Man's World: How Real Is Male Privilege--and How High Is Its Price?by Ellis Cose
Are men really under siege in today's society? The author of The Rage of a Privileged Class now reports on the discontent and confusion men are feeling as changing gender roles and expectations challenge the very core of male identity.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1st Edition
Read an Excerpt
Man As Victim
Despite the passage of laws making discrimination illegal and politicians of every stripe denouncing sexism as sin, most Americans are thoroughly convinced that gender still matters and that it matters quite a lot-that women, despite all the legal advances and consciousness-raising of the past few decades, are still not getting a fair shake. A Gallup poll taken in 1993 found that 71 percent of the women and 52 percent of the men believed that society favors men over women.
But though most men concede that women face special hardships, the sentiment is far from unanimous. just over onefourth of the men polled by Gallup believed that women "had a better life in this country" than men. Twenty-eight percent confessed to having felt resentment at the expectations society placed on them "as a man." And nearly half said that the women's movement had made men's lives harder over the past twenty years. (Sixty percent of the women agreed with that assessment.)
In short, the ranks of aggrieved men is large and apparently growing. "Whatever women have to put up with," they are saying in effect, "we don't have it so good either." To many ears, such a claim sounds ridiculous, grating, and whiny. Yet, an increasingly vocal group of activists are making that argument-and not all of them are feminist-bashing Rush Limbaugh clones.
The patron saint of disgruntled men is a former feminist named Warren Farrell, who counts among his accomplishments the fact that he was repeatedly reelected to the New York board of the National Organization of Women. He became expert, he confesses in The Myth of Male Power, "at sayingwhat women wanted to hear." But then one day Farrell began to question why women but not men were listening. "I reviewed some of the tapes from among the hundreds of women's and men's groups I had started. I heard myself. When women criticized men, I called it 'insight,' 'assertiveness,' 'women's liberation,' 'independence,' or 'high self-esteem.' When men criticized women, I called it 'sexism,' 'male chauvinism/ 'defensiveness,' 'rationalizing,' and 'backlash.' I did it politely-but the men got the point. Soon the men were no longer expressing their feelings. Then I criticized the men for not expressing their feelings!" So Farrell changed his tune and tried harder to incorporate men's experiences into his presentations. He found the transition unsettling. "Almost overnight my standing ovations disintegrated. After each speaking engagement, I was no longer receiving three or four new requests to speak. My financial security was drying up." When I encountered Farrell in late 1994, he said he was still paying the financial price for changing his perspectiv.-, but his fate has not deterred him or his like-minded brethren from continuing to voice their controversial views.
Mel Feit, executive director of the New York-based National Center for Men, admits that the proposition of male victimhood is not an easy sell. "Thinking about a men's rights movement is a little like thinking about a movement for the rights of wealthy people.... It doesn't make sense because the fact is that men do run the world. The president and vice president are men, always have been," and so, he notes, are most senators and governors-as well as the heads of most major companies. "Men make the rules, enforce the rules, and control the wealth," he concedes. So why in the world is he talking about men's rights?
Part of the answer, he said, is that the men who are running the world don't represent the men he cares about. "Now I would argue that for every man who is up there making an important business decision, there are probably twenty or thirty men who are in deep despair, who have no control over their lives. The fact of the matter is that to generalize about the condition of men and women based on one percent of men and women ... creates a false impression of what's really going on. I don't have a Robin Leach mentality. I really don't care about the people on the top floors of the skyscrapers. I care about the people on the street who are suffering. And my view is that a lot of men are suffering. So it is accurate to say that some men run the world, but most men don't. I know a lot of men; I don't know a single one who's ever been president of the United States." When you put things in the proper perspective, he insisted, "a different picture, a different reality, emerges. And I see that in many cases men are really disadvantaged and victimized."
Feit, a bookish man of forty-three with long reddish hair, begged forbearance as he laid out his case. He compares himself to someone in, say, the fourteenth century who believed the world was round but was not believed because others were loath to change their perspective. He knows perfectly well, for instance, that women make less money on average than do men, but to him, that does not necessarily mean that men have the advantage. "Earning money means getting out of a warm bed when it's cold and snowing outside and going to a job you hate so you can pay the rent, so you can feed the kids. Earning money is not an empowering thing. It's spending moneythat's where the power lies. And it turns out that women spend most of the money."
Several years ago, Feit said, he went to Macy's and painstakingly surveyed all the floor space devoted to men's and women's things. He concluded that women were apportioned more than four times as much space as were men. (A Macy's spokeswoman maintained that the ratio was much smaller. Of areas that could be classified by gender in the main...
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >