The feminist crusade against fatherhood

Feminists will tell you that “Patriarchy” is the reason fathers are discriminated against in criminal court, via the presumption that women are better caregivers. That assertion is on a list that is being circulated and repeated by grassroots feminists in “debate,” without ever questioning its validity. A little research into the history of changes in custody standards debunks the claim.

The legal presumption that women are naturally better caregivers, used as a determining factor in the decision of child custody, is rooted in 19th century feminist activism. At that time, divorce was much more rare, and subject to strict rules. There was no no-fault divorce, and the reasons accepted for requesting one were limited to circumstances like adultery and neglect. If there were children from a marriage, they were considered to be in their father’s custody, not the custody of the couple. Whether the couple separated or divorced, they remained in their father’s custody.

This was the situation faced by Caroline Norton after separating from her husband, George Norton. The end of her marriage to her husband was not brought on by circumstances that were approved reasons for divorce. Because of this, when Norton separated from her husband, he had complete control of her ability to see their children. Norton looked for legal means to counter her husband’s alienation of her from her children, and found none. With no legal recourse, she began fighting to change the law.

When Caroline Norton wrote the bill which would become The Custody of Infants Act of 1839, followed by her “plain” letter to the Lord Chancellor regarding the bill, she probably had no idea that her writing would end up as the inspiration for a court doctrine which would cause for fathers in multiple nations to suffer exactly the indignities she was trying to eliminate in her own life and the lives of other women, but that is what occurred. The Custody of Infants Act was the start of what is now referred to as the Tender Years Doctrine, the basis upon which it became traditional to place custody of children in divorcing families with the mother. The argument that mothers are better caregivers is put forth in Mrs. Norton’s “plain” letter, in which she stated that fathers have to hire nursemaids to replace their wives’ involvement in the lives of children during their “tender years,” and therefore it is natural that the child should be placed in the custody of the mother. Over the years, this doctrine, originally intended to prevent divorce from keeping women from their children, has been pushed and twisted into an every-case imperative, making maternal custody the default in divorce cases.

Objections to the bill included the prediction that with the ability to gain custody of their children, women would be more likely to divorce their husbands, and dire warnings of maternal kidnapping to keep children from their fathers.

The result of her effort was the passage of the Custody of Enfants act of 1839, the basis for the Tender Years doctrine, which was used for much of the 20th century as the standard on which custody decisions were based. The tender years doctrine has since been abandoned for the nicer-sounding “best interests of the child” standard, but the determination of the child’s best interests includes presuming true the beliefs laid out in the tender years doctrine, namely, that young children are best off with their mothers.

In 1910, the Uniform Desertion and Non-Support Act was proposed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, and passed with modifications by 24 states. It was intended to address abandonment of the family by the husband and father, who at that time was generally their sole means of support. The unmodified version stated:

This was due to the far lower earning capacity of women at that time, as women considered less productive employees and were paid lower wages. The child support system, in other words, is a factor of traditional gender stereotypes.

In the United States, custody is awarded to mothers over 80% of the time. This also results in mothers receiving child support awards much more often. Even when fathers receive support, they receive less.

Child support law has evolved over time since then, with broader and often senseless application, greater strictness, and greater government involvement in enforcement. One of the issues which men’s rights activists have with existing child support law is that changes in it have not kept up with changes in women’s circumstances. The conditions which child support law was written to address are no longer a factor; women can work, and earn a living the same as a man. Not having a man in the house doesn’t automatically need to translate into poverty.

Feminists argue the implication of custody and child support statistics are debatable, claiming that fathers who file for custody get it most of the time. That claim is their basis for the assumption that fathers don’t get custody of their children because they don’t want it.

However, for a father to file for and be granted custody, he must first amass the funds for a lawyer and court costs. If his income is moderate (or low) and is already being reduced by a child support payment, he has little or no ability to fund any legal action.

Further, when feminists claim that fathers get “custody” of their children whenever they ask for it, they’re including joint custody agreements. These are nothing more than maternal custody/paternal visitation rewritten to recognize the father as a legitimate parent and afford him the ability to make decisions regarding the child’s medical care and school attendance. The living arrangement of the child is the same as when a mother has full legal custody, so the difference is mainly on paper.

This situation means that women do not have to be financially stable to be awarded custody of their children, while fathers have to have enough money to pursue legal action before the court will even consider awarding them custody.

The result has been an increase in single mother households living under the poverty level, eligible for and collecting government assistance. According to the latest data from the U.S. census bureau, custodial mothers are more likely than custodial fathers to:

  •     Not have jobs and not have enough non-employment income to be above the poverty level without being employed
  •     Earn low income even if employed
  •     Have custody of four or more children
  •     Combine joblessness with multiple child custody
  •     Become custodial parents as teens.

Single fathers report more income from employment (wages and salaries or self-employment) and savings and investment (interest, dividend, rental, and other property income), while single mothers report much more income from assistance sources (for example, unemployment, workers’ compensation, public assistance, alimony, and child support). This difference is in part due to the requirement that fathers prove themselves fit parents in order to obtain custody, while mothers do not face such expectations unless custody is contested in court. Social attitudes also play a role in this; a mother living in poverty is considered a victim of abandonment and financial neglect by the estranged father of her children. A father living in poverty is considered a deadbeat who won’t man up and take care of his family. Even though both parents have the same capacity to obtain employment and earn a living, only one is held responsible for doing so.

Cutting fathers out of their children’s’ lives can have significant negative impact on the child.

Research by Sara McLanahan at Princeton University suggests that boys are significantly more likely to end up in jail or prison by the time they turn 30 if they are raised by a single mother. Bruce Ellis of the University of Arizona found that about one-third of girls whose fathers left the home before they turned 6 ended up pregnant as teenagers, compared with just 5 percent of girls whose fathers were there throughout their childhood. A study by Mary Corcoran and Roger Gordon of the University of Michigan shows that receipt of welfare income has negative effects on the long-term employment and earnings capacity of young boys. That study also found that both boys and girls were twice as likely to become unwed teen parents if raised in a fatherless home.

Fathers’ rights groups have sought to remedy the courts’ senseless handling of child custody by introducing and advocating for legislation to change the standard custody arrangement following an uncontested divorce. These laws, introduced in the United States, Australia, and Canada, would ensure equal time with each parent. This would also change how child support is handled, as equal time between the parents would mean that neither should be faced with a greater share of the child’s living expenses. This would limit reasons for assigning a child support obligation to factors like differences in income or other personal resources.

Feminist groups have opposed the introduction of laws related to equally shared parenting using writing that uses a dishonest representation of the law as an every-case imperative, and demonization of fathers as deadbeats and abusers to argue against the proposed standard.

Feminist groups state that if shared parenting were ordered, fathers would not provide their share of the daily care for the children. The National Organization For Women and the  American Bar Association also question the motives of those promoting shared parenting, noting that it would result in substantial decreases in or termination of child support payments.

Feminist arguments include claims that equally shared parenting laws would force judges to place children in abusive homes, and that men only want custody of their children to get out of paying child support. However, proposed laws would not make the equal time standard a set-in-stone requirement, but merely the default in uncontested cases. If a parent does not want that arrangement, he or she can contest it in court. If both parents agree that they want a different arrangement, they can sign a contract to that effect, as well.

While feminists accuse fathers of being deadbeats who have abandoned their children, available information shows that to be untrue.

  • 40% of mothers reported that they had interfered with the non-custodial father’s visitation on at least one occasion, to punish their ex-spouse
  • Between 250/0 – 33% of mothers denied visits
  • 90% of the violence and kidnapping we have seen are in sole custody situations in which the sole custodial parent fears losing his or her custody status, or the parentectomized parent kidnaps the child away from the sole custody parent who possessively blocks the visiting parent from access.

    - Frequency of Visitation by Divorced Fathers: Differences in Reports by Fathers and Mothers – Sanford H. Braver, Ph.D., Sharlene A. WoIchik, Ph.D., Irwin M. Sandler, Ph.D., Bruce S. Fogas, Ph.D., Daria Zvetina, M.Ed.

  • Unilateral abuse of parental custodial power is more common in court ordered sole custody situations.- Child Custody and Parental Cooperation – Frank Williams, M.D., Dir. Psychiatry
  • Overall, approximately 50% of mothers “see no value in the father’s continued contact with his children- Surviving the Breakup – Joan Berlin Kelly and Judith S. Wallerstein
  • The former spouse [mother] was the greatest obstacle to having more frequent contact with the children

    - Increasing Our Understanding of Fathers Who Have Infrequent Contact With Their Children – James R. Dudley, Professor, University North Carolina

  • 70% of fathers felt they had too little time with their children.
  • Very few of the children were satisfied with the amount of contact with their fathers, after divorce.
  • Few men can afford to legally contest every infringement of the visitation agreement.

    -Visitation and the Noncustodial Father – Mary Ann P. Koch, Carol R. Lowery, Journal of Divorce, Vol. 8, No. 2, Winter 1984)

That’s not fathers abandoning their children, but mothers refusing to allow their children time with their fathers. This puts fathers in the position of having to take legal action, or tolerate being evicted from their children’s lives by custodial mothers.

While feminists accuse fathers of being abusive, data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that the majority of child abusers are women.

The above list of links does show a decline in percentage, but some of that can be accounted for by an overall decline in child abuse in the U.S. over the past 5 years.

Study: Child abuse on decline in U.S. (CBS)

Child Abuse Rate In The U.S. Drops For 5th Straight Year (Huffington Post)

Statistics showing that women are more than half of abuse perpetrators in the U.S. directly contradict NOW’s inference that routinely assigning custody to mothers following divorce would prevent children from being placed in abusive homes. One could even come to the conclusion that routinely assigning custody to mothers puts children at greater risk, yet nobody is proposing that mothers be cut out of their children’s lives to eliminate that risk.

Baseless accusations and conditions which aren’t gender specific are not legitimate reasons to oppose instituting equally shared parenting as the applied custody arrangement in uncontested divorces. As a society, we’ve seen the negative effects of cutting either parent out of the child’s life. Wouldn’t it be most beneficial to the child to ensure that he or she receive the benefit of both parents whenever possible?

If the best interest of the child really is the standard feminists embrace, the most sensible way they can show that is by ceasing to oppose equally shared parenting initiatives. That opposition is not rooted in concern over abuse, but self-serving bigotry against men.

Honey Badger Radio: Anita Will Save Us From Our Sins

Anita Sarkeesian will receive the Game Developers Choice Awards Ambassador Award, a prize honoring individuals who help the video games industry “advance to a better place” through advocacy.

We here at Honey Badger Radio don’t think the GDCA has gone far enough. Anita’s work opposing damseling by damseling is worth far more than just an award. She’s a candidate for sainthood. Saint Sarkesiaan will cleanse all gamers of misogyny!

Join us tonight as we discus how Anita can save your apostate soul from damnation.

Also joining us is Paulette MacDonald from Leading Women for Shared Parenting promoting canada’s new equal shared parenting bill, C-560.

Listen here!
Show Date: Thursday February 20th, 2014

Show Time: 9 PM EST/ 8 PM CST/ 6 PM PST

Show Archive

Leading Women for Shared Parenting

Who defines rape?

Twenty years ago Nara Shoenberg and Sam Roe challenged feminist myth making about rape. Let’s take a look at what they had to say in their article, The Making of an Epidemic.

The article shows the connection between Koss, Steinem, and the 1 in 4 myth. It’s on page 8 of the newspaper, page 5 of the archive.

She was a little-known Professor at Kent State University when a male coleague proposed a subject for study: Do college men view women with large breasts as likely rape victims? Women in the study would wear padded bras.

Dr. Koss thought studying students was promising, but “the padded bra study had to go.”

Eventually, she conducted a study of her own: She surveyed Kent State students and found 1 in 8 women had been raped.

There was little media attention, and Dr. Koss, who just had her first child, was considering cutting back on her research.

Then the phone call came.

“I’m calling from Ms. magazine,” the voice said, “and Gloria would like you to come to New York and have lunch with us.”

“My God,” Dr. Koss said to herself. “I’ve just been invited to go to New York and have lunch with Gloria Steinem!”

Ms. wanted to sponsor a national campus rape survey, and Dr. Koss agreed to do one.

The article is an early articulation of many of the same points we see discussed here regarding the surveys feminists have used to make claims of widespread sexual assault against women. Among the things it points out:

  • Researchers were pressured for results showing a high prevalence of rape. Margaret Gordon (University of Washington) told the article’s writers “There was some pressure – at least I felt pressure – to have rape be as prevalent as possible. I’m a pretty strong feminist, but one of the things I was fighting was that the really avid feminists were trying to get me to say that things were worse than they really are.” Her study found a rate of 1 in 50.
  • Scientists responsible for the highest numbers were passionate advocates whose findings may reflect more bias than fact. Diana Russel, whose 1982 study found that 1 in 3 women are victims of rape or attempted rape, went into that work with the attitude that for the most part, male sexuality is predatory.
  • Researchers manipulated the statistics by manipulating the definition of the term “rape” and using ambiguous questions.
  • The numbers were doubted by other feminists, including other feminist researchers.

BUT

  • People were afraid to question the numbers, and those who did were demonized.
  • These studies were largely ignored until Ms. promoted Mary Koss’s study. The writers credit feminists’ push for public attention to their claims about acquaintance rape for the increased interest. According to the article, “Dr. Koss’s numbers were reported in magazines, newspapers, a national public awareness campaign, and even a book. Colleges featured them in educational workshops.”
  • Researchers’ claim to legitimacy? Their studies are published in scientific journals funded by the federal government. (Appeal to authority.)

The article mentions that the Violence Against Women act (the original) was then-senator Joe Biden’s baby, and that the inflated rape stats from a Cleveland study by Mary Koss that she stated shouldn’t be applied nationally were used to promote it.

At the same time as Koss did her study, there was another study by Dr. Linda George at Duke university with different results. A random survey of 1000 women, which used a broad definition that included cases of having felt pressured into sex, found only 1 in 17 had been victims. Numbers from other studies done on sexual assault (a more broad category) in the 80s and 90s include 1 in 50 urban women, 1 in 20 pregnant, low-income women, and according to the U.S. Justice department at the time, 1 in 820 women. At the time of publication, the justice department’s numbers had been stable for 20 years.

In 1993 feminist researchers knew there was reason to doubt claims based on numbers obtained by asking a lot of research subjects ambiguous questions and interpreting the responses, especially given that the subjects often didn’t agree with the researchers’ interpretations. Awareness of that issue led to an effort by researchers to reduce the appearance of ambiguity, but not to actually address the underlying problem: Feminists and the general public just do not have the same criteria for calling a sex act “rape.”

That should have led to a re-examination of the intent behind the manipulation of that research. Feminists should have considered whether they were actually measuring criminal behavior, or attempting to criminalize the acts of half of the participants in mutual behaviors they personally disapproved. Instead of accepting conclusions that so dramatically differed from all other research on sexual violence, they should have been considering the possibility that those conclusions weren’t accurate representations of the experiences of the subjects.

Instead, other research has since been buried under an avalanche of feminist propaganda promoting the 1 in 4 myth, the myth that all men are potential rapists (and most rapists are men), and that society is in the midst of an epidemic of sexual violence against women perpetrated by men. That propaganda has been used to lobby for legal changes like updates to the legal definition of rape, updates to VAWA dedicating grant money to feminist-created and run initiatives, and passing the Campus SaVE act. Feminists have spent the last quarter-century trying to force the public to accept their narrative on sexual violence. They have demonized men as natural sexual predators. They’ve exploited female proxy victim status for power and profit, capitalizing on society’s tendency to protect women. When they found that women disagreed, they brushed that disagreement aside as irrelevant, because… well, who cares what women think when there’s a sexual violence epidemic to create?

Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny

And now for my first piece of original content exclusively for GendErratic! Again I wish to extend my gratitude to Ms. Tieman for inviting me to contribute to this blog, and I can promise there is plenty of theoretical analysis and discussion of cultural issues to come in the future. Now, for the article.

Proposition: Complaining About “Fake Geek Girls” Is Not Misogyny
Feminism’s engagement with “nerd” culture has, for the most part, come entirely from a critical and contemptuous angle; one of these criticisms is that “nerd” culture is allegedly a “boy’s club” which excludes women. To prove this, feminists point out the fact that females claiming a geek identity will be interrogated to see if they are “real” geeks or fakers.

This is not misogyny. Demanding “geek girls” prove themselves would only be misogyny if the treatment were motivated by an animus towards or prejudice against women as a class. Nerd culture would be equally suspicious of “fake geek guys.”

Wait… fake geek guys?

The fact that there is no such thing as the fake geek guy is in fact an important piece of the puzzle. Some feminists would argue that the lack of fake geek guys is evidence yet again of discrimination against women, but in reality it is because the status of “geek” has never been desirable for men to claim.

No ladies, we are not discriminating against you because you didn’t dance with us at the prom. We have no problem with you being girls. Our problem is due to the fact that fake geek girls (not to be confused with real geek girls, who do in fact exist and have been part of geek culture ever since the beginning) are subcultural poseurs claiming an identity which they in fact lack.

The Essential Characteristic Of “Nerd”
There’s a reason why Spider-Man got ruthlessly beaten up in high school. There’s a reason why Loki grows up as the undervalued intellectual in a society of macho warrior brutes. There’s a reason Steve Rogers was originally skinny and frail and got beaten up regularly. There’s a reason for the “Revenge of the Nerds” films.

Being a “nerd” isn’t about just liking certain things. It is about having culturally atypical interests and experiencing social persecution as a result.

It is a subculture which embraces esoteric and often intellectual interests that go against what is expected of “real men.” This is why there are “sports fans” and “automotive enthusiasts” and “petrolheads” and “aviation buffs” (all acceptably masculine interests) but to be into comics or video games or analog synthesizers makes one a “nerd” or a “geek.”

Nerdiness is about being set outside the mainstream, often with violence. It isn’t merely about a specific set of interests, but about the social consequences of these interests.

Nerdiness is a culture primarily composed of socially emasculated males – a culture of “not real men” – a culture which has paid the price for failing to measure up to our society’s standards of masculinity.

Female nerds are also outside the mainstream – but their experiences rarely include being beaten up for this. Being intelligent and possessing a rational temperment is also gender-deviant because traditional gender roles see women as fundamentally emotional. But even if they don’t necessarily face the same violent retribution for gender-nonconformity that male nerds do, they share the experience of being socially alienated (to at least some degree) from one’s same-sex peers, of being gender-atypical, and of not having “normal” interests.

Nevertheless, we need to recognize that the gender system is far more willing to be suspicious of gender-deviance amongst males; as I have argued before, the gender system treats femininity as an innate characteristic and masculinity as an earned status that needs to be guarded, demonstrated and socially validated – hence why the Tomboy is just “going through a phase” (and is also perhaps worthy of some encouragement for proving she can compete with the boys) whereas the boy who plays with dolls is instantly suspected of being defective/damaged/gay/etc.

As such, it isn’t surprising that the experience of being socially de-gendered due to atypical interests is more common amongst males than it is amongst females (although perhaps potential on-average tempermental differences between the sexes may play some role too, but that’s another discussion). The primary narrative of nerd culture is the narrative of the “Omega Male” (the “not-real-man”) – this is a narrative of being bullied, brutalized and victimized for not being “one of the guys.”

The Case Of Video Gaming
The “fake geek girl” issue is often discussed in relation to video gaming – a pasttime which (in its super-hardcore manifestations), in the pre-PS2 era, was an extremely effective method of social suicide performed by spending exhorbitant amounts of money on 3d-capable bleeding-edge graphics hardware.

Console gaming at the time was primarily seen as a children’s toy – Sony’s Playstation platform was the first to deliver 3d gaming with mature themes alongside the low cost and relative convenience of a console. But the Playstation was relatively easy and inexpensive to develop for, meaning a wide variety of different kinds of game could be created.

The Playstation 2 was not, but it achieved phenomenal market success and essentially turned 3d gaming into a pasttime the general population (many of whom bought it for the DVD playback) could partake in.

But the generation following the Playstation 2 was even more difficult for programmers and developers; the jump to HD gaming as well as the increased difficulty to program both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 (relative to their predecessor consoles as well as the PC) further increased the costs of developing games, particularly multiplatform ones. Publishers, having to fork out larger amounts to make competitive and cutting-edge games, were becoming more cautious with their money. The used game market on consoles as well as piracy on the PC substantially cut into developer/publisher margins. At the same time, however, the market was potentially extremely lucrative and becoming even moreso due to the attraction of mainstream audiences.

This essentially led to the “blockbusterization” of video gaming as a hobby; instead of the niche markets of the past, gaming targeted the mass market. In order to attract mass market, games began to pander to this market; even games from traditionally “hardcore” genres began to emulate (to varying degrees) mass-market games in the hope of winning the money of “the CoD crowd.”

At the same time, Nintendo’s success with the Wii console as well as the success of small online games (via platforms such as Facebook) led to the proliferation of lower-cost and sometimes free-to-play casual gaming. This genre ended up migrating mostly to smartphones and other portable devices.

The ultimate result of this series of technological and economic pressures was that gaming ended up subdividing itself into three “markets” -

First, the original “hobbyist gaming” market segment, the nerdy gaming culture which we all know.

Second, the casual gaming market, which was mostly situated on Wii, Facebook and smartphones.

Third, the AAA “Blockbuster” gaming market, focused on best-selling (and sometimes annualized) sports and action titles like Madden, Call of Duty, FIFA, Halo, Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Gears of War.

The focus which once lay on Hobbyist gaming took a backseat to the newly-ascendent Blockbuster and Casual sectors of the market. Economic pressures forced a formerly niche-market hobby to conform to mass-market tastes.

The Absense Of Fake Geek Guys
In light of the above, we can address the absense of fake geek guys. For men, geekiness has always been a ticket to social emasculation, but with the arrival of Blockbuster gaming, one did not have to be even remotely geeky to game. Blockbuster games were aimed squarely at mass market gender-typical male tastes (and were rewarded with billions of dollars for doing so). A subset of games were essentially de-nerdified.

Thus, the cultural link between gaming and nerdness was cut, at least with respect to certain franchises and genres and subject-matter. The target audience – an audience which genuine nerds describe (and often still describe) disdainfully as “the dudebros” – did not claim a nerd identity. They didn’t want to do so due to gender pressure, and with the mainstreaming of certain video game franchises the identity would not be forced upon them from the outside.

This is why “fake geek guys” don’t exist; of course there are males who play games without belonging to geek culture! This has even been acknowledged by Mark Rubin – executive producer of the latest iteration of Call of Duty (see http://ign.com/articles/2013/10/21/call-of-duty-players-arent-hardcore-gamers-says-infinity-ward), as Rubin was clearly using “hardcore gamers” and “gamers” to refer to “Hobbyist gamers” (i.e. the nerdy subset). But because guys have no incentive to identify as nerds or geeks, they don’t claim to be such unless they genuinely are (and even then, sometimes they’ll dodge it because it is a persecuted subculture).

In the early days of geek culture, women faced some disincentives to identify as geeks or to at least keep their geekiness secret (and these days they still face some – certainly there are many women who probably would face some degree of ridicule or derision if they confessed to reading and/or writing slash fanfiction.. although in some cases that may be due to the quality of the writing rather than the subject matter). These days, however, the disincentive to be a female nerd is significantly lower, and indeed it is arguably the case that women face incentives to identify as nerds.

Princess Poindexter (This Phrase Is A Keeper!)
The idea that women may benefit from entering nerd culture is hardly new; Rebecca Watson, an internet atheist who has made absolutely no contribution to atheist philosophy or theory or rhetoric and has built her entire career off the relative rarity of her sex in the atheist community, said it best:

“In the land of the nerds, the double “x” chromosome is queen. The lack of women getting actively involved in skepticism has led to a peculiar deification of any female brave enough to dive into debates, engage in philosophical arguments, or just withstand the flirtatious banter that permeates online forums. The skepchick is held up as an ideal in an intellectual community – a woman who is smart, interesting, and most of all, approachable.
Despite what I saw as a distinct willingness for men to accept and embrace (sometimes literally) skeptical women, there were just not that many around. Somehow, the word was not getting out.”
(Watson, R (2005), Skepchicks International, eSkeptic, http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/05-11-03/).

Did she talk about how oppressed she was? Does she sound like she is complaining about being held up as an ideal or being deified or being embraced? Does she claim atheism was a ‘boy’s club’ aiming to keep her out? No, she shounds like a shrewd businesswoman spotting a market niche full of attention which was ripe for the harvesting!

Note that she described the atheist community as “the land of the nerds.” She clearly didn’t have a problem with their attention (assuming, presumably, it didn’t get expressed in a small confined space like an elevator).

This enjoyment of men’s attention is another facet of traditional gender roles; traditional gender norms treat men as subjects and women as objects, men as innately disposable instruments and women as innately precious and fragile. Men are thus encouraged to gain feelings of self-fulfillment through exercising agency, whereas women are encouraged to gain these feelings through enlisting male agency with innate feminine preciousness and specialness; being the center of attention, being considered extremely special and precious and worthy due to one’s innate value as a woman (and thus worthy of men doing things for you) is the essence of the female power fantasy under the traditional gender system.

Combine this with a culture which, historically, has very few women and thus very few competitors.

No matter what one may think about Ms. Watson, it is clear she acted with incredible business acumen. It should also be noted that at the time she wrote this article, the atheist community was gaining significant energy as an opposition to the Third Great Awakening and the growing influence of the Religious Right during the George W. Bush administration. She, in a sterling display of economically rational attention whoring, demonstrated that “the land of the nerds” is in fact a goldmine for women looking to benefit from traditional feminine norms.

Just as Rebecca Watson managed to be part of New Atheism during its time in the sun, the feminist engagement with geek culture seems rather conveniently timed to have occured only after Blockbuster games started making more money than Hollywood.

This mode of behavior – coming into a space and refocusing it on oneself – is extremely gender-traditional. It is also extremely unlike the actions of genuine female nerds; after all, like male nerds, female nerds are gender-atypical. Female nerds, like male nerds, typically possess what Myers-Briggs Temperments would classify as a rational temperment (xNTx) – NT’s are statistically rare in the overall population, rarer amongst women than men but still a small minority within both sexes (after all, male nerds are gender-atypical too). Thus, this mode of behavior or things resembling it come off as a “red flag” – an indication of being into the culture not due to sharing its interests but for other motivations.

In all fairness, it is quite plausible that many women who are genuinely interested in video games have been unfairly suspected of faking it – we couldn’t have all been born early enough (or had enough money) to be part of the golden age of PC gaming. But when a significant uptick in feminine interest in nerd culture (something which was significantly more atypical than male interest in nerd culture) seems to happen in ways which make sense as products of traditional feminine behavior patterns, there are grounds for skepticism… particularly in light of the extreme stigma nerdiness used to carry merely one-and-a-half console generations ago.

It certainly doesn’t help that there is footage on Youtube (courtesy of thunderf00t) of Anita Sarkeesian openly admitting she hates video games because she finds them too gory.

So, in a world where video gaming is far less stigmatized than it used to be, women can enter gaming culture and gain attention, receive adulation as an innately special creature simply for being there, and apparently get a warm welcome. They can, as Watson pointed out, be treated like princesses, and doesn’t every little girl want to be a princess? They can also receive praise for confronting “the boy’s club” and be heroines fighting against oppressive sexism – the cheers of “you go, girl!” rain down upon them.

Compare this to the treatment men have historically received for being affiliated with nerd culture. Hell, compare this to the treatment which actual female nerds receive (indeed, you could argue that the feminist influx has made it worse for them – they get accused of being gender traitors now for being ‘one of the boys’).

Subcultural Poseurs
Marginalized subcultures have always hated poseurs – those who claim the identity without knowing what it truly means. The goth subculture went through a strong period of rooting out perceived “fakes” in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings, particularly focusing on anyone who was considered too fond of Marilyn Manson (one of the artists most blamed in the aftermath of the massacre, even though the killers in fact did not like his work).

In the history of geek culture, almost every single geeky pasttime was the subject of a moral panic; The Seduction of the Innocent argued that comic books would turn your sons into juvenile delinquents who fantasized about being Robin while Batman sodomized them, Dungeons and Dragons was accused of promoting Satanism and suicide and occultism by the religious right during the Satanic Panic, and every single school massacre brings out a gaggle of “blame Grand Theft Auto” from several psychologists, religionists and political personalities.

Combine this with how nerds have been social outcasts pretty much since day one. In the light of this, resentment of poseurs is hardly surprising. Again, the goth example is illustrative, and goth is a relatively gender-balanced subculture in terms of its adherents; the resentment was against poseurs rather than any specific sex.

Another factor which has made nerd culture defensive of its distinctiveness is the prominence of Blockbuster gaming and how its success encouraged several gaming franchises to aim for more mainstream appeal (“dumbed down for the dudebros”). To someone who has literally been beaten up for playing video games, seeing a beloved hobby start to cater to people who may be perceived as the same kind of person as those who inflicted the beatings feels almost like a betrayal. Hobbyist gamers have already felt like “their” hobby was being taken away from them and formatted towards a different target audience – the fact that some women (particularly women who haven’t shown any interest in games until recently) seem to want to do something similar naturally comes off as a threat (of course there is nothing wrong with catering to all audience niches, but until relatively recently this seemed impossible due to the dominance of Blockbuster gaming – thankfully this situation seems to be getting remedied but that’s another story).

Indeed, the gender-flip of the fake geek girl, from the perspective of nerd culture, is the bro-who-plays-CoD-with-his-bros-on-saturday-but-isn’t-a-nerd. The salient difference between the fake geek girl and the CoD-bro-who-isn’t-a-nerd is not that one is a girl and one is a guy, but rather that one is claiming to be part of nerd culture and the other is not.

We are not seeing sexism here, we are seeing typical dynamics one would find in any marginalized subculture, even one with a far less skewed gender composition. Marginalized subcultures resent poseurs; the reason that the poseurs in this case are only from one sex is due to the way our society’s gender system creates different incentives for the sexes to affiliate with the subculture in question.

Conclusion
The culture of nerds has always been a culture of those who are gender-atypical due to cerebral temperments and specific hobbies. It is a culture born of the experience of those alienated from their peer group and persecuted for not fitting in. It is a culture of not-real-men and women-who-think-too-much-and-this-may-scare-boys-away-from-dating-her.

It is a culture of gender-nonconformists, built upon the experiences of these men and (admittedly much less frequently and influentially) women. It is a culture defined by its outcast status.

But, certainly these days, a female does not automatically commit social suicide by playing (or claiming to play) video games. Some men might even find her nerdiness cute. The incentives to be a nerd are like the incentives to identify as bisexual – the incentives are much more positive for women than for men, and in the case of nerd culture particularly so for women with relatively gender-traditional desires (which are typically not those of actual female nerds).

As such, suspicions of fake girl geeks, whilst obviously not always correct, are hardly indefensible bigotry. We are not seeing misogyny but rather a disdain for poseurs common to all marginalized subcultures – a disdain which would clearly be gender-neutral if the poseurs in question included members of both sexes.

There are real female geeks. There are also fake girl geeks. Fake girl geeks do not share the values or experiences of real female geeks or male geeks. Marginalized subcultures will expel those perceived as external invaders irrespective of the invaders’ sex – the problem with fake geek girls is not that they are girls but that they are fake.

Perhaps as the world becomes more accepting of genuine geekiness, geek culture as we know it (i.e. built in the context of persecution) will disappear. However, acceptance of genuine nerds grates against our society’s gender system; the system has no affection for not-real-men.

Irrespective of this, to claim that the only reason suspicions of “fake geek girl” are raised is sexism is false; if there is any gender issue that explains the lack of ‘fake geek guy,’ it is the fact that nerd culture is a culture built from the experiences of socially emasculated men (and to a lesser extent gender-atypical women); men lose their real manhood by being nerds, but women usually lose less and (these days) in some cases can make substantial gains from being geeky. In the light of this fact, it makes sense that many women want in (even if they are not nerds), but most men do not (sometimes even if they are).

Honey Badger Radio: Mary Koss and the American Rape Machine

Mary Koss is the feminist researcher behind the factoid that one in four women will be raped in her lifetime. In Mary Koss’s original survey only one in sixteen women said “yes” to “have you been raped?”

​So how did she get her one in four number?

By asking women “have you ever been physically forced to have sex or have had sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol” and disregarding if they said that they hadn’t been raped.

If you’re a woman and you don’t think you’re raped, you don’t get to decide that, Mary Koss does.And if you’re a man and you think you were raped, well… Mary Koss has news for you!

Listen Here!

Show Archive

Show Time: 9 PM EST/ 8 PM CST/ 6 PM PST

Show Date: Thursday February 13th, 2014

Mens’ Rights vs Feminist Rape Culture Explained Using Puzzle Pieces

This is Jill.

jill copy

This is Jack.

jack copy

This is rape.

rape copy

This is not rape.

madetopenetrate copy

When a man physically forces Jill to have sex we consider it rape.

But when Jill physically forces Jack to have sex, we don’t consider it rape.

We think that Jack’s sexuality negatively affects Jill in a way that Jill’s does not negatively affect’s Jack’s.

Mary Koss agrees.

Mary Koss is the feminist researcher behind the factoid that one in four women will be raped in her lifetime.

In Mary Koss’s original survey only one in sixteen women said “yes” to “have you been raped?”

So how did she get her one in four number?

By asking women “have you ever been physically forced to have sex or have had sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol”

Disregarding the women’s answers to “have you been raped” Mary Koss went on to publish her findings and 1 in 4 became an oft repeated feminist talking point.

Unfortunately Mary Koss encountered an additional problem. When women and men are asked if they were raped, the number of male victims is low. But when women and men are asked if they were “physically forced to have sex”, the number of male victims skyrockets.

On her efforts to correct to correct the problem of too many men saying “yes” to “have you been physically forced to have sex” Mary Koss says:

 We worked diligently to develop item wording that captured men’s sense of pressure to have sex and draw their responses into an appropriate category of coercion instead of rape.

Based on Mary Koss’s advice the Center of Disease control decided to separate “physically forced sex” into two categories in their nation wide US study of sexual and domestic violence:

This is rape.

rape copy

This is made to penetrate.

madetopenetrate copy

They then went on to publicize their findings on rape while excluding the majority of male victims of physically forced sex.

When we reclassify “made to penetrate” as rape we see the problem that Mary Koss and the CDC were facing.

They had found that men and women report equal levels of victimization in the past year.

Jack is equally likely to experience physically forced sex as Jill in the last twelve months.

However the CDC found that only 20% of the victims who reported being physically forced into sex in their lifetime were male.

Why is this?

When witnessing two criminals, one female and one male, who are both equally violent, witnesses “misremember” the violence of the female over time. The force she uses is remembered as being less relative to the male. The witnesses’ perception of her agency is whittled away.

The same process is happening with male rape victims. Over time they are bringing their memories in line with the dominant narrative shared by Mary Koss, the CDC, and likely you.

This is rape.

rape copy

This is not rape.

madetopenetrate copy

So when you ask  “did someone physically force you to have sex with them in the last year” equal numbers of men and women respond yes.

When you ask “did someone physically force you to have sex with them in the last five years”, the percentage of male victims drops from 50% to 30%.

And when you ask “did someone physically force you to have sex with them in your lifetime”, the percentage of male victims drops again to 20%.

Over time male victims are “misremembering” the violence used against them by female rapists.

Feminists will often assert that 90% of rape victims are female and 99% of rapists are male.

Considering that this is universally seen as rape.

rape copy

And this is not commonly seen as rape.

madetopenetrate copy

It makes sense that the majority of male victims and the majority of female sexual aggressors are excluded from statistics regarding rape… But what’s really remarkable is that as much as ten percent of male rape victims remain to be counted. And that despite being categorically excluded women count for even one percent of rapists.

Feminists are creating a false perception of female victimhood. They are creating a culture of fear targeted at women. They are maintaining the idea that men act and women are acted upon.

That this:

rape copy

is fundamentally different from this:

madetopenetrate copy

Wouldn’t it be better if we stopped playing games with people’s lives and recognized that this:

madetopenetrate copy

is not fundamentally different than this:

rape copy

And that all victims of sexual violence–including Jack–deserve equal compassion.

References

Female criminals seen as less violent:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100525090554.htm

The Centre of Disease Control’s National Partner and Intimate Violence Survey:

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf

Tables specific to sexual violence:

http://i.imgur.com/Ps9wW.jpg

My Analysis of the CDC’s NIPSVS:

http://www.genderratic.com/p/836/manufacturing-female-victimhood-and-marginalizing-vulnerable-men/

Mary Koss Promotes Rape Culture:

http://www.genderratic.com/p/836/manufacturing-female-victimhood-and-marginalizing-vulnerable-men/

http://www.genderratic.com/p/2798/male-disposability-mary-p-koss-and-influencing-a-government-entity-to-erase-male-victims-of-rape/

http://www.genderratic.com/p/2943/mary-koss-the-corruption-continues-manboobz-style/

Feminist groups block or remove men’s protections against rape by female sexual predators.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Womens-groups-Cancel-law-charging-women-with-rape

http://toysoldier.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/a-sad-day-for-male-rape-victims-in-india/

Reddit Repost: “The Subject-Object Dichotomy, Female Power, And The Loving Of Sluts”

This is a repost of an article I posted at /r/GenderEgalitarian here: http://www.reddit.com/r/GenderEgalitarian/comments/1t8frm/the_subjectobject_dichotomy_feminine_power_and/

I would like to point out that this is my last Reddit Repost! In the future all of my articles will be original content exclusively for GendErratic.

In hindsight I have one regret about this article: I over-focused on one instance of a pattern (specifically the Edmonton SlutWalk telling Men’s Rights Edmonton to go away). I was trying to propose a theory to address a pattern of pervasive “I’m a slut but NOT FOR MEN” behavior… perhaps we could call this “slut-shaming in the name of sluttiness” (any suggestions as to a nice-sounding label for this phenomenon would be awesome!). Basically, a knee-jerk hostility to the idea of men benefitting from sexually liberated women, and things like the advocacy of female sexual liberation but consistently treating male sexuality as inherently problematic.

I focused far too much on the SlutWalk (admittedly because doing so allowed me to use rather witty subtitles), however I think my theory with respect to the pattern holds up. Anyway, here’s the article!

Introduction
When Men’s Rights Edmonton showed up to support the Edmonton SlutWalk, they brought with them a banner which stated “We Love Sluts.” Several SlutWalkers told them to go away; the banner apparently made the SlutWalkers uncomfortable.

This incident raises an interesting question.

SlutWalk is a feminist event. The feminist movement claims to be against “slut-shaming” (i.e. condemning women for having lots of sex). Many feminists embrace the label “sex-positive” and encourage women to explore their sexuality. So why would a pro-slut message… a message which is literally the opposite of slut-shaming… cause discomfort in an event which is meant to be an archetypal example of sex-positive feminism? Why would sex-positive feminist women be made uncomfortable by “We Love Sluts”?

After all, would marchers in a gay pride parade be made uncomfortable if supporters held a banner reading “We Love Gays”?

Some have argued that the problem was not the message, but the messenger; the message “We Love Sluts” was being delivered by male representatives of a men’s rights organization. However, most feminists argue that “slut-shaming” is part of the Patriarchy, so wouldn’t pro-slut men be seen as a positive development?

Indeed, the pattern of allegedly pro-sexual-liberation feminists seeming to reflexively be prudish is hardly new. Why, however, does this paradoxical pattern exist?

In this article, I will propose an explanation. I will argue that traditional gender norms (which treat men as subjects and women as objects) do not completely disempower women (as most feminists typically allege); they in fact imply a specific vision of feminine power (distinct from agency, which is traditionally masculine power). This specific kind of feminine power is the ability to enlist male agency in the service of one’s own ends and thus the exertion of agency by proxy. One of the ways in which women have historically enlisted male agency in their service is through sex appeal, essentially “trading” sex in order to get agency by proxy in return. The ultimate consequence of this is that women have been culturally trained to see power in terms of their “agency profit,” i.e. getting as much agency by proxy as possible for as little sex as possible; this in turn means that women instinctively see men getting lots of sex as a loss of feminine power (which is analagous to bargaining power/market power/producer surplus in economics).

The paradoxical pattern of “proud sluts” being made uncomfortable by pro-slut males is due to the fact that traditional gender norms make being a “slut” a position devoid of traditional feminine power. Traditional feminist analysis of the gender system, which typically denies the existence of feminine power and typically casts slut-shaming as an attempt by men to control the sexuality of women, lacks the conceptual space to accomodate (and thus critically address) this feature of the traditional gender system.

Understanding, criticizing and (eventually) rejecting this feature of the gender system requires the acknowledgement of traditional feminine power, the role that sex-as-incentive plays in maintaining this feminine power, and the role that women themselves play in enforcing this element of the traditional gender system. Women who sincerely embrace sex-positivity owe it to themselves to follow this line of inquiry further.

Part 1: The Subject-Object Dichotomy
The basic gender role which has been consistent throughout all human history is the Subject-Object (or Hyperagent-Hypoagent, or Agent-Patient) Dichotomy, which can be briefly summarized as “men do, women are.” Masculinity is understood as a platonic ideal which demands men act to maintain congruence with it, whilst femininity is simply an innate trait of female-bodied persons. Men act, and women are acted upon.

The reason this gender role came about is because both masculinity and femininity were conceptualized as (essentially) ways in which men and women respectively contributed to society. The feminine contribution – the ability to bear children and thus grow the population – was innate to female biology, whilst the masculine contribution – producing food and protecting the women and children – was not biologically given and thus had to demonstrated through risky action of uncertain outcome.

The gender system ascribes value to the fulfillment of both the masculine and feminine functions. However, because a woman is assumed to be capable of fulfilling her function of incubating the future, women are ascribed an innate value by the gender system. Males are not assumed to be capable of fulfilling their function; they must prove it. Therefore, males are seen as ultimately expendable.

This gender system reserves the power of agency exclusively for men. However, agency is a requirement of human life; in a world where material needs exist and resources don’t just materialize in response to cries of “I want X!,” teleological action is unavoidable. Women have to provide for their needs too, but for a woman to directly go out and provide for them is gender-transgressive to at least some degree. As such, the system mandates that women secure their needs by trading off their innate feminine value and convincing men to do things for them.

Part 2: Feminine Power as Agency By Proxy
It is commonly said that an action video game is a “male power fantasy.” By the same token, one can argue that a romance novel is a “female power fantasy.” The typical romance novel ultimately is about having an extremely strong, powerful, competent, desirable man being so hopelessly devoted to a woman that he will do anything for her.

This pattern even holds in romances like “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades Of Grey” where the woman is often seen as being controlled. Edward’s creepy stalker behavior is intended to underscore his devotion to Bella – how he will do anything at all to be near her, how much he needs her. Christian Grey offers to sub for Anastasia just to keep her with him and he eventually gives up most of his kinks for her.

Even if one takes a look at pornography, one can find that in much femdom porn, the dominant partner (the woman) is typically being the passive partner; the submissive male is exercising agency to cater to her whims.

Let us take a look at the most groan-inducingly gender-traditional childhood fantasies; young males typically dream of being firefighters, soldiers and superheroes, i.e. agents who save and protect people. The equivalent feminine fantasy is the princess, who is an object of adoration whom occupies a place of status merely by birth and doesn’t really do much other than stand around and look pretty and get waited on by servants and protected by bodyguards. Can a princess be truly described as powerless when Prince Charmings will risk life and limb to save her?

As Anita Sarkeesian argued in her Master’s Thesis, the “Strong Woman” archetype in action films and video games practices a male form of power (i.e. agency) under the traditional gender system. Feminine power is found not in the exercise of agency but in the ability to enlist the agency of men.

Part 3: Sex As An Enlistment Perk
So, what traits enable women to enlist the agency of men? The fact that the male gender role pretty much glorifies rescuing vulnerable women and soothing hurt female feelings certainly helps, but what traits held by a woman specifically make it easier for that woman to enlist male aid?

Let’s face it: if a woman is sexually attractive, it helps.

A simple biological fact is that men, due to the average higher levels of testosterone in their systems, want more sex than the average woman (women with higher-than-average sex drives have higher-than-average amounts of testosterone (yes, testosterone is found in both sexes!)). For many men, sexual stimulation can be a need on par with the need to eat.

This difference between the sexes, combined with the fact that men are culturally trained to pursue women to validate their manhood, sets up what might be described as a marketplace for sex with women on the “supply” side and men on the “demand” side; after all, prostitution has been an historically female-supplied industry with male consumers. Ceteris Paribus, a man would rather get a blowjob on his third date than on his fourth date, and a woman would rather a man buy her four dinners than three dinners before she gives him a blowjob (assuming she herself gains less marginal utility from giving a blowjob than from the meal).

And so the basic terms of trade are simple: women exchange sex in return for male agency (or the products thereof, such as money). Of course women in fact desire some sex, but under the traditional gender system this is essentially ignored (women are the objects, not subjects, of desire). As women are in fact rational economic agents, their objective is to get the highest amount of agency for the lowest amount of sex (vice-versa for men), because this represents the most effective ability to enlist male agency (being more sexually attractive raises one’s market price and thus increases one’s effectiveness at enlisting agency).

For those skeptical of the proposition that traditional feminine power is ultimately about getting the most agency out of men for as little sexual satisfaction (for the man) as possible, I again offer the example of Femdom porn and how it often has the domme controlling and denying the man’s orgasms whilst she kicks back and he does the work.

Part 4: The Pussy Cartel, Sexual Market Dynamics, and Slut-Shaming
Traditionally, feminists have argued that slut-shaming is a product of the patriarchy. This argument has two distinct problems; first, we live in a stud-praising culture and are members of a species where men have higher sex drives, which would seem to suggest that men would want more sex from women and thus slut-shaming would be against male interests. Second, women are the primary slut-shamers; the patriarchy theory would seem to suggest that men would be the primary agents of slut-shaming.

In reality, as both economist Andrea Callisto (http://theumlaut.com/2013/07/02/the-economics-of-slut-shaming/) argued and Dr Tracy Vailliancourt’s recent study (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/19/science/a-cold-war-fought-by-women.html?_r=2&) has shown, women are the primary slut-shamers because as explained above, women want to maintain their market power with respect to sex (i.e. make the market price as high as possible). The same micro-level dynamic, where individual women exert power by trying to enlist male agency through sex as efficiently as possible (i.e. getting the most agency for the least sex, or in economic terms getting the greatest Producer Surplus), applies at the macro-level where women shame and humiliate other women who charge lower prices for sex than they do. This dynamic, which Callisto correctly describes as a cartel, is about increasing female power under traditional gender norms (by making smaller amounts of sex able to enlist larger amounts of male agency – raising the market price of sex, in other words).

The implication? Sluthood is opposed to traditional female power. Sluts increase competition and lower the market price of sex, lower the Producer Surplus which can be extracted, and weaken the female bargaining position.

Part 5: SlutWalk, Slut-Shaming and Slut-Loving
We now return to the fundamental problem this essay wishes to address: why were the (presumptively sex-positive) SlutWalkers made so uncomfortable by Men’s Rights Edmonton’s statement that they love sluts?

The answer: Cafeteria (or perhaps subconscious) Gender Traditionalism.

Typical feminist analysis essentially ignores or misses a logical consequence of the subject-object dichotomy; specifically, feminine power as Agency By Proxy. As such, said analysis doesn’t comprehend the effects that this has on the sexual marketplace. By not confronting this feature of the traditional gender system, this feature of the system has been left unchallenged (fish not being able to see the water they swim in) and as such the mentality has been internalized by many people who claim to reject traditional gender norms.

Hence, presumably sex-positive SlutWalking feminists see the “we love sluts” sign and all of that subconscious gender traditionalism is immediately thrown into overdrive.

The sign points out that men love sluts, and thus genuine sex-positivity does men a favor by increasing the supply and thus lowering the market price of sex, which works against feminine power as defined by the traditional gender system. When people are made to feel less powerful, they generally feel uncomfortable, particularly when they’re participating in an event where they claim to embrace the thing which disempowers them.

Part 6: Conclusions, Implications and Further Questions
In summary, MRE’s statement that “We Love Sluts” caused discomfort because it played into a (perhaps subconsciously held) meme complex about feminine power promoted by the traditional gender system; since female sexual power is about using sex to extract male agency in return, a “slut” is not a sexually powerful woman but rather a woman who is cheapening herself and other women by acquiescing to men’s desires without getting enough in exchange.

The reaction to MRE’s sign demonstrated, rather unfortunately, that the self-proclaimed “feminists” who participated in the Edmonton SlutWalk still accepted several components of the traditional gender system. I speculate that this indicates a significant blind-spot in feminist theory; specifically, how the gender system accomodates a specific type of “feminine power.” Gender theorists of any label who truly wish to fully analyze and oppose the traditional gender system would benefit from further studying this aspect of gender roles.

The event also shows that sex-positive thinkers (particularly sex-positive feminists) should oppose the traditional gender system, for this system encourages women to perceive sex as disempowering and something to be endured as a means to an end, rather than as a pleasurable and joyful experience.

The fact that traditional gender roles encourage women to experience power through extracting the highest possible “price” for sex may be relevant for several other gender questions. First, in the debate over sexualized female protagonists in video games, how much female resentment of these protagonists is really a reaction to a perceived threat (i.e. a woman who does not even need male agency since she possesses that herself, yet seems rather able/willing to satisfy men’s desires)? Second, can sex-negative feminism (with its attempts to control pornography and prostitution) be explained as an epiphenomenon of this aspect of traditional gender roles? Third, can the paradoxical situation of a woman dressing in revealing clothing and complaining about men sneaking a peek (“I don’t dress for men!”) be explained by this feature of the gender system?

Comments and feedback are welcome.

SLY INVERSIONS – The “man-child” trope

We’ve all heard the jibes “The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys” and seen the commercials that show husbands as bumbling idiots with their indulgent wives looking on in amusement standing by to make sure they don’t harm themselves somehow. It’s a structural feature of modern culture. It’s relatively new. It started only in the 60s and gained momentum with the accumulating success of the Women’s Movement. It is an expression of female supremacy perhaps; at best a form of women’s empowerment, at bottom just plain old rancid gender bigotry.

This is a running theme in “literature” marketed to women (“Literature” the way action movies are “film”.) One example is the Crossfire series of novels by Sylvia Day. The form this theme takes in these novels is the very familiar “broken man saved by the love of a good woman.” At root this comes from a protective and loving instinct, but the idea that you have the right or the competence to go in and fix someone else and their life because after all you’re the adult, you understand them and their life better than they do, is distorted and objectifying.

Another example of this thinking is the recurring trope that if only women ran the world!!….. life would be a paradise of peace and sweet reason. There would be no war, there would be no evil hierarchies, the Great Recession would never have happened because that was all just testoreone poinsoning. The world would just all be peace, love and understanding.

This is the man-child trope. We see it in a thousand forms – the dopey husband, the clueless father, the overgrown boy who won’t pick up his socks – a steady drumbeat of derogatory and false images of men. Surely there is some advantage to someone that is driving all this.

Where does this come from? There are probably whiffs of it in other cultures, but no one seems to take it as far as Anglophone culture does. What gives?

One explanation is that it is simply a power grab, an expression of supremacy. But there is another possible explanation. Given the much wider latitude women have in our culture for childish behavior* – not just extravagant displays of emotion but appeals to emotion as justification or to manipulate, and celebration of forms of conversation that are really just emotional group masturbation – this man-child trope looks like it serves a real purpose, especially in light of the fact that men are generally held to and generally have to meet higher standards of mature behavior. Have you ever wondered why “woman up” doesn’t carry the same admonition to suck it up and be strong and carry on, like an adult, as “man up”’ does? Because it doesn’t have to, that’s why. Real adulthood is not part of the defintion of “woman” anymore.

 And if anyone calls bullshit on this man-child trope, well, you just smile and smirk and remind him he’s really just a woman-hating little boy with “issues”, not a Real Man, and he is supposed to just tuck tail and slink away. That’s if he knows what’s good for him.

What this man-as-child trope looks like is a defensive mechanism, psychologically necessary for those women who are the real children in the relationship. That’s why you only hear this trope out of some women. It might be interesting to see how many women actually are an audience for this stuff and how many just roll their eyes at it. This way th e women who use this trope get to go on being children, with all the indulgence that entails, and call themselves the adults in the relationship, with all the rights that accrue to that.

How does this get going in actual life, how do people men fall into accepting this and how do women learn to perform this sly inversion?

Most children grow up these days with the mother in charge of the house, even if she works the same numbers of hours outsidie the home as the father. Her word is final and her defers to her. This can take forms ranging from simple mommy-blocking to unsubtle reminders about who will get the kids if she decides to take her ball and go home. Children observe this and generalize it to gender relations, as they do with every observation of their parents’ interactions.

Outside the home the pattern is repeated at school, where the overwhelming majority of authority figures are women. Thoughout childhood boys see that female approval is the foundation of everything. Men propose and women dispose.

By the time they graduate both boys and girls are fully enculturated in this pattern. It is a cultural norm. The way it is expressed is in the man-child trope.

The man-child trope exists to compensate psychologically for the contradictions that arise out of the hyperagency/hypoagency binary, and it arises out of distorted patterns of child rearing. And all three of those things must die.

 

 

* A Checklist: 10 ways your wife is just another child
1. She’ll cry when she’s sad, or scream and carry on when she’s angry, without regard for where she is.
2. She’ll cry and whine to make you do what she wants.
3. When there’s a scary noise in the night, she’ll hide under the covers and expect you to go investigate.
4. She is adamant about foods she will or will not eat, and considers the ones she doesn’t like yucky and wonder, and even ask you, how you can stand to eat them.
5. She expects you to attend every one of her family functions, or even tag along clothes shopping with her, but has no time for your family or their events, and whines if you try to attend by yourself because “How does that make me look?.”
6. She thinks your friends are “immature.”
7. She is affronted that you think her friends are boring and takes it personally and calls you selfish or “immature.”
8. She thinks she can say all kinds of derogatory things about you to her friends but is constantly on guard and accusatory of anything you say that can possibly be interpreted or even just mischaracterized as derogatory of her.
9. She calls you unappreciative when she puts on a big birthday thing for you and invites all her friends, and you really don’t appreciate it, after you told her you just wanted a family dinner with the kids.
10. She insists on leaving the toilet seat down, and she even expects you to.

Honey Badger Radio: Open Lines

Karen Straughan is in Toronto; this evening she is putting on a lecture for the Canadian Association for Equality or CAFE. The topic was “Are Men Obsolete? Feminism, Free Speech and the Censorship of Men’s Issues”.

Baring psycho feminist attack, she may be able to call in later on to give us an update on how everything went at the now infamous Ryerson U—home of fire alarm pulling, human blockading, “would you shut the fuck up” feminist rabble rousers.

Their domestic terrorist foremothers, the Suffragettes, would be so proud!

In honour of open communication we’re hosting open lines this week on honey badger radio. Open lines means you can call in and talk about any topic you so desire.

So call in and take the show where you want it to go.

We have operators standing by.

Show date: Thursday, February 17th, 2014

Show time: 9 PM EST/ 8 PM CST/ 6 PM PST

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Reddit Repost: “Objectification and the ‘Male Power Fantasy’”

This is a repost of an article originally posted on /r/Masculism, here: http://www.reddit.com/r/masculism/comments/1j9vy4/objectification_and_the_male_power_fantasy/

This is probably my most successful/popular article to date, probably due to its analysis of some pop culture artworks rather than simply sticking to theory. But theory plays a big part (of course).

Introduction
A common debate that takes place within the gendersphere is one which focuses on how (typically male-targeted) fiction portrays female characters. Many feminists allege that, speaking generally, the predominant portrayal of female characters constitutes objectification by portraying women as “sex objects.” Typically (although not universally), these feminists express concern that these kinds of fictional portrayals encourage men to see real-world women as not individual persons with the capacity to make their own decisions but rather as physical things that exist principally to serve the sexual demands of men.

In response to this, many advocates for men’s issues point out that male characters are also depicted with idealized body types that don’t represent real-world males.

The typical feminist rebuttal to this argument is that a false equivalence is being made – the physical idealization of female characters is intended to serve as erotic titillation, whilst the physical idealization of male characters is intended to be empowering; the women are sexual fantasies, the men are power fantasies, and in both cases the characters are created to cater to the fantasies of an assumed-to-be-male audience. Thus, the women are still portrayed as objects, whilst the men are portrayed as subjects (and the physical idealization serves to emphasize this).

This argument has, in my judgment, a degree of truth. The traditional norms of gender are ultimately predicated on the subject-object dichotomy, with manhood conceptualized as a precarious social status that is earned and validated and reinforced via actions producing specific outcomes, and womanhood conceptualized as an innate property of female individuals. Men do, women are, because a manhood is about doing and womanhood is about being. I agree that the traditional norms of gender are outdated and destructive towards individuality, and as such I believe that reinforcing these norms is something best avoided.

However, I disagree that the so-called “male power fantasy” is devoid of objectification. Indeed, I would not describe it as a fantasy of power or agency at all. Rather, I am going to argue that the “male power fantasy” is in fact objectifying of men, and that to call it a “power” fantasy is a substantial error. In reality, the “male power fantasy” is better understood as a gender conformity fantasy – a fantasy of being or becoming a “real man” – rather than a fantasy of power. And if one accepts the proposition that traditional gender norms reduce people’s power (defined as control over one’s own life), then the so-called “male power fantasy” is in fact a fantasy that glorifies powerlessness.

As examples of my point, I will be using two works of male-targeted fiction; the movie Thor (a superhero film based on an intellectual property owned by Marvel Comics) and the video game Gears Of War (which Cliff Bleszinski, in an interview with Kotaku, said used unrealistically muscular characters specifically to serve as a fantasy of empowerment).

Part 1: Objectification
The feature which separates Subjects from Objects is that a Subject possesses a mind/consciousness/free will – in brief, a Subject makes choices. Subjects, unlike Objects, can initiate action, and their actions are not the product of “causes” but rather proceed from reasons, goals and motivations. As such, Subjects can be held responsible for their actions whilst Objects cannot; a murderer is put on trial and imprisoned, but the murderer’s weapon is not.

Human beings are Subjects – indeed out of all entities which we know of, human beings demonstrate the most indisputable level of subjectivity. This has led to a situation where we often see “humanity” and “subjectivity” as essentially synonymous, and as such “objectification” (denial/marginalization of a subject’s subjectivity) is seen as dehumanizing. The possession of a mind/consciousness/free will, the ability to initiate teleological action, the capacity to choose, are the traits which separate us (as human beings) from all other known entities (there is some debate as to the cognitive capacities of higher animals, but that issue is beyond the scope of this essay). The denial or marginalization of these traits constitutes a denial/marginalization of our very humanity.

But in discussions of fictional portrayals, “objectification” goes beyond a mere acknowledgement of a character’s possession of free will/choice/etc. Let’s take, for example, the classic piece of BDSM erotica The Story of O. This piece of literature portrayed a fully consensual BDSM arrangement, with the consent of all parties repeatedly affirmed over the course of the story – and unsurprisingly, the anti-sex Radical Second Wave feminists Andrea Dworkin, Susan Griffin and Joan Smith attacked The Story of O as objectifying, even though all characters (particularly the submissive main character) are repeatedly acknowledged as possessing free will/choice/agency.

This leads me to make a proposition about what constitutes objectification – to use Kantian language, to portray a character (in-universe) as a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves, marginalizes their agency by reducing it down to acting as a functionary of some other will, and thus portrays them as an object (an instrumentally useful tool). In this way, being acknowledged as a subject is not protection against objectification. Sexual objectification consists of showing a character as existing principally to satisfy others’ sexual desires, however one can objectify characters across multiple dimensions depending on which ‘ends’ they exist to serve.

This is hardly a controversial proposition – the concept of objectification is Kantian in origin and radical anti-pornography feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon both appealed to the Kantian reasoning (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-objectification/). Non-radical feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum also appealed to Kantian reasoning in her famous 1995 article Objectification (published in her book Sex and Social Justice) and described treating someone as a means to another’s end as “instrumentality” – which she classed as a form of Objectification.

Part 2: Traditional Masculinity As Objectification
If to be reduced to a functionary of others – a means to others’ ends rather than an end in onself – constitutes objectification, then both traditional gender roles are objectifying. Firstly, the gender system arose primarily to incentivize reproduction and population growth in a world where most children didn’t see their tenth birthday – sexual dimorphism necessitated that women bear many children over time and men serve as protectors and providers. The resultant social norms – good woman is mother, good man is hunter-warrior – reduced women to fertility objects and men to provision-protection objects.

Females, with a few exceptions owing to natural infertility, would simply gain the biological capacity to bear children owing to their maturation process. In short, their ability to serve as a means to socially-mandated ends was assumed, and thus their womanhood was conceptualized as an inherent part of their nature.

Men lacked this particular developmental feature, since the socially-mandated end of men was to provide and protect for others across a long span of time and biological maturity was no guarantee of being either able or particularly proficient at fulfilling this end. Thus, a male’s ability to serve as a means to their socially-mandated end had to proven and demonstrated, and thus their manhood was conceptualized as an ideal to aspire towards. As is typical with Platonic idealism, the normative pressure is to aspire towards the ideal – to prove oneself a “good” man by complying with the role’s demands.

The good man was a good provider – i.e. one that provided for his tribe and family and not only for himself. The good man was a good warrior – i.e. one that defended his tribe and family from external threats and was willing to die for the ‘greater good’ of his group. The good man may have been competent and powerful, but this power was justified in terms of service to an higher will (the idea of individuals living their own lives in accordance with their own wills is historically quite recent – principally it is a product of Enlightenment Individualism, which is far newer than traditional gender roles). The good man was thus a means to an end – a disposable tool – an object (albiet objectified in a very different manner to women).

Part 3: Masculinity, Dominance, Submission and Self-Determination
This naturally clashes strongly with an understanding of masculinity as dominance. Both feminist gender theory and traditionalist gender norms often conceive of masculinity in terms of dominance and femininity in terms of submission. This contains some truth but it is an oversimplification which ignores a feature of traditional masculinity that has been long-ignored; traditional masculinity, owing to its hierarchical nature, contains a significant component of submission.

As explained in my article Separating The ‘Boys’ From The ‘Men’ (http://www.genderratic.com/p/3977/reddit-repost-separating-the-boys-from-the-men-male-hierarchy-and-the-oppression-of-men/) , the Platonic Essentialist nature of the socially-mandated male role results in a multi-tiered hierarchy of “real manhood.” Those who are not “real men” are practically treated as a third gender. Those who are “real men” compete with each other in order to attain superiority, and eventually an “Alpha” status defined by possessing the ability to revoke an inferior’s “real manhood” and socially emasculate said inferior. For the purposes of this article, let us call those “real men” who lack “Alpha” status “Betas” and let us call those males who lack “real man” status “Omegas.”

Traditional masculinity, whilst often mischaracterized as being centered on dominance, mandates that a Beta submit to his Alpha so as to avoid being rendered an Omega. Sure, the Beta isn’t as good a man as the Alpha (by social standards), but he is still a “real man.” The penalty for unsuccessful rebellion is a loss of status, which may reach the level of social emasculation.

As I have argued above, traditional concepts of gender are heavily grounded in notions of maturity – hence how “grow up” and “man up” are functionally synonymous. A Beta who unsuccessfully rebels against the Alpha is often called a “brat” or “punk” – two terms with immature connotations (bringing to mind discontented children/teenagers who dare question their allegedly-omniscient elders). To be a “real man” is to not act like a child male (a “boy” – a common emasculating slur), and to rebel is childish.

In short, real men acknowledge rank and obey their superiors. The military is an institution held as the height of masculine, and it is brutally hierarchical (and, in what would be a paradox to those that define masculinity purely in terms of dominance, it is the soldiers rather than the officers that are considered more macho even though the officers hold command).

As such, submission to authority is not inherently emasculating, but rather masculinity-mandated under certain conditions.

When asserting one’s own self-sovereignty (which is inherently rebellious since it denies the legitimacy of others’ dominion over oneself) is seen as transgressive of the gender norms, when surrendering one’s will is seen as properly masculine, when obedience is elevated to virtue, it becomes impossible to see traditional masculinity as being about dominance alone. When knowing one’s place and being a good soldier is a masculine duty, one can scarcely describe traditional masculinity as empowering men to live their own lives on their own terms.

And it is this self-sovereignty-sabotaging ideal of masculinity which is being aspired to.

Part 4: Case Studies
In light of the above, the discussion moves to two real-world works of fiction targeted primarily towards young males and aimed at providing a so-called “male power fantasy.” I shall argue that the object of these fantasies is in fact gender-compliance, of being a “real man” rather than possessing power (“power” being understood as self-determination).

Study A: “Thor”
The movie “Thor” provides an interesting case-study in the culturally-induced self-loathing of many nerdy young men; simply take Thor and his brother Loki and ask oneself “which of these characters is the audience surrogate?”

Clearly, it isn’t the six-foot-three, unshaven, heavily muscled, popular, father’s favorite Crown Prince. Thor embodies the normative ideal of Asgardian masculinity – a warrior who wins with as much force and as little tactics as possible.

The slightly shorter, slender, pale, dark-haired Prince Loki fights with deception, trickery, illusions, sorcery and throwing knives – all of which transgress Asgard’s concept of how a “real man” fights. His skills are seen as mere “tricks.” And Thor’s friends are arguably Thor’s friends who endure Loki’s presence out of respect for Thor rather than like of Loki.

To use language suited for the high-school target demographic, what we have is a simple contrast between the popular, gender-normative jock and the unpopular, gender-atypical nerd. Out of these two archetypes, who is more representative of the typical audience of comic books? And who exactly is the villainous one?

In a way, Loki’s relationship with Thor can be seen as having similarities to that of the target audience’s relationship with Thor: jealousy and resentment and wishing to be the golden, approved of, normal kid. Loki is in effect a representative of Jung’s Shadow – the parts of the self which are disowned on some level.

But the relationship between Thor and Loki cannot truly be understood without viewing it in the context of the Princes’ relationship with their father, King Odin – they both crave their father’s approval and endorsement. It is implied that Thor begins with this endorsement, and Loki does not. As I wrote in my article The Literal Patriarchy (http://www.genderratic.com/p/4021/reddit-repost-the-literal-patriarchy-men-and-masculinity/), this approval/endorsement is something which our gender system places a high value upon; the result is that culturally speaking, father figures have the ability to bestow or revoke “real man” status.

This is precisely what Odin does to Thor during an early part of the film. After Thor rashly causes an incident which nearly triggers a war (an incident caused by Thor reacting with outrage at another character verbally emasculating him), Odin makes Thor human and casts a spell on Thor’s hammer which results in Thor being unable to use the hammer until proven “worthy.” During a verbal admonishment, Odin verbally emasculates Thor further, calling him a “boy.”

The implications should be obvious – verbal and symbolic (the hammer being a pretty obvious phallic symbol) emasculation combined with depowering until Thor began to meet Odin’s standards.

Thor only reclaims the hammer by proving himself, i.e. complying with Odin’s will. He regains his symbolic masculinity by sacrificing his own life for the humans (both affirming male-sacrifice (and hence male disposability) as well as self-sacrifice (and hence Christian and Comtean ethical beliefs)), simultaneously complying with his father’s will and a deeply-rooted premise of the gender system. Thor regains his masculinity through acts of submission (as paradoxical as this may seem).

This is further validated when at the end of the film, Thor confesses to Odin that Odin is a better King than Thor would ever be and how he longs to make Odin proud. Odin then confesses pride in his son. Yet again, Thor acquiesces to Odin, and through that gains approval and is validated as a “proper” man.

Thor may be physically mighty, but he lives essentially as his father’s vassal, motivated entirely by the desire to prove himself and live up to his father’s standards. He desires to serve as a means to his father’s ends and be a good, dutiful son. How, with any depth or meaningful contemplation, can this be seen as a power fantasy?

Indeed, if Loki is the audience surrogate, then the film itself explicitly denies being a power fantasy; Loki clearly states that he never wanted the throne (i.e. wasn’t interested in power) and only ever wanted to be Thor’s equal (the “in father’s eyes” is implied).

At the climax of the film, after discovering his actual heritage as a frost giant foundling adopted by Odin, Loki uses a superweapon to attempt genocide on his race’s homeworld (after killing their King, who was Loki’s biological father). Loki’s motivation was to prove himself to Odin, to prove himself a good son, and to essentially out-Thor Thor, by demonstrating (though an extreme act) compliance with Asgardian standards (including gender standards (we could describe Asgardian gender standards of embodying certain elements of Toxic Masculinity)).

Loki’s plan failed, and when Odin looked at him with nothing but disappointment and regret, Loki committed suicide. As Warren Farrell pointed out, suicide is not a response to power, but to powerlessness.

If Loki is the target demographic’s representative and Thor is the escapist character, then the Thor film is no power fantasy. It is a fantasy of fitting in, of meeting popular standards of masculinity, of pleasing authority figures. It is a fantasy of being the good son that makes Daddy proud. It is a fantasy of proving oneself a “real man”. It is a gender conformity fantasy, and therefore it is the opposite of a power fantasy.

Study B: “Gears Of War”
Amongst gamers, “Gears Of War” as an IP is infamous for extreme levels of conventional masculinity. In an interview between Cliff Bleszinski (the game’s creator) and Kotaku, Bleszinski stated that the unrealistically muscular (i.e. hyper-masculine) bodies of the main characters were intended to give a sense of empowerment to the player. This statement is of course in line with the “power fantasy” narrative, but to paraphrase Warren Farrell, men have been taught to think of that which makes them powerless as power.

“Gears” takes place in a world run by a totalitarian-collectivist dictatorship called the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG). The symbolism of the acronym should be obvious – being a cog in a machine is clearly objectification, isn’t it? So, obviously, since this game is a power fantasy (i.e. a fantasy of having/attaining/increasing one’s control over one’s own life), the plot must be about a rebellion against the COG, right?

In reality, the plot focuses on a super-gruff, super-growly, steroidally-sized soldier named Marcus Fenix; a war hero who fought for the COG in multiple battles, but got stripped of his rank and thrown into prison for going against orders. The story begins with Fenix being reinstated, although Fenix’s CO Colonel Hoffman is not happy at all with this. Over the course of the story, Marcus Fenix aims to prove himself to Hoffman; at the climax of the game when Fenix is hanging on for dear life to the struts of a flying helicopter, Hoffman finally reaches down and helps him up. The music grows to a soaring, triumphant crescendo.

The story here is one of Marcus Fenix proving himself, through compliance to an authority figure, as a reliable and effective servant – a very good cog in the machine, as it were. Like Thor, Fenix is punished for a transgression against his overlords, and is given a chance to redeem himself through compliance to his ruler’s standards. Like Thor, Fenix is eventually redeemed for his transgression through servitude. Like Thor, Fenix has to please an elder male authority figure (Colonel Hoffman in this case), and just like in the movie Thor, the audience is expected to find fulfillment in the approval of said figure.

“Power” is not the object of this fantasy – being a good soldier boy is not a position of power. One might be shooting tons of enemies and kicking proverbial ass across a pixel-gore-coated screen, but one is doing so on orders. As E.S. Raymond points out in The Myth Of Man The Killer (http://catb.org/~esr/writings/killer-myth.html), military insociation is based upon breaking people’s individual will and reformatting them into collective-identifying agents of the wills of their superiors – in short, removing the sense of individual agency/responsibility – in short, objectification. It is a fantasy of instrumentality (in the sense Nussbaum used the term) that powers “Gears Of War” – a fantasy of being an effective attack dog who is rewarded by his master.

Marcus Fenix is the slave of a totalitarian regime and exists to serve his government. His career consists of following orders. He is merely a tool with a gun and even though he is unrealistically muscular and speaks in a guttral snarl, he has no control whatsoever over his own life. His motivations consist of pleasing the higher-ups. The sales figures of the “Gears” series make it clear that a disturbing number of young men indeed believe that Marcus Fenix is an empowered man.

But Fenix is a clear case of Nussbaum’s instrumentality – in slaughtering legions of enemies, Fenix proves his usefulness. In ordering his squad around, he fulfills the demands of his own superiors. In fulfilling aspects of the masculine gender role, he serves. He may not be sexually objectified, but he is clearly objectified.

A soldier fighting for a totalitarian state, striving to prove himself a useful instrument of his rulers, is hardly in a position of power. But what Marcus Fenix does display is a level of gender conformity which is borderline ludicrous – as explained above his instrumental efficacy is perfectly in line with the traditional expectations of manhood. His stoicism is practically a running joke. His size is extraordinarily unrealistic considering his nation is living at near-starvation. His voice and mannerisms and facial features speak for themselves. So what is the object of the fantasy?

An interesting case could be made that a fantasy of power over others is exhibited by Gears Of War. For one, as the game is a Third Person Shooter, one can argue that the nature of the gameplay involves exerting power (in this case, violence) over the opponents the player faces. For two, in the context of the game’s plotline, Marcus Fenix is the leader of his squad. However, with respect to the second point, the fantasy of power over others is marginal compared to the overwhelming lack of power that Fenix has in the storyline – he has superiors too, after all. And with respect to the first point, almost all action games fulfill this role, even those with female protagonists; is Bayonetta thus a transgendered or autogynephiliac power fantasy?

The power over others Marcus has is justified in terms of how he uses it to serve his own superiors, nation and family – he is merely a conduit for the power over others possessed by his superiors. He is a senior slave who sets out to win the approval of his rulers and prove himself a good soldier. He is not a fantasy of power, but rather a fantasy of appeasing traditional standards of masculinity. Compliance is hardly an assertion of power.

Part 5: Conclusion
The depiction of men in popular (and typically male-targeted) fiction is an important issue for anyone that wishes to criticize the traditional gender system. However, some feminists react to attempts to discuss the topic by arguing that it falsely equates female-characters-as-sex-objects with individuated, powerful and truly human idealized men.

But this argument errs because traditional masculinity has always been objectifying, albiet in a very different way to the manner in which traditional femininity objectifies women. The male gender standards demand that a man be an instrumentally useful, compliant servant; a male may possess agency but he is no “real man” unless he deploys that agency in an approved fashion.

As such, works of fiction typically seen as “male power fantasies” become more comprehensible as fantasies of compliance with gender norms. As demonstrated by the two case studies provided, neither central character could be described as possessing control over their own life; both central characters act as executors of an higher will than their own and follow narrative arcs where they are rewarded with approval for being good subordinates. If Thor Odinson and Marcus Fenix are embodiments of normative masculinity then to fantasize about being them is hardly a fantasy of power.

A different kind of objectification is not a power fantasy. A fantasy of measuring up to social norms is not a fantasy of power, nor are such fantasies a product of power; rather, they are a response to and manifestation of a profound powerlessness.

Those who wish to address how the gender system harms men should continue to analyze the depictions of men in popular culture, particularly in male-targeted fiction. Fiction crafted for a target audience will typically attempt to embody and flatter the beliefs, norms and values of this audience; thus, fiction can serve as a reflection of that audience’s greatest desires and aspirations. What does that imply about the so-called “male power fantasy”?

Feedback and discussion is appreciated.