The recent Twitter storm around the “meninist” mockery of Adam Harris has many wondering about the motivation of these self-proclaimed “anti-feminists.”
(In case you haven’t heard, Adam Harris was photographed shedding heart-warming tears as his bride walked down the aisle, and a “meninist” Twitter group re-tweeted the photo with an inappropriate and degrading caption.) In a nutshell, here is the real story behind meninism, and the resurgence of men against feminism in American culture.
The last few generations of women have experienced more freedom and more choice than their mothers and grandmothers. Careers have opened up to women. Motherhood, while still presenting many challenges, is more commonly balanced with a busy working life.
Women feel more empowered to express their sexuality and to go after what they want in life.
With greater access to education, health care and a living wage, many “go to” girls work hard to have it all. Without calling themselves feminists, these women expect to achieve their goals and reap the benefits of their hard work. They also expect society to respectfully treat them as competent professionals, mothers, citizens and human beings.
The last few generations of men, however, have not experienced the same expansion in gender roles.
In fact, widespread cultural views of what society considers exclusively masculine have drastically contracted, leaving men with fewer and fewer opportunities to experience the male privilege that their grandfathers knew so well.
Today, we see less-balanced representations of what it means to be a man in the media.
Either men are hyper-masculinized with machine-like bodies of steel, or they are feminized and depicted as the fashion-conscious, urban metro-sexual who is the target of derision and humiliation.
Research in the study of masculinity commonly notes that there is not much opportunity for men to see the true breadth of their social roles celebrated in popular culture.
In the 1990s, Robert Bly wrote Iron John, a book that marked the re-emergence of the American Men’s Movement. The bottom line for Bly was this: Today, men are raised by women who cannot possibly teach them what it means to be masculine. They grow up not knowing who they are, since their fathers are excluded from parenting when they work long hours outside the home or experience divorce.
Modern men are lost and do not know their place in this new world of gender equality.
And here’s where meninism fits in. Meninism is the sometimes organized, collective anger that these lost men inflict upon women. Their shared “woman-hating” ideals recapture a lost sense of patriarchal power and entitlement.
They attack women, because they misunderstand their own masculinity. They bully enlightened, emotionally-secure men who remind them of who they could never be. They hope to express masculine community through the collective mockery of others. And at the very least, they legitimize their attacks with dismissive claims that their disrespect is “just a joke.” (But it’s not funny.)
In a tragic nutshell, the abusive behavior of meninists is the best attempt of lost men to be masculine, when they do not know what masculinity is. Sad, really.