Feminists say men have the power and use it to oppress women. If that’s true, how did they get the brazen idea they could crank up a women’s movement and prevail against this male power and halt its supposed objective of keeping women underfoot?
by Jerry A. Boggs
Men have the power, and they use it to oppress women. So say many ideological feminists.
But if that’s true, how did feminists get the brazen idea that they could crank up a women’s movement and prevail against this male power and halt its supposed objective of keeping women underfoot? In other words, how could a powerless group ever expect to triumph over a powerful group and subvert its alleged goal of oppression? I mean, physically powerless me would never take on the very powerful boxer Mike Tyson no matter how much he oppressed me. And if I thought I could somehow defeat him with a brains-over-brawn strategy, wouldn’t that mean I believed that I, not he, had the power in the first place?
Perhaps feminists realized they could succeed with a women’s movement because all along they knew something they dared not admit, even among themselves: Men’s true intent regarding women was not oppression but protection, and that the “oppression” occurred only when the protection over-reached to deny women the equal opportunity to participate in realms men thought were unfit for women.
But denying women equal opportunity was not men’s intent, either; rather, it was the result of men’s perception of women as the weak and delicate moral gatekeepers who were not to be debased or harmed by society’s often brutal reality.
Thus, women were to be placed on a pedestal where they would be protected from the often ruthless, ugly business of generating income except when necessary. And even when it was necessary for women to generate income, they generally were permitted to work only in physically safe and untaxing work. For example, until recent times men taught in schools in the winter, and the women taught in the summer when men worked the farms, a hard, grueling work that men as a group protected women from doing. Women were to be protected from all the things both sexes thought women were above and not to be exposed to.
That males desire to protect females, rather than oppress them, is perhaps best symbolized by the ship Titanic, which sank in 1912 when society stood perhaps at the pinnacle of patriarchal oppressiveness. Even wealthy men aboard the Titanic refused to enter the lifeboats ahead of even poor, third-class women. By allowing adult females into the boats, the men knew they were dooming many children — in some cases their own — in order to save women they did not even know. If men had wanted to oppress women, the Maritime rule would have been “Men and children first,” and the Titanic’s casualties would have been mostly females, not mostly males.
And perhaps feminists knew something else: if men were willing to sacrifice their lives for women, maybe they would sacrifice their arguments against a women’s movement that protested men’s protections and demanded women’s equal opportunities. In retrospect, they knew right.
What feminists knew, I suspect, is that the average guy — who represents about 97 percent of the male population — has no more power than the average female and often has less when women’s power in the reproductive world is factored in. The power dynamic between the sexes is such that the average man puts up a facade of power and the average women puts up a facade of powerlessness. (In the Myth of Male Power, Warren Farrell posited that men’s weakness is their facade of strength and women’s strength is their facade of weakness.) Feminists encourage women to put up that facade, for they believe society and government are far more inclined to give to the powerless than to the powerful.
All this is likely what inspired feminists to launch a movement that was calculated to succeed on the basis of the “powerless female.” The women’s movement succeeded so well, in fact — because feminists knew men so well — that in time feminists were able to transform their equality movement into a sexist anti-male movement, which still encountered little or no resistance from men, especially among male journalists in the mainstream media.
So do men use their power to oppress women?
No one does anything without a pay-off, real or perceived, immediate or later.