Sunday, September 19, 2010

Misandry, Misogyny, Misanthropy, and Me

People defend primarily their own genders.

And I kind of understand this.  Growing up, I felt that my gender was under assault - as indeed, really, it was.  Guys were persecuted in culture in the 90's - I had no historical perspective, I was just a kid living in a society where, whenever a man and a woman got in an argument on television, the woman was always right.  If somebody was racist, it was a man.  If somebody was obnoxious, it was a man.  Men were always fat ignorant slobs, women were beautiful intelligent goddesses who for some reason put up with these primitive men, patiently explaining to their idiot husbands why he should use this laundry detergent in a tone of voice normally reserved for particularly slow children.  The few exceptions didn't invert this, they merely ignored it - women were frequently better than men, men were at best equal to women.  This all made me feel like my gender -needed- to be defended - and at that age, I didn't have the tools to do it.

Things have balanced out since then somewhat.  Commercials and sitcoms no longer seem to have it in for men.  (The genders are more balanced in their portrayal as human beings - they're still ridiculously stereotyped.)  When I did argue, most males I asked about it knew what I was talking about; females frequently did not, or outright denied it, or attempted to justify it.

Now here's the thing: From my perspective today, I don't think I would defend my gender, in the same sense, because it's not my gender under assault.  It's not women's gender under assault, either; the implications inherent in that approach were mutually destructive.  It wasn't misandry, nor were its unrealistic portrayals of women misogyny - it was misanthropy; men are fat ignorant slobs, and you, young lady, are a disgrace for not being thin, beautiful, and capable of doing multivariate calculus better than all the guys out there.  No, that's not even it - men aren't merely fat ignorant slobs, that's what men are SUPPOSED to be; women are inexplicable, they love this in men, so if you want to be loved, that's what you have to be.  And vice versa.

Similarly, "The Patriarchy" is badly named, as is the feminist movement; "The Patriarchy" is nothing but rigidly defined gender rules.  Men are in charge?  No, not really.  Being in charge would suggest you could actually make decisions; "The Patriarchy" already made those decisions for you, and divergence was acceptable in neither gender.

What is the difference between a patriarchy and what we mistakenly call a patriarchy.  We need to look to ancient Greece.  Greece was, in a very real sense, a patriarchy - it was a society ruled by men, regardless of anatomy, with respect to the choices made by those within the system - men could choose to be women, transexuality was accepted, as was (to a lesser extent) choosing a more feminine role.  Men were, in a very real sense, in control of society.  Modern "patriarchy" is no such thing - if I can't choose to stay home with my kids and make my wife go off to work instead, I'm not in charge; I have no actual authority over my family unit, that authority is held by culture as an institution.  I'm in a "socially superior" position?  By whose standards?  Who decided we lived in a patriarchy?  Those who live in it and accept its standards?

What makes this powerless "head of the household" position, which has historically required backbreaking labour, socially superior to the equally powerless position of the wife, who is given the opportunity to spend her days with her loved ones instead of in a coal mine?  Well, apparently, when the woman and man are together, the man is in charge.  But for the common population, the man spent more of his time being not-in-charge than did the woman, taking orders at work; in the absolute worst case, in which love didn't enter into it at all, both spent half their waking hours in charge, and half their working hours being bossed around.  And neither had any choice in the matter at all.  Some patriarchy.

We don't live in a patriarchy, we haven't since the fifteen century, when gender roles began to change, and sex, sexuality, and gender began to unite firmly and irrevocably into a single thing, when choice was pulled out of the equation.  We live in a misanthropic society.

And I am misanthropic - but only within the context of that society.  And fortunately society is getting better.  Mostly.

But who is getting freedom?  Women are now (mostly) free, socially, to pick whatever gender role they choose - men, less so.  There is societal acceptance for a woman who chooses to support her household; there is little for men who choose to stay at home with their children.

In a society in which freedom is the primary value, how can a society in which men have less freedom to choose who they want to be, be described as a patriarchy?

We don't live in a matriarchy, either, contrary to the claims of some particularly shrill men; women, while they have more freedom to choose their role in society, certainly aren't in charge.  They're just less not-in-charge than men.

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