Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Advocating for a place at the table for misandry


A while back, this space waded slowly into the “beach” of the notion of misandry. A little tenuous, a little awkward and a more than a little risky in a time when misogyny is being trumpeted on all media, seemingly at all hours of the day and night, this “test-drive” needs to be updated.

For too long, the field of gender politics has been dominated by the feminist voice, too often as victim of the misdeeds, and the debasing attitudes of too many red neck men. In that vortex, men rarely venture into openly expressing disdain, disgust and contempt for the actions and the attitudes of those men who continue to tarnish the public reputation of masculinity. Men also, in their silence, permit the heavy hitters among angry and abused women to hold sway in the public consciousness about gender relations.

Simultaneously, trump, the most heinous example of masculinity on the planet, continues to debase especially women of colour, while simultaneously giving encouragement and license for white supremacists. Boris Johnston, newly elected prime minister of the United Kingdom, for his part, does not offer much hope to that narrow bank of the demographic occupied by enlightened, evolved and androgynous men.

Even those who have courageously established agencies in support of men’s rights, focussing on fathers’ rights to children following divorce, and to other legal male rights contests inside contemporary families, have failed, likely by design, to venture into the question of the detection of, the ferreting out of, and the exposing of and the implications of the other side of the gender debate, misandry. There are also reasonable and probable reasons for this posture: trying to thread a very small hole in a cultural needle to avoid any perception of, or worse charge of, seeming to be misogynistic, or even worse “being” misogynistic. In order to undertake the monumental task of seeding a public agency to advocate for the rights of men, and bringing the voices of all members of all families into the “room” CAFÉ, for example, has studiously restrained all public utterances from even the bare hint of misogyny. This piece not only respects that posture; it seeks to emulate it.

Physics reminds us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. David Brinkley, the late NBC news anchor reminds us, “A successful person is one who builds a firm foundation on the bricks that have been thrown at him/her.” As a young boy, being “raised” by a woman who hated her father, and who declared her recently deceased husband of sixty-two years “no good” and who regularly meted out both physical and emotional abuse to an innocent and unsuspecting son, I have what might be considered an inside track on the misandry that enters too many rooms, in too many towns and cities, churches, schools, and corporations in North America and has been slinking under the doorways of public consciousness like an early morning fog, barely visible and certainly free of both scent and expected detection. Perhaps a better analogy would be the recently publicly disclosed “radon” gas.*

In the current cultural ethos, bombarded as it is with evidence of inappropriate sexual behaviour and attitudes by men directed toward too many women, including pending court cases and already documented convictions in such cases, even to raise the specter of misandry seems highly self-sabotaging, dangerous, and quixotic. Men, generally, are not bonded in a manner similar to the “sisterhood” to which all women implicitly belong. In fact, the reverse, exemplified by the historic encyclopaedic physical, military, pugilistic and even legal/courtroom conflicts between men, more typically exemplifies how men communicate: through direct confrontation, competition, and fighting even to the death, if deemed necessary to assert and to defend male honour.

Nevertheless, risking obliteration from both men and women, like a canary in a coalmine, this piece seeks to bring forward repeated evidence, too often denied or avoided or merely dismissed by men in positions of authority, the contempt of men by women not only exists in each of our contemporary social constructs, and contributes, without acknowledgement to many of the conflicts that we have come to cluster under the rubric, “gender politics.”

Reasons for women’s contempt, distaste, discomfort, in all of its many forms and faces vary in both fact and intensity. They include but are not restricted to:

·        a broken relationship with the fathers of your girls,
·        a series of unmet expectations in the face of high bars imposed or suggested by highly ambitious and insensitive fathers on their daughters
·        a lengthy exposure to their mother’s contempt for their fathers, or other men in their mother’s lives
·        exposure to and experience of a male figure who is especially officious when solving an issue in which young girls are involved, including teachers, principals, doctors, law enforcement officials, social workers, and clergy
·        an unresolved competitive/conflicted relationship between mothers and fathers of young girls
·        exposure to and experience of young men in their dating lives who fail to exhibit a level of respect, decency and honour for their female partners
·        exposure to and experience of men, conversely, who failed to confront injustice whether imposed by other men or women, incarnating a “eunuch” kind of failure

It all started, for me, with my father, although the pattern was invisible to me in the first several decades of my life. The physical and emotional abuse I experienced from my mother was never experienced/inflicted in the presence of my father, nor was it ever exposed in conversations I witnessed between them. In essence, this abuse was and remained closeted, secret, except through direct communication from me to my father’s two sisters. The kind of exaggerated and conflicted relations that originated from my mother with public officials such as school authorities, was never disclosed by my mother to my father, demonstrating further attempts to prevent disclosure of such acts. These, however, also occurred almost exclusively between my mother and male persons.

The obvious conflict about whether or not I could continue to participate in minor hockey between my mother and father provided evidence, on reflection decades later, that their conflict was neither resolved nor resolvable. My father’s silence, for example, when my mother refused permission to participate in a hockey tournament in Collingwood, exhibits a level of insecurity, perhaps even fear in my father of my mother. This potential fear also reared its head in his speech stammer, worse at home than at his workplace, where he consistently dialogued freely and easily with customers in the hardware store he managed.

Similar default on my father’s part appears around and over family decisions on re-decorating, travel, family purchases, and even family activities that seemed to be generated and directed by my mother. Passive-aggression, however, was a repeated response from my father. Interjected on top of a history, known to my father, that my mother literally detested her father for his “premature” marriage to another women, shortly after the death of her mother, and perhaps his own family history where his own mother clearly dominated and controlled his father, this river of psychic sludge, inhabited as it is by unstated voices, resentments, contempts, and disparagements and unconscious projections necessarily contaminated the future of many, beyond the expectations of most participants. In his upper eighties, my father acknowledged, directly to me, “You were raised by Hitler and Chamberlain! And I was the Chamberlain in the family!”

Contempt, however, is one of many faces of fear. Others include, but are not restricted to: deceit, gossip, revenge, silence, withdrawal, poison, undermining, deafness (both literal and metaphoric), denigration, stereotyping, malicious humour/satire, dissociation and sexual denial by women of their male partners. And in a complex vortex of female emotional expressions (regardless of their intensity or appropriateness) most men are both literally and metaphorically “speechless”. Not having fully engaged in a process of exploring the emotional responses of characters in plays, novels, poems and films in their humanities classes in both elementary and secondary school, young men very often emerge into post-secondary institutions and workplaces devoid of both the vocabulary to express and the habit and comfort even to detect and disclose their personal emotional experience. Conventional social culture and perception, however, is currently flooded with disparagement of this male “inferiority” in the light of female vocabulary and familiarity with sharing their personal emotions. The public “convention” then falls into the trap of disdain of masculinity, both through the overt efforts of many women and the silence of most men, who, in the words of my physician, when nudged by my statement, “Men can learn to name and acknowledged their emotions,” replies, “Oh John, but women do it so much better!”
“And who is making this exercise a competition but you; women certainly are not on the personal level!” was my rebuttal.

Emotions, those unbridled, unbroken, unbreakable, and irrepressible forces that continual rumble in the human psyche, as they have from the beginning, nevertheless signal, warn, hint and even provide reconnaissance for and  in each situation regarding humans everywhere. In history, emotions have conventionally been regarded as unreliable, untrustworthy, dangerous and indicative of “mental instability” and even of religious “intemperance” or perhaps even insanity. Clearly, both the medical and religious communities have historically trusted human “reason,” science, experimentation, empirical evidence, and the legal community has struggled for centuries with the notion of human “motive”. In this detective search, they have sought to connect the dots between empirical evidence and a possible motive in most criminal activities, knowing that any approximation of what someone might be “thinking” or “feeling” would be, at best, speculation.

A link between the medical, religious and legal communities seems to lie in the human experience that is classified as “extreme”….usually described by actions (words, beliefs, attitudes) of emotional extremes. Medical conditions, legal cases, and religious conversions and missions are frequently associated with and complicated by human “emotions”….and history is replete with attempts by various scholars to disregard, eliminate, avoid, disparage or generally to disregard the implicit force in those various situations. Extreme emotions, for example, have fallen into one of two historical “problems”…sickness in the eyes of the medical fraternity and evil in the eyes of the religious fraternity.

Simultaneously, however, those human emotions have continued to rumble, vibrate, shake, sooth, dance and even embrace the experiences of the people they “
inhabit. Also, those emotions have been given, and have taken on the personalities of various “gods,” demons, angels, snakes, dogs, birds, dragons, and the like. In effect, humans have invariably given a personifying “face” and identity to these emotions. Recognizing the persistence and ubiquity of our emotions, humans have variously constructed mental hospitals, for example, “outside” population centres, and have tended to apply clinical diagnose what has been considered “dangerous” and aberrant behaviour and attitudes, all of them emitted from human emotions. Churches, too, have regarded emotions as dangerous to the spiritual pilgrimage of all humans.

At the core of each human encounter, whether between same or opposite genders, the matter of human emotions is always in play. And our various attempts to contain, repress, deny, avoid, or even ameliorate the influence and power of human emotions, as well as the positive contribution to building loving and supportive relationships, have always yielded to some kind of imaginative analysis. Our human imagination holds our existence ‘together’ is what is a much more random and unpredictable and irrepressible, yet life-giving force and power that defines the human being. Far from succumbing to any religious doctrine, legal prescription, educational process or factum, or even literary convention, our imagination and our emotions are and can be integrated into a “world view” that does not presuppose the need for control, order, or external authority.

However, our human fear of the extremes to which we are vulnerable, whether expressed through medical diagnosis, or through sin, or criminal activity, has contributed excessively and neurotically, perhaps even psychotically, to our collective and individual self-sabotage. Rather than restricting our “world view” to the dictates, diagnoses, sanctions and expectations linked to the “experts” in all traditional professional fields, originally charged with ‘establishing and sustaining order” in civilization(s), as a requisite for human survival.

It is this premise with which we wish to contend. And no straw-man is the premise.

Masculinity, for its resistance to its own vulnerability in both acknowledging and identifying our emotional truths and realities, and femininity, for its indulgence in the pleasures and the warning signals emerging from their emotions have together brought us to this place. And the continuing fractious contentions between the genders relegates this public debate to the “either-or” “he said-she-said” dichotomy. Neither women nor men will ultimately emerge from the conflict transformed into any approximation of androgyny. Women will suit-up in their warrior armour to “protect” themselves from the ravages of masculinity gone amuck; men will continue to hide from their emotions, believing those emotions to betray their very masculinity.

My mother and father, unfortunately, were unable, unwilling(?), untrained, un-open(?) or predisposed to refuse to have a conversation that would (could?) have freed them both from their respective psychic cells. Similar “cells” of emotional imprisonment, however, have bloomed in the public organizations in which we have all participated.

Example:

·        the woman whose misandry goes unrecognized and unacknowledged in her leadership of her organization, while disdaining men, masculinity, including even their spouse, (secretly)
·        the advertising writers, actors and producers who generate television advertising that blatantly demeans masculinity as stupid, physically and emotionally immature and awkward
·        films and dramas that blatantly depict masculinity as debasing all women
·        university curricular offerings and departments entitled “gender studies” that focus primarily, or worse exclusively on “womens’ studies” (on the premise that all of history has been created, written and documented by men)
·        enrollment patterns and inducements that favour a female cohort over the male cohort, “to bring into balance” the inequities of male dominance
·        then writing of laws, regulations and processes that openly and publicly favour the stories of female ‘victims’ while minimizing the contextual evidence that paints a more complex and more “fair”* picture
·        the surreptitious and often un-perceived, or mis-acknowledged in its importance, the misandry of women, by both men and women supervisors
·        the refusal/failure/omission of negotiating “fair” employment wages, safety standards and opportunities of advancement of women by male executives, as an implicit gender bias, too often unaddressed by their male peers.
     
     Undoubtedly, there are a plethora of other perhaps even more relevant examples of how men and women both fail their children, their grandchildren and their communities in their respective ‘cracked’ visions of human emotions. And, while misogyny is  openly discussed and acknowledged, misandry needs to take its legitimate place at the public table.
*  
      * Radon is a chemical element with the symbol Rn and atomic number 86. It is a radioactive, colourless, odorless, tasteless noble gas….radon itself is the immediate decay product of radium. Its most stable isotope 222Rn, has a half-life of only 3.8 days, making radon one of the rarest elements since it decays away so quickly. (Wikipedia)

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