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Are Men Oppressed?

Updated on November 29, 2010

What is oppression?


What is oppression? Oppression is defined as the exercise of authority or power in a cruel, unjust or burdensome manner. It is an abuse of power typically manifested by categorizing and dividing people into political, social, economic, or philosophical groups. As the ruling or owning class is established, their values and beliefs become the norm and all other groups are ostracized, frequently through the use of violence. In reality, everyone has been victimized by oppression. It is referred to by other names such as racism, sexism, or ageism. It is evident to anyone raised poor and felt by Jewish people, Catholics, ethnic or racial minorities and women.

As we explore the question of male oppression, it is important to begin by acknowledging the oppression of others. This is not an effort to compare the subjugation of men with women, Jews, African Americans, or any other oppressed group, or to suggest that an oppression of men diminishes another group’s struggles. I do not seek to portray white men as victims to another class of people. I do not claim that men acting as oppressors are not responsible for their actions. This is simply an effort to isolate a particular social question in search of reasonable answers.

White males are typically placed in oppressor roles. At least in America, it is a white man’s world and essentially remains so, despite gains made that include the election of an African-American President. Because males were instructed to compete and win at all costs until they gained positions of privilege, they held power and frequently utilized it at the expense of other groups. Along the path to privilege, however, were scores of hurts that conditioned men to act as the oppressors of others. In the end, they became the villain.

Men are not inherently to blame, however. No one is born with an “oppressor gene”; this behavior is taught and reinforced by society. Stereotyped cultural conditioning forces young males to deny their natural humanness and at least appear tough, unsentimental, competitive and ambitious. Any show of tenderness is often mocked until boys learn to hide feelings viewed as soft or feminine. As males grow older, they are trained that oppression is a rite of passage, a fun and harmless way to bond with others—boys will be boys, you know! Fraternity initiations and hazing rituals are an excellent example of this. Men are taught that sports are a metaphor for life, with clear-cut winners and losers. The messages become that fame and success are prizes for dominating others, and ultimately that might makes right.

Are men in fact an oppressed group themselves? It is easier to accept that men are oppressed but not as men—rather because they are poor, a racial minority, physically different, older or younger, or of a specific religious or political belief. This is a plausible explanation, but I am uncertain it is the entire issue. Despite socioeconomic factors that place men in positions of authority, there is evidence to suggest that men indeed suffer from oppression. What could be considered evidence that men are oppressed? Let’s consider a few examples.


The oppression of men--and hope for the future?

Oppression traps us all
Oppression traps us all
A heavy burden
A heavy burden
Hazing
Hazing
Full-contact sports
Full-contact sports
Was Obama's election a sign of changing attitudes?
Was Obama's election a sign of changing attitudes?
Nominated by the Republican Party as their Vice-Presidential candidate
Nominated by the Republican Party as their Vice-Presidential candidate

Could these be examples of oppression?

 

Male children are taught at an early age to deny or control their feelings or “feminine” side (big boys don’t cry!), despite the fact it is widely accepted that emotional release is important to psychological health.  This leads to a lifetime of remaining “in control”, culminating in tension, ill health, and early death; men die, on average, approximately five years earlier than women.  This is not an assertion that women lead lives without stress—it only suggests that a systematic sublimation of feelings is directed towards males at an early age by all facets of society because they are males.

Men also could be viewed as oppressed because of their physical strength.  Males are expected to use their bodies as tools to perform hard work, often leading to grim overwork with little relaxation.  This is certainly oppressive!  Society’s expectation that men fulfill potentially hazardous duties (firefighters, law enforcement agents, etc.) is another example of oppressive expectations placed upon men.  Occupational safety is in fact an extremely relevant issue that is very difficult to confront because society reinforces that men are supposed to be strong, tough, and able to face harsh conditions.  Men who complain are labeled weak or cowardly.  It is true that women are serving in ever-greater numbers in hazardous occupations, but this is a relatively recent circumstance and came about in spite of societal expectations, not because of them.

Men are also asked to use their bodies as a weapon against others.  This may manifest itself in sports such as boxing, wrestling, or “full-contact” boxing, where men are placed in rings or cages and asked to physically beat other men into submission for the sake of entertainment.  Even in non-contact sports such as baseball, competition is so fierce some men introduce performance-enhancing chemicals into their bodies to give them an edge, with little knowledge or regard for the long term effects such drugs may have. 

Men also have the responsibility to go to war and possibly be placed in “kill or be killed without question” circumstances.  As in sports, men are expected to act as a weapon, only with higher stakes.  I acknowledge the fact that the armed forces are a voluntary form of service populated by both men and women, but when the United States drafted men into military service, they had no choice but to serve and women were not called—and nothing prevents another draft from being instituted if a need for it is perceived.  A circumstance where one must kill in order to remain alive is unquestionably oppressive.  (I wish to emphasize that my statements are not meant as criticism of the military’s actions or motivations, or of the outstanding men and women that protect our country.  I support and admire those whose responsibility is to protect our country.)

 

What can be done?


How must the oppression of men be combated? The ideas and expectations for men and women must essentially merge for men to liberate themselves from both an oppressed and oppressor’s role. In our divisive society, competition is emphasized with males, cooperation with females; reliance and exploitation of the nurturing of women is the male way, self-nurturing and caring for others female; males are expected to deny positive emotions, females to embrace them. All of these principles are available and applicable to men as well as women.

However, the self-actualization of a single male is an insignificant tool to combat society’s norms. Improvement must come not only from changing the expectations of males, but through the liberation of all other oppressed groups. This is where gains can sometimes be seen, evinced by Barack Obama’s selection as Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, and Sarah Palin’s nomination for Vice-President by the Republican Party in the last United States Presidential election. Men, women, racial and ethnic minorities, young people and the elderly must all realize the liberation of one group helps everyone. We must unite as allies, proud of who we are and willing to courageously embrace our true power rather than become stereotypes. This is what is required to break down the distinctions which divide us and put an end to oppression. All liberation must lead to unity.

Sounds impossible, you say? Maybe it is, but does that mean we shouldn’t try?


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    • Truth From Truth profile image

      Truth From Truth 7 years ago from Michigan

      I think men are Oppressed at times. good hub.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thanks for your comments, Truth. Your opinions are greatly appreciated.

    • truepal profile image

      truepal 7 years ago

      Oppression is something that remain in every men but we all compel it to remain inside with our good virtue

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Truepal, thanks for your comments. It has been said we act out what has been done to us in our lives. If we are oppressed, we become the oppressor. If we are hurt, we hurt others. I'm not a psychologist, but that makes sense to me, and it means oppression is patterned behavior--a cycle that can be broken. If we do not oppress others, we may encourage others not to oppress, as well.

      We can hope.

      Thanks again.

    • profile image

      rml 7 years ago

      Your analysis is very interesting. I would have said at first that men aren't oppressed, but your examples are pretty convincing.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      rml, thanks for your comments. It is difficult to express my thoughts and opinions without sounding preachy, but I do believe examples of the oppression of males are abundant. Because of the oppression of other groups, it is easy to overlook what happens to men, simply because they are men.

      Thanks for reading.

    • FGual profile image

      FGual 6 years ago from USA

      Great discussion on a topic routinely swept under the rug, as it is not PC. If somebody has not noticed the incessant blaming of men for everything under the sun, they must be blind. Broken men are everywhere.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      FGual, thanks for your comments. You're quite correct, this is a topic usually not discussed or considered PC. Men are indeed frequently blamed for society's problems because we have been placed in oppressor roles, but that is part of the oppression. It is important for everyone to see that men are their allies and not inherently "bad," particularly just because they are male. It is an ongoing struggle and, as you say, broken men are everywhere.

      Thanks again for your comments, I truly appreciate your willingness to speak out about the oppression of men.

      Mike

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 6 years ago

      I'm afraid that we all are oppressed. If not by someone else- we oppress ourselves. Great hub as usual!

    • revortay1 profile image

      revortay1 6 years ago from PA

      great hub. It opened a lot of questions in my mind:] great read!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Micky, thanks for reading. I think men are placed in oppressor roles as well, and this does a lot to rob us of our essential human-ness. Men are good people that often look bad to others.

      Thanks for your kind words.

      Mike

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Revortay, I appreciate your stopping by. The oppression of men is an interesting and complex situation, and I'm glad you found something of value in reading my words. Thanks very much for stopping by.

      Mike

    • SilentReed profile image

      SilentReed 6 years ago from Philippines

      One way to lift the yoke of "oppression" of the male is to give women more jobs and responsibilities that where once the domain of men.You might start seeing more women with work related mental and physical illness.Although studies show that women are able to handle the stress factor better than men because of how they were brought up.So it's a win-win situation.:-). Perhaps the word should be "repression" as your essay clearly outlines all the expectation that is usually placed on the male.This after all is a patriarchal society.sociologist and anthropologist studying primitive and animal societies have found that a matriarchy was a more harmonious society.there were less conflict. And unless a virus suddenly wipes out all the male leaders in the world.We men will continue to be "oppressed". :-)

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      SilentReed, thanks for stopping by and commenting. We are indeed a patriarchal society, and some believe that is an aspect of male oppression--that men are placed in oppressor roles, which is in turn oppressive. Some embrace the view that men are forced to take charge in our patriarchal society, a perspective that I suspect is less cut-and-dried than it might sound. Our society depends on males to lead it, but does that mean men are forced to take charge and that it is therefore an oppressive situation? I am not certain.

      On a smaller and more personal scale, I have often had female supervisors and have never had a problem with taking orders from women. I realize that is a long way from a matriarchy, but perhaps it is a good sign.

      Thanks again for your comments, and I will confess that, if there is a virus that wipes out all male leaders, well--I hope it doesn't wipe out ALL the men. I'm rather hoping to live to a ripe old age. :-) Take care.

      Mike

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Mike, I totally agree that men are cast into roles that are rigid and suffer from stereotypical societal expectations. There are men who defy these expectations. Perhaps they are the strongest men.

      Becoming who you are is vital for spiritual growth. Why should men be cut off from this aspect of themselves? It is the deepest aspect I know.

      What saddens me is a woman who competes with men on their terms. The woman loses so much, when she becomes tough and belittles her feminine side.

      Thanks for the opportunity to consider this aspect of equal rights.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Storytellersrus, thanks for reading. The oppression of men is curious because part of the oppression is to place men in the role of oppressor. Usually men are marginally rewarded for this, and in most cases someone else benefits monetarily. Class societies are a big part of perpetuating the oppression of others, but it is so deeply rooted that it isn't always obvious.

      You are correct, men and women both need their feminine side. When either of them deny their "feminine" feelings, they lose.

      Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your insights a great deal. Take care.

      Mike

    • artfux profile image

      artfux 6 years ago from Novato, CA

      This was an interesting read, of a man's point of you, about oppression.. Great Hub.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Artfux, thanks for reading. All people suffer from oppression of some type, but it is often difficult to see because many people fill both oppressor and oppressed roles. That is very much the case for men, and it is important to see past the oppression and realize that all men are good and caring people. Thanks again.

      Mike

    • McLaren 83 profile image

      McLaren 83 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Yes men are oppressed, we are oppressed by women and men. Women live the most fee and luxurious lives possible at this point in human development. Men work harder, longer, die younger, suffer more ill health and are not even valued as human beings. We are here for the purpose of making womens lives easier, and trust me when i tell you, women have no concern for men. If your a man and you dont work to support a woman then you are worthless.

      There is no such thing as the patriarchy. Men oppress men yes, but women also use men to oppress other men. Patriarchy is a feminist myth.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      McLaren, thanks for your comments. I suspect women might disagree with your assessment, but I believe you are correct in asserting that men truly are oppressed. Women are oppressed also, but this takes different forms and requires different solutions.

      Thanks again for your comments.

      Mike

    • McLaren 83 profile image

      McLaren 83 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      If you look at the world carefully you will see that women are only really oppressed in Islamic nations. Through out the rest of the planet, particularly in the West, women are not oppressed.

      Name one law that oppresses women?

      Men have no reproductive rights. Less freedom of speech and women are often exempt from the laws that govern men. Courts have been told to treat female criminals with more lenience than males.

      Western women in particular are the most priviliged, pampered group of people on the planet. Its not admirable and not respectable.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      McLaren, I believe all "groups" are oppressed in one way or another as members of the group they belong to, whether they are categorized by race, gender, age, class status, sexual orientation, etc. The oppression may be subtle and not always seen, but I believe it to be there. I am not claiming a clarity of thought or insight you do not possess, but you seem to be speaking through a great deal of anger toward women. I apologize if this is not the case, but suggest that we will simply have to disagree here. I do thank you for your thoughts and insights.

      Mike

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 5 years ago

      Exceptionally well done, Mike Lickteig. Pardon the use of "manly" language here, but this was a very heavy topic to tackle, and you did so with great sensitivity. Not only that, it was very clearly and logically presented. I've done domestic violence offenders groups, and an important part of the treatment is what is called, "manhood training." It's important to recognize how men are taught to be strong and take charge, provide for their families, etc. Men feel as if they have lost their "manhood" when they find themselves unemployed or unable to control a situation. Of course, the most derogatory thing a man can be called when he isn't all the things society thinks he should be is a "girl". That's the segway into how girls and women are socialized; a whole 'nother story. The whole point being, we need to be aware that society assigns roles to us without our awareness that are often not in our best interest. We can re-define for ourselves what it means to be a man or a woman, in a way that is healthier and in our best interest. I cringe when I hear women automatically assume that men can lift heavy things and how automatically men oblige! I work with a lot of men with debilitating back pain from years of heavy lifting. Anyway, I got long-winded, but thanks for the very professional presentation of an important message.

    • profile image

      Matt 5 years ago

      I guess it is true that part of male oppression is to be oppressors. It is a fact that no matter an idea comes from a man or a woman, chance is that the one who are supposed to execute it is gonna be a man. In this case, he would be called the "oppressor". But deep down, he doesn't really have much choices. After all, he was brainwashed (by BOTH the father and the mother) to do that since he was small, and when he does it, EVERYONE (both the men AND the women) around him press him to do it (either by words, emotional aggression, or threat of forces). So I don't think you can blame men for "being the oppressors". How can the society put such a blame on men when they are the one who pressed men into being the executors of their twisted ideals?

      Just some thoughts.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Kim, thanks for your insights into this issue. Men and women are indeed both taught at an early age to accept roles that are defined for them, and when we accept these roles, we submit to oppression. The roles are assigned and reinforced in such subtle ways, even the most self-aware of us don't realize we are acting in ways often contrary to our nature as human beings. This problem is difficult to even define, let alone combat. We can make progress, a single person at a time, but new levels of self-awareness are required to effect change. We can still try, however--and that was the goal of this article.

      Thanks again for your comments and superb insights.

      Mike

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Matt, you are absolutely correct--males are traditionally taught to act as oppressors by both men and women, and it is not their fault when they simply act out roles that have been clearly defined for them. The problem for men is that they are rarely seen as oppressed, and it is difficult to see acting as an oppressor as oppressive. It is the case, however, and that is what society must realize and combat if we are to really be allies for each other. That is the hope and goal of this article, and it is a goal I hope others will share and embrace.

      Thanks again.

      Mike

    • profile image

      Robert 5 years ago

      Men are indeed oppressed not all but many .

      http://yourlisten.com/channel/content/121170/Black...

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
      Author

      Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thanks, Robert. I appreciate your comments.

      Mike

    • Darkproxy profile image

      Darkproxy 4 years ago from Ohio

      Yes we are we've also been forced to serve and fund women as well as ourselves

    • Mike Lickteig profile image
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      Mike Lickteig 2 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Darkproxy, women would not necessarily agree that men have been "forced to serve and fund them", but your comments certainly serve to demonstrate the complexity of this issue. Many women would claim the reverse is actually true, but the point could be made that men are oppressed by expectations of providing for the home in some circumstances. While traditional male / female role models have broken down over the years, many still believe it is the man's duty to provide for women. This could be seen as a form of oppression, although this very circumstance can also be seen by women as oppressive in that it limits career opportunities for them. It is not a one-way street and not cut-and-dried (to haul out several cliches in a single sentence). Thanks for your comments.

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