Got your attention? Good. Feminists have long challenged men to treat women with respect, and to acknowledge their “sins.” But now, feminists themselves face a challenge. Men might be part of the problem, but women play a role as well. In fact, their role in creating the world “as it is” is just as significant, and just as worthy of critical analysis, as the roles (father, warrior, ruler) that men have played. The only question is, will we face the part we played, take responsibility for the damage, and change what we’ve done. Or will it be business as usual once again.
Let me tell all you good folks a little story. When I was an undergraduate way back in the 1980s, feminism was just emerging (or at least, my awareness of it was emerging). At that time women all over the Western world were waking up to the fact that their lives sucked, and it was true. By and large women were kept barefoot and pregnant in the kitchens of the world, or working in low page and demeaning jobs. Not only that, but they were abused as well. They experienced economic abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse at horrific levels. In my Sociology 288 course I use the film The Vienna Tribunal and when you’ve seen that you’ll know what I’m talking about. The situation was (and is) bad, and I see it every time I do relationship therapy. Women got it bad, it is true. Oppressive relationships, oppressive economic situation, oppressive families, oppressive homes, and oppressive jobs. The truth is, if you are female, it can often suck to be you. I get that. And you know, so did the feminists and I’ll tell you, it was interesting to watch feminism emerge as a powerful force. When women started to open their eyes and see what life was really like for them, they were quite unhappy, pissed off even, at what they saw. They saw exploitation, child abuse, domestic slavery, ecological disaster, violence, and war and behind it all was the the asshole male. It was obvious. Men were the ones in power, after all. Men exploited the workers, men exploited the children, men raped their nieces, men sodomized the altar boys, men swung the swords, men started the wars, and men were ruining the planet.
Men were the ones doing all the horrible things in the world.
Women are the victims, men are the perpetrators.
It was, and is, patently true.
So what did they do?
Well, not wanting to be “victims,” the women took action. They, not unreasonably, began to create barriers and walls between themselves and the men that surrounded them. They created “women’s studies” programs in universities and didn’t allow men to enter. They created women-only support groups where they could talk about their experiences. They wrote about how the family was evil and oppressive for women, how work devalued the female, and how much raising children by themselves really, really, sucked. And in all this the general perception was that it was all the male’s fault. It was patently true. Back then there was no such thing as a female politician, or a female CEO, or even a female manager. Power was in the hands of the men, and that was the way it was.
Of course, not all feminists, not all women, took the hard line. Some women preferred the softer touch of Liberal Feminism and some women even loved their family, and their children, and their husbands, and didn’t mind the domestic work, and so couldn’t see what the fuss was about. But of course many did not like it and so action continued, and with good effect. Now, thirty years later, we have women politicians, women CEOs, and women managers, and it’s all great and it’s all good except for one little thing…
These days the exploitation and the violence and the disregard and the oppression are worse than they were thirty years ago.
Things have changed for some women, that’s for sure, but the general state of the world has only deteriorated. War is still a problem, exploitation is still a problem, violence is still a problem, rape is still a problem, and inequality is getting worse. Only now the problem is compounded by the general deterioration in the fabric of the family and the quality of relationships. And what’s worse, now women are participating in the oppression as well. Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister, was probably the first to show that women could be as mean, callous, insensitive to the poor, and selfish as any man could be.
But who am I to judge, and anyway, the point is, for all the bluff, bluster, and criticism, feminists failed to change things much and the reason for that is simple to pin down. Feminists failed because they blamed only one sex. You see, the truth is, it is not just men’s fault that the world is the way it is, it is women’s fault as well. The truth is, women are just as much to blame for all the world’s evils as men are for the simple and irrefutable sociological fact that it is women who raise the children to be the way they are. The truth is women are now, and have always been, the ones who are primarily responsible for socializing the next generation of men.
Isn’t that true everywhere on the planet?
Who looks after the babies?
Who does all the care giving at home?
Who works in the day cares?
Who are the elementary teachers in schools?
Who socializes the children?
The answer, women do.
Men go to work outside the home, but women raise the children. You can’t argue with this, you can see it with your own eyes. In the homes, women are left to raise the kids. In the day cares, the attendants are primarily female. In the schools, at least at the elementary level, women are the primary workers. Women raise, nurture, and socialize the children and so if a man grows up to be a rapist, or a psychotic CEO, or a callous politician, or a pedophile, or a greedy capitalist whose only goal is proving how good he is by how much money he’s worth, it is because women made them that way.
It is obvious, isn’t it?
Even now, men don’t have much to do with the kids, at least in the early years. Men go to work, they go play golf, they hang out with their buddies, and in general they minimize their contact with their children. Women remain primarily responsible for socialization. They are the ones that change, feed, and train the girls to be the girls, and the boys to be boys–and that is the problem because, if you want my opinion, it is the women (the mothers, the teachers, the day care workers) who gender-socialize the boys to be callous, insensitive, unemotional, and competitive to the point where dominating others becomes the sole salve for the damaged attachments and destroyed self-esteem bequeathed on them by the oppressions of The System.
Are you primarily responsible for the socialization of children in your life? Then ask yourself these questions.
- Have you ever ever actively suppressed the emotions of the men/boys in your life because “big boys don’t cry.”
- Have you ever told a male to “man up” and quit being such a baby?
- Have you ever withheld love/affection from a boy/man because they didn’t perform up to expectations?
- Have you ever put a boy down for failing to perform?
- Have you ever made a male feel small for having a feeling, or not being good enough, or not living up to all the others around them?
- Have you ever treated a child differently, based on their genital configuration?
Well, if so, then don’t be so surprised when they grow up callous, unfeeling, and so competitive that exploiting children in China is not a problem for them. The big sociological truth is, if men are the way they are it is because of the women who raised them.
It is obvious, isn’t it?
Men are the victims, women are the perpetrators.
Now if you’re getting worked up here, take a deep breath and calm down. I don’t really believe that women are exclusively to blame, and I don’t really think feminism sucks. They have always had a point, and a good one! Men are on the hook for the neglectful way they treat their kids, for the “male” socialization they reinforce, for the abuse they enact, and for the actions they take (or do not take) with their children. The real truth is men and women are in this together, but that’s the point. It’s not “men” who are exclusively to blame for the world’s ills, women play a role as well. The point is, if the world’s messed up, we’re all to blame. Neither men nor women are innocent bystanders here. Walling yourself off in a gender-bunker, drawing a boundary, and pointing fingers at the opposite sex doesn’t make you part of the solution, it makes you part of the problem.
So what are you going to do?
Well, if you want my opinion, don’t blame and point fingers at each other, just focus on the real culprit, the real villain which is Capitalism, gender socialization, our weird global obsession with competition and performance, and the ridiculous ideas we often countenance as truth (like its all “men’s” fault, or “big boys don’t cry” or beating another person into the ground (competitive wise) is actually a good thing). You want to make the world a better place, then don’t allow yourself to be divided by anger, rage, ideology, or the manipulative touch of the modern mass media. The only way to change the world is to stand together and work as one regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or whatever. As the old saying goes, united we stand…
- Ding Dong the Alpha Male is Dead
- Embracing Change: Working Together to end the Cycle of Violence
- Care Bears vs. Transformers: Gender Stereotypes in Advertisements
About the Author: I'm a sociologist at Athabasca University where I coordinate,amongst other things, the introductory sociology courses (Sociology I and Sociology II). FYI I did my dissertation in the political economy of scholarly communication (you can read it if you want). It's not that bad. My current interests lie in the area of scholarly communication and pedagogy, the sociology of spirituality and religion, consciousness research, entheogens, inequality and stratification, and the revolutionary potential of authentic spirituality. The Socjourn is my pet project. It started as the Electronic Journal of Sociology but after watching our social elites systematically dismantle the potential of eJournals to alter the politics and economies of scholarly communication, I decided I'd try something a little different. That something is The Socjourn, a initiative that bends the rules of scholarly communication and pedagogy by disregarding academic ego and smashing down the walls that divide our little Ivory Tower world from the rest of humanity. If you are a sociologist or a sociology student and you have a burning desire to engage in a little institutional demolition by perhaps writing for the Socjourn, contact me. If you are a graduate student and you have some ideas that you think I might find interesting, contact me. I supervise graduate students through Athabasca Universities MAIS program.