Men: feminism needs you

Prospect Magazine

Men: feminism needs you

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Jim Pollard is wrong to say feminism has brought men more benefits than women. So far it’s been a raw deal for both

…to revise your gender identity


In his provocatively-titled Prospect article, Why Feminism Favours Men, Jim Pollard argues that feminism has left men on top: delivering better sex and doing away with the obligation to pick up the bill on dates, while women still get lower salaries and do the majority of the housework. The failure of the movement to deliver equal pay for women means men must have triumphed, he suggests—as if the economics of gender were no more than a giant set of scales. This not only misrepresents feminism’s aims, but does a sad disservice to men.

Feminism was never simply about rushing in and pinching a swag-bag of treasured male privileges. It was supposed to be a total rewrite of society’s rules, for both genders. This week marked the 100th International Women’s Day, and the theme chosen for the occasion was “progress.” Speakers at the Million Women Rise event in London on the 6th March reflected that although feminism has made astonishing gains, we still have far to go. And indeed we do. What’s less remarked upon, however, is how much a truly equal society would improve the lives of men, as well as women.

As Marx might have put it, the partial success of women’s liberation has left men alienated from the means both of “production and reproduction.” Pollard points out that men may still do better out of divorce proceedings—but surely the majority want more from family life than a slightly fatter wallet and the option to split the bill on dates? Activist cadres such as Fathers 4 Justice undermine Pollard’s assertion that British family law wholly benefits men. And unfortunately for men who really do want to take an active role in childrearing, plans to formalise and extend paternity leave were quietly postponed by the government in the wake of the 2008 crash. Men clearly don’t have it all.

If anything, Henry David Thoreau’s century-old aphorism rings true: many men still lead lives of “quiet desperation.” A 2009 report into men’s mental health by the charity Mind identified an epidemic of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems amongst men, with 37 per cent admitting to feeling low or anxious much of the time. The men who responded to the survey felt that they had no outlets for their distress, and were unlikely to seek help for their problems because of social stereotypes about acceptable male behaviour. “Men are taught to be the strong man, a provider, and to be desensitised to emotions,” said Steven Jhakra, Services Provider at Bradford Mind. In many ways, then, it seems that men feel more restricted by their gender than women do.

Pollard also claims that men have benefited from modern women’s anxiety not to appear sexually “unliberated.” He may well be living in the sort of utopia where dozens of insecure women are desperate to offer him “frequent and varied” sex, but—surprise surprise—this newfound sexual licence has also been a welcome development for women. Newsflash: women enjoy sex too.

That said, a deep current of shame and misinformation still runs through our understanding of sexual intimacy. The porn industry, which promotes sex as grinding, monotonous, and relentless, does a roaring trade; it’s worth some $14bn in America alone. The potential harm this does to women is obvious, but it’s just as damaging to men. Alongside lads’ mags and bland, macho entertainment programming, it exploits men’s sexual anxieties and offers a violent, degrading vision of intimacy. I know of at least one young lad who, during his first sexual experience with a woman, was horrified to discover that he had not been expected to pull out and ejaculate on his partner’s face. He had understood from watching pornography that the experience was what all women wanted.

In 1993, the feminist writer John Stollenberg observed that “at no time in history have so many humans felt such a gaping discrepancy between the gender system that is given us and the selves we long to be.” Almost two decades later, this still seems to be the case. Which is why, the rest of his argument aside, Pollard is indeed right that we need to look again at the economic basis of harmful sex roles.

Take housework, for example: Pollard might be cheerful that a century of feminism hasn’t persuaded men to get on their knees and scrub the loo when it needs doing. But the fact that cleaning, cooking and childcare are still unpaid, mostly female tasks means that men are unable to participate fully in domestic life, women are exhausted and overworked, and everyone gets paid less. In a speech for International Women’s Day, feminist author Nina Power explained that “women’s entry into the workforce has corresponded with the depressing of men’s wages—thus the couple must both work all the time, even if there are children to look after. The idea of a job for life, or of state provided childcare, has now been so enervated it seems absurd to think that it was ever the norm.” In short, both women and men are increasingly alienated from family life, and are working longer hours for less combined pay than they would be had feminism managed to tackle the roots of women’s economic exploitation.

It’s true that too many feminists point the finger at “men” in general—as if “men” were no more than a homogenous mass of beer-swilling, crotch-scratching sexists. Books like Natasha Walter’s Living Dolls read rather like long lists of unanswerable complaints, punctuated by moralising tales about prostitution. If feminism is to remain useful, a more coherent and courageous approach is needed. Only through a radical reorganisation of men and women’s economic participation at home, at work, in life and in love will we begin to address the damage that regressive gender roles continue to inflict on both sexes. If feminism has failed in its objectives, it has failed men too. If it is not to fail again, it must achieve them in collaboration with men—not in spite of them.

See Jim Pollard’s reponse to this article here

  1. March 9, 2010

    Indra Adnan

    Excellent article. Many 80s feminists now have teenage sons and are beginning to see the issues through different lenses. Suggest you check out The Downing Street Project (www.thedowningstreetproject.ning.com) which looks not so much as gender problems for women as the gender dynamics of the whole of society – particularly the knock on effects for everyone in overwhelmingly male dominated leadership. This is the latest article on the subject from the Director.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/indra-adnan/in-an-era-of-soft-power-a_b_489692.html

  2. March 9, 2010

    Susan Macaulay

    A somewhat more balanced article than Mr. Pollard’s – and your views are much appreciated.

    I think it might be useful to consider the fact that the terms “feminist” and “feminism” cover a wider and considerably diverse set of opinions and views.

    I consider myself a feminist/humanist. Clearly, we (i.e. women, men and children), all stand to gain from women’s increased participation in all spheres of human being.

    Surely women deserve the same rights as men. However, at the moment we are disadvantaged (compared with men), in almost every socio-economic metric. This imbalance persists in the face of compelling evidence that shows that the more we invest in women, the better off we all are.

    I consider myself a feminist. But, forget about the labels if necessary, and let’s do whatever is required to secure a joyful, peaceful, and secure world for our children.

  3. March 9, 2010

    Susan Macaulay

    P.S. We need to look beyond the way women are treated in the “West,” which is slightly better than the way they are treated in the rest of the world, and get on with creating equity the world over.

  4. March 9, 2010

    Dr karen moloney

    Whilst young feminist writers should be applauded for railing against the sex industry, as an old feminist, I can’t help feeling their complaints are rather quaint and somewhat immature. Laurie Penny is right to call all of us to arms to create a “a radical reorganisation of men and women’s economic participation at home, at work, in life and in love”. However, until we accept the part that biology plays in maintaining inequality, and start addressing the implications of neurological, hormonal and reproductive differences between us, we won’t get anywhere. For so long now we women have refused to accept that we are different and as a result have overlooked and undervalued our unique talents and interests. We’re here now. Lets celebrate our uniqueness without fearing we will be judged lesser men.

  5. March 9, 2010

    redpesto

    “Men: feminism needs you” – there’s lot’s I could debate in this article, but I’ll just make one point for now: to paraphrase Susan Faludi at the end of ‘Stiffed’, why would feminism need men when the adversarial model has served it so well as a means of mobilising and utilising political support? For every article like this, there seem to be far more that expect men to agree with everything the last feminist said, keep schtum, or just get out the way, none of which are the best basis for building an alliance for social change.

  6. March 10, 2010

    HenryJames

    I am man. I have fought for everything I have. My father before me and his before him did exactly the same. You, woman, want me to give you what has been fought for because why?… you deserve it? Tell me, how is it that woman have even survived as a species? its because men have protected you. If you want equality, protect yourself and fight for what you want; don’t expect it to be given on a plate.

  7. March 10, 2010

    Charlotte Norton

    “how is it that woman have even survived as a species?”

    I would like to know how you think MEN could have survived “as a species” without any women!

    Also, women, last time I looked, were the same species and deserved the same rights, as men. Homo Sapiens. Though perhaps some more “sapiens” (=wise) than others…

  8. March 11, 2010

    Roland Baker

    Women’s equality and advancement have been a boon for estate agents who have already seen them coming. It is not just because men’s wages fell per the penultimate paragraph above. By the way, I have never earned as much as the average national wage for women since I started work in 1971 so I get sick of hearing complaints of discrimination from women born to backgrounds of wealth and privilege undreamed of by the likes of me.

    The property market was quick to adapt to the change from one wage in a household to two. Has nobody connected the explosion in property prices to the double income mortgageable potential of a woman’s payslip?

    That is why both partners in most ordinary couples are forced to work to the detriment of family life. Of course, any adverse effect that might have on the socialisation of children and the breakdown of law and order is a price worth paying for women’s lib. It is far more important to delegate childcare and other trivialities so equality can be pursued and all the wages go in mortgage payments.

  9. March 11, 2010

    Ramesh Raghuvanshi

    What may anyone argue for feminism or against feminism. physical differences remain between man and woman forever.Might is always right, this proverb suggest that man dominate on woman up to end of the world.Evolution had given compulsory responsibility for line of family growing on women. Woman is backbone of civilization,by inborn instinct woman knows her lower statue in family she sacrificed herself for this purpose. If woman rebel of this system civilization is doom within year.

  10. March 11, 2010

    Alyson King

    I wholly agree with the proposal that greater equality will benefit men as much as women. It needs to start with the acknowledgement of repressive gender stereotyping of young boys who are scorned into rejecting pink as a favourite colour at a very young age. Girls and boys should be encouraged to participate in the same team and combat sports throughout their education, as well as boys and girls being allowed to enjoy formal and creative dance. It is the equality of status for feminine qualities which is the next massive hurdle for Feminism and the struggle for equality.

  11. March 12, 2010

    freefromdomesticviolenceatlast

    It is very interesting to note that this article is completely ill informed and furthers the abuse of women and children, by promoting the archaic attitudes in which domestic violence and abuse are founded. Men are not kings of the castle, sole providers for a family or entitled to treat women in whatever way they choose, be that as underdogs, forced labour, robots, subordinates, “housewives” or sperm recepticals. No one has that right to treat another that way and there is no chance on this earth that merely being born with a penis entitles a person to have that “right”. There is NO excuse for domestic violence. Not “she asked for it”, “she wound me up”, “the red mist descended”, “she’s mentally ill”, “she wouldn’t let me ejaculate on her face so I raped her”, “I was stressed out with work” nor anything else you can think of. There is no excuse. Interesting how there is an increasing number of “academics” and those of social standing who promote degradation of women and children, thus promoting domestic violence and abuse of women and children, even through the legal system. Some civilised society Britain is!

  12. March 12, 2010

    Gokhan

    “I would like to know how you think MEN could have survived “as a species” without any women!”

    - Easily. If you’re talking about reproduction then well, not yet, but women can’t give birth without men so that goes both ways.

    Anyway, saying “men feminism needs you” is like saying “black people, the kkk needs you”, the only reason feminism “needs” men is so more of them can be brainwashed into their stupid beliefs, or just so feminists have someone to hate and blame.

  13. March 12, 2010

    Gokhan

    “Interesting how there is an increasing number of “academics” and those of social standing who promote degradation of women and children, thus promoting domestic violence and abuse of women and children”

    Wow, educate yourself. There is way more degradation of men then anyone else. You should know, you’re part of the problem.

  14. March 14, 2010

    Pierce Harlan

    If feminism has failed, it is because it seeks to force people to abandon gender roles they simply don’t want to give up. Women have always dictated male behavior. While modern women insist they want a man who is sensitive and not masculine in a traditional way, men learned the hard way that what women say and what they do are two different things. If men are to have any chance of mating, they know they must slink into their traditional masculine box. Women can “have it all,” or at least a semblamce of it, but women still look to men as one thing: breadwinner.

  15. March 16, 2010

    randal

    feminism is an idea that is only applicable where the economy can functionjust as well with women doing the jobs as men.
    whereever and whenever the balance tilts the otherway then women will be forced into subservience by male strength and will. i.e. it is a 1st world social construct that can be negated at any moment but as long as women want to do all the work then I dont mind in the least.

  16. March 16, 2010

    Adam

    Radical reorganization. Okay.

  17. March 20, 2010

    Scary Spice

    UM BLAH BLAH BLAH UM…GIRL POWER. FEMINISM. DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

    If you can’t work this equation then I guess I’ll have to show you the door :/

  18. March 25, 2010

    Alyson

    It is an indication of the continuing polarisation of gender politics that feminism is still seen as a threat by some men. Part of the issue, as I see it, is the pressure on some men to behave in stereotypical ways. This pressure mostly comes from other men who want to sustain top-down hierarchies over the alternative of cooperative democracies. Democracy benefits a greater number of people by electing the most capable people to the roles of leadership, to benefit the group. It is preferrable for the majority, to leadership struggles which involve manipulating others for status and control. These are contrasting modes of negotiation and both tend to operate in work-places and politics.
    More respect is needed for feminine qualities whether in women or in men.
    It is largely seen as okay these days for a girl to act more like a boy. This is partly because males claim a more dynamic range of human qualities as masculine, rather than that all these qualities need to be designated masculine. Men and women will both fight to defend their homeland and the armed services recognise this. Raising children is best when a child has 2 parents who cooperate without fear, out of love for each other and for their children, cooperating within and outside the home, for the benefit of their children and their local community.
    Gender domination is as bad as racism and homophobia, and it does not benefit the ‘winner’ any more than the ‘loser’ The group is culturally poorer without the free contribution of different skills to the community. Business acumen, leadership, creative arts and caring are all needed. Responsibility for our own actions and the effect of our actions on others applies to everyone. Playing by the rules is a very British tradition and team skills are better than aggression for achieving better quality of life for all.

  19. March 30, 2010

    Aaron Jones

    It is a mistake to say “still seen as a threat by some men” as if a monolithic feminism exists and will prevail as if it is the tide of history. For instance, I was raised in a “feminist” household, saw the benefit to men of the sexual revolution (and still do) and would have been the first to defend feminism in college (except the beta male wimps who do that actually get spurned by even the feminist women sexually).

    However, as much as I felt feminists were great, I wasn’t prepared for them to try to tell me, after I turned 30, whom I was supposed to be attracted to and date. There is a word similar to “C-blocking” that men think of feminists and evangelist Christians as wanting to do their chances of having a fun social life. As Baby Boomer feminists grow older, they want to shame men their own age into not dating younger women (while they encourage the opposite which is much less natural). The NOW said of the Letterman scandal “We believe Letterman was referring to the 18 year old Bristol but the imagery of a 35 year old Arod with an 18 year old is violent”. What?? The NOW exhorts women to pay $25 annual dues for such press releases that obviously come from insecure older types?

    If it wasn’t bad enough that the NOW and other organized feminists declared a cultural war on me and others when it became clear that we wanted to date younger adult women, they got the US Congress to pass IMBRA which forces males to be background checked before being allowed to communicate with foreign women online (creates red tape that, if the law was actually complied with, would have destroyed international dating online – or forced it onto Facebook and other approved sites). That law, plus the VAWA law that encourages women to become “victims” for financial benefit, has turned millions of men against organized feminism who otherwise would have been allies.

    The NOW has a policy of considering all women from “developing countries” to be like children, in need of big sister to take care of them. The above laws are entirely based on this outrageous pov and the new International VAWA, giving $ billion to foreign feminist organizations, is about to get voted on in Congress so my taxpayer money can go toward making foreign women like American feminists.

    Feminists in the USA refuse to have a dialog about things like IMBRA and VAWA. They don’t have to. Too many “White Knighters” in the Republican Party mistakenly think all women are feminists and/or “don’t want to go there”. They don’t realize that this gutlessness was a big reason why so many men refused to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket (Bob Barr helped Obama get NC and IN). The entire old media brazenly refuses to recognize a men’s rights movement.

    Feminism will only get back to being about equality when politicians get a pair and the old media is dead. Until then, feminism will be about regulating men, mostly along the lines of stopping them from abandoning them by dating younger women.

    “Concern” about anything related to eroticism is easily explained by evolutionary biologists as a “concern” by the older feminists about being ignored sexually for younger women.

    The desire to destroy men financially in divorces can be seen as a way of making sure older men will not have the resources to get a gorgeous young wife…financially destroyed divorced men are seen by feminists as great advertisements, admonishing their own beta male husbands not to abandon them.

  20. April 1, 2010

    Daniel

    My Mother is a feminist,and a man hater, we do not speak.

    I would rather eat glass than get married under this present system of thievery, kidnapping and enslavement known as the family law court. It was created by feminists.

    Feminism is just another form of authoritarianism, but the wimmins get to
    call the shots.

    I have twin sons, age 20, Alpha Males, like their Poppa, and am presently in a very satifying relationship with a woman 20 years younger than me, she is beautiful, sexual and educated.

    Feminists are mostly made up of old, bitter, ugly hags who can’t get c*ck { because no man in right mind would give it to them } who want
    to rule and lord over men.

    Look in the mirror feminista’s you will have a son or grandson who will despise you soon.

  21. April 6, 2010

    Esmerael

    A feminist is not a man hater, Daniel. I’m sorry if your mother is.

    A feminist is one who believes that a woman should have the same rights and opportunities as a man.

    We still earn less than men for doing work of equal skill. We face violence in our homes. We see rape used as a weapon of war. Women are killed in the name of honour. Sexual assaults go unpunished.

    Do you think that this is right and proper? Would you accept this as equality if it was happening to you?

    If you do not, then welcome to the ranks of “old, bitter, ugly hags”.

  22. September 8, 2010

    Sally Sure

    Wow, Aaron Jones you really sound like a creep! Men that share your values are the ones that make many decent hardworking men and women alike sick to their stomaches. You seem to harp on and on about your right to dating women from developing nations as an old man and how this is more natural. Really?! You think that trying to cheat biology by taking little pills and exploiting women living in poverty? (Which is what you are doing)is more natural than dating someone closer to your own age?
    \The desire to destroy men financially in divorces can be seen as a way of making sure older men will not have the resources to get a gorgeous young wife.\ Be honest now, the only reason you are offended by this law is because you know that men such as yourself have NO chance of dating/marrying a young woman without money. You really lost all credibility here. Do you have children? If you do (hope not, for their sake) ask yourself how they would feel seeing their father or mother re-marry someone 20 or more years younger. Going from my friend’s experience, it isn’t nice or easy to adjust to for the children. In fact, it’s heartbreaking. Men like you are the ones that need to learn to take responsibility for your actions and stop acting like children. You are apart of society whether you like it or not and this used to mean you would try find a balance between what you want and what others expect of you. Also, did you stop to think about why the government is trying to stop foreign dating/marriage? Have you looked at the rate of failed marriages between very old men and younger women. Oh, and by the way, not all women that are young automatically qualify as being beautiful.

  23. November 17, 2010

    contact center

    I’m surprised at the number of negative comments towards feminism (did these people read the last paragraph?). Although the most pure form of feminism is positively pro-female, not negatively anti-male, I agree that feminism has left men “on top” in many areas, and it is frustrating for women. The most potent example of this is the feminizing of men (mostly from pop and consumer culture), which leaves women yearning for the “dominant” male, which they are genetically programmed to desire (while men are working to be quite the opposite).

  24. November 30, 2010

    Financial Crisis

    Women are feminism’s pawns it seems, to be shifted around a fantasy gameboard at whim, in echoes of the whole ethnic populations put on cattle trains to be uprooted and relocated en masse during Stalin’s time.

  25. February 11, 2012

    Jacob Smith

    A simple solution, and this would end sex discrimination.

    -All persons finance their own need.
    -No person gets married.
    -Parents are equally responsible for a child.
    -A state option for parent paid child care.
    -All persons trade for sex.
    Ex. Good looking guys need to get paid to have sex with an ugly girl, and vice verse.
    -All jobs must be given based on ability.
    -All persons must serve in the military.
    (Weight based requirement for tasks.)
    (Ex Women can easy shoot a gun. But, they don’t have to dig a trench.)

    How many women would agree to this list?
    None. Or, very few.

    How many women would agree to:
    -Affirmative action for women.
    -Opportunity to con some man into alimony.
    -Spend all the money.
    -Deserving stuff because gender.
    -Having a backup option in failure; marry.
    etc…etc… etc..

    Most women would agree to these terms; they cry women need more things. It’s sexism booo hooo!

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