Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Year for Men

The year 2014 will not go down in history as a feminist year - not after the conservative victory in the elections - but as a matter of perception, it sometimes seemed like a really rough time to be a guy. Did you see all the gender wars bullshit that happened? Not trying to make this post a complaint orgy - I'm going somewhere with this - but it's been irritating. Look at this:

  • I've already covered the Yes means Yes legislation. The furor has died down with the law now being generally accepted; the court of public opinion is thus on lunch break until the approach proves too stringent, or ineffective at reducing women's perception of being victimized. 
  • Gamergate: No matter what you heard about gaming "journalism" and slut shaming, the takeaway from the issue is that guys have largely retreated to video games over the last couple of decades, and now, feminists are pushing into that space, too. I despise this topic and avoided it completely until coming across this article, which turned it into something a little more than the usual trolling background noise. 
  • Two videos showing women walking down the street and getting hit on went viral. The fact that the first was carefully edited to show everything in the worst possible light and the second was a proven fraud seems to matter very little, because these videos show men actually trying to get what they want, which is obviously sexist behavior.
  • Swedish prostitution law, in which buying the services of a prostitute remains illegal but offering those services is not, rose in popularity. Obviously such law is rooted in feminist ideology, so bear in mind: men exploiting women for sex is wrong, but women exploiting men for money is not.
  • Several members of the NFL have been metaphorically nailed to a wall for spousal battery, so now we have to watch really terrible commercials during every pro football game which highlight violence against women. Ray and Janay Rice started the trend and somehow, it couldn't possibly matter less that Ray had been struck several times by Janay before hitting her back on the video. His real crime is evidently being more effective in his use of violence.
  • Speaking of which, women continue to be pushed into new places in the military, this being the first full year of women in combat arms. Failures to conform to physical training standards have been blown off from several different angles, ranging from finger-pointing the patriarchy and the standards of beauty forced on women by men, to a simple declaration that being physically strong might not be necessary for physically demanding jobs. Oh, and there has been a large increase in sexual assaults in the military this year, which has increased the amount of pedantic lectures commanders and sergeants now have to give their troops. The military is also widely reported to be demoralized somehow.
  • Matt Taylor, and his amazing shirt, which has the incredible power to keep women out of STEM fields. I've made no secret of being a space exploration hawk, so you can imagine how I look at this, but the debacle actually seemed to draw the same reaction out of a lot of people who ordinarily wouldn't care about spaceflight at all. 

This doesn't include the range of disposable digs that just pops up when I check my email on Yahoo or some such, everything from lists of old advertisements designed to oppress women to stories about entitled girls suing their parents for college tuition money, and winning.

I could tell you that a lot of these stories unfairly stereotype men, who like women have the inalienable right to be viewed as individuals. Most men, husbands and engineers included, did not instigate the issues at hand and do not treat women the way the stories imply. To talk about domestic violence and casual sexism from scientists and engineers uses the exact same psychological tool feminism supposedly abhors, but you already knew that.

I could tell you that there are a host of other issues, like child custody and college graduation rates, where men are discriminated against and have fallen badly in contrast to women. Men are just people, most of whom have very little power. For the media to expose one side of these issues so much more voraciously than the other is a sign of entrenched political interests, but you already knew that, too.

I could even tell you that this expectation that men discipline themselves, sacrifice their own welfare, and cater to the interests of women is opposed to the same underlying arguments that give feminism its ideological foundation, but certainly you've figured that one out.

It's all garbage. Calling out feminism for hypocrisy is too easy, and it can imply agreement with their egalitarian ethos; at the very least it basically says that you think their argument is coherent. Men's rights-style arguments always use the same ideological foundation as feminism to support their case. 

That moral position, that foundation, needs to be rejected by men. It's a dull, tired, trashy narrative and any man who uses it - any man who calls on his own weakness, gullibility, or ignorance as a defense against responsibility or plea of innocence - is presenting more of a problem than a solution. Men are judged and expected to be productive. This is not something we shy away from. It's just that an actual masculine worldview is so rare that we lost the ability to define why it has value. Since there is no widespread ideological principle to ground a case for the masculine perspective, seeing things that way just feels like reactionary dickishness for its own sake, with no critical thought. Instead, when most men think, they think like women, using the Judeo-Christian moral sensibility. That's the only paradigm we know.

If you want to argue as a man, try it from a different angle. For example, when it comes to work and opening up "sexist" fields, someone should have said by now that military integration and the Taylor situation show why women, particularly feminists, are incompetent before they even try. They're building excuses, and men hate excuses. The military and space exploration are difficult, important jobs that demand real dedication, not just feel-good "go team" cheerleading. To do them well, you should be willing to die at your post or your desk, breaking yourself for something that matters more than your personal welfare. Feminists show no desire to live this life.

Imagine someone so offended by a shirt that they don't investigate the hard sciences as a career choice. Imagine this highly sensitive person working with other engineers on projects for years, dealing with deadlines, criticism, and cost constraints. Do you really think anyone so petty will be a major part of some future Martian colony project?

Imagine a female soldier trying to find a way out of taking a physical to determine if she can carry a 95 lb rucksack or, worse, blaming the patriarchy for her comparatively poor muscle mass. Is this a soldier who will provide covering fire and deal with being triangulated by machine gun positions so others in her unit can flank and destroy the enemy?

Just because it's hard as hell, painful, dangerous, loaded with obstacles, with a small chance of success is no reason not to get it done. Men hate excuses. Even if they happen to be legitimate problems. 

These jobs are not rewards. They are not cushy opportunities for glory and material wealth that men have conspiratorially reserved for their own kind. These jobs are grave, heavy responsibilities. Opposition in your career from random chance, project failure, and infighting is normal. You don't start at the top of any institution that performs this work, no matter your gender. No one clears a path for you. Help isn't always around the corner. And I promise you, Matt Taylor took very personal responsibility for his work. He would not have left it unfinished to take maternity leave or quit because someone in the department was making sexual advances. The work is who he is. People like that deal with sleep deprivation and blood pressure problems and a lack of social life as a matter of course. That's the price for doing something relevant. The attitude on display from the critical feminists is precisely the opposite of that attitude.

To say that men need to be shielded from pain and pressure through legal means and social activism, the way 2014's headline stories so clearly imply women need it, is an insult to men. We're better than that. We built your world. Telling men to be like women is idiotic.

Maybe it's time to stop attacking men for having power, or denying that their power is real, and instead try to understanding why they have had so much of it for so long. Spoiler alert: it has little or nothing to do with muscle mass (or contraception, Clarissa). The narrative of implied violence that the tastemakers use to explain away the strength of men throughout history is oversimplified and barren of dignity. We can do better. And men should do better, no matter how hard it is.