Anti-Feminist Memes pt.3: “Domestic abuse, Men are the real victims”

Let’s talk about violence. More specifically, let’s talk about violence against men, which according to the anti-feminist movement, is one of the great injustices perpetrated by the Women’s Liberation movement.

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This type of meme is extremely popular. In looking for memes to write about for this blog project, this theme was one of the most prevalent.Memes like these send a lot of messages simultaneously. First , they suggest  that feminism is rooted in hypocrisy. They want us to assume that feminists not only support negative gender restrictions on men, but that they also encourage policy that will oppress men. A lot of these memes have phrases in them like, “according to feminists”, “feminists believe”, and, “feminist logic”.  It’s not enough for these memes to suggest that men are oppressed more than women claim to be, the meme must also suggest that feminism causes and supports violence against men, with the aim of total male oppression.

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notice the heading, “according to feminists”.

The most glaring message of these memes however is  that society is ignoring the negative stereotypes about violence that are placed on men. This meme implores us to believe that men suffer domestic violence too, and that men probably suffer more, because they face an unfair stereotype about violence. As in, “Why is it ok for a girl to punch me, but I’m not allowed to hit her back?!”

This sort of meme is upsetting for a lot of pretty obvious reasons, the first of which being that it makes light of domestic violence perpetrated against women. It’s basically saying, “Oh yeah, women have it SOOOOO bad… NOT!” Violence against women is very real. It is a terrible thing that should not be dismissed and sneered at. As you can see from these stats about Domestic Violence,1 in 4 womenwill experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Out of  all the women murdered every year, 1 in 3 is killed at the hands of her current or former partner. 4 out of 5 domestic violence victims are female. So apart from being offensive, the anti-feminist memes about domestic violence are just flat out wrong.

 Another upsetting aspect of these memes is that they assume that feminism doesn’t care about the unfair double standard placed on men in regards to violence. We do care, men can be and are abused. But the fact that men are also victims doesn’t mean that concerns about violence against women are suddenly trivial. The perception that feminism seeks to encourage violence against men is false. Unfair violence stereotypes are the result of a patriarchal society, not feminism. Like many gender stereotypes, this affects both sexes in a negative way.

Much of our perception of violence is still guided by our loyalty to old gender stereotypes. Like the perception that men are always strong, and women are always delicate. Let me explain it this way:  In a popular culture, a man hitting a woman is viewed as an act of sadism. He is terrorizing her, and she is the helpless victim. Pop culture portrays men who commit violence against women as bad guys. In movies, television, and books when men commit violence against women it is almost always portrayed as sinister, with no other cause than to be cruel. Meanwhile female violence is almost always portrayed in pop culture as revenge based. When a woman hits a man she is righting a wrong. We’re supposed to stand up and cheer, she is empowered and strong!  It is unfair that men are viewed as incapable of being victimized, but society and culture have taught us to view men and women in a certain way. Men are strong, violent, and capable. Women are delicate and in need of protection.  Therefore we are skeptical when a man claims he is a victim, and we support images of female violence because we assume it must be a reaction to some evil that was perpetrated.

Let’s imagine for a second that a male artist had released this song. Would it have been a sassy song of a woman getting the revenge she deserves? No, it would have been a cautionary tale of terror. Your boyfriend terrorizes you after you leave him for another man.  There is definitely something unfair about that double standard, but feminism isn’t what caused it, it’s our society as a whole.

This positive attitude about female violence is actually negative for women, because it has less to do with pumping up a woman’s power, and more to do with how we expect women to respond to abuse. Songs like “Before he Cheats”, and revenge movies like “I Spit On Your Grave” send a terrible message to young women about how to respond to violence and ill-usage.  Society encourages women that it’s their own job to prevent domestic abuse and assault from happening to them.

And let me be clear here, I’m not saying that when someone is under attack that they shouldn’t defend themselves, they definitely should. And we should definitely all exercise a certain level of caution in our lives. No matter how much social and legal reform our country goes through, there are always going to be bad people out there.  But our society as it is now encourages women that strange men are out to get them, and that’s just the way it is. Rather than trying to change perceptions about gender in society as a whole, rather than addressing the problems our country still has with stereotypes, women are encouraged that it is up to them to protect themselves from an assault that is perceived as practically inevitable.

  The positive spin that gets put on female violence is bad for both genders. Our society assumes that all men are violent, ready for their next victim, while at the same time incapable of being victimized themselves.  The flipside to that is that women are viewed as incapable of sadistic violence.They are also encouraged to be careful, and if they aren’t careful the resulting violence against them is their own fault, and they need to take their own revenge.

The film “Enough” is a good example of terrible violence stereotypes at work. At one point during this trailer we hear a man saying, “The cops can’t help you.” Ummmmm, why?  This woman is being stalked, threatened, and abused. The life of her child is arguably in danger, why can’t the police help? You’re telling me that our society is such that this woman has NO other options to escape her abusive husband other than going into hiding and becoming abusive herself? What does it say about our society that instead of cheering for legal reforms that would give this woman a way out of her abusive relationship, we cheer instead that she is able to be abusive back? Again, I want to make it clear that it is OK to defend yourself when being attacked. But the way pop culture portrays it, women are only violent when forced to be so,and that is great, and empowering. Meanwhile men in pop culture are violent just out of a naturally sadistic nature.

 So, if stereotypes about men and violence bother you, if you get mad at the fact that people smile and giggle when women slap men out of sassy anger, then stop saying, “Yeah, you go girl!” when you see an example of female against male violence in the media. Ask yourself, “Who is this really empowering?”  The enemy here is not men, and we absolutely shouldn’t be teaching that violence against men is ok. The enemy is the idea that it’s ok to hit men because that’s the only way for a woman to fight back. The enemy here are stereotypes that still teach us that men can never be victims, and the only time that women are capable of violence is when they are reacting to violence perpetrated against them.

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Anti-Feminist Meme’s pt.2: “Feminists, those dirty hypocrites!”

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?

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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.

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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.

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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”

Disproving Anti-Feminist Stereotypes, One Meme at a Time, Pt.1

AH memes.

Recently I was surfing facebook, and as I lazily scrolled through different links to “The Fox” music video, and politically charged posts about Syria from all of my friends from college,  I stumbled upon a meme which linked back to a page called, “Exposing Feminism”.

No good can come from this.

It was with foreboding that I clicked on the link and explored the page. I was immediately inundated with meme upon meme about the irrationality of feminists, the unfair prejudice they place on men, the triviality of their concerns, the myth of rape culture, etc, etc. “Exposing Feminism” also offered up links to countless other similar facebook pages. I decided (perhaps unwisely) to widen my search of anti-feminist memes. I scrolled through google images until it felt like my eyes would bleed, I searched for websites, I visited tumblr, I looked at the long list of disturbing comments left on all of those facebook pages.

It was enough to get anyone depressed. It’s enough to make me want to pull out my hair in frustration; it’s enough to (almost) make me dive into a long comment war, trying to explain to all the anti-feminists why these memes are so simplistic, ridiculous, implausible, and sometimes downright cruel.

Instead of doing any of those things I thought I would display some of the more disturbing memes, and explain, in my view, why they are false. This is going to seem pretty basic to all the other feminists out there, but I know a surprising amount of people who consider themselves on the fence about feminism. They avoid using the term because of stereotypes included in some of these memes, so it’s important to wipe the floor with this rubbish. Memes can be funny, they can be smart, but they can also take a complex issue and dilute it down to stereotypes that are misleading, and do not show the true complexity of issues. Let’s explore some of my favorites, shall we?

Meme#1: “Your concerns are trivial, so shut the hell up.”

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Lets talk about perspective.

It is a good thing to be reminded that you are not the center of the universe, and that our personal problems are not so important in the grand scheme of things. The very popular “first world problems” meme is dedicated to the fact that people in first world countries often make a big to-do about problems that are incredibly trivial when looked at on a global scale. It’s pretty ridiculous to get mad that your latte from Starbucks isn’t hot enough when there is a civil war going on in Syria. One of the most famous (albeit probably false) stories about Marie Antoinette is her clueless response to the revelation that the French people were starving: “Let them eat cake”. Let me say again, it is a good thing to be reminded to think beyond our own personal problems, and our own community concerns.

This meme illustrates the, “American feminists have no perspective” anti-feminist argument. It’s taking the perspective argument and twisting it in a really awful way. Gender inequality in our own country is often dismissed by saying that we are making a big deal out of nothing when women abroad have it much worse.  But don’t take my word for it, Richard Dawkins recently made a claim like this in response to Rebecca Watson, a female activist who described in an online video some discomfort she felt while being propositioned by a man in an elevator very late at night. Dawkins response follows:

“Stop whining will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and…yawn…don’t tell me again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery ,But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.”

This is a ridiculous argument for several reasons, the first one being this: It WOULD be wrong for a Feminist in a first world country to overlook the concerns of other women across the world.  The thing is that the majority of us don’t. Nowhere in her video does Rebecca Watson shout, “I’m tired of hearing about all the women who don’t live in the first world, we only have time to discuss my problems!” Rebecca Watson, other feminist, and I all have the ability to care about many different issues at once. Just because I think that American women still face issues of gender discrimination does not mean that I trivialize Women’s rights all over the rest of the world. I can care about the fact that women are objectified in the American media AND the fact that women are suffering horrible genital mutilation if Africa. I can care about the fact that women still aren’t earning as much money as men in America, AND the fact that women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. I can work to raise awareness on all of these issues. I can try to help women in many different circumstances. I don’t have to pick one thing. My brain is big enough to see both the small and the big pictures.

My second point is this: When it comes to Human rights issues, gaining different rights gradually and separately, over a long span of time does not make for instant equality. Telling a woman that she needs to stop complaining because America is good enough for women already would be like telling a black person in 1963, “Hey, you people have been free already for 100 years, what more do you want!?” It would be like telling a gay person seeking marriage equality, “Hey, at least homosexuality isn’t punishable by death in the United States.” These things are both true, they are things we should be thankful for, but they also shouldn’t signify that the work is done. Gaining the right to vote, freeing the slaves, granting property rights, passing laws that end segregation, these are all really obvious, splashy steps towards equality, but they are just that: Steps . The work gets harder and becomes less black and white the further you go. When Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation nobody shouted, “Hooray, drop the balloons, racism is over!” because it wasn’t. We are still dealing with racial discrimination to this day. Winning those big battles is awesome, but they open the door to a whole lot of other battles that are often more subtle, and harder to win. Women do not have full equality with men in America. We are doing really good compared to many other nations, and looking at those places I consider myself lucky to be born here, but there is still more we can do. There is no reason that I should stop working towards gaining full equality just because I already have SOME equality.

Lastly, on a slightly less serious note, perspective is a good thing, but using the “You need some perspective argument” all the time for everything would get pretty annoying don’t you think? If my best friend called me every once in a while, in frustrated tears because she had a bad day at work and my response was always a scathing, “Hey, at least you weren’t working in a sweatshop, alright!” I think she would be pretty taken aback. I don’t think she would want to have a discussion with a person who constantly used that argument, and neither do I.

Come back next time for meme#2: “Feminists are dirty hypocrites”.