Entering into the practice of organizing and participating in men’s groups with this aim it has become apparent that men who have work to do in this area are not universally seeing women as inferior. Conventionally feminism seeks to raise the level of access and agency that women have in the world by pointing out their strengths and the positive qualities associated with femininity. The movement may go so far as to point out the negative effects of social condition under toxic masculinity. Even with this, it is apparent that there is a strategic shortcoming in this effort that has only recently revealed itself since men have begun working more frequently with feminist practice.
Typically the patriarchy seeks to oppress women’s value and stifle their place in the social hierarchy to maintain control. This is done through systemic disenfranchisement and discrimination, and limited access to positions of power. All this is committed in addition to the sexualization and colonization of femme bodies as property of specific men, (fathers and husbands) or men having general access to their bodies and personal space without consent. This paradigm would generally be considered a threatening and hostile form of misogyny that puts women at physical risk and economic dependance on men. This form of misogyny views women as caretakers, teachers, child bearers, and emotional support for men. They are valued for creating and sustaining life only in relation to the value they bring to the lives of men. Quite similarly treated as cattle and passed from one owner (father) to another (husband).
Another long standing iteration of misogyny is benevolent sexism. This places women on a pedestal of sorts,painting them as precious, but also delicate. Here we find that sexualization is not the transgression but desexualization. Women are seen by the benevolent misogynist as pure, chaste, and to be protected. Though this may seem less menacing to women, it still imposes a reliance on men for defense and urges that are, sheltered, in some cases, and worshiped in others. What is problematic about this are the restrictions placed on femme bodies. They are not allowed to exist as dirty, slutty, hairy, bloody, or angry people. They are givers of live, intuition, magical, mystical, unpredictable and even vengeful. When misogyny takes this form it casts women as goddesses who can be prayed to but still not viewed as equal.
With these two perspectives of women, the work of feminism is not to unequivocally praise women, nor is it to put them down. If we are to achieve respect, safety, and equitable access throughout the gender spectrum we must see them as neither gods nor cattle. If women are “protected” by men as is done with daughters, then whom else are the villains but other men? Conversely, if women are deified by the male gaze they their labor is then required to keep the world spinning.
The patriarchy seeks to daughterize or motherize women neatly into categories of worship or protection, but in both cases they are marginalized. Feminism, seeks instead to cultivate the condition of sorority, where women are viewed as equals in the laboring, planning, and maintaining of our lives, in albeit different, mutually respected ways.