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Feminism and Feelings of Male Inferiority

Updated on August 25, 2011

All men are jerks, right? No doubt if you’re a woman and you’ve had a bad relationship with a man, this statement rings true for you. Or, if you’ve ever been the victim of sexism or sexual harassment you may also believe the statement. Women have a right to hate the men of the past who saw nothing wrong with subservient wives who couldn’t vote or earn the same wages. But should this stereotype of the ‘typical man’ be maintained today? Should women still hate men just because they’re men? I’m well aware that there will always be a back and forth between men and women; we’re different, it’s normal. But, I want to specifically examine the effect of extreme feminism when raising male children. Suddenly this adage of male inferiority is ingrained in the mind of a child and can lead to feelings of shame for one’s own gender.

‘Oh boo hoo, a man feels inferior, who cares?’ Sure, for men who treat women poorly, they don’t have a right to complain, but what about men who have never treated women poorly? Should they also be grouped into the ‘all men are jerks’ statement? Allow me to explain where these thoughts are coming from.

Strong Female Influences

There’s nothing wrong with strong female influences. In fact, I would say that it is crucial to a well rounded individual. However, let’s say that there is no male influence to balance it, or the male influence is less dominating. Then let’s say that the female influence frequently denounces men, with words and/or actions. As growing children we have a tendency to believe whatever our parents say (up to a certain age) and those beliefs cling to us into adulthood whether we want them to or not. Maybe you hate a certain food because you associate it with pain. Maybe you avoid the number thirteen because you are superstitious. Or maybe you hate men because your mom hated men. But what if you are a man? Should you then hate yourself?

Television and Movies

I watched a lot of sitcoms as a child, probably ones I shouldn’t have been watching, and I noticed a distinct trend among them. This was probably characteristic of 90’s television, but when there was a husband/wife duo it was clear that the woman was in charge. This was played up for comedic effect, ‘what did Joe do this week to anger Jane?’ but when bombarded with this dynamic it sends the wrong message; one of a lopsided marriage where the man is kept in check by his wife and answers to her more like a child than a partner. There were many examples of this; Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond, Wings, That 70’s Show, According to Jim, and The Simpsons just to name a few. I’m not saying these are bad shows, some of them I remember very fondly, but in each one it was clear that the man had to answer to the woman, even though the man was usually the main character. These shows probably weren’t the best thing for me to watch, but I did watch them, and they only reinforced the idea that men were hardly more than animals.

The Hideous Male Body

My mother was pretty adamant about covering the television screen when any sort of nudity came on, but there was a much different double standard where male/female sexuality was concerned. If a woman came on the screen wearing something scandalous, my mom would insist it was unnecessary, but if an attractive man did the same, it was completely acceptable. This told me, as a kid, that women can look at men like ‘beefcake’ (which was the word she used) but men cannot look the same way at women; such a thing was despicable and only further proved that all men were jerks.

But despite this idea of ‘beefcake’ I was under no impression that the male body was something beautiful. There is a quote from the show Seinfeld in which Elaine’s character states “A woman’s body is a work of art. A man’s is like a jeep; it’s for getting around.” (Not a direct quote.) For a very, very long time I lived by this idea; women were beautiful and men were just sort of apes that were only good for breeding. This led to what I jokingly call a ‘Joss Whedon complex’, where a large number of characters I wrote in stories (or watched at night on the computer) were lesbians. In my mind, the reasoning behind this was that I either didn’t want to look at the male body, or there was no man that could possibly live up to the female character I had created, so the solution was just to pair her with another woman. I call it the Joss Whedon complex because many principal characters in the Buffy universe became lesbians (or were already lesbians). I can’t speak for Joss Whedon’s childhood, but for mine, I attribute this abundance of lesbians to an ingrained dislike of men (or thoughts that they are inadequate). Only in my adult life have I begun to realize I shouldn’t be ashamed of my body just because I’m a man; being male does not automatically mean I’m ugly or unworthy of things women are worthy of.

Men who are no longer MEN

It’s true that feminists killed chivalry. I’m not saying that to start an argument, I’m saying it from personal experience. Growing up with a feminist mother, I was taught that a woman could do everything that a man could, and more. So the idea of pulling out a chair or dropping a coat on a puddle was not just foreign, but downright offensive to the woman in question. While the death of chivalry isn’t the end of the world, I do think that I’m at a disadvantage where certain male roles are concerned. For example, I’ve MacGyvered my way through most household problems (rather than fixing them properly). I know next to nothing about cars and I run in fear from bees as if death itself had manifest in the form of black and yellow stripes. All of this adds up to not feeling very manly and can lead to further feelings of inadequacy. My wife is very understanding if I fail to fix something; far more understanding than I am. I rarely give myself any slack for failure. Part of the reason is because I’ve always been hard on myself, and the other part is that I’m a man and I feel like I should know this stuff. I’m learning a lot of it now, but I constantly feel like I’m playing catch-up. But I can’t blame my mom for a lack of interest in these things; I just never really cared about cars, sports or tools. I was a nerd and now I’m a writer; better at using my hands for typing than handiwork (I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule).

So, what does all of this mean? Is feminism a bad thing? Not at all; women deserve all the rights a man has. Can I blame my mom for all of my problems? Of course not (she would probably deny everything I’ve said here anyway). But that isn’t the point; the point is that the man of today is considerably different than the man of fifty years ago. But as we continue to change, I think there are some important things we need to remember. First, feminism was about equality of the sexes, not superiority, and it’s a two way street. Women are our equals; and we are also their equals. Second, no one should ever be ashamed of their gender. I don’t agree with a lot of things men have done in the past, and continue to do, but I’m not them. We need to judge based on the individual, not a stereotype for half the population. And third; we are all works of art.


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    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      Ruby Wax has made a brilliant 'come back' to the London theatrical world with her one person show on stage in the West End's St James theatre. Titled 'In a 'In a sane world' Ms Wax (real name Wachs) shows her skills as an actress, comediene and psycho therapist in a witty dialogue supplemented with cartoons on our dealing with the changes taking place as we progress into the 21st century. Ruby is a 'knock out' gal!

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      One thing about feminists being intimidating in my case is i can't be intimidated, it is 'character building' to let it just shake off like a wet dog. Having said that, a mature lady of good upbringing and class has the power over me to know she has 'bettered' me. Happens from time to time!

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 3 years ago from United States

      Mango Muse - You're right, extremists are the ones who killed chivalry, not feminists in general. Though I would say that chivalry, as a concept, is outdated. Holding a door or pulling out a chair is a nice gesture, when done for anyone. But when it's focused on just one gender, is it unequal treatment? Can a wife open the door for her husband? Can she pull out his chair and open his car door? How would that make him feel to have her do this for him? Again, I don't think there is anything wrong with exchanging nice gestures. Though an equal exchange should probably just go by a different name, and let the man/woman split of chivalry go the way of the dinosaur. Thank you for the thoughtful comment!

      limpet - I agree that there is still a long way to go for women's rights. You mention the women being ogled by construction workers and I instantly think of the woman who recorded herself walking through New York, and all of the cat-calls she got. She isn't the first woman to point out issues like this, but the backlash to these women, who are trying to expose an issue, is what shocks me most. Anita Sarkeesian is another example. Just from pointing out sexism in video games, she has received endless hate mail and death threats. Don't these people realize they're just proving her point? Thank you for the comment!

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      From a male perspective, it does seem there needs to be a good deal of change to remedy Women's rights. The listing of London's top ten of the most powerful women in the City could be multiplied tenfold to eliminate chances of tokenism. Women passing by are also are still being ogled at by idle workers on construction sites.

    • Mango Muse profile image

      Jen Dotter 3 years ago

      Interesting point of view on the subject of feminism. First, any woman that feels the need to berate or devalue men or the male experience, is not a true feminist. Feminism is about equality for all, emphasizing the female experience without dismissing the male experience. Feminism did not kill chivalry, extremist's did. My husband knows I am a proud feminist, and he respects that I can do stuff for myself, but I can still appreciate it when he displays chivalry. It's a mutual respect and understanding thing. I don't flip out if he opens the door for me, and he isn't offended when I open it for myself.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      I found in reading the Feminine Empire by Alice Lucy Trent to be very fascinating even to go so far as to be a virtual guide book for many women. In the phantasy realm though i've enjoyed reading anything by Ursula Le Guin.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 3 years ago from United States

      limpet - Absolutely. Two of the authors, whose work inspired me to be a writer, were women (J. K. Rowling and Anne Rice).

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      In my case, i recently discovered the website by Ruby Wax, a public figure and psychotherapist here in London. Ms Wax has been a source of inspiration to me with her observations on coping in the 21st century dystopia. Ms Wax is only one year younger than i, but her communicative skills laced with humour are a great tonic for my 'feel good' factor. The fact of her being a woman only serves to show how one woman can influence a male seeking meaning in life.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 3 years ago from United States

      Katherine89 - I was not implying these 'manly' traits were biological, only that they are expected of adult males. It's kind of like being hired for a job you didn't apply for and have no knowledge of. They aren't unique to men, but they're thrust on men whether they want them or not.

      And I'm certainly not suggesting there aren't just as many (if not more) social norms thrust on women. This article wasn't written to highlight how bad men have it, but rather the potential rubber band effect of raising a male as a militant feminist. The ideal is to raise a child with the knowledge that both sexes are capable of the same things, not to bash one or the other as inferior. Adopting that ‘boo hoo, a man feels inferior, who cares?’ mentality is counter-productive to real equality.

    • profile image

      Katherine89 3 years ago

      Feminists LOVE men. If we didn't, we wouldn't keep struggling through relationships with them and hoping and trusting that they can see women as whole human beings, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Your references to what's "manly" etc is off from the get-go. These are not rigid biological categories, but social ones. You seem sincere. Try being an ally rather than a whiner. It's not all about you.

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 4 years ago from London England

      Thanks for response and a great site to visit when i get the chance.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States

      limpet - It's interesting how much sitcoms (of all things) can influence our perceptions growing up. My wife pointed out that a lot of live action children's shows today depict no parents at all. Or, if it does show them, they are bumbling idiots. I'd like to think that I wasn't too damaged by the themes in 90s sitcoms, but its definitely an interesting topic of discussion. Thanks for the comment!

    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 4 years ago from London England

      The TV family sitcoms of the 60 s were ridiculous but without naming them here are the scenarios; a father with 3 sons from different(absent) mothers-a grandfather 2 grandsons (1 married) and a grand daughter-a batchelor with a niece and a Chinese manservant- another batchelor with two foster children. True there were normal family situations but some of them depicted the children knowing a lot more than the parents.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 6 years ago from United States

      Jeff - I definitely think that, for a lot of young men, the virtual world is a means to escape said inadequacy. For example, just look at how many men play female characters in online role playing games. Or how many video games in general feature a busty protagonist. While the appeal there is largely physical, I do believe an argument can be made for fictional female characters that do not instil feelings of inadequacy in the male player and how that is an unconscious appeal of these games. Thanks for the comment!

    • profile image

      Jeff 6 years ago

      You just explained why the population is declining in Europe and in most parts of the US. Men are so beaten down that we'd rather play Xbox and beat off than risk more feelings of inadequacy.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 6 years ago from United States

      MartieCoetser - Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I should try to think of it less as failure as a man, but more as a failure to meet the male roles society has said I should fit. If there is a traditionally female role that I excel at, and a traditionally male role that my wife excels at, then I see no problem in us taking on what we do best. But I do think I'm still on my way finding the secret of pure masculinity, as you put it. More recently I've felt more confident about including strong/significant male characters in my artwork, and I'm hoping that will transition into other creative projects as well.

      And you're right that some men of today take advantage of the feminist movement. I've known several people who have been in relationships where the man seems to do as little as possible. It isn't a dominating situation, but rather, a boyfriend who is too lazy to put forth any effort in a relationship at all. It's hard to watch any one-sided couple in such a situation.

      Thank you again for the insightful comment!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Dear , M.T. Dremer, please allow me this comprehensive comment.

      All men are certainly not jerks, only most of them are. I hate the latter with the same passion that I love the former.

      Fortunately I had not harmed my son in any way. At 35 he is a top achiever and my hero in spite of one or two negative characteristics he had inherited from his father. And he is just as proud of me.

      If you happen to be a man who don’t treat woman poorly, then, Sir, I bow to you, and I will do everything in my power to keep you on the throne meant for respectable men. Women don’t want to be leaders, in their hearts they want to follow a strong, protective man. But if they can’t find one, they will and can lead just as good as the best male leader.

      I agree with you about showing mutual respect and never speak disdainfully and scornfully of - and to - the opposite sex. Words create complexes and actions fertilize them.

      Why pairing strong women with other women in your stories? Why not paring them with real, strong men that will win their admiration and respect? That could be a challenge for you – finding the secret of pure masculinity. Do all men really know how to be respectable and adorable males? I can’t think at this moment of any existing role model I would regard as an icon of masculinity. But then, nobody is perfect.

      If I have ever killed chivalry, I can assure you it was because it was false - loaded with selfish male intentions and aspirations, or perhaps it was just imprinted good manners the male ego secretly despised. True, honest chivalry gives fresh heart to women. Personally I will wash the feet, and more, of a pure knight who honestly appreciates and admires femininity.

      I think most men are too happy to allow women to take the lead. It gives them the ideal opportunity to sit on their bums for the rest of their lives. Real men will, in the correct manner, release women of male responsibilities – the cowards will sit back, grinning, “Oh well, if the bi$*h thinks she can do what men should do, let her do it.”

      It is not necessary for a man to know everything about so-call male jobs such as fixing all technical and mechanical breakdowns. But, it is necessary for him to solve the problems when it hit home, by merely hiring the services of professionals or even amateurs in the specific field. He may even ask his woman to do that, if she is in a more favorable position to obtain these services.

      There are also women who are inadequate when it comes to so-called female tasks, such as cooking, sewing and knitting. Too many men regard them as failures.

      The problem is not being female or male, but fitting the roles society had plotted for them. There should not be boxes we have to fill in order to be acknowledged as male or female.

      Thanks for stressing that feminism was – and should still be - about equality of the sexes, and not superiority,

      My compliments to you, M.T. Dremer. You’ve addressed this sensitive ‘ism’ objectively with no sign of disrespect to women. I’m looking forward to read more of your hubs.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 6 years ago from United States

      evvy_09 - That's a very good point that I forgot to mention in the hub; while I'm trying to catch up on the manliness I seem to be lacking, some women also want to keep their womanliness. In some cases, extreme feminism can result in the rejection of all female qualities, which can have negative effects, not only on the woman in question, but on her relationships with other women. The last thing you want to do is alienate your friends. Thanks for the comment!

    • evvy_09 profile image

      evvy_09 6 years ago from Athens, AL

      I worked with this one woman who always used to claim women were better than men. But she did it by dressing like a man and putting down any women who dressed femininely. She put her husband down every chance she got. She and I would have the occasional argument about feminism. She never would believe that a woman can be pretty (makeup, dresses ect) without sacrificing her intelligence or strength. Or when I told her my husband can make me feel safe from the world with a simple hug. He is a real Man who manages to be protective of me and doesn't mind that I'm protective of him too.

      Chivalry isn't dead. Men still want to open doors and carry heavy packages for us as long as we let them. Women still want to be physically desired by her man and men still want to feel needed by his woman.

      And yes, when my husband is not around, I do open my own door.


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