Sex, Sociobiology, and the Media

We constantly hear about the mistreatment of women in media.  Susan Faludi writes about it in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (Broadway, 2006).  According to Faludi, evidence of the backlash is everywhere, from TV and film to news stories about marriage and single, working women.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd talks about female mistreatment in pop culture and sexual double standards repeatedly in her book Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide (Penguin Group, 2005).  In one example, Dowd says “The angry, man-hating female monster is a staple of mythology (Medusa and the Furies) and movies (Glenn Close with raised knife and Sharon Stone with raised ice pick).” (Dowd, p. 116)
In He’s A Stud, She’s A Slut And 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know (Seal Press, 2008), feminist blogger Jessica Valenti says “Reality shows are a subject unto themselves, but I think they represent a tremendous example of how we punish women for conforming to the very expectations that we shove down their throats.” (Valenti, p.211)
Sadly, these writers only get it half right.  There’s plenty of man bashing too (and responses to it), but we rarely hear about this. This is yet another example of how feminists care for women rather than people despite their claims of humanitarianism.
Must women hog all of the persecution?
Think about television.  Doltish males are constantly paired up with wise, infinitely understanding women- think Marge and Homer Simpson of The Simpsons, or Jill and Tim “the tool man” Taylor of Home Improvement.  With the latter, a typical episode goes something like this: (1) Tim jokes around and interacts with his family (at home) or his coworkers (on the set of Tool Time, his small-time cable show), (2) Tim gets into a situation that infuriates his wife Jill, (3) things escalate and come to a head, (4) Tim talks to his faceless next-door neighbor, Wilson, who gives him scholarly advice by quoting some poet, philosopher, or public figure, (5) Tim and Jill talk, and Tim tries to reiterate the lesson he learned from Wilson, but gets it all wrong (showing how dumb he is), (6) Jill shakes her head in confusion at what she’s hearing, then tells Tim what she expects of him, and (7) Tim grunts in quiet deference, and she forgives him for being such a churl.  Sometimes the show varies from that.  Tim and Jill also have three sons who get into plenty of trouble.  But because they’re boys (men in training), the framework remains the same- men behaving badly.
I base the following analysis upon a viewing of Home Improvement’s entire fifth season and Nathanson and Young’s treatment of the show in their book Spreading Misandry (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001, p. 38-42).
It’s clear from watching Home Improvement that Tim has plenty to learn from Jill about becoming a better person, but Jill has little, if anything, to learn from Tim.  When Tim does something wrong, it’s because he’s a man.  Any lesson he learns will come from listening to Jill (thus avoiding catastrophe) or not listening to Jill (and suffering the consequences).  However, when Jill does anything wrong, it’s in spite of being a woman.  Because she has little, if anything, to learn from Tim, any lesson she learns will be on her own and therefore hard-won.  (This is supposed to remind us of the uphill battle that women fight.)  Jill occasionally credits Tim with teaching her something about life and love, but that is something she takes from him, not something he intentionally gives to her.  In this sense, Tim is like a twenty dollar bill found on the sidewalk- Jill is thankful for him and his perceived value, but not to him.  (Also, this is supposed to remind us of how humble and deep women are.)  A woman who can extract anything of value from such a cretin must be amazing! The basic message of the show is that women are superior to men.  Men should laugh at themselves, but take women seriously.  Women should also laugh at men, but take themselves seriously.
The boys don’t pay much attention to Tim, unless they’re wisecracking about his incompetence.  When Tim offers them advice, they either tell him no thanks or they hear him out with incredulous looks on their faces.  Whatever, Dad!  If they do heed his advice, it goes badly.  One would think that a father might have something to teach three young boys about being a man, but that is not what one sees here.  On the other hand, when Jill offers the boys her guidance, they listen intently to her motherly wisdom, thank her for her contribution, and usually hug her.  We never find out if the advice is of any practical value, but that’s not important.  What is important here is that what Mom thinks is respected, where what Dad thinks is not.
Jessica Valenti sees the pairing of stupid men with wise women as yet more evidence of- get this- misogyny!  Her reasoning is that this makes the female characters look bad, because they’re pathetic enough to stay with such men.  So if a woman stays with an idiot, it’s implied that women in general have poor taste, which is “insulting.” (Valenti, p. 42-43)
But how would feminists react if the tables were turned and wise, understanding male characters were paired with stupid women?  Would feminists then argue that television shows regularly portray women as imbeciles?  Can they have it both ways?  Would they just go with whichever interpretation is convenient for their cause?  Wouldn’t this be a case of feminists having their cake and eating it too?
Let’s suppose that men are stupid, and women have bad taste.  If I had a choice, I would rather be portrayed as lacking good taste than being an idiot.  Taste is a choice and can be refined, but intelligence (or lack thereof) is not.  One has it or one doesn’t.
It doesn’t bother me when men are depicted poorly in the media.  (It doesn’t seem to bother anyone else, either.)  What bothers me is that everyone seems to care about how women are depicted.  Why the double standard?  And before anyone accuses me of being “wacky” or “out there” with my deconstruction here, I understand that Home Improvement is just a TV show, but why then can’t we admit that Three Men And A Baby (which Faludi criticizes) is just a movie? (Faludi, p. 146)
I’ll tell you why: because a woman’s pain is deemed important, while a man’s pain is deemed insignificant.  When women are mistreated, we hear about it.  A woman hurts!  We need to do something!  When men are mistreated, we hear nothing.  Or we hear a smug dismissal:  Shut up and take it like a man!
But why is this ultimately?  Are feminists just evil?  Are men inferior?  Do women care about us at all?  Or is there an explanation for all of this which lends us to a less incendiary view of the situation?  Let’s look at human reproduction.  On average, ovulation produces one precious female egg.  On average, one ejaculation produces 200-300 million male sperm.  These sperm engage in a brutal marathon, and that egg is the finish line.  If one exceptional, “champion” sperm makes it, a pregnancy occurs.  The rest die off. That suicide mission in your mother’s uterus resulted in your birth.  And much of your life and behavior is a re-enactment of that violent death race which happened at the gamete level.
We see the same process in action at the bar on any given night- the precious, beautiful female surrounded by guys who want to take her home.  These men are engaged in the same rat race.  Only one exceptional guy will win, if any of them win.  The rest walk away beaten, or they rejoin the rat race in pursuit of another precious female.  All of this implies that women are considered a finite and sought after resource and men are considered disposable- unless they prove some kind of worth or usefulness.
Nature is brutal, but culture takes what nature gives us, then amplifies and magnifies it. Culture is a reflection of who and what we are, everything we do, and where we live.  Sometimes, this reflection can become wildly exaggerated, romanticized, and even distorted.  Take the Scandinavian black metal scene of the late 80s and early 90s.  Tired of the liberal traditions of their home country of Norway, some disaffected teens started an underground music scene based on ancient, Nordic, pagan mythology with a strong anti-Christian sentiment, nationalism, and abrasive, cacophonous heavy metal music.  Their rebellion eventually led to suicide, church burnings, and murder.  (No females were harmed that I know of.)  Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind documented this in their book Lords of Chaos (Feral House, 2003).
The things we see in books, movies, television, and the internet (the elevation of females and the marginalization of males- unless one proves himself exceptional, becoming a hero or villain, the highest or lowest) are merely cultural extensions of nature’s brutality to men.  But nature only goes so far.  Nature hands off the baton to culture in this mad relay, and we run with it- occasionally too far- just like the kids in Norway did.
Howard Bloom discusses male expendability in his book The Lucifer Principle (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995).  But Bloom also says that men are nature’s dice.  Sometimes we win big; other times we lose big.  Men are thrown against the wall like Silly Puddy.  Whoever doesn’t stick gets unceremoniously tossed into the garbage.  Whoever does stick gets thrown a second and third time, over and over again, either being tossed out or moving to a higher level.  Nature uses this waste and destruction to hone and polish humanity (and all of life) to perfection. (Bloom, p.146-156)
If we examine human behavior through the perceptual lens of sociobiology- coined by E.O. Wilson in his 1975 book of the same name- we will soon realize that feminists are consummate traditionalists, elevating women and marginalizing men.  In other words, even feminists are natural- in their own twisted way.
This begs the question- if this is natural, why should we change any of it?  Because we can! There are double standards in male and female interaction which benefit and hurt men and women- only at opposite times.  When he sinks, she swims; when he swims, she sinks.  In our enlightened times, men and women can ease the burden of navigating these vicious waters by throwing each other a life preserver.  And we should absolutely shun anyone who tries to interfere with those who want to share a life preserver.
The Women’s Movement doesn’t want to get rid of all double standards- just the ones that benefit men.  Otherwise, it’d be called The People’s Movement.  There are plenty of decent women out there who want to share the burden and throw men a metaphorical floatation device.  They want to interact with men and have families with them. Yet there are feminists who want to interfere.  Or they want the government to interfere.  This has to stop.
Simone De Beauvoir said in a dialogue with Betty Friedan, “No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children.  Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.” (Saturday Review, June 14, 1975, p. 18)
The radical feminist mentality is that if someone calls women stupid, that’s a call for action.  If someone calls men stupid, what’s the big deal?  As far as some feminists are concerned, labeling men as stupid seems hardly problematic- in fact, calling us stupid probably doesn’t go far enough for them.  Marilyn French once said “All men are rapists, and that’s all they are.”  So much for measured statements!  But fret not.  One can imagine the more “male friendly” feminists adopting the following patronizing, condescending, liberal line just for good PR:  Those poor men.  Don’t hold anything against them.  They can’t help it.  They were born that way.
We don’t have to stigmatize a woman because she can’t cook or doesn’t want children.  We don’t have to dumb down a female character to appeal to a male audience.  But do we have to call a young boy a “sissy” if he cries over a skinned knee?  And do we have to portray male characters as obnoxious buffoons who are guided by wonderful women in order to appeal to female audiences?  Do we get to make fun of everybody?  Or nobody?  It’s a question of consistency and fairness between the sexes.  Don’t answer me.
Answer yourselves.

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