I hate this book
Posted by Richie on February 1, 2010
Nothing remotely interesting, believe me.
Oh shit, I’m still reading Spreading Misandry, aren’t I? Christ, where was I? Page 109? God, that’s less than a third of the way through. Do I have to?
The raison d’etre of chapter five, Blaming Men: A History of Their Own, is to ‘turn to a more malevolent side’ of misandry after the ‘relatively benign’ material discussed earlier. You know, the stuff that was so ‘benign’ that Nathanson & Young felt moved to repeatedly compare it to Nazism. This is the big reason that I’m having trouble making it through the fucking thing; having started the book with Apartheid analogies, linking single motherhood to the downfall of society and claiming that feminists are brainwashing our children, Nathanson & Young have nowhere left to go now that things have – supposedly – gotten worse. That the anger they direct at a vast academic conspiracy designed to re-write the entire of human history is identical to the anger they direct at a Kodak commercial is ridiculous in itself, but it also highlights how contrived and forced their anger actually is, since they pull out the exact same bullshit every single time. Men portrayed as incompetent at housework? Well, you could talk about how raising men to believe that domestic work is beyond them is likely to cause them problems later in life, but… no, it’s a worldwide campaign of hatred and dehumanisation. Men portrayed as aggressive and sexually uncontrollable? After taking into account that women are almost always the ones on the receiving end, there’s something to be said about how this kind of socialisation fucks men up too, but… no, it’s a worldwide campaign of hatred and dehumanisation. Women want to be apart from men to find solidarity and develop their own identities? If men feel as if they can’t do something like this as well then maybe our ideas about masculinity need to be rethought, but… no, it’s a worldwide campaign of hatred and dehumanisation. No grey areas, no double-edged swords, no room for interpretation, just a black and white worldview where everything either uncritically worships patriarchy or heralds the collapse of civilisation. These ones go to eleven.
EVERY. FUCKING. PARAGRAPH.
I assume that presenting every single instance of men being portrayed in a manner inconsistent with that of Mike Brady as one of the horsemen of the apocalypse is supposed to make Nathanson & Young’s arguments seem impassioned and moving. It doesn’t work, not just because of parade of logical fallacies and nonexistent arguments I’ve already catalogued, but because I don’t believe that this is how they actually feel.
When men who aren’t affiliated with the Men’s Rights Movement start rambling about how they don’t get no respect no more, or how women stopped being oppressed in the 1970′s, or how women have it easy because they’re “allowed” to fail at things and avoid physical confrontation, I believe that they really do feel that way. I think they’re wrong, and that it’s a knee-jerk reaction that comes from a privileged position where they’re not expected to take other points of view into consideration, but I don’t think they’re deliberately setting out to mislead people. Someone in a position like that can be swayed and reasoned with, or at least they can in theory, since anyone who holds on to that kind of worldview post-adolescence isn’t likely to be a good listener, much less admit that they got it wrong.
The thing about the Men’s Rights Movement, though, is that anyone anyone involved to a significant degree must know they’ve got it wrong. The test case is the “women are equally responsible for domestic violence” argument, which relies entirely on statistical manipulation and is in no way true. The key word, however, is “manipulation”; this wasn’t an accidental conclusion reached by someone forgetting to carry the one, or a computer error, or a failure to take relevant data into account, it was deliberate. Measuring “conflict” rather than actual violence (so a woman who attempts to push an violent man away from her is considered to have been equally violent), ignoring violence which took place after couples had separated (when violence is a lot more likely to happen shortly after separation) and making sure the interviews were done on a purely volunteer basis (so that anyone in a controlling, abusive relationship wouldn’t be able to take part) all ensured that this study would cough up the results that the Men’s Movement wanted, because there was no way an honest study would. Warren Farrell’s claim that there is no gender wage gap works along the same lines; he knows there’s a gender wage gap, everyone else knows there’s a gender wage gap, but he’s so desperate to prove his self-serving thesis about male power being a myth that he creates a system of ‘variables’ which he applies to some (very select) wage figures and – imagine that! – the results are 100% in line with his beliefs, even though they contradict every other piece of evidence. These are not the actions of people who believe they’re telling the truth.
Spreading Misandry has, so far, done a fine job of upholding this proud tradition of complete and utter bullshit by changing its definition of what constitutes a ‘negative portrayal’ based on what’s convenient for the authors. Men who have lots of sex are predatory. Men who have little sex have given up their freedom. Men who disagree with women are evil. Men who agree with women are emasculated. Angry men are bad. Passive men are pathetic. Brash, confident men are assholes. Brash, confident women are feminist role models. Men who get married are trapped. Women who get married are fulfilled. A single instance of criticising women is statistically insignificant. A single instance of criticising men justifies being analysed for a third of a chapter. Nothing about their line of argument is remotely consistent, convincing or structurally sound. It’s a ludicrous, self-contradictory waste of pulp that re-writes its own rules again and again in accordance with whatever happens to be the worst possible outcome, and I refuse to believe that Nathanson & Young aren’t aware of what they’re doing. Hitler Hitler Hitler Hitler. Hitler.
It’s not just the published jackasses that invest so much in misdirection, it’s the movement as a whole. If you hang around online Men’s Rights communities, it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that they’re big on using their bullshit data to prove that men are horribly oppressed, but virtually mute when it comes to a solution that doesn’t involve taking other people’s civil rights away. The ‘epidemics’ of female-on-male violence, female-on-male rape, paternity fraud, false rape accusations and – I’m using the exact wording because I have no idea what the fuck it actually means – ‘radical homosex’ are thrown around almost entirely as a way of silencing feminists and playing for sympathy. They are not presented as real problems with real solutions, but as reasons to hate, fear and punish women. One of the most egregious examples of this was the (now defunct) blog Another Woman Kills Her Kids, which collected and archived news stories about women who murder their children and used this to “prove” that women are violent, pose a threat to their children and shouldn’t be given sole custody. There was no discussion of the role played by mental illness (psychotic episodes are the major cause), the actual number of women who murder their children (about 200 per year in the United States, which is .0001% of the country’s female population) or how many men kill their children (roughly the same number), all factors that anyone genuinely concerned with child welfare would have taken into consideration. It’s hard to credit these people with caring when all they seem to be after is ammunition.
If this were confined to angry message boards and unreadable books then it could simply be treated as the fringe conspiracy theory that it is, but it’s managed to successfully seep into normal discourse. It’s understandable that men who aren’t used to having their authority challenged would buy into an a victimhood fantasy, but the existence of books like Spreading Misandry and The Myth of Male Power feed this attitude and give it a sense of legitimacy, even if most people haven’t actually read the buggers. What’s even more alarming is that Men’s Rights myths – particularly the domestic violence and false rape accusations figures – are actually becoming the kind of urban legends that get repeated out loud often enough to seem plausible. While there’s no particular danger in thinking that Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen, or that bumblebees are aerodynamically incapable of flight (although I have seen it used to discredit evolution because “science doesn’t have all the answers”… it goes without saying that you shouldn’t lay into scientists for not knowing everything if you’re too lazy to look up a simple fact about bees), this is worse by several magnitudes. It seems plausible because it doesn’t involve shapeshifting lizards, it appeals to people’s smugness because it lets them feel privy to secret information, and it looks rebellious while at heart being comfortingly reactionary.
So I think there is a good reason to tear chunks out of this stuff other than schadenfreude and point-scoring, but this book is so tedious. I don’t know if there’s even a point beyond reviewing any more of it, because on the basis of what I’ve seen so far, every chapter is exactly the same. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, when I honestly was planning to talk about the book, chapter five is supposed to be about the dark, malevolent, conspiratorial side of man-hating. What does it open with? Fuck me! An episode of The Outer Limits! About an all female-society! In the future! A premise which has been an SF staple since before anyone had even coined the term “SF”! And it’s misandric! Because the women are happy until a man arrives and wrecks everything! Except they’re not happy, they’re living in a low-tech farming community that’s lorded over by a matriarchal religion who, in a twist you’ll never see coming, worship a goddess whose name sounds a bit like “Lilith”. The man brings them knowledge and technology, but also violence, and he’s stuffed back into cryogenic suspension while some hot pieces of matriarchal ass lament the lack of dick in their lives. It’s obvious that the story isn’t about men being evil, it’s about men being an active force who need passive women to temper them, hence the all-female society being eternally trapped in a depressing pre-industrial state and needing a man to ‘revive’ technology. This isn’t exactly a new idea. Nathanson & Young, both of whom hold PhD’s in religious studies, should be aware of it, since it’s a common motif in both mythology and natural philosophy. I’m sure they are aware of it. But… no, it’s a worldwide campaign of hatred and dehumanisation. Another one
This book is awful. It’s contradictory, it’s histrionic, it’s self-pitying, it’s moronic, it’s insincere, it’s repetitive, it’s tedious, it’s manipulative, it’s badly written, it’s badly structured, it’s not remotely informative and anyone with a basic understanding of the subject matter should be able to pick all sorts of holes in it without even trying. It is, in other words, an ideal book for the Men’s Rights Movement.
Naturally, they’ve managed to negotiate a sequel called Legalising Misandry, which is about how the family courts are unfairly biased against abusive sociopaths. Or something, I don’t really care.
ANYONE WHO TAKES THIS BOOK SERIOUSLY IS A FUCKING MORON