It’s the same stuff that’s so frustrating about MRA arguments. I am, in fact, sympathetic to the legitimate woes that men, even privileged men, even outstandingly privileged men, suffer. The suicide rate (fewer attempts than women, but more successful attempts, due largely to the methods they use). The inability to get some level of child custody when they want it and don’t have some specific reason to be denied it. Being pressured into dangerous, “manly” jobs. Unreported sexual assault, particularly in prisons.
Here’s the thing, though: That stuff isn’t women’s fault. It’s the result of a patriarchal system established for the benefit of men — even less-privileged men, even outstandinglyunderprivileged men. Women are more likely to receive child custody because we’re automatically assigned sweet, soft, nurturing, child-raising qualities and responsibilities. We aren’t given access to dangerous jobs because throughout history, we’ve been cast as the weak, delicate figures that must be protected at all times (to the point that we’ve had to fight like hell to be allowed into military combat, in part because men would ostensibly be so distracted with protecting us that they’d fail to perform their own duties). Men are discouraged from reporting rape because it’s not “manly,” which is, once again, a gender role they’ve pressed on themselves.
This stuff is because of the patriarchy. The obvious solution, which benefits both men and women, is to disassemble that time-honored institution and establish something more equitable, something that allows women to share the duties of childcare and share the risk of combat service and gives men the freedom to acknowledge their feelings, advocate for themselves, and get the help they need without fear of seeming weak or “girly” or “beta.” (Jesus, that word.) Concrete changes can be made, and we can all win.
But to these men, any solution that doesn’t benefit men by screwing over women is out of the question. They have to oppose the VAWA, the ERA, reproductive rights, and any efforts (such as domestic abuse shelters only open to women and children, for their safety, or women’s lobbying organizations, or women’s healthcare initiatives) that benefit women without immediately providing an equivalent establishment for men. Instead of organizing and lobbying to gain those things, their approach to equality is to take things away from others — so even if the world sucks, at least it sucks for women, too.
And that’s where my sympathy goes away. If your solution to inequality is to screw me, then my only real response is, “Screw you, too.”
Caperton on sympathy.