A friend shared this video of a men’s rights activist who particularly dislikes feminism, and asked for my thoughts:
Here’s what I got:
He’s challenging a single claim: “women are worse off”.
He does so by highlighting ways that men suffer in which women do not, and challenging the notion that those ways are less signficant.
He’s also doing so by questioning the overall-happiness-value of the privileges that men in places of particularly high power enjoy.
In fact, at base, he’s quite nearly arguing something that feminist Jackson Katz (I think) and our dear Martin Lang argue: patriarchy hurts men.
Let’s say for the moment that there’s 2 potential viewpoints that could be included in what we call feminism:
1. Women suffer more than men suffer.
2. Patriarchy hurts people more than it helps them.
He’s naming and declaring false and hateful the first viewpoint.
He’s not naming or addressing the second viewpoint.
MY ANSWERS TO EACH OF 2 THE QUESTIONS:
1. Do women suffer more than men? Quite Probably. (…but it’s a very subjective and not totally helpful question/viewpoint.)
2. Do patriarchy hurt people more than it helps them? Very Probably. (…and it’s a very testable, actionable, and helpful question/viewpoint.)
My purpose in this post is not to talk about my own bolded answers to those questions. My purpose is:
A) to evaluate the questions themselves, as I’ve begun in the parenthesis above, and
B) to evaluate the video-guy’s approach to these questions.
WHY THE SECOND QUESTION IS MORE HELPFUL:
I.E. WHY THE GUY IN THIS VIDEO IS SLIGHTLY RIGHT BUT MOSTLY OFF-TRACK:
Trying to figure out whether viewpoint 1 is accurate A) is apples-to-oranges and B) creates division between men and women.
- Viewpoint/Question 1 divides: The implicit goal of question 1 is to give people the right amount of feeling bad for and/or anger toward themselves and/or others.
- Viewpoint/Question 2 unites: The implicit goal of question 2 is to make people less hurt and more helped.
- Question 1 is apples to oranges; which is worse, dying in war, or losing someone in war? Which is worse, prison, or sexual assault?
- Question 2 is more sensible; I don’t like going to war, and you don’t like when I die in war. I don’t like prison, and you don’t like being sexually assaulted. Let’s figure out whether diminishing patriarchy, or more broadly, what kinds of changes, can cause those things to happen less.
- Question 2 is still tough; it’s hard to figure out what a world without patriarchy would look like, and whether it would be better or worse for everyone.
- But Question 2 is still a more viable question, in that it can actually be tested somewhat: “what happens to societies, or in my relationships, when I work to free men and women from roles and expectations? Do the men and women involved appreciate the effects of that change in their lives?” Men and women can each experience their own before-and-after, and decide which is better, whereas it is impossible to experience the conditions of the other sex to decide who has it worse currently.
- I agree with the original video guy inasmuch as he’s urging feminists to move away from making strong claims regarding Question #1.
- I disagree with him utterly, for the above-mentioned reason, when he himself makes a strong claim regarding Question #2, namely; that women do not have it worse than men. He condemns feminists for their assumption that they’re treating all the suffering-variables correctly, and yet he makes the same assumption of himself.
In other words, the problem with the statement that “women have it worse” is not that it’s false, but rather that it’s not falsifiable, and yet he claims to falsify it.
As a sidenote, I also notice that he Freudian-slips into poopfacehood, in that although he disclaims that he’s only addressing a certain viewpoint which is only a slice of feminism, he repeatedly returns to his phrase “feminism is hate”.
SHORT MORALISTIC CONCLUSION:
In my marriage, whenever Rebekah and I spend time arguing over who was hurt worse in some relational mishap we had, the discussion is bitter and divisive, and yields little fruit.
When the discussion is about how the systems and patterns of our marriage hurt or help us, the discussion is loving, uniting, and fruitful.
Video-face-guy is probably close to right in urging feminists to stop emphasizing how women “have it worse”, but is utterly off base when he asserts that they don’t.
Let’s all lovingly inspect how the patterns of this world, particularly but not exclusively the gendered structures in our society, hurt people or help people, and act accordingly.