The two elephants in the room of feminism

Feminism derives its wide acceptance in intellectual circles from the idea that women are disadvantaged. This justifies a unilateral push for power that would not be considered acceptable for men.

The grievances of women are legitimate. It is true that women have been and are disadvantaged by the classical sex roles in many ways. Discrimination against women exists and needs to be overcome. However, men as well are disadvantaged by these roles – in different ways. It is widely held that sex discrimination is predominantly discrimination against women and that women have less power overall. However, these assumptions are questionable.

While subtle and complex biases against women exist, discrimination does not fully explain the dominance of men in many fields. The major reason is something so old and familiar that it is hard for us to see: in the absence of extraordinary achievement, a man is valued less than a woman (reverse sexism). Men are therefore under greater pressure to reach extraordinary levels of cultural achievement.

The ultimate cause of this (glossing over a network of proximate causes) is that women bear children. Men are forever compensating for their tiny contribution to the reproduction of the species. Consider that you could kill 90% of all men at a negligible cost with respect to the species’ ability to reproduce, while killing women will decimate the following generation proportionally.

This is why every boy, despite being taught that men and women are of equal value, still today grows up understanding that, if worst comes to worst, he will be expected to volunteer to sacrifice himself to save a woman – a deep hypocrisy.

This, in no uncertain terms, delivers the inevitable message that women are needed more. On average, women are more valued, more protected, and more desired. And men kill themselves to compensate, often by direct physical risk taking, and even more often by pushing themselves to succeed unhealthily (leading to lower life expectancy). Men also “gain” years that women spend on pregnancy and child care – only to compulsively pursue their compensatory cultural ambitions.

For men, cultural achievement is a necessity, the key to being valued, desired, and loved, and thus to personal happiness. For women it is a choice. The alternative choice for women is to be valued, desired, and loved in a more traditional female role. Men do not de facto have this choice to the same degree (rare exceptions notwithstanding).

Get rich or die trying‘ is one expression of this male predicament. But the phenomenon is present in different variants across subcultures and very tangible in each of our own lives. Those men who fail in the game of achievement, go on to ‘dominate’ all the dirtiest and most hazardous occupations, where women are also underrepresented.

Moreover, the supposedly enviable leadership positions tend to be stressful and burdened with responsibility. Given a choice of being valued and loved by a different route, many men as well as women would choose that – only there’s no equality of those alternative choices.

The major pressure factor on men is female sexual preference. And there may not be any remedy. There’s little we can do about either the female preference for dominant males or the male preference for beautiful females. Note the irony: Men dominate because women prefer men who dominate. So who’s dominating whom, really?

Men are forced to take disproportionate physical risks. They are required to do the dying as well as the killing. Life expectancy is a good indicator of overall societal power (consider black versus white, poor versus rich). By this indicator, females are clearly favored.

Sex differences in life expectancy may have biological causes, but may also reflect the greater pressures men are subjected to over their lives. To the extent that there is a biological component, men should be seen as the biologically weaker sex and compensative action should be taken. In fact less money is spent on medical research benefitting men than women. Here as in other domains women continue to be the protected sex. For a good discussion of some of these facts, see Warren Farrell’s important book “The Myth of Male Power”.

The final stroke of genius of the societal exploitation of males is the notion that complaining about one’s plight is not masculine. The slaves are to sing, so as not to burden their master’s conscience. Really, this is just another application of the ever effective threat of sexual deprivation that binds the majority of males, to whom sex is available only in exchange for money or lifelong commitment.

Feminism has glorified what is great about the male role (individual freedom and cultural achievement) and denied the considerable advantages of the female role (being more protected, desired, and loved; greater emotional freedom; less pressure to perform). It is also in deep denial, by and large, about the nature of female sexuality.

The two elephants in the room of feminism are (1) the female sexual preference for dominant males (where dominance is defined in relation to the female and a merely equal male is never desirable) and (2) the disadvantages men suffer (which concern bare survival, life expectancy and being valued, desired, and loved at lower levels of societal success).

If feminism is going to survive and continue to be a positive force, it needs to face these challenges, resist the descent from radical theory to unilateral lobbying for power, and embrace a more expansive vision of gender roles based on an acceptance of biological facts. First, the female sexual preference for dominant males, which is widely denied, should be acknowledged. Second, the male sexual preference for beautiful females, which is widely acknowledged as true, should not be considered a fault of men that needs to be corrected. Let’s accept our sexual preferences as biological fact and fault neither men nor women for them.

What would real equality (of value, of life quality, of sexual desirability for the average person) be like? If feminist theory could develop a vision for this, then it might remain an important force for societal change.

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5 Responses to “The two elephants in the room of feminism”

  1. innocentpasserby Says:

    You write, ”The slaves are to sing, so as not to burden their master’s conscience.”

    Well, goodness. Men go, in this article, from having a slight advantage, to being forced to compete, to having a distinct disadvantage, to being slaves. These are interesting but wrong ideas. And this slave-rhetoric is distasteful.

    • stagetwo Says:

      you may have a point about the “slave rhetoric”.

      do you also have arguments (not just a vague feeling) suggesting that the core ideas here are wrong?

  2. innocentpasserby Says:

    Whilst I’m sure, my dear chap, that my feelings are all horribly vague, and whilst I have no especial knowledge about women and barely speak to the things, I nevertheless believe it to be true that they are paid considerably less for similar work than men are.

    • Matt Says:

      If women are paid so much less than men, why aren’t there small to medium sized companies out there with almost entirely female staff outcompeting others in the same market space? Maybe it’s because overall, women don’t actually accomplish the same jobs.

      Your argument just won’t work when subjected to even a modicum of business analysis.

  3. Equally valued? « stage two Says:

    […] posted a related argument here. var appssavvy_random = Math.floor( Math.random() * 2147483647 ) + 1; document.write( '' […]

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