Let’s briefly read “Spreading Misandry”, Chapter Three
Posted by Richie on December 16, 2009
LET’S READ SPREADING MISANDRY
LOOKING DOWN ON MEN: SEPARATE BUT UNEQUAL
After the civil rights movement in the United States and the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, few would declare, at least publicly, that racial segregation – under the heading, in the United States, of “separate but equal” – had been a good thing. Even if it could be argued that separation were morally acceptable, which is highly debatable, the fact remains that the ancien regime in both cases had failed to provide equality. In fact, though not in theory, the races had been separate but unequal. And many have argued that racial inequality is inherent in the whole notion of racial segregation because of its focus on the differences between whites and blacks.
Racial segregation: Possibly racist!
It’s telling that Nathanson & Young feel the need to not only explain this to the reader, but explain it in such a way that they don’t actually take sides. It’s ‘debatable’, but don’t worry, racists, because it was an acceptable idea ‘in theory’. Yeah, read it again: ‘In fact, though not in theory, the races had been separate but unequal’, as if the rich white people who ran the countries in question had planned on creating an egalitarian society and it just didn’t work out that well, nothing to do with perceiving black people as subhuman, goodness no. And have a bone, oppressed racists of the world, because although ‘few would declare, at least publicly, that racial segregation had been good thing’, we know that’s what you really feel inside.
Nathanson & Young: Possibly shit!
Early feminists were drawn to the rhetoric of integration, which had been popularized by the civil-rights movement. They tried to focus on what made women like men (which would justify their integration into the public sphere), not on what made them different (which had been used to justify their segregation in the domestic sphere). By the 1980′s, however, women were increasingly preoccupied with their identity, with what made them different from men and allegedly justified some degree of separation from men.
Yeah, this is how they manage to shoehorn Jim Crow Laws and apartheid into a chapter about how women have a separate identity. It’s like they’re having a competition with themselves to see how far they can strain an analogy before it snaps in half and hits them in the face. One of the things about Spreading Misandry that really, really pisses me off, by the way, is that Nathanson & Young make these ridiculous analogies, drag them out for pages and then finish up with a tiny disclaimer along the lines of “Of course, we believe in fairness and women are also victimised” as a kind of Get Out Of Jail Free card. Sadly, even people who agree with Nathanson & Young can tell that the book is advocating a one-sided women-oppress-men worldview, as the glowing review quotes on the back cover give us ‘Spreading Misandry turns the tables on the gender wars to argue that it’s not men ganging up on women, but the reverse’ and ‘Misogyny, a pattern behind much of popular culture in the bad old days, has largely been eliminated, but sexual equality and understanding have not emerged to replace it’. You’ll forgive me, then, if I refuse to take any of their backpedalling seriously.
Dropping the hideously malformed racial segregation analogy like it never really made any sense and was only put there to manipulate the reader, Nathanson & Young then launch into chapter three’s argument-shaped turd, which in this case is:
After several decades of “identity politics” on behalf of women, feminists have convinced many people that women are somehow superior to men.
And from hereon we get, essentially, a re-hash of the previous chapter’s non-argument (which is why it doesn’t merit a full 2500 words) only with Kevin Bacon instead of Tim Allen. Their primary text is He Said, She Said, a movie in which a jackass playboy is “tamed” by a good and virtuous woman who, in a move which provides Nathanson & Young with enough ammunition to drag out their review for half a dozen pages, doesn’t give her up career for him. Ah ha, say Nathanson & Young, he didn’t want to get married, but since she keeps her career, he’s the one giving something up for her. It is clearly misandry, as any fule kno:
There are two underlying assumptions in He Said, She Said. What men want, sexual freedom, is bad. What women want, economic or professional freedom, is good.
I like (not really) how they gender this, as if had a man wanted economic or professional freedom then it’d be portrayed as bad. As it happens, men don’t want economic and professional freedom, since they already have it, and nowhere in the mainstream media – or He Said, She Said – is male sexual freedom presented as ‘bad’. What it is often presented as, especially in romantic comedies, is the “sewing wild oats” phase that men supposedly go through between the onset of puberty and their later desire to settle down and raise a family. I’s a rite of passage through which men meet the right woman, enter into a monogamous relationship and provide us with a happy ending. What’s being privileged here isn’t women, it’s the idea of a one straight man, one straight woman monogamous couple being the “correct” relationship which we should all strive toward.
Nathanson & Young, predictably, ignore that the woman has also given up her sexual freedom, but since non-whore aren’t supposed to have sex drives in the first place, what does it matter? They also fail to note that her being expected to 1) “tame” Mr Jerkass and 2) learn to love him in spite of his glaring faults might be construed as a sacrifice on her part, but this is, again, simply what women are expected to do. Nathanson & Young might be furious at male stereotypes, but when it comes to female stereotypes they simply accept them as an integral part of womanly nature.
But the most telling fuckup in this chapter, and the greatest flaw in Nathanson & Young’s entire argument, is epitomised by this quote, which they use twice:
A very wise friend of mine asked: “Have you ever noticed that what passes for a terrific man would only be an adequate woman?”
Yes, we hold women to a higher standard of behaviour and let men get away with all sorts of stupid shit without calling them on it. Who has the short end of the stick, again?