Recently, PolicyMic published an article apparently intended to help renew feminism’s sinking reputation. The article, an opinion piece by Elizabeth Plank, listed off 23 Ways Feminism Has Made the World a Better Place for Men.
It would seem like a pretty good reason to be thankful, if feminism actually improved the world for men. Unfortunately for men and the author of the piece, her assessment is far from accurate. Let’s take a look at those claims.
1. It gave our economy a huge, long-lasting boost.
No, it didn’t. Ms. Plank writes as if feminism is responsible for women’s place in the workforce after World War II, a view that ignores work done by women prior to the war, and the conditions which led to women temporarily filling some work areas that were previously dominated by men.
Not only were women a part of the workforce prior to WWII, they were involved in the industry that transformed the American labor force from being mainly family labor and apprenticeship to wage labor: The textile industry. They also were involved in areas we now think of as traditionally male. An account from Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers, 1842, Vol XVI shows that at least one politician was appalled to see Welsh girls and women facing the same working conditions as men in English coal mines. Further down that page a woman describes the work and goes on to state that it was even harder to do while pregnant (“in a family way.”)
So what was Rosie the Riveter all about?
Prior to WWII, women who did hard jobs did them out of need for income, just like men. These women couldn’t afford to be choosey because they were poor. Upper class women didn’t seek out jobs in coal mines and textile mills, take positions serving other households, or otherwise subject themselves to harsh labor. They stayed at home because they could, or they engaged in activism, wrote, or sought education, earned credentials, and took higher end, higher paying jobs.
Rosie the Riveter was about women stepping up to fill work force roles vacated by men who were drafted or volunteered to fight in the war. The effort was not so much a feminist initiative to change women’s roles as it was a social response to suddenly changing labor needs, and it occurred because of something completely unrelated to feminism: The Fair Labor Standards act of 1938, which dramatically altered the dynamics of the labor market. The law established a 44 hour work week (later shortened to the 40 we know today) and outlawed oppressive child labor practices. The need for large numbers of women to enter the manufacturing labor force was in part created by the shorter work week, which increased the number of people it would take to produce the same results, and in part by the removal of children from the work force, which left women as the default replacement for men.
Outlawing child labor, though it was a needed and obviously right step for the U.S. government to take, was not a response to feminism. Support for the movement to end child exploitation in the work force was partly a result of the shrunken Depression Era job market, and pressure to reserve jobs for household-supporting adults.
Unless feminism caused the stock market crash of 1929 and started the war which pulled men from factories in the early 40s, you can’t really claim credit for boosting the economy, Rosie or not.
2. It helped men achieve better relationships and more satisfying sex
The first paragraph attributes improved relationship satisfaction to sharing housework, a tradition that normally exists when both partners work outside the home. As discussed in response to the first claim, that’s not a result of feminism, but changes in the overall structure of the employer-labor dynamics during the depression era.
Further, it’s not necessarily true, according to a Norwegian study, “Equality in the home,” by Thomas Hansen and Britt Slagsvold. They evaluated data from two surveys with a combined total of 18,934 respondents and found that the divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 percent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work. Though the researchers stressed that they found little evidence of cause and effect, they noted that lacking clear roles can add stress to a marriage. While this doesn’t mean people should fear a cooperative effort in the home, it does reduce the credibility the article’s claim.
The article also misreports the results of this study, which found that the human tendency to be better at relationships with people of like mind as oneself politically and socially also extends to feminists. Big surprise, but far from a shining moment of feminist benevolence toward the overall male population.
3. It successfully overturned laws that discriminate against men.
One would expect something of substance for a claim like this, but instead the writer credits feminism with the result of Craig v. Boren (1976,) a case that was ruled on by male judges who cited the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. constitution, and stated the state’s statistical claims on drunk driving didn’t justify violating it. Feminism was not involved in the decision.
4. It made life a little easier for single men.
The first example is yet another misrepresentation of the nature and reasoning behind a court case undertaken by the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization not defined as feminist, but an overall civil rights organization. The ACLU takes on a wide variety of cases, covering a range of issues not limited to feminist causes. Moritz v. Commissioner (1972) was a tax case in which an adult caregiver of an aging parent had been denied on the basis of his marital status a tax deduction for covering the expense of a home health care aid to stay with her while he worked. As with Craig V Boren, it was decided based on the Equal Protection clause of the 14th amendment. Feminism is not the determining factor in whether or not an individual is covered by that clause. If ideology was the determining factor in Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s choice to advocate remedying an injustice against a man, and she as an ACLU associate would have ignored the case had sexism not been the particular injustice, that’s a prejudice, not a type of support.
The author’s use of the image from the TV show Full House displayed with that claim is misleading, as the deduction in question was specific for care for an adult dependent, not anything to do with children.
5. It expanded the possibility of more sexy time opportunities.
This claim cites a benefit to women as if it’s a benefit for men. Birth control for women is a protection for women, providing women with a measure of control over their own fertility. While this is a good thing, it’s a benefit to women that is controlled by women, not a tool for men to use to protect themselves from the unwanted condition of parenthood.
It also credits feminism with something that feminism didn’t achieve. While feminists had an impact on use of modern forms of birth control by women, the existence of birth control preceded feminist activism by thousands of years. Its acceptability preceded feminism, as well. It wasn’t until after the American Civil War, when the Comstock Law of 1873 was passed, that there was controversy over birth control in the U.S. Interestingly, the law was passed for the same reasons that were purportedly behind Margaret Sanger’s founding work which launched what is now Planned Parenthood: To keep poor people from reproducing too much faster than rich people.
That raises another point; the claim also ignores the sexual behavior of humans. Birth control was not created because people couldn’t have sex without it, but because people were having sex, and wanted to prevent pregnancy. It didn’t increase opportunities for copulation, but merely added to the variety of ways women use to avoid pregnancy.
On the other hand, feminists have (unsuccessfully) opposed an increase in male birth control options, and in the past even opposed condoms because they would take control of reproduction away from women by giving men the ability to prevent their own contribution to pregnancy. While feminists are all for women having control over their reproductive health and the level of responsibility they choose to take, they’re not so keen on affording men the same right.
6. It gave men more reproductive control through abortion legalization.
This claim is more of a support for the idea of abortion than discussion of any benefit to men. A woman’s access to abortion does not give a man any reproductive control. It gives women the ability to get out of parental responsibility. If she chooses not to do so, the father of her baby is on the hook for support should she choose to retain custody and demand payment. Abortion as a form of birth prevention is completely outside of men’s control, not a contributor to their tiny repertoire of options.
7. It triggered the FBI to change the definition of rape to include men.
This is one of feminism’s more insidious half-truths. Feminist groups did support an expansion of the definition of rape, but their sympathy and advocacy for male victims has been limited to those victims who fit their agenda, the same as their sympathy and advocacy for female victims. This is why they’ve focused so heavily on penetration; it allows them to appear compassionate while continuing to exclude victims of female perpetrators from their advocacy.
The effort has influenced government agency responses to sex crime, as explained in the video Mens’ Rights vs Feminist Rape Culture explained using Puzzle Pieces. As a result of that exclusion, male victims face systemic, institutionalized indifference.
We can talk about what feminism has done for male victims when feminists reverse that damage.
8. It gave men some well-deserved time off from work.
The FMLA didn’t do anything for men that it didn’t also do for women. It’s not an anti-discrimination law, but a social welfare law based on beliefs about the employee-employer relationship. The law’s application to men isn’t a feminist choice, but exists because the law would violate the 14th amendment if its application were limited to women. This is at best lip service from feminists, and at worst an attempt to insert gender into a pitch for supporting a political stance.
9. It helped male survivors of violence in the military pursue justice.
The example given is of a case that is far from as cut and dried as the article paints it – and which may be an example of feminist-lead railroading of an accused man. This is feminism attacking men while simultaneously claiming to benefit them. Feminist activism on this topic has been about accusing men and blaming men, despite information that indicates otherwise.
“Men can stop rape” will not help end female perpetration. Pretending that sexual assault is a male behavior only helps to perpetuate the cycle by hiding abusers who don’t fit feminism’s narrative.
10. It ensured that the burden of war doesn’t only fall on male shoulders.
Women currently make up a grand, whopping 14% of the U.S. military despite having been eligible for decades.
The largest percentage of women in the U.S. military are in the Air Force. The smallest percentage are Marines. Feminist involvement has led to the military subjecting male soldiers to increased risk of false allegations of sexual misconduct. Trying to proclaim female participation in the military a feminist success is pitiful.
11. It made the struggle for civil rights a reality.
This claim relies on two things: conflating women with feminism, and the hope that the reader won’t remember the work of male civil rights activists. It’s a pitiful attempt to ride the coat tails of a movement that feminist demands actually put at risk.
12. It kept prisons safer for male inmates.
Just Detention International was founded in 1980 by Russell Dan to deal “with the problems of rape, sexual assault, un-consensual sexual slavery, and forced prostitution in the prison context.” Its battle against sexual assault in prison is not a feminist effort, but a decades long humanist effort. It’s not even a feminist organization. Using a single individual involved with the organization to try to claim feminist credit for the organization’s work is shameful and childish.
Although the feminist Stannow can be credited for trying to shoehorn the situation of sexual abuse in prisons into feminist theory by first focusing on a minority of victims–men victimized by other inmates–and ignoring the majority of victims–male inmates victimized by female staff and female inmates victimized by other female inmates. All while wrapping her criminal ignorance in a feminist bow–male on male inmate victimization is actually female victimization because the man being penetrated is seen as “the woman” and thus prison rape is really about the rape of women in the community, the real victims of rape.
When feminist theory has had its way with the reality of sexual violence, the truth is left huddled in a shower, trying to wash itself clean.
At the same time, feminists are responsible for perpetuating existing discrimination against men in criminal court. How helpful is that?
13. It enabled men to spend more time with their children.
This one starts out with wrongfully giving feminists credit for women working, established as false in response to the first claim. The link in support of the paternity leave claim does not show that feminists were behind its creation, and it doesn’t look good considering the author’s track record of falsely claiming other groups’ successes as feminist activism.
Regardless, while the author claims that feminism has enabled men to spend more time with their children, feminists have contradicted her by actively fighting against fathers’ rights using demonization of dads as deadbeats and abusers. Currently, women in the U.S. are awarded custody the majority of the time, and interference with Dad’s time with the kids is common. Instead of assisting men in spending time with their children, feminist activism has resulted in enabling women abusing custody laws to evict fathers from their children’s lives.