One of the most common anti-feminist arguments I have ever encountered is some variation of, “Feminists SAY they want equal rights, but they don’t care about all the ways that men are subjugated.” And then I’m given a list of examples including, “If a commercial makes a man look stupid everyone laughs, but if it makes a woman look stupid, then everyone freaks out.” “Feminists don’t want children to have fathers!”, And my personal favorite, “Feminists made it so that men are disadvantaged in Custody hearings.” But why just tell you when I can show you some of these arguments?
Well first off let me say that men DEFINITELY have rights too. The work that feminists do is aimed at banishing stereotypes that are as bad for men as they are for women.
Don’t believe me? Well lets tackle my favorite “feminists are hypocrites!!” claim, the one about feminists supporting unjust custody laws that favor the mother.
Incidentally, I do not know if these specific claims are accurate, but it’s pretty well known that custody disputes tend to favor the mother.
I remember a discussion that I had with one woman who told me that she might consider being a feminist, if it wasn’t for this one issue. She related a personal experience to me in which she thought her husband had been treated unfairly in a custody hearing concerning her step children According to her the mother was given unearned preference, not based on her character, or her ability to care for her children, but simply because she was the woman, the mother.
This encounter illustrates the damage that this stereotype about feminism has done. It makes people associate feminists with wanting to reinforce negative male stereotypes while lifting female ones. This is totally FALSE.
No self respecting, intelligent feminist is going to tell you, “I want to enforce harsh laws on custody disputes in regard to men, because only women are suitable caretakers!” (Ok, I’m sure you could find some person calling themselves a feminist spewing garbage like that, but the internet is FULL of people who say a lot of crazy and stupid things.) Saying something like that would totally undermine feminist doctrine. The whole goal of feminism is to gain equality, not lord it over men. Supporting a system that disadvantages fathers would only support gender stereotypes that feminists wish to dismantle. The stereotype in this case is as follows:
Women are meant to be caretakers, and men are meant to be breadwinners. Always.
So, when a man and woman get divorced, this stereotype dictates that the children should be left in the hands of the mother, no matter what evidence there is to suggest that the father is the more suitable parent.
This gender stereotype is bad for BOTH genders. It is responsible for shaming mothers who want to enter the workforce, and for insinuating that men are sub-standard caretakers. It’s a stereotype that is played up in advertising, TV shows, film, and the media, as demonstrated in this excellent video by “Target Women”:
We cant let the dad have custody, he would only feed the kids pizza rolls and hot pockets!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, another common refrain of anti-feminists is: “Why is it ok to make men look like idiots on tv but not women!” Well, it’s not ok, but it’s not feminists who are painting men with the stupidity brush. As demonstrated in the video above, men are often portrayed as total idiots in advertising. Specifically advertising about household products and food. Ads like these reinforce traditional gender roles. They portray the wife as the wise guardian of a family who would be lost without her. She might not work outside the home, but look how much control she has over her husband! Look how much smarter she is than her husband when it comes to working that vacuum cleaner!
One of the most common ways to continue female oppression throughout history has been to convince women that while they don’t have legal power, they DO have power at home. As in, “Legally you might not have rights, but that’s ok because you have them socially. The men have the rights outside the home, but you’re running the show once the front door closes at night.” During the suffrage movement this was a real strategy used try to convince women that they didn’t need the right to vote. They didn’t need it because they already influenced how their husbands voted! Ladies, your real power is in the home, what would your husband be without you? He could never handle it on his own. Interestingly, during the suffrage movement the biggest reason that women shouldn’t vote was supposedly that it would destroy the family.
The notion that men make terrible caretakers is, again, NOT A FEMINIST IDEA
Stereotypes about traditional home life were meant to keep women in the home, and out of power, but they have negative consequences for men as well. So if you’re upset that men are treated unfairly by the media and discriminated against in family court then you should be upset at people that perpetuate outdated gender stereotypes, not at feminists.
Next time: “Female Violence is ok, but Male Violence is not”