Why do some men begrudge women equal rights? Why did something so obvious as the equal rights amendment (ERA) create such howls of wounded male privilege? Obviously, keeping women down keeps men up, but why do some men seem to deem issues like a woman’s reproductive choice, or workplace justice as a personal attack on their own rights?
The question is important many reasons. I personally believe that most of what passes as “pro-life” or “anti-gay” is actually a serpentine attack on women’s equality. Male dominance requires keeping the gender lines clear, keeping women reliant on men for income, and keeping women’s bodies communal property. Few men would say that women are their property, but lots of men act like it.
Robert Koehler of Buzzflash put it like this:
“A patriarchal, dominance-obsessed sexuality permeates the most deeply entrenched institutions of American society. Values are changing, but opposition to it is fierce, because for many of those committed to the fixed beliefs of the past, change — which includes women’s rights, indeed, their full humanity — is a loss of raw power. For some, the unconscious metaphor for this is emasculation.”
In other words, once one’s status in the community is contingent on being a man, and once “masculinity” implies that the man controls his woman, then a woman who does not want to be controlled can be accused of robbing the man of his status in the community. Like all oppressors, the sexist male feels he is the real victim when women want out from beneath his thumb.