Dilbert creator Scott Adams started quite the controversy earlier this month when he took to his blog to throw in his two cents on “men’s rights,” a topic he described as “surprisingly good” because it was “dangerous, relevant and not overdone.” Adams was two for three in his assessment. The men’s rights movement is relevant in that many are aware of it. And he, himself, would go on to prove just how dangerous the topic can be. “Not overdone,” however? I can’t give him that one, if for no other reason than his post, itself, was just that — overdone. And over the top with shockingly disparaging remarks about women. Exhibit A: his explanation behind the men’s right assertion that women are treated differently (and more favorably) than men:
“The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner. You don’t punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first.”
I don’t want to focus too much on Adam’s words because doing so will give them more credibility than they deserve. But I will say this:
Someone needs hug from. Preferably from his mommy.
If you care to read more of Adams’s misogynistic musings on his blog, you’re out of luck. Given the controversy it sparked, he quickly took it down. But, you can read his deleted post thanks to a pro-feminist who goes by the name of Tiny Sprout by clicking here.
But what I really want to focus on is the entire concept of men’s rights. What is it, exactly? And are all advocates like Scott Adams? Peter Finocchiaro answers these questions with the help of sociology professor Michael Kimmel of Stony Brook University in a wonderful interview he posted yesterday afternoon on Salon. And Kimmel does, indeed, know a thing or two about the movement having penned such books as “Against the Tide: Pro-Feminist Men in the United States, 1776-1990″ and “Manhood in America: A Cultural History.”
According to Kimmel, a men’s liberation movement started shortly after the second wave of feminism in the early 70s. It was essentially the inverse of what the woman were saying — namely that it wasn’t fair that men were expected to be emotionally detached breadwinners, appreciated for little more than the contents of their wallets.
The men who were a part of the movement quickly formed two very different camps. One supported the feminist movement (the pro-feminists men) and the other (the men’s rights men) did not. Kimmel boils down the key differences between pro-feminists and men’s rights men in this short paragraph:
“Both men’s rights and pro-feminist men share a critique of traditional masculinity — that it basically offers a raw deal for men. Where they differ is on how far gender equality has progressed. The men’s rights movement says it’s gone too far. And the pro-feminists say it hasn’t gone far enough yet.”
Kimmel outlines the three primary tenants of men’s rights:
1. Divorce alimony issues: Women are more likely to be believed in divorce court than men.
2. Custody issues: Women are more likely to get custody, despite the fact that men are excellent fathers.
3. Men have to register for the draft. Women can volunteer. Despite the fact that it’s an all-volunteer army, they still argue that there’s discrimination against men in the military.
Things get dicey from there in that many men’s rights advocates don’t stop at just those three. Some say the amount of funding for breast cancer versus the comparatively little for prostate cancer is indicative of reverse discrimination against men. Some also lament the fact that “women control the health industry.” I think you can see where this is going. Men’s rights advocates are pretty hardcore and are convinced that it’s men who are getting the shaft. Not women. But the pro-feminists believe that men are getting the shaft only because our society still has quite a way to go in reaching gender equality.
I consider myself a small part of the men’s rights movement. But I’m not one of the crazy zealots like Adams came off to be in his post. Instead, I’m a pro-feminist. And while my wife and I fall into our fair share of traditional gender roles, it’s not because we think we’re bound by societal obligation to do so. It’s because we do what works best for our family.
Which is what I believe every family should do. And a society which fosters a culture of complete and total gender equality would give every family the best opportunity of doing just that. Yet that only comes with open mindedness. And we’re still not there yet as any number of statistics would attest. For example, women still aren’t treated equally in the workplace, earning just 80 cents on the dollar for the same as their male counterparts.
Yet that knife cuts both ways. And while women aren’t yet considered equals at work, men can make the same claim about the home. And one of my pet peeves is how many women don’t even think twice before making the disparaging “men — bless their hearts” comments in describing our ability to parent.
Many men’s rights advocates would point to such remarks as yet another piece of evidence that the feminist movement has come too far, that the feminist movement has created a double standard where (regardless of pay inequalities) it would never be okay for men to degrade women’s capacity in the workforce, yet (regardless of parenting inequalities) it’s perfectly acceptable, even considered funny, for women to degrade men’s capacity in the home.
But these guys are wrong. For similar comments made in the 50s, when every man was hard at work while every woman was busy spiffying up the home, wouldn’t have given anyone a second thought. It was simply the way things were back then.
Which is precisely why this isn’t evidence that the feminist movement has come too far. It’s evidence that the feminist movement hasn’t come far enough.
Regardless of what hate mongers like Scott Adams think.
UPDATE at 2:44pm 3/30/11 — Many thanks to the commenter Carol for providing a link to Scott Adams’s blog that explains the story behind his original post, in which he says intended to “mock the men’s rights movement.” One logical question may be: Why, then, remove it? Adams claims (among other things) that it was a meta joke of sorts, one which many didn’t get: “If you didn’t get it,” he writes, “read the deleted post, consider the feminist backlash, then think about the fact that I took down my post and ran away.”
While I wish that I had read his reaction before I wrote this piece, it doesn’t really change the true essence of what I tried to convey. Regardless of whether or not Adams was serious, there are clearly some men who do think along those lines. More than anything else, this was a post about the men’s rights movement, itself, and a delineation between the two factions that make it up.
Many thanks to TonyKP and to Carol who both brought up compelling points in the comments which I encourage you to read.
And here’s the link to Adams’s rebuttal which I also encourage you to read: