“We have met the enemy, and he is us”: on not blaming wives and kids for male unhappiness

I have a lot of respect for Tom Matlack, founder of the Good Men Project. I honor his tremendous efforts to create dialogue among men about what’s really going on in our hearts and minds; the essays in his self-published book are well worth reading. We need more Tom Matlacks in the world.

At the same time, I want to push back — gently — against something Tom wrote last month in this Huffington Post piece: Rethinking Manhood: The New Feminist Project?

I’m all for introducing a discussion of masculinity into feminist spaces. I was on a panel at last fall’s National Women’s Studies Association meeting in Atlanta on exactly that topic, and I’ll be speaking on another similar panel on men and anti-sexist activism at this year’s NWSA in Denver. Men and feminism is a subject near and dear to me, so I read Tom’s post with more than the usual interest.

But though I agreed with Tom’s basic point that men need to talk to each other more, this paragraph troubled me:

…the media are still consumed with the old feminist battle cry, to the exclusion of the predicament of boys and men. Maybe guys need to complain more publicly about how hard it is to be a good father and husband, and still bring home the bacon. Maybe we should have our own cable network — not for ultimate fighting or pornography, but for guys to talk about trying to do it all while the wife, kids, and boss expect more than ever.

First of all, to the extent that the media focuses at all on feminism, it does so with a mixture of hostility and derision. The idea that the mainstream press carries water for the feminist agenda is risible; indeed, even the so-called “liberal” news outlets tend to spend very little time focusing on feminism except to lampoon it. But perhaps what Tom means is that the media celebrate women’s breakthroughs into traditionally male spaces, while spending very little time discussing the crushing burden of successfully occupying those spaces. That is a worthwhile topic for discussion.

But the real problem, of course, is that both men and women live and work in a system that was designed and is maintained by men. Wealthy men, yes, but men nonetheless. When men complain about being overwhelmed by the demands of wives and bosses and children, they are complaining about a system that men themselves erected. When women complain about the old boy’s network (which still thrives in many public and private institutions today) they do so as outsiders; even affluent white women are still outsiders in a world where women make up 51% of the population and 17% of the US Senate. When men complain about the crushing burden of expectation, they do so as (to use one of my favorite expressions from Twelve Step programs) “architects of their own adversity.”

It’s not little girls who taught little boys that “real men don’t cry.” It’s usually not mothers, either. The dreadful straitjacket of masculinity is put on by other men, by fathers and teachers and coaches and bosses and frat brothers and drill sergeants and peers. While some young women are taught to eroticize the young men who wear that straitjacket with apparent effortlessness, it’s a huge mistake to assume that female desire or expectation is anything more than an ancillary factor in the adoption of the masculine code. As Michael Kimmel and others have pointed out, what drives American men is the craving for “homosocial approval” — the longing for the approbation of, older, more powerful males.

It is absolutely true that wearing the straitjacket of masculinity makes most men miserable in the end; many do lead the lives of “quiet desperation” that Thoreau described more than a century and a half ago. For most of these men, that straitjacket doesn’t feel like a choice, as they learned to wear it when they were little boys. Many of these men blame women for demanding that their husbands wear it, some blame their kids, some blame their bosses. Some blame themselves. But the real culprit isn’t individual men, and it certainly isn’t women or children. The real culprit is the “man code”, a set of rules created and transmitted by men through generations.

Both men and women suffer, but they don’t suffer equally. As Robert Jensen and many others have pointed out, the reason a woman can’t walk safely in a parking lot at night and the reason her boyfriend can’t cry in front of his friends are the same: fear of men. But the cost of not being able to cry is hardly comparable to the cost of rape and the fear of sexual violence. It’s false equivalence to suggest that the fear of being ridiculed as insufficiently manly and the fear of being raped and killed are remotely the same. Those who claim that “the patriarchy hurts men too” need to remember that the potential injuries are rarely as severe.

Yes, men die more often in combat (at least as soldiers) than do women. But men tend to be the ones who started these wars, be they on the global stage or on the mean streets of the inner city. They started these battles not infrequently because of an unwillingness to consider compromise, or because of a hypermasculine, hyperfragile sense of honor. Those who die die at the hands of other men, just as women who are raped and killed in war are raped and killed by men. The homicidal impulse is pretty closely correlated with the masculine code.

Both men and women benefit when men wriggle free from the straitjacket. It’s good and appropriate to bring men and women together to discuss ways to help men extricate themselves, and to strategize to raise a generation of boys who are less confined than their fathers and grandfathers. But we can’t do that while we continue to believe that the expectations of “the wife and the kids” created that straitjacket. Women didn’t force us into this bind anymore than our innocent children did. To suggest that they are somehow to blame for male confusion, insecurity, or inarticulateness is to woefully misunderstand the genesis of the problem.

Rather than saying “hey, what about us guys?”, and demanding that feminism shift its gaze towards soothing male insecurities, men who long to shed the straitjacket would do well to work alongside feminists in common cause to dismantle the institutions that sustain and promote rigid gender rules. Men must remember the famous line from Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic: We have met the enemy, and he is us. Until men accept that responsibility, no authentic progress is possible.

30 thoughts on ““We have met the enemy, and he is us”: on not blaming wives and kids for male unhappiness

  1. I don’t know that “The idea that the mainstream press carries water for the feminist agenda is risible”. Pretty much by definition, the mainstream press is going to represent the views of its customers, the mainstream population. So as the feminist agenda has advanced, the press has followed, even if it’s never likely to lead the way. But it’s not “risible” to suggest that the media (for instance) would support sanctions on men who’ve victimized women with sexual harassment. And I don’t think many newspapers would say that schools should go back to having a minimal athletic program for girls, except cheerleading. Hugo, maybe you’re taking progress for granted and only looking at what isn’t being done to achieve more of it.

    But the major point to my mind isn’t that men have to play multiple roles, but that women have been doing it longer and more obviously. Even as married women have entered the paid workforce, the percentage of work done in the home by men hasn’t increased to match, and that’s especially true for anything involving raising children. If men have anything to complain about, it should be on the basis of “Now I’m sharing a woman’s role, and it’s damn difficult”. Well yes. Shall we now join in trying to make everyone’s lives easier?

  2. I’ve encountered this problem before as a racial construct for sure. I tried to discuss white privilege with a former significant other and found myself on the receiving end of a diatribe that essentially boiled down to “how dare you suggest I am privileged my life sucked and I got picked on by nonwhite kids when I was little I am the victim here!” In other words, a total lack of comprehension of what white (or in the case of your writing above, male) privilege actually means. I have small sympathy for this lack of comprehension, as I am (apparently) white and yet have no trouble understanding the concept and am unconfused by the fact that my life wasn’t perfect even though I was firmly possessed of it.

  3. Hugo,

    “Until men accept that responsibility, no authentic progress is possible.”

    you know I don’t agree with you with respect to your position that female influence on men is only “ancillary”. I think it’s the core reason behind most guys getting up in the morning and building hierarchies to begin with. But no need to address this, we’ve been there. Something else -

    You keep mentioning over and over how you are unhappy about people who say that you come accross as a man who’s not really ok with his masculinity. I don’t personally think that is the case, based on all I’ve read here. But you keep comparing your positions to those of, say, Robert Jensen, who explicitly mentioned how he hated his masculinity. And you keep writing about men as if you aren’t one of us – as per the quote above. And that makes it occasionally harder than necessary to take your positions as seriously as they should be taken (by other men) for a real discussion to take place. Just something to consider for the future.

    Could you, just once, accept a male problem on a nominal level, without adding the ordinal “how women have it worse”. It’s not like you haven’t mentioned that before. It’s not like people don’t know your position. But by always adding a “women have it worse” disclaimer, all you’re doing is ex-ante devaluing the experience of men who may be interested in talking about it. It makes your assertions seem like you’re not actually interested in *that* discussion, but merely in telling other men about your own enlightened self. It’s not a matter of what you’re saying, in my opinion, it’s a matter of how you say it (oh, and what a supposedly feminine argument I just made there ;))

  4. Sam, as I recall, you liked my “Of Never Feeling Hot/missing narrative of being wanted” post from last year, no? That was highly personal and sympathetic to men, wasn’t it?

    I think it is quite possible to love being male and hate one’s acculturation as masculine. I don’t like masculinity as a social construct; I am happy to live in a male body. That’s not self-loathing anymore than the son of white slave-owners rejecting his inheritance is engaged in an act of self-loathing. I was born male, but was shaped by the culture into being masculine. When Bob Jensen and I and others like us talk about “refusing to be men”, we are not talking about unsexing ourselves or becoming eunuchs for the queendom or what have you. We’re talking about rejecting masculine privilege, we’re talking about wriggling out of the straitjacket as best we can.

  5. I was glad to have stumbled upon this very thoughtful reply to Tom Matlack’s post on “The New Feminism.” (thanks, google!)

    For the record, I am a feminist that has worked very closely with Tom Matlack over the past year. (I’m publisher of The Good Men Project magazine). Or, rather, I’m an “equalist” – I believe men and women have separate but different challenges and that solutions should take a universal, holistic approach and not pit one sex against the other, ever.

    So Tom and I discussed his New Feminist article, in depth before he ran it. Like you, Hugo, I don’t agree with everything he says, either, but that’s the point – that men and women both should be allowed to talk about what their view of the world is without fear. Without fear of censorship, or ridicule, or derision, or even of being “wrong”.

    Since working on The Good Men Project, I’ve talked to all sorts of men about problems that I didn’t know men had. About men seeing themselves as “providers” and not just workers – and what happens in a recession when 70% of them are the ones laid off. About men who are addicted to aggression and hate themselves for it. About men who realize they don’t have an “emotional vocabulary” but don’t know where to start. I’ve talked to men about promiscuity and sexuality and moral ineptitude and war and racism and death. Not every problem is “men vs. women” – far from it. But there are – without a doubt — problems unique to men. And as much of a “liberated women” I like to think I am, I just hadn’t seen that before with the same clarity I do now.

    I was thinking today about how all the years of the “equal pay for equal work” mantra by the feminist movement has done nothing to improve my life as much as being able to walk into a salary negotiation and offer clear proof as to why I’m worth a certain level of pay. So I don’t go off and rally together with hordes of women and “demand” equality – I send emails out to women I know with exactly what has worked for me in the past when negotiating salaries, raises and promotions. Heck, I do the same for the men that ask me as well.

    And that’s the point I want to make to you, Hugo, – and with Tom as well. Is it really that men need to band together to “dismantle institutions that sustain and promote rigid gender rules?” Man, THAT sounds hard. Or is it – instead – to have thoughtful conversations like these where people are allowed to say: “This is my view of the world. Right or wrong, this is what I see. Help me solve the problems we can solve today, here and now, the specific solvable problems that make life better for everyone.”

    Thanks for continuing the discussion.

  6. Lisa, forgive my academic language of “dismantling institutions”. I’ll try and explain what that means in “real man on the street” terms tomorrow, and I think we’ll see we’re almost, almost on the same page.

    Thanks for your comment! Big fan of the project.

  7. Hugo:

    Thanks for this great and thoughtful piece. I realize that parts of my piece where shrill in a way that perhaps most of my other writings have not been. To be clear no part of the piece was intended to blame women. It was, as you have so clearly done, encourage guys to speak out and look inward.

    One thing I will quibble with is the work of Michael Kimmel and homosocial approval. I find his books, particularly Guyland, to be really anti-male in tone. Maybe we are that bad but I sure don’t hope so.

    As I am sure you know if you have read me more widely or the material we have collected in our Project, we are trying to inspire men to be heroic in every-day and most expansive way possible as fathers, sons, husbands, workers and men. Our view is that women has just as much to gain as men do from men doing and being better.

    And as you point out many men in these days of economic recession and foreign wars are living lives of quiet desperation. Sure a small group of largely men have gotten us in to whatever trouble we might be in, but that doesn’t change the situation of the masses of men trying to sort out how to navigate their lives in 2010.

    As in all things I am not good enough to tell any man how to be good. I only know that the question is crucial. And from each discussion I learn something new and important about my own manhood.

    Thanks for the thoughtful response.

    Tom

  8. Hugo,

    you’re right. I did like that post – and I like not just a few others – but why do you think that linking to the exception would disprove the rule/my perception as wrong?

    I agree that it’s highly possible to love being male and hate one’s masculine socialisation. I don’t think it’s easy, but I think its possible. I don’t think it’s possible to be male and hate one’s own masculinity woithout having serious issues – masculinity is *the practice of being a man*, it’s what we are beyond the biological aspects that you largely discount as well. I said that I don’t think you have a problem with your masculinity – at least not on the level of Robert Jensen.

    “When Bob Jensen and I and others like us talk about “refusing to be men”, we are not talking about unsexing ourselves or becoming eunuchs for the queendom or what have you.”

    Well, Jensen did apparently become gay then celibate because he hated his own sexuality. At least as far as I know – according to what is written on p152 of Daphne Patai’s book “Heterophobia” – that was because of feminist inspired self-flaggelation. Of course, that may be a rationalization for other psychological issues, but that’s what he said. Maybe he’s changed again, you may know better, but according to that source he was not only “talking about unsexing [him]selves or becoming eunuchs for the queendom or what have you.” He was actively doing it.

    See, I think in essense, what I’m saying is a less clearly articulated version of what Lisa Hickey is, I think, saying in the last paragraph of her comment – give those who want to discuss an opportunity to talk about their experiences without a priori devaluing their experience because of the alleged privilege you identify as part of epistemic framework you base your answer on, which, as you rightly identified in the post before this one, is largely a matter of faith…

    And don’t talk to men like they’re some kind of alien life form you have nothing in common with. Of course, I don’t know how others perceive this, but it really creeps me out. And that’s, in my opinion, how you usually write about men. Again, it’s the *how* more than the *what* here.

  9. “The homicidal impulse is pretty closely correlated with the masculine code.”

    That’s the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. Really!

  10. I agree that feminism has NOT permeated popular media, even “liberal” media, and I think it’s ludicrous to suggest otherwise. At the very least, it betrays ignorance of what feminism is and isn’t. I also degree that feminism is unfairly derided in popular media, and this desperately needs to change.

    However, this:

    “But men tend to be the ones who started these wars, be they on the global stage or on the mean streets of the inner city. They started these battles not infrequently because of an unwillingness to consider compromise, or because of a hypermasculine, hyperfragile sense of honor.”

    is unacceptable. I did my Master’s work on inner-city violence using data collected in New York City from the mid to late 90s. A very large percentage of violence in the “mean streets of the inner city” is perpetuated by CHILDREN against CHILDREN. Teenage boys who are born and grow up in what is basically a war zone are NOT to blame for the formation and perpetuation of a hypermasculine, hyperfragile sense of honor. While many do participate in it, they do so because they see no other alternative – those in their community who are fortunate enough to make it financially promptly leave the community. The only really financially successful people on the “mean streets” are high up in the drug or weapons trade, who live in the communities that they prey on. Children in these communities often have no role models or inconsistent ones. Boys, often growing up with absent fathers, will latch on to the nearest father figure they can find, and older men in the drug trade exploit this (and often they, too, were victims of it just a few years prior). These youth are hypermasculine, have a hyperfragile sense of honor, and are victims. They do not have the privilege that comes with fighting for equal pay – after all, everyone gets equal pay when both genders are making minimum wage or their employer manages to get away with paying them less.

    I would much rather be a middle-class White woman than a young man on the “mean streets.” Hell, young women in these communities, who are almost always women of color, do not face the threat of death or injury at the magnitude that young men do. Your comment smacks of middle-class privilege and the ignorance that almost all White people have about just how crime in inner-cty communities operates. I tried not to be harsh, but this comment really made my blood boil.

  11. PM, I appreciate your comment and your restraint. I’d like to point out that in the communities you describe, it’s still men who are perpetuating the problem: absent fathers abandoning their children, adult men choosing a life of violence and indoctrinating young men into it. And if you want to blame policing, it’s a male-dominated white power structure that creates the culture of incarceration for young black men.

    Mothers and sisters are not responsible for fragile urban hypermasculinity. Absent (and present) fathers are; distorted images of machismo in the media are; appalling institutionalized racism perpetuated largely by a male police force and the male-dominated prison industrial complex are. If racism and classism weave their way through every aspect of our lives, so too does sexism, with equal (if not greater) deleterious effect on those who are its victims.

    And the ubiquity of sexual violence can’t be ignored either — young girls are raped and molested (often by family members or at least members of their same race) across all social classes. Statistically, a middle-class white woman is more likely to have been sexually violated than is a young black man in the inner city (or a young white man in the suburbs). Rape is as soul-scarring as any form of gang violence.

    Who kills young men? Boys, taught by older men, not women. Who rapes young women (and young men)? With a few spectacular exceptions (Mary Kay LeTourneau, take a bow), it’s predatory sexual violence committed by men. Racism and classism are awful and real, but misogyny is just as real, with the wounds it leaves just as deep and soul-scarring and community-destroying.

    PM, my blood boils when I read that young women of color risk less “injury” than their brothers, as it reflects a grossly distorted understanding of what injury is. Is rape and sexual molestation not injury? Do you think boys and men suffer sexual violence equivalently at the hands of women?

    Tom, when you wrote your piece on porn, you entitled it “Getting Off”, and I assumed you would comment on Robert Jensen’s marvelous 2007 work of the same title. His view on masculinity is harsher than Kimmel’s, but in my mind, spot on. I’d love to hear more of your critique of Kimmel, and those of us whose view of masculinity is perhaps a little less optimistic than yours.

  12. Hugo my “Getting Off” piece wasn’t a reference to anyone, just one of many titles we kicked around. I can’t claim to be an expert in men’s literature (or much else for that matter). My method is really just to listen to other guys’ stories to try to learn about myself. What I have found is that are many, many men from former inmates in Sing Sing to journalists in Iraq to a dad dealing with an autistic son who inspire me greatly and by their very being make me a better man.

    So I bristle at the theoretical works of folks like Kimmel who seem to want to say that men are by their nature bad, negative, searching for the lowest common denominator through social approval. The premise of what we are up to is that men are in fact capable of far more than Bud Light commercials and Penthouse. And in fact men are desperate to hear stories that reflect their complex, nuanced life.

    One of the things that was most striking to me about the porn piece was the women who seemed to accept pornography as no big deal because men will be men by some Darwinian evolutionary truth. I say men who use porn are doing so out of the quiet desperation Thoreau spoke of, not because jerking off gives them any great sense of fulfillment.

    So what we are attempting is to get under the superficial, largely negative portrayal of men to say that as individuals we can make our own choices about how to be male. And in fact there are real men who have already made that choice in profound and inspiring ways that can lead the way for all of us.

  13. Sam, as I recall, you liked my “Of Never Feeling Hot/missing narrative of being wanted” post from last year, no? That was highly personal and sympathetic to men, wasn’t it?

    Personal and sympathetic, yeah. It was, more or less, the reason I started following your blog. It’s not that common that something written about men, in a feminist context, actually matches up well to my experience. I don’t think it’s like to make your audience more receptive to this post; precisely because you’ve already shown that you have some fairly good read on men and masculinity, and should know that Kimmel’s idea of men competing mostly for homosocial approval is a load of rubbish. (And even he makes the point that he’s not talking about men generally, but about a fairly small section of men, who he spend a good deal of time seeking out to write about that particular form of masculinity. But it’s not the dominant one, nor even particularly common.) Now, I kinda have the vague impression that there’s some correlation between social class and how much male approval feeds into social standing (though I’m not positive), but it might be possible that Hugo, you see this archetype of man more than I do.

    Do you think boys and men suffer sexual violence equivalently at the hands of women?

    That question is incredibly victim-blame-y. The men who’re the victims of violence (be in nonsexual or sexual, at the hands of a man or a woman) aren’t (generically, anyhow) the same ones who’re committing it. You’re right that we shouldn’t exclude sexual assaults from “violence” and pronounce that men’re more likely to be the victims of violence than are women. Nor do I think we should trying and assign relative values to murders, rapes, beatings, whatnot to try and play a game of “who’s the real victim?” PM’s oppression olympic style “class oppression is worse than gender oppresion” isn’t necessary or wise, but neither do we need to overreact and say that men aren’t real victims of violence because other men are mostly the perpetrators. We’re not avatars for our classes.

    Do you think of yourself as primarily motivated by the quest for homosocial approval? Was there ever a time when you were so?

  14. Leaving aside everything else, have either of you (Brian or Tom) actually read Kimmel? I’ve used his work for years, and heard him speak — this is not a self-hating man, nor a man who despises other men. And certainly if you look at “Manhood in America”, where his notion of homoosociality is best developed, it DOES apply to the vast majority of men in America of all social classes. (Think of Thoreau’s line about the “mass of men”). I think you’re both mischaracterizing the work of the researcher who has done more to further our understanding of masculinity than anyone else. Until you’ve read “Manhood in America”, please don’t make sweeping assumptions about his views on males.

    Like so many others, I grew up on the craving for validation from other males. I’ll see if I can dig out the post somewhere.

  15. Hi Hugo, thanks for the response! I did get soapbox-y and Brian is right, I did start to play a little “oppression Olympics” there so I apologize.

    “PM, my blood boils when I read that young women of color risk less “injury” than their brothers, as it reflects a grossly distorted understanding of what injury is. Is rape and sexual molestation not injury? Do you think boys and men suffer sexual violence equivalently at the hands of women?”

    Incidence rates of all types of violence put together (so including sexual), as an aggregate, show that men and boys are more likely to be victims of violence than women and girls. Statistics on crime are tricky, especially when it comes to getting data from children, and (I don’t pretend that you’re hearing this for the first time!) when it comes to sexual assault. So I cannot be positive – more statistics are needed, at least from a researcher’s point of view.

    From a regular old human point of view, the statistics are not as important. I got angry because when I first read your comment I thought it was flippant, but when you elaborated I can see that you “get” how inner-city crime functions more than I thought. I suppose I could quibble over whether racism and classism are worse than sexism, but that’s the academic in me. The regular old human says we’re on the same side.

    And to no one in particular, I do grow tired of the “self-hating” narrative that inevitably surrounds pro-feminist men like Kimmel. On this blog I’ve seen that Hugo is a self-hating man because he is a pro-feminist, and in other media I’ve seen that Tim Wise is a self-hating White man because of his work on race, and Norman Finkelstein is a self-hating Jew because of his work on Israel. I understand the human urge to find out what “makes someone tick” based on their work, but armchair psychology is only useful for ad homininem attacks which ultimately aren’t useful at all.

  16. PM – I’m not sure where your numbers on victimisation in violent crimes comes from, but I’d put a little more in depth look into them. When I’ve looked into it, it’s been the case that the uncertainties are large compared to the measured disparity, and it’s probably unrealistic to make a pronouncement either way about which gender is the victim of more overall violence – the reporting rates are just too low, and uncertain.

    Beyond that, quite frankly, the differences just aren’t that great. Even if I am 20% more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than an otherwise comparable woman, so what? While that’s quantitatively different, it’s not really qualitatively different (and it’s smaller than the overall decrease in violent crime in the last 30 years anyhow.)

  17. SamSeaborn, I’m tardy in responding to this:

    I agree that it’s highly possible to love being male and hate one’s masculine socialisation. I don’t think it’s easy, but I think its possible. I don’t think it’s possible to be male and hate one’s own masculinity without having serious issues – masculinity is *the practice of being a man*, it’s what we are beyond the biological aspects that you largely discount as well.

    I use masculine here generally as a synonym for masculine socialization. It isn’t easy unlearning that socialization while avoiding the Scylla and Charybdis of self-loathing on the one hand and stubborn defensiveness on the other. Need to post more about that process soon.

  18. “PM – I’m not sure where your numbers on victimisation in violent crimes comes from, but I’d put a little more in depth look into them. When I’ve looked into it, it’s been the case that the uncertainties are large compared to the measured disparity, and it’s probably unrealistic to make a pronouncement either way about which gender is the victim of more overall violence – the reporting rates are just too low, and uncertain.

    Beyond that, quite frankly, the differences just aren’t that great. Even if I am 20% more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than an otherwise comparable woman, so what? While that’s quantitatively different, it’s not really qualitatively different (and it’s smaller than the overall decrease in violent crime in the last 30 years anyhow.)”

    The sticking point here is that most of us have been socialized not to define everyday violence as “crime.” My guess would be almost 100% of boys have experienced a violent assault by another student by the time they have finished high school. However, they do not conceptualize this as a “crime.” For girls, relational aggression such as gossip is more likely to be the weapon of choice. Not a crime, but still very damaging and not to be overlooked. As an example of how we don’t think of violence as a crime, I did not realize that my grandfather pinning me against a wall until I couldn’t breathe was “child abuse” until I gave a lecture on child abuse and familial violence when I was 25! I did not realize that getting sucker-punched in the face and kicked repeatedly on the ground was a crime until a year after it happened! I was 22, and taking a criminology course.

    I would like to add that I’m not one of those people who buys into this false dichotomy that girls are more likely to use relational aggression than boys/boys are more likely to use physical aggression. The research on whether girls are REALLY more likely to use relational aggression is actually contradictory, with some showing that boys are equally as likely to use relational aggression as girls.

    Ultimately, it’s academic. If I thought most feminists minimized the importance of violence against adolescent men I would have a real problem with the movement, but from what I’ve seen they do not. I have talked to some feminists who trivialize the importance of violence against men, but AS A MOVEMENT I have found that feminists do take it seriously. And I have to say that it really dispelled the man-hater stereotype that I, like almost everyone else, was tricked into believing that feminism was all about.

  19. “Do you think boys and men suffer sexual violence equivalently at the hands of women?”

    According to a study featured in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse by gender of victim), 40% of men reported that their rapists were female. I do recall that you harbor extremely disturbing and hostile views towards male victims of female rapists, so I imagine you might dismiss the above study. However, the study does disprove your implication that women never sexually assault males.

  20. I never said that women never sexually assault men. Show me where I’ve used the word “never.” “Rare”, yes, “never”, no. I know a few men who were sexually molested by women — and far, far, far more women who were sexually assaulted by men. For that matter, I know more men who were sexually abused by men than by women. And that’s just anecdote, of course, but anecdote that is supported by a careful look at all the evidence.

    Adult women do molest young boys. Even if that 40% statistic is true (and that was an outlier, if you look at the other studies, they tend to be clustered in the 14%-20% range, check the Wikipedia for child sexual abuse), far more girls are molested by men period. The percentage of males who are victims of sexual assault in any form over the course of their lives is far smaller than the percentage of females who are similarly victimized.

  21. Toysoldier- Interesting journal article.

    Hugo- I’m very wary of the veracity of Wikipedia. It’s fun to write articles for it, and I always try to adopt a neutral viewpoint, but sometimes the info I run across is wrong and I have to edit it out. Decent for background info at times, but NEVER to be used for anything serious.

    Sexual abuse against minors is fairly frequently perpetrated by adult women. The difference is that anecdotes seem to indicate that fewer women are PEDOPHILES and assault pre-pubescent children.
    The stories are far more even when it comes to hebephilia or attraction to adolescents.

  22. Hugo, the Wikipedia page states “…studies show that women commit 14% to 40% of offenses reported against boys and 6% of offenses reported against girls.” My emphasis. The stat range includes the study I mentioned above, which is cited on the wiki page. There is no “20%” mentioned anywhere on the page, so I do know know where you got that number from.

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  24. “even affluent white women are still outsiders in a world where women make up 51% of the population and 17% of the US Senate.”

    Women are a majority of–and I think even overrepresented in–the electorate that selects these Senators. In American politics, it’s women who have the ultimate say.

  25. Hugo:

    Mothers and sisters are not responsible for fragile urban hypermasculinity. Absent (and present) fathers are; distorted images of machismo in the media are; appalling institutionalized racism perpetuated largely by a male police force and the male-dominated prison industrial complex are. If racism and classism weave their way through every aspect of our lives, so too does sexism, with equal (if not greater) deleterious effect on those who are its victims.

    If there is any truth in movie making, and I think that there is, I suggest that you watch the last 15 minutes of Mystic River (Sean Penn et al), and then post an opinion on the ‘verity’ of Laura Linney’s performance, and the effect this kind of thinking has on the men of any community, or of any level of sensitivity. I have seen this sort of cultural mindset at work in many places, and I have to tell you it is as destructive and as poisonous as it appears.

    Not ‘my’ fault, but I bet that you can find a way to make me feel like it is/was.

  26. Goodness, PS, the Laura Linney character was something of an archetype, a lady Macbeth figure, absurdly over-the-top unless you see the entire film as myth. And Clint makes great updates of ancient myths.

  27. Yes I know Hugo. It’s just that archetypes have their origins in the greater human landscape and conciousness, and I promise you that, as a child growing up in a not dissimillar environment as that in which this film was set(although on a different continent, and w/o the guns), I’ve been witness to the effect that these destructive cultural myths and behaviours, passed through generations to BOTH sexes, have on the young ones that grow up in these kinds of societies. I have no argument w/ your myth of male weakness theory, but it is neither fair nor accurate to assume that, because these ‘myths’ are perpetuated, the blame is squarely and wholly in the male court. To draw a parrallel w/ addiction, there is almost always an enabler in the picture somewhere.

    “If that guy ever bothers you again, stick this in his eye. He won’t do it again”. I was handed a six inch hatpin.

    That was advice given to me by my 60yo grandmother when I was about 10 yrs old, and not at all unusual in its content in that particular place and time. Was my grandmother a Laura Linney playing a Lady MacBeth? No, far from it, but she was ‘doing the right thing’ based on her cultural upbringing, as were the parents and grandparents of my peers. BTW, my grandfather was a much kinder and gentler soul from whom I drew a great deal of quiet strength. Thank God.

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