In a recent Facebook discussion I commented that sexism against men also exists, with links to YouTube videos on highly negative portrayals of men in the media and Cassie Jay’s documentary on the men’s rights movement. One person asked how it has affected me; this is my response.
There’s this widespread notion that mothers are proper parents, but fathers are not. The media constantly portray fathers as incompetent, irresponsible, uncaring, and abusive. I saw this to some extent even in the Mormon church — on Mother’s Day we got talks filled with glowing praise for the mothers, and on Father’s Day we got talks condemning the fathers as just not good enough.
This attitude has given us family courts are a festering sore of overt bias against fathers. When I got divorced I wanted joint physical custody of our son, but both my attorney and the mediator told me that, regardless of the law, regardless of what custody evaluators said, the judge was going to give my ex full physical custody and give me the minimum parenting time allowed by law. My own mother wrote a letter to the court arguing against giving me joint custody; in her mind, the woman gets the kids, full stop. I got the same attitude from my older sister.
So I got one evening a week with my son, and every other weekend. Except that I didn’t get the weekends, because my ex unilaterally decided that he shouldn’t have any overnight visits with me, only a few hours on Saturday. And I couldn’t do a damned thing about it. If a father falls behind on child support payments they’ll go after him with hammer and tongs, but nobody will lift a finger to do anything about mothers who prevent fathers from seeing their children.
Then there’s the widespread demonization of male sexual desire. In books and articles, on TV and film, men are constantly berated and shamed for having normal sexual desires. This, combined with my religious upbringing, messed me up considerably; I am still struggling with issues that seem to have originated in the feeling that it’s not OK for a man to be sexually assertive.
Although his experience was worse than mine, a lot of what computer scientist Scott Aaronson says on this subject resonates with me. He writes,
I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified. I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison. And furthermore, that the people who did these things to me would somehow be morally right to do them…
Because of my fears—my fears of being “outed” as a nerdy heterosexual male, and therefore as a potential creep or sex criminal—I had constant suicidal thoughts…
At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself.
You can read his full account here.