Thursday, March 4, 2010

Anti-Feminist Unwittingly Becomes Partial Feminist Ally!

Anti-equality, anti-feminist blogger Playful Walrus has discovered something that feminists have been saying for years. Namely, that media portrayals of men can also be negative. It's not just women that the media portrays poorly.

He doesn't give examples or flesh out the ways that media portrayals are harmful, but he does offer a list of what he views as negative media influences. On his list are items like romance novels, romantic comedies, soap operas, advice columns, horoscopes, and materialism. Now, granted, some of the items on his list are not "media influences," but that's just a technicality. What I found particularly interesting was his theory as to why media critics give porn so much more "attention" than the items on his list. Specifically, he opines that:

"porn receives this attention because consumption is seen as primarily a male issue, and it is safe to beat up on males (often literally), although perhaps some people are more concerned about males being better people than they are about women being better people."

Hiding the perpetrators of these sins against men in the passive voice and non-specific "some people," Walrus' accusations are empty speculations as to why "some" nameless folks pay more attention to porn than they do about these other issues. Nonetheless, his impotent statement approaches, but doesn't quite articulate, the feminist truth that the world isn't all it's cracked up to be for men either, while alluding to the trusty MRA tack of blaming feminism (or, excuse me, "some people") for this situation.

Yet, as male privilege is allergic to feminist thought, he demonstrates ignorance of what it is, "some people," are actually talking about with respect to media portrayals of women and men:

"Part of my point is that 'we' spend a lot of time on the harms of porn ('it gives an unrealistic and degrading view of women and sex'), but we don't note the harm of say, romance novels, or romatic comedies (which give an unrealistic and often denigrating view of men, romance, and sex)."

First and foremost, it's interesting that Walrus uses "we." He personally, of course, devotes exponentially more of his blog posts toward opposing same-sex marriage than he does toward talking about "the harms of porn," especially as they pertain to women. So much so that one is led to wonder if "some people" pay more attention to same-sex marriage because it's safe to beat up on LGBT people (often literally), although "some people" also might be more concerned about LGBT people being better people than they are about heterosexuals being better people.

Yet, if Walrus means "we" as in social conservatives, his statement is also false. The social conservative case against porn is less that it is degrading to women and more that it depicts human sexuality, especially that of women, in non-patriarchally-approved ways.

If Walrus means that "we" as in "other people," don't "note the harm of say, romance novels, or romatic comedies," then he is also clearly and demonstrably wrong on that point as well.

Feminists, for instance, often "note the harm" of romance novels, romantic comedies, and commercials, arguing that they portray both men and women in unflattering, negative stereotypes. I highly recommend Tiger Beatdown, for all romantic comedy deconstructive purposes, especially as they pertain to Judd Apatow movies.

It is not surprising that mocker-of-feminists Walrus would not recognize a potential alliance with respect to feminism. In his past commentary, he has demonstrated a buying-into of the Rush Limbaugh propaganda that induces him to "joke" that all feminists are ugly and have no sense of humor. But my my my how things change when he perceives men, husbands, and fathers as being on the receiving end of negative portrayals gone awry!

As he further explains:

"Now, I'm not saying that fairy tales, all romantic comedies, or all television shows, or all advice columns are bad, however, 1-10 frequently:

a) Present a negative or objectifying portrayal of men, especially husbands and even more so fathers.

b) Present unrealistic portrayals of relationships and marriage."

Here, while I do not agree that males are "frequently" objectified in the media, as they are often the main protagonists (that is, the subjects of media), I do agree that they are often presented in a negative light. If romantic comedies and the like were to be believed, men would be little more than sex-obsessed man-children always trying to have fun in spite of their strict and boring bonerkill mommy-wives. And so here, I feel compelled to note that if I were to react to this situation in the same spirit of Walrus' casual negative stereotyping of feminists, I would say something like "Have I mentioned that conservative Christian types have no sense of humor and totally ruin the fun of romantic comedies?"

But alas, I won't. I agree that the negative portrayal of men in the media is a legitimate concern. Whilst it would likewise be refreshing if Walrus and others who have strong reactions against feminism could concede that the objectification, pornification, and subjugation of women was a serious problem and a legitimate feminist complaint, Walrus instead suggests that "we" spend too much time talking about The Women, which detracts away from how "unhealthy media influences" also harm men. That he sees this as zero-sum game evidences a deep discomfort with anyone other than men being centered within a conversation.

Anti-feminists tend to agree with feminists right up until we start talking about male privilege and patriarchy. I suppose it's what makes them "anti-feminist." Indeed, in my conversations with MRAs in the past, I have patiently listened to and sympathized with many of the ways that patriarchy hurts men too. What I have found in these conversations is that that courtesy is rarely reciprocated when I try to steer the conversation toward women. "Some people" have little interest in conversations that are centered around women, and the ways that patriarchy harms us.

It is telling that these "some people" are sometimes the same folks who insist that women have a very important and vital role to play in marriage. This irony is a revelation of the real nature of the female role in "traditional marriage" and social conservatism.

No comments: