We never really struggled over visitation, therefore, and they are friends now. He wanted us to be happy--he couldn't be happy unless his kids were settled and happy, which he honestly felt was best achieved by not struggling with my mom over custody.

That is what real men do--grow up and act tall enough to think of other people. And guess what--they find they like it! Most men I know who incorporate some feminist understanding in their worldview are much, much happier as men and much more secure in the vision of themselves as men.

If you really want to be secure as a man, you're not going to get that security by defining true manhood by oppressing women. And I've found that in personal relationships, the men I know who are most secure in themselves are ones who have good relationships with women that they are considerate of. In fact, a friend of mine just got a letter the other day from an ex-boyfriend expressing that exact sentiment--that after screwing it up with her he realized that real men don't dick around with women's feelings and since then he's grown up, found some real ambitions and he's much, much happier now. He quit defining his manhood by how much he could get over on women and start defining himself by real accomplishments.


Barbara, it looks like you are projecting. I never claimed "victimhood" status about anything. Personally, I think a presumption in favor of the mother's custody is a reasonable one, although it can be taken to extremes. I didn't raise the issue to prove that men are oppressed creatures; I raised it as an example of how society and the law don't generally favor men over women, and sometimes do the opposite. But to the extent you think joint custody is a better system, which many but not all states have adopted, then you shouldn't be criticizing the men's rights movement for seeking these reforms in the first place.

I notice that no one has discussed the other three examples of de facto and de jure sexism I addressed above. All three are, IMO, more serious than the general presumption of maternal custody.

Trish: c'mon, you know as well as I do that "some form of custody more than half the time" is a far cry from equality. Full custody half the time would be, as would joint custody all of the time. Surely you wouldn't accept it as equal if "more than half" of all women in contested divorces got "some" of the couple's joint property. Please.

As to the rest, my point stands. It's clear that you are very thin-skinned, and therefore, probably shouldn't criticize others for supposedly being the same way. If you truly believe, as you implied in the comment I linked to, that the blogosphere disses you for being a woman, try blogging as a man sometime. It's not hard to do on a computer; just blog what you normally blog, minus any tell-tale side notes that would give your sex away. Do that for a month or two, and compare the level of abuse your male alter ego gets to the amount you are accustomed to receiving now. Dollars to donuts: your male persona gets all the same abuse, and more.

As always, though, feel free to prove me wrong.


I don't know if this was the update, or if I somehow overlooked it before:

Yes, domestic violence is a shared problem between men and women. Murder is also a shared problem between the victim and the killer, but that doesn't make the differences between the two any less stark.

What is that supposed to mean?! Are you implying that no women ever physically abuse or even murder their husbands, boyfriends or children? And if not, then how on earth do you justify such an outrageous analogy as man:woman::murderer:victim?


Hugo, excellent post. Xrlq, you need to read the updated version of the draft which is sitting on a table waiting to be signed. Both men and women will be subject to the draft if this bill is signed.

Jeez, the stats that never get reported...three attempted rapes, one actual one, three attempted sexual assaults, two instances of sexual harrassment by a professor (as in, sleep with me and you can take my independent study, and the like), one case of non-payment of child-support/complete lack of involvement in child's life, four cases of inappropriately touching a 13 year old, and this is just my life.

Unfortunately, my experiences seem to be fairly typical. I really don't even think about it that much, because when I was growing up, being harrassed was par for the course. I could not walk down the street without a guy yelling something. Not to mention that problematic thing about going walking by oneself at night.

Yesterday, a fellow female teacher asked me to walk with her to the parking lot, a walk of about 50 yards. To me, that says everything.

Wonder how many men share a similar history and need a companion to walk to the car?


One more thing....I wonder how many ways some people can twist my experiences where the blame is put on me?


Ok, I'm going to be jumped on for this, but I'm with XRLQ. Assuming the status of permanent victims is good for no-one, (as a chap with cerebral palsy, I have impeccable victim credentials, but I really don't see the value in classifying whole groups as "oppressed" when they aren't.) Hugo is tough on men. Is he justified? Maybe sometimes yes, other times No. This one's a No. Men have to face discrimination too, and XRLQ's 4 areas are a good start. There is an automatic assumption of the State here (imported from the US) that Dads don't matter, or that as long as they pay child support, that's all kids need. Not so. There are many, many excellent Dads who are discriminated against in custody arrangements, because of their sex. Why do you think the British Justice for Dads is having to Storm Her Majesty's balcony? Likewise, while I have collected for Women's Refuge, and support them strongly, there are legitimate questions to be asked about what is taught under the guise of women's empowerment. While most refuges do a great job, I do know the one where I used to live was teaching Man-hatred, weird ideology and New Age religion to the vulnerable women that came to it, instead of supporting them. It wasn't so much "What can we do to help you and support you through this" it was "RAPISTS! All men are RAPISTS!" Unhelpful. And so is the "Men are evil opressors who must be educated" mindset, in my humble opinion.


Xrlq, I presented those anecdotes not as positive evidence for systematic oppression of women, but as a rebuttal to the notion that we should just look at the language of the law and as long as it's gender neutral assume everything's fine. There are plenty of laws against gender discrimination in hiring, but they can't and don't change a good deal of dubious hiring practices. That's all I the work I wanted my anecdotes to do. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

I'm not going to try to convince you that women are systematically oppressed because, to be frank, life's too short and I spend too much time commenting/arguing on blogs as it is, and I think this one might be especially pointless.


Michelle: I think you might be getting your news from alarmist left-wing blogs, hysterical email chains, the National Enquirer, or worst of all, CBS. In fact, there is no "updated version of the draft" awaiting President Bush's signature. Not even close. Both versions of the bill to which you refer (Charlie Rangel's H.R. 163 in the House, and Fritz Hollings's S. 89 in the Senate) are nothing more than empty political stunts by anti-war Democrats, which aren't even intended, much less expected, to pass. Barring a seismic shift in November, there is no danger that either of them will. Until/unless that changes, what say we talk about the draft as currently authorized by the Selective Service Act, not as it theoretically would be changed if a go-nowhere bill were to defy all odds and actually go somewhere.

Your point about rape, unlike the draft, is well taken. To that, my answer is twofold. First, traditional, "patriarchal" society took that crime extremely seriously, even to the point of making it punishable by death. It doesn't get more serious than that. If our society has subsequently degenerated such that rape is no longer taken as seriously as it once was, well, whose fault is that? Certainly not the traditionalists'! Second, while rape in particular generally affects women more than men, the numbers are reversed for every other category of violent crime, up to and including the ultimate violent crime, murder. [Then again, for all I know men may even "win" on rape, if you count prison rape.] All in all, men far more likely than women to become victims of a violent crime. Some of this is due to women being more cautious, but more of it has to do with the fact that men are more often the targets, as well as the perps. [That's true along ethnic lines as well, and to a greater extent. E.g., crimes by blacks are generally directed at other blacks, crimes by Hispanics usually target Hispanics, and so on.]

Want to turn the tables on the one violent crime that disproportionally impacts women? Here's how. Encourage every woman you know to sign up with the NRA's "Refuse to be a Victim" or a similar self-defense training program. If you live in any of the 37 states that allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons, do. You'd be amazed how much tougher your little friend Snuffy is than the biggest, meanest, brawniest thug you might ever encounter between your car and any other place you may feel like walking to or from after dark. If you have the misfortune of living in one of the other 13, call your legislator and tell them to fix the law already.

Or you can shriek about how horrible guns are, the need to "break the cycle of violence," yadda yadda yadda, attend a few empty "Take Back the Night, But Not Really" sessions, and accomplish nothing. Your call.

I'm not going to try to convince you that women are systematically oppressed because, to be frank, life's too short and I spend too much time commenting/arguing on blogs as it is, and I think this one might be especially pointless.

That's one possible explanation. Another, more likely one, is that you're not going to succeed in convincing me that women are systematically oppressed because, to be frank, they're not. [I refer to wester society, of course. I don't need to be convinced that women are systematically oppressed in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.]

Fred Vincy


A very thoughtful post. I particularly liked this sentence:

"[The] pro-feminist men's movement forces men to recognize their own role in both their own oppression and that of the women in their lives".

The reason why the hostility of folks like XLRQ is unwarranted is that feminism can make life better for women and for men. I see this in many areas (I'll save that for another post), but for me I think it is particularly relevant given your comments about masculinity and feminism. As best I can recall (and this is pretty vague after 25 years or more), I first considered the two topics as in any way related as a teenager when someone suggested that a man might feel threatened if his wife made more money than he did -- a topic of particular salience to me as my parents were both lawyers and, as far as I knew, my mother may well have made more than my father. At 7 or 10 or 13 (I don't remember), the idea that a man would be threatened by having a successful wife was really a mystery to me. Why would someone possibly be threatened by that? If masculinity and feminism are about strength, why would someone strong be threatened by someone strong? Isn't it someone weak who'd be threatened by someone strong?

With the benefit of age, I know that we're all a lot weaker and more insecure than I thought back then, but I still adhere to the basic conclusion. If "masculinity" refers to the goals of virtue and strength (see below), then, for a man, being a feminist is the masculine thing to be.

(Hugo, since you've obviously thought about this a good deal more than I have, I wonder what your thoughts are about the definition of "masculinity" or "manhood". To the extent they suggest that men have or should have some special virtue that is unavailable to women, I find it offensive and inappropriate. At the same time, as your post suggests, the folks who challenged your "masculinity" had something in mind, so how can one respond without dealing with those words?)


I can not BELIEVE there are men refuting most of Hugo's post and agreeing with some of the utter crap he's quoted. No. Wait. Sadly, I CAN believe it.

When the United States government, the government that we supposedly all have one vote to elect (except when it comes to the state in which your brother is Governor), starts making laws telling you what to do with your penis, testes, and semen, like it is trying to tell us what to do with our vaginas, uteruses, and ovaries, then you can start bitching.

Until then, please grow up and get a clue.


Xlrq, we'll just have to wait and see about the draft, won't we?

Regarding paternal societies taking a tough stance on rape, well, let's see. In Middle Eastern and some African countries, which are *very* paternalistic, women are frequently jailed or put to death for being raped. If you look at the rape laws for Saudia Arabia, you will find that it takes what, something like three men to substantiate a woman's claim?

Also, just because their are strict laws against rape doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Ah, the good old days, when slave owners raped their chattel with impunity. I reckon power and money has always influenced what consequence the rapist received. Sometimes, the consequence has been for the rapist to marry the victim!

The gun remark is just funny. You make a lot of assumptions about women who are fed up with bad treatment. I have a sawed off (but still legal) shotgun that I will not hesitate to use if my life, or that of my family is threatened. However, it's not the best solution. Rapists and murderers tend to carry guns too.

When men are in prison getting raped, who is doing the raping? Women? You are right about men being more likely to be the victim of a violent crime--by other men. This issue of men and their violence needs to be addressed, obviously, without anyone whining that addressing the issue is treating someone like a victim.


Fred: please identify where I am "hostile." I take it you don't consider "hostility" to be a synonym for "disagreement," right?

Michelle: I believe I said before that women are truly oppressed in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. I probably should have used scare quotes to distinguish "paternalistic" countries like the pre-Roe (but post-slavery) U.S. from those that are truly paternalistic, not to mention all-around ugly.

Obviously I had you pegged wrong on the gun issue. Good for you.



Ah, need to make myself clearer; here is the analogy:

batterer:victim as murderer:victim -- and the overwhelming majority of batterers, despite fraudulent stats from men's rights groups, are men. The victims are women, and, on occasion, other men.


Do you have a source for that claim? My understanding is that woman-on-man violence is not uncommon at all, and that women are the more frequent abusers when the victims are children. Simply writing off ideologically inconvenient stats, or even factually debatable ones, as "fraudulent" does not make them so, unless you can actually demonstrate that someone really did commit a fraud in coming up with them. If you can do that, great. If you can't, then I think you owe these guys an apology, having effectively smeared them as liars solely because they disagree with you.

Regardless of what the actual numbers are, there is no question that some women abuse children and others abuse men. I think we can safely assume that NCFM's point about a "shared" problem was that the problem is shared by male abusers and female abusers, not between male abusers and female victims.


Xrlq, you wrote that "First, traditional, "patriarchal" society took [rape] extremely seriously, even to the point of making it punishable by death. It doesn't get more serious than that." Michelle refuted that claim of yours, although you seem to have missed her point. Having a death penalty isn't necessarily a sign of taking rape seriously, because often the rules are rigged to make sure that no man - and certainly no man of high status - can be convicted of rape.

When you look at a case like this one, it's clear that traditional patriarchal society does not taking the crime of rape seriously.

* * *

Secondly, I'm male, I've spent almost as much time on the net refuting anti-feminists as Trish has (Trish and I go back a while) - and although I've had my share of hateful respondants, I certainly haven't kicked up the amount of viterol and hatred that Trish has.

* * *

Although men are probably the majority of victims of violent crime outside of prison, it's not as clear-cut as you suggest; that's the story told by standard crime measures, but standard crime measures severely undercount both rape and intimate violence, crimes in which the typical victim is female.

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