Faatimah Hendricks

'A man's plight is rarely taken seriously'

2016-10-06 08:05

Faatimah Hendricks

“Two wrongs don't make a right.” - Proverb

This proverb takes a direct hit at hypocrisy and double standards, of which there seems to be plenty to go around when it comes to sexism. In short, a double standard is when a standard or rule is unfairly applied to a person or members of a group. Like when women tell men not to objectify them but feel perfectly okay with objectifying men.

It is easy to sympathise with the female position because there are many examples of women's oppression through history. There were times when women were not allowed to vote or own property in some countries. Today there are women who find themselves in oppressive situations. This ranges from domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace to being told how to dress and being body shamed.

Feminism has contributed a lot in the past to helping women rise above the systematic oppression they were facing. There is an argument to be made whether there is still a need for the movement, since women today enjoy the same rights as men do in more western, democratic nations. In fact, if you look closely enough, you'll note that women sometimes have more rights than men do, such as in reproduction.

It's all good if feminism helps to empower women, however, it becomes a problem when it's a movement of double standards. Feminists claim to fight for equality, but many these days spew men-hating rhetoric. Now, I acknowledge not all women who claim to be feminists are like this but it's far too easy for women to gang up on men because of their belief in the patriarchy or because they have a general disdain for them.

Contrary to what feminists want you to believe, there isn't a general belief by men or society that it's okay to harm women. When a woman is beaten by her husband, raped, forced into a marriage or harassed by men there is always an outcry. When the roles are reversed it's turned into a joke and nobody bats an eyelid. Shockingly, there are feminists who encourage hitting and objectifying men. The man's plight is hardly ever taken seriously by society.

Objectification

Objectification is treating a person as an object without any regard for their feelings, dignity or personality. Sexual objectification of women is when men treat them as an instrument or object for their sexual pleasure. This is one of the things feminists are always harping on about - and rightfully so. But it's problematic when they display the same behaviour towards men and see absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Perhaps feminists think they need to speak up for women because they cannot do so themselves, which in itself is patronising. Let us not forget about women who are okay with being sexually objectified, such as models or porn stars. Saying that women should be allowed to do what they want publicly with their bodies and not be seen as sexual objects is laughable. It goes without saying there would be some men who would regard those women as sexual objects. It doesn't make it right, but that's the nature of humanity. Is a picture of a nude model giving the viewer an idea of her feelings and personality so that they could take that into consideration?

However, it's not just women being treated this way. In fact, it seems men are being objectified by women and gay men, just as much as women are, if not more. Male celebrities are always being ogled by their female fans. Why wouldn't women do so when these men are displayed, usually half naked, on billboards and magazine pages?

Speaking of magazines, women's magazine, Cosmopolitan, was criticised for exhibiting similar double standards, where it's okay to objectify men but not women. One minute they're expressing anger at the objectification of women, going so far as to call men who objectify women "effing horrible", and the next they're unable to keep their eyes off the “bulges” of the male athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics. They even compared sizes, too.

Body shaming

Increasingly over the years we have seen (and continue to see) campaigns by plus-sized models encouraging fuller figured women to love and accept their bodies. It's welcomed after always having seen skinny women advertised in the media as being beautiful and the accepted norm by society. If women are criticised by men for their body shape, weight or hair texture, rest assured there'll be an outcry.

However, when the roles are reversed, there is silence, especially from women about the issue. Whether you want to believe it or not, it is a fact that men are affected by body shaming. An internet meme of actor Wentworth Miller went viral earlier this year when it depicted him as slender during his Prison Break days and another of him when he was much heavier. He revealed that seeing the image was hurtful, because when the picture of a heavier Miller was snapped he was fighting depression and suicidal tendencies.

During the 2016 Rio Olympics Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros Habte was labelled a whale and an embarrassment to his nation for not being as in shape as he “should have been” to compete. He, too, was the subject of memes comparing him to whales and dolphins, as well as to buffed US swimmer Michael Phelps. Imagine the outrage if Habte was a woman. Imagine if people called her a whale and an embarrassment to her country because she wasn't as in shape as she “should be”.

There is also the issue of penis size. Women have no problem making jokes about penis size, but it's a major issue of self-worth for men. It's also easy to ridicule men with micro penises, but it's not what they chose for themselves. It's the equivalent of a female being told she's less of a woman because of her flat chest. At least if she was overweight she could still exercise to shed a few kilos, but what about men who are ridiculed for something they are born with? They didn't exactly have a choice in the matter so there's no need to kick a man when he's already down.

Domestic violence

Contrary to the present narrative, men are also victims of domestic violence. Unlike women there are barely any shelters in South Africa for men – if at all – to seek refuge. Generally the notion of men as victims is not taken seriously. Boys are told from young to “take it like a man” if they got into scuffles with friends or were hit by their parents. As adults they're seen as weak or effeminate if they get beaten by women. This is after they've already been abused and emasculated.

While there are far too many women suffering domestic violence, let's not forget that the roles can be reversed. I recall seeing on social a media how a group of feminists were joking about smacking their potential future husbands for asking them to cook food like their (men's) mothers'. This mentality reeks of self-superiority and hypocrisy.

Just to give you an idea of the scale of the issue, in America the Center for Disease Control and Department of Justice conducted a study in 2010 and found that "more men than women were victims of intimate partner physical violence and over 40% of severe physical violence was directed at men. Men were also more often the victim of psychological aggression and control over sexual or reproductive health".

Equality for all

There is a great deal of irony in what feminists are advocating for today. They expect men (and women) to accept their ideologies without question. If anyone dare question them they're accused of misogyny, victim-blaming and the like. Saying that objectification affects women and men differently (with women suffering and men not) does not mean that it's okay for either sex to do it to the other. We're taught from a young age by our parents or teachers to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This should apply to feminists, too, as simplistic as it may sound.

Instead of applying their double standards in countries where many women already have their freedom, feminists could instead focus on issues of child brides, female genital mutilation and Muslim women being discriminated against for choosing not to expose their bodies to strangers.

These issues, however, would require them to take their fight to less comfortable arenas, such as the middle east, where inciting a revolution against the patriarchy could result in execution. Do they care enough about women's rights in a far away country to die for them? Perhaps it's easier to be a critic in the comfort and safety of a modern, western setting where blaming men for life's ills is almost consequence free.

Faatimah Hendricks is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and at selfwriteous.co.za.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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