The Real Myth of Male Power
“Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” — John Steinbeck
Ever since the #MeToo movement went big, there have been articles written in support of women’s rights and bodily autonomy, starting off with the criticisms of flagrant instances of sexual impropriety, and becoming more incisive and strident on the way to condemning widespread and endemic disrespect and hatred for women. Predictably, this spawned a flurry of counter-opinions and thinkpieces concerned with #MeToo “going too far” and a “War on Men”.
I have had discussions with angry men trying to pick holes in my articles on feminism, and I’ve witnessed others giving excellent responses to other angry men that do the same to them. But we are going over the same old ground, over and over again. And we’re not getting anywhere.
We’ve been awfully polite and engaged detractors in debate, attempted to demonstrate the facts to them, and tried to get them to see things from our point of view. It has not worked on the hardcore deniers, but there is a glimmer of hope that we may catch the attention of the curious observer. We’re able to explain in great detail why these anti-feminist arguments are wrong, but perhaps we need to move our focus on to calling out the agenda rather than joining them in a friendly conversation about their terrible views.
There are some benefits to debunking these awful and discriminatory viewpoints. We might not be able to convince those who have absorbed misogyny into their identity, but publicly disagreeing with them shows that their views are unacceptable and demonstrates to onlookers that they shouldn’t accept this hateful rhetoric as the truth. Not everyone is a gender studies major, and somebody unfamiliar with current feminist discourse could easily think there’s something to their arguments, particularly with the prevailing stereotype of feminists as man-hating shrews.
Arguing with male supremacists can help us to analyse our own beliefs and firm up our standpoint, but we are conducting this process in full view of the rest of the internet, and they are not a forgiving bunch. Whether or not we provide a brilliant counter-argument to their hateful nonsense, there’s the risk of mockery, abuse, and being held up as a reason to justify their original hatred and to keep women in line. It’s not about facts and logic (although they will try to claim it is), it’s about making women look bad.
The image of feminists as evil killjoys suits a male supremacist agenda. It undermines the credibility of feminists and their work, and helps retain the status quo by labelling any challenges as extreme and restrictive. Similarly, a lot of the arguments against #MeToo, or feminism as a whole, are based on lies and deliberate misunderstandings because male supremacists know that they are the ones doing the oppressing, and if society countenanced arguments against their beliefs and behaviour, they would be forced to change their ways and be held accountable for their misdeeds.
Male supremacy is woven into our culture, yet you’ll hear all sorts of arguments as to why our society is actually a perfect meritocracy, how women in other countries have it far worse, and that believing women is an affront to justice. If you didn’t know better, you might even think that women are the real oppressors. I worry that when we explain the obvious to male supremacists and those who parrot their arguments, we legitimise their position and give the impression that we must give attention to “both sides”.
Men aren’t oppressed; they’re scared of losing their power.
But the sides in this battle are not equally matched. Feminism is helping to redress that balance, but we are dealing with an organised attempt to deny equality and fairness. Our patience, and giving of the benefit of the doubt, is allowing these undermining strategies to go unchecked. The best way to ensure the status quo is upheld is to portray any challenges as the demands of oppressors, here to take away the rights of ordinary people, or in this case, ordinary men.
Male supremacists are frightened of losing their power, and so they are recruiting ordinary men to their cause by weaponizing this fear and using it to radicalise men who are disappointed with their lives. Who better to blame for their misfortune than those uppity feminists who claim that men have it better than women? But they have to do better than mere mud-slinging. They need to justify their prejudice. Every bad-faith argument is constructed with the aim of preventing progress, and scaling it back if possible.
Let’s consider the opinions of those cis male armchair lawyers. If anyone suggests that we shouldn’t disbelieve women by default, we get an avalanche of rebuttals insisting that women habitually lie and deceive, that they cry ‘rape’ just for the hell of it, and that false allegations are common. They also claim, in spite of volumes of evidence to the contrary, that rape allegations destroy men’s careers and reputations, and that credible allegations are the equivalent of a prison sentence.
In response we commonly perform the role of an undergraduate law professor and run a free online Justice 101 for all those men that demonstrate their complete misunderstanding of the criminal justice system. It’s funny, isn’t it, that it is only the crimes borne out of sexism and misogyny, from sexual harassment to rape, that we need to perform this vital public service for. How strange that our understanding of what is right and wrong is only deficient when it involves crimes committed against women, by men.
Let’s end this pretence now. We know why these flawed arguments and endless questions are put forward. It is to distract and deflect attention from the real issue. And if we focus on that issue, we’ll see male power for what it really is: a power that is held at the expense of others, and supported by nepotism and discrimination. Men are in power because men are in power.
Be it an argument about #MeToo, Rape Culture, the Wage Gap or whatever, we need to be clear. No amount of facts or evidence will be enough to satisfy their demands. They want to string the debate out for as long as possible to weaken our stance and keep things exactly as they are. Male supremacists don’t really want to debate us on the finer points of feminist theory. They know exactly what they’re doing: they deliberately misinterpret feminist causes to suit their agenda. We spend endless time and energy explaining things to them, whereas we should be calling out this tactic as a dishonest means of discrediting women.
We need to communicate to the rest of society that it’s all just a ruse. Male supremacists hate and distrust women, and if society doesn’t also hate and distrust women, their cover is blown. Those arguing against what women are saying now, are arguing against centuries of accumulated knowledge, peer-reviewed studies and volumes of data. We should not need to go over this again and again; the evidence is clear. But male power relies on the myth that there is doubt over women’s claims. If we do finally believe women, we will see male supremacy for the lie that it is. Men aren’t oppressed; they’re scared of losing their power. Instead of playing their endless debating games, let’s call out the lie.