If you haven’t already seen it, let me recommend to you the recent documentary, The Red Pill, filmed by Cassie Jaye. Jaye begins the documentary as a full-blown Hollywood feminist. She hears about the so-called Men’s Rights Movement, which she views as sexist, bigoted, and, in general, hateful toward women. She begins to seriously investigate the movement, motivated by curiosity of what could be driving people (to her shock, the Men’s Rights Movement includes women too) to staunchly oppose the obviously good feminist movement she believes in. Gradually, as she talks to founding members of the Men’s Rights Movement and feminist professors, cracks form in her feminist worldview. At the end of the documentary, she no longer knows what exactly to think, except she no longer calls herself a feminist. She’s been “red-pilled”.
A feminist deconversion is a happy ending, as far as I’m concerned, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with how Jaye got there, or with the position of the Men’s Rights Movement. One thing that the documentary makes evident is that some of the founders of the Men’s Rights Movement are baby boomers who went to college in the 60s and 70s and became, surprisingly, feminists. They were converted to feminism by Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. So, they bought the notion that gender is a social construct. Being consistent thinkers, they moved from the feminist accounts of how society’s (the feminists would call this ‘Patriarchy’, but the Men’s Rights activists take issue with this for reasons that will become apparent in a moment) traditional notion of genders constricted and confined women (in their minds) and noted that society also constricted and confined men, only in different but equally oppressive ways.
Here are some examples. Feminists’ so-called “Patriarchy” has unfairly hoisted on men the responsibility to defend their countries. It has unfairly hoisted on men the hardest jobs. It has unfairly hoisted on them the pressure that they be the “bread winners” and have great careers. How does it do this? It builds monuments to men who died in war; it labels men who die in difficult jobs as “brave” and “courageous”; it expects men to earn the money and be tough so that the women can stay home and nurture the children.
All of this is oppressive to men. The Men’s Rights activists keep pressing on Jaye some obvious facts to demonstrate the oppression: Over 95% of deaths in combat are men; a similar number of the workplace fatalities are men; at the time of filming there was exactly one shelter in the country for battered men, whereas there were hundreds or more such shelters for women.
What corrections do the Men’s Rights activists aim for? Here, we see what I believe to be their mistaken philosophy at work, because the outcome they seem to desire is equality—things would be good if an equal number of women died in combat, if an equal number of women died in the workplace, if an equal number of women were the bread winners. To be clear, they are egalitarians who would prefer that we strip society of the notion that men should protect, defend, and provide for their families.
The problem with this is that it denies that there are differences between manhood qua manhood, and womanhood qua womanhood; differences that go deeper than socially constructed roles, and these differences are not simply anatomical (nobody denies those differences). They act as though it is a problem that men want to provide for their families, or are more willing to put themselves in harm’s way. But these desires are good and natural for men to have. Men have these desires, not merely because society evolved in such a way as to give them to us and pressure us into adopting them, but because of our biology. The social norms came after, and because of, our biological natures. And, if you like, we could note teleological differences too. This isn’t to say that all men have, or should have, the desire to provide for their families—we needn’t commit to anything so strong to affirm general tendencies. So, at bottom, the Men’s Rights Movement makes the same mistake that feminists make; they fail to see that there are differences between manhood and womanhood that track real characteristics of nature and that these differences are good. We should affirm them and encourage men and women to embrace the normal desires that God gave them as men and women.
So, while I’m happy to join hands with the Men’s Rights Movement to fight for tort reform for child custody, I won’t be joining the movement wholesale. They may have all taken the Red Pill, but they need to take another. Take the one that removes the egalitarian blinders. It won’t hurt!
- Review of The Red Pill - January 8, 2018
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- Basket of Deplorable Links - June 17, 2017