Although there are some men that break the mold, the majority of men will never fully endorse women’s equality. This is not because most men are pigs looking to degrade women, it is because of the concept of the paradox of men’s power. Men as a social group are powerful and yet so many men feel weak, especially in relationships with women. Women seem to have the power to put a leash on men. Many men feel in control when they have the support of their fraternity of brothers.
Most men are not willing to let their brothers down by siding with pro-feminists. Siding with pro-feminists, as a male, could be seen as trying to escape from the box that is hegemonic masculinity. There has been a destabilization of hegemonic masculinity with the movement of civil rights groups, namely the women’s rights movement. There are many arguments in favor of equality amongst men and women. In the past women were seen as the homemakers, that there was no need to educate them and there was clearly no place in the workforce for their sex.
“The time when girls needed no education, because all they had to do was to pick one of a troop of suitors, marry him, keep house for him, and live on his wages, is gone forever, for the very simple reason that no woman can consistently live on a man’s wages any more (Kimmel and Mosmiller, 1992: 178-179).” Early in this nations history, men were viewed as the breadwinners; it was very seldom that one would see a woman in the workplace.
As the years have progressed however, there has been a steady shift towards a society where just as many women are working as men. It has also become more common to see stay at home dads. By 1999, the percentage of women in the workforce was nearly sixty percent and men had fallen to about seventy-five percent according to the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America’s (UAW) website. R.W. Connell states that there are many reasons why equality in the workplace would benefit men in his article “Change among the Gatekeepers.”
“For instance, very large numbers of men are fathers, and about half of their children are girls (Connell, 2005: 617).” Men with daughters will clearly want their children to succeed and have the same opportunities as other children, regardless of gender. Connell also states that the role of breadwinner is a burden that many men feel compelled to fill. Over the years this has led to health concerns as a result of stress and work related illness and injury.
With more women in the workplace the number of men with these problems should significantly decrease. Recently there has been a surge of women in the political realm. Hillary Clinton running for president and Sarah Palin being picked, by a man, to be his vice presidential running mate shows that times have changed immensely. If a woman were to run for a position such as this early in America’s history, she would have been laughed at. The idea of a female president still is not completely accepted by everyone, but Clinton did have her share of male supporters.
Connell states that men would be subject to less violence if more women were in the workplace and if they held high power positions such as governor and president (Connell, 2005: 615). People in high power positions are often targeted for acts of violence, for instance John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Robert Kennedy, just to name a few. It is not often that one turns on the news to hear of a female being assassinated. Men’s violence towards women will also be decreased(Kimmel and Mosmiller, 1992). “Many pro-feminist men have embraced a feminist analysis male violence against women, particularly battery and rape (Kimmel and Mosmiller, 1992: 371).”
The idea is that if equality is reached in society, men and women will have more meaningful relationships thus increasing understanding of one another and decreasing hostility and aggression.
“In our society, caring (for children, sick people, the elderly etc.) is viewed as a ‘woman’s business’. The ‘art of caring’ appears almost as a natural condition of being a woman: ‘Being a woman means being good at caring for people.’ However, in many parts of the world, we are seeing more men carrying out tasks associated with child care, either inside the home or in institutions (Lyra, 2004: 3).” Although many believe that women should have equal rights, there is still a sense that a woman’s place is in the household.
These beliefs have been proliferated for centuries from the establishment of the United States. In the beginning this was how society was organized, a somewhat caste-like system. Now there has been a shift, but the ideas still remain. For example when Hillary Clinton ran for president if these issues did not still exist then the fact that she is a woman would never have been as big a talking point as it proved to be. Many men and women for that matter refused to support her simply because she was in fact a female running for president.
The problem with universal equality is that one group will always be looking for an advantage over another group. “An essential question for any pro-feminist man must be whether or not it is possible for men to act against their own collective material interests
(Douglas, 1994: 33).” As Michael Kaufman states in his idea of the paradox of men’s power, men as a group are powerful. For as long as this country has been in existence, men have had the certain privileges over women. This may not seem fair and to be honest it isn’t, but it would be interesting to turn the tables and see how women would act then.
Would they be as fiercely in favor of equal rights, or would they do as many men do and just leave the system alone? This is a clear question that could easily cross the mind of any male pondering gender equality. The answer is not so cut and dry, this is why it will be difficult, even after many years, to get all men on board with the women’s rights movement.
“The pro-feminist men’s movement starts from the acknowledgement that men have power and privilege in a male-dominated society (Kaufman, 1994: 156).” This idea is a problem for many men, so much so that there are even Men’s rights activists. Not all men are willing to admit that males have an advantage over women in society. “Men’s rights activists fight perceived men’s oppression, including selective service registration, unfair legal decrees of alimony and child support, and domestic violence against men (Fox, 2004: 104).”
A common argument that I’ve heard is that women are looking for equal rights, but everyone on that side of the fence seems to be perfectly content with only allowing men to be drafted for wars. I don’t wish to sound like a hostile sexist because I am most definitely in favor of women’s rights, I just don’t see it as a reality for any time in the near future.
The fact of the matter is that you cant have it both ways. In order for full equality, the feminists need to take the good with the bad, otherwise it is not equality that feminists are looking for, but instead to gain the upper hand on men. I feel that many men recognize this fact and it is for this reason they shy away from supporting the feminist movement.
Most of this issue lies on the idea of equality in the workplace. “Let the ablest of the sex be called to the lecture room, to the temperance rostrum, and whenever a post office falls vacant and a deserving woman is competent to fill and willingly take it, let her be appointed (Greely, 1852: 167).” If I am the candidate for a job and I am up against a woman, I am not going to step aside and say ‘you take this position because women have been oppressed for quite some time.’ I, like Horace Greely, believe that the most qualified person should get the job.
I know that I’ve seen many women, who are clearly in favor of equal treatment, bat their eyelashes, show some cleavage, and flirt with police officers to get out of a ticket. The same thing occurs in the workplace with interviews, some women will cast aside their beliefs in order to flirt their way into a job. As an on-looking male, I must make note that these women are playing on the very stereotypes that they seek to eliminate. This makes it even more difficult for men to take up the fight for pro-feminism; if women cannot take their fight seriously, how can men be expected to join?
Most men are all for women fighting for equality and many will not be completely opposed to those men who do choose to fight on the pro-feminist side. There is a sense that these men are leaving the brotherhood. Some might say that it is almost an oxymoron to be a pro-feminist man. If a complete level of equality among genders were to be reached, which I don’t see anytime in the near future, it would be as a result of the lowering of men’s rights in order to level the playing field. Many men hold this view and this is why men who choose to fight for women can be viewed as traitors in a sense. A lot of men can feel constricted by women who often use tools like sex to get what they want.
It is in these times that men usually turn to their ‘brothers in arms’ to loosen the collar that women impose as a means of control. As bad as it may sound, a lot of men will be in favor of women’s rights, but do nothing about it. Honestly what group with power is looking to relinquish their supremacy? The way society progresses is through competition. Most people, men and women alike, will always be looking for the upper hand. It is for this reason that full equality among genders is not a realistic goal.
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