The newest message circulating on the Internet: Hey girl, you look better without your self-esteem.
In a column recently published on his blog, writer Matt Forney argued women should be stripped of their self-esteem, as well as their desire to ever obtain any, in order to be attractive to men.
Forney’s piece adds yet another arbitrary element to the contradictory plethora of attributes the “ideal” woman should have. We must be beautiful, slim, smart, not assertive, hard-working — and on top of everything, hate ourselves.
As expected, Forney opposes any movement that seeks to empower women, arguing that such activism encourages women to become heartless, ambition-powered machines that reject all sorts of romantic relationships. Additionally, Forney argues that feminism pushes women to use men as props to show the world, and themselves, how worthless, disposable creatures strong and independent women supposedly consider men to be.
“When she gets bored of her boy-toy, she tosses him in the trash and moves on to a newer, shinier model, and if she can get cash and prizes for trading in her old clunker, that’s just the icing on the cake,” Forney wrote. “Essentially, ‘confident’ women are incapable of viewing men as human beings.”
Forney’s argument, however, could not be easier to use in reverse. It goes a little like this:
When the woman becomes “too confident” for his taste, his sexual inclination will decrease (or paraphrasing his own words, his dick will deflate “like a punctured tire”), he will move on to another woman whose vulnerability he can exploit, and if his idealized, hyper-masculine identity is reinforced in the process, “that’s just the icing on the cake.”
It is not feminists who are incapable of seeing others — men, in this case — as human beings. It is misogynists and advocates of stripping women of their self-love, for whom women are nothing but objects that serve the purpose of reinforcing their socially-constructed masculine identity, who routinely dehumanize females. Being used as a prop to boost someone’s ego is certainly harmful to a person of any gender, and feminism will neither accept this behavior nor advocate for it.
Forney’s argument, I believe, stems from a fatally erroneous understanding of feminism and its purpose. The movement, to which I proudly subscribe, strives to achieve equality among men and women and to call into question arbitrary social expectations that often burden both genders. In addition, feminism seeks to end discrimination due to sexual orientation, class, gender, race or any other human features. Last, but definitely not least, feminism is not a war against men.
That being said, Forney’s “case against female self-esteem” does not only harm women and curtail the advancement of our rights, but it also affects men in a more subtle way. By arguing that insecurity is the natural state of women, Forney is sending an incredibly contradictory message about male “nature.” And from any angle, it is a less-than-positive one.
In the world of this detractor of equality, where a “woman who is alone is a woman who is already dead,” the sole purpose of a man if society “collapsed” would be to, with his superpowers to dominate everything he touches, protect women from other evil men that are going to rape us and kill us.
To Forney, men are either domination-thirsty superheroes or wild beasts that, with no socially imposed constraints, would attack and sexually violate anything that appeals to the eye — or to any other organs. Ouch.
Arguably, arguments like Forney’s do nothing to shatter negative stereotypes of males; rather, they reinforce them and validate abusive behavior as a goal to which all men should aspire. Feminism, which refuses to classify human beings in such a two-dimensional, constraining and conformist role, contributes far more to building a predominantly positive view of males. It encourages women to judge men on a case-by-case basis, and to drop the mantra that “all men are the same,” which really translates into “all men are bad.”
Empowered women are far more likely to see men in a constructive light than women whose self-esteem has been destroyed by males who abide by arbitrary and harmful gender roles.
A not-so-side note: It is important to remark that throughout his entire article (for those of us who submitted to the pain of finishing the whole piece), Forney only talks about how women are supposedly concerned about being appealing to men. But how about women who are not attracted to men? Heteronormativity is just as strong as discrimination in this one.
Forney, of course, does not have to change his views because of this or any other columns written in response to his articles. He can, and I am sure he will, continue to advance his anti-equality agenda, and piss off thousands of Internet residents in the process. But one thing he will not to do is stifle the efforts of the feminist movement to advance women’s rights and advocate for a more inclusive society. Our drive and self-esteem, unlike Mr. Forney’s member, does not deflate like a punctured tire.
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