Reader Audra submitted this article, Confessions of a Young Anti-Feminist, by Josephine Asher. I’ve long maintained that sexist arguments are rarely rational, and usually represent intellects that are more privileged than trained, but rarely have I seen an article do a better job of inadvertently making the argument for me. Asher’s failure to separate rationalized emotion from rationality begins here:
Instead of harnessing the different qualities of men and women to energise us, we are striving to make men and women equal.
I long ago banned gender essentialist arguments from this site. Gender essentialism is the idea that men and women are inherently different, and therefore any woman claiming not to like pink and babies is either lying, rebelling or deranged – and likewise, any man claiming not to care for sports or want to spend time with his kids even if it means changing diapers is similarly deranged. The assumption of inherent biological differences completely lacks scientific foundation, and I make that case more thoroughly in the article linked above. But worse, what it’s founded on is an emotional desire to believe that everyone who doesn’t conform to gender “norms” is defective and can therefore be discounted as a representative of humanity. If we want to be taken seriously as thoughtful human beings, the desire to believe any large group of people defective is something we must all struggle to avoid, not struggle to legitimize with pseudo-intellectual chatter. Unfortunately, Asher missed this memo.
More women are joining the battle for the CEO’s chair and pursuing dominance in their homes and communities. But in the process they’re becoming more like men. And men are becoming… well, less like men.
“Less like men?” And what are men like? Some claim carpenters and farmers are real men while stock traders are not. Some claim richer men are more manly than poorer ones, so the stock traders would beat the carpenters. In some cultures, manly men greet each other with double kisses on the cheek. Where I grew up, that would start a fist-fight. So, again, what does “like men” mean?
Asher has found a compatriot in pseudo-scientific emotional bigotry rationalization:
Renowned Australian neurosurgeon Charlie Teo believes men and women have different roles “set not only by society but set by physiology”.
“The current trend is for dads to be more hands on. But for all we know it may be proven in a hundred years time that that may be a negative thing for the upbringing of children,” he said recently on Seven’s Sunday Night program.
“They’re there to be protective. A man has to have a good job; he has to do well at school so he can get a good job and support his family. A woman has to be loving and caring,” he said.
Ah, here comes the heteronormativity – another perspective that seeks to negate the experiences of all people who don’t conform to gender norms. Even though millions of men miss the mark Teo sets for them – and many others aren’t even aiming for it – we know this is what men should be like because, um… well, let’s see if Asher has any science to clarify it. Maybe this statement?
For thousands of years men were providers and protectors and women nurturers. Evolution provided each with the physical and emotional assets to do these jobs well.
Hmm, nope, sorry. You can’t look at each trait we have now and assume evolution had a great and noble purpose for it. There is debate, for example, over whether blue eyes were actually an advantageous adaptation or merely a trait that bottlenecked in a particular population, but didn’t hurt anyone, and therefore became rather popular. We’ll probably never know for sure.
But there are additional problems with Asher’s claim. First, in hunter-gatherer societies, it’s ridiculous to negate the role of women in providing since gathering is part of that. Second, there is a history of some women fighting to protect their tribes or villages, and there are cultural reasons why women have been excluded from warfare.
But here Asher offers some statistical information. Stats can be scientific, when they’re properly gathered and sensibly applied, so let’s give them a shot.
The Annual Child Care and Workforce Participation Survey found 33 per cent of women who returned to work did so for independence, and 27 per cent for career progression.
However, a British survey of 2000 men revealed one-third of men would prefer to be the sole breadwinning traditional father while another quarter would like to be the main breadwinner with their spouse working only part-time.
When she said “however,” weren’t you expecting her to follow with something that revealed more about the women’s responses in the first survey? Instead, she counters a statement about women’s preferences with one about men’s: “Women want X; however, men want something mutually exclusive with X.” Surely she’ll explain the significance of this contradiction.
Instead, men are sporting aprons, doing their own ironing and pushing trolleys down supermarket aisles – roles that don’t exactly exude manliness.
The survey also found more than half of respondents thought 21st century society was turning men into “waxed and coiffed metrosexuals”, who had to live according to women’s rules.
Oh, I see now: her point was simply that men aren’t getting what they want thanks to feminism. You know, I kind of thought that might be her point all along. It usually is the point with people making this argument: “Feminism is making men unhappy. I don’t like that. I shall find a way to rationalize my desires into what sounds kind of like logic, and then no one can stop me!” But wait – there’s a Real Problem here:
When a man is stripped of his sense of purpose, it’s more difficult to satisfy that instinctive hunger for power and purpose. Could this be part of the reason why one in eight Australian men experiences severe depression in their lifetime?
Actually, no, no, no, no, no. Plenty of men have always experienced depression, and typically manifested it as manly manly rage. It’s not that more men are experiencing depression; it’s that more men are getting treatment for it and being counted. You can thank feminism and mental health advocacy for that: in seeking to make the culture understand that depression is neither just a bad attitude nor a factor of wacky female emotionalism, they made it less uncomfortable for men to seek treatment instead of just drinking themselves into an early grave or shooting themselves in the face, like they did back in the good ol’ days.
At no point does Asher mention how many women are depressed.
Never does Asher offer any logical foundation for her assertions (or Teo’s) that men are supposed to protect and provide for a family while women nurture. That’s because there isn’t one. That’s because the woman who could’ve been a big somebody if only she hadn’t gotten pregnant with those damn kids and had to marry existed long before feminism. The man who didn’t derive purpose from his occupation also existed long before feminism. These people and many other non-conformists are part of why feminism came into being: because millions of people have always found a conflict between their true inner nature and the supposed “norms” of their gender.
The “norms” have never been true mathematical norms: sure, many people naturally happen to conform to stereotypes of their gender, and that’s absolutely fine. But a huge minority don’t – much too big a minority to be dismissed as a fluke. Especially when you consider how the minority might be increased if we could somehow eliminate from the count people who have merely convinced themselves they conform in order to make life easier. Because it does make life oh so much easier.
If the norms were really norms, why would culture work so incredibly hard at brainwashing us all into our acceptable roles, that we have an entire collection of industries for this site to critique for that very reason?