Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Most Oppressed People in America: White Men!

So tells us Suzanne Venker,*  the resident misogynist at Fox News.  Her whole article is deliciously hilarious, but the best bit is this:

Yet it is males who suffer in our society. From boyhood through adulthood, the White American Male must fight his way through a litany of taunts, assumptions and grievances about his very existence. His oppression is unlike anything American women have faced. Unlike women, however, men don’t organize and form groups when they’ve been persecuted. They just bow out of the game.

I especially LOVE the idea that the oppression of white Murkan  men is unlike anything Murkan women have faced! ** Given that universities didn't even use to let women in as students, Venker's long paragraphs about boys doing worse at school are pretty interesting.  At least nobody is banning men from colleges by law.  Indeed, many colleges practice hidden affirmative action to admit more men.

Venker's article is a good example of how to write propaganda.  You ignore all evidence which does not support your argument and you replace statistical evidence with anecdotes.

As examples of the former, Venker says nothing about the fact that white men are the vast majority of all Americans with real power:  Most CEOs are white men, most stockbrokers are white men, the military is led by white men, almost all religious leaders are men and most of them are white men.  The majority of professors are white men and so is the majority of famous writers, painters and sculptors.  There are more men on television than women, and men have more speaking roles in movies.

Indeed,  it is very hard  to think of any powerful roles which are not held by that horribly oppressed group: white American men.

According to Venker,  the oppression of men begins in childhood:

The war on men actually begins in grade school, where boys are at a distinct disadvantage. Not only are curriculums centered on girls’, rather than boys,’ interests, the emphasis in these grades is on sitting still at a desk. 
Plus, many schools have eliminated recess. Such an environment is unhealthy for boys, for they are active by nature and need to run around. And when they can’t sit still teachers and administrators often wrongly attribute their restlessness to ADD or ADHD. The message is clear: boys are just unruly girls.

So girls don't need recess?  Eliminating it was done as part of the war on boys, I guess.  And the design of the curriculum and the requirement to sit still are part of the same war.  There's only one snag:  The schools were, in fact, created only for boys a long time ago, and the current system is just a continuation of that design.  Put in a different way, boys were always expected to sit still during classes, even when girls weren't allowed in at all.

I have written many times about the fact that even extremely patriarchal countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia have the same gender imbalance in colleges (until maximum quotas are put on girls/women) as the US.  It's hard to see how any of this could be caused by some war on boys in the US.  The real reasons are elsewhere.

But Venker doesn't care!  She moves on to explain why Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in college, is oppressing men.  There are two reasons.

First, demanding equal athletic resources to both sexes oppresses men because Venker believes that men are inherently more interested in sports.  She applies familiar right-wing language to all this: we want equal opportunities, not forced equal outcomes:

Things are no better in college. There, young men face the perils of Title IX, the 1972 law designed to ban sex discrimination in all educational programs. 
Under Title IX, the ratio of female athletes is supposed to match the ratio of female students. So if not enough women sign up for, say, wrestling and ice hockey, well then: no more wrestling and ice hockey. 
What was once viewed equal opportunity for women has become something else altogether: a demand for equal outcomes. Those are not the same thing at all.

I think I'm in love with this woman because she is sooo funny!

What is the role of athletics in college?  Either they are an important part of education, in which case male and female students should be required to participate in them equally, OR they are a benefit akin to swimming pools in hotels:  A convenience.  If they are the latter, and if men actually are more likely to enjoy sports for some innate reasons, why is this convenience provided without offering women something roughly equivalent?  

That's a deep point, by the way, though the actual situation in US colleges is complicated by the fact that some male sports are also money-makers for colleges.  Still, in many colleges providing athletic opportunities costs money.  One might argue that requiring female students to pay for sports of the kind Venker wishes to see (where more men participate for innate reasons) could be unfair.

The other peril of Title IX, according to Venker, is utterly frightening for every single man in America:

Title IX is also abused when it comes to sex. In 1977, a group of women at Yale used Title IX to claim sexual harassment and violence constitute discrimination against women. 
Genuine harassment and violence should be punishable offenses, obviously. But the college campus is a breeding ground for sexual activity, which makes determining wrongdoing (and using Title IX to prove it) extremely difficult. Sexual misconduct does not necessarily constitute harassment—and women have as much of a role to play as men do.
Here again men are in an impossible situation, for there’s an unspoken commandment when it comes to sex in America: thou shalt never blame the woman. If you’re a man who’s sexually involved with a woman and something goes wrong, it’s your fault. Simple as that.

Bolds are mine.   We are now wading in very  muddy waters, where crocodiles suddenly lift their heads with gaping maws full of frightening teeth.   To snap up innocent penises, probably.

The above quote and what follows it in Venker's article lacks any statistical data.  She uses the opinion piece of one woman whose son was accused of sexual misdoings in college as evidence that college sexual harassment investigations always find men guilty.

If I wasn't on vacation and away from my archives I'd link here to at least two cases where the college procedures freed the accused men and I'd also link to the case (perhaps a school case) where a cheerleader who had accused one of the players of rape was made to cheer while the alleged rapist was in the field.  And so on.

The point here is that anecdotal evidence tells us nothing.  We don't even know if the young man in that opinion piece Venker mentions is innocent or guilty.

But  according to Venker, whenever something "goes wrong" in  a sexual relationship, it's the man who goes to prison.  That is why American prisons are chock full of sentenced rapists and sexual harassers and so on and so on, and that is why women report every single rape so religiously.

Except that they do not report most rapes, and even the cases that are reported rarely lead to a conviction.  But I'd really like to know what Venker means by something "going wrong" in a sexual relationship.  Is it a euphemism for rape or for unsatisfactory sex or what?  A malfunction??  And who decides when harassment is genuine and violence real?  Suzanne Venker?

Poor, poor men.  If the lack of recess didn't stifle them they got caught in the False Rape Accusation Conspiracy in college.  And if they somehow got through all that still free and feisty, the Family Courts certainly finish them off:

When men become husbands and fathers, things get really bad. In family courts throughout America, men are routinely stripped of their rights and due process. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is easily used against them since its definition of violence is so broad that virtually any conflict between partners can be considered abuse.
“If a woman gets angry for any reason, she can simply accuse a man and men are just assumed guilty in our society,” notes Dr. Helen Smith, author of the new book, "Men on Strike." This is particularly heinous since, as Smith adds, violence in domestic relations “is almost 50% from men and 50% from women.”

Note the generalizing tone of the argument:  "when men become husbands and fathers..."  Every man appears to have his rights stripped in family courts, usually because some horrible woman accuses him of violence.  And every man loses in the family court!  

That is utter crap, of course.  In fact, when divorcing spouses disagree on child custody, fathers are awarded custody in more than half the cases (I have links to this in my home archives).
And there are violent ex-partners.   In Pennsylvania some years ago  a  mentally ill non-custodial father killed his children  during one of his weekends with them.  His ex-wife had tried to stop his visitation rights because of the danger caused by his particular state of mind but the Family Court sided with the man in that case.
The question of bias in family courts is an empirical question.  In other words, it requires research, not stupid and unsupported statements such as  “If a woman gets angry for any reason, she can simply accuse a man and men are just assumed guilty in our society,” 

Venker's stuff is really weird.  Here's another sweet thing:  She argues that the VAWA defines violence so broadly that virtually any conflict between partners can be considered abuse.  But the reference to the50/50 split in who initiates domestic violence is to a study which defines violence so broadly that almost anything qualifies as abuse. That study is also about the dating of quite young individuals, not about family violence.  Data on the murders of men and women by their intimate partners  does not show equal numbers of male and female perpetrators.

And the usual declaration:
None of what I say here is intended to mean that men are never mistreated or that there aren't serious problems that go with the traditional male gender role.


*Venker has earlier written that women should stop competing with men:
Contrary to what feminists like Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, say, the so-called rise of women has not threatened men. It has pissed them off. It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women, not compete with them. They want to provide for and protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them.


 Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.
If they do, marriageable men will come out of the woodwork.
 In another article for Fox News Venker argues that women must accept inequality to be happy.

**If we go back far enough, married women had no rights to their own property or their own earnings, women were routinely barred from several types of occupations, night-work etc., female teachers could be fired when they got married or when they got pregnant, married women couldn't open a bank account without their husband's signature or get a loan  without it, until quite recently, and so on.