At the recent Male Students in Peril conference at Kennesaw State University I was posed a question (and saw it asked of others as well): do we criticize feminism too much? My answer is this: occasionally yes, but generally no. And to put it in context, we are nowhere as excessive as those who not only excessively fail to criticize it at all, but who also often insist that others follow suit.
I do think that there is more – a lot more, in fact – to advocating for men and boys than criticizing feminism. I’ll give you two examples.
First one: teaching boys basic language arts in early childhood education. Boys tend to respond well to a heavy dose of phonics instruction, where you help them build words through phonemes, which are the basic sounds that are the “building blocks of language.” Think Legos, but with language, and you’ve got the right mindset. When you can make a boy think like he is building something, it tends to work well with boys’ psychology.
Instead of focusing on phonics, however, some teachers focus on what’s called “whole language instruction,” which is basically the exact opposite. It’s a method where you look at the whole word – or whole groups of words – and then try to break them down and dissect the individual sounds of the words. Which can get rather messy. Boys do not respond well to that.
In his book Boys and Girls Learn Differently (see my book review here) Dr. Michael Gurian delves into something that I’ve never seen anyone else do. As I hope you know, Dr. Gurian is a huge advocate of what is called “differentiated instruction,” which is the philosophy that boys and girls tend to respond better to different teaching methods and environments. Part of his study involves looking not only at the different structures of boys’ and girls’ brains, but also how they process behavior-influencing chemicals differently.
What he does that I haven’t seen anyone else do is look into how young boys and girls respond to sugar crashes – you know, when a kid ingests a lot of sugar, gets a sugar high, and then crashes down off that. What tends to happen is that girls tend to enter into a very mild depression during a sugar crash, whereas boys tend to have a lot of lingering jitters that gradually attenuate.
The problem, in an educational context, is that boys coming off a sugar high will be much more likely to be labeled as hyperactive and – if not punished – then at least referred by a teacher for ADHD diagnosis, and so forth, when in reality there is nothing wrong with these boys whatsoever.
What does stuff like this have to do with feminism? Very little. And if you spent all your time looking into feminism and misandry (which is a common denominator in almost all men’s issues) while neglecting what I would call the more “technical” aspects of a particular area, the probability is greater that you will appear to be a fish out of water when people ask you about the more technical aspects, or when you fail to address them.
And that brings me to another thing that affects how men’s advocates are perceived: most men’s advocates are “generalists” in that they focus on a broad range of men’s issues, not just education issues. It takes a lot of extra time to dive deep and study the technicalities of a particular field. The reality, however, is that that’s just not practical for most men’s advocates because time is a finite resource. It is reasonable to be literate in a wide range of subjects, but being an expert in all is simply unrealistic.
I’ve even gotten to the point where I make very few statements about other areas of men’s advocacy that don’t intersect with education issues. The reason is that while I am literate in those areas, I’m not an expert (I would also be taking away time that I could be dedicating to education issues). I could instruct a newcomer in the basics of things like domestic violence against men, men’s health, etc, and not feel like a fish out of water, but that’s the extent I feel comfortable with. Not because I believe my position is wrong, but because others are more suited for that speaking to that niche.
Such is not the case with education issues, where I am confident challenging the most seasoned of our opponents who have lived and worked in the educational environment most of their lives.
Feminism is a common denominator in almost all men’s issues, however. It is something that any men’s advocate worth his salt needs to be acquainted with, because the feminist narrative is one of the main (if not the main) barricades to even addressing men’s and boys’ issues in the first place.
In the feminist narrative (which is a misandric narrative) men as a group are villains, and why would you have compassion for a villain? In a world in which feminism is the default perspective, men’s issues are a nonstarter. It just doesn’t happen.That’s why, even if men’s advocates aren’t experts in a particular area, they will still address feminism and misandry.
And they would be justified in doing so.
“You paint feminism as though it is black and white” our opponents say, as though feminism as an ideology is some kind of nuanced, complex thing. But it really isn’t. Feminism is, quite simply, the politics of blaming men for all the problems in the world while demanding preferential treatment for women at every turn. The various “schools of feminism” only differ in the methods of achieving female privilege and blaming men; they do not disagree with the idea that female privilege and misandry is a good thing.
Feminism propagandizes a one-sided narrative purporting to reflect a reality that was never one-sided to begin with. Feminists pretend to care about men’s issues, but what this amounts to is basically feminists saying “we blame all of women’s problems on men, and we blame all of men’s problems on men. See, we do care about men’s issues!”
At no point do any leading feminists acknowledge the misandry of feminists as a problem that needs to be dealt with. At no point do they acknowledge that women can be sexist, just like men can be. At no point do they acknowledge that women, both individually and collectively, are responsible for their own decisions, just like men are responsible for men’s.
Of course, certain individual feminists may “not be like that,” but that doesn’t take away from the fact that feminism – in general – is very much like that.
Also, in my experience and observation, most of the people who complain about men’s advocates criticizing feminism “too much” are the people who don’t want feminism criticized in any capacity, no matter how deserving of criticism it is. And – surprise surprise – many of them are feminists themselves.
The far greater excess is not in men’s advocates criticizing feminism, but the excess of those people who not only totally fail to criticize feminism at all, but also forbid others to criticize it – again, no matter how deserving it is of criticism. There is a mentality – especially in academia – that so long as you call yourself a feminist you have permission to say and do the most bigoted and hateful things. Equality be damned. Men and boys be damned.
The precious political label of “feminism” is more important than treating men and boys like human beings.
This is not a mentality that is deserving of our respect, let alone our indulgence. So while I will continue to speak about the more technical aspects of the education environment – even when it does not relate directly or at all to feminism – I will continue to not only criticize feminism, but also support those who bring to feminism the verbal ass-kicking it has so justly earned.