Why is the gender story on men and women so alienating?

The Society Pages

The Society Pages

Over the past four decades, the media, which are supposed to objectively reflect all views, have overwhelmingly reflected ideological feminists’ views on gender issues and the male-female dynamic. (For a detailed look at the reasons, see Warren Farrell’s Why Men Earn More, a book so shocking that I suspect most pay-equity feminists refuse to read more than a few pages.) The effect of this long-running lack of objectivity is, I think, to create in our collective mind an entrenched and immutable perception that no other view is possible and that gender issues and the male-female dynamic as portrayed by these feminists are not foolhardy concepts but widely accepted fact that is completely beyond dispute.

Thus, the ordinary woman — even the woman who is staunchly not a feminist — can hardly be blamed for believing she is taken advantage of by men and must endure oppressions such as poorer treatment by male doctors and less pay than her employer’s men who perform the exact same work.

Many if not most women are subjected to these oppression stories virtually very day of the year in the still-unobjective media. (Both the liberal and conservative media can be unobjective, but on matters of gender, I believe the lack of objectivity and balance regarding gender issues appears mostly in the liberal media, if only because that’s where anti-male feminists feel more welcome.) The stories are convincingly told by intelligent, sophisticated members of such groups as the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), which says in the very first sentence of its position statement on equal pay:

“American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.”

If such educated, sophisticated groups as the NWLC believe women are unfairly treated, it must be true, the average woman may reason. Why would they mislead women? This blog explores why.

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My Personal Experiences in Gender Land

The following vignettes are from my experiences in gender land over the last four decades or so. I will add to them as more come to mind. Feel free to leave a comment describing your own experiences in things gender. My vignettes may bring to mind a few of your own that you may have forgotten about.

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Before I married in 1994, virtually every one of the many women I dated between 1980 and 1988 had a better home and car than I had. Most owned their own home, while I rented. That is one of the observations I made that led me to become an activist in the so-called quest for gender equality.

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Growing up with two sisters who are three years and six years younger than I am, I remember their occasional bragging about the places their dates took them to. Or complaining: “He can’t take me anywhere.” Do men feel this pressure to take a woman to fancy places or on extravagant trips to beat their competition? Isn’t this just one of the many reasons men try harder than women to earn more money?

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Some feminists like to say women are second-class citizens who often are made to feel invisible.

Hmm. What about this:

My wife and I, both of whom are retired, eat out often. The maitre ‘d almost always looks only at her. Typically, once we are seated, the maitre ‘d says to my wife, “Someone will be with you right away.”

The waitperson brings out the menus and, looking at my wife, says, “Can I get you anything to drink?” He or she then asks me. When the drinks arrive, the waitperson always asks my wife first, “If you are ready, what may I get you today?” She is always, without fail, allowed to order first. If I were to order first, I suspect the waitperson would think, “Hey, buddy, don’t you know your place? You’re second.” As in second-class? (Liberal men may jump on me for even bringing this up, but I ask them, “On your next time at a restaurant with your date or your wife, trying giving your order first. Try entering the restaurant ahead of her, etc., etc.”

At work, neither of us ever received much recognition or were paid more than a little attention to. We were cogs in a wheel. To say men receive more attention in the work sphere is as erroneous as saying women receive less attention in the social sphere.

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Years ago at a singles group, I told a dance partner that women, too, should initiate things between the sexes. They should, for example, do their fair share of asking men to dance. She replied, “Men will just get cocky.” Hmmm. In our misandric culture, I had already heard “Men are cocky” more than a few times. But did my dance partner think men are in fact not cocky but women are because men do virtually all the asking? Somehow I don’t think she did. (Many men, too, say women are cocky, especially the attractive ones.) Did she think it OK for women to be cocky but not OK for men? I never found out – she didn’t want to dance with me again. Was she threatened by a guy who talked about real, across-the-board gender equality? (Was she yet another member of the “communicative” sex who didn’t want to communicate, who wanted a smorgasbord equality from which she could pick the things that benefited her and leave for men the things that didn’t?)

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About 20 years ago I suffered a lengthy period of painful tendinitis in my elbow. One day, my then-fiancée had to carry the small microwave we had recently bought and were returning to the store. I remember that as we crossed the parking lot and entered the store, I felt somewhat embarrassed. Did onlookers consider me a lazy, good-for-nothing husband who “made” his wife do the heavy lifting? Did they hold the same contempt for me that many would hold for the man who sits in a chaise lounge sipping a beer while his wife mows the lawn? Did they disdain me as much as an 8-year-old girl did 30 years ago, as I explain in a personal experience I call “Even the Very Young Enforce Sex Roles”?

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I sometimes call my spouse “My Home Improvement Wife.” She is very handy at home when it comes to painting and doing improvements. I help, of course — mostly by staying out of her way. In my first marriage, it was the reverse: I took care of 90 percent of the home repairs and improvements, and my former wife helped mostly by staying out of the way.

Recently, my wife invited her brother and his wife over to see her latest handiwork, painting and wainscoting our smaller bathroom. The brother, after looking it over, obviously was very approving of his sister’s work. But instead of complimenting her, he turned to me as I stood aside feeling great pride in my wife’s accomplishment, and said, “You should be ashamed of yourself.” If he was joking, his face didn’t show it.

So, let’s see…instead of feeling proud of my wife, I should have felt ashamed of myself? In my view, what he revealed is that he himself might have felt ashamed had his wife done what mine had done. By shaming me, my brother-in-law in effect told me, “You the man are supposed to do the improvements and not allow your wife the woman to do them.” Of course, he may have shamed me because he thought I had forced my wife (ha!) to do hard, dirty “male” work, as did the 8-year-old girl I mention in the personal experience immediately above.

Such male-shaming illustrates how men can pressure and oppress each other (while feminists and the media take great pains to tell us only how men pressure and oppress women. The truth: both sexes oppress both sexes).

Male-shaming in countries such as Iran is practically a matter of public policy. One of its intents in these countries is to shame the man who does not control his wife. This shaming seems to be effective in compelling the male to exert control over “uppity” women whose competence might shame men, in the way my wife’s competence provoked my brother-in-law’s shame toward himself, a shame that he deflected onto me, not onto her.

The root of the male-shaming process, I believe, lies in rigid sex-role expectations upon which both men and women derive much of their self-worth. My wife’s brother apparently sees home repair work as an expectation from which he derives much of his self-worth. By doing the work himself, he may feel he has worth to his wife. (Understanding all this allowed me instantly to forgive my brother-in-law for trying to make me feel ashamed. But I didn’t tell him I forgave him. That might have dumbfounded him, and I could picture him saying, “Huh? You forgive me? You’re the one who should be asking for forgiveness!” Such is why I, and probably most men, try to avoid talking about these sorts of gender matters around family!)

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At work in the mid 80s, I sat next to a feminist woman who often read Ms magazine at her desk. She occasionally sighed heavily and groaned, “Oh, I hate men.” At the time, I had heard that long-sustained anger, including hate, might be a detriment to one’s health. Was that, I wonder, why she died at the early age of 59 of leukemia?

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In the mid-1970s, I was working in a very stressful job. My wife (at the time) had been venting considerable anger at me, often exploding over “nothing.” We finally went to a marriage counselor. The counselor looked at us from behind her desk and asked, “So…what brings you two here?” Before I could open my mouth, my wife exclaimed, “I think he should be earning more money!” No complaints about my spending too much time at work and too much time away from her and our five-year-old daughter. No, she wanted me to spend more time at work! She had also been complaining that I didn’t do enough around the house. Ideological feminists and the mainstream media speak often about the domineering husband and the cowering, controlled wife. Which brings me to my next experience….

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Feminists and the media (such as Dr. Phil and many of the other daytime talk shows that pitch to women) tell us that husbands are controlling. Yet here’s my experience: Of every married couple I know, the wife is clearly not controlled by her often meek husband. I repeat: in EVERY marriage! In every marriage, the wife usually is the one who is trying to control. I repeat: In EVERY marriage.

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I often see a lot of men grocery shopping. But today, August 28, 2007, while I was at Kroger waiting to pay for my cart of groceries, five people were in line, including me. All five were men. I then ran my eyes over the three magazine racks near the checkout. Each rack was brimming with magazines that pitched to women. Not a single magazine catered to “men’s” interests.

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About 25 years ago I learned from author/gender specialist Warren Farrell that women’s primary fantasy was to marry a successful man who would provide his wife a beautiful home and gardens. I learned that men’s primary fantasy was to marry a beautiful woman.

At about the same time, I held a job as a “field adjuster” in the federal government. The job frequently required me to go out and talk to, and try to obtain settlements with, home owners who had a government-insured, defaulted home-improvement loan. Since we had so many of these loans and so few employees to handle them, I almost exclusively worked the better, higher-income areas that were not only safer but more likely to yield settlements.

Often I entered very fashionable, affluent neighborhoods. Whenever I rang the doorbell of a huge, expensive home, I was struck by how often a homely, overweight housewife appeared. My meaning? Even an unattractive woman can fulfill her fantasy of having a husband who fulfills her fantasy of owning a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood. I was seeing proof that, contrary to ideological feminists and the mainstream media who implied that only attractive women get the successful men, women who are thoroughly unappealing to most men can also get a man to provide her the lifestyle that only attractive women supposedly acquire. And think about this: if the fantasies hold true for most people, every time an unattractive woman fulfills her fantasy, her husband likely does not fulfill his. (Over the years, I continue to see many unattractive women living in great homes with successful husbands. But I almost never see an unattractive, unsuccessful man with an attractive woman. It seems that for the average woman, her fantasy is often a reality, and for the average man, his is rarely that.)

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Feminists say a woman’s “no” always means “no.” But I learned that sometimes a woman says “no” even before she’s asked but means “yes”! Shortly after Laurel and I broke up, she stopped by my house unannounced one evening. “Let me walk through your house one last time,” she said. At my bedroom door, she paused. “If you think you’re going to get me in that bed, you’ve got another thought coming.” Well, no, the thought hadn’t occurred to me at all. A few minutes later, sitting in her car in my driveway, she rolled down her window. “Well, you missed your chance,” she said, and drove away.

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In 1980, when my first wife and I divorced, I obtained custody of my then-9-year-old daughter. I remember getting a lot of raised eyebrows and odd-ball remarks. But the comment that won first prize is in the following incident that took place in 1984:

I always took my daughter grocery shopping with me; it was great daddy-and-daughter time. But one day when she was 13, I went alone. After I paid the cashier, she looked at me and said, “Can I ask you something personal? How old is your wife?”

Said I, “I don’t have a wife.”

“Well, your girlfriend. How old is she?”

“Which one?” I was dating two women at the time.

“The one you always come in here with.”

I squinted. “In here…?” Then my retarded mind got it. “Why….that’s my daughter!”

In 1984, were people still that unaccustomed to seeing a father who was always with a child whose mother was not around?

Almost 25 years later in 2004, are things any better for dads who are out alone with their children? We get a hint in Isaac Bailey’s column in the Myrtle Beach Sun Times, “‘Good dad’ role isn’t superhuman.” Bailey writes, “But I didn’t figure out what they were really saying until recently. The three of us, Kyle in a high chair and Lyric in a car seat, were in a restaurant when a waitress asked: ‘Did something happen to their mother?’ It’s almost as though they all think it strange, the sight of a man with his kids when Mom’s not around, as though we’re alien to the human race.”

And many feminists and the mainstream media tell us only women have faced bias. Remember when people thought it strange to see a woman in a “male” job?

All this is instructive. Among other things, it suggests that if the sex roles had been reversed 30 years ago, female employers would have discriminated with equal vigor against men applying for the better-paying “female” positions. (See also “Movie Dads Not Treated As Equals To Moms.”)

One workday in 1969, I stopped at my home nearby as I often did to grab a quick lunch. I was surprised to find my wife sitting at the kitchen table.

“How come you’re not at work?” I asked. “Sick?”

“No,” she said. “I quit my job. I was bored.”

“Wha…?” Stunned, I may have reeled back a bit.

I had started selling real estate on commission just six months earlier. I was always just short of a nervous breakdown worrying about making a decent income. That was my mode even while she was working.

Now, learning we’d no longer have her financial contribution, I launched into full-blown panic over whether I alone would make enough to cover the mortgage payment, the car payment, and all the other expenses. I became suddenly afraid to spend one unnecessary penny. And afraid to work less than 12 hours per day every day.

Let’s look at this from a gender-conscious, 21st-century perspective.

Suppose I had announced to my former wife that I stopped doing my share of the housework because “it’s boring.” What would her reaction have been? Probably this:

“You mean, just like that? No discussion, no input from me, no regard for how I might feel? No concern about the extra burden you’re placing on me? You’re a sexist pig! Just like a man to not care what his wife thinks.” (Back then, many a woman had already been taught to say such things to a man when she thought he was being oppressive, but now 40 years later women still aren’t being taught how they can oppress right back.)

Yet I said nothing to my former wife. I had not been made aware (men are still not being made aware) of the ways women can oppress men. I thought it was my wife’s right to do what she did — go in and out of the workplace as she pleased: work when she was bored at home, quit work when she was bored at the job. I had no such right, though my job was both boring and scary. 

Little did I realize that, among other things, my former wife was helping create the gender wage gap that so enrages feminists and the liberal media against men.

Oh — when my wife said she quit work because she was bored. Not true. She quit because the law back then required me to support her. If she had been single, leaving a job to escape boredom would have been a luxury she could not have afforded. 

Who has power?

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Frequently when my wife and I dine out, the maitre d’s and waitresses look only at my wife, as if I weren’t even there. That happens elsewhere, too. In a grocery store’s flower section one day in 2006, I was talking to the sales woman about a plant. When my wife, who had been in another section, suddenly appeared at my side, the woman stopped looking at me and directed the rest of her conversation about the plant to my wife, as if I had suddenly become invisible. Feminists and the mainstream media talk only about how men ignore women. Men are ignored by both sexes so often that half the time they don’t even notice it.

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In October 2004, I broke my right foot. For a few weeks I had to get around on a walker. Out in public, whenever I approached a restaurant or other facility, people often rushed up to open the door for me. When men did this, I thought: “Hey, this is great. Now I have an idea of what it’s like to be a woman!”

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In the mid-1970s, my wife and I and another married couple entered a Downtown Detroit restaurant on the spur of the moment. Immediately the other husband and I were told we were not appropriately dressed and must wear the dull-grey jackets brought out by the maitre d. Our wives were allowed to wear the drab casuals they had arrived in. As we sat eating, I had the creepy feeling of being a “Niggar” who had been dressed up and temporarily allowed to dine in the “massa’s” plantation house. What would a feminist have said about this if only our wives had been required to wear a jacket?

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When I was single, prospective dates sometimes asked me if I was handy around the house — you know, could I repair the plumbing, make improvements to a home, and so forth. When women ask men that, it is, of course, the equivalent of a man asking a woman if she is a good cook. If feminists say the latter exemplifies men’s expectations that oppress women, what does the former — which feminists never bring up — do to men?

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My granddaughter is 20 months old (as of April 2014). I have spent a lot of time with her at her home, feeding her, burping her, rocking her to sleep (pure heaven!), and playing with her on the floor. She has more toys than I can count. Many if not most of them have speaking or singing voices. All the voices except one (Sesame Street’s My First Story Reader) are female. What message does that inculcate in baby boys starting at almost infancy? What does it tell grown men about their inclusion in the world of children — even as they are ordered to get out of the way of women’s inclusion in the world of work?

Here are some of my granddaughter’s favorite speaking and singing toys, all of which are gender neutral but feature female voices only:

  • VTECH Rhyme & Discover Book
  • VTECH Tiny Touch Phone
  • Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn™ Love to Play Puppy™
  • Fisher-Price Smart Screen Laptop
  • VTECH 3-in-1 Smart Wheel
  • VTECH Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker