Why straight men are boycotting marriage

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Photo: Antje Schley Photography

It may come as a surprise to you, but according to Dr Helen Smith’s new book, Men on Strike: Why Men are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood and the American Dream – And Why it Matters, men are being oppressed by women who portray them as “buffoons, deadbeats and potential perverts” in a backlash against masculinity.

This tome is not an elaborate satire. Smith is a men’s rights advocate who believes that men are “opting out” of marriage and fatherhood, and it’s all  feminism’s fault. There are few incentives for them to get married (why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free… and without the cow nagging you to take the rubbish out) and, since their reproductive rights are being increasingly curtailed (ahem) with paternity fraud cases (which Smith seems to think are as prevalent as babies themselves), they feel less inclined to have children. 

It’s a social epidemic that will soon have far-reaching consequences, says Smith, especially for those ladies (which is all of us, in her not-very-scientific findings) who want to get married, bear sprog and then spend the rest of their lives henpecking their husbands down to the bone. 

Unsurprisingly, her message has struck a chord with the men she’s talking about. “Living in a feminist utopia is very painful and expensive for most men who enter into the marriage racket” said one fan of her book.

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It’s a “racket” Smith says, because men are now expected to “help with the housework, work a job, help with the kids”, but they’re still “not good enough.” Men used to feel that they were “the king of the castle,” she says, but are now nothing more than slaves to their harridan wives. In this brave new world where bitches be crazy, legal bias against men (men statistically do worse in custody and divorce proceedings than women) is another reason they’re opting out. Women are money-grubbing lazy shrews who trap men into marriage by getting knocked up, then cheat on them, divorce them and walk away with their winnings, rubbing their manicured hands as they go. Which is why men are represented in mainstream media as bumbling ignoramuses (Everybody Loves Raymond is her oft-cited example). All of this is a product, says Smith, of our post-feminist society – one that favours female privilege over male justice.

The men Smith has interviewed say they’re choosing not to marry because women they meet are “argumentative,” “too tough and cynical” and “sketchy.” They’re afraid to open doors for women, lest they be scary ‘feminazis’ waiting for a chance to rip them a new one. They see their friends going through divorces and think, “that’s not going to be me”, but here’s the thing: having bad experiences with women is not the same as systematic disenfranchisement. Going through a tough break-up is not representative of a “war on men.”

And yet in this bleak new reality, today’s men are either part of the “Army of Davids”, rising up against the proverbial Goliath of “post-feminist culture”, or “Uncle Tims”, in a staggeringly insensitive attempt to equate the plight of these men to African-American outcasts in the civil rights movement. But ironically (or perhaps not), like most men’s rights advocates Smith equates feminism with misandry - hatred of men. Feminism is certainly a broad church, and while there may be some misandrists in the congregation, feminism is really about freeing us all from the limitations of how we see gender and assisting the marginalised and alienated. It’s not about privileging women over men.

Men’s rights activists do get a few things right, but not for the reasons they think. Unfair legal bias for example, is a problem of the patriarchy – a system that says women are naturally better caregivers, and so gives them custodial priority. It’s a system that feminists would very much like to dismantle. Talking about a “crisis of masculinity” is a way of saying that we think about gender differently now – and that’s a good thing, but pitting men’s rights against women’s is not the answer. Smith is right when she says that men are often portrayed as dimwits on TV and in film – the father who can’t fasten a nappy, the idiot boyfriend who forgot the anniversary – and rightly cries sexism. But, without any apparent irony, she repeatedly labels all women as the enemy, as gold-digging harpies who want nothing more than to see men fall on their faces. In doing so, her arguments look as silly as those tired tropes on telly. 

So does Smith seriously believe this stuff, or is her book just a cynical way to milk a ready-made, disenfranchised audience for profit?  Maybe there are men opting out, who don’t want to be part of a world where women have voices, desires, needs, and occasionally, demands. But to call this a crisis, a war, or a strike may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Jezebel’s Lindy West puts it. Keep banging on about how much women hate you and how hard-done by you are, and there’s a fair chance we will start to dislike you.

Until then, I invite Dr Helen to join us in our feminist utopia – the water is warm and there’s no need to shave your legs.

 

72 comments

  • But here's the thing: the guys swearing off marriage for this reason are people who would make terrible romantic partners for *anyone*. It's not going to pose much of a problem for us women because they're not the people we'd want to be with anyway. Not because they lack money (they probably don't) or because they're not handsome (they might be), but because they are just plain, straight-up unpleasant people to be around.

    People who baulk at wanting to assist with childcare or housework are probably too selfish and immature to make for a sustainable long-term relationship. The kinds of people with entrenched and irrational gender norms are probably the ones who aren't flexible enough to allow for disasters that mean abandoning gender norms to survive.

    Case in point: my colleagues are roughly 80% male. Nearly all of them are married up or in long-term relationships. That same group of people are happy to have female friends on or off-staff. Not one guy, who loudly brags about being part of the MGTOW movement, who continually complains about western women being demanding. This guy? Not only does he not have any female friends on staff, he doesn't have any male friends either. His social adjustment issues means he doesn't just have problems with women, but he's just straight-up not a person who other guys tolerate either because he's a terrible conversationalist, he loudly puts down the things/people they like, and because he's basically ungiving, selfish and wilfully ignorant of social norms.

    I see it among the boys I teach too: the ones who seem to have the biggest issues with girls and women are the ones who generally don't have enough social skills or positive character traits to be able to make friends with other men too.

    Commenter
    bec
    Date and time
    August 14, 2013, 7:58AM
    • the sexism of your response makes me realise we still have so far to go.
      Everything we say can from my own world we rewritten with the genders reversed.

      Commenter
      david
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 9:33AM
    • "I see it among the boys I teach too: the ones who seem to have the biggest issues with girls and women are the ones who generally don't have enough social skills or positive character traits to be able to make friends with other men too."

      So you're telling me these guys aren't sexist and misogynists but douches to everyone in general? BOOM!!!!!!!!!! Finally a breakthrough!

      I welcome you to the perfect example, Kyle Sandilands. A guy that generally hates on everyone, yet when he hates on anyone that happens to be female, well then he must be sexist!
      When he tells Andrew Denton he wants to punch him in the face.............nothing.

      Commenter
      Budz
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 9:48AM
    • I think you are confusing extremists (like your colleague you have mentioned) with the men that this book is talking about.

      The men in question are those who are seeing their friends get married first and then subsequently divorced within short periods of time and in the process they are losing many of their assets, and quite frequently access to their children if they have had them.

      My partner was just telling me the other day how sad it was that many of the girls she went to school with (private girls school) got married and divorced within a 2 year period (all under 30 still) and apparently it was them initiating the divorce in most cases.

      Perhaps men are hearing things like this and are steering clear because the stats just don't seem to favour marriages working.

      Commenter
      Puzzled
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 9:49AM
    • Maybe in your circles, Puzzled. In my circles the relationships working out are the ones that statistics say will work out: where people are marrying later, there is greater equality between partners and they seem to like and respect each other. The girls I went to school with who made fun of feminists and talked about their wedding days ad nauseum are all on marriage #2 (or #3, even). That said, I am in a workplace with an incredibly low divorce or separation rate (the vast majority of my colleagues have clocked up 10+ years in their relationships). This book is talking about extremists too, BTW: for every MGTOW douchebag, there'd be a greater number of people who are single because they are happy on their own and whose desire to remain single has nothing to do with hating the opposite sex. But the book doesn't address them, or pretends they don't exist: the book addresses the sort of antisocial cretin who is unable to understand that their poor behaviour makes people not want to be with them, so they're doing the grown-up equivalent of taking their toys and going home.

      There's no sexism in my comment, David. It stands to reason that the ones most vocal about their loathing of the opposite gender are the most unstable, regardless of who is doing it. The women who bleat on about men being evil are also the ones who don't seem to get on with other women. The quiet singletons of either sex who don't seem to mind their position aren't included in this.

      Commenter
      bec
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 10:05AM
    • "the book addresses the sort of antisocial cretin who is unable to understand that their poor behaviour makes people not want to be with them, so they're doing the grown-up equivalent of taking their toys and going home."
      Which sounds like every single article I've ever seen about 'man drought' 'man children' and 'commitment phobes'. The only thing that makes this book different is that the cretins are now men.

      To be honest, I really don't see a problem. All this shows is that there are completely insufferable members of both sexes out there with overinflated opinions of themselves, and the less of them getting into a legally binding partnership where they will then likely have kids who will become exactly like them, the better.

      Commenter
      Markus
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 11:03AM
    • I see marriage is equal partnership, where man and woman share the workloads, unselfish giving, give but not expecting returns, that is how happiness sharing between two people, mutual respects, and accepting the differences. Importantly, accept and admit our own faults.

      What you said above is blaming other people faults, you are chasing after an illusion, no one is perfect, that how human we are. Animal with reflection.

      I can also see the article, man give up due to his reluctant to give in, but demanding just like you are, unreasonable demands, and again someone else faults, failures .... not mine.

      Commenter
      Elite
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 11:40AM
  • Good on you boys. Marriage is an archaic idiotic "system". As outdated and ridiculous as religion.

    Commenter
    Tom
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 14, 2013, 8:40AM
    • Totally agreed. It's outdated, waste of time & money, stressful & it creates a false sense of security.

      It's not only men who are abandoning the idea, I have many female friends who have partners & some children but never want to get married as well.

      Commenter
      Ben
      Location
      Syd
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 9:37AM
    • I couldn't agree more Tom.

      Commenter
      Gussy
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 9:48AM

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