Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Draft Doesn't Prove Feminism Wrong

For as much as "men's rights activists" (MRAS) like to say otherwise, the existence of a male-only draft/male-only combat positions do not "prove" anything about feminism. Some common arguments among MRAs include arguments of the following type:

A) Male privilege is a "myth" because women have privileges too, like not having to register for the draft. Therefore, feminism is unnecessary and wrong.

B) Men are the ones who are truly oppressed in society because of things like the draft, where men have to register and women don't. Therefore, feminism is unnecessary and wrong.

The gist of these arguments, as you can see, is that women are no more oppressed than men because women have certain privileges too. The fear is that feminism will someday completely eradicate male privilege while maintaining female privilege, thus making women superior.

First, the main problem I see with most MRA arguments, like the trusty old "men get drafted and women don't" standby, is that it is often intended as a but-women-have-privileges-too "gotcha." It denies the undeniable fact that women really are oppressed in countless ways and brings men back to the center of all that matters. What's that you say? Women are oppres- Oh that's nice but Oh Dear God What. About. the. Men?! As a feminist, I will not deny that men are oppressed in certain ways. A male-only draft is, on its face, unfair. Yet the existence of a male-only draft is not the fault of feminism and nor does it prove that women are not oppressed.

Let's look around. It is usually not Teh Feminists who are the ones advocating a male-only draft. When it comes to such discrimination, it is more likely that feminists and MRAs are fighting a common opponent: Those who insist that men and women have "proper" gender roles and, therefore, women are biologically and naturally "unsuitable" for military combat. Where feminism can be valuable to the MRA argument is that it recognizes that the concept of "proper gender roles" is largely a social construct and, therefore, denying women the right to serve in combat on that basis is illogical.

A related problem with the draft/combat "gotcha" is that feminists, of course, did not create the draft. Men did. And those who promote the "traditional gender roles" mythology perpetuate it. Yet MRAs often argue as though it were women, feminists especially, who created a draft and combat positions that exclude women. I don't know where the MRAs have been over the years, but many feminists have been actively trying to get the military to allow women into combat positions in the military. The National Organization for Women, for instance, passed a resolution in 1980 opposing the male-only draft as unfair sex discrimination. Like I said before, if the MRAs were to actively push for a policy in which women were drafted into combat positions, they would find that they would come up against many of the same adversaries that feminists face: Anti-feminist men and women who promote the Woman as Fragile mythology. Good luck, boys. Glad to have you as part of the "team."

Third, not only is a male-only draft unfair to men, it is also unfair and harmful to women. The policy is "rooted in benevolent sexism (ie. the idea that women are too precious/fragile to participate)." On the flip side of the female privilege "gotcha" coin there is almost always some sort of "benevolent sexist" claim. In the case of the draft, it's "yeah women don't have to join the military" because "women are inherently weak/not brave/not tough like men" argument.

To be seen as weak, cowardly, and uncourageous is not a privilege, my friends. I don't know many feminists who would argue that it is "Woman's" inherent nature to possess these qualities.

Fourth, military duty comes with benefits. Many people view serving your country as one of the highest honors in life. For the many men who returned home from war after having been drafted, they were given benefits for education, preferences for federal jobs, home loan assistance, and other benefits that women necessarily were excluded from because they were excluded from the draft. "The truth is, when looked at more carefully the idea of women being restricted in their participation in the military is not an advantage, but rather a disadvantage. It hinders women’s ability to protect their country and their families, as well as hurts their chances of advancing because they have fewer venues than men to show off their skills."

Lastly, rarely can MRAs be found doing anything other than gathering on various internet forums, trolling feminist blogs, and bemoaning feminism. In short, I don't seem them trying to productively advance their cause. I would take many of their claims more seriously if I wasn't convinced that their real, ultimate goal is to see feminism fade away. See, unlike feminists, MRAs rarely organize and even less rarely do they try to actively change their circumstances of "oppression" via the legal/political process. Roy Den Hollander is the first MRA I've seen actually do anything "productive" about the plight of the alleged downtrodden straight white male. In all likelihood, he will get laughed out of court for it too. As he well should.

See, in light of this relative lack of MRA ambition, I have to wonder how seriously these issues affect men if MRAs have not already, by necessity, organized into a serious political movement that actually pushes for pro-male legislation. Could it maybe possibly be that men are already so privileged that most of them don't really feel a need to do this on any large scale? I mean, the idea of a Straight White Male March on Washington or the promotion of White Male History Month is just laughable since, of course, Washington is already full of straight white males and every general history class is the history of the straight white man. This is all why MRA arguments appear to so many of us to be more about trying to win debates against feminists and to somehow prove that feminism is wrong, unfair, and unnecessary than anything else.

As one blogger writes:

"Feminists didn't wait for men to back them up before they fought for their rights. They couldn't afford to. The fact that so many of these men use these issues as a way of trying to score points against feminists hurts their cause. It makes it seem like their interest in men's rights is less about the actual problems that men face, and more about winning arguments with feminists."

Indeed. Oppressed groups don't just sit around and complain about how hard they have it. They organize their communities. They form groups. They get laws passed. Yet, MRAs, by virtue of their unrecognized male privilege, have the luxury of all this being an online rhetorical debating session, a "gotcha," a but-men-have-it-hard-sometimes-too pissing contest. And rarely, so very rarely, do they ever admit that hey maybe some things really are unfair to women. Or maybe just maybe men have been oppressing women in certain ways for many years. Nope. To them, it's all about keeping men at the center. If there is any social phenomenon that is unfair to men, then that one thing negates every single facet of oppression that women face. It means that, in the grand scheme of things, it all works out in the end as some sort of wash.

I think Roy Den Hollander sums the attitude up the best in an interview with an internet forum that has the lovely name (that'll make a lesbian out of any woman) American Women Suck. His lawsuits aren't about overcoming oppression. It's about beating the feminists at their own game of equality:

"But with my legal cases, I’m saying is, if feminists want a quota-ocracy, then along with the 51% of the best of society, they should be getting 51% of the worst of society, too."

Oooh, Gotcha!

Okay. It's not fair to men that women don't have to register for the draft. Neat. But most of us already know all about the Male Experience in the World. Now can you even pretend to care about the experience of women in the world? Or shall we all step aside while you continue making everything in the history of ever about "man"?

Leftist Gender Warrior says "Argghhh" to that.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found your writings on the draft to be very educational and fair. I didn't see you putting down men or women but firmly stating what is believed by both sides and how it is both fair, unfair or restricted to each gender. It's nice to see someone living up to the actual definition of feminism and not making it seem like its some girl power group on a chocolate takeover binge trying to deny chivalry or the physicalities of gender reality. A true argumentative essay. Well written and of course thought.