Ask Dr. Helen: Are Men Keeping Other Men Down?
Are men in this country keeping other men down? Do you ever wonder if part of the anti-male bias in this country has to do with various groups of men keeping other groups of men down? I am not saying here that women are not responsible for anti-male bias -- they are. But much of the bias against men is also tolerated because of a number of professional or business men in this country who benefit from, or get accolades for, spitting on their brothers. Or, sometimes, the problem is just apathy or chivalry on the part of ordinary men.
Let me give you an example of the professional man who keeps other men down. If you work in -- or are involved in -- academia, you will know what I mean. There are a number of older guys, in their sixties or so, who worked with the civil rights movement and considered this their heyday. They are now full professors who pride themselves on helping women and minorities get ahead. They come into every faculty meeting harping about the need to give a step-up to the women in the department or they demand that a minority be hired for some position, meanwhile overlooking the qualified men who should also be in the running. You, the young, untenured guy in the department, often wonder why this deadwood won't step down if he cares so much -- and give up his much-coveted chair to some minority. But no such luck, the guy is reveling in his position and perks, all the while demanding that men like you give up the right to theirs. You realize that if this traitor was looking to get hired as tenured faculty today, he might not stand a chance. Does this sound all too familiar?
But that's just academia, where a lot of weird stuff happens that doesn't really translate over to the "real world," right? Wrong. Take a look at what is happening to men down on their luck in the real world -- the "justice" system. There also, we see the family court system, often with male judges who have no qualms about giving fellow men the shaft. The reason for this, according to Stephen Baskerville, author of Taken Into Custody, is often attributed to simple, old-fashioned prejudice:
Though formal legal equality between the genders inhibits judges from expressing their biases openly, occasionally, some still do. "I ain't never seen a calf following a bull," declares a Georgia superior court judge. "They always follow the cow. So I always give custody to the mamas."
Last time I looked, cows and bulls weren't heading to divorce court. It sounds like this judge needs to go work as a farmhand rather than working to destroy people's lives. Times have changed and many "chivalrous" male judges haven't changed with them.
Even rich men are hurt by this biased system set up and perpetuated by their fellow men. Even Paul McCartney with all of his success and money was caught up in the court system in England. He had to hand over millions, time with his daughter, and property to Heather Mills -- and this was considered a triumph! The summary of the divorce judgment indicates that the judge based the award on what looks like an antiquated law of chivalry -- no doubt drafted by men:
The judge, in undertaking the exercise prescribed by section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1973, decided that the needs of the wife were a factor of magnetic importance.
What would have happened had McCartney not been rich? He might be toiling away at some job now to pay off his ex just for the privilege of her company for four years. Male chivalry on the part of the court system here and in England plays a part in handing over these outrageous awards. The system -- instituted and maintained by many men, as well as women -- works to keep men financially down.
In terms of high-level businessmen such as CEOs or politicians, I think it was Scott Adams or Drew Carey or one of those Dilbert-like guys who said in response to the constant outcry that men run the world, "those are other men." Whoever said it -- I have searched high and low for this quote and finally gave up -- was correct. The majority of men are not Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, or even Bill Moyers. The majority are just your average Joe trying to make it through the day like everyone else. In a speech to the American Psychological Association entitled "Is There Anything Good about Men?" Roy F. Baumeister points out that while it looks like all men are at the top, the majority are not:
When I say I am researching how culture exploits men, the first reaction is usually "How can you say culture exploits men, when men are in charge of everything?" This is a fair objection and needs to be taken seriously. It invokes the feminist critique of society. This critique started when some women systematically looked up at the top of society and saw men everywhere: most world rulers, presidents, prime ministers, most members of Congress and parliaments, most CEOs of major corporations, and so forth -- these are mostly men.
Seeing all this, the feminists thought, wow, men dominate everything, so society is set up to favor men. It must be great to be a man.
The mistake in that way of thinking is to look only at the top. If one were to look downward to the bottom of society instead, one finds mostly men there too. Who's in prison, all over the world, as criminals or political prisoners? The population on Death Row has never approached 51% female. Who's homeless? Again, mostly men. Whom does society use for bad or dangerous jobs? U.S. Department of Labor statistics report that 93% of the people killed on the job are men.
The problem is that the men at the top both simultaneously give the illusion that all men are on top and at the same time, some -- not all by any means; many leaders are quite fine -- hurt other men by setting rules and regulations for those under them that damage all men further. How do they do it? Once they have made it, these men try to change the rules for others. Bill Gates made his fortune by using the capitalist system -- now that he has his billions, this system is only worthy of his contempt. And don't get me started on what Bill Clinton has done with sexual harassment law that has left men in his wake vulnerable to lawsuits and losing their livelihoods and their reputations. Notice that Bill has never really suffered too much for his transgressions; he has made millions, is still in the public eye, and doesn't seem to be suffering despite selling his fellow brethren down the river.
Finally, ordinary men also keep other men down (see this comment section at my blog for more on this). Chivalrous men who think women can't make it on their own and need men's protection at any cost, as well as men who stick their head in the sand (ostriches) and blame other men for their problems or say that the problem does not exist, only serve to perpetuate misandry in the culture. In addition, men are indoctrinated to say bad things about other men. How many times do you hear men saying "he's a dog, a deadbeat, a loser," often without proof? And these are their friends. Some men buy into the "men are evil" myth hook, line, and sinker. It is often not warranted.
What do you think, are men playing a role in the anti-male bias in our society?
If you have a question you would like answered, please leave it below or email me at [email protected]. Your questions may be edited for length and clarity. Please note that your first name only or no name at all will be used to identify your question -- if you want me to use your name, tell me, otherwise you will be referred to by your first name or as "a reader," etc. And of course, if anyone has experience dealing with this issue, please comment also.
Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at drhelen.blogspot.com. This advice column is for educational and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to replace therapy or psychological treatment.