Women have been through several emancipation movements specifically concerning issues related to their sex, while men had none. This could lead to the impression that men have experienced no inequality issues specifically caused by their sex. However, the time that questions concerning the difference between men and women were mainly raised by women is coming to an end. Men are increasingly expressing their vision on issues that affect them in relation to women. In general, the reason for this upcoming “male movement” is the claim that certain topics concerning inequality issues for men have become taboo in the path towards realizing the complete emancipation of women.
- This month, three academics demonstrated that in at least some domains of the academic world, social grievances are put before objective truths, clouding a scientific attitude towards certain topics. One of the main dogmas they experienced concerned the denial that there can be cognitive and psychological differences between men and women that could explain, at least partially, why they make different choices in relation to things like work, sex, and family life.
- Differences between men and women are gaining evidence in other domains of science, not only in terms of hormones but also in a neurological sense.
- Earlier this month, scientist Alessandro Strumia wassuspended with immediate effect from working with the European nuclear research center CERN, because he stated in a presentation that physics is becoming sexist against men. Another famous example concerns Google engineer James Damore, who wrote an internal memo on the biological differences between men and women. He argued that an “ideological echo chamber” existed, stifling dissent and discussion. He was fired soon after the memo was made public, with Google claiming that it violated its code of conduct.
- In The Boy Crisis, Dr. Warren Thomas Farrell argues that there currently are issues with boys that, had they related to girls, would have already been addressed extensively. Some examples he points to are that boys do less well at school than girls, their IQ drops, they have more psychological and physical problems, such as ADHD and autism, but also suffer from new disorders such as bigorexia, a compulsive obsession with being muscular, boys commit suicide more often and are responsible for the increase in school shootings and are in prison more often and for longer.
- In her book The End of Men, Hannah Rossin raises the question whether equality is the end point of the emancipation of women, wondering if the modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women, based on figures that show that, for the first time in U.S. history, the majority of the workforce is made up of women, most managers are now women, and that for every two men who get a college degree, three women will do the same.
Connecting the dots
Emancipation is the effort to procure an equal status between individuals or groups in society. The several emancipation movements of women went from aiming for equality between men and women on a legal level, towards economic equality, and finally towards equality on a social level. In the eyes of many, this process has not been completed yet. The wage gap between men and women, for example, still exists on a global scale, which can be convincingly explained—at least in part—by discrimination of women. Women, furthermore, still do most of the child care, are not legally recognized as equals in many countries, and the upper reaches of society are still dominated by men. However, in order to overcome these inequalities and to realize full emancipation of women, more and more critics claim that an unwanted side effect is arising: a crisis of masculinity.
Other than the emancipation issues addressed in women’s emancipation, the inequality issues addressed in the context of male inequality are not to be found in the legal or economic arena, but rather in certain social domains. Already more than 25 year ago, for example, Dr. Warren Thomas Farrell warned about the danger of not addressing problems that specifically concern boys falling behind girls, simply because these issues concern boys. More recently, he pointed out that, although he advocated the emancipation of women for a long time, he felt that in the debate on the inequality between men and women, only the themes that feminists want us to discuss are addressed, ignoring, for example, that men can also experience powerlessness and that women can have a certain negative and oppressive power over men. Another example of a rather
controversial spokesman of inequality disadvantaging males is Jordan Peterson. He claims that there is a tendency to deemphasize masculinity or even punish masculinity, caused by a false ideology that sees the entire history of humankind as defined by the oppression of women by men. A less extreme, but nevertheless concerning claim was recently made by three scientists who published several false academic papers in order to demonstrate that certain studies, such as gender studies in humanities, are biased, because only certain conclusions are allowed, e.g. those that scrutinize white privilege and masculinity.
The issues that are raised in this debate vary in terms of intensity and extremity. However, they all point to a taboo that increasingly rests upon addressing certain issues with regard to male inequality instead of focusing solely on the position of women. Although these issues are now mostly found in the socio-cultural domain, some fear that they will spread to a legal or economic level as well. In the cases of the suspension of male workers because of their opinion on sexism against men on the work floor, for example, some question whether the same heavy measures would have been taken if it had been women expressing their thoughts on sexism against women on the work floor. Another possible explanation for the falling behind of boys and men is that the postindustrial society and economy are simply better suited to women (Hannah Rosin). As we wrote before, a similar conclusion could be drawn by an OECD report in which girls appear to have better command of a few skills that are considered to be crucial in the future of work.
- The upcoming “male movement” may be a sign that a dogmatic or rigid tendency has entered the debate on equality between men and women. The tendency of becoming rigid and dogmatic on sensitive subjects such as discrimination is not surprising. Other than more neutral topics, the sensitivity around these topics often does not allow for cold, rational, or even free imaginative examination, because this may be experienced as offensive, hurtful or provocative. In the debate on the differences between men and women, exploring identity issues has been much harder than in more abstract debates on identity in, for example, philosophy (with its classic metaphor of the Ship of Theseus).
- Popular culture might unintentionally fuel more extreme positions in the crisis of the masculinity debate. Many books and movies have portrayed the rise of women making it in a men’s world, or men failing in a world in which they have to deal with issues that women have to deal with. For example, the recent Netflix movie Je Ne Suis Pas un Homme Facile shows a world in which women have traditionally male roles and men traditionally female roles and the book The Power by Naomi Alderman explores what would happen if girls ruled the world. The emancipation of women in these examples did not stop at equality but went on to female domination, painting an uncomfortable picture for men. With the male movement addressing inequality issues specifically caused by their sex, a new wave of content on this topic might flood popular media.
- Due to the debate on women’s emancipation, women too sometimes experience negative effects of a rigid attitude towards certain issues. Choosing to be a stay-at-home-mom or combining a (full time) job with a family, for example, has become a controversial choice as well. It is therefore possible that, in time, a crisis of femininity might emerge as well.