Mad Men and the Glass Ceiling

by Robert Pendley

Here is my truth: men can have a meaningful voice in feminism. I dare all men to be strong and passionate advocates for women.

Harvey Weinstein, the has-been movie mogul, has been in the news a lot recently about his alleged sexual harassment and sexual assault of female actresses and film industry professionals. An interesting off-shoot of this news story has been the critique of the male actor response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. The response by these actors has largely been one of condemnation but reasoned on the fact that these actors have daughters. For example, in an interview with Deadline, Matt Damon said that “now, as the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps [him] up at night.” Many people on Twitter and on other forms of media critiqued Damon’s response in that a reason to fight against sexual harassment and assault should not be tied to having a daughter. Everyone should fight for safe working environments and equal opportunity for women because it is the right thing to do. Any qualified support, instead of unconditional support, is considered wrong and seen as perpetuating abuse culture.

This specific example raises a larger issue: what role do men have in the feminist conversations? I argue that men have a role and should be passionate about feminist issues because, as embedded in American social and legal culture, denial of rights and privileges to some is a denial to all. Men should be mad about the continued abuse and denial of rights and privileges to women because: (1) gender stereotypes negatively impact men, too; (2) a false inequality, manufactured to progress men, only harms men by putting them on a shaky pedestal by not forcing men to work for achievements; and (3) society and the world are better for all when everyone is given full access to their natural potential. Mad men can and should help women shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.

In Nancy Levit’s UCLA Law Review article “Feminism for Men: Legal Ideology and the Construction of Maleness,” Ms. Levit effectively shows that traditional feminist ideology has moved from an understanding of “men as other” to “men as oppressors” and then to “men as omitted.” In other words, feminist theory has always viewed men as non-participants in the feminist conversation. The Damon experience seems consistent with this feminist theory. I, as well as Ms. Levit and others, believe that viewing men as omitted is not doing justice for the feminist cause.

But what is a “feminist conversation”? I recognize that as a male myself, I cannot define what a feminist conversation is and there is a debate on what feminism is. However, for the purposes of this post, I do think a feminist conversation is what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said best in her featured spoken word in Beyoncé’s catchy tune “***Flawless”: “Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” So why should men be feminists?

So, first, I feel that many men do not understand that the gender stereotypes that are constantly and consistently placed on women, also affect men. For example, the traditional view that women are supposed to abide to a “cult of domesticity” by cooking, cleaning, washing, and caring unfairly excludes men from meaningful, life-changing experiences. Now, granted, I don’t particularly like to clean my apartment or do the dishes but I know how to and do anyways. I am a more productive human being because I can. Three years ago, I started cooking regularly. Cooking for myself and others has transformed my personality and psyche. I gain inner enlightenment from cooking. If I were to adhere to the misogynistic stereotypes of men and women then the question is begged of whether I should be cooking. I would lose a huge part of who I am today because of misogyny. Men, erase gender stereotypes because they affect you too.

Second, is misogyny fair? Well, obviously not to women, but arguably it is not fair to men as well. In modern sociology, there is the theory called “affluenza.” This theory basically states that the wealthy and affluent in society experience simple struggles because their wealth coddled them and protected them from truly having to be resilient. Men will and are suffering from what I call “misogynza” because men have traditionally “achieved” more simply by identifying as male. Men are coddled and consistently praised when maybe praise was not warranted. Without suffering the stereotyping that I critique above, because of misogynza, men suffer from extreme egoism, life-altering let-downs, and unmanageable crises (e.g. according to a recent survey of health studies by Vox, males are more likely to commit suicide than women). Women experience a different paradigm. Women must fight constantly for status, achievement, and praise. It is not freely given because of their gender identification. Women, in turn, have learned to be resilient and hopeful. Women are champions of each other and fight for progress. I attribute these differences to the fact that men have never had to truly fight for their worth as a gender because it was already assumed that men have the job, get the grade, earn the raise, etc. Men, shift the paradigm and let merit and mission-success win out.

Lastly, society needs men AND women to be at their full potential. However corny it is, High School Musical said it best: we are all in this together. The world is facing so many issues on a day-to-day basis. Women are changing and have changed the world. It makes me mad to think about what awesome and amazing things that could have been if, e.g., Dr. Vera Rubin (the real discoverer of dark matter) could have attended Princeton. What if Eleanor Roosevelt could have run and won the presidency? What if Hillary Clinton or Geraldine Ferraro did not have to answer questions regarding their dress, their health, their home-making philosophies? What if you could literally double the human potential by just allowing women to be their awesome selves? Society needs everybody, man, woman, and non-gendered to fully help solve the issues we face. Maybe we can solve some if we let everyone play by equitable rules. Men, quit holding one of society’s arms back by equitably treating women.

All in all, men should be mad. We should be mad that women are treated differently, poorly, unfairly, inequitably, etc., because it affects us, too. But more importantly, we should be mad because it is morally wrong. Not to shift the focus into the normative, but misogyny is patently wrong. As was demonstrated by President Abraham Lincoln while asserting Euclidian math, if two things are of equal creation then they must have equal rights and treatment under nature and science. It is a fact that men and women are created equal. Therefore, men and women deserve equal rights, treatment, and opportunities.

Men, get mad and help break the damn glass ceiling!