Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Misandry and the popular perception of men

Christine Whelan has written a nice article for Bustedhalo on the negative portrayal of men in popular culture, and the implications of that for our assumptions about maleness, namely that women dislike men. It's funny, I had a similar topical discussion with my mom in the car this past Monday. I basically said that I don't think, on average, that American women like men all that much. Sure, they like to sleep with them, and they fantasize about them, but outside of that I'm not sure if they would have any use for them. I attempted to codify these comments in the reader response letters of the article. Dr. Whelan's question as posed was this:

Guys: Do you feel like your wives or girlfriends aren't recognizing what
you bring to the relationship? Do you feel bossed around? What kind of advice do
other men give you about your relationships?

Ladies: Is this a problem in your relationship? How do you and your
boyfriend of spouse deal with issues of power and equality? Who wears the pants
in the relationship? Do you think this is a problem—or just something for
sit-com humor?

Also, be aware that at a certain point she was talking about the fact that the marriage vows in the Catholic church tell a couple to "honor and cherish each other, but not to 'obey'". Her point was the equality and not dominance was the ideal of relationships.

I have posted my response below, although you can read mine and the others here:

Why shouldn't women emasculate men? In order for emasculation to be a bad
thing there would have to be something unique and drawing about masculinity in
the first place. If you take away the fact that most people in our society still
prefer to have heterosexual sex lives, I don't think that there would be much
left in terms of either masculinity or femininity that we would cherish. If
anything, masculinity is confidence, being the primary provider and guardian,
and also being defered to in times of a tie. I know that's radically
counter-cultural nowadays, but men are programmed for such behavior. Stephen
Goldberg's work on the biological underpinnings of patriarchy are especially
good, and I would encourage anyone who's really interested in the truth of
sexual differences (and how they can be expected to play out in behavior) to put
their social conditioning aside and give his stuff a whirl.

It's an interesting point about the vows. The epistle of Ephesians, which
was once the standard reading in all churches, appears to indicate that women
are to obey the husband, whereas men are to honor and love the wife. The imagery
used is Christ and the Church. Of course, the part that is rarely emphasized is
that men are supposed to earn this respect and obedience through Christ-like
self-sacrifice. Nevertheless, it seems to indicate that relationships are
"equal," but it also seems to dismiss the idea of a democracy of two people. I
would bet that the old readings in the Latin church pre-Vatican II were more in
line with this scriptural verse.
- Ray


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