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Gender Warfare: The Modern Climate of Mistrust Between the Sexes

“black and white cats near gray post” by Aleksandar Popovski on Unsplash

Supposedly gender roles are the most relaxed they’ve been in decades. A more fluid interchange of gendered responsibilities seems to have become the cultural norm. TV commercials are replete with stay-at-home-dad representations meanwhile streaming services like Netflix curate entire categories dedicated to content with a ‘strong female lead’. It’s not the 1950s anymore, people quip. This is true and what seems like a more liberating cultural arena for this shift to have taken place is certainly not inherently bad. What I find interesting is that despite these moves towards neutrality, compromise, the middle of the gender-expectations spectrum, the sexes have not reached some kind of egalitarian, peaceable, well-balanced nirvana. Quite the opposite, in fact, if you look closely. One can detect a profound sense of distrust and cynicism thrumming between the genders as they exist today.

An intentional societal shift towards androgyny (as if it were some kind of virtue or noble ideal to be attained) has resulted in genuinely a lot of pain. There’s a great deal of wariness that the females direct towards their male counterparts and a great deal of wariness directed from the males to the females. The two parties regard each other not with comradely appreciation but rather, suspicious, almost glaring side-eyes. If you study things a little bit, it’s not difficult to see why. And this widespread leeriness about the opposite gender is not an insignificant thing. It plays out on not only a macro, national scale but also in a slew of individual lives, influencing countless psychological landscapes.

At the core of modern-day feminism is not only a lack of respect for men and masculinity, but also a deep cynicism. Rape hysteria darkly clouds college campuses across the nation — the hysteria itself is a symptom of this lack of trust. There’s a distinct sense of paranoia about rape and over time, the determinants of what exactly constitute it become increasingly fuzzier. Though many cases are certainly legitimate, and though there’s a host of intricacies and details to contend with in a lot of other cases, there’s a surefire problem in that far too many males are finding themselves wrongly accused of rapes they did not commit. (Why this does happen to the degree that it does on modern college campuses is a whole other topic altogether.)

Simultaneously, feminist jargon has coined and popularized the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ — a further attack against men, and a pretty insidious one at that. Insinuating that the opposite gender is inherently “toxic” in its natural form — and you’ll see a lot of this simply observing millennial media and pop culture — is no way to have genial relations based on mutual respect. Interestingly, feminists are terribly frequent in their accusations that men don’t respect them and this is perfectly ironic considering the lack of respect they direct towards men. This is all very simple logic — don’t ask for what you cannot return in favor. As well, in female circles it is not uncommon to hear snide references to men as dumb or hilariously incompetent in any manner of things, or simply less sophisticated or emotionally intelligent. Firstly, as if it should need to be said again, discussing men in such a way is no means of garnering their respect. Why respect somebody who has low expectations for you and does not regard you in a decent, hospitable manner?

The distrust is also evident to some degree in the popularity of the “strong, independent woman” trope and “I-don’t-need-a-man” feminist sentiment. Call it female empowerment if you want but to some degree it’s male disempowerment, is it not? Men are irrelevant, the feminists say. And if they’re not obstacles, then perhaps they’re things to exploit. And, it would seem, they’re also objects of complaint — a continually deficient element, as if surely there would be utopia if men and their “sexist,” “problematic” behaviors and selves were eliminated. This is weird but remains the underlying insinuation nonetheless. Generally speaking, there’s ample evidence to suggest that females are very cynical about men and regard them with wariness. And this is no recipe for societal success.

On the other side of the aisle, a small but progressively growing contingent of men are forming a revolution, effectively comprising a genuine backlash against modern feminism. They too are cynical about the opposite gender. To be fair, this was a reaction against third-wave feminism more than anything. (If any gender is to hold a bit more blame than the other in this crisis of mistrust, I am afraid the females rightly hold this title.) In any case, they go by the acronym MGTOW — Men Going Their Own Way, a phrase with the baked-in implication that men do not need women and are better off steering clear of them (or the vast majority of them). To be sure, MGTOW is perhaps no better than the feminist insistence that women inherently do not “need” men and perhaps are better off without them. Though the whole movement contains an element of bitterness and comes off as somewhat caustic, this is honestly quite understandable and is something of a natural response to the merciless trouncing of male relevance and respectability in feminist conversation. Right?

This is all-out gender warfare and it’s ironic that it’s taking place in an era historically oh-so-liberated, inclusive, and accepting. Some thought should be given as to why things aren’t quite working out as expected. There’s not so much good-natured community between the sexes — more accurately the general sentiment can be symbolized in a cold, icy, distrustful glare.

I think we lost respect for what was good about traditional masculinity and femininity. I think we deconstructed good, constructive (I know, how appalling of me to say!) notions for the sake of intellectualism and egalitarian allegiance. We got drunk on the idea of emancipation (which is good in and of itself) and yet hastily, irresponsibly assumed that naturally-occurring gender roles were the enemies of this ideal. Thus, they got cast off and thrown over the railing. We didn’t need them anymore, or so we thought. Somehow, we were convinced we had evolved, had transcended these ideas. However, we’ve shown signs of floundering in the face of this new, borderless reality. What occurred was a shift towards androgyny, a dilution. Many men became more feminine and many women became more masculine. This is unfortunate. After all, what evidence is there that this is necessarily good or that people would be happier as a result of this supposedly more excellent and cosmopolitan set-up?

It is not so much that women fundamentally lost a capacity to appreciate masculinity but that the cultural container devalued it and considered it unnecessary, that there was no need for it. Masculinity and femininity increasingly became referenced as tired, old, retrograde, unsophisticated notions — contrasted with the “proper” modern, enlightened idea that androgyny was naturally the best area for everybody to coalesce in. The closer everyone could get to the middle, to neutrality, the better. Stamp out all that messy, gendered nonsense. It’s too suffocating and not inclusive! was the implied plea. And so away it went, tossed over the railing into the dark ocean of history. We couldn’t tolerate difference, apparently — couldn’t integrate this idea into our minds that perhaps the opposite gender was more suited towards some things better than we intrinsically were and thus, they were fundamentally needed. Gendered notions were not wholly the result of “social construction” and thus, any efforts to seriously engineer ourselves out of them would be failures.

Nowadays, women are driven to the strong, career-woman ideal — objectively speaking, a “masculine-essence” ideal. Everybody knows exactly what I’m talking about. Men, on the other hand, are increasingly pressured to check their “privilege” and/or “toxic masculinity” and are criticized for their leadership positions and/or dominating inclinations, not to mention what could be their lack of emotional literacy or sensitivity. Isn’t it funny that we culturally applaud men that are quite feminine? Why is that? By the same token, isn’t it funny that we culturally applaud women that are quite masculine? Why don’t we applaud the reverse, the more natural set-up? Why is there such a cultural thrust in these directions? It is almost as if we are afraid of our natural gendered energies, as if we mistrust ourselves just as much.

The social agenda is such that the bossy, bite-back, I’d-rather-code-than-make-a-casserole girl is upheld as the heroine of all women, a pioneering, girl-power beacon of virtuosity. This is the new kind of good-girl. But what if you’re a girl that would rather make a casserole than code a computer program? Oh boy, what then? We’ll you’re practically something of a traitor! Why the social engineering efforts when we could probably more happily rest in that which comes most naturally to us? We cannot, it would seem, because we feel undignified about these natural impulses, as if there’s indeed a lack of dignity and respect from the opposite gender for them. Additionally, for a lot of progressives, this whole “let’s stick with what comes naturally” bit is just practically unthinkable because it’s intellectually incompatible with their idea of a theoretical androgynous utopia.

In any case, my theory is that gender wars are rampant currently because both sexes feel slighted and disrespected, in large part because natural masculinity and natural femininity have been treated with disdain for years. People are irritable and cynical about the opposite gender. There’s something awfully significant and telling about all this. Let’s be honest: Most women are going to want to operate out of more of their feminine energy and they’ll feel better in this space. Similarly, most men are going to want to operate out of more of their masculine energy and they’ll feel better in this space. Right? Crucially, however, if there is respect for this sort of set-up present within the current culture which I personally think we are lacking in and thus, could do a lot to work on. Psychologically, the sexes are better off playing to their natural energies. Things are less heated and quarrelsome in society and people are generally happier and more satisfied. Beautifully, they also feel more self-respect and that’s absolutely critical to a healthy society.

If people are especially cynical today about the opposite gender, they are just as much cynical about their own and therein lies the very essence of our modern-day gender wars. There is a so-called climate of distrust between the sexes precisely because there’s a lack of faith in one’s own gender. This is evidence of our own gnawing insecurity about the respectability of our natural identities manifesting on the cultural stage.