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May 4, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The Women’s Issue For Men

My first realisation that sex was real and not just something that happened on TV was at high school. I overheard a couple surfers talking about the chick they double-teamed on the weekend. How real that seemed. Woah. Reality. Sex. Those guys? Living the dream—and in high school too. It was a long road from Fantasy Avenue to women in Reality Boulevard. I grew up attending a single sex high school, and with no sisters. How’s a guy to learn?

We live in a TV age and a damn large proportion of my knowledge of women outside of the household was derived from TV before it ever was in person. For all my schoolboy thoughts of Jennifer Aniston or Danielle Fishel I only ever thought about them coming into my life and making me happy. Never the other way around. Perhaps my imagination was ahead of the time, combining the escapist genius of Revenge of the Nerds with the celluloid fantasies of Zack Braff (The Garden State) et al. in the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. A term coined by Nathan Rabin to describe the fix-all female who breezes in and fixes the life of an irredeemable male character. Would I still expect her to walk into my life today?

In the world of advertising, fantasies are conveyed with the conviction of a sermon. Cultural evolution is subject to all manner of advertising. Lynx, Coke Zero and Burger King dwell on the subservience of women to men. Many of their TV commercials perpetuate the somewhat unlikely fantasy in which many women are drawn to a man on account of his purchasing decision. If there are boundaries to TV advertising, they are yet to be found. Schick have managed to draw into the mainstream the area of pubic hair and sculpt it into a racist TV commercial that children would find enjoyable. Among the most harmful aspects of popular culture are the commercial activities with a false sense of feminism or other such female liberation. Diet Coke, Dove, The Spice Girls and Playboy Bunnies. These endeavors capture a glance of girl power, but deliver very little in terms of progress.]

Some might argue that there is no longer a need for feminism, highlighting strong examples such as a female prime minister or the advent of the pantsuit. As strong as these examples are, they are also outliers. Some people, often but not always men, perceive women’s rights to be perfectly equal in mainstream society due to similar examples. A deceitful notion. Women’s rights are not just a lower class problem, not just a business problem and not just a foreign problem. Search a little and it becomes clear that women are subject to both different conditions and different standards than men are.

Among the problems that continue to plague women in particular today is the “not rape epidemic”, a category that stretches from molestation without intercourse to cases where the victim feels not to have tried hard enough to avoid the situation. Even after coming to terms with the fact of rape in any case there is the possibility of re-victimization. Examples of this on the stand are the Nebraskan judge who banned the word rape from a rape trial, or hurtful and provocative questioning such as “Were you on the street to get raped?”. In 2000 Wassila, Alaksa, under the mayor Sarah Palin, arguably took part in re-victimization when the administration made changes leading to victims being charged $1000 for a rape kit. Discrimination can occur not as active oppression but as maintenance of current standards, biological differences leading to power imbalance or established cultural differences.

The backlash to feminism has occurred in the obvious ways, but also in ways stranger than I would have imagined. The highly debatable ‘surrendered wife philosophy’ suggests surrendering all the marital power to the husband in order to have a happy marriage. The most popular form of retaliation is the perpetuation of a negative feminist stereotype. We still live in a climate where women will freely state “I’m not a feminist”, dripping with disgust for the term, and perhaps just a hint of fear at their possible excommunication from male society when the McCarthy-esque witch hunt finds them guilty for being females outside the norm. No longer sexy they will be cast aside and subject to the same invisibility and prejudices as the lesbians, the overweight and the aging.

Greg Behrendt’s book He’s Just Not That Into You is a double-edged sword that suggests both female and male stereotypes that I have encountered often enough to recognise. All Behrendt offers is cheap rhetoric which fill a gut feeling, but is unhelpful in understanding people or furthermore establishing gender equality in the realm of dating. As much as it may be intended as empowering to women, it can also be seen as a step back for both women and men.

In working towards the ideas of feminism it is important to keep misandry in check too, for it would do nothing to prevent a misogynist backlash to feminism. British fathers have long campaigned for rights to their children, it seems only fair in common situations. The prevalence of false conviction for rape should be a significant concern to feminism, as it has the potential to cause backlash in what is often a progressive area.

In the midst of the TV climate a guy could almost be forgiven for misunderstanding feminism. After all, it takes some effort to learn about the other sex—even first hand—and Feminism is subject to all sorts of pseudo-rational attacks and misinformation. Despite the protests of some hard line feminists, men can and should be feminists. Some may settle on a term closer to ‘pro-feminist male’ rather than male feminist, but it’s hard to argue against striving for the ideals of feminism, even if a female centric perspective is necessary. In reality feminism is the want for equality between women and men. Corrective measures shouldn’t be mistaken as acts of retribution. The biological differences are enough to bewilder anyone of a single sex. Don’t let the good of this get lost to the crazies, myths and complacency.


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