Q: I observe much “male-bashing” in today’s America, and I also observe that it has become widely acceptable. (The “Lifetime” channel on cable TV provides one poignant example of this). I don’t mean the usual, superficial “well-that’s-men-for-you” sort of criticism of males, which men also take up in regard to women. I’m talking about an atmosphere today where many women believe most, if not all, men are everything from liars to potential adulterers and physical abusers of every variety — by their nature as males. While many women may not hold this view of men to this extreme, they seem to hold it in varying degrees.
I don’t doubt that these male-bashers probably did have bad experiences with men (e.g., fathers, brothers, boyfriends and husbands) who were everything from white liars to physical abusers. But from what I’ve observed, these women don’t take any responsibility for the men they chose as boyfriends/husbands — particularly when they’ve ignored the warning signs that these men were trouble (e.g., alcoholism, uncontrollable temper, physically violent to others, etc.)
Also, I notice that these traits as displayed by females are often downplayed by these male bashers. Everything from alcoholism to physical abuse (if not of men, but of children), is actually quite widespread among women, although it is often not reported and hidden.
Further, I observe that when a good, honest man does come along, these women often aren’t interested in such a person, and/or they cynically dismiss him as someone who is hiding some “dark side” they believe he possesses (since he’s a male) and whose dishonesty will emerge as one gets to know him better.
Please tell me, am I being too “sensitive” to this issue of male-bashing and possibly exaggerating it? Or is their some truth to what I am saying?
A: There is truth to what you are saying. The problem is deeper than a superficial “war between the sexes.” The root of the problem you are describing lies in the reason-emotion dichotomy.
First, some background. There are basically two schools of thought about gender: the traditionalist and the feminist points-of-view. Pat Robertson and others on the right are traditionalists. Hillary Clinton and others on the left (especially the academic left) are feminists. Few people consciously subscribe to either view. But because these are the two dominant ideologies on the subject, nearly everyone has absorbed one or the other (or some mixture of the two) psychologically and subconsciously.
Feminism, in the early 1960’s, started out with a more positive sense-of-life than the hateful and adversarial one that eventually emerged. Early feminists stressed that women should become more individualistic, like men, and take responsibility for themselves using their own rational minds. They found inspiration in men, at least men who were rational and independent, rather than revulsion.
In subsequent years, this focus and attitude changed. A crucial and historic turning point came in the 1980’s, when feminist psychologist Carol Gillian began to write that men and women think and speak in “different voices.” Essentially, Gilligan was asserting the old idea which feminism originally tried, unsuccessfully, to rebel against. The old idea was that men are essentially reason-oriented and rational; while women are essentially emotional.
In the old traditionalist times, men (and even many women) concluded that since reason is superior to emotion, and since women are by nature emotional, then men are obviously superior to women. What’s different about today is that feminists are saying, “Yes, women are emotional. But there’s nothing wrong with this fact. Women should respect their basic natures. If anything, emotion is superior to reason. Therefore, if anything, women are superior to men.”
The more moderate feminists assert that emotion and reason are intellectually equivalent, and therefore men and women need not fight over the issue. Of course, the problem with this seemingly benign view is that once you elevate emotions above reason and objectivity, you get irrationality. Specifically, in this context, you get female irrationality placed above male (“bad”) rationality.
A female psychotherapist colleague of mine once expressed this view beautifully during a meeting. In describing a female client’s husband, she said with enormous contempt: “He’s so rational that it’s impossible to have a relationship with him.” This therapist was saying much more about herself than about the client’s husband. She represents the more extreme type of feminist, prevalent in the left-wing psychotherapy profession. The more extreme feminists, who are less influential but ultimately more consistent, assert that because women are (supposedly) inherently emotional and non-rational, they are therefore superior.
The moderate feminism, which is more dominant, has spawned all the psychological dribble about “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus,” and all the rest. What these books really boil down to is the idea the men are inherently rational, women inherently emotional, and the two should simply get over this fact and accept it.
The basic problem with this prevailing point of view, aside from the fact that it creates the subtle (and not-so-subtle) hostility towards men that you describe, is that it is inconsistent with the objective nature of men and women. It is true that there are differences between men and women, differences which speak for themselves. However, there is no objective basis for asserting that women are governed by emotions and men are governed by reason. If a woman was left alone on an island in the South Pacific, she would be forced to use reason, objectivity, and rationality just as a man would. And some women would manage to survive, just as some (not all) men would manage to survive. Furthermore, as many feminists would be the first to agree, plenty of men don’t act on reason in their daily lives, while plenty of women do. Yet how could this be if men and women inhabit two different epistemological universes, as feminists continue to assert?
Just as both men and women have the capacity for reason, both men and women also have the capacity to choose to discard reason at any time. As you point out, many irrational women victimize men, just as many irrational men victimize women. Men do usually have a physical advantage over most women; but women often wage psychological warfare against their husbands in very effective ways. (The henpecked, demoralized husband is only one, less serious illustration). The reason that victimization against men by women is seldom discussed is the strong influence of anti-male feminism which permeates our culture.
Reason is the final determiner of reality, for both men and women. Men and women live in the same objective reality. Nevertheless, emotions are part of the human psychological make-up, and both men and women should enjoy them and never repress them across-the-board. Just because reason is the final method of determining reality, it does not follow that all emotions are irrational and unhealthy. I have encountered both men and women who, in striving to be rational, sometimes repress their emotions on principle. This, of course, is an error; it’s also irrational, because it denies the nature of human beings to experience what they value about life through their emotions. What’s the point of working to use reason, after all, if you don’t let yourself enjoy the happy emotions which come from living a rational life?
If you want to be happy, you must reject the subconscious influences of traditionalism and feminism. You have to understand that each shares the same mistaken premise: that there is a reason-emotion dichotomy, and that men fall on one side of it while women fall on the other. In a world where untold millions are buying into the idea that men are from one planet while women are from another, you are facing an uphill battle. So look for the exceptions in this sea of irrationality and error. Another encouraging sign: a large number of my clients have read “Mars and Venus,” but most of them have told me they don’t buy into the bulk of the ideas inside the book. Feminism is going to die someday, just like traditionalism is slowly dying out now.
Feminism was a wrong concept in the first place. Neither feminism nor some equivalent “manism” serves the individual interests of either men or women. Individualism, and all that individualism implies (such as the need for reason and objectivity), is what both men and women need.
Psychologists, media elites, and intellectuals have thrown personal responsibility and reason out the window in recent decades. Most of them tell us we don’t need reason and personal responsibility; some even insist that these values are harmful. Women have perhaps suffered from the vicious rise of anti-reason even more than men; just as women began to embrace rationality and individuality for themselves, the wider culture rejected these virtues across the board. Just when women needed reason the most, it was snatched away from them by what passes for intellectual and moral leadership.
The fact remains: we all need reason, objectivity, individualism, and personal responsibility. We need these values both for survival and happiness. If you understand and grasp this fact, then you (and any romantic partner you meet who feels the same way) can bypass the current cultural nonsense about Mars and Venus. You can become very different from those miserable traditionalists and feminists out there (and the many more subconsciously influenced by them). You can actually be happy.
For a more extensive discussion on the influence of both feminism and traditionalism on individual psychological health, see Dr. Michael Hurd’s first book “Effective Therapy,” Chapter 5, available for at Amazon.com, and in major book chains. Visit Dr. Hurd’s website at http://www.drhurd.com