Men are the oppressed gender
Column | Philosophies of a Particular American
Both historically and presently, women are painted as the more oppressed gender. Men supposedly were and are better off. This is an illusion, however, and the fact that men’s oppression has not been properly recognized only illustrates its severity. At least in the West, it is men who had it worse and continue to have it worse. Women were oppressed and continue to be oppressed, but not to the same degree.
Consider work. Yes, historically women were barred from working in many professions, with their labor being confined to the home. Homemaking, however, wasn’t such a bad way to spend your time compared to mining, soldiering or a host of other physically dangerous professions men exclusively had to do in the past. Homemaking also seems pretty nice compared to a lot of the dull white-collar professions men found themselves in. And in the modern day, it is far easier for women to enter traditionally male work than for men to enter traditionally female work. Women are actually commonplace in fields like business, law, medicine and academia, and there are more women than one might think in fields like technology or the military. How many men are in nursing or childcare, though? Today, it is certainly considered stranger for a man to be a nurse or a preschool teacher than it is for a woman to be a computer programmer. For that matter, it is still considered very odd for a man to be a full-time homemaker. And if a man expresses a desire to be a homemaker right out of school, without ever really working, the criticism of him would be unfathomable.
War is another potent example of men being oppressed. In almost all wars where conscription has taken place, it has been exclusively men who were conscripted. Think about all the ridiculous hardship that men have had to endure fighting in wars while women were able to stay at home. In World War I alone, the suffering and death inflicted on men in particular was extraordinary. The event could be considered a holocaust for the male gender, of which there exists no comparison for women in the West.
Women also sometimes complain about how society looks down on them when they are overt in seeking romantic partners. Many women dislike how they are forced to be reactive in this process — the courted as opposed to the courter, their best bet for finding someone being subtext that may not always get across their romantic message. These women don’t realize that the alternative — having to be proactive in courtship — is much worse. Though men should have more choice for partners in theory, in practice, they have less choice because the risk/reward proposition of asking out most women is negative. Also, a woman who asks out men risks only shame in the short-term. A man who waits to be asked out by women risks lifetime singleness.
Some will say that men cannot possibly be the more oppressed gender because they have held and continue to hold greater governmental, economic and social power than women. This is not a fair point, because oppression is fundamentally about the misery of the victims, not their power. I do not think gender oppression is caused by one gender oppressing the other. In history, men have oppressed men and women have oppressed women. It is cultures that perpetrate gender oppression.
I do think that women are more oppressed than men in certain cultures, particularly those where the mutilation and maiming of women is openly encouraged. For Western cultures, however, it’s men who have gotten screwed. Our generation can change society by changing how we think. In progressive communities, the recent phenomenon of the stay-at-home dad is a great start. Everyone, regardless of gender, should have the same expectations and opportunities.
Ed Reep is a Rutgers Business School senior majoring in supply chain and marketing science with minors in business and technical writing and economics. His column, “Philosophies of a Particular American,” runs on alternate Mondays.