‘Is the Anti-woman Movement Misogynistic?’ and Other Ludicrous Questions

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Men’s rights protest in India (Image Credit: Mens Group)

It has become increasingly controversial to suggest that the practice of woman-hating rears its head with newfound vigor in the digital age. As various social reforms gain unforeseen traction, an overwhelmingly online resistance movement counterbalances the momentum of activists in its insistence that the endeavor to reestablish traditional gender roles is anything but misogynistic. Across the landscapes of academia, social media and interpersonal relationships, a trajectory continues to emerge which attempts to reassert traditionalism as the dominant cultural narrative among young people.

Some worry that the influence of figures such as Andrew Tate has reinvigorated a general consensus of misogyny. Indeed, according to a recent YouGov poll, almost all 18-29 year old men have heard of Tate and 35 percent align themselves with his views. Yet only 9 percent of the general UK population agree with Tate’s ideology, and just 2 percent of Britons accept his belief that it can be the woman’s fault if she is raped or sexually assaulted. Only 3 percent of us are proponents of the idea that a woman is a man’s property, or that in a heterosexual relationship men should work and women remain in the home. By contrast, a shocking 14 percent of 18-29 year old men believe that the wife is her husband’s property. It is clear that the resurgence of misogyny has confined itself to young men and boys – but this does not make it any less potent.

The movement is not anti-woman but pro-man, its proponents explain. In fact, as some go so far as to suggest, the very existence of misogyny is a myth. Throughout history, women have been held up on a pedestal: rarely conscripted, never expected to partake in grueling manual labour jobs and prioritized on a sinking ship, their role as homemaker is, for all intents and purposes, nothing short of a dream come true. The redpill community diverges into various factions, but to generalize, new age misogyny often responds with indignation to those who conflate the desire to reinstate traditional gendered expectations with woman-hating. Their mascots include fictional serial killer and narcissist Patrick Bateman, characterized by his hatred of women and the gratification he derives from perfectionism – an approach to self improvement which is guaranteed to do the opposite. Research has linked maladaptive perfectionism, defined as unrealistic standards of achievement in combination with hyper-self-criticism for failing to meet them, to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and chronic fatigue, all of which contribute to early death. Male characters in film whose creators’ initial intention was to shine a critical light upon cultures promoting violence against women or the binding of masculine pain to status – Tyler Durden, Jordan Belfort, the Joker and of course, Patrick Bateman – have been reappropriated as success stories in various online spaces. 

It would be unfair to suggest that self-improvement communities, which encourage healthy fitness habits, reading educational books and practicing financial sensibility, are somehow intrinsically tied to movements advocating a suppression of women’s rights. However, a common gateway into harmful online communities include such content. Men are encouraged to spend time at the gym rather than exposing their ‘weakness’ in therapy, or warned that 21st century women are likely to cheat or be untrustworthy. This leads to the formation of insular, woman-free exclusion zones whereby male self-discipline takes aim at a perceived lack of such strength – emotional or physical – in women. Of course, women are not more likely to cheat than men, with 20% of men and 13% of women reporting having sex with someone other than their partner while still married. The average number of sexual partners in the UK across a lifetime is four, counter to the common claim that such a low figure is rare among women. In fact, women tend to report lower ‘body counts’ then men at an average of just 3, with men reporting an average of 5. And although the stereotype of self improvement as a strictly male endeavor persists in some online spaces, 54% of gym memberships and 76% of group fitness class attendees in the UK are female, although many young girls report feeling a lack of confidence when it comes to exercise. 35% of girls aged 14-16 refuse to take part in exercise at all because they are not confident, and only 23% enjoy PE at school. Self-improvement and its difficulties (which are sometimes gender-specific) affects both men and women, and thus neither group ought to accept dismissal or belittlement by the other. 

Indeed, men are not the only proponents of new age traditionalism. One female content creator recently argued against women’s suffrage on British national television, and the tradwife movement in particular sees women rejecting hookup culture not in favor of monogamy but the embracement of 1950’s-style submission. Although over 870,000 stay-at-home mothers in England would prefer to work if they could afford childcare, many women choose financial dependence and some take on a subservient role in the home as a result. Although the formation of a household as hierarchical can be managed in such a way that both parties are amicable and respect one another, it does put women in particular at an increased risk of domestic abuse. Because women are more likely to rely financially on their husbands without safety nets such as a separate savings account under their name, they more commonly feel unable to leave a relationship when it becomes abusive. Women who conform to the traditional view that divorce is a moral failure, or equally, those who are financially rather than ideologically trapped, are at an even higher risk of enduring dangerous abuse for extended periods. Those who have been financially dependent on their spouse from a young age find themselves with even fewer choices,  as they may not have any qualifications beyond secondary school, or lack experience in the workforce altogether. Though some suggest that gender imbalance favoring women exists in divorce proceedings such as custody battles, 60% of men get custody in contested cases, and in over half of all divorce cases the mother’s custodial role is mutually decided by both parents.

Men in many countries are victims of violent crime more often than women, yet 2 women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales compared to one man every three weeks. Furthermore, women are at an alarmingly higher risk of sexual violence, with 1 in 4 women having been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult and 98% of adults prosecuted for sexual offenses being men. Although this disparity may be partly explained by a lower rate of prosecution for women, such a stark contrast cannot solely be dismissed on this basis. Globally, 58.4 million child marriages take place on average every five years, and according to Unicef, the prevalence of child marriage is around five times higher among girls, with 650 million women and girls alive today having married before their 18th birthday. Crimes such as sex trafficking, rape and domestic abuse all affect women far more than men, a fact often dismissed altogether by proponents of male supremacy. The so-called ‘privilege’ of being ascribed value solely based upon a woman’s reproductive capacity, beauty and ability as a homemaker manifests itself in such abhorrent practices as female genital mutilation, prohibition from the workplace throughout history and child marriage.

The mental toll of both an expectation to materially provide for a woman combined with rejection of emotions beyond anger as weak or effeminate is staggering among men. When economic downturn hits and unemployment skyrockets, an associated increase in suicide occurs shortly after. Financial strain exacerbates mental ill health for all individuals, regardless of gender. But factors such as social pressure places further strain upon men.  According to CEO of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), Simon Gunning,

“We’re brought up our entire lives to judge ourselves in comparison with our peers and to be economically successful.”

Economic turmoil is a huge risk factor behind an increase in deaths by suicide among men; alongside a lack of support networks for male mental health on the basis that it is men’s duty to stoically counteract women’s intrinsic proclivity toward hysteria, the consequences are devastating. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Where gender-based violence against women is a leading cause of premature death for women globally, the dismissal of men’s mental health in online spaces which advocate against healthy coping mechanisms such as talk therapy or emotionally vulnerable romantic relationships is a significant risk factor for premature male deaths. Both men and women bind themselves to the pain they experience as a result of the expectations of their gender. The idea that self discipline or admirability equates to enduring pain is a universal falsehood, one that encourages men to avoid seeking help for mental health issues and glorifies women who remain in abusive relationships. Importantly, figures such as Andrew Tate are not here to help but harm this already divisive, harmful dynamic. Appeals to evolutionary psychology – such as the newly falsified claim that men in prehistoric societies were strictly hunters and women gatherers – and a lack of fair representation of both sides of the statistical fence, has led to further polarization. It is clear that the coercive trap of misogyny benefits neither women nor men, and the ludicrous claim that there is no connection between woman-hating and strict gender expectations is easily unravelled. As one commentator unintentionally summarizes the anti-woman movement,

“I’m not a misogynist, I respect any woman who knows her place.”

Written by Tilly Middlehurst

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