Nathanson and Young

Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young are religious studies academics and co-researchers for a project funded by the Canadian government, Donner Canadian Foundation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Results from the project are being published in a series of books on the subject of misandry, which the project is suggesting to be a form of prejudice and discrimination that has become institutionalized in North American society.

These trilogy is collectively titled Beyond The Fall Of Man. The book Spreading Misandry examines popular culture; Legalizing Misandry gives consideration to trends in law.

Concept of misandry

Nathanson and Young define their specific use of the word misandry as "a collectively shared and culturally propagated worldview, not a personal emotion such as dislike or anger."

Nathanson and Young say that there is "nothing new" about this mindset, "only the names have changed." Nathanson and Young write "misogyny, unlike misandry, has been carefully monitored, declared politically incorrect, and publicly excoriated." They argue that "belief in the full humanity of men has been dangerously undermined by stereotypes based on ignorance and prejudice, just as that of Jews was.

They argue that men are stereotyped in various ways that dehumanize them, and that would be considered unacceptable if applied to other groups such as women and minorities.

Misandry in popular culture

In researching their book Spreading Misandry, Nathanson and Young observed the following types of man-hating behavior, which they see as prevalent in popular culture

Laughing at Men

In this form of misandry, sexism is applied to popular forms of humor. Men are routinely made the objects of stereotypical ridicule in ways that would generate sustained outrage were the sexes reversed. Nathanson and Young note that feminists "may sometimes find it hard to laugh at themselves as feminists, though not as women, but seldom find it hard to laugh at men."

Looking Down on Men

What Nathanson and Young call "misandric" feminists "... have convinced many people that women are somehow superior to men". Like other groups, feminists interpret differences between the sexes as "an excuse to assign superiority and inferiority" in the usual hierarchical fashion.

Bypassing men

In this view, men are "not necessarily evil, just superfluous". Nathanson and Young give as example feminist writers like Andrea Dworkin, who urge as little contact as possible with men, separation of the sexes and indifference to men (rather than hostility toward men). Men are considered useless as lovers, husbands, fathers and as human beings.

Blaming Men

To blame men for all of human history, "gender-feminists" use the conspiracy theory of history to claim that "all of human history can be reduced to a titanic conspiracy" of men oppressing women. Nathanson and Young note that "evidence is often deliberately falsified to make (misandric) political claims about gender". The result is that "men are collectively or vicariously responsible for most or all of human suffering".

Dehumanizing Men

In this form of misandry, men are shown as inherently evil while women are seen as inherently good or even heroic. Men are highlighted as the evil predatory sex that preys on an innocent, morally superior sex as represented by women. In essence, men are considered morally unredeemable beasts while women are considered morally redeeming human beings.

In Nathanson and Young's critique of Disney's 1991 film Beauty and the Beast, while the "horrid Beast finally turns into a sweet prince," that "he is just another patriarchal villain for most of the story, a 'grouchy bison' who growls and snarls at everyone who fails to obey him instantly."

Demonizing Men

Men are shown as demonic, like sinister subhumans and evil superhumans. Men are directly demonized by being portrayed as devils or as evil aliens. They are also demonized indirectly by being relentlessly identified with aggressive men whose actions "either are not or cannot be explained entirely or adequately to viewers in rational terms".

Misandry in law

Nathanson and Young devote their 2nd volume, Legalizing Misandry, to identifying trends in law.

How misandry is hidden

Nathanson and Young believe that "many ordinary men have a vested interest in not seeing the pervasive misandry of everyday life". For a man to see himself as a victim of attacks by women he would have to acknowledge his vulnerability and therefore become less masculine. This creates a double-bind for men vis a vis confronting misandry because men "who admit to feeling vulnerable are attacked as cowards, and by no group more effectively than women". Nathanson and Young assert that women can easily shame men into silence, "a form of abuse that few women today would tolerate".

Thus despite what Nathanson and Young argue is a "massive assault" on men's identities, most men remain too confused to honor their unconscious knowledge that something is wrong. Most are not "equipped to identify or analyze" misandry. Those few men who are able to see misandry for what it is are rarely rewarded and are usually shamed for speaking about it in public.

According to Nathanson and Young, until very recently the "few feminists who dared to speak out against misandry were usually declared enemies of feminism, or even enemies of women, and thus effectively silenced." They state that "most feminists deny misandry" and that "when challenged" most feminists excuse, justify, and/or trivialize misandry. They note that "despite the vaunted capacity of women for empathy, only a few feminist publications, albeit ones of profound moral significance, have so far expressed sympathy for men in general, except as a way of encouraging men to believe that feminism is in their own interest".

Misandry and feminism

Nathanson and Young conclude that "one form of feminism-one that has had a great deal of influence, whether directly or indirectly, on both popular culture and elite culture-is profoundly misandric." They call this branch of feminism "ideological feminism."

Gynocentrism

Nathanson and Young argue that all schools of feminism are "gynocentric" (i.e. centered on the needs and concerns of women), but that "being woman-centered, by definition, gynocentrism ignores the needs and problems of men." In their view, gynocentrism doesn't necessarily to lead to misandry on its own, but "even though misandry is not an inherent feature of gynocentrism, it is an inherent possibility." Nathanson and Young believe that gynocentrism can easily lead to misandry: "all it takes to produce misandry is the ideological proposition that 'they' are not merely irrelevant but inadequate or evil."

Ideological feminism

Nathanson and Young give two reasons for using the term ideological feminism:

  1. to distinguish it from what they call egalitarian feminism. Nathanson and Young argue that while egalitarian feminists "supported the reforms that had improved women's lives over the past century, they recognized that reforms carried too far were creating injustices for men and boys," and that "two wrongs, they agreed, did not make a right."
  2. to "link ideological feminism with other political ideologies on both the political left and the political right." Nathanson and Young offer this characterization of what they call ideological feminism:

They describe features (besides dualism) of ideological feminism:

Nathanson and Young argue that ideological feminism has been influential in spreading misandry, or in making it acceptable to exploit misandric ideas that already existed.

The debate over institutionalized misandry

Other writers argue like Nathanson and Young that misandry is a feature of Western culture.

In Why Men Are The Way They Are, Warren Farrell devotes a chapter to what he calls the "new sexism", sexism against men, which he later began calling "misandry." Many members of the men's rights movement criticize misandry, such as Glenn Sacks.

Responses to Nathanson and Young

Criticism

In book reviews, Nancy Lewis-Horne (sociologist, SUNY) and Dorothy E. Chun (sociologist, Simon Fraser University) argue that the books have several flaws:

Lack of theoretical connection

Inconsistencies in methodology

Failure to demonstrate misandry on a structural level

Legalizing Misandry notes that criticisms of methodology beg the question, since Spreading Misandry was "based primarily on moral arguments," not sociological methodology, and urge that "Someone in the social sciences should do this research."

Praise

Charlotte Hays (editor, ''The Women's Quarterly'') and Jean Bethke Elshtain (neoconservative feminist political philosopher) note the quality of the analysis, and seriousness of issue.

Irrefutable

Intelligent and insightful

Elshtain notes a threat to women's impartiality, "women now have a very heavy investment in the rhetoric of victimhood", and reflects that, "ideological feminists cannot unambiguously celebrate ... recent decades".

References

Bibliography