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Pity the Men

Pity the Men


With all the social, cultural and political upheaval these days, there is one common thread that goes largely unmentioned – male supremacy. This thread runs through nearly every issue.

Perhaps male supremacy’s most acutely troubling manifestation is the unrelenting attack on reproductive rights. This is usually characterized as a religious issue – not entirely incorrectly – but it is more an issue of male supremacy and the reemergence of a historic double standard applied to sexual freedom and social mores.

Abortion has often been treated by men as a moral failing on the part of a woman or girl. It is not primarily about the sanctity of the fetus or any religious convictions about human life beginning at the moment of conception. While those beliefs may be sincerely held by some folks, the main impetus for anti-abortion politics is male supremacy and the psychological threat posed by feminism and women’s insistence on bodily autonomy.

At the somewhat extreme edge, men hold a (perhaps) subconscious expectation that women “save” themselves for marriage or for the man’s own relationships. Of course it defies mathematical sense that no men are virgins and all women are virgins. Even the most misogynist men know that is not reality, yet the double standard treats male sexual activity as prowess and female sexual activity as promiscuous.

By this convoluted standard, abortion is the “choice” of women or girls who have behaved irresponsibly. It is why so many conservatives are eager to punish women for choosing abortion, not merely inhibit or prohibit access to abortion care. It is why the burden of birth control has always fallen disproportionately on women. It is symptomatic of male entitlement that many men, mostly conservative men, deny both a woman’s right to choose and their own responsibility for results of procreation. It is why government support for single-parent women is so paltry. Progressives claim that it is inconsistent to insist that girls and women give birth and then not support them or their children. I see that male conservative position as entirely consistent; women remain subservient to men in power. If men can control women’s reproductive rights, they can reassert their own social, political and economic hegemony.

This is, to be fair, more a political phenomenon than a personal one. An overwhelming majority of Democratic men support abortion rights. By contrast, a majority of Republican men would deny a women’s right to choose unless, of course, it was “their” woman (emphasis on the possessive), in which case different rules might apply.

The current political climate has arisen out of male fear and resentment over perceived loss of control. The dramatic increase of religious imposition in many areas of public life is at least partially inspired by a backlash to women’s rights, gay rights and racism. It is not coincidental that conservative interpretations of Scripture frequently emphasize male domination and the woman’s “proper” place as wife, mother and housekeeper.

I probably needn’t remind of the institutional sexism explicit in Catholicism and, to a less universal extent, in most of Christianity. Even the highly revered Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once said to spouse Coretta, “You see, I’m called. You aren’t.” His “calling” included his apparent sense of entitlement to serial infidelity.

LGBTQ+ rights are also a threat to male dominance. The mockery from the right wing of a brilliant man like Pete Buttigieg is a pitiful expression of their insecurity. Racial justice has always been a threat to white male dominance, but it is particularly rankling to have women of color in positions of power. The frothing animus toward Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and others is because they represent a double-barreled threat to male dominance. How dare they!!

The present-day conservative “movement” is fueled by pent-up fear of change. Much of the rationale for anti-gay, anti-abortion and other right wing positions is conveniently cloaked in religion, but it’s not about religion at all. It’s about threats to male domination.

I usually try to avoid resorting to popular quips, but this unattributed quote seems so apt:

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

That simple statement explains nearly all of conservative resistance to social justice.



Steve Nelson
Steve Nelson is a retired educator, author, and newspaper columnist. He and his wife Wendy moved to Erie from Manhattan in 2017 to be near family. He was a serious violinist and athlete until a catastrophic mountain bike accident in 2020. He now specializes in gratitude and kindness.

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