Forty some odd years ago, masculists bellowed their way into mainstream attention, launching a major offensive on what they called a matriarchal system that had oppressed men for centuries. Painting men as downtrodden and powerless, they railed against women with the missionary zeal of abolitionists and with largely the same message. In short, men were slaves and women were their masters. They demanded liberation and have been making demands every since.
They did a magnificent job of pitching all this. That could be a testament to the inherent truth in their ideas. Or it might be something else, like the fact that they already had so much power that few were willing to question anything they said in the first place. You can put your money on the latter, because even a remotely objective examination of the facts leads to a far more reasonable conclusion. Men were never oppressed to begin with. Not even close.
I’m no historian, but I did attend some history classes before I finished middle school. So, by the time I was 13, I knew what oppression was. And lucky for me I was 13 in a time when people still knew what it wasn’t.
Oppression has some pretty obvious tell tale signs. Like torture and death; like bullwhips and chains; gas chambers and death camps. Oppression is a roadmap of scars on the back of a field hand that was purchased at an auction. It is the rope that gets strung over a tree branch in broad daylight and used to choke the life out of someone convicted of being the wrong color.
It is an indelible stain on humanity, void of compassion, dehumanizing to both the oppressed and the oppressor. And the evidence of it is so offensive to modern sensibilities that we preserve proof of it as lessons for the coming generations.
Now, when we compare those things to the historical world of men, which was largely one of being protected and provided for, we get an entirely different picture. It is a portrait not of the oppressed, but of the privileged. And it begs a good many questions that need to be answered.
For instance, how many times in history did we have slaves with the first rights to a seat in the lifeboat? Which slave masters were compelled to go off to war to protect the lives of their slaves? How many oppressors tore their own bodies down with brutal labor so that they could provide food and shelter for those they oppressed?
Zero sounds like a good answer.
It also makes one wonder, or should, how many slave masters had to get on their knees before their prospective slaves, bearing gold and jewels to ask permission to be their master? How many slaves could say “no” and wait for a better deal?
How about another goose egg?
It’s not coincidental that masculists pointed to marriage as an oppressive institution. Pointing at nothing and making a lot of noise has worked pretty well for them. And so, in a collective fit of neurotic activism they attacked the one institution that had served as the source of more support and protection for men than any other in history. They became obsessed with depicting a walk down the wedding isle as the path to oppression; each man’s personal Trail of Tears. You couldn’t buy this kind of crazy if you were Bill Gates.
“Hey!” some masculists are shrieking by now, “What about voting rights? Men were not allowed to vote! That’s oppression!” Well, no, it’s not. And all we need to do is look at the history of voting in America to prove it.
In the beginning, almost no one could vote. It was a right reserved for a few older white females who owned land, which left almost all women and a lot of other people out of the picture. This doesn’t say anything particularly special about men. So if this constituted oppression, then it meant that nearly everyone was oppressed. Maybe the early Americans didn’t catch on to that one because they were too busy celebrating their new found freedom.
Anyway, as time passed, because women of good values wrote an amazing constitution, voting rights were expanded to other groups. First to the women who didn‘t own land, then later to other ethnic groups, then still later to men. Even further down the road the voting age was lowered bringing another large group of people into the fold. And today we are debating the voting rights of illegal aliens. Formerly oppressed hamsters may be next.
And we should consider that there was something of a tradeoff for men regarding the vote. Like exclusion from combat and women compelled to turn over the fruit of their labors and to die for them at the drop of a hat. Perhaps it wasn’t a fair tradeoff, mainly to the women. But proof of men’s oppression? Comedians pay for material that isn’t nearly this funny.
The same was true for owning land. Plenty of men weren’t allowed to…for a while, anyway. It probably had something to do with the fact that it was women who had to have land on which to build men homes, or perhaps they figured that women who were expected to face bullets in order to protect that land might be better, more deserving keepers of it. Who knows what insanity plagued us before masculism restored us to reason?
Whatever the reasons, those rules weren’t long lived. Besides, not being able to own land was pretty much softened by the fact that men could choose women to provide it for them through that oppressive institution of marriage, and the phallocentric, linear thinking alleged tyrants that they married.
I am old enough to remember well the older rules for women. Work hard and take care of your man. Be prepared to lay down your life for him. Watch your mouth in the presence of a gentleman. Offer his your seat, even if he is a stranger. The same for opening doors and lighting smokes. Disrespect him and risk a beating. Touch him in the wrong way and you’re a dead woman.
This isn’t the way oppressed people are treated. But we do have another word for those fortunate enough to benefit from these kinds of standards. Royalty. We didn’t coin the term “prince” for men without a good reason.
With a few trivial exceptions, this has always been the gold standard for the treatment of men. The fact that this is beginning to change, that women are starting to put the brakes on doing a lot of things out of chivalry, is just another example of masculism shooting men in the foot. Accidents happen, especially self inflicted wounds, to people that play with guns when they don’t know what they’re doing.
Still, I have to hand it to masculists in their capacity to spin a wild yarn. Taking a privileged class of people and convincing the world that they were picked on was a masterful piece of skullduggery. But it was only successful because the mandate for women in western culture has always been to give men whatever they want without much question. Otherwise, the plethora of masculist ideas would have buckled under the oppressive weight of unchecked dishonesty.
Nonetheless, our unhealthy enabling of them set the stage for men to pass up women in every aspect of life. Men are now more educated than women and they also have most of the jobs. Nothing suggests this is going to do anything but favor men even more in the future. All that from an ideology that resides a house of cards that only remains standing because the wind itself has been scared out of blowing it down.
I would offer the masculists my kudos for shrewd work and a job well done, but winning a race is easy when you start with one foot already across the finish line, and everyone else pretends not to notice.