If ever again I am forced to wear some kind of identifying tag on my business-casual polo, I hope it will read, â€˜Systemic misandry is a myth. Ask me how!â€™
About two weeks ago, I wrote an op-edÂ concerning the possibility of a woman playing the eponymous Doctor on Doctor Who. Since this has been a consideration dating back to the early 80’s, it hadn’t occurred to me at first that people would be so vehemently against it. But they are. Oh, my, are they. In fact, the overwhelming majority of people polled indicated they would prefer the Doctor always be male.
It didn’t become clear until I read the comments, though, that the most vocal of these Who fans were, in fact, Men’s Rights Activists. Comments on my feature covered a host of topics. They told me that men are the ones who suffer. What about the slavery of chivalry, Dan? What about LADIES NIGHT? Wasn’t I aware that men are not allowed to sit next to children on planes in certain very specific instances on one particular airline?
In fact, the only way Doctor Who really came up during this discussion is because, according to MRA’s, if the Doctor stops being male, boys will no longer have any role models.
Respectfully, when the protagonists of almost all popular, modern fiction are male, that particular argument doesn’t really hold much water for me.
But, to my mind, Doctor Who is a footnote here. The Men’s Rights Activists I spoke with were intensely adamant about something that goes far beyond a television show — systemic misandry is REAL. And while I’ve seen things that aren’t great (like this notion that men are barred from sitting next to children they don’t know on one airline, for example, or the way custody battles tend to play out during divorce cases) I simply don’t agree. A few examples of men getting mistreated does not a systemic problem make, especially when compared with misogyny and rape culture.
But, Dan, you may be saying. How can you be so sure? Well, I’m getting to that. Right now, in fact.
So letâ€™s pretend for a moment that I have got my little nametag thingie on â€“
Ask me how I know that there is no such heinous conspiracy to bring down all of penis-having kind.
(Iâ€™m just going to pretend at this point that you asked)
SO GLAD YOU ASKED!
The short answer is, â€œIâ€™ve lived, at different times in my life, as both a man and as a womanâ€. The extensive background of how that came about, while interesting, is ultimately superfluous. Instead of talking about that, Iâ€™m going to describe an experience from both sides of the gender coin which, I think, will serve as a simple example of why systemic misogyny and rape culture are a thing but misandry is not.
Fellas. Itâ€™s late at night in your city, and youâ€™re walking home/to your car/to the train/whateva. There arenâ€™t many other people around but, just up ahead, is a woman. Everything seems normal when, suddenly, she quickens her pace a bit. Then, without warning, she crosses to the opposite side of the street. Sheâ€™s still walking in the same direction, mind you, she is just clearly trying to get away from you.
STOP RIGHT THERE. That feeling youâ€™re having â€“ you know the one. The feeling where youâ€™re all â€œWTF, is up with this bitch? Iâ€™m not a rapist. And, anyway, even if I was, I wouldnâ€™t touch that skank. FUCK HER.â€ Stop. I already anticipated you. STOP. IT.
How did I know you were thinking that? Because, when I was much younger and more naÃ¯ve than I am now, I thought the exact same thing. I took that shit so personally. Oh, how it chaffed my unique snowflake of an ego! But it shouldnâ€™t have. It wasnâ€™t about me. I am not special. Neither are you.
At the time, that was totally beyond the scope of my understanding. But then I experienced life on the other side of that equation and, buddy, it ainâ€™t equal. Let me break it down for you.
Once again, it is late at night in Everycity, USA. Iâ€™m a twenty-something woman on the town, Iâ€™ve had a drink or two and, as I clumsily clop down the street in my heels (which are getting less comfortable by the nanosecond, mind you) to get home I sense that there is someone behind me. I can tell the following â€“ the person is a guy who is bigger than I am and there is no one else nearby.
I am suddenly gripped with uncontrollable dread. I donâ€™t know anything about this man. My mind begins to race. I consider that, in my inebriated state and with these damned shoes, he could easily overtake me. And heâ€™s bigger than I am. If he wanted to hurt me, he could. I think of every story(there are a LOT) I have ever heard (both on the news and from actual survivors I know) about women being assailed on the street, I think of my own experiences with street harassment (and harassment from acquaintances, too) and I curse myself for not thinking far enough ahead to have someone with me.
So I quicken my pace. Did he quicken his? Fuck, I canâ€™t tell. I figure, if I cross the street and he doesnâ€™t follow, then Iâ€™m safe. So thatâ€™s exactly what I do. I rush to the other side of the road as fast as my wobbly little legs will allow.
He doesnâ€™t follow. I nip into the train station a few blocks later and try to calm myself down before I throw up all over the place.
That story? It really happened to me and youâ€™ll find that similar experiences are universal to almost every woman youâ€™ll ever encounter.
Now letâ€™s look at the consequences for the man and the woman, respectively, in this scenario.
For the man, the worst thing that can happen is that, out of fear, the woman might think he is a rapist and put some distance between she and he. As a result, his feelings might be hurt.
For the woman, the worst thing that can happen is rape and/or death.
Do you see how these things are not comparable?
That vast inequality comes from systemic sexism, misogyny, and rape culture. And all of those things have been a part of our society for such a long time that theyâ€™ve seeped into even the most seemingly innocuous of daily events.
This didnâ€™t happen because weâ€™re keeping men down. It happened because men, more often than not, lead a relatively consequence-free life when it comes to harassing and abusing women, be they mothers, wives, daughters, or strangers on the street. When men hurt women, they tend to get away with it. Thatâ€™s the overwhelming truth of the matter — our society favors men.
So systemic misandry? Yeah… not so much.
And the problem with MRAâ€™s is that they seem either unable or unwilling to have any kind of meaningful human empathy towards women. They are almost solely interested in the sufferings of themselves and other men. So when laws are passed to protect women, they wonder â€“ where are our protections? And thatâ€™s a lot like asking why Black Entertainment Television exists but thereâ€™s no White People Network. Itâ€™s because EVERY OTHER CHANNEL IS WHITE PEOPLE NETWORK.
And, more than that, MRA’s are intensely anti-feminist as though, somehow, women fighting to end a culture of fear is the same as fucking up dude’s collective shit. But they’re wrong. Legislation designed to combat sexism isÂ not designed nor is it executed to harm men — it is designed to protect women, Because, when youâ€™ve built a society on a foundation of misogyny, women need some protecting from that society while we strive to fix it.