Feminism

We Need to Do Something About Male Disposability

While men have gender-specific problems too, the execution of MRA is, let’s be honest, kinda shit. Many feminist counter-attacks rest on the pretty well supported barb that Men’s Rights groups exist solely to foil feminism. Men’s Rights groups counter anti-rape awareness campaigns with victim-blaming anti-false-rape-accusation posters. The movement itself is home to a bevy of misogynists.

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But among all the misconstrued data and crying about how posters urging men not to rape makes them, not a rapist, feel, MRAs have a good point: Men die violent deaths a lot more than women do. And nobody seems to care about that particular type of discrimination. Being MRAs, of course, they miss the forest of systematic gender-based oppression for the misandrist trees. Like MRA, awareness for the “disposable male” is used as a counterpoint to feminism. And it’s a weak-ass point.

What is Male Disposability?

Men go to war and die, in much higher numbers than women. Men hold more dangerous jobs, and are more likely to be killed on the job. Men are supposedly expected to give up their spot on the lifeboat of a sinking ship, even when their superior bodies enabled them to run to safety first. Men (most people, really) aren’t taken seriously or respected when they report being sexually assaulted or abused. And that sucks for men. Really, it’s horrible. And it does, in fact, point to male disposability. Men’s lives, if “life” is brain activity and a pulse, count less than women’s.

Proponents of this idea say that long ago, it was logical. Women are the group that produces children, so it makes sense for them to be kept out of harm’s way, in the house, in the kitchen, etc. So men were given the responsibilities of dying in war and building suspension bridges. But now, we’re in modern times, and while such dire responsibilities have kinda dried up (we’re not in danger of facing a homefront war, and we definitely have more than enough people), the risks and expectations are still there. With the rise of feminism, and all this talk about women needing more rights, it feels to them like men are getting a bum deal. After all, even if women are objectified and not taken seriously, at least they aren’t dying.

For a horrifically grating treatise on the subject, check out Karen Straughan’s video (AKA girlwriteswhat). Warning: She’s like an MRA Rachel Maddow and her empty space sound, where most of us go “um” or “like,” is a smug, amused scoff.

Where does Disposability Come From?

The Short Version: PATRIARCHY.

Male disposability gets pulled out from time to time in order to disprove the idea of patriarchy. It’s not very effective! In large part because there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what patriarchy is. Patriarchy is a theory about our current society and the expectations and roles it places on women. However, a binary emerges when one major group is saddled with rules. The other group must differentiate itself, and this role is just as strict. The patriarchy is very relevant to men, and its harmful effects are just as real to them.

...a lot of misunderstanding about what patriarchy is

…a lot of misunderstanding about what patriarchy is

To use the favorite example:  Why is it that men make up the bulk of the people that go to die for their country? Because women are valued for their ability to make babies, not their strength. Men are expected to be strong and brave, and sacrifice themselves for their family’s safety. This is how patriarchy (and not incidentally, our society) views men and women. So when someone says that patriarchy can’t exist because “look how many men are societally obliged to give their life for their country or family, to put themselves in danger to make a living,” they’re not understanding what patriarchy means. Patriarchy can harm anyone, and it benefits everyone to do away with these expectations and cultural norms.

Men go to war because women are too valuable. This is kind of the truth of the matter. But that doesn’t tell much of the story. MRAs or anti-feminists point to this and say, “look, the women are more valuable, where do you get off saying the world is run by men?!” But “valuable” doesn’t mean much. Oil is “valuable.” Lithium is “valuable.” But they’re objects, they aren’t powerful; the people who control them are. So, yeah, women are more “valuable” than men, but only in that they’re dehumanized machines that make babies and provide sex (this valuation, btdubs, is, again, how the patriarchy views women). Men are being sent to protect women for the rest of the men. When we’re talking disposability and societal value, nobody is valued as a human being.

What About the Menz?

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What does fifty thousand men mean to a country the size of the US? Nothing, really. Nothing at all. Men are disposable because we all are disposable. We are ruled over by people who are only thinking about the biggest big picture and their own interests. Nations, corporations, globalism, imperialism, these are causes that have little to no interest in preserving the lives of however many men. And under a system of patriarchy, these amoral entities will continue sending men to die at war simply because they are men and that’s what men are for. Society will continue not giving a shit about men being raped, about men being sad, about men committing suicide, because that’s not what men are supposed to do.

Men, look at patriarchy like this: it was made for you, it benefits you, but it also fucks you over, and it fucks women over even more broadly. It’s an insult. Worse, it’s used by those in power to keep you predictable and controllable. Why even bother getting mad at the people who tell you that, who are trying to lessen its grip, instead of the people who actually propagate it and want it to stick around?

Patriarchy kills men, at an even higher rate than it kills women. Patriarchy is the cause of male disposability. Not acknowledging it is illogical, and continuing to complain about feminists not paying mind to male disposability is just more of the same MRA disruption. Even if men do have it worse, if the constellation of male disposability’s wrongs adds up to more than women’s entire lives being judged as less important, what’s the point? Are their problems invalid, just because if there’s a war, men are more likely to die? Feminism holds no responsibility for that, and it falls outside their purview. All that could possibly be happening when the disposable male is brought up is feminists are being asked to shut their mouths. Feminists are already doing their part. What the hell are you doing?

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21 thoughts on “We Need to Do Something About Male Disposability

  1. “Men, look at patriarchy like this: it was made for you, it benefits you, but it also fucks you over, and it fucks women over even more broadly.”

    Trouble here is you can just as legitimately say that what’s being called patriarchy benefits women relative to men in certain contexts: e.g. dramatically lower sentences than men, on average, for the same crimes.

    So we have a system that disproportionately benefits men and women in different contexts, at the same time as disproportionately harming men and women in different contexts.

    It’s far from clear that it makes sense to call such a system ‘patriarchy’ at all. Kyriarchy, or traditional gender expectations/biases, both seem like far more accurate alternatives.

    • I would argue it’s more accurate to call it patriarchy since men are the dominant gender regardless of who actually benefits more. (the people in charge of society are undeniably male)

      • If one is arguing over the most effective moniker to gain support for an idea, then “patriarchy” has the same problem as “feminism” in that its structure puts emphasis on a particular gender, thereby singling that gender out as the problem or solution. (Etymology is largely lost on those who don’t study it, but fundamental roots like “pat” and “fem” have general familiarity.) In simple terms a common cause cannot bear an exclusive name and expect broad support, especially not from those excluded by the name. This perhaps goes doubly so for establishing a common foe. You cannot rally folks to take up a fight against themselves. To put a feather on it, by the time you reach explaining why the word they think does or does not identify them is actually an exception, you’ve already lost. All momentum is gone. You’ve wasted your time gaining agreement on the definition of one word rather than putting action to ideas you likely already agreed upon.

        • You’re right about the name being divisive, but I feel like the solution to patriarchy is heavily and obviously skewed towards doing work for women. To simply rename patriarchy and feminism would be kind of silly — I don’t think people are so stupid as to not notice when the gender-neutral named concept actually involves doing a lot more work for one gender.

          Patriarchy itself, as an unnamed concept, puts its emphasis on specific genders, and as such its solution is targeted as well. I think this is appropriate, and I’m confident that following it through WILL be good for everyone. In the end, though, feminism IS for women. The concept of the patriarchy is fought against in many other ways on men’s behalf, just not with that name. Even with people who object to feminism claiming it helps everyone or patriarchy being called what it is, the “patriarchy,” the way our society runs, has already been established as a common foe. All this to say I’m really not concerned about people who can’t deal with the etymological implications of “patriarchy.”

          • Oof! My eyes rolled back into my head reading that, and I’m into this stuff. It’s a good thing you don’t care about the etymologically unsavvy b/c you won’t attract them. Just don’t expect any broad-based agreement as a result. If the point is to turn people against the ideas and structures of patriarchy, then you don’t even need a name. Call it status quo if you need a noun for grammatical purposes. If the point is to turn them against a word, then your effort is meaningless, because another word could just as easily enshrine the same ideas and put your back at square one.

            Besides, if feminism is “for women” and “against patriarchy” then it follows in most minds that patriarchy is “for men.” That’s not effective rhetoric for bringing men into the gender equality discussion. You’re setting yourself up to hear all sorts of “I’m all for equality, but…” arguments. And then you’ll find yourself compelled to argue against people who would generally agree with you if not for petty words.

            I really don’t care whether you value your lexicography over your ideology, but you should at least be honest with yourself about it. Getting people to agree to definitions is hard and bears little fruit. Getting agreement on ideas isn’t easy either, but the rewards are far greater.

            • I think the word “patriarchy” arose out of necessity. Why does helping women so often involve “taking” from men? Why does making things right and addressing the “status quo” involve so much more work being done just for women? The process of reaching gender equality is inherently “unequal,” just as anti-racism “unfairly” benefits the victims of racism. Nevermind that neither women nor ethnic minorities actually do better than privileged groups even with all this help, the point is that the work is imbalanced and people will see that even under a different name. Also note that people who suggest feminism rebrand itself as “humanism” or “equalism” or whatever tend to be against actually targeting solutions at specific groups, opting for a “Treat everyone the same, and we’ve won” philosophy, which does nothing but support the status quo (not saying you’re doing this).

              So yeah, I still agree with you on the emotional words thing, but I do think there’s a certain need for a shorthand that isn’t neutral. The movement isn’t neutral, it’s pro-active, and absolutely taking (unearned and dangerous) power away from men. I understand that the words are alienating, but the movement itself is pretty damn hostile, and you have to get on board with ideas much more confrontational than the word “patriarchy” to be an actual help to it.

              • Well if you intend to be militant about it, there’s no toppling your position. Then the question is whether a militant approach is effective. And that answer depends on your goals.

                Incidentally, I tapped the term “status quo” b/c of its utter meaninglessness. People always use the term in the present tense to refer to past regimes. It always benefits the powers that be to project the image that the powers that were are still in control. Savvy leaders only call for the change which has already come.

  2. Disposability is caused by polygyny in particular. Under monogamy, you need one man for every woman, making men no longer disposable. But as long as “p”-atriarchy doesn’t benefit men, men don’t have male privilege. Male privilege is a core assumption of Feminism.

    That said, many Conservatives argue that Feminism is bad for women. Laura Schlessinger in particular distinguishes between men and males. Only the first group should get privilege if it were up to her. Only “real” men get privilege under “p”-atriarchy; dude privilege/alpha phallacy, as opposed to queers/betas who don’t.

    This is precisely why many MRAs attack Conservatives as well, calling them Femiservatives.

    • Certainly men who don’t conform to the patriarchy’s model are less successful; even ‘perfect men’ suffer because it’s an impossible model. but that doesn’t mean all men aren’t granted certain rights over women. this isn’t to say a man will always do better, but take the example of this dude Kim who didn’t get hired until he updated his resume to say ‘Mr,’ clarifying that he was a man. or, the all-male panels in charge of legislating women’s health.

  3. Enjoyed your post. I view male privilege & disposability as two sides of the same coin. That is, privilege comes at a cost – a point too many feminists miss – while MRAs go so far as to deny privilege even exists. However, I firmly believe that economic privilege is by far stronger than male privilege.

    I don’t think male domination emerged as a misogynist conspiracy, but rather as a genuine attempt to protect women – but protection becomes control, then one despises those who are controlled (i.e. misogyny).

    No wonder feminism happened. But it isn’t monolithic: there are as many approaches. Unfortunately, some oppose attempts to help boys who are falling behind in school, men who are discriminated against in family court, or who experience domestic violence, etc. So really I’d like to see a gender transition movement that isn’t men v women (as with MRAs and many feminists) but rather women with men.

  4. Historically, men held the positions of power because women weren’t allowed to. Now, in western society, men primarily hold positions of power because too few women want the job, and the largest group of voters (women) don’t vote for the few who do -at least, not enough for it to count. You want to call a country where the majority of the wealth is spent by women a patriarchy? Where companies, politicians, judges, etc. dread being on the bad side of that group? Men severely lack that solidarity, so if patriarchy is, in fact, what western society is, it’s the worst example of one.

  5. So just to start off, the reason why a lot of educated, or logical, guys get offended by the “Don’t be that guy” campaign is because it basically says “If I didn’t tell you this, you would totally rape that chick because you can’t control yourself” and ignores that most rapists seem to lack that whole consciousness thing. Which is why it kind of bugs me, but on the other hand the stats show that there seem to be an unsettling amount of male college students with extremely loose moralities. So I have a problem with the execution, not the message.

    You do hit the interesting point of how patriarchy screws over both men and women do to the expected “roles” or whatever; divorce and war being the first ones that comes to mind on the male front and… well most of life and the intellectual expectations on the women’s front. But what I also don’t understand is the other side of the gender debate who say men aren’t needed and that women should have more rights then men. OR what really actually irks me are the “feminists” who desire the negative male side of patriarchy to stand while everything else becomes equal.

    I will end this by saying I am probably pretty biased. I have truly tried to consider myself a humanist who bases most things on ability rather than gender. I’m a much better cook, stronger, and a little OCD so I take care of basically everything at home after work and my wife is basically on the level of a genius who brings home most of the bread and fixes my electronics when I break them lol. In any case, good post and interesting read… I honestly can’t remember how I got here though. Oh youtube and the links I click on

    • Just out of curiousity, do you remember which video this article was linked on?

      That reaction to the “don’t be that guy” campaign bothers me because it isn’t for you, the person who knows how not to be a rapist. It’s like “don’t drive drunk” billboards or the like. Do people who drive safely get offended when they see those? If you understand that having sex with a girl that’s passed out is rape, then good for you, you can safely ignore the sign. But a lot of people either don’t know that or aren’t aware of how fucking rotten it makes them to do it. There’s also genuine woman-hating rapists that simply don’t care, but they can’t really be targeted by an awareness campaign.

      “Don’t be that guy” is also useful because there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what rape even IS. For example, I doubt a significant number of people think rape is okay, but “In a survey of high school students, 56% of girls and 76% of boys [some of whom may be incoming college freshmen] believed forced sex was acceptable under some circumstances.” – http://www.slc.edu/offices-services/security/assault/statistics.html

      Thanks for the comment!

      • I would disagree with your comparison because “Don’t drive drunk” billboards are less selective in who they single out. It’s broad and gender-less in its implication, and clearly distinguishes between someone who is drunk and someone who is sober. Ordinary drivers have no reason to take offense. The solution for “Don’t Be that Guy,” akin to the logic of the drunk campaign, would be to target the ones more psychologically inclined to become rapists. But of course that would be impossible.

        An interesting observation. If the percentage of girls who believe forced sex is acceptable is that high, and we’re hearing stories about males being raped by women as under-reported, a campaign around “Don’t Be that Person” sounds justifiable; it can still even picture a man looming over a woman.

        Thanks for the article. It opened my eyes to some misconceptions about patriarchy. I still disagree with you on several fronts (or at least what I interpret as your attitude). But Feminism, as a war, I believe in. I just disagree with so many of the battles. I also find fault with the name. It’s like Black Power versus Civil Rights. Humanism is much more appropriate, especially given what you yourself seem to be arguing.

  6. “I don’t think male domination emerged as a misogynist conspiracy, but rather as a genuine attempt to protect women”

    I’m sure Joseph Fritzl was convinced that he was protecting his daughter too…

  7. So let me see if I get this right. The patriarchy is a worldwide conspiracy that benefits men and screws over men to accomplish that… Wut? Do you even realize how stupid that sounds?
    Just how much can you feminists bend reality before it breaks in front of your eyes?

  8. Pingback: Your Boyfriend is on Steroids | Yes, your nigel.

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