“A&E” refers to Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, authors of So Much More. I chose the abbreviation to save space and time.
[Content warning for sexual abuse and racial slurs.]
rant post has been stewing, brewing and in general rattling around in my brain for a long time now – in fact, long before I started reviewing So Much More. At first I was going to write it separately, and started a few times, but all those attempts failed miserably. (I also discovered that I suck at what I call “rageblogging,” which I guess is actually a good thing for me – and Scarlet Letters – in the long run.) But now, finally, in chapter 6, A&E have given me an excuse to just make this post part of a series like I normally do:
Every culture which shuns God’s design for woman ends up degrading her, including the feminist invention which degrades man and makes him again a primitive exploiter of women.
This, like the previous post’s (apparent) whopper about female slavery, is contained in what I’ve decided to call the “Christian-civilization-as-Mary-Poppins” section of the chapter. As hinted at in the last post, this section has a severe case of the problem explored here by the Autodidact, in his post about the Holocaust and the history of anti-Semitism. A&E have a narrative they wish to impose on history, and so they construct a version of events that makes their “team” (Christian society) look good and the other “team” (pagan society) look bad. In doing so, they fail to deal with, or in fact even acknowledge, some big, important, obvious mistakes – like slavery, coverture, legalized wifebeating, etc. – their “team” has made in the past two millennia. But this doesn’t matter to them, because, in the words of the Autodidact,
We are unable to admit that we have been wrong in the past (or may be wrong now) because that would cast into doubt the narrative. … We really don’t believe that we are as as capable of saying and believing wrong, evil stuff. We are immune because of our theological beliefs. When highly inconvenient facts like these pop up, we have to ignore them, because to acknowledge them would in fact threaten the narrative of Christians as the good people versus everyone else as the bad people.
So in the spirit of challenging narratives, I’d like to challenge the one contained in the sentence I quoted at the beginning of this post: that A&E’s beliefs about gender and gender roles honor and uplift men, while views to the left of them – which I suspect they would label “feminist” carte blanche, whether or not the speaker in fact identifies as feminist – “degrade” and tear down men.
I hinted at this in my last post as well, when I asked why patriocentrists who admire the antebellum South seem completely unconcerned with the lot of male slaves. How can self-proclaimed defenders of men and masculinity let things like the following go completely unmentioned?
Dey uster [used to] take women away fum dere husbands an’ put wid some other man to breed jes’ like dey would do cattle. Dey always kept a man penned up an’ dey used ‘im like a stud hoss. –William Ward, enslaved in Georgia, interviewed 1937 [WPA Slave Narrative project]
Durin’ slavery if one marster had a big boy en ‘nuther had a big gal de masters made dem libe tergedder. Ef’n de ‘oman didn’t hab any chilluns, she wuz put on de block en sold en ‘nuther ‘oman bought. You see dey raised de chilluns ter mek money on jes lak we raise pigs ter sell. –Sylvia Watkins, enslaved in Tennessee, interviewed ca. 1937 [WPA Slave Narrative Project]
If a hand were noted for raising up strong black bucks, bucks that would never “let the monkey get them” while in the high-noon hoeing, he would be sent out as a species of circuit-rider to the other plantations – to plantations where there was over-plus of “worthless young nigger gals.” There he would be “married off” again – time and again. This was thrifty and saved any actual purchase of new stock. –John Cole, enslaved in Georgia, interviewed 1937, as paraphrased by the interviewer [WPA Slave Narrative Project]
As I pointed out in my last post, this is nothing less than the institutionalized sexual abuse and coercion of black men. If A&E are looking for something that “degrades man,” I think this fits the bill perfectly. Now would also be a good time to remember that many Christians at the time defended the institution of slavery as Biblical.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up to the title of this post.
“Misandry” is a term you may have heard before. In a context-free universe, it’s supposed to be a parallel term to “misogyny” (hatred of or, more broadly, prejudice against women) and means “hatred of or prejudice against men.” In practice, however, it often carries connotations other than its simple meaning and is mostly used by a particular species of (usually) unsavory internet folks. In some ways, that’s a shame. Clearly, if we have a term for prejudice against women, we should have one for prejudice against men. So I don’t think “misandry” as a term is inherently bad or unsalvageable. Except I part ways – widely – with most of the people who currently use it. Because you know what I think is the most obviously misandric stuff around?
The things A&E, patriocentrists, and their more “liberal” cousins, complementarians, teach their followers about men. Oh sure, they don’t sound misandric, not on the surface. But scratch that surface even a little, and the true colors show through immediately. Take this one, for example, which Micah Murray lifted from another article in his awesome piece “I Am Not a Sex-Fueled Robot”:
Your husband will never be the man God created him to be if you don’t validate his maleness and understand and satisfy his need for sexual intimacy. You are God’s primary instrument of love and affirmation if he is to become God’s man. You have the power to make him or break him.
And earlier on in the same piece:
A wife must understand that temptation can get a foothold when her husband’s sexual needs (including the need to feel desired by his wife) remain unmet. There are many voices in a man’s world tempting him to fulfill his needs through illicit and perverted recreational outlets.
If you’ve spent any time at all around conservative gender commentators, the above quotes will sound all too familiar to you. It’s the standard idea that men are more sexual than women – in fact, that basically their entire existence revolves around having and wanting sex, all the time, no matter what. You’ll probably also recognize it from phrases like “boys are only after one thing,” “women give sex to get love, men give love to get sex,” and “he’s using his little brain instead of his big brain”; as well as the eternally popular “men think about sex every six seconds” and “men are visual creatures.” Many Christians even take to this the extreme seen in the quote above, where men apparently cannot even be “validated” in their “maleness” (i.e., essential personhood to these folks) if they are not having enough sex. In fact I once saw popular Christian author Tim LaHaye claim (paraphrasing – source book resides at someone else’s house) that this is why eunuchs never excel in their fields of study.
So what is the dark side to these ideas? Well, first and most importantly, as Murray eloquently points out:
They say that men give love to get sex, and women give sex to get love.
If this is true, then marriage is nothing but a market exchange where we trade emotion for flesh in a desperate attempt to satisfy our own cravings. If this is true, I am simply a customer settling an invoice with flowers and kisses, my wife is a deluxe call girl with a long-term contract, and love is a filthy currency.
Or, in simpler terms: men are emotionless beings, who don’t give a fig about love, intimacy, or the feelings of others – and will, in fact, crassly manipulate the feelings of others – because all they care about is getting off.
As for “men are visual creatures,” we can see the nasty result of that in what is termed “modesty culture.” The Autodidact devoted an entire 12-part series to this idea, which basically boils down to the following:
The standard for what is “modest” is determined by what a man feels when he looks at a woman.
I have also, in older (as in, centuries older) renditions of “modesty culture,” heard Christian preachers compare a provocatively-dressed woman to a person walking through a room full of gunpowder holding a candle. And this is where the toxicity of this idea is finally revealed for what it is, as I pointed out when I covered this topic in my Big Box series:
Gunpowder has no brain, no will and no conscience. It doesn’t choose to explode when touched by a flame, it just does due to the laws of chemistry and physics. And surely Baxter did not intend to claim that men cannot help but lust when confronted with women!
In other words, when Christians say that “men are visual creatures” and talk extensively about how women should dress in light of this reality, what they are really saying (whether they realize it or not) is that men’s sex drives are so strong that they cannot help themselves in the presence of even halfway good-looking women, and will basically lose it with lust, the poor things. That’s why they need women to coddle them and create a perfectly safe, pristine and lust-free environment 24/7. And women who do not create said perfectly safe, pristine and lust-free environment, were just “asking for” what they got.
So not only are men so juvenile and out of control that they cannot help but lust when women are around, their sexual arousal is quite literally dangerous because it could result in rape. Because you just never know, ladies, when you’re going to end up with one of the bad ones whose urges are so irresistibly powerful that they might make him do something unspeakable. Because once their sex switch gets put in the “on” position, men lose all conscious will, become mindless sex beasts who might rape the first pretty thing they happen to see, and are thus essentially no longer responsible for their own actions.
If I were a man, I would find all this to be patently insulting and offensive. In fact, I still find it patently insulting and offensive even though I’m a woman. Because really, what have we learned so far about men? They are 100% obsessed with sex all the time. They have no emotions (or are at least severely emotionally stunted – see here and here). They’re manipulative. They have zero control over their own urges and thus need to have their environment man-proofed (I guess like you would baby-proof your house by putting covers on all the outlets). They’re dangerous. And they’re all potential rapists.
I just about felt dirty even writing those last two paragraphs. Because not only have I actually met and spoken to men (the vast majority of whom are nothing like the stereotypes presented above), I have male friends – close male friends with whom I have shared (non-romantic) emotional intimacy, thank you very much – and frankly, I really don’t appreciate hearing them demeaned and degraded like this. And yet, I am the one, as an egalitarian, who supposedly “hates men,” and all of the preceding awfulness is seriously intended as a defense of men and masculinity.
(Note also all the other stuff up there that measurably contradicts reality. There is actually study data about whether men really do think about sex every six seconds. They don’t. I seriously doubt Tim LaHaye had a eunuch study sample to work from when he made his exceptionally silly claim in that book. There are some rabbinic sources that view Daniel as having been a eunuch, so clearly he must have been an incompetent schmuck. And if men can’t be adequately Christian or “real men” unless they’re having lots of sex, are Paul and Jesus, in fact, imaginary?)
Of course, the sexual aspects of A&E’s misandry are only the beginning. There are other popular ideas within patriocentricity and complementarianism that are just as insulting and incorrect – for instance, the idea that men are naturally incompetent at child care. But frankly, this is all I have the emotional energy to write right now.
So remember, traditionalists: next time you hear Christian gender preachers like A&E say something like “boys are only after one thing” and “men give love to get sex,” remember that they are talking about your fathers, grandfathers, husbands, sons, brothers, favorite uncles, fiancés, friends, and any and all other men whom you may like and/or consider decent people. (Pro tip: this is one of the many downsides of making sweeping, absolutist generalizations.) Are you comfortable with that?