Monday, September 10, 2012

The contempt of men

The following is a letter I sent off to Esquire after reading the cited article. My wife can attest that the article so upset me that I could literally do nothing until I finished writing and mailing this letter. I admit that in hindsight I forgot to mention a few additional points of contention, namely the sitcom genre which has always leaned on stupid men (Married with Children, Home Improvement, etc.), among other issues. But instead of adding them, I'll just post the whole letter as it was sent:

I have just finished reading the article by Stephen Marche titled “The Contempt of Women.” It was such a poorly devised article that I felt compelled to respond. I don’t know who Stephen Marche is, but from the content of the article it appears he’s completely ignorant of the growing body of academic feminist thought. He also shows that this “contempt for men” is a fabrication, and he’s really just showing a contempt for women.

Mr. Marche’s argument begins and ends with comedy. He argues that the self-deprecating humor of male comedians is a sign of how men have acquiesced to the notion that men are idiots to be viewed with contempt. Maybe Marche has never looked at the historical body of work by comedians the world over. Comedians like Charlie Chaplin who epitomized the bumbling fool. Teams of comedians like Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Bros.; all of the comedy from these men showed idiotic men unaware of their foolishness. All of these men pre-feminist revolution, when women didn’t go to college.

And yet Marche will reference Louis C.K. to bolster his claim - a comedian who doesn’t point out the dark side of humanity to wallow in it, but to seek out the positive in the turd sandwich called life. A comedian who encourages men to step up and be men of distinction.

Marche also fails to realize that most of the successful female comedians over the years have had to lean on the stereotype that women are disgusting, irrational creatures who are also conniving bitches. This is hardly evidence that comedy has a contempt for men. Yet the accompanying sidebar suggests self-hating women in comedy are rare!

When Marche references media targeted at women as an example of contempt, he’s really just pointing out that men are treated in these stories the way women are treated in every other story. There is even a name for this: The Bechdel Test. Does a movie have a scene with one or more named women having back and forth dialogue about anything other than men? It seems like a low bar to reach, yet most major movies fail this test. Most movies only have one female lead. Women have always played a subservient role in media, as nothing more than eye candy, or sexual escapades. And when a couple of new stories come out where women treat men like complex beings from a female perspective, Mr. Marche would have us believe it’s because women have contempt for us.
Even in the pages of Esquire, women are eye candy, or they tell jokes while wearing intimate apparel. They can’t be given the same respect men in these pages receive.

As for the economic numbers, Yes, women are making the biggest growth in the job market, but that’s to be expected when there were so few of them previously. The only way for men to grow the same way is to push out women from those numbers. And we’re not talking about a finite number, because the job market is growing. A women entering the market isn’t pushing out a man.

It might be easier to just blame women for the failings of men, but it lacks personal responsibility. Men are responsible for their own fates, and women are attempting to have the same basic rights.

I’m just surprised and appalled such a poorly thought out article would even get written by a thinking human being, let alone past the editorial staff of such a powerful media establishment. But I guess my reaction is proof you did your job.

Steven Kippel

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