“I kind of just want to post a giant picture of my asshole [in response to this],” I wrote to Marianne after finishing “The Contempt of Women,” a truly priceless piece from Stephen Marche in Esquire’s September issue. Truly. Run, don't walk, to read it, you guys. Emily had sent me the article because apparently she likes it when I make this face:
Not pictured: The plumber just beyond the frame looking deeply confused.
Which is pretty much the only face I can make in response to something like this. While reading, my eyebrows kept rising higher and higher, as though by seeking refuge in my hairline, they could avoid being exposed to the horrible things before them on the screen. Alas, my eyes didn’t have that option, and neither did my brain, although it made a game attempt to run for the hills at around the fourth paragraph.
So, Marche’s hypothesis is that “feminine contempt is everywhere.” You see, the new “trend” in gender relations is ladies hating on the men, which is why he’s capable of mustering a substantial list of examples, by which I mean a handful of television shows and Michelle Obama, to make his point.
Women, he claims, love nothing more than taking men down a peg, giving rise to a landscape where humanizing public leaders by talking about their bad cooking is somehow painting them with “contempt.”
Let's not talk about the fact that many of these same public figures are trying to give themselves a down-home look and feel. It's election year and they want to appeal to the common people, not the elites; for them, having their wives joke around about them is free publicity, turning Presidents into one of the gang instead of members of rarefied political clubs.
No, he says, women loathe men and treat them with contempt in an attempt to create a matriarchy.
The idea of gender equality is not something you are going to encounter in this article, because it's apparently an unfathomable subject for Marche. He's firmly caught in a battle between men and women mentality, and he's unwilling to let it go. There can be, you see, only one.
This whole women-hate-men and plan to take over the world for evil and nefarious purposes thing sounds awfully familiar, perhaps because it’s one of the oldest male responses in the book to women’s movements and fights for self-determination. The feminist movement of the 1960s was labeled as full of man-haters, for example, while fights for the vote in the early 20th century were written off as the agitation of few unhappy women foolish enough to think themselves superior to men. “Votes for Men” (1913) noted that “The true suffragette1 is a man-hater. Her chief end and aim, to stir up sex-antagonism.”
Marche points to Hannah Rosin’s “The End of Men and the Rise of Women” to bolster his argument. He duly gives Rosin some credit, citing the book’s discussion about rising numbers of women graduates, more equal participation in the workforce, and huge numbers of jobs lost by men during the recession. What he fails to note, of course, is that equal pay is still an issue, women in academia face an uphill battle, especially in the sciences, and women workers are pressured to conform with outrageous social attitudes to succeed.
When it came to getting jobs back after the recession, he triumphantly pointed to the fact that men had more success than women -- and seemed unwilling to explore the reasons behind that. And he noted that even Rosin, poor confused little darling, had to admit that most key leadership positions are occupied by men, because of their obvious superiority, you see.
Marche also discusses the so-called “glass cellar,” claiming that men work almost all of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs [except for all those men in leadership, right, Stephen?]” and implying that the lower male life expectancy is the result of this. Evidently he’s not interested in talking about women agricultural workers, housekeepers, and others working in, yes, extremely low-paid, dirty, and dangerous positions. Nor is he willing to actually dig deeper into life expectancy statistics to discuss the complex factors that play into life expectancy (hint: genetics is important).
The gender essentialism section is possibly the best part. He selectively pulls from Rosin’s book to show that women are becoming more like men every year, which means they shouldn’t be allowed to be contemptuous about men because they’re just as bad. They’re not compassionate and nonviolent anymore, for starters! As for those pesky myths about violence and men, well: “The violence of male sexuality? In parts of the United States, rapes have declined to such a low number that they can't be charted.” Whew, I’m glad rape isn’t a problem anymore!
Pro tip: Before executing a keyboard headsmash, always remove your glasses.
He then goes on to paint women as “whiners,” as promised in the subheadline. You see, men are better than women because they haven’t participated in gender-based activism. I’m sure this will come as a surprise to men who are engaging in gender-based activism, including men involved with the women’s movement as well as men’s rights activists. I might not agree with the MRA cause, but you can’t just pretend they don’t exist in order to satisfy your claim that men don’t engage in agitation rooted in gender. He says “a politics of male resentment is virtually nonexistent.” Au contraire, my friend.
He takes on the idea that there is a masculinity crisis and neatly dismisses it, thereby also writing off the men who are talking about gender issues. Women are not the only ones talking about shifts in gender relations, how men view themselves, and the pressures on men in modern society; men are also concerned about the issue, and from a far less simplistic perspective than “Women are being mean.”
“Women on television have become smarter and more powerful with every year,” he says, clearly offended by the handful of smart and powerful women on television. Meanwhile, he chafes at characters like Peter Griffin; these sullied depictions of men that cast them all as stereotyped mouth-breathing buffoons are apparently some sort of evidence of the effects of “female contempt.” This, he claims, is part of a trend toward male self-deprecation, citing comedians like Louis C.K. with routines that play on stereotypes about men.
You’ll love this:
Much of Daniel Tosh's material, both on his show and on tour, is about men's selfishness, irresponsibility, and general grossness. Extreme pornography, the avoidance of fatherhood, and Stone Age sexism are defining traits. Male self-hatred is the comic cliché of the moment — the L. A.-is-like-this-but-New-York-is-like-that, white-people-drive-like-this-but-black-people-drive-like-that, what's-with-the-peanuts-in-airplanes of the moment: Can you believe how gross men are? Male comedians go to this safe material for the same reason they do anything: for the approval of women. Rather than resist the contemptuous gaze of women, they have learned to share it.
Because women go gonzo for Tosh2, am I right? And male comedians are obviously threatened by female audiences, so they've tailored their content to satisfy their silly womanly needs.
“Bless the rare self-deprecating woman,” he says, making light of the fact that women are conditioned pretty much since birth to hate themselves, talk down their achievements, and make themselves as small as possible. That a few women have managed to resist that conditioning and develop voices for themselves is somehow evidence that women are plotting some sort of takeover is ludicrous, yet that seems to be what he’s suggesting in this piece, which reeks of fear that women might actually achieve gender equality.
Ultimately, his conclusion is that the patriarchy is safe, though. PHEW. Those ladies may delude themselves into thinking they have an equal place in society, but of course men will keep them where they belong. Check out Saudi Arabia, where “women earn more than half of all undergraduate and doctoral degrees -- then they have to be driven to their jobs.”
Joke’s on you, ladies!
1. Notable: This term was coined by our good old friends at The Daily Mail as a contemptuous description for women fighting for suffrage. Return