Empathy apartheid – Deflections and dismissals


This post appeared previously at Genderratic when it was an independent blog, and sections of it contain direct quotations from commenters on that post: TDOM, cicero, Adiabat, and dungone.

Empathy apartheid takes maintenance. If it isn’t maintained and policed, people’s basic humanity will lead them to show empathy for the people their society has deemed undeserving of it and the system will collapse. So these same people, sadly, use various deflections and dismissals—silencing mechanisms and minimizing tactics to maintain the system. These include:

  • anti-male shaming tactics
  • trivialization of injuries to men
  • victim-blaming
  • erasure by false equivalence
  • feminism is the answer to men’s problems … and the one that drives them all, just plain old
  • dehumanization, reducing men to emotionless lumps that can be hurt with impunity because it doesn’t really hurt.

Anti-male shaming tactics: We saw before how anti-male shaming tactics are a feature of empathy apartheid, but they are also an enforcement mechanism. Let’s list them so we can take a look at how this works:

  • Irascibility (Code Red)—calling a man angry for getting angry at being mistreated
  • Cowardice (Code Yellow)—calling a man a coward for avoiding new victimization
  • Hypersensitivity (Code Blue)—calling a man a crybaby for complaining
  • Puerility (Code Green)—calling a man a baby for refusing to be suitably useful to women, to wit, complaining about being used
  • Endangerment (Code Orange)—calling a man frightening in response to his charge that you have harmed him (TDOM expands on this below.)
  • Rationalization (Code Purple)—femsplaining away a man’s complaints
  • Fanaticism (Code Brown)—calling a man an extremist for insisting on equality
  • Gay-shaming (Code Lavender)—this is actually similar to Code Green when it comes to trying to shut a man down and is usually expressed the same way: “Man up!”
  • Overgeneralization (Code Gray)—this is the infamous NAFALT (Not all feminists are like that) or some variant—“Feminism is not a monolith.”
  • Misogyny (Code Black)—yes, equality is going to feel like misogyny as the pain of having all that female privilege peeled away hits.
  • Insanity (Code White)—women are very familiar with being on the receiving end of this one, getting called “hysterical.” It works on men too, well enough.
    … and so on.

Trivialization of injuries to men

Fungibility: Another way of doing this that wasn’t mentioned is the rationalization that the perpetrators of this violence are men. So it is men doing it to themselves. This isn’t entirely accurate since the injured party did not injure himself. It is consistent with lumping all men into “class men” and treating them as if they are one person. (TDOM)

Fungibility is one of the forms of objectification identified by Martha Nussbaum. It is an inability to distinguish between “doing it to each other” and “doing it to themselves” because “they” are all just one undifferentiated mass. Members of some set are objectified by being considered interchangeable. Another term for this is “borgification.” It is a denial of individuality.

Anomalization: Another form this trivialization takes is to claim that every instance of harm to men is a one-off; it’s not real discrimination or oppression or whatever term you prefer because it’s not “systemic” or “institutional.” Oh, so the facts of gender disparity in incarceration rates for the same offences, unbalanced educational outcomes, rates of child custody awards, lack of services for male domestic violence victims, lack of services for male rape victims, propensity to arrest male rape victims and charge them with rape, gender disparities in homelessness rates—none of those have anything to do with the legal regime, the court system, the public education system—none of this is systemic enough to be called systemic?

Intersectionality: When you point out some hardship men endure specifically because they are men – say high workplace death rates, or gender-skewed incarceration rates, the standard answer is that none of that is due to gender, it’s all because those particular men are poor and have to take those jobs – funny how few poor women there are in coal mines or on crab boats – or those men are black and the legal system is racist. Class and race do have a lot to do with that, the legal system in particular is classist and racist, but it is a deflection to ignore the role of these men’s gender. Black men have the highest incarceration rates, white men next, then black women, then way behind, way, way behind it’s white women – and the causative factor is race?

And by the way, well done feminists on continuing the KKK’s and other white supremacists’ work of emasculating, even to the point of castrating, black men.

The Woozle Effect: This is simple; you just repeat what someone else repeated when someone else repeated it and then cite it as an established fact. This will let you make male victims disappear and leave only female victims for people to care about.

DARVO: Another way we do this is to redefine the term “aggressor” to mean someone other than the person who committed the violence. This is what primary aggressor laws are all about. Never mind who actually committed the violence, arrest the man because he is larger; arrest the man because he is stronger; arrest the man because he answered the door when the police arrived (and is the one exerting power and control); arrest the man because he is more likely to inflict a more severe injury IF he becomes violent. (TDOM)

Erasure by false equivalence: In The End of Men, Hannah Rosin mentions a trial where a woman charged with violence against her husband had a psychologist argue on her behalf that her husband made her do it by being weak and codependent, and that THAT was abuse by him and that THAT was the important abuse in the case. (cicero)

Are men overwhelmingly the ones who die in war? Well, women have it worse—they are left to mourn and live on alone. Ask Mrs. Clinton. Do young men commit suicide at five times the rate of young women? Well, look at how young women attempt suicide three to four times as often as men! Do men have to jump backwards through hoops to get noticed by women? Well, women have relationships woes too, they often have to settle for less than Prince Charming, sniff, sniff. (See ballgame’s comments on his lack of sympathy for this one.) The murder rates for men are far higher than for women, but it’s really women who are at risk on the street because they get raped. Don’t you see how women really do have it worse????

Yes. I do not see. I used to fall for this shit, but no more.

Feminism is the answer to men’s problems: “The only one that’s been missed is the dreaded Patriarchy Hurts Men Too (PHMT) and “Feminism is already doing that!” deflections. These enable the user to “appear” to empathize with men’s issues but actually ignore the problems that have been raised. They remove the need for the user to empathize with the men affected, “safe” in the knowledge that it’s being handled by some other feminist somewhere else … (Adiabat)

Feminism has the analysis—all your problems are patriarchy, and feminism has the cure—we’ll destroy the patriarchy and set you free. The problem of course is that for decades feminists have been relying on the patriarchy to grant their wishes and enforce the laws and policies they advocate for, so when it comes to the parts of patriarchy that harm men—male disposability, men being valued solely for their utility to women, “what’s yours in the corporate world is mine, what’s mine in running family life is still mine”—feminists are the last ones to destroy any of that.

And not only is feminism the answer to men’s gender issues, but guess what, as a man, when feminism “addresses” your issues, your role is to shut up and do what you’re told, because “men don’t get a say in feminism” and go clean the gutters out.

Simple dehumanization: Then there is simple plain old dehumanization. JudgyBitch discusses a form of this, the notion that women are complex creatures and men are simple, emotionless robots, specifically when it comes to sex. She discusses two Daily Mail articles by a woman named Shona Sibary in which she complains that a female equivalent of Viagra is unsatisfactory because for women sex is about more than just getting it wet, unlike men, who just need to get it hard, apparently. (JudgyBitch is a fun read anyway, someone who gets to the root of white woman entitlement princess thinking with a chainsaw.) Then she goes deeper and discusses what emotional violence sexual rejection in a marriage is, and how Sibary’s assumptions all rely on denying that men feel any of that pain at all, that this is really all about making the women feel “desirable and desired” and that’s the sum total of marital sexual bliss. She gets how this is dehumanizing and she gets why it happens, what the point is.

A lot of the Real Man Narrative comes into play here. All those admonitions to “suck it up” and to “man up” are often just a way of telling a man to ignore his own pain because it makes him less of a man to ask anyone else to pay attention to it.

And the big one – prioritizing women’s needs over men’s – even boys’ – needs with the cheap sneer:

WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ?: Everyone has seen this at least a thousand times. Whenever some “women’s issue” like rape – which clearly is a men’s issue since its almost always men being accused, prosecuted, convicted, sentenced and punished – and someone has the temerity to point that out and suggest that it is relevant to the discussion, bang! – Derailing! What about the menz?!male Genital mutilation? Bang! What about the menz and anyway what about FGM off on some other continent and don’t you care about women?????!!!!!

This one is classic Code Purple, and it hits Codes Blue and Brown along the way.

Thank you for catching that one, Noor!

This may not be an exhaustive list, but I bet most dismissals and deflections when it comes to identifying the empathy apartheid aimed at males will fit into one or more of these categories.

Jim Doyle
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Jim Doyle

<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="2496 https://www.honeybadgerbrigade.com/?p=2496">3 comments</span>

  • There’s also a lot of “okay, this affects mostly men, but that’s a problem of statism/capitalism/etc., not misandry” that is common in libertarian socialist places. It’s another version of the “men vs men” fungibility though, as they see for example, war and Selective Service, as citizen men being oppressed by other men in the state.

    I also can’t believe you missed the biggest one, the outright, open dismissal: “WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ?”

  • What other group thinks and speaks in well worn bumper sticker one liners that get recycled endlessly? Religious conservatives. Ever notice that? Those are the only two groups that do that. When you set them side by side, you start to notice the remarkable number of similarities, this being just one of many. When somebody does that, it’s just a tacit admission that they haven’t bothered to think about an issue critically. The seemingly clever one liner that they smugly trot out did the work for them, or so they think.

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