Ah, Schadenfreude

Friday, November 30, 2012
I have been watching with some bemusement the on-line kerfuffle over the so-called "War on Men." Leaving aside for the moment the utter hypocrisy required for someone like Suzanne Venker - a successful writer who is fully capable of supporting herself - to chastise women for not being feminine and dependent enough, the entire thing is just stupid. 

Reasonable people are not declaring "war" against men. Reasonable people are not suggesting that men should not be allowed to contribute to society in meaningful ways. Reasonable people are not  suggesting that men should be relegated to sperm donors. Reasonable people are not suggesting that men should not participate in public life. What reasonable people are suggesting is that men, especially white men, are slowly, eventually, someday going to have to learn to compete on a level playing field.

And we're getting there. I have worked in male-dominated fields since 1984. During that time, I have watched the cultural norms in professional life change, and change for the better. It's no longer acceptable for men to pinch my ass or otherwise overtly sexually harass me. If I'm still the only female engineer in the room during the the majority of my meetings, at least I'm not perceived as some sort of trained monkey, a one-off phenomenon suitable only to be gawked at while the men-folk marvel at my ladybrain's ability to (gasp) Do Math! And Engineer! Am I still subject to gender-bias and other, more subtle forms of sexual harassment? You bet. Each and every day, and you can be sure that even after all these years it still makes my blood boil and I have to resist the urge to punch people in throat on a semi-regular basis.

But it's better. And I think that's the catalyst for the kerfuffle. This slow, inexorable sea change means that, as Chez notes over at the Daily Banter, white guys "can’t just “show up” and still be the subject of adoration, as they once were."

Yes, it's true. Eventually we'll reach a point where men will no longer get to go to the front of the line simply by virtue of their penises. Some day, men will no longer be able to play the game of life on the lowest difficulty setting. Slowly, ever so slowly, it's changing. And as anyone with enough self-awareness to come in out of the rain knows, it's changing for the better, for both women AND men. Men can now reasonably make the choice to be the stay-at-home parent if that's what they want and it's what works for their family. Men can now reasonably make the choice to work part-time and take care of the household while the female partner is the main breadwinner if that's what they want and it's works for them and their family. These really weren't viable, acceptable choices for men even 20-30 years ago, but now? I know several families who have made these choices, to everyone's benefit, and the men are no less whole, no less contributing members of society for their choices, any more than a woman who made a similar choice would be. Why wouldn't both men and women want this flexibility in their lives?

So when I see men, especially white men, complain so bitterly about the slow, eventual loss of their unearned privilege, I find I am, um, somewhat unsympathetic. As they bitch, cry and moan, I remember each and every time I've been interrupted, ignored, talked over - marginalized - in my professional and personal life, and I just say to myself, "Suck it, you whiny bitch. Welcome to my world."

Not a very flattering reaction, it's true, but it's an honest one. Because in my world, you don't get brownie points for wanting people on an even playing field. It's a minimum standard of decency. One that many prvileged people seem to be failing to achieve.

2 comments:

Matt said...

As I only read the lead (in the finest tradition of reactionaries and conspiracy nuts everywhere) . . . War on Men?!?!? Shit, just KNEW I shouldn't have put off finishing the bunker and stocking up . . . now I'm just screwed

beatrice in Paris said...

Thank you, Janiece. Merci beaucoup.