When Men Experience Sexism Essay

When Men Experience Sexism Essay

Read the article, “When Men Experience Sexism.”

“Women have been fighting against sexism for a long time. If men can learn from them, it will be to everyone’s benefit.”

— Noah Berlatsky, The Atlantic, 2013.

What is meant by this statement?
Cite specific examples from the article to support your conclusions. When Men Experience Sexism Essay


Can men be victims of sexism?

An NPR Morning Edition report this week suggests strongly that the answer is “yes.” As Jennifer Ludden reports, after divorce men can face burdensome alimony payments even in situations where their ex-wives are capable of working and earning a substantial income. Even in cases where temporary alimony makes sense—as when a spouse has quit a job to raise the children—it’s hard to understand the need for lifetime alimony payments, given women’s current levels of workforce participation. As one alimony-paying ex-husband says, “The theory behind this was fine back in the ’50s, when everybody was a housewife and stayed home.” But today, it looks like an antiquated perpetuation of retrograde gender roles—a perpetuation which, disproportionately, harms men.

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This isn’t the only case in which men can suffer from gender discrimination. David Benatar, in his 2012 monograph The Second Sexism discusses a whole range of other ways in which men as men are disadvantaged. Men, for example, receive custody of children in only about 10 percent of divorce cases in the United States. Men also, as Benatar writes, are subject to “a long history of social and legal pressure…to fight in war” —pressures which women do not generally experience in the same way. Along the same lines, physical violence against men is often minimized or seen as normal. Benatar refers to the history of corporal punishment, which has much more often been inflicted on boys than girls. Society’s scandalous tolerance of rape in prison seems like it is also related to a general indifference to, or even amusement at, sexual violence committed against men. When Men Experience Sexism Essay


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Perhaps most hideously, men through history have been subject to genocidal, or gendercidal, violence targeted at them specifically because they are men. Writers like Susan Brownmiller have over the last decades helped to show how mass rape and sexual violence against women are often a deliberate part of genocide; similarly, there has been increasing awareness in recent years of the gendercidal results of sex-selective abortion and infanticide in places like India and China. But the way gendercide can be directed against men is much less discussed. One of the worst recent examples of this was in the Balkans war, where, according to genocide researcher Adam Jones, ” All of the largest atrocities… target[ed] males almost exclusively, and for the most part “battle-age” males. ” Similarly, in Rwanda according to Judy El-Bushra (as quoted by Jones): When Men Experience Sexism Essay

it was principally the men of the targeted populations who lost their lives or fled to other countries in fear. … This targeting of men for slaughter was not confined to adults: boys were similarly decimated, raising the possibility that the demographic imbalance will continue for generations. Large numbers of women also lost their lives; however, mutilation and rape were the principal strategies used against women, and these did not necessarily result in death.
Many of these examples—particularly the points about custody inequities and conscription—are popular with men’s rights activists. MRAs tend to deploy the arguments as evidence that men are oppressed by women and, especially, by feminists. Yet, what’s striking about instances of sexism against men is how often the perpetrators are not women but other men. The gendercides in Serbia and Rwanda were committed against men, not by feminists, but by other men. Prison rape is, again, overwhelmingly committed by men against other men—with (often male) prison officials sitting by and shrugging. Conscription in the U.S. was implemented overwhelmingly by male civilian politicians and military authorities, not by women.

Even in cases where women clearly benefit from sexism, it’s generally not the case that women, as a class, are the ones doing the discriminating. Neither alimony nor custody discussions are central to current feminist theory or current feminist pop cultural discussions. Thereis no ideological feminist commitment to either of these discussions in the way there is to, say, abortion rights, or workplace equity. On the contrary, the alimony and custody inequities we have at the moment seem mostly based, not on progressive feminism, but rather on the reactionary image of female domesticity that feminism has spent most of the last 60-odd years fighting against. When Men Experience Sexism Essay

When men suffer from sexism, then, they do so in much the same way women do. That is, they suffer not because women rule the world and are targeting men, nor because feminism has somehow triumphed and brainwashed all of our elected officials (most of them still men) into ideological misandry. Rather, men suffer because of the same gender role stereotypes that hurt and restrict women—though men, being of a different gender, fall afoul of those stereotypes in different ways. Women are supposed to be passive and domestic and sexual—so their employment options and autonomy are restricted and they are fetishized and targeted for sexual assault and exploitation. Men are supposed to be active and violent—so their claims to domestic rights are denigrated and violence directed against them is shrugged off as natural or non-notable.

“For me,” Heather McRobie wrote in an excellent 2008 article about genercide, “feminism has always been about how rigid gender roles harm everyone, albeit primarily women.” Talking about sexism against men is often seen—by MRAs and feminists alike—as an attack on feminism. But it shouldn’t be. Rather, recognizing how, say, stereotypical ideas about domesticity hurt men in custody disputes as well as women in the job market should be a spur to creating alliances, not fissures. Women have been fighting against sexism for a long time. If men can learn from them, it will be to everyone’s benefit.

Contrary to the common perception that only women and girls are discriminated on
the basis of sex, discrimination against men and boys can also happen, and in some
cases, it can be even more evident. This is the main argument of David Benatar in his
new book, The Second Sexism. By the term ‘second sexism’ Benatar means the
wrongful discrimination against men and boys on the basis of sex, which he claims is
‘[s]o unrecognized […] that the mere mention of it will appear laughable to some’
(p.2). The primary purpose of this book is to make this type of sexism visible and to
present second sexism as a new addition to the concerns of policy makers, human
rights activists and feminists. When Men Experience Sexism Essay
Benatar acknowledges that the sexism against women and girls (which he calls
first sexism) is still a more severe problem in most parts of the world. However, he
argues that, contrary to popular belief, men and boys can also be subject to
discrimination. For example, he discusses state policies and/or social norms that
primarily encourage men, but rarely women, into military conscription and combat,
causing millions of men to die or suffer physically and psychologically. In those few
countries where women are conscripted, such as Israel, women are treated much more
leniently. According to him, men are also victims of domestic violence and sexual
assault, but state institutions and society in general take such violence less seriously
because of the prevailing attitudes towards men, such as the belief that men are fearless,
sustain greater pain, and are more capable of self-defence. He cites a study which
showed that ‘clinical psychologists were more likely to hypothesise sexual assault in
females than males’ (p.37). He also quotes some studies which show that females are
likely to be treated more leniently than males when being sentenced by the court
system, and when the victim is female, the offender is more likely to be arrested.
However, one may argue that reducing the causes for these differences only to sex of
The Kelvingrove Review Issue 10


the victim/offender is misleading, because many other variables such as age, colour,
ethnicity, history of prior offenses, and the severity of the crime also influence arrest
and sentence system. Benatar argues that sexual assault is underreported in case of both When Men Experience Sexism Essay
sexes; but the reporting rate is even lower when the victim is male, and if reported,
people are less sympathetic to male victims. A study on sexual harassment in the US
prison system found that ‘the sexual coercion incidence rate for males was 22%, while
for females it was 7%’ (p.39). However, one may object that often men themselves are
perpetrators of sexual assault on males, not females.
Benatar notes that in developed countries of the west, boys also face increasing
educational disadvantages: they drop out of schools at higher rates than girls, and are
less likely to be educated to degree level. This leads Benatar to argue that ‘[i]f the sexes
in these statistics were reversed, feminists would take this to be evidence of overall
female disadvantage’ (p.49). Other examples of second sexism the author discusses
include male disadvantage in terms of child custody in divorce cases, paternity leave,
and the shorter life expectancy of men as compared to women.
But do these various disadvantages amount to sexism against men and boys?
Though the author should be credited for bringing into the limelight some
disadvantages of being a male, to call these disadvantages second sexism would imply
that women are responsible for discrimination against men, which is often not the case. When Men Experience Sexism Essay
It is an accepted academic stand that sexism is systematic and structural, and that it
involves the subordination of one group as a whole by another group which enjoys
power and advantage in the system. Sexism occurs in the context of a specific set of
institutional arrangements and a specific ideology which creates and maintains a system
in which political, economic and social power is concentrated in the hands of males
(Wasserstrom 1997). Similarly, the well-known feminist theorist Marilyn Frye believes
that ‘the locus of sexism is primarily in the system and framework, not in the particular
act’ (1983, p.19). Furthermore, it is also true that men themselves seem to be
responsible for discrimination against men in most of the examples cited by Benatar.
Benatar has pre-emptively tried to answer these objections by saying that (1)
discrimination need not reach the systematic level in order for it to constitute sexism,
and (2) neither all men are in power nor does it really matter who the perpetrators are.
However, one may ask Benatar: who is responsible for second sexism – the system or
The Kelvingrove Review Issue 10
individuals? Benatar seems to have no clear answer. He diffuses the responsibility for
the second sexism inconsistently across these two sources. Benatar never fully  answers When Men Experience Sexism Essay
the charge that it is the patriarchal system itself which places extra responsibilities on
the male, and it may be the price that some men are paying for their overall
advantageous position in society. Owing to the controversial nature of the topic, the
author has yet to answer a number of counterarguments. However, one must agree
with him that the overall greater severity of the first sexism does not imply that the
second sexism should be denied, ignored or tolerated.
The main strength of the book lies in being the first systematic attempt to point
out the so far neglected aspects of discrimination against men and boys in its different
forms. From its title the book may look to be part of a backlash against feminism, but it
could function as both a complement and a supplement to feminist objectives. There is
certainly much in the book that feminists would find to their benefit. For example, the
author rejects biological determinism and social conservatism which has been the target
of feminist writings since its beginning. In fact, Benatar calls for an alliance between
feminists and men’s rights activists to work together to combat all forms of sexism (first
and second) against all types of victims. Like Beauvoir’s book The Second Sex, Benatar’s
Second Sexism has the potential of becoming a classic in gender studies. Though
students of social sciences, particularly of sociology, anthropology and gender studies,
are not obliged to agree with the arguments presented by the author; they are certainly
encouraged to read the book.  When Men Experience Sexism Essay

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