last updated 21 September 2005


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Gender Rights

History, despite its wrenching pain

Cannot be unlived, but if faced

With courage, need not be lived again.

      -- Maya Angelou in On the Pulse of Morning

     Gender scholarship and its political sibling Gender Rights have been an area of thought from which a person could reasonably expect far more interconnective thinking than has actually occurred.  It is strange that so few people have understood the obvious correlations between feminism and men's rights - little wonder that the United States of America has yet to unlearn fully its unfortunate history of gender oppression, both of women and of men.  The parallels are plain.
      Historically, women have been treated as property and subhuman; in more recent times, women have still had to battle both the sexist assumptions that they are incompetent at math and logic-based reasoning and the sexist pressure to take sole responsibility for child-rearing and for the social and emotional needs of relationships.  In the courtship game, women have often been reduced to sex objects.
      Historically, men of color and/or poverty have been treated as property and subhuman (rich men have garnered somewhat better treatment); in more recent times, men still have been restricted to limited options. Like women, men have had to battle sexist assumptions, in the case of men the sexist assumptions that men are incompetent at both language and the social and emotional needs of relationships (including child-rearing) and the sexist pressure to take primary responsibility both for romantic expenses (which is why there are a number of holidays which require gifts exclusively for wives but no holidays which require gifts exclusively for husbands) and for the mechanical dirtywork.  Men have often been reduced to success objects in the courtship game, expected to shoulder most if not all the financial expenses of dating and to hazard the emotional tolls of courting rather than the emotional safety of being the person courted.
     Unfortunately, too many men want to work for gender equality yet still base their self-esteem on their financial and mechanical powers, while too many women want to work for gender equality yet still operate under the assumption that men are inherently inferior to women at child-rearing.  Too many men want to work for gender equality yet expect their girlfriends to shoulder responsibility for the emotional needs of any relationship, while too many women want to work for gender equality yet expect their boyfriends to shoulder all financial expenses of any romantic activities and to subordinate their opinions on emotional issues and domestic issues to those of their girlfriends.      There will be no end to sexism against women nor to sexism against men until people focus on ending sexism against everyone.
     One organization working for such a solution is the Movement for the Establishment of Real Gender Equality.
     Internet-savvy men's rights groups sympathetic towards women's rights are Men For Change, a Canadian gender rights organization, and Free Men, a gender rights organization focusing on oppressiveness of current male gender roles.  For a sense of the history of the women's rights movement, the older of the two gender rights movements, I recommend the History of Feminism on the 150th Anniversary of the Women's Rights Movement.

     A major issue for Gender Rights is domestic abuse.  Both gender roles contribute to this tragedy.  Activists damage both women's rights and men's rights efforts when they focus on wife abuse and ignore husband abuse instead of focusing on domestic abuse; the lie that women are always the victims and men are always the villains simply perpetuates the sexist stereotype of women as weaklings in need of rescue and of men as the center of power in the family.  Domestic violence involves spouse abuse not wife abuse ( for which author Steinmetz received verbal threats and anonymous phone calls from extremist women's groups threatening to harm her children )and studies have proven that women and men are equally victims of domestic abuse ( Did you know that 1.8 million women annually suffered one or more assaults from a male partner but 2 million men were assaulted by a female partner - that's 200,000 more male victims than female victims - and that 54 percent of all domestic violence termed "severe" was by women?  Did you know that women are nine times more likely to report their abusers to the authorities, in part because men are ridiculed when they report domestic violence while women are not? ).  There are almost no resources for male victims of domestic abuse nor for female batterers; however, female victims of domestic abuse can contact the goverment's Violence Against Women Office for more information.
     Another difficulty in the effort to achieve Gender Rights is the fact that the press tends to treat all the very different feminist organizations as one group and all the very different men's movements as one movement.  Contrary to popular fears, the majority of feminist organizations are *not* misandric and the majority of men's movement organizations are *not* misogynic; both favor gender equality.  Unfortunately, both reasonable and irrational groups become merged in the public consciousness, and soon no one knows what feminists and men's rights activists really stand for.  Therefore, I recommend the article All Men's Movements are Not Alike: the Seven Types of Men's Movements for information on the many men's movements and both All Feminist Movements are Not Alike Part I: the Sixteen Terms often used to label Feminist Movements and the All Feminist Movements are Not Alike Part II: the Nine Feminist Intellectual Traditions.
     There has been some confusion over the percentage of gays and lesbians in the United States today, with GLB rights proponents claiming 10% while homophobic organizations have been attempting to diminish GLB validity by claiming the amount is only 3%.  This has turned into an ugly statistics game which deserves some clarification.  The ten-percent (10%) statistic is the percentage of people who live as gays or lesbians in this country; the three-percent (3%) statistic is the percentage of people who live as gays or lesbians and have never once experimented heterosexually.  In an effort to falsely reduce the apparent number of gays and lesbians in this country, pollsters simply reclassified all gays and lesbians who had ever tried straight sex - even if it were only one time - as heterosexuals, and through this misuse of statistics falsely reduced the percentage of homosexuals in their poll.
     For information on gays, lesbians, and bisexuals and the family, religion, domestic partnerships, health, and politics, among other things, there is the Queer Resourrces Directory.  For specific information on the dangers of the misnamed "ex-gay" movement, turn to Ex-Ex-Gay.  For explanations of the Christian perspectives which find homophobia and heterosexism Biblically unjustifiable, there is What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality.
     For information for relatives and friends of gays / lesbians / bisexuals, there is Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians And Gays.

     Finally, for everyone who wishes to maintain courtesy and etiquette in a more tolerant society, I recommend Miss Manners' advice concerning friendships between heterosexuals and gay couples.


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