« Women, age, and the Oscars --UPDATED | Main | My new hero »

February 08, 2005



I am convinced that, at their core, MRAs and feminists want exactly the same thing, and I have said it here before: justice and human dignity. My experience has convinced me that one cannot seek these things for ones self while trying to deny them to others. It results in a diminishment of both, primarily for the denier. This is why it saddens, rather than angers me, when someone - of any persuasion - somehow thinks it in their interests to deny the right of another to seek these.

This is why I am saddened by the "Angry Harries" of the world, who do not realize the damage that they is do to themselves - far more than to those at whom they strike out. This is why I am saddened at the Ampersands who proclaim their lists of "male privilege", which are an indictment of a target group and not an empowerment of anyone.

I am the ally of women who fight discrimination wherever they find it, whether they are feminists or not. I am the ally of men whose trials are trivialized and dismissed because they couldn't possibly be truly suffering - after all, they are the "power group".

The honorable battle, to me, is the battle for human dignity for all, and for justice - for ALL. When all are empowered, there remains nothing to fight about.


My experience, also, is that labels are often used for destructive purposes, when applied to a perceived enemy. Thus, each house of cards requires a "bogeyman" to support it - a common enemy against whom to rally the troops. It works. The troops rally, and the bogeyman is kept at bay, bearing the burden of holding up the house. Groups needing their bogeyman to survive, however, never do so for long. Not unless their house can be rebuilt in such a way that it does not require the common enemy to sustain it.

The bogeymen that I have seen used in this way include: MRAs, feminists, Jews, liberals, conservatives, pagans, infidels, "dead white males", patriarchy, illuminati, miltary-industrial complex, corporate America, outsourcing, men, women, Catholics, protestants, homosexuals, democrats, republicans, whites, blacks, and many more. Of course, there is a legitimate use for each of these terms, but the "bogeyman" usage is when the term describes the collective enemy, and carrying the label of the term automatically strips one of all credibility, if not of all human worth. When a label is sufficient to save one the trouble of judging an individual on his/her merits (or to make the result of that judgment almost a foregone conclusion), then the house of the adjudicators is of cards. This is my truth.

Ophelia Payne

Shit, Stanton, you and I might get along.


Ophelia - that is about the cleverest name I have ever heard! Original?

Redneck Feminist (aka drumgurl)

I've enjoyed reading all the posts here. I particularly liked your "bogeyman" post, Stanton. I also agree that MRAs and feminists want the same thing-- or at least they should.


(Sorry it's taken me so long to reply)

Keri said:
"Well, first of all, I'm not sure where you're getting the impression that feminism calls upon men to be "more empathetic." I keep up with the feminist community fairly well, and I've never once seen a feminist say that one of the goals of the movement is to make all men get in touch with their feelings."

In The Gender of Sexuality p. 48, feminist sociologists Schwartz and Rutter claim: "the pressure on men to be more sensitive, less predatory, and less macho has been mounting for several decades."

I am not necessarily talking about the current feminist community. I am talking about changes that were probably set into motion in the 70's and 80's. Also, even if feminist women haven't been interested in having men get in touch with their feelings, pro-feminist men have.

What about feminist messages do I consider problematic? I am still trying to figure this out myself, but I will do my best to answer your question. By making society more aware of power dynamics between men and women (a good thing), feminism may have created a social atmosphere that encouraged men to feel guilty and walk on eggshells around women. Furthermore, feminism created a large amount of distrust towards male sexuality (some of it justified; some of it not), which some men internalize.

Even if one believes that men should be made to feel guilty for their "privilege" (which is highly disputable), or for their sexuality, it doesn't change the fact that guilty men are not sexy men. Neither are men who are so scared of offending or patronizing women that they are constantly watching their tongues or being extra nice. (Anecdotally, I've noticed that the less I obsess about saying "the wrong thing" to women, the more they seem to warm to me.)

If a young guy gets a message like "don't patronize women" pounded into him, then it may become an axiom upon which he builds other beliefs on how to behave. Since the messages are "don't patronize women" or "have respect for women" instead of "don't patronize people" and "have respect for people", they imply that there is something specific to women which entitles them to special treatment. Or it feeds into a Victorian image of women. Such conclusions may be both erroneous and unintended by feminism, but they are derived from the messages men receive.

I agree that this may well be the result of a miscommunication. Nevertheless, most miscommunications are rarely the fault of only one side.

As for distrust of male sexuality, let's look at things like date rape seminars. When I was 15, nationally known victim of date rape Katie Koestner came to my high school to speak. Now, I have nothing against the concept of date rape seminars in principle, but I think the goal of them should be to make people aware of the facts. The speaker went much farther than that: she broke down in tears several times and described her rape in graphic detail, such as how she chewed out the inside of her cheek during it. That level of drama was just complete and total overkill, especially considering that there were 14 year-old freshmen in the audience. Surely date rape can be addressed in a way that isn't potentially emotionally scarring.

At one point, she was asked: "so then how should guys initiate sex?" She said that she didn't know. What do you think that did for my confidence with women? I'd spent the last hour hearing a graphic description of the wrong way to initiate sex with a women, but given absolutely no hints on the right way. I can't help but wonder if one of the problems behind date rape is that our culture has no clue about how a man should initiate sex with a woman.

I came out of that assembly feeling guilty about myself for being a man, and totally helpless on how I should approach women. Of course, that reaction faded over time, but I am certain that the seminar did have a lasting influence on my attitudes towards women. Even ignoring the fact that I was too young to think critically about it, were my reactions totally unfounded? Was it just my fault for "misinterpreting" the messages?

Again, the only thing feminists have consistently said about male gender roles is about the same as what they said about female gender roles-- that a prescribed set of behaviors and attitudes and personality traits is harmful for anyone, and the idea that biological factors make men and women drastically different is harmful as well. Is that wrong?

No. The problem is that freeing people from gender roles must be a gradual process (assuming it is possible to interact with people with absolutely no roles at all). Even though a world without gender roles may be a nice ideal, that is not the world we live in right now. Hence, even if change happens, people must be socialized to deal with each other the way they are, not the way they should be in some genderless utopia.

Honestly, I don't think the average woman is ready for a guy who is completely "freed" from his gender role. This could mean that those women are not free enough from their gender roles themselves, or it could mean that some aspects of gender roles cannot be completely dispensed with (at least not yet).

Right now, men still need to play by some of the rules of gender roles to be successful with women. For example, most women still expect men to initiate everything. Until this changes, it is a double-edged sword to free men from their gender roles; those roles may be confining, but they are what allow success with women.

Unfortunately, being the initiator means being actively rejected sometimes, and being rejected means being stoic and investing less emotionally in future prospects. A system that requires men to be more stoic than women widens the gap between the sexes. This becomes even worse when men are given a disincentive to emotionally invest in women they approach.

Even if men and women aren't made drastically different by biological processes, they are made different by social processes such as the one I described above. Regardless of where these difference come from, there are major differences in attitudes between men and women towards sex and relationships, and we can't try to pretend that these don't exist.

The article I linked to here (you didn't see it before because it wasn't a hyperlink, because I haven't figured out how to make them in this interface): http://stanforddaily.com/tempo?page=content&id=15629&repository=0001_article

Note that the author considers herself a feminist. I suspect that her perspective is hardly unique among women.

I will reply to the rest of your points in my next post...


Since my response has gotten ridiculously long, I don't mind if you only reply to the points that interest you the most.

Keri said:
I still don't think it makes any sense to dump all or even most of the blame for the "nice guy problem" on feminism. Seems like quite the opposite to me-- if a "nice guy" were really behaving the way feminists recommend that he should, he wouldn't approach interactions with women from the perspective that he is entitled to their attention and affection simply by virtue of being male, and he would respect women as individuals who are capable of making their own decisions instead of insisting that they're stupid/masochistic/don't know their own minds/etc. because they're not dating him.

Hmmm, when I think of a guy who believes that he is entitled to attention and affection from women simply by being male, I don't think of a "nice guy." Given my past experience as a nice guy, and the experiences of other guys I've talked to, I think a nice guy is more likely to hold the opposite attitude: he doesn't believe he is worthy of attention or affection from women at all. Hence, he goes out of his way to earn that attention, which leads him to kiss up and look insecure. If a nice guy does act like he is entitled to female affection, it would be because of all the favors he has done for her, not because he is male.

The idea that feminism is to blame for men disrespecting women and treating them like objects and trying to manipulate them into bed is pretty preposterous. Men didn't need feminism to teach them how to do those things-- they've been doing them for ages, since long before feminism became a household term (and yes, I know not all men behave this way, but throughout history there have always been some men who have). The "nice guy" thing is just an attempt to draw more flies with honey than vinegar-- really, it's the same old manipulation and misogyny dressed up in nicer clothes.

I promise you it isn't that simple. First, I am not claiming that feminism is directly to blame for men direspecting or manipulating women, or directly teaches them to do so. That behavior is the result of men being insecure, and not knowing how to approach women in a more productive way. Nevertheless, I think feminism has contributed to an environment where men feel insecure and helpless about how to interact with women. I don't know whether that means feminism should be blamed or not, especially since chivalry may be an even bigger factor in the belief systems of nice guys.

The idea that nice guys are just horny wolves in sheep's clothing is incorrect. I don't deny that there is some truth in the stereotype of men donning a facade of niceness to manipulate women into bed, but not all men are just out to get laid. I think this view of nice guys is more likely to be in the minds of women based on experiences with a few such guys, and on the stereotype that guys are just out for sex.

The kind of nice guys I am talking about are more likely to be romantic and interested in relationships, and frown on one-night stands. They are more likely to feel guilty about their sexuality and separated from it. They are nice less to manipulate women, and more because of low self-esteem and a Victorian image of women. They may have such a low opinion of themselves that they try to buy the affection of others, or they may try to be a "knight in shining armor" and protect or save women in some way.

A book which describes the psychology behind "nice guys" pretty well (at least in my opinion) is No More Mr. Nice Guy by therapist Robert A. Glover.


Honestly, I don't think the average woman is ready for a guy who is completely "freed" from his gender role.

Who wants to date somebody 'average'?


"I mean I feel like a black person here arguing with a white one who keeps denying anything bad ever happened to me...and I'm getting angrier and angrier about it..."

I'm black and I feel bad for white people. I wish black people would just shut up about it (racism) already.

Who wants to date somebody 'average'?


The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Regular reads

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 01/2004