Friday, 17 July 2009

Here is an earlier comment by Mike Hurford and my response:

I have read your blogger with interest, but I appear to view our society in a way that none of you do. There are some very sexist and offensive men in our society. I agree. You seem to treat these men as an enemy, challenging their behaviour, and if you find yourselves acting in this way, you attempt to change your behaviour. My problem with your comments is this. Don’t think that a lot of women are equally sexist and offensive to men? There are many sexist women around today. Why don’t you challenge their behaviour in the same way? Feminism would be acceptable to me if it wasn’t so sexist, and didn’t keep generalising about the entire male sex.( Something that they claim to be fighting against, only about women). It seems to me that they, like you, are hypocrites. I have met many sexist people, men and women, but it is only the men who are challenged. The women are supported in their behaviour, by groups such as yours, and society in general. This is my view on feminism, and I would like one of you to discuss with me in an adult way where I’m going wrong. I look forward to a chat with you re the above. Regards M Hurford


Dear Mike,

Thanks for your post, and for raising an issue which seems to confuse a lot of people.

In my view, and I would guess most feminists would agree with me, the issue is not about making wrong generalisations. The feminist claim is there exists a system of oppression of women by men, called patriarchy. This system has existed in all societies we know about for the last few thousand years. In patriarchal societies women, women’s work, women’s values etc are systematically undervalued. Women are forced into a very narrow set of roles and possibilities for their lives. Women’s lives are ruled by men. Men abuse women sexually and with violence. There are too many examples to list, because patriarchy and sexism pervade everything in society. Although in Western liberal democracies some of the rough edges of this system have been knocked off in the last 40 years it is still very much in operation.

What this means is that contrary to what you seem to be assuming, there is no parity between men’s negative ideas about women, and women’s negative ideas about men. Men’s negative ideas about women are part of the system of oppression, and have a great deal of power associated with them. By contrast, women are comparatively much less powerful, and much of their hostility towards men is an understandable reaction to oppression. That does not excuse a general hostility to men, but we should be putting much more attention and energy into trying to deal with the oppression of women. Actually, I do not think that it is appropriate to use the term “sexism” to describe women’s hostility to men, because that word denotes not just a set of attitudes, but the fact that they occur within a system of massive inequality of power in favour of men. I don’t know what word we should use, there doesn’t seems to be one in English, but the key point is that sexism is not just about attitudes.

By the way, just in case you’re getting the wrong idea about where the group and I are coming from, the point of our group is not to beat ourselves up as bad guys. In agreeing with the feminist claim that women are oppressed under the system of patriarchy, we are also claiming that although men benefit from that, there are many aspects of the roles that men are forced into in that system that are harmful to men as well as women. Just one example would be the fact that men are supposed to be invulnerable and never seek support if they are feeling hurt or weak. So, in supporting feminism, we are working for the liberation of men as well.

Best Wishes
David King

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