Victimizing Men

Is it feminism or abuse to ignore male vulnerability?

Jenny Ian Asencio
Iron Ladies

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One of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest and most generous people I know is literally afraid to be heard breathing. This victim of a toxic marriage was so repeatedly scolded for making sounds such as chewing or moving that they are now anxious and apologetic for every movement made or word spoken. Even the act of merely breathing is a struggle, as years of being scorned for “breathing too loud” has tied such a deep knot in their thinking that they are afraid to offend.

If you hadn’t guessed by my pronoun bending (or the title of this article), this is a man, and the gaslighting he suffered came from his (thankfully now ex-) wife. His personality has far more in common with a loving nurturer, but at over six feet tall, people look at him and all they see is “toxic masculinity;” people look at the insidious bitch he was married to and see “innocent woman.” People look at the anxiety her constant nitpicking put into him and blame him for not being macho enough, for allowing himself to be victimized. Meanwhile, people look at his height, weight, and biological sex and would usually assume that this beautiful soul is an aggressor, a potential rapist, and more likely responsible for abuse than she.

“All of this meant nothing at the time.” (Photo credit: The Guy in Question)

The concept of rape and abuse is a double standard in most societies. Not only are men the only rapists, but they are never the victims of abuse or rape because they are too strong and stoic for that sort of thing. Of course, statistics “show” that men getting raped is an infrequent occurrence that is usually perpetrated by a male rapist, but since men are never victims because they are too strong and stoic for that, how reliable are those statistics? How often has rape, harassment, and abuse gone unreported by men because of societal stigmas about what men should be?

The Gaslighting That All Men Suffer

As a feminist — yes, a feminist — I’ve gone on about the shitty treatment men get from mainstream feminism right now. The solution to the historical marginalization of women legally (and these days through stubborn adherence to unrealistic societal norms) is not to visit the same behavior on men, but that seems to be the solution a lot of mainstream feminists want. The gaslighting that all men suffer from “toxic masculinity” is at the head of it, and removes the agency of men to be victims. By promoting this idea that masculinity is a dangerous, violent, and negative thing, society is already robbing men of victimhood, and thus resources and healing necessary to recover from victimhood. #MeToo was supposedly about executives using positions of power to sexually intimidate, harass, and rape subordinates, but the moment those subordinates are not women, as in the case of Terry Crews and more recently Brendan Fraser, the excuses begin to fly as to why this is different, or insults the female victims of #MeToo somehow, or most insidious of all, tries to appropriate the movement from women.

Not victimy enough due to muscles and testosterone. (Photo credit: PA Images via Unilad.co.uk)

How dare they? Rape is rape and no less legitimate if it happens to a man. One would think feminism would have nothing but sympathy for male victims of their pet peeve, “toxic masculinity,” but since the male victims are clearly toxic as well (by virtue of that pesky Y chromosome), they rationalize that the male victim should have been able to do something about it. Isn’t this already enough of an indication that toxic masculinity is an overblown way of dehumanizing male victims, especially if it is women who are the aggressors?

This is no more poignantly punctuated than with the accusations against certain celebrities, such as Aziz Ansari, Morgan Freeman, and more recently, Chris Hardwick. Apparently, when a woman makes a rape or abuse accusation, without evidence of a man’s innocence or guilt we should call for him to be suspended from his job and made a public example of. Cases such as these three move the goalposts of predatory behavior to the extent that any time a woman is remotely offended or uncomfortable (or, perhaps, subjected to unappreciated breathing or chewing), it is harassment or even rape. The vehemence with which the Twittersphere called for Chris Hardwick’s suspension or firing is evidence that it doesn’t really matter if a man is guilty or innocent, as long as a woman has accused him.

Guilty until we say so. (Photo credit: TMZ.com)

As a woman and a feminist, this disgusts me. This is such a bigoted double-standard that should be beneath all feminists. Further, it victimizes the men! But just the fact that I am speaking up against this treatment of men brands me an “untrue Scotsman.” I’ve called before for feminists to include traits traditionally recognized as “female,” I’ve called for acknowledgement of “toxic femininity,” and I’ve called for the end of demonization of men, but what is happening to Chris Hardwick right now is nothing short of rabid, and what happened to Brendan Fraser last month would have seen FEMEN and the “pussy hats” screeching had it happened to a woman. Recognizing that women have received a raw deal throughout history is not a pass to pay a blind eye toward the hypocrisy that surrounds gender politics today.

Men are vulnerable, and probably more vulnerable than we are aware of because we’re always calling them “toxic.” In fact, we inundate them so strongly with the idea of toxic masculinity that when it manifests itself, it is more than likely through self-fulfilling prophecy, not biology. And how do feminists react when anyone points this out? By crying, “But what about the women?”

Well, ladies, we know women are vulnerable. We accept that, and ignore women’s strengths, such as how the power of social support can be a terrible thing if aimed against someone, like a spouse, schoolmate or son. This is to say nothing for the sexuality we have used as a weapon against them for so many generations that the original proto-feminist, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is rolling over in her grave.

But when we say the same thing to men over and over again — that their penis, and everything associated with it, makes them violent — we create a cognitive dissonance for vulnerable men that don’t fit this mold, and practically give the okay to the men that do. So what we have are men who either embrace their toxicity, or men who suffer in shame from not being macho enough to count as toxic, even while we decry them as such. In the end, it is no wonder that so many men are “toxic,” because we tell them they are so frequently that they begin to believe it.

Really, Feminism?

Is this what feminism really is about? As a rational feminist, I hope not. But it is the climate I see when Chris Hardwick is actually suspended from his show over an accusation. We are not innocent until proven guilty in the gender wars, we are innocent and truthful only if we are women. If one has any “male” qualities or interests, they become disqualified from “womanhood,” even if they are cis and hetero-gendered, born biologically female. Sensitive, vulnerable men are at the very lowest end of the gender wars spectrum because they are considered the weakest, the losers, the “wusses” who couldn’t hack it enough to not be victims.

Is this what feminism has become? (Photo credit: Getty Images/Mean Girls)

That’s not my feminism. In my feminism, women are so equal that they get called out on their bad behavior, on their toxicity, on trying to turn a rocky relationship or a bad date into a case of sexual assault. Women are so equal that when they are corrupt or try to use manipulation or bullying to get their way, they are treated with the exact same vehemence as if a rich white guy had done it. Women are so equal that they are perfectly capable of digging deep talons into a man’s head and subjugating him into a hell worse than all the women ever killed for being too opinionated — worse because at least those women had the release of death while the men experience gaslighting, scorn, and accusation day in and day out, merely for breathing.

This is the climate we are in today. Anything a man does is threatening, sinister, and deserving of loss of livelihood and reputation, while anything a woman does makes her a victim of the machinations of patriarchal domination. The genders are equal, but some genders are more equal than others.

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Jenny Ian Asencio
Iron Ladies

Card-carrying nerd, rational feminist, spiritual observer, ally of free thinking and objectivity, Harvard student, power metal is life!