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March 2014

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Collie muse

The perils of ivory tower indecisiveness when studying misogyny, pt. 3

So yes, this book is one of the most horribly self-righteous homilies on how the poor, emotionally tragically sad, snoogie-woogums-needing men are suffering SO MUCH!! by all that abuse they're foisting on the women! It's not that they actually want to dominate or anything, right? — though Gilmore has apparently forgotten some shockingly honest Indian men in a study he quotes, who were "quite conscious of their masculine privileges and violently jealous of them … many of them openly acknowledged that their misogyny served to buttress their position and to keep women in servitude" (179). As the study's author notes, these men were consciously "'using' misogyny as a way of maximizing their [the men's] power and privileges. Putting women down made it easier to justify their [the women's] subordination" (179).

Gosh, Mr. Gilmore! Maybe this supposed ambivalence is not as universal as you're claiming! Further, for those cases where it does appear, maybe it can be more easily quantified as the uneasiness these petulantly bratty men experience upon performing actions they know are wrong — rather than this charmingly victim-free appearance he's suggesting? Further, why am I surprised he prefers a sort of: "my inner demons made me do it!" transference of responsibility for one's own actions — or worse: "I need women so badly — so it's their fault I was mean to them! They made me do it by not loving me enough, the big meanies!"

While this very much made me feel like either throwing the book across the room or throwing up, I must confess: it gets worse. His conclusions on what causes misogyny are the worst kinds of rambling ivory tower blather, and I say this as a person who loves learning. I'm condensing a little here due to increasing revulsion, but Gilmore's assertions seem to be that men are misogynistic because of: "chronic warfare" (221); the "mismatch between sexual evolution and restraint" which is "probably sharper, more physiologically driven, in the male than in the female because of the peremptory power of the testosterone-driven male libido" (222 — and I confess to guffawing incredulously at this dumbfoundingly predictable male-applauding decree!); men's "unbearable frustration" at being "helplessly dependent upon women for the basics of life, more so than are women upon men" — truly a terrifying "challenge [to] his manly self-image" (223)! The author concludes the section by deciding that if his assertions are correct, then "we may conclude that most men (or many men) are indeed pathological to some degree" (224).

Okay, guys: don't you find this even just a little, well… insulting?

But wait! Qualification, tapdance, dodge — that's not what he really thinks! No, he proudly announces that his beliefs are "not really a theory at all but rather an eclectic combination of prior propositions with a few additions" (225). Doesn't that sound wonderfully, obfuscatingly erudite? Let's see what it actually means: "Freudian castration anxiety, behaviorist frustration-aggression theory, psychic-dependency theory, and the notion that all men experience regressive impulses" (225).

Sooo… isn't that just academia-speech titivation of pretty much the same thing he just said he didn't really believe? Well, let's give him a little slack here, and instead jump to his suggestions on how to fix this misogyny — mostly because this level of blitheringly incompetent indecision is starting to drag.

So what are these suggestions? Welp, first gotta make sure he covers his ass, yupyup, by the requisite pointless yammering about how there may be no cure but gosharooties, maybe we can "mitigate the problem" and "facilitate sexual reconciliation" (228)! Isn't that a lovely denial of any male responsibility, as well as complete negation of the possibility of any female pain? Moving on to the actual suggestions: — wow, they're almost breathtakingly Pollyannaish! He suggests sexual desegregation, noting (without any hint of irony!) how well desegregation has fixed American racism. Silly me — I hadn't realized racism was all fixed and concluded once it didn't bother old white male professors anymore!

Okay, what else. Ah, a wonderful one: men should raise their sons more, to alleviate "the mother's monopoly over infant care" (229)! Those pesky moms, somehow forcing their poor baby boys to fixate on them due to also forcing the dads to… what… to suffer forcing violent and brutal attacks of misogyny on the women…? Yeah, no. Argh. What's next: education! Oh, but wait, it can't be mean or anything or it might hurt the widdle feelings of the poor boys and men! -and since this is all about teh MENZ let's not even notice how we've completely eliminated women from this equation — including the fact that "hurtful education" pretty much summarizes what misogyny does to women in convincing them they really are less than human. No double standards here, nopenope!

And to put the cherry on top of this disgustingly navel-gazing concoction, Gilmore concludes, "sadly, all this is probably wishful thinking" (229). Haha, sorry, kids! He's just wasting our time so he can hear himself talk! Oh, but wait — there's more! A stirring call for men to accept their own wholeness so they can "appreciate the loveliness, gentleness, and beauty of women" because "only through such a therapeutic gender alliance can men and women be happy together" (230).

Quite frankly, I find this appallingly shortsighted. Gilmore has put women up on a pedestal that deprives them of both personality and agency, and he actually has the gall to believe this is what is required for happiness? Yeah, no — how about women just dump all these pathologically dependent boys, and head off on their own? That sounds a lot happier than waiting for the magic empathy fairies to turn up and sprinkle these guys with "happy-good boy" fairy dust so we'll all live happily ever after.

In conclusion, I find I do not consider this to be a book. I see it instead as a paper collecting — and badly interpreting — various studies on misogyny, with an insultingly timid, indecisive ending tacked on at the last minute. Concisely, this author appears to be cluelessly under-researched, uncomprehending of what research he did find, overly impressed with himself, breathtakingly oblivious to his old white male ivory tower privilege, in serious denial of any sense of personal responsibility for one's actions, staggeringly sexist — against both women and men — and just plain wrong.

…and now my venting is done, whew! If you read this far, congratulations on your dedication, and thank you. :)

 


Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Comments

That was fun!

And, the author is just putting fancy words on a statement I most see as "Hey, You Kids get off my Lawn!"

Really, I don't have the scholarship to dissect this as you have, because I wouldn't sit through the book.

Makes me glad I'm not an academic. As to your question:

Okay, guys: don't you find this even just a little, well… insulting?

I think by his standards I'm probably not male, so I'm not going to worry about it.

Now, let's dive into pop culture, avoid serious discussion, and ask: "Is twerking cultural misappropriation?" (No, this is not a serious question, or one I stick around for the discussion of.)

Re: That was fun!

John, how nice to hear from you! I still hold out hope that someday we'll get together to chat over lunch or something! :)

Re being an academic: well, most of the time I'm fortunate enough to not have to read such incredibly narcissistic rambling. Amusingly, I was not surprised at all to later read a rather negative personal comment on the book's amazon reviews. The comment-writer was a man who stated (with much frustration) that he'd had to take a class with the book's author -- who seemed constitutionally incapable of either stating an original idea, or not rambling mentally.

I guess I asked regarding the insulting part because I really loathe folks who rampantly generalize on women as a mass based on one unpleasant experience with one woman. I can't help but wonder: do guys care about that sort of denigrating mental crutch too? Or should I not bother trying to correct it when I see it, if it's applied to men? Does that make sense? :)

Re: That was fun!

This is gonna be a little strange...

Since men get the priveledge of not being judged quite as harshly as a class, they are less likely to take class based insults as seriously. Hmm. I don't know if this is true, but it's easier for me to ignore this dipnut, because I don't feel he's relevant in any way.

Chat sometime sure. It'll happen.

Re: That was fun!

No, actually that makes perfect sense now you mention it, John. I know I tend to get tetchier the more I feel pressured, for example... and I'm a lot more patient when I don't feel emotionally involved in something.

Re getting together to chat: Excellent! I'm so glad to hear that, John -- I'd started to wonder if you'd been quietly avoiding me the past seven or so years! So, when and where would you like to get together? What sort of lunch would you like? ;)