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37.7 Seconds, Part IX
Men's rights have been eroded by feminist dogma
By Lydia Sargent
I have been writing in this column for the last 10 months about the experience of reading current feminist sociobiology and evolutionary psychology where the hot topic is the differences that have been discovered (in dubious studies) in mens and womens chromosomes and brains, differences that make the sexes equal but separate. These differences are supposedly rooted in the gender division of labor that began in deep history on the African grasslands of our ancestors millions of years ago. Thats why we are the way we are, gender-wise. But this does not mean a return to the pre-feminist era of breadwinning men and barefoot, pregnant women. Womens special talents/brains, we are told, are suited for the high-tech information superhighway.
Amazing as these popular science books are in their lack of significant evidence and in the use of fiction, movies, and I have a friend who... to make their case, the book Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Should Join Forces to Achieve True Equality by Cathy Young (of the Cato Institute) really takes the cake.
Under the guise of pushing a common sense view of gender, Young manages to paint a picture of a feminism and a womens movement run amok, using fabrication and exaggeration in its war against men. (She references Dworkin, Gilligan, and pop feminists, as well as articles in womens magazines and even the New York Times as examples throughout.) This war, according to Young, is/was never necessary because her statistics/surveys indicate that women are/were doing fine. It is men now who suffer, if not more than women, at least equally.
Young grew up in Russia until she was 17. She believed that she was a human being, not defined by her sex. When she came to America with its culture of female independence she never saw any backlash, rather she was bothered by what had happened to feminism: a feminist thought police on campus; the notion that sexuality demeaned women; and the rejection of autonomy, logic, and objectivity as male values. Particularly frightening to her was the way this extremist feminism had moved from the fringe to the mainstream. Her example of this: the day after the Los Angeles riots following the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King, Peter Jennings compared (on TV) the violence done to women as being as divisive an issue as racial strife. At that moment, Young realized that feminism was not making things better between the sexes.
She describes feminism as follows: Feminism for some is a belief in the oppression of women, for others its the belief that women have a different voice of female values and a repudiation of the male notions of logic and the pursuit of knowledge and excellence. For still others, feminism means applying a double standard: women can now mistreat men in order to redress the longstanding imbalance of power. Finally, there is a feminism that measures everything by one yardstick, is it good for women?
All of the above, says Young, divide humanity along gender lines, all reject equal treatment because equal standards are inherently male, and one cant treat the oppressor as an equal. She then asks why the movement (which she gives no description of) shifted from a belief in individual rights to female superiority.
Young asserts that there was no backlash, that the reverse happened in the battle for equality, that is, the movement outlived itself and had to justify its existence. Also, perhaps with external barriers gone, women were still held back by more subtle obstacles. Or, maybe many feminists realized that equality wasnt what they wanted.
Young says we must undo the harm done by extremists since feminist claims do not stand up to scrutiny.
- Girls are not silenced or ignored in the classroom
- Medicine has not neglected womens health issues
- Abuse by men is not the leading cause of injury to women
- The courts do not treat violence to women more leniently
- Gender disparity in pay and job discrimination are not merely a consequence of sex discrimination
- The 1980s were not a backlash decade but a time of steady progress.
- The climate is not one of cultural misogyny
- The biggest impediment to a pro-fairness philosophy that stresses flexibility, more options for all, that treats all people as human beings is what passes for feminism today.
- Myth 1: men are competitive, women are cooperative. None of the studies show broad enough differences along this axis to be considered a worldview.
- Myth 2: men are autonomous, women relational. Young says that a 1971 study showed a tremendous gap but by 1980 the difference had all but vanished. Besides, the studies were interpreted incorrectly.
- Myth 3: girls are more docile. Young refers to a study in which 60 percent of the kids in the most difficult quartile were boys, but this is not enough to suggest a fundamental difference. Another study showed 1 in 18 boys and 1 in 45 girls where classified as angry and defiant and socially withdrawn. But on average most investigations show surprisingly few sex differences in obedience.
- Myth 4: men dont share their feelings (especially not with other men). Young, using mostly surveys in popular magazines, asserts that there are stereotypical differences here but not as vast as one might think: 45 percent of men and 55 percent of women would disclose the same information.
- Myth 5: men deal with stress by problem solving, women by brooding and seeking emotional support. Here she cites a study (we dont know what or where) showing that 56 percent of men and 44 percent of women use problem solving techniques. Her evidence is mostly her male friends who do not follow the stereotype.
- Myth 6: Sex is fine with someone you love (women); sex is fine, period (men). She cites several studies to show some difference but debunks them by asserting that both sexes most often linked sex with emotional intimacy.
- Only men can be drafted
- Men are 81 percent of the elderly suicides
- Boys kill themselves five times more often
- Female defendants are treated more liberally
- Men die young from pressures of male roles and medical neglect
- Mens lives are treated as diposable
In Chapter 1 she goes after the myths of difference, and the myths of oppression. She refers to conservative Danielle Crittendon (a conservative) and her claim that mens genetic wiring makes them immune to the mental strain of walking out the door that is suffered by working mothers. Young points out that the evidence for this is underwhelming. She refers to Carol Gilligan, named Ms. Magazines Woman of the Year in 1984 and Times 25 people who changed the way we think about ourselves and others. As to Gilligans claims that male moral reasoning is based on rights, justice, and abstract principle while womens ethic is care-based on human needs and connections, Young says there is no factual basis for this.
She turns to Deborah Tannen whose 1990 book You Just Dont Understand was a runaway best seller. Tannen claims that its all just a misunderstanding, innocent error, that differences between men and women are cultural. Young finds Tannen biased toward women, and therefore not credible. (Calling sexism and patriarchal behavior just a misunderstanding would be biased toward men, wouldnt it?)
Youngs position is that the research is conflicting and while there is something in both biology and culture, all these theories make sweeping statements based on modest evidence. Therefore the claims of difference feminism, mainstream and otherwise, are myths.
Young then says that the extremist difference feminists dont just focus on fighting for equal opportunity or special programs for girls. They see sexism where there is none and they want 50-50 numerical equality across the board. She uses Title IX as an example of the difference between equity and numerical equality. Under Title IX she writes, to comply with a vision of equality (similar proportions even if fewer women are interested), excellent mens sports programs are being eliminated and as a result male students have less opportunity than female counterparts.
Her conclusion here is that we ought to be able to recognize that men are more likely to think and act in one way and women in another and still hold that every man or women should be treated as an individual. Doing this means avoiding the thinking that boys are more hyperactive or girls more docile. It also means not crying bias when women make up 51 percent of university students but only 38 percent of varsity athletes. It means accepting that in a nonsexist society most corporate executives may be men and most primary caregivers may be women.
Chapter 2 is titled Mommy Wars, Daddy Track. For every statistic showing that women are doing most caregiving and household work, Young finds an individual man who is staying home, doing his fair share and then some. For Young, an individual opinion has as much weight as a study of thousands of people.
Where men arent pulling their weight, as demanded by womens movement mavens (all womens movement/feminist references are negative in this book), she points out that it is probably womens fault for not letting them in. I work. So does he. So I suppose I should want him to share equally in everything involving the children. But I dont. Frankly, Im fiercely possessive of my title as Mom. My children love their father and he loves them . But deep down I do not want him to be as important as I am, even if that means more of the work will fall on my shoulders.
She refers to Pepper Schwartzs book Peer Marriage as evidence that many women start hogging the baby, settling for traditional roles and shutting out fathers. Young says that only a few feminist writers have acknowledged the dirty little secret of maternal chauvinism.
Another way that womens attitudes subvert equality is in their marriage choices. Women, Young says, are marrying career oriented men who will not be likely to do the caretaking and, whats more, women dont want them to since they are proud of competitive, status hungry men, and ashamed of men who have menial jobs.
In Chapter 3 she takes on the claim that women are oppressed. She challenges the statistics in Susan Faludis Backlash, citing refuting material from mostly magazines. She says polls show that there was a liberalization of attitudes about gender throughout the so-called backlash decade. If individual women havent achieved equality, its because they themselves backed out or walked away. Feminists also alienated women and men with their glorification of the career woman, while making homemakers invisible. Sound familiar?
Regarding the claim (made in reports from the American Association of University women and in the book Reviving Ophelia, among others) that girls need single sex schools because they are short changed, Young says that in fact girls get better grades and are more involved in school activities than boys. Girls make up close to half of the students in math and science magnet schools and are excelling at science fairs and competitions, according to the latest tests. Girls are behind boys by five points in science but boys are behind girls in reading and writing by 15 to 17 points.In higher education, women earn 55 percent of the bachelors and masters degrees.
So the shortchanging of girls is a myth, concludes Young, and adds that the bulk of the research was done by Myra and David Sadker whose data was challenged by Christina Hoff Sommers (a conservative) and because it was found to have significant errors, which the Sadkers had to retract, particularly the claim that boys call out answers in classrooms eight times more often than girls. Young then finds a few studies to support her view that bias in school is not one of the problems that teen girls suffer from; it is actually boys who are slighted.
Regarding feminist claims of a health bias against women, Young points out that Congress appropriated $39 million for prostate cancer that kills 34,000 men yearly and over $400 million for breast cancer that kills 42,000 women yearly.
She also points out that the Cancer Institute spend $658 million on breast cancer from 1981 to 1991 and $113 million on prostate cancer, and that this was before feminist activism became a political force, so there were hardly wrongs to be redressed in this area.
She says the claim that women were left out of heart disease studies was a gross exaggeration. She quotes statistics to back this up, interpreting women making up 20 percent of subjects in clinical trials as positive because it wasnt as bad as one might think. She quotes one person who agrees that not enough was done to include women in research but that was due to other factors besides sexism (but she doesnt say what they are). She admits doctors and patients should be educated that heart disease isnt just a mans problem but that that can be accomplished without cries that medical research has been done largely to the benefit of men only.
She quotes surveys in which women overwhelming report that they are happy with their regular physicians, as if that proves there is no health bias. She agrees that there are chauvinist doctors but three-fourths of the women in a survey never felt talked down to.
Young then asks if women are the beleaguered sex? On many measures women in the U.S. are at a disadvantage compared to men. An awareness of this has led to important efforts to promote equity (what efforts, by whom?). But male disadvantages are ignored while biases (real or claimed) are magnified so that sexism is seen everywhere.
Young then refers to law professor Deborah Rhodes book Speaking of Sex, in which Rhode acknowledges that feminists have a stake in pointing out that women in our culture still suffer intolerable inequities. The more people believe that womens problems have been solved, the less they will support feminist political causes. To show that women are in an accelerated state of emergency (she quotes Andrea Dworkin here) one must declare that there is a war against women.
Here she takes on the men are beasts claim. Sure she says, men are capable of horrible crimes, and they commit them more often than women, but there are plenty of brutal acts by women. Young even refutes that women are the primary victims of violence against women.
Young asserts that men are more likely to be victims of every violent crime except rape (that being the crime most feminists are talking about). Of course, women are raped because they are women, says Young, but does that make it a bias crimethe sexual equivalent of lynching? Youngs answer would be no, it doesnt. Gay men, she says, are as likely to be raped by their dates as heterosexual women (where is the statistic?). Studies show that 6 to 10 percent of sexual assaults involve male victims (apparently a high enough percentage to be significant).
Research, says Young, does not support the notion that rape is usually motivated by misogyny. Many (how many!?) are often for sexual gratification, others driven by anger at the whole world. Indeed rapists as a group seem no more hostile to women than other criminals. (Where does she get this?)
Although women account for no more than 15 percent of violent crime arrests, still Young finds no clear line separating the sexes on this issue, as women have served as concentration camp guards, terrorists, and guerrilla fighters. More important than the low statistics to Young is the fact that women in the United States are more homicidal than men in Japan (how does she know this?) According to federal statistics (which she fails to reference adequately), more American women are attacked by other women than by their husbands or ex-husbands. Yikes.
Regarding feminist theories of rampant domestic violence, she refutes the statistics that claim that two million women are battered per year. She refers to a major study of domestic violence, the 1975 National Family Violence Survey, which concluded that women hit their mates as often as men did and that half the violence in families was reciprocal, the rest evenly split between male-only and female- only. Similar surveys, she writes, in 1985 and 1992, found just as many men as women were assaulted by wives and girlfriends. Feminists tried to discredit these findings, says Young, but studies still found that one in four battered spouses are men, others found women were three to one. Even so, there is no rampant violence against women as depicted by feminists.
Why hasnt there been more research and popularizing of studies and facts about female violence? Because, Young says, sociologists and others are afraid of the repercussions. A researcher, Janet Johnston, says she doesnt discuss female aggression in her study of divorcing couples because it would be divisive, pitting her against the womens movement and I dont want that.
Young asks just how great is the danger to women in domestic warfare? The answer: not great. Young feels that the statistics about violencethat women are 6 times more likely than men to seek medical care from a marital fight, and that 200,000 women and 40,000 men are treated for injuriesare tainted. Why? Because often men believe they shouldnt hit a woman so they dont own up to it, but if they did the ratio would be more even.
She also says that the claim that women live in fear of men but men dont live in fear of women doesnt hold up. She points to one study (not named) based on a sample in which all the husbands were violent and only half the wives were. Over 40 percent of the spouses with elevated fear levels were men. She tells the story of Dan who was intimidated by his tiny wife as proof that a woman who is no physical match can still abuse a man. Surely, she speculates, there are ways women can torment mates verbally (but she offers no evidence).
She says that 1,300 women a year are killed by husbands or boyfriends (battered women advocates inflate it to 4,000, according to Young), while 600 men are killed by wives and girlfriends.
The notion of male violence against women as an instrument of patriarchal oppression has infiltrated the mainstream to a remarkable degree, says Young. Her references of this are an article in the Seattle Times and Shakespeares Othello.
Young says it is not true that one in four pregnant women are beaten. Its closer to one in twenty. (Thats a relief.) Its not true, she says, that 25 to 35 percent of women in emergency rooms are there due to battering or that domestic violence is a leading cause on injury to women. Only one percent of womens injuries are inflicted by male partners, the rest are from falls and auto accidents.
Why, if men are so violent, she asks, do lesbians have the highest violence rate of all?according to statistics, which she never cites. So what causes family violence? Well, poverty, psychological disorders, fear of abandonment, and proneness to rage are far more likely to cause male battering of women than patriarchal control.
In Chapter 5, on the politics of domestic abuse, she admits that the campaign against family violence is a noble cause. Unfortunately, a combination of gender politics and the zeal common to crusades against social evils has led to a new extreme. All too often the relationship conflict is treated as a crime. Here she writes about Renee Ward who says Theres nothing like working in a battered womens shelter to feel truly abused. Renee served as director of the Minneapolis shelter for battered women from 1982 to 1984. She was an outsider to the womens movement, but had a background in social and public health. Renee found the shelter environment unhealthy, with staff animosities and the pressure of ideology. Racism, patriarchy, homophobia, oppression of the masses were talked about endlessly, as part of the indoctrination that had to go on for everyone at the shelter, including clients . There was a lot of hostility to men.
Besides this womens movement dogma that was shoved down everyones throat, according to Young, feminists were not above watering down their politics to get funding. At other times, their main job qualification was that the applicant be a feminist (how scandalous), or there was a relentless obsession with racism.
Beyond that, veterans of the movement are now working within the criminal justice system as prosecutors (cites one example of this), others are in victim services, still others are writing police protocols and setting policy. Its gotten so bad, says Young, that men accused of violence to women are presumed guilty.
She takes up sex crimes in Chapter 6. While there have been some well publicized cases of rapists getting off lightly, the larger injustice has become men being falsely accused, and the legitimate rights of the accused have been sacrificed on the altar of womens liberation.
Then she talks about the confusion in defining rape. No means no, she says, but that can depend on the tone of voice. No means no, unless you change your mind. Regarding date rape, she feels that its often a matter of bad sex, not rape. She says that no means no absolutism can act against women. When nonviolent sexual coercion is redefined as rape, then many men qualify as victims of rape by women. Yikes.
No means no absolutism has made inroads into the criminal justice system such that men can now get convicted in some states for sexual assault without force. Young then says that according to FBI reports 9 percent of rape reports are unfounded. Yet, she says feminists refuse to believe that women lie or claim that the 9 percent includes cases that were wrongly dismissed for insufficient proof.
Then she talks about the concept of sexual McCarthyism made popular during the Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas hearings, then furthered during the Clinton/Starr/Lewinsky affair.
The result has been a crusade against sexual harassment which has led to practices of invaded private lives, interrogations, etc. Today the leaders of this crusade have often framed the issue as one of a patriarchal plot rather than individual bad acts. This has discouraged resolution of male-female conflicts and placed a taboo on discussions of female responsibility and resulted in a zero tolerance policy.
Young finds feminist claims of rampant harassment exaggerated. She cites a 1994 survey of federal employees where nearly one-third of those experiencing unwanted sexual attention were men. In a 1993 survey, 85 percent of girls but 3 of 4 boys reported sexual harassment. Women, says Young, are also using their power by flirting with men, yet taking no responsibility. Says one woman: At my office, I have half the guys walking around with hard-ons because of my long legs, short skirts, and swishy walk. This prompts Young to remark, If men leering is sexual harassment, why isnt a mini-skirt?
In Chapter 8 Young challenges feminist claims that when fathers ask for custody, they have the edge. Young cites studies that show the courts arent slanted in favor of fathers, quite the opposite, and she says that few groups have as bad an image as the divorced dad. For all the laments about the demonization of poor mothers in the debate over welfare, no conservative has ever bashed welfare moms as viciously as conservatives and liberals bash deadbeat dads. So in the divorce-custody war it is men who are the losers, according to Young. Further, it is men who are the real victims in society, the ones most discriminated against in the following ways:
She supports these claims by examining a burgeoning mens movement, where (a few) men have challenged the deep-seated assumption that gender equity is synonymous with female disadvantage. Sure there are those men who call for the restoration of patriarchy, but they arent extremists, they mean welltheir cause is simply the neglected half of the gender roles. Some masculists, writes Young, not only challenge the notion that women are oppressed today but argue that women were never oppressed any more than men (even that women were less oppressed).
She writes of Warren Farrell who in The Myth of Male Power says that both sexes are equally enslaved by their historical roles. Men provided and protected women, so that they could bear and nurse children. Men were disposable since the species required more females to survive (what?). Says Farrell, a self described liberal masculist/feminist, Id say that in this culture in this century, men and women have been pretty equal. I would say that this is true historically and at all times. Why is this so? Because women received some compensation for their subordinate state. They got protection from perils (but not from their protectors). Mens dominant role carried a high price, such as having to risk their lives to provide protection.
Since, for Young, gender issues are about personal relationships, in this area women and men have equally good reason to complain. As for feminism, most feminists, in Young-speak, view women as a class whose presumed interests are to be given priority and see equality as a matter of convenience; women are tough and aggressive as men when it comes to fighting wars or fires [?} but frail and helpless when it comes to domestic violence; as carnal as men when it comes to sexual freedom, but innocent and victimized in any sexual conflict. To some extent this has also been the party line in the mainstream media.
Speaking of party lines, much of this book is a rehash of the conservative (although she criticizes conservatives) party line. On the other hand, sadly, it is the views and attitudes expressed here that dominate the mainstream, not a feminist thought police/war against men dogma, much less an intelligent and reasoned femniist viewpoint. The view that the womens movement did some good things, but went too far (i.e., actually challenged male domnance) has been a constant litany after every feminist wave of the past century. Once the more radical systemic analysis is disappeared, feminism becomes a lifestyle choice one day, dogma the next; a real but modest contribution one week, silliness the next; with no end in sight. Next time, Ill look at more of the Ceasefire nonsense, as well as the prospects for gender revolution. Z