The evils of misandry and feminism are oftentimes believed to come packaged in one particular way, the leftist branch feminism that immediately pops into mind when the topic is mentioned. While this may indeed be the most visible type of anti-male streak running through our culture today, this is not the only form, nor the type of misandry that is most harmful. There is a strain of feminism, one I’ve dubbed “conservative feminism” that is typically comes packaged in sparkles, ribbons, and bows. At first glance, this form may seem innocent, but upon pondering certain ideas and stereotypes floating around out there, one will quickly realize that something sinister is flying around the conservative religious world that proclaims their hatred for feminism.
Any belief system or idea that attempts to elevate women above men or proclaim femininity better than masculinity is feminism. In both leftist and conservative feminism this is done, often using the same wrongful ideas about men, just spinning them a bit differently for their intended audiences.
As you will see below, in conservative feminism, we find hatred of men in many ways:
*Men As Wallets- In every part of society, men are now treated as walking breathing wallets. It is their job to hand over money to state through child support (usually without DNA proof of paternity) and alimony when marriages go wrong. Men are still expected to cover the bill for dating and they typically bear the burden of breadwinner even in two income households.
In the conservative world, the burden of work takes an even more troubling turn as woman are taught they have a right to stay home with their children and if their husband cannot afford to provide the standard of living that makes this necessary, then he is out of God’s will, a sinner, or backslidden. When the talk turns to Titus 2 or other other verses used to support this women’s right, there is not an admonishment to wives to be frugal, to be industrious and start a home business, a garden for cooking and canning, or so forth, just a strict requirement for men without a rule of cooperation on the part of women. Staying at home is simply her right, with no responsibility to aid the burden of breadwinning.
Men are not allowed to express their anxiety, anguish, or upset about this rule and expectation, but are made to suffer in silence, carrying their burden alone. In fact, men’s fear is so poorly tolerated that should a man express genuine concern over not being able to have more children, for fear of feeding them in tumultuous economic times, his worry will be brushed aside and said to be the sin of “not trusting the Lord”. The poor man is simply to worry himself to a heart attack, work more hours and miss out on the lives of his children, or risk having his worst fear–that of being a financial failure–come true.
*Men As Expendable- Our culture sees men as disposable. We have yet to establish an Office of Men’s Health (though one is possibly in the works), do not provide the same amount of funding for diseases that primarily effect men as we do for women, and we collectively expect men to perform the most unpleasant and dangerous of jobs, from coal mining and logging to law enforcement and serving in the military, without so much as an ounce of appreciation for putting their lives on the line for the enjoyment/protection of us all.
Conservative feminism takes this a step farther by expecting men to take on the responsibilities of modern day chivalry. Some ministries have publicly expressed contempt for men at Virginia Tech who did not take bullets for their women classmates when the tragic shooting occurred on the campus. Others preach that it must be husbands who do the dirty and gross jobs around the house, that is must be husbands who check for the bumps in the night, and that should there be an emergency of some sort, it better be the husband who is operating the fire extinguisher or hammering the boards before the hurricane arrives. There is no talk of women humbling themselves and learning to help alongside their husbands, if this is what their husbands would like, or being prepared to be their own heroes should a situation warrant this. On the contrary, in many instances, anything labeled as “mans work” will be considered a feminist activity and thus inappropriate for a wife to do, even if she must (as in the case of the wife of a deployed soldier like myself) or if her husband encourages her to help him with such tasks. There is not even admonishments to be appreciative of men for taking on chivalrous duties, but rather an expectation of such special treatment is taught.
*Fathers As Optional- We all know in what low regard fathers are held in today, and sadly this reality does not end at the church door. The contempt had for fathers may not be as open as it is in mainstream society, however, it’s well and alive despite being a bit more hidden. We often hear talk about how much small children need their mother at home, how they cannot grow and thrive without them. We’ll see motherhood elevated to the highest levels, being considered the most important and difficult job in the world. While this isn’t a bad thing, the lack of high praise for fatherhood, or even mere mention of a father’s importance, is striking. Yes children of all ages need their mothers, but they need their fathers just as much, from the bittiest baby to the teenager entering adulthood.
When conservatives bemoan women being in the military, the typical reason named is because the children miss and need their mothers. The reality of fathers deploying and leaving behind children is absent, not thought of at all. This is the same when the Titus 2 mandate is discussed. The importance of having mothers spending quantity time with their children is raised to the level of the highest importance, yet the reality of fathers perhaps working two jobs or more than 40 hours work week, and thus hardly seeing their children at all, does not warrant a mention. If fatherhood was being held in the high position it needs to be, this stunning disregard for daddies wouldn’t be uttered without objections and dissent.
*Men As Perverts- “All heterosexual sex is rape” the leftist feminists proclaim, and while the conservative feminists may take the gross crime of rape off the table, a respect for healthy male sexuality they do not bring. In the conservative world, there are numerous harmful stereotypes floating about when it comes to sex. For starters, all men are not seen to be potential rapists but potential adulterers. There exist books and advice is shared that encourages wives to use sex as a means of manipulation. Women are being advised they need to be intimate with their husbands not because they love them and desire to be close to them, not for the bonding experience, not to celebrate this special gift God has given to married couples but rather to prevent their husbands from straying. What could be a beautiful expression is lowered to the level of deceit and manipulation just like that.
Perhaps not quite as sinister but still problematic is the contempt had for the male sex drive. A man’s sexual desire is at best merely tolerated and at worst, looked at as a perverted dysfunction for he is not “normal” like a woman. Cruel jokes are often made by woman, both in mixed company and not, about a man’s sex drive, remarks about how husbands always want it, laughter about denying one’s husband, and many other words to pathologize healthy male virility.
*Men As Immoral Uncivilized Brutes- The Victorian “angel in the house” is still alive and well in today’s world and nowhere does this appear to be more true than in the churches today. Never pausing for a brief moment to consider that the cherished idea of chivalry and men as soldiers allows women to live in a civilized world with special perks, the declaration of women as the more civilized & moral sex is shouted from many a pulpit today. (And nevermind that it is women who have initiated 70% of divorces and killed millions upon millions of precious babies, neither of which are moral or civilized by any definition…) Typical male traits, such as courageousness, justice, fairness, and take charge initiation are denigrated so that female nurturing, passivity, openminded love, and modesty can instead be elevated as the correct way to be morality. The reality of an important balance existing between these two types of morality, making both worthy of celebration is never mentioned and becomes all the more downplayed as churches feminize further, pushing men from their pews.
*Men At Fault- Men are blamed for much in today’s day and age, both in and out of the church, but the most disturbing fault I have ever heard placed on men is that of their wife’s willful rebellion and self chosen sins. There are people preaching the heresy that if only men led their wives better, these women would never sin, commit adultery, or do anything of this sort. If men were taking charge correctly, their wives would submit to them and never do wrong. In some denominations and churches, this is taken a step further, not merely placing the burden of a wife’s sin on a husband here on earth, but for all eternity as well. Lessons are being taught that state a man will be held accountable to God for the decisions his wife made, including those that went against his wishes and directions. Actions of which the husband had no part. This is outrageous and heretical.
*Men As Unfeeling Robots- This final idea about men should be perfectly obvious with all the terrible ideas that are allowed to circle around about men and masculinity, for if we cared about men’s feelings, these lies would not be allowed to spread. In our culture, we have a very narrow view on male emotional expression and are quick to judge a boy or man who does not fit into this stereotype. “Man up” and “boys don’t cry” starts on the tot lot playground.
We expect men to be able to hear the most cruel of words and not take them to heart. Men are expected to put themselves on the line for others with no appreciation and no way to seek emotional support to ease the many burdens placed upon their shoulders. All men are expected to handle trying times without help or support and some men–especially law enforcement, firemen, soldiers, and others we’d see as “tough guys”– are expected to hold in all the terrible sights they have seen, man up and keeping going on. Men from all walks of life are told to toughen up all the way to a suicide, heart attack, or breakdown. And even then, we’ll collectively feel for his family more than we will for him. “Oh his poor wife and children, I wonder how they are handling this tragedy.”
We also expect men to express their anger at real slights in a feminine way, so we women feel most comfortable. Women seek to tell me how to feel. They seek to own the experiences of men. They attempt to tell men how masculinity should be lived and what they experienced. Men are not allowed to own their emotions, life experiences, or masculinity, for this makes women uncomfortable. Our culture attempts to silence them, to appease those who are scared of men being men on their own terms.
*Woman As Children-For my final note on conservative feminism, women as children is the topic I must bring up. Just as is the case with leftist feminism, the conservative strain does not seek to help us mature into capable adult women who can be true helpmeets to our husband and mothers to our children. Instead, it seeks to keep us as children forever.
Male headship is often twisted to mean that women do not need to take responsibility for anything in their family for this falls in the husband’s duties. A husband must provide the paycheck, the discipline for children, and all the hardwork around the house while the wife stays home with the children and doesn’t truly work at home. Wives are not encouraged to ask their husbands what they need to best help them, to form a healthy type of cooperation in which a marriage and children can thrive, to help bear the load with the men with whom they are supposed to share and build a life with. The talk is most often exclusively on privilege rather responsibility, leaving husbands with a lopsided bargain which adds far more the his plates of responsibility than to his wife’s.