When it comes to gender studies, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. When we hear the term gender studies we usually think of women’s studies, though lately there’s been greater inclusiveness of transgender studies. Men’s studies are already covered because all other studies, history, psychology, sociology, etc. are all about men. Historically, it’s women who have been excluded.
But is this mistaken? History et al study men as utilities – the things men build, the wars men fight, the philosophies men write. But these do not study men as men. These do not introspectively examine the male gender role.
Feminism, thus gender studies, approaches sex and gender from a female point of view, so it understands men as women understand men, not men as men understand themselves. And men have been discouraged from introspection, though this long predates feminism. The issue is that the past was all about survival, and introspection is a luxury.
Feminism views men as oppressors, and this view is so pervasive that it’s hard to imagine any other point of view besides a deceptive, underhanded way of continuing men’s oppression of women.
Discussion of men’s issues, then, is automatically labelled misogyny because it doesn’t accept the oppression narrative. I’ve been guilty of this myself.
Watching recordings from the first annual International Conference on Men’s Issues, the first thing that stands out is how the discussion is nothing like what the media promised. I was promised angry white guys but was treated to a racially diverse group of men and women. I was promised misogyny, but had to listen to Warren Farrell (1:46:32) say that the men’s movement isn’t about blaming women.
Hold on. There was some anger over fathers being deprived of their children, paternity fraud, and so on. Farrell, however, points out that “Anger is vulnerability’s mask” (1:16:12).
Farrell explains the men’s movement this way (53:50 to 56:15):
One such adaptation, Farrell says, is that we need men who are as comfortable raising children as women are raising money (21:19).
But how do we get there? First, we need to talk openly and honestly about the male role. But this often means challenging the feminist narrative. However, the notion that there’s more to the story than men rigging the system against women comes as a shock to the system.
The pay gap is illustrative. Women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and this speaks for itself. But as even the American Association of University Women acknowledges, once all factors are accounted for, such as comparing the same job for the same job, same years of experience, average hours worked, etc., the pay gap narrows to 93 cents (see page 34 of their report).
So discrimination isn’t the whole story. Traditional gender roles certainly affect job choice, but Farrell points out that focusing exclusively on sexism against women distorts the issue. Such an approach fails to account for men’s obligations and the resulting trade-offs. For example, garbage collectors have a similar education level as daycare workers, but garbage collectors earn more (1:12:06). The work is also a lot more dangerous. “Each of the twenty-five decisions that lead to higher pay…leads to men earning more money and women having a more balanced life. That is a happier life usually” (1:10:31).
He continues, “The underlying definition of power that men have bought falsely…is feeling obligated…to earn money that somebody else spends while we die sooner.” (1:12:40) Fewer men today than in the past sacrifice their lives (though 9 out of 10 workplace deaths are male), but men still sacrifice life satisfaction for higher pay to support a family. “Pay is not about privilege, it’s a toll road. Pay is about the power we forfeit to get the power of pay” (1:08:52). He goes on to note that women who have never married and don’t have children earn 17% more than never married men with no children. In other words, men without a family to support are more likely to choose life satisfaction over pay because they don’t have to deal as much with traditional gender roles.
Still, this garners little concern for men. Farrell, however, says the issues go deeper. For example, the current generation of boys will be the first generation to be less educated than their fathers (3:20), but any attempts to help boys succeed at school are met with opposition. Yet, this will create a generation of unemployed men in an era where a huge percentage of women are choosing to raise children without fathers. But these children, girls and especially the boys, do poorly in education, criminality, etc., thus creating a vicious cycle.
In addition, the suicide rate for boys, but not for girls, skyrockets after puberty (5:29). Male disposability is also a huge issue. Farrell notes that for every soldier who died in Iraq and Afghanistan (27 men for every woman killed), 25 committed suicide (6:32). If a man comes home alive then society doesn’t care enough about him to help with his rehabilitation. Later, Terrance Popp told his story of military service and how he was received upon returning home (5:52:41). Farrell points out that when our society’s survival depends upon having a disposable group of people, we’re unlikely to question it (7:57).
If the definition of feminism is equality for women and men, then feminism should be a natural ally of the men’s rights movement. So why are the two in opposition? That’s a longer discussion, so I’ll direct the reader to the talks by Karen Straughan (1:50:50) and Dr. Tara Paklmatier.