Reverse Gender Bias Against Men

In class this past Friday, the question of Samad’s guilt or culpability for his actions in Zadie Smith’s fictional novel White Teeth came into question and subsequently became a topic of our discussion. One woman in our class voiced her personal opinion and stated something along the lines of “As a female, I’m immediately inclined to blame Samad’s infidelity on nobody but him.”

To this comment, I rebutted with something along the lines of “Well, as a male, I’m immediately inclined to not blame Samad solely for cheating on his wife. Consider how his wife, Alsana, beats him and how his home life is entirely undesirable.” This do-not-instantly-blame-the-man-for-the-problem thought, of course, ruffled a few feathers.

Granted, some of the Alsana’s behaviors may be reactionary to how Samad may treat her, but “Alsana, who was not so meek as he had assumed when they married,…was prone to moments, even fits – yes, fits was not too strong a word – of rage,” and she once “punched him full square in the stomach” (Smith, 60-2). This, fellow classmates and close readers, is straight up physical abuse. Had Samad been the one issuing the punch instead of receiving it, I have no doubt that everyone in the class would be up in arms about him becoming an abusive husband, but since he was dealt the blow instead of dealing it, nobody really noticed the slug to the gut. It was merely brushed over. In fact, it wasn’t even mentioned in the entirety of class until I brought it up.

Why is this okay? Abuse is abuse, whether it is physical, emotional, mental, verbal, or sexual. Abuse is abuse, no matter who it comes from or to whom it goes. Abuse is abuse, and it should not be culturally acceptable if we are aiming for a society in which we all strive for equality upon the lines of gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, and race. The answer, then, is that is not okay. Which suggests that “the man” is not always fully at fault.

Allow me to digress into a personal anecdote.

My mom works as a social worker for the state and it was once her job to find suitable foster homes for children once they are removed from the homes of ill-suited parents. Despite what may be portrayed in the movies, the goal of any state department after they remove the children from the parental residence is to return them there once the parents have exhibited that they can once again properly care for their children, which is decided by the discretion of a court judge. In fact, she now works to train new foster parents and adoptive parents, as well as to re-train original parents, so that they can cultivate loving, supportive, safe homes in which their children can thrive.

However, without ever mentioning any names, as doing so would be violating the ethics of confidentiality, she has told me about multiple cases/situations in which she’s seen a judge rule to return a child to a maternal household simply because of the unquantifiable power of the “maternal instinct,” even though, in her professional opinion formed from decades of practice in the field, the father would have been a much better caretaker and provider for the child.

Put simply, this is nothing more than reverse gender bias against men.

Though, historically and evolutionarily, women are more likely to present themselves as better caretakers, men can, from time to time, prove to be better parents than their female counterparts.

Similarly, automatically blaming a man’s infidelity solely upon him without first analyzing the situation that may have incited his adulterous behavior is also a reverse gender bias against men, and it is rife with subliminal injustice. Perhaps it’s a mentality of retribution and reparation spurred by the offenses that prior generations of men have committed, but such a mindset only prolongs the vicious cycle of bias and stereotyping.

What sense does it make for “the sins of the Eastern father [to] be visited upon the Western sons” (Smith, 161)?

[By the way, that quote is a spin off the following biblical one: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” (Exodus 20:5)]

Tell me, big guy, what’s the logic behind punishing a son for what his father has done?

Sons can learn from the mistakes of the father, as well as from the mistakes of the mother, and rebuking him for a faultless crime doesn’t achieve anything except bitterness, anger, and a sense of injustice, things that we don’t want to pass down to the next generation of men.

Something to think about.

–Justin Barisich

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~ by justin.barisich on April 18, 2010.

2 Responses to “Reverse Gender Bias Against Men”

  1. While I find your point interesting, I don’t think I entirely agree. I think when any man cheats on his wife, we should presume he is responsible until proven otherwise. After all, he’s the one doing the cheating. As Professor Clayton pointed out, there’s plenty of blame to go around; however I don’t think the assumption that the cheater should be primarily blamed for cheating is discrimination.

    As for the question of abuse, I think I mostly agree with you. Obviously violence is bad. I think the reason most people focus their attention on abuse of wives rather than husbands is because, since it is a primarily female issue, we should focus on females (http://www.nomas.org/node/107).

    -Nick

  2. I agree abuse is abuse. And that should not be overlooked. However, I don’t think that is justification for cheating. There are other options beside adultery to get oneself out of a harmful situation. I like your comparison of reverse gender bias between abuse and being a better caregiver. This is definitely a care of double standards.

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