politics · wellbeing

Mental Health Awareness Week and male tears.

Mental health awareness week has highlighted an interesting theme in gender politics.

I’ve long thought that talk of delicious male tears and other ‘ironic misandry’ is toxic and unhelpful. MHAW highlights where it’s most damaging.

Here’s some example posts I’ve been seeing:

There’s also Terry Crew’s vulnerable revelation about his experience as a victim of sexual assault, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein saga.

This kind of appreciation that it’s ok to be vulnerable and it’s good to talk talk about your feelings runs into an uncomfortable friction with some themes amongst internet feminism – mocking male fragility and male tears.

bahar-mustafa-white-men-diversity-ban-male-tears-killallmen-featured-image

If we google ‘male tears feminism’ we get a few good articles on the top page:

Slate.com: The Rise of the Ironic Man-Hater – Summary: Ironic misandry is ‘reductio ad absurdum’ – intentionally exaggerating the stereotype of feminists as man haters to point out how absurd it is.

Time.com: Ironic Misandry: Why Feminists Pretending to Hate Men Isn’t Funny – Summary: Even if ironic misandry is in jest – it’s bad PR for feminism to use it.

The Guardian: Feminists don’t hate men. But it wouldn’t matter if we did – Summary: Misandry is a way of blowing off steam and men complaining about it grasping at straws to find victimhood.

I’ll concede that being the victim of disrespectful jokes doesn’t entail the same amount of harm as being subject to sexual assault or being systemically paid less.

I would argue that ‘male tears’, ‘#killallmen’ jokes are more on par with ‘make me a sandwich’ and rape jokes.

A point that the slate article makes – is that genuine feminist men are ok with these jokes:

“The men who get annoyed by misandry jokes are in my experience universally brittle, insecure, humorless weenies with victim complexes,” while the “many intelligent, warm, confident feminist men in my life … mostly get the joke immediately and play along. They’re not worried I actually want to milk them for their tears.”

This is similar to saying the pledges in a hazing ritual are actually ok with the hazing. They might say that – and the harm of the hazing may be outweighed by their desire for social approval – but that doesn’t making the hazing ok.

It’s a form of gaslighting to suggest that – ‘if you’re not ok with being the subject of bullying – it’s because you’re not a good person’.

It may be that many men simply don’t care – but we should acknowledge that some men are more sensitive than others. The idea that a good man is an insensitive one – is precisely the conception of traditional norms of masculinity.

The reason that ‘male tears’ is such an effective insult, is because goes to the heart of the traditional conception of what it is to be a man. Speaking up about it – only exposes one to more ridicule – revealing oneself to be a weak man with feelings.

It’s precisely having feelings, I imagine, that causes men to kill themselfs – which they do at about three times the rate that women do – depending on what part of the world you look at.

The argument that the misandry is merely ironic identically reflects the arguments that many on the alt-right make about using racist terminology.

For example, Jeffry Lord tweeted ‘Seig heil’ and later defended it as ironic mocking of white supremacists.

If you’re interested in reading more – here’s a good article by Vox about ‘ironic racism’ and the alt-right.

There is a key difference of course – alt right ‘ironic racism’ is enforcing an existing dynamic, whereas feminist ‘ironic misandry’ seeks to flip an existing dynamic.

But in either case – they’re both toxic and bigoted. Ironic misandry is bullying, basically. I have a very hard time believing that someone who thinks it’s ok to mock male emotional vulnerability has men’s interests at heart.

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politics · social philosophy

Tinder’s #menprovement campaign is looking like some cheap misandric bullshit.

Tinder has launched a new advertising/social awareness campaign, they’re calling #menprovement.

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The premise is that there a lot of douchebags on Tinder, and so there’s a scientifically themed effort to improve the quality of men on Tinder.

It features videos of women scientists like these:

And charts like these:

Now obviously this is intended to be a fairly lighthearted kind of campaign – but humour like this doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The reason that this campaign is considered a good idea, is because there is genuine sentiment that there are too many douchey men on Tinder.

A starting point – let’s acknowledge the existence of douchey men and abuse women face on the internet.

I want to be clear. I acknowledge that women on the internet, and on dating apps like Tinder, likely face a lot of verbal/written abuse in the face of rejection, sleazy messages, unsolicited dick pics etc.

I’m generally of the opinion that men and women have opposite problems on online dating – where women suffer through unwanted attention – men suffer from a vacuum of attention, and loneliness.

If we consider the wider issue of rape culture / consent culture – it’s very reasonable to consider conducting social campaigns aimed at changing the way people behave, and in this case, the way men behave in the context of a dating app.

So getting that out of the way – I acknowledge that there’s a problem of douchey behaviour from men on dating apps like Tinder, and it would be a good thing to improve on that.

Tinder’s campaign does not address actual douchey behaviour

This image is probably the egregious example:

Wanting a partner who has a job and is nice to your mother? Great – that’s just the kind of thing we want to encourage.

Being six feet tall? – Is that really the problem with Tinder? That there’s not enough tall men? Are short men guilty of being douchebags?

I’m not going to pretend that we shouldn’t have physical qualities that we find attractive, and I’m not offended by the proposition that many women prefer a man taller than them.

The issue I have with this image is the gross insensitivity it demonstrates.

For example, where I think the fat acceptance movement is dangerous; I think obesity should be treated as a health condition, not an acceptable lifestyle, I think all people should be treated with respect – and not be the subject of cruel jokes.

So while I think it’s ok for someone to have a preference for slim women for example – I don’t think it’s ok to make fat jokes. The same goes for short men – show some sensitivity.

Let’s examine some qualities of what Tinder considers douches

 

  • A self employed CEO
  • Has a bluetooth
  • Tips minimum
  • Late because charging vape
  • Is into fitness, and you should be too
  • Posts gym sessions on instagram
  • ‘This body wasn’t built for monogamy’
  • Eggplant emojis as opener
  • Come hungry as closer

Of this list, I’d say tipping minimum is perhaps the only actual douche behavior, and eggplant emoji, depending on whether you’re into that kind of thing.

Here’s where Tinder needs to get it straight:

There’s nothing wrong with being into the gym, being non-monogamous, or owning your own business. 

It’s straight up misandric bullshit to try shame men for possessing these qualities – things that they’re probably quite proud of.

If I’m to hazard a guess here – that these stereotypes are seen as acceptable targets – because they’re ‘successful men’ – and can therefore take take being taken down a notch.

However – what Tinder needs to realise – is that it’s not just men fitting the stereotype, or men who water rolls of the duck’s back of,  that sees these videos.

I think we need to consider men in the context of having higher rates of suicide, and higher rates of computer and video game addiction. Within that context – we shouldn’t be trying to tear men’s sense of self esteem and value away from them. If men get that from owning their own business, or working out – that that should be encouraged, not criticised for being douchey.

What it suggests to me – is that Tinder’s willingness to go along with this campaign – means that they don’t value men’s feelings nearly as highly as women’s. That again reinforces the social norm of male disposability.

Douchey behaviour that Tinder could have used.

The thing is – this could have been quite an interesting and positive campaign – if Tinder had seeked to address actual toxic or unappealing behaviour.

Here’s a quick list, if they need inspiration:

  • Boring first messages, ‘Sup’, ‘How are you’ guy.
  • Main hobbies are playing video games and trolling on the internet, and nothing outside of that guy.
  • Ten days unwashed dishes guy.
  • Responds with abuse at rejection guy.
  • Only wants to talk about you guy.
  • Only wants to talk about him guy.
  • Never suggests going on a date guy.
  • Insists on a first date at your place guy.
  • Is cheating on his girlfriend guy.
  • Selfish lover guy.

How women can foster non-douchey behaviour Tinder

Let’s get this ball rolling.

  • Send the first message. Set the frame for the conversation. Want flirty banter? Want a challenging argument? Want a standard get to know each other conversation? Your message determines that.
  • Unmatch severe douches. Train men with negative reinforcement.
  • Call out mild douchey behaviour. See if there’s a correction of behaviour.
  • Respond to desired behaviour with positive reinforcement. Personally, I like the 😍 emoji

God. This must be what being a Cosmopoliton writer must feel like.

‘But it’s just a joke David, stop taking it so seriously’.

Jokes are never just jokes. Jokes are generally funny because they have a kernel of truth (or what the joke teller purports to be the truth).

Just like how telling racist jokes creates a hostile environment for black people, or telling sexist jokes creates a hostile environment for women  – these guys of jokes create an hostile environment for men.

Now – I would suggest that there’s a brand of feminism that is ok with this – men need to be taken down a notch because either that’s justice, or because that makes it easier for women to achieve equality. I don’t want to get get into this line of argument here – but I would make two points – that this is likely to be not effective, it’s just likely to cause division between men and women, and that this philosophy directly contradicts the argument that ‘feminism is for the interests of both men and women’.

Reactions from the internet

The reactions on their Twitter and Facebook threads has been almost entirely negative – mostly pointing out that it’s sexist and douchey in itself. There’s also a lot of comments from men saying how they don’t get matches – would would seem to confirm comment I made in the first section.

This does take us to a point of personal conflict for me. While I clearly agree with the commenters in this instance – in other gendered hot topics on the internet – there is often a reaction of faux victimisation from what can be fairly considered alt-right types. (I’m struggling to think of examples here right now though – maybe revisit this later).

Bottom Line

A pretty gross campaign.

Not the right way to go about creating a society of confident, respectful men, at all.

I’m curious to hear from my feminist friends about this. While Tinder has faced a bit of criticism on social media about this – the feminist community as a whole are quite quiet about it. There’s definitely no social media storm about it – which does suggest that people simply don’t care about this kind of toxic gender dynamic.

There is though – the chance that this is a long running deeper social critique – that explores things like gender norms around height attraction, and all will be revealed in time. If I was taking a bet, I’d bet against that happening though.

movie reviews · politics

The Red Pill documentary – Not the cesspool of misogyny you might think it is.

Image result for the red pill documentary

The Red Pill is a documentary film about a self identified feminist Cassie Hayes and her investigating the Men’s Right’s Activism movement. The film features interviews with prominent MRAs like Paul Elam, counterpoint interviews with feminists, and footage of confrontations between feminists and MRAs.

The film starts with Cassie explaining that she’d heard of deeply misogynistic MRAs and so looks in to investigate. The film ends with her saying ‘I don’t know where I’m headed, but I know what I’ve left behind – I no longer call myself a feminist’.

My overall impressions on this film as a film is positive. The production quality is good, and I was engaged throughout. This film is easy to watch.

I think it’s fair to say that the film is a pro-MRA film, despite its claim that it started out as critical investigation of MRAs.

I found the film very convincing, it that it made persuasive arguments that MRAs can be reasonable people with legitimate grievances.

The film covers a few specific MRA issues, which I’ll cover – but I think the main point of the film is not intended as a comprehensive run down of men’s rights issues, but to portray MRAs as reasonable people, and also to highlight the conflict between MRAs and feminists, or to suggest that the portrayal of MRAs as misogynists is unfounded.

Some of the issues covered were:

  • Men are subject to wrongful paternity or paternity fraud, and in some cases legislation prevents men from having recourse. (For example, the film mentions how in France paternity testing is illegal without the mother’s consent).
  • It presents the example of Carnell Alexander, where the law in some places is such that in order for a woman to qualify for welfare they need to put a name on a birth certificate, which has some men being put on birth certificates when they’re not the father.
  • One MRA tells a heartbreaking story about the parenting dispute with his ex over their son. He alleges that she was intentionally overfeeding him, and whereby he eventually gives up custody. In this story – I wish I could have heard the other side of the story, not that interviewing the mother was necessarily possible.

One bit that did give me pause was when an MRA was giving an example of wrong paternity, the example he gives is ‘Ok, we went to a party, I had sex with six guys, I think it was when I was hanging out the window I got pregnant I’m not sure.. and then she names one of the other guys who didn’t have sex with her’.
I thought this hypothetical situation was gratuitous and fell on the slutshaming siding of things. A more neutral example of wrongful paternity could have been given.

There are several moments that to me do strike me as legitimate grievances of men’s rights activists or criticisms of feminism.

For example, there’s footage of feminists confronting men’s rights activists that looks pretty awful.

Or this scene from a talk show where women cheer tricking a man into concieving a child:

 

There were a couple of points that I found poignant, and that I hadn’t considered:

  • The concept of men being objectified as a ‘success object’ in the same way that women have been objectified as sex objects.
  • Cassie mentions that whenever MRAs bring up men’s issues, she feels the need to respond with women’s issues. She then considers that perhaps when MRAs have been doing this in response to feminist talking points, it’s same thing, suggesting that the conflict between MRAs and feminists maybe due to each failing to empathise with each other.

 

Criticisms and thoughts about the men’s rights movement in general

The title of the film is unnecessarily inflamatory.

The term ‘The Red Pill’ initially comes from the move The Matrix, describing the choice to to see the real world.

The term has since been adopted by a reddit community /r/theredpill which subscribes to a toxic gender essentialism which suggest that women like being dominated, and also by alt right / 4chan types as verb to mean ‘what’s the hidden truth about’.

Image result for red pill me on

I think the term does a disservice to the film, by associating with these toxic men’s movements. I suspect the term was intentionally used, to court controversy and get exposure.

An alternative view would be that if Cassie genuinely did set out with the view that she was investigating a misogynistic movement, then she couldn’t change the name once she realised that there was a distinction between MRAs and redpillers. (This does appear to be the case – as is evidenced in this reddit AMA).

Cassie briefly that there’s a distinction between men’s rights activists, red pillers and men going their own way (MGTOW), right at the end of the film.

I think this is where male gender politics deserves a good look it.

I’m of the opinion that there are genuine issues that men uniquely or disproportionally face, and also that there is a toxic form of misandric feminism that is being left unchecked. I think the instant dismissal of men’s rights activists is unwarranted and unconstructive.

However, I acknowledge that there is a huge amount of crossover between men’s rights activism, and what I consider genuinely toxic male subcultures such as red pillers, the alt right and gamer gate.

Giving feminists the benefit of the doubt, I would suggest many feminists see toxic cultures like gamer gate or /r/theredpill and erroneously conflate that with what I’d consider genuine men’s rights activism.

I think the term ‘men’s rights activism’ has its own problems too. It’s been effectively stigmatised as anti-feminist or misogynistic – and as a result I think many liberal minded level headed men, although sympathetic to men’s rights issues, are unwilling to adopt the label themselves. The remaining men are then more likely to be of a more bitter or dug in persuasion.

For example, I don’t agree with Paul Elam’s strategy in writing  ‘Bash a violent bitch month‘, where he’s satirizing using a deliberately inflammatory tone in response to this Jezebel article. I think Elam’s technique is misguided, if not outright misogynistic and it’s not constructive. The Jezebel article I think is callous in its tone, I suspect it’s meant to received with a tone on apology, but they don’t make that explicit. Elam’s response on the other hand, is pretty disturbing.

That brings me to where I’m at: stuck between not really wanting to associate with the bitterness or misogyny that I see as common in the men’s rights movement, and also not wanting to be stigmatised as a misogynist myself; but also wanting to talk about men’s issues and be critical of what I think is some pretty toxic elements of feminism – such as wanting to suppress the discussion of men’s issues or dismissed it as either deserved or misogynistic.

This is where I would like Cassie Jaye to go next. She’s created one documentary that starts out investigating an apparently misogynistic subculture and then presented as reasonable and with legitimate grievances. What I’d like to see a documentary that investigates the genuinely misogynistic subcultures, and draws a distinction between their various political ideologies, as well as presenting where men’s rights activists and feminist identifying men are positioned in relation.

 

Conclusion

Well produced film. Cassie Jaye definitely has talent as a film producer. Having watched the film, it’s hard to see how it warrants people wanting to shut the film down for being misogynistic. At most, any criticism of the film should be on its academic merits, and for me it’s more concerning that there’s a culture of actively trying to censor this kind of film.

I recommend this movie to anyone with an interest in gender politics. Regardless of what you think about men’s rights activism, I think this movie is a good start for men and women to start talking about the issues men face.

As final insight of how this film has been received – here’s a video showing the creator on morning news show – where it’s apparent they’ve made their mind up about the film without watching it. I suspect that for many feminists who haven’t seen the film, they too may hold the same preconception. If you need something to convince you to watch the film, then watch this clip – she’s a very persuasive speaker and holds herself well.