84 Comments

FAQ: Aren’t feminists just sexists towards men?

AKA Aren’t feminists just “reverse sexists”?

Short answer: Neither feminists as a group, nor feminist theory, engages in sexism or “reverse sexism” against men. Often times the feminist focus on women’s issues, as well as their recognition and continued efforts to correct the imbalance of power (see male privilege), are seen as looking to privilege women over men, but in fact are simply attempts to level the playing field between men as a class and women as a class.

Debunking claims of “reverse sexism”

No matter what definition of sexism” you’re starting with, “reverse sexism” is an invalid claim to make. If you go strictly by the dictionary definition, then a woman being prejudiced against a man is simply “sexism”, no “reverse” needed. If you go by the feminist definition, sexism is predicated on having institutional power over a group, and since women do not have that power, they cannot be sexists, reverse or otherwise.

In terms of claims that feminists are “reverse sexists” because they are trying to get women “special rights”, consider the following:

In the same way, women do not have the power to institutionalize their prejudices against men, so there is no such thing as “reverse sexism.” How do we know this? We simply have to take a look at the representation of women and people of color in our institutions. Take, for example, the U.S. Congress. What percentage of its members are people of color or women? [...] We see the same lack of representation in financial institutions, in the leadership of churches and synagogues, in the military. [...]

If women and people of color were not in business (because of the social and cultural restrictions on them) when the first male business organizations were formed, then they now have to fight for inclusion. The curious thing about lack of prior claim is that it is simply the circumstances of the moment that put the original people there in every case, yet when those who were initially excluded begin asking for or demanding inclusion, they are seen as disruptive people, as trouble-makers, as no doubt anti-American. We still recall the verbal and physical violence against women who participated in the Suffrage Movement and the black men and women who formed the Civil Rights Movement. For simply asking for one’s due, one was vilified and abused. This is an effective technique, making those struggling for their rights the ones in the wrong. Popular movements are invalidated and minimized, their participants cast as enemies of the people, and social change is obstructed by those holding power who cast themselves as defenders of tradition and order.

In addition to the continued lack of equal representation of women in positions of political, economic, and social power, it is also worth noting that inequality has been so normalized by society that when we do achieve equality, it is actually seen as privileging women (see the Isn’t feminism nowadays just going too far? FAQ entry).

Women focusing on women’s issues is not sexist

One of the reasons why feminists are said to be sexist towards men is because we focus on, and privilege, the female point of view. The problem with this assertion is twofold:

  1. It assumes that focusing on women’s issues means not looking at men’s issues at all
  2. It assumes a level playing field, one which doesn’t actually exist yet

No one is saying that discussions on men and masculinities shouldn’t go on. It is absolutely important to have dialogue on men’s issues, including discussions on violence done towards men. But, the thing is, men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues.

Consider this:

Women get so few chances in which to share our stories with each other, to find out that we aren’t alone in our experiences, and to have venues in which to publicly tell our stories. The fact that women are beginning to organize and bring these things to their communities is nothing short of amazing.

If women can do this in the face of all the pressure from institutionalized sexism, then what’s stopping men from doing the same? Why is it women’s responsibility to make sure that men feel included by a presentation that, by its very name, is supposed to be about women reaching out to women?

For more related discussion on this topic, please refer to the Related Reading section below.

Related Reading:

Introductory:

Clarifying Concepts:

  • Summarizing why feminists aren’t sexist towards men:

    Well, to cut a long story short:

    1. I believe that feminism benefits men, and patriarchy hurts men too…
    2. …but – and this is the KEY point – even if this weren’t the case, feminism would still be valuable because it improves the lives of women, and this on it’s own has value, because – duh!women’s lives have value. Gees, don’t you get it yet?
    3. Part of being a feminist is accepting that people should not assume they can speak on behalf of other people. For example, a white feminist should not assume she can speak on behalf of black feminists’ experiences, a heterosexual woman shouldn’t assume she can speak on behalf of lesbians, and so on. With this in mind, why should I, as a woman, be expected to think, speak, and act, on behalf of men? Wouldn’t that be rather arrogant of me? Yet this is exactly what these men are demanding female feminists do. Well frankly, if it’s that important to these men, then they should take action themselves instead of wasting their time attacking those of us who are bothering to take action on gender issues.
    4. At the end of the day, there are feminists who concentrate on men’s issues, some who do work on both genders, and some who concentrate solely on improving the world for women. All are useful aspects of feminism. All have validity, and none of them should have to apologise for their focus.
    [Catherine Redfern (The F-Word) Feminists are Sexist .]
  • Ignoring the contribution that feminists do make to men’s issues:

    The most infuriating thing about this is that – as regular readers will know – I do think that feminism is important for men as well as women and I encourage both men and women to critique mainstream masculinity as well as femininity. But that doesn’t mean that I think that every single instance of feminist activism has to be prefaced with a disclaimer about how this also benefits men. Frankly, I’m getting a little bored of it. I believe it strongly, but there’s only so many times I am forced to repeat it before it gets a little wearing and I start to wonder why I have to keep doing it in the first place.

    [Catherine Redfern (The F-Word) Feminists are Sexist .]
  • The use of the claim as a silencing tactic:

    I wanted to talk about it here to highlight the unrelenting anti-feminist sentiment behind these accusations of sexism against feminism. Have no doubt about it – this kind of accusation is simply an attempt to stop feminist action and thought in its tracks, hidden behind a superficial pretence of “fairness”. The emails I received are also represent a more extreme version of why some people fear identifying as feminists.

    [Catherine Redfern (The F-Word) Feminists are Sexist .]
  • More on the “feminists are sexists” claim being hypocritical:

    The thing is, I’m getting really, really tired of having to justify feminism by explaining how it also benefits men. And that, believe it or not, is the point of this article. What I’m angry about is not the genuine male enquirers who honestly wonder why ‘nobody complains about the stereotyping of men’ (and they do exist, I replied to several of them), it’s the anti-feminist men who attack us for daring to get involved in a movement which aims to improve the lives of women.

    What this is really about is men accusing feminists of sexism and hypocrisy unless they can prove that they spend exactly half of their time, energy, and resources on campaigning on behalf of men. What this is really about is that if feminism only improves the lives of women, it has no value or importance. What this is really about is that feminism only has value if it works on behalf of men and improves the lives of men. What this is really about is anti-feminist men being threatened by women working for women. What they’re really saying is that to talk about women, to focus on women, to point out that something affects women badly; all of this is of no importance or value. It’s classic, really – because men are not always the focus of attention of feminism, these anti-feminists can’t stand it.

    What this is about is that some men can’t stand not being the centre of attention.

    [Catherine Redfern (The F-Word) Feminists are Sexist .]
  • Oppression versus discrimination:

    Something else that is important to understand is that oppression is not discrimination. Oppression is about systems and relations of power, and exists in social structures and institutions. Oppression is wide-spread subjugation of one group while simultaneously privileging another group. This means that those groups who are subjected to oppression are not in a social position to oppress people belonging to the dominant group. There is no such thing as “reverse” sexism, racism, homophobia, (dis)ableism, classism, etc.

    [Thinking Girl (Thinking Girl) Feminism.]
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About tigtog

writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

84 comments on “FAQ: Aren’t feminists just sexists towards men?

  1. I agree with you totally and share your aggravation that 1. feminists are accused of being sexist because they deal with women’s issues and 2. that the men who make these accusations can’t seem to look after their own rights and issues for themselves.

    Must we do everything for them?

    I am looking forward to delving further into your blog and very happy that I found it.

    TrishA

  2. “Feminists are confused and bewildered as to why more men don’t seem to do anything about it.”

    Hi, being a guy who has some (good and some bad) experience with both feminists (of all strands) and feminism (as a theory, mostly), I think I can shed a litte on this one.

    a) Just as everyone, (esp. second wave) feminist women believe everyone should see the world through their eyes, even though their own belief system tells them that’s impossible – which it is.
    b) Men are very complex creatures, even on average, they do not always do what they should do, certainly not collectively. But they do have evolutionary imperatives women do not have.
    c) Collectively, regardless of whether this is a consequence of nature or nurture, women are looking for high(er) status partners – it’s certainly possible to argue about the reasons for this behaviour, but the (empirical) fact remains.
    d) That, in a way, prevents men from playing the “victim card” that feminism is often perceived as publicly – thus, men prefer to keep “the private private.”
    e) However, given the social changes brought about by modernisation, part of which is feminism, and the growing influence of feminists in politics and other strands of life (gender mainstreaming is a part of the Amsterdam Treaty of the European Union, for example), it becomes increasingly impossible not to take the private into the political realm even for men.
    f) If there were a growing difference between gender theory and political feminism, more men might be interested to join the party.

  3. Johnny Doe, with respect to your point (f): it’s not so much whether men want to join the feminist party to sort out the problems men have with the current hierarchy, although when they do it’s great.

    But why, if men have problems with the hierarchy too, do they expect feminists to do the activism on their behalf? I don’t notice any feminists saying that they won’t work with men who want to smash the patriarchy for their own reasons, feminists just don’t see why feminism has to do men’s work as well as women’s.

  4. tigtog,

    well, I can’t speak for all men, but in my opinion there are two main issues related to your question: one is the opinion that if feminism is a justice movement it is supposed to take care of all gender related issues, the other one has to do with what I referred to in d) above – women are looking for strength, not weakness in a man. Social status still is the most important screening element when in human mating (after college).

    Gaining status usually doesn’t go together with protesting the mechanisms needed to get there. We only have one life, which causes individual rationality and institutional persistence to go together well…

    Personally, I believe the key to changing men’s behaviour is a credible empirically as well as individually observable change in female mating preferences away from “status”, which, for the very same individual vs. collective rationality reasons, will be also very slow, even if a preference for male “status” is not biologically “hard-wired” as some neuro-biologists and proponents of social investment theory claim these days.

  5. [...] feminists seem to believe: What this is about is that some men can’t stand not being the centre of [...]

  6. Tigtog,

    “But why, if men have problems with the hierarchy too, do they expect feminists to do the activism on their behalf?”

    I believe it is because feminists, generally speaking, claim to be furthering gender equality. Stating that a movement designed to further women’s rights is supporting gender equality is not 100% accurate, but it seems to be fairly commonplace, which would lead many men to believe that it is unfair for such a movement to neglect men’s rights.

  7. No-one expects the various racially-discriminated-against groups to spend as much time on activism for other groups as they spend on activism for their own, although they and other groups often work in coalition to further racial equality.

    A strong coalition between feminists and a men’s movement that shared the goals of ending harmful gender expectations would be fantastic. But men need to create it for themselves before we can be in coalition with it.

  8. Have you people honestly never heard of the Men’s Rights Movement? Or the Fathers’ Rights Movement?

  9. Of course we have.

    (a) MRAs/FRAs are a minority of men (ETA: so the question as to “why more men don’t seem to do anything about it” still stands).
    (b) most MRA/FRA groups have a totally different view on how to approach gender equality, therefore it’s rather hard to work as allies.

    Refusing to ally with people who denounce your whole movement is hardly grounded in sexism.

    (BTW, that’s your third comment for the day, and as you are both a new commentor and a commentor with a known antifeminist bias (see Comments Policy), that’s it from you until tomorrow. See you then, Kellymac.)

  10. Have you people honestly never heard of

    This is probably not a lead-in for productive dialogue.

    KellyMac, you and other MRAs, to my understanding, believe that the very premises of feminism are incorrect. “Patriarchy and sexism hurt men too, and we need to address that” is a very different philosophy than “You ladies have it backwards; it’s you who are in charge and we who suffer.”

    It’s like scolding the NAACP for refusing to work with groups who think that blacks have unfair advantages and whites are the real victims of racism today.

  11. Sorry, I just got a little exasperated there with all the references to “men aren’t helping themselves”.

    I have to say that, although I was surprised at the amount of anger directed at me at the Alas! site, I was even more surprised that I wasn’t banned outright, and that you answered my questions. I wasn’t necessarily satisfied with the answers, but you did answer. I’m also surprised that I haven’t been banned here, although I was limited to three posts a day. Hence why this one is a little long.

    I am working on some articles about oppression, rape, and patriarchy, and I am taking feminist definitions from this site. After all, if Feminism 101 doesn’t break it down for me, I don’t know what will! I highly doubt you’ll like the articles, but I will present them in the most even-handed way I can. Obviously, we have very different ideas about those three things, but I haven’t done a lot of thinking on those subjects, and I need to before any dialogue can take place (if it ever can, heh).

    Anyway, I’ll be around.

  12. Hmmm, you’re going to write articles on various topics, including rape, which you think will be at odds with feminism. So basically, rape is acceptable or, let me guess: doesn’t really happen. Don’t bother sharing.

  13. I highly doubt you’ll like the articles, but I will present them in the most even-handed way I can.

    Does this mean that the articles will, in fact, be even-handed and factual? Or that they will be written from a strong MRA point of view because you’re incapable of being even-handed?

  14. @SarahMC: No. That isn’t what I said, and it isn’t what I meant. I’m not going to get into a debate about rape with you at this point in time. I honestly don’t think we’ll ever see many issues, including this one, in the same way. But you can be sure, that when a rape occurs, I hold the rapist responsible for making that choice. This holds true no matter what his childhood was like, or the state of his mind at the time.

    @Mythago: As I said, I will present them in the most even-handed way I can. I can’t claim that they’ll be completely objective; like you, I feel very strongly about gender issues. But I can promise to present your position as I understand it, without adding snide comments to belittle it, and I also have a policy of posting whatever comment is submitted to my blog. The only exceptions I have made have been when it was a person using the comment to communicate with me, when they have asked me not to post it, or when it had absolutely no bearing on the issue. For example, someone once posted a personal attack against another MRA, with whom I don’t often agree, as he is quite radical, but I still refused to post it because it was irrelevant to the discussion.

  15. [...] Comments FAQ: Aren’t fe… on FAQ: Why do you feminists hate…tekanji on FAQ UpdatesLee on FAQ UpdatesBrother [...]

  16. [...] Comments FAQ: Can men be femi… on FAQ: Why do you feminists hate…FAQ: Why do you femi… on FAQ: Aren’t feminists ju…FAQ: Aren’t fe… on FAQ: Why do you feminists hate…tekanji on FAQ UpdatesLee on [...]

  17. Completely overhauled this page, including updated information (discussing “reverse sexism” and why women focusing on women’s issues isn’t sexist) as well as added links and quotes in the Clarifying Concepts area.

  18. [...] Comments FAQ: Aren’t fe… on FAQ: What’s wrong with s…FAQ: Aren’t fe… on FAQ: Why are you concentrating…FAQ: Aren’t fe… on FAQ: Can men [...]

  19. [...] FAQ: Aren’t feminists just sexists towards men? [...]

  20. Here’s the real hierarchy in this society:

    Upper class men. The most personal and institutional power.
    Upper class women. Less personal power (but still significantly more than the lower class men and women) Substantial institutional power (and more on the way)
    Lower class women Not much power, but substantial sympathy which can be used to advantage.
    Lower class men. No power. No sympathy of any kind.

    When you take off the gender goggles, the larger class issues aka social justice (which feminists conveniently abandoned 30 years ago, when they quietly dropped the ERA) become sharply focused.

    You won’t believe this, but just as I was writing this a white woman in a new Lexus blew past my house on her way to a high powered job, meanwhile a black man is picking through a dumpster in the alley.
    Iwonder which one has more rights and receives more justice in this world? Who’s life was broken by this “patriarchal” system?

  21. No feminist would argue that upper class women don’t have more privileges than lower class men due to the disparity in wealth. That Patriarchy Hurts Men Too is very well understood.

    But don’t expect much agreement with your proposition that lower class women are privileged above lower class men. Any study of poverty tells an entirely different story: women of the lowest socioeconomic classes are far poorer than men of the same class, because it is the women who tend more often to be the ones supporting both children and elderly parents.

    This is not to say that men in poverty aren’t suffering: of course they are. And many of them are right there with their families doing their best to share the burdens of generating what income they can. But those men still expect their womenfolk to do more work around the home than they do, even if the women are putting in a full day in paid work as well.

  22. I am glad someone at feministing posted a link to this site. I can see a lot of explanation for what goes on there, including the *perceived* hostility toward men. Obviously, I was wrong.

    Reading this page, I see reverse sexism is sexism, period. I can get that much. I am troubled by the reasoning how “sexism is predicated on having institutional power over a group, and since women do not have that power, they cannot be sexists.” Does this mean women cannot be said to discriminate against men in any situation?

  23. No, it’s just that there is a difference between individual prejudices and discrimination based on prejudices, and institutionalised prejudices which amount to a tradition of discrimination reinforced throughout the hierachies of institutions.

    The argument goes that prejudiced people can act in discriminatory fashion against other individuals, but without the power of an institution backing up their prejudices, without actual power bestowed by a hierarchy, then their prejudiced actions do not constitute an “ism”.

    I personally prefer to discuss sexist prejudice and institutionalised sexism separately to avoid this particular argument. I think more distinctive jargon needs to be developed, but I don’t have any brilliant suggestions for any.

    But yes, just because women don’t have the institutional power to institute sexism against men, doesn’t mean that many women do not have sexist prejudices against men, which influence their interactions with men.

  24. I haven’t explored your whole site yet, so perhaps this is addressed already somewhere. I’m interested in power.

    I hear comments about women being “sexist” mainly in contexts like the legal awarding of parenting rights, which is a rare area where there is a clear and provable institutionalised bias of outcomes in favour of women. Awarding custody to women probably makes more sense when men are generally less suported by social arrangements and expectations to be able to raise their children on their own (regardless of individual capabilities) and when the interests of those children are meant to be the court’s main concern. However, you can understand why Fathers Rights Activists might have a bone to pick when they’re told they have all the power all the time.

    I’m curious actually about the way I’ve heard many feminists talk about power, including on your site. Years ago, my Feminist Studies lecturer offered the best definition I’ve heard – that power means control of resources on which another person’s life depends. She applied that concept to social groups as well as individuals and it seemed to fit well.

    We know that human survival relies very much on having emotional and social needs met as well as physical ones like food and shelter. Yet many smart feminists seem to devalue women’s generally superior control of emotional and social resources, they downplay those strengths as applying somehow only to “the domestic sphere” – and they end up defining power only in traditional masculine terms.

    Power is negotiated in complex ways between people and social groupings. The political is also personal. Discourse analysis and hegemonic approaches seem better suited to understanding that complex dance than some monolithic understanding of power that reinforces male privilege and positions women as universal and eternal victims – and who will only achieve success when they have the same options defined within the same framework that rich men decided many years ago meant success. Feminism deserves better.

    I don’t have any references to hand, but I’d welcome a discussion about this if you think it would contribute to what seems to be an excellent resource you have established here. Thank you.

  25. [...] on Open Thread: can there be femi…TD on FAQ: Isn’t the Patriarc…sacha on FAQ: Aren’t feminists ju…spike the cat on FAQ: Isn’t the Patriarc…WFemme on Open Thread: can there be [...]

  26. Checking back in. Not considered a valuable topic, or just nothing to say about this?

  27. “We know that human survival relies very much on having emotional and social needs met as well as physical ones like food and shelter. Yet many smart feminists seem to devalue women’s generally superior control of emotional and social resources, they downplay those strengths as applying somehow only to “the domestic sphere” – and they end up defining power only in traditional masculine terms.”

    The resources that women have traditionally provided have already been systematically devalued by an enduring social system that promotes “male status” as the most important means by which society and individuals can advance.

    Seeing that this attitude is still quite pervasive, some smart feminists have logically concluded that individual women will do better in life by not making their primary focus to offer something to which society attributes lesser value (in any sphere of life).

    Women typically have not been able to forcefully assert this “feminine power” without being perceived as a threat or as chauvinists. The one exception being the supernatural context: the writings of the world’s major religions are a testament to this.

    It is well beyond the role of feminism to convince society of the intrinsic value feminine resources. People will simply continue to make rational decisions based on the circumstances that they find themselves in, and society will have to bend and twist accordingly.

  28. Being coined a feminist in no way means you cannot be a sexist, which is exactly what this article states.

  29. Spike, emotional and social resources are not “feminist” ones, although women as I said do have generally better command of them. If part of the role of feminism is not to value that power, then I’m not sure what your understanding of social change is. And valuing “rational” decisions exemplifies what I was talking about.

  30. The money spent on breast cancer exceed by a very large margin the money spent on prostate cancer. Yet, the number of men and women who have these cancers are almost the same. That is not sexism? Men shelters are almost non existent while there are plenty for women. That is not sexism?
    If women wants to occupy 50% of the political offices, maybe they should move forward, like men do, and go for a political career. Stop blaming men for moving forward in their careers and not being afraid of taking chances.

  31. Uh Richard, the reason breast cancer awareness is so huge, is because enough women worked together to make it a big, public issue. Perhaps you could start a charitable organization to raise money for prostate cancer research, start a support group, really, oh anything other than blaming women for not paying enough attention to men’s health issues.

    Women are more often the victims of domestic violence, and are more likely to require use of an emergency shelter, as they are less likely to have the huge funds necessary to flee an abuser. So no, serving the group the most benefits from a service is not at all sexist, though there is a definite lack of men’s shelters.

    You do, of course also realize that there is a lot more than simply not “going for” a political career for women, right? Like the many means in place to keep women out? The lower pay? The extreme rarity of a woman getting promoted as opposed to an equally qualified male colleague?

    • Becca, if some men did in fact try to raise money for diseases only affecting men, would they not be called sexist? So, working only for the benift of your own gender is ok now?

    • 40% of all domestic violence is done by women. You think that there is no sexism towards men and women are ot equal. Your partly right there, women are treated as superiors in our society. There are special laws requring businesses to have some female workers no matter what the job is. And there is a law that at least 40% of stakeholders in a business have to be women. How is that not sexist? These laws are in place and furthering women but not firhtering men. if you complain that there arent enough women in parliament then maybe some women should stop sitting on the arses waitng for a law to be passed that puts them in parliament and do some hard work and EARN IT!!! The prime minister of newzealnd for 2000-2006 was a women.

  32. Surely it is simplistic to look at a comparison between prostate and breast cancer and draw conclusions between sexual (in)equality? To explain the rationale behind the differences in funding and awareness requires more than a couple of assertions. I have had a similar discussion behind the higher rate of male suicide and the only way to get a proper understanding is to go back to basics, our values and the informal and formal mechanisms that got us to where we are today. The sexism debate is now unable to backtrack and question its basic assumptions. There are too many vested interests and opinions, and limited thinkers for this to be possible.

    • Coming back to this thread, so this is old news, but I agree that it is simplistic. For a start, most of the funds for all cancer research are raised through traditional charity fundraisers – the more people you have organising fundraisers, the more money will be raised.

      Then the government funds that go to these programs – many of them are based on matching/in proportion to the funds raised by the charity groups, so again, if you raise more money through donations, then you receive more government dollars as well.

      In one way this is very democratic – people give money to causes they feel most strongly about, so the government gives those causes more funds because that’s what the electorate has demonstrated that it wants.

      • Everything you have said makes sense. I really don’t see how we could expect people to act differently in the present environment. I get to chose where my money goes, I get to choose what causes I support, so do you, that’s how it should be.

        The issue though, as I see it, is the socialisation in society that results in greater support for a female specific cancer, while its male near-equivlant receives far less support. It may be that breast cancer is more deserving of support than testicular cancer on scientific grounds but few are acting on that basis. It’s almost like society values breasts above testicles; or that women are seen as more helpless in the face of disease and therefore in greater need of being rescued. The socialisation we all undergo promotes the idea that a woman in trouble needs our help and sympathy, while a man in trouble should tough it out on his own.

        One of my favourite idioms is ‘a role of the govenment is to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority.’ I think this applies here somewhat. The government’s role should be to dispassionately asses where medical funding can have the greatest benefit in saving lives and improving quality of life. Giving to charities and research on the basis of what is popular in the community only enhances the outcomes of prejudice.

      • The most valid rate of incidence comparison is between breast cancer and prostate cancer (testicular cancer is far more rare) and the socialisation issue is largely, I think, that breast cancer tends to strike large numbers of women in their 40s and 50s whereas prostate cancer tends to strike more in the 60s and 70s.

        So people feel cheated of years/decades with their female relative who dies of breast cancer yet feel a bit more philosophical about a male relative who dies at a later age of prostate cancer. Not to say that they don’t miss or mourn him, but there is a difference in emotional reaction between a disease which takes mothers of young children and a disease which takes grandfathers rather than dads.

      • I stand corrected on the prostate/testicular thing.

        That’s an excellent point about the age of the victims; one that receives far too little attention in the popular debate.

      • There’s also the fact that survivors of breast cancer who have had a single or double mastectomy are highly visible and make people very uncomfortable, because it is perceived that their very femininity has been mutilated.

        Survivors of prostate cancer – who can tell? Their scars are invisible and involve a region of the body not spoken of in “polite society”. The side effects of surgery for these survivors is actually far worse for biological sexual function than is the loss of a breast for a woman, but it’s not an overt visual signal therefore it tends to be disregarded.

        None of this makes research for prostate cancer less worthy of funding than research for breast cancer, but it’s a very obvious reason for why one has so much higher a public profile than the other. (Paraplegia has a much higher profile than Traumatic Brain Injury too – same phenomenon of the Seen vs the Unseen)

  33. This topic begins with a position on ‘reverse sexism’, an accusation sometimes levelled at feminists that they are guilty of discriminating against men.

    The response to this is the formal discrimination that is evidenced by womens lower representation in government, business etc in formal positions of power and responsibility, justifies actions to redress this.

    The implies that formal are beneficial and deliver value to the holder, specifically when compared to someone who does not hold such a position. I question the assumption that formal positions only offer advantage. They also involve significant accountability and responsibility. Informal positions can be beneficial to the holder, and also have less issues with accountability and responsibility. Surely a measure of what we truly value is required before we assume formal or informal positions offer this value?

    As an example, my children enjoy plenty of benefit, yet hold no formal position in business, government, even in scholl thay hold very little hierarchial ‘power’. Similarly they are accountable or responsible for very little. Yet they still benefit without these. I see similar veins that exist in many gender neutral scenarios, where people with very little formal position can beneit greatly.

    The argument that a formal position – eg. senior manager, is a benefit is flawed. Higher levels of stress also exist with greater responsibility and risk. Someone associated with a senior executive (spouse, child) who can avoid the risks yet still reap the benefit is a better outcome.

    Can we measure this? Not until we define what it is that we truly value. Is it an office with a title, or is that just a means to get status and wealth. In turn these are used to acquire things we value like housing, food, toys. Digging deeper we look to freedom of choice, quality of life, and longevity. If one can have access to these without the burden of fomral positions, surely this is an advantageous position to be in.

    I have avoided positioning either gender in these roles, but am trying to avoid the assumption that formal position are the real value we seek. Too often we overlook to cost of formal positions and the power in informal positions to benefit.

    I would like to see feminism digging deeper than formality, to define and understand what it is we truly value. The constitutional values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are a bit cliched (and I think do not go deep enough) but they are not a bad way to assess just how well each gender is doing at grass roots.

    Is this reasonable? Is this possible?

  34. TMD, the point is not necessarily about the benefits of a ‘formal position’ but instead access to that position. If there’s active or tacit limitations towards someone being able to reach that position, regardless of if they want to, then there’s not equality.

    Your children do not have as much power and control as you do. The spouse of a senior executive may not directly face the stresses of the job, but does indirectly along with any, and I’m assuming monetary, benefits. Nor does said spouse have much, if any, direct control over company policy. Full stop.

    It’s about access. Who can gain control and who only has to try to pull strings?

  35. Bene, how does your point about access change my comment about formal positions versus informal? There is also formal and informal access to positions as there are fomral and informal positions. My point is to try and establish the ultimate benefit that we seek. Once we have a view on this, you can test and see if formal positions or formal access achieve these benefits.

    As I mentioned formal positions are a double edged sword, there are many who strive for these positions (and perhaps achieve them) who feel that they have no real choice NOT to do so.

    How are you assessing the level of control children have relative to parents? If a working adult is stressed, worried about responsibility, working a 50-hour week, perhaps holding down two formal jobs – not because they want to, but because they need to support their depedents, versus a child who might be concerned about very little. Her parents are no longer able to smack them, teachers have little control over their in class behavior. They do not worry about paying the mortgage, worry about their health (usually), and often they are wel able to get parents to fulfill their needs of access to friends, things to eat, clothing etc.

    The error in seeing children as not having power, is because we equate formal responsibility with power, when in fact power is about getting what it is you want. In a childs case they can get someone in a formal position to provide what they want – this way they avoid being responsible. I am being simplistic, and plenty of kids, even in the first world, are deprived of the things they want, because their parents are unable or unwilling to provide for them. My point is that formal position carries responsibility, and not necessarily power, you need to assess the outcomes to test this.

    There is no doubt that non working spouse, or non breadwinner spouse, can cary some of the burden that the breadwinner carries, but do you imagine it will be as great. Consider a scenario of any working person putting in 40-50 hours a week. Competition at work is fierce. Regardless of gender, collegues are sticking knives into each other and the risk of failure is high. Even once in a key position you are under atack the whole time. With technology advances this does not let up that much even when at home. The pressure to succeed in business or politics in these formal positions kills many exec prematurely. Is it control to have a high powered job, spend 60 hours a week holding it down, and dying of a heart attack at 55? I can think of better things to do wth my time that office politics and artificial lighting, but the choice is not always offered.

    So the spouse has no control over company policy. Its possible she does, but even if she does not – so what. What the spouse wants is benefits, not policy ownership. If the breadwinner provides the benefit, why should the spouse care about policy? Why buy a dog and mark yourself?

    Access. If a person can avoid the responsibility of formal positions, and get the benefit from the person that does hold the position, this is indirect acess and it works even better than direct access. Pulling strings does not imply formal positions, power does not reside in the position, its the ability to reap the benefits that people really want. I imagine that many workers, at all levels, execs and otherwise, would just like to win the lottery and stop working, leave the responsibility to others, and still get the benefits.

  36. Pardon if I got this wrong, as it was a bit tl;dr for this time of night in the US, and the more I read it, the more it pisses me off.

    Power is the ultimate benefit that is sought; power to control and direct one’s life. Your arguments about how much power one has as compared to detriment are valid only in the theoretical sense. You’re working from the false assumption that everyone wants the easiest way out, the best equilibrium between power and simplicity. There’s also the stress of not having agency and access, which you don’t seem to take into account as existing.

    But a slave who’s perfectly cared for in every way is still not free. And yes, even if it’s in name only, there is a loss there that you don’t seem to understand. Or, pardon me, that’s too formal an identification? There’s not any power in words?

    Everyone wants control over their own lives and their own futures. And women and other dispossessed groups have been and are being denied at least some of that control through socially established and enforced restrictions.

  37. TMB, you obviously have not read the comments policy, or you would have noted that comments that are mini-essays are specifically discouraged here. If you have that much to say you should post it on your own blog somewhere and then post a quick summary here with a pointer to the expanded arguments.

    Comparing adult women to children is downright insulting. Certainly there is no reason for any person to feel that they must strive for power, but this applies to men as well as to women. Some people, both male and female, have both the talent and the ambition for leadership and power. They will always be a minority, with most people just wanting a comfortable and financially secure lifestyle without the extra responsibility that power brings. But why the assumption that most men want to lead and most women want to follow/support?

    There is no scientific reason why the proportion of women with that combination of talent and ambition should be lower than the proportion of men who possess that combination, so what other explanation for the gender disparity in leadership/power positions can there be other than women being systemically discriminated against on the basis of their sex?

  38. Bene,

    Is power the utlimate benefit, or is it just a means to an end? I agree that without power, one is unable to achieve what one wants. People do want the most effective mechanism to get what they want, even if they are manipulated otherwise. It makes no sense to actively seek to get lower returns, that what you invest. If this is happening it is because you are being socially manipulated otherwise, due to pressure of guilt, shame, honor, etc. I did not talk about the stress of agency, and I agree this is significant, any mechanism to get what you want through others has an overhead. Managing this requires subtle skills and patience, but that does not mean it is still not worth the effort of doing it yourself. Once again children provide an excellent, gender neutral example of how to do this.

    I do not agree with your parallel of slavery. It could be argued that a breadwinner going to work 50 hours a week is also enslaved, is not free, carries the responsibility and possibly has little choice in serving those that depend upon them. This view needs to check and see if real benefit is being gained by one or other party. If we consider someone like Madonna to be someone who has power, we would expect her to be truly happy, because that surely is what a person with control over their life would seek. Perhaps she has less power than we think.

    All living things strive to control their lives. Dispossesion needs to be measured with real outcomes before you can judge them this way. Someone who lives a long, and happy life, cannot be disposessed relative to others who live shorter and less fulfilled lives. Since there are very few of these around, of either gender, perhaps the gender debate is missing something.

  39. Hi tigtog, I apologise for not reading the post rules, and I am still not quite sure how to limit this given the exchanges that others have posted, I did not think I was too out of line.
    No insult intended to children, women or men, just take my comparison on its explicit merits. People strive for power to fulfill needs, its unavoidable. Political talent and ambition are the only prerequisites for hierarchical position, a ‘talent’ that adds material value to things is no guarantee of a high position, in fact people like this are often exploited by the people with political talent.

    I do not assume that men want to lead, but note that they mostly do, I also do not imagine that women want to follow, but note that they mostly do. The driver is fulfilling your needs, if you do this better as a leader or follower this affects how you operate.

    If by science you mean repeatable empiricism or just biology, there is no question that different biology affects how we seek to satisfy our needs, men and women included. There are plenty of reasons behind disparate gender representation, one of which is active discrimination, biology is another, choice is another, competition between women, competition between men being a few of the key ones. Its a complex mix.

  40. TMB, I invite you to consider this quote from Florence Nightingale, particularly the final sentence which I have emphasised in bold:

    The lives of women, how frivolous, how unworthy they are, once women make available all their sexual, emotional, intellectual, verbal resources to men. There is nothing left but the constant lie that they are happy, the constant denial of their own humanity. And why is this so? Why must one sex sacrifice itself, while the other profits? It is because men have made the world and they have made it to their liking; they enjoy the benefits it bestows. It would be less beneficial for them – even inconvenient – if women were to cultivate any interests of their own. It would also be psychologically disturbing for a man if he were not the sole centre of a woman’s existence.

  41. Another one from Dorothy Sayers:

    Men are not against women working – women are everywhere working from dawn to dusk at domestic labour and in the poorest-paid and most exploited conditions. What men are against is women obtaining jobs that are pleasant, exciting, and profitable, and which they wish to reserve for themselves.

  42. I do not assume that men want to lead, but note that they mostly do, I also do not imagine that women want to follow, but note that they mostly do.

    Uh, you lost me. Sorry.

  43. tigtog, I am not sure what you are asking of me. As it happens I disagree with FN that womens lives are any more or less trivial than mens are. Both genders act in ways that give them control over their lives, there is not objective criteria that measures triviality. Men and women both have the constant lie they are happy and in control, how do we measure which gender profits? Because one holds more formal positions or because one outlives the other by over 5% even in developing countries? Its psychologically disturbing for both genders if they are not the centre of attention for the other gender. So I agree and disagree with parts o FN.

    As for Sayers the comment is equally applicable if the shoe is on the other fot. How much poorer paid can the life and death of a combat soldier be, and these are traditionally men. That job appears reserved for me, not a choice I wish for, yet men still flock in their drives to do it.

    • Another bit I missed last year:

      Men and women both have the constant lie they are happy and in control, how do we measure which gender profits? Because one holds more formal positions or because one outlives the other by over 5% even in developing countries?

      Do make sure that you’re not misreading those longevity statistics. It’s not that men are all dropping off the twig in old age while women go on for another 5-10 years of senescence – the vast majority of male deaths that lead to the life expectancy imbalance happen between the ages of 18-30, and are overwhelmingly due to male on male violence.

      The reason for both women’s oppression and women outliving men as a cohort is that most cultures fetishise male dominance, directed both against women and against other men.

  44. Its psychologically disturbing for both genders if they are not the centre of attention for the other gender.

    Misreading Nightingale’s quote and utter tosh romantic codswallop to boot. FN spoke of society’s expectation that women should centre their existence around men, not just their attention, and in any case one’s partner should merely be one focus of a person’s attention in a balanced life, not the whole focus.

    I would certainly feel suffocated by the emotional dependency if my husband centred either his attention or his existence around me, and I’m sure that goes vice versa. I’m perfectly satisfied with being an important part of his life but not the whole of it.

    As for combat roles (a) combat soldiers are actually quite well paid in most countries (if not in yours, I wonder why?); and (b) you should perhaps research how many women in the military are agitating to be allowed to perform in combat roles, at least in part because combat roles are the roles that are better paid and lead to promotion.

  45. Bene,

    I should have written it like this,

    “I do not assume that men want to lead, but note that they mostly do lead, I also do not imagine that women want to follow, but note that they mostly do follow”

    My point is that being a leader is not always a choice or something wanted. My neighbours house partly burned down last week, so I took charge to ensure the fire did not threaten my home, It was not something I wanted but I felt obligated and responsible for my family. Although I wanted to protect them, I did not enjoy the risk and responsibility, When the firefighters arrived, and took the lead I was relieved to hand responsibility to someone else to lead. Likewise, my wife followed, that does not mean that is what she enjoyed doing so,

  46. tigtog, what point are you trying to make with the quote and subsequent comments? I happen to agree with your assertions in your last comment about the balanced role partners shoud play. However as genders without the other, male or female, we cannot exist and much of our life is spent in the pursuit and attempts to channel the other gender toward meeting our own ends. We are both sides of the same coin, both striving for control, but in different ways. Its not diffcult to see a parallel quote to FN with the genders flipped around.

    In terms of military, having had friends killed in combat, I was referring to the payment of death that soldiers recieve as part of their package. You imagine that women are looking for combat roles to get better pay and promotion. Have you ever been in or around the military, with deaths and injuries to young people (of either gender)? Do you think women should and do aspire to combat roles so they get better pay and promotion. What value to you get if you are a war statistic? That men lose their lives in this way is surely lesson enough for both genders, there is no honor in dying in war – its a social mechanism for the unthinking and impressionable youth.

    • Do you think women should and do aspire to combat roles so they get better pay and promotion. What value to you get if you are a war statistic? That men lose their lives in this way is surely lesson enough for both genders, there is no honor in dying in war – its a social mechanism for the unthinking and impressionable youth.

      Seeing as women who are supposedly in non-combat roles are dying in the line of fire now, as we speak, I think they should at least be paid equally for their sacrifice in service. I imagine nothing about women who want to be acknowledged as active combatants – they are out there lobbying governments all over the world.

  47. Tigtog–just a brief note that US combat pay is fairly low on top of an already low salary.

    Even so, pedantic ‘but X isn’t the case, it proves the rule wrong’ comments don’t change the core issue–women do get the low end work far more often, the tidying up. The issue again is access and power. Success and happiness are so subjective…and more often than not, those without the choices and access are far less happy. Not always, no, but it’s again something where the underlying axiom can’t be ignored due to a few specific examples.

    Also, if the other gender is the center of the opposite’s attention, then seriously, nothing would ever, ever get done.

  48. Bene, I agree with your comments about access, power and happiness, however how do you suggest we measure these?

    Is it possible that there is more to the challenge of being happy, having power etc than a gender issue with women being at a disadvantage and men having the advantage? Suicide rates for males are consistently higher for males than females in almost every country of the world. I cannot see the logic in the gender with al the power and choice, taking the ultimate step of powerlessness, except over their own life. Surely womens disdvantage should be reflected in their response, like higher suicide rates than men? Men live shorter lives than women and aside from those who commit suicide, this is something we strive to hang on to for as long as posible, yet males die in high risk pursuits at far higher rates then women.

    How can equality be judged on formal positions alone, without considering the real impact upon people ability to control their life?

    Is the not the issue of power not just contention between men and women (and no question men and women do deny each other ceratin things), but also contention between women for power, and contention between men for power, and contention between individuals and the group.

    Do not misunderstand me, I accept there are injustices upon women by men, just as there are injustices from women upon men. I find it hard to see the argument of injustice purely by looking at formal position and not the more meaningful measures of value, like life itself. If the issue was power residing in formal positions men would surely be content and longlived relative to women. Most men (perhaps few are permitted to admit this ‘weakness’), have no real want for formal responsibility and certainly dont automatically acquire power as a result. Looking deeper is required.

    This is well illustrated in the endless debate over household chores

    • I thought I’d answered this last year, but if I did my comment seems to have disappeared:

      TMB, if women just naturally don’t want to be in positions of power, or at least most of them don’t, then why do there need to be formal barriers against them being in positions of power? Won’t most of the little dears just stay at home following their men’s lead, if that’s what is so natural?

      Men who don’t want to seek power at home or in the workplace shouldn’t be stigmatised as unmasculine, they should seek out female partners who do want to pursue their talents and ambitions to the summit of a career path (who shouldn’t be stigmatised as unfeminine).

      There is some value in a family structure having a role division between who goes out to earn external income and who does the work to maintain a welcoming home – the most efficient way of organising this is probably an extended family or communal parenting structure with all adults pitching in on a rota system for household and childcare duties and every adult still having time to pursue paid employment that both contributes to the household income and provides them with personal financial security.

      But most conservative men express a vast preference for the nuclear family model that is wasteful of both material and human resources. Because in the nuclear family model they have more control, because they’re the one bringing in more money, so their partner is financially dependent on them.

      • I totally agree with you vision here. This is how I think things should work too. I know people who have a strong extended family model, Grandparents are believed in many traditions to be far better at raising children. I remember an african tribe I read about where children and the elderly were considered the wisest……

        I’m training to work from home, so I’m hoping to be able to do a lot of the child care in this way… though it may be trickier than I imagine. I also couldn’t face the stress and responsibility, or the sacrifice of my own creativity, entailed in being the sole or primary bread winner. I also want a partner who is self sufficient. I don’t want a dependant partner or control. Being with someone who expects this also entails having to take responsibility for every decision even those you had no way of knowing the outcome of.

        I completely agree with this concept. you need to understand that I am not anti feminist. I just can’t agree with certain concepts. Maybe I should just let them go and take what I can agree with. I guess focusing on what I percieve as weak points with in the philosophy could be considered cherry picking…..

  49. Note to all commentors, but especially one currently about to be deleted from the moderation queue: putting “end of discussion” at the end of your submitted comment is a very obvious sign that you are not commenting in good faith.

    Enjoy pontificating somewhere else, thanks.

  50. RE::” women can’t be sexist” [ because they lack institutional power]

    To put it simply, and logically:

    A) women do have institutional power in western democracies.
    B) institutional power is not the only form of power.
    C) Neither of these truths precludes women from being sexist.

    Conclusion: This is a false assertion, and in itself a sexist statement.

    No amount of complicated intellectual manoeuvring makes a false statement true.

    Having been on the receiving end of sexism from women,
    ( I am male), I find this statement offensive.

    I personally believe it is true that the institutional power ( lobbying of government, effecting legislature ) is in some instances impinging on male rights.

    I am not anti-women’s [or anyone's] rights. I do question the assertions of some feminists and the validity of generalised feminism in some of its forms.

    • Having been on the receiving end of sexism from women, ( I am male), I find this statement offensive.

      Are you referring to some expressed prejudice or an act of discrimination?

      Why are you so sure that the prejudice or discrimination was based on gender?

      Given the way you behave on forums, if you were passed over for some opportunity, it could very easily be more to do with you being a rather annoying person.

      • well you asked, tho I think its pretty irrelevant considering the deeper debate on this page. I was working with an all women crew, with about 2 guys, a female art department manager and 2 IC, creating the marble effects for a reproduction of the first floor of the empire estate building for king kong.
        I received no end of crap, was asked to do impossible tasks, and was reprimanded for fixing an unworkable spray booth in my own lunch break, after working with these guys, I ended up on an on set crew, the new york set. Here I worked with a mixed group (gender wise) and was commended on my speed and skill.
        Despite this, having been promised to be on the final crew, I was passed over in favour for work in favour of a girl with less experience, because she was pretty I guess, and the boss was male. “Eye candy for the boys.” I was told.
        So you could say I was the victim of sexism from both genders. As a result I have decided to retrain. I’m over the film industry.
        I’m pretty over this site too as you guys just seem to shut down anyone who disagrees with you and refuse to answer valid questions.
        I admit that my forum etiquette is possibly not the best. But I still feel no one has been able to give me a reasonable answer to any of my questions.
        Don’t worry, i wont bother asking again.

  51. When I hear the term ‘reverse sexism’ I think of incentives originally put in place to equalise, for example, the enrollement of the genders in a disciple, persisting beyond the accomplishement of their orignial aims.

    At the university I attended there was a situation where there were more scholarships for women in a discipline than there were general scholarships for that discipline. The end result was that there were an equal number of males and females enrolled in the degree but while all the girls had scholarships only half the boys did. Given that the ability level of the students involved was more or less equal accross genders through the whole range of students this seemed like an injustice.

    This is quite a rare occurance, but there is potential as feminism achieves its goals for this type of thing to occur more readily, we need to be mindful of it.

  52. Kandela, is it really injustice to have an equal number of men and women in a program, all with the same relative skill level? If achieving that requires special scholarships for women, it’s not much of a logical leap to consider what the faculty would have looked like without them. These kinds of scholarships are a stopgap measure, meant to offset all the cultural crap that skews these disciplines in favor of men. If and when the culture changes, I’ll be 100% in favor of making the scholarships disappear, too.

    • No, the injustice was that they all would have been in that program anyway but that fewer boys got the the benefit of the scholarship despite equal ability. The scholarship didn’t seem to be a significant factor for any of them enrolling in the subject.

      “These kinds of scholarships are a stopgap measure, meant to offset all the cultural crap that skews these disciplines in favor of men. If and when the culture changes, I’ll be 100% in favor of making the scholarships disappear, too.”

      I completely agree with you. I just think that in this case that the number of gender specific scholarships should have been scaled back (not dissapeared completely)

    • No, the injustice was that they all would have been in that program anyway

      How do you know this?

      The scholarship didn’t seem to be a significant factor for any of them enrolling in the subject.

      Again, how do you know this?

      • Because there were only 8 students and they were all in my extended circle of friends. So, from talking to and knowing those involved. Admittedly I didn’t ask all of them directly, but this was a topic for discussion on a number of occasions within this social group and I feel pretty confident that I have this right.

        As I said before, this type of situation is exceedingly rare. And I have no problem with the methodology in general, I just think it needs to be constantly reassessed on a case by case basis.

        I wouldn’t have even brought it up, except to illustrate what I took the term ‘reverse sexism’ to mean. That is: procedures put in place to accelerate the dismantling of sexism, persisting past the accomplishment of their goals.

      • Only 8 students? From your initial description I had the impression of a much larger student cohort.

        I wouldn’t have even brought it up, except to illustrate what I took the term ‘reverse sexism’ to mean. That is: procedures put in place to accelerate the dismantling of sexism, persisting past the accomplishment of their goals.

        But were the goals of the scholarship program merely to have equal numbers of male and female students on the course? Or are the goals to have equal numbers of male and female professors on the faculty? What was that ratio like?

        And are the scholarships for female students discretionary from the institution’s chancellor/bursar, or are they perhaps legacy scholarships with provisions that are immutable?

      • “Or are the goals to have equal numbers of male and female professors on the faculty? What was that ratio like?”

        Well, those ratios are rubbish. As in they are so far skewed to men it’s ridiculous. I remember when I first started doing postgraduate research there even the department secretary was male. The only female staff member was the most senior professor’s personal secretary. Slightly better now, the department has been somewhat pro-active in trying to address the issue.

        With respect though I don’t think it is appropriate to attempt to equalise the ratio in staff by pushing the ratio of students in the field past equal. The numbers of staff are a direct reflection of the policies of the past. What we would like is for their to be equality through the ranks. Which means first producing equality in the junior staff and as they progress and old staff retire, the goal is accomplished*. If we were to artificially create a gender balance that was skewed the other way then we either create an inequality on a ‘local’ level or shift the inequality somewhere else or induce a future inequality (in the reverse direction).

        I think the goal must be to equalise everywhere at every level (within some random error), overcompensating at some level just shifts the discrimination around.

        tigtog, seeing as how you are from NSW, you may remember an instance from about 5-10 years ago. A teaching college wanted to offer scholarships to men because there male enrolment in teaching courses was just 10%. However, at the time (I’m not sure if this has been changed now) the legislation was worded so that equity scholarships could not be offered to men. The solution offered was to offer equal numbers of scholarships to men and women. At the time I thought this was ridiculous bureaucracy, but now I’m in favour of this type of scheme. I think it avoids the problems I mentioned earlier and achieves the goal of letting both men and women know that their input in those fields is equally desired.

        “And are the scholarships for female students discretionary from the institution’s chancellor/bursar, or are they perhaps legacy scholarships with provisions that are immutable?”

        I’m not sure of the exact conditions, but the institution is quite young, so there are few legacy scholarships.

        *This naive model assumes no hiring from outside, which of course is wrong in the extreme, but to include further detail obfuscates the point

  53. “” Having been on the receiving end of sexism from women, ( I am male), I find this statement offensive.

    Are you referring to some expressed prejudice or an act of discrimination?

    Why are you so sure that the prejudice or discrimination was based on gender?

    Given the way you behave on forums, if you were passed over for some opportunity, it could very easily be more to do with you being a rather annoying person.””

    Actually tig tog, realise that you may find me annoying, especially as I disagree with some assertions in your philosophy, pointing me to the dictionary for a definition of “patriarchy” while simultaneously expecting people to except your own definition of “sexism” being one.

    While it is true that many people find those who have faith in there own observations until proven otherwise irritating, I do not believe this has had much to do with my experiences of female sexism.

    Even if it were true , it would still be ludicrous to state that women can’t be sexist.

    I am not however, implying or claiming that women do not experience institutionalised sexism more so than men.

    And I certainly don’t think this is a good thing.

  54. Oh, something I wanted to ask about the original post: It says that women can’t be sexist in the feminist definition because women don’t have institutional power over men. That seems sensible when society is taken as a whole, but isn’t it possible that there will be smaller arenas in which women as a class do hold most of the power, and that there sexism towards men is a very real possibility? (I’m thinking particularly about men teaching in primary schools, which was in the news here recently).
    Possibly I’m misunderstanding the concept of institutional power?

    • isn’t it possible that there will be smaller arenas in which women as a class do hold most of the power, and that there sexism towards men is a very real possibility?

      And “smaller arenas” is the key phrase. You can leave those small arenas, and step back into the world at large (which caters to your every want & need) but, for women, those small arenas are pretty much the only place in which we have any type of power or acknowledgment.

      PS What part of “This is a Feminist information blog, and NOT a haven for MRAs”, are you unclear on? This is not the place to discuss any real (or imagined) male plights.

      • Hi Sweet Honesty. And hmm, that’s true, and I can see that would make a pretty big difference. But still, my question is, if there are these ‘smaller arenas’, is it possible for women to be sexist (in the feminist sense the article mentions) in those arenas?

        PS – You’ll notice I’m not asking anyone to discuss any male plights, I’m asking a question about the feminist theory involved in the original post, specifically about the uniformity of this ‘institutional power’. Could you please lay off the personal insults?

  55. I have a colleague who claims to be a feminist. She attends feminist lectures and those on womens issues. However all she ever bangs on about is how “All men are shit” how she “F***ing hates men” , how “women should run the world” and how men have no place commenting on womens issues”. She actually really believes this its not just for show. This to me is blatant plain and simple unadultorated sexism. She comes out with these remarks on a daily basis in front of male colleauges who Ironically are some of the nicest guys you could wish to meet let alone work with. Are women like this not damaging feminism? They are not feminist. They are sexists masquerading as feminists and from the reactions of male colleauges, they are further alienating men and diminishing the chances of men engaging with real feminist issues.

    • Women who are feminists can be prejudiced against men. That doesn’t mean that it’s feminism which has made the woman so prejudiced, merely that she has found a way to rationalise her prejudices using the language of feminism.

      Bigots do this all the time – masquerade as social activists against one thing in order to mask their bigotry against something/someone else. It’s not the fault of whichever system of social activism they latch onto.

      Otherwise we’d have to start blaming all conservatives for the people who shoot up churches in order to kill a doctor who performs abortions, wouldn’t we?

  56. You say that women dont have the same working rights. And thats true they have better ones. Laws have been passed, aiming at stopping sexism to have 40% of all workers in a business women. Which means some better qualified men mnight be missing out because of a sexist law. And 40% of stakeholders in a large business must be women also.

  57. So one commenter sneers that a woman must have gotten a position because she was ‘pretty’ while another claims that 40% of all domestic violence assaults are by women—a claim not supported by any actual reputable sources Another claims that she knows women who hate men, who go shouldering about, muttering about how ‘men aren’t shit’ etc., etc. God only knows what else I missed in such a brief scan.

    I can’t imagine why anybody would have problems with such assertions, nor view with suspicion such unbiased sources.

  58. Kris, you point out that NZ’s prime minister was female (until 2008), but then you forget or must not know all the the ways people, media in NZ disparaged her for not been “female enough”. Her femininity, and also her competence to rule because of her supposed lack of femininity (because she had short hair, wore pants, and is childless) were constantly the butt of jokes and often still are. Yet these are also qualities The fact that any male prime minister NZ has not had his position called into question because of his lack of children, shows the sexism towards women more than men. Maybe this is why women are not accepted into levels of political power, because the way they dress, cut their hair (to appear more professional even) make them easy to ridicule and cast doubt on their ability to be in that level of power.

  59. Where did I read somewhere that interesting study that revealed that, thanks to “male as default” thinking, people perceive a group that is exactly half women to be overhwelmingly female or have too many women.

    Even if, for the sake of argument, your 40% figure was right (ha), that is still LESS THAN HALF, yet is interpreted by these guys to mean that women cause just as much if not more violence than men. Huh?

    Usually, people who argue against programs for girls or affirmative action or cry about “reverse sexism/racism” are just pissed that their centuries-long priveleges are being eroded.

  60. Sexism is unacceptable in the same way that racism or homophobia is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable.
    That being said, unequal representation in congress, science, boardrooms, faculty etc…. is NOT evidence of sexism or evidence of unequal opportunities. It could be the product of sexism but it could be the product of many other things.
    You can’t equate feminism with the civil rights movement or the suffrage movement because those movements were fighting against clearly defined open restrictions on one group or class. We are fortunate enough to now live in a society that does not allow for any overt restrictions placed against a gender.
    Having scholarships, conferences or groups for women, or considering gender in employment or admission (to balance a perceived imbalance) is affirmative action.
    I think affirmative action is a good thing in many cases, but i understand arguments against it (it runs fundamentally against a “pure” meritocracy), and we should call affirmative action affirmative action.
    I admit there may be insidious forms of sexism against women we don’t easily see, and legacy effects leftover from previous generations, but I don’t think opening doors for women that are closed to men as official policy brings us closer to eliminating them.

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