Masculism or masculinism may variously refer to advocacy of the rights or needs of men and boys; and the adherence to or promotion of attributes (opinions, values, attitudes, habits) regarded as typical of men and boys.[1][2][3]

Definition and scope

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines masculism, or synonymously masculinism, as the "advocacy of the rights of men; adherence to or promotion of opinions, values, etc., regarded as typical of men; (more generally) anti-feminism, machismo."[4][5]

However, philosopher Ferrell Christensen differentiates "masculism" from "masculinism", defining the latter as promoting the attributes of manliness.[2] Political scientist Georgia Duerst-Lahti also distinguishes the two terms, with masculism expressing the ethos of the early gender-egalitarian men's movement, while masculinism refers to the ideology of patriarchy.[6][7]

Christensen differentiates between "progressive masculism" and an "extremist version". The former welcomes many of the societal changes promoted by feminists, while regretting that some measures reducing sexism against women have increased it against men.[2] The extremist version promotes male supremacy to some degree, and is generally based on a belief in women's inferiority. Nicholas Davidson, in his book The Failure of Feminism, describes an extremist version of masculism which he termed "virism": "What ails society is 'effeminacy'. The improvement of society requires that the influence of female values be decreased and the influence of male values increased…."[2][8]

Gender theories, which have frequently focused on woman-based or feminist approaches, have come to examine oppression in a masculist society also from the perspectives of men, most of whom are also oppressed by that society.[9] From a feminist perspective to philosophy, masculinism seeks to value and include only male views, and claim "that anything that cannot be reduced or translated in men's experience should be excluded from the subject-matter of philosophy.[1]

Topic areas of interest

Education and employment

Many masculists oppose co-educational schooling, believing that single-sex schools better promote the well-being of boys.[10] Other masculists and equity feminists note that boys lag behind girls in educational achievement.[11]

Data from the U.S. in 1994 reported that men suffer 94% of workplace fatalities. Masculist Warren Farrell has argued that men do a disproportionate share of dirty, physically demanding, and hazardous jobs.[3]

Violence and suicide

Masculists cite higher rates of suicide in men than women.[10] Masculists express concern about violence against men being depicted as humorous, in the media and elsewhere.[12]

They also express concern about violence against men being ignored or minimized in comparison to violence against women,[10][13] some asserting gender symmetry in domestic violence.[10] Another of their concerns is that assumptions of female innocence or sympathy for women may lead to unequal penalties for women and men who commit similar crimes,[12] to lack of sympathy for male victims in domestic violence cases, and to dismissal of female-on-male sexual assault and sexual harassment cases.


According to David Benatar, head of philosophy at the University of Cape Town, "Custody law is perhaps the best-known area of men's rights activism", as it is more likely in most parts of the world for the mother to obtain custody of children in case of divorce. He argues: "When the man is the primary care-giver his chances of winning custody are lower than when the woman is the primary care-giver. Even when the case is not contested by the mother, he's still not as likely to get custody as when the woman's claim is uncontested".[14]

South African masculist evangelical movements

In the wake of the abolition of apartheid, South Africa has seen a resurgence of masculist Christian evangelical groups, led by two complementary men's and women's movements, the Mighty Men movement and the Worthy Women movement.[15] The Mighty Men movement harkens back to the Victorian idea of Muscular Christianity[16] and the movement does not lead discussions about institutionalized racism.[17] Feminist scholars argue that the movement's lack of attention to women's rights and their historical struggle with racial equality makes it a threat to women and to the stability of the country.[16][17] Scholar Miranda Pillay argues that the Mighty Men movement appeal lies in its resistance to gender equality as incompatible with Christian values, and in raising patriarchy to a "hyper-normative status," beyond challenge by other claims to power.[18]

The Worthy Women movement is a women's auxiliary to Mighty Men in advocating menism, a belief in the inherent superiority of men over women.[15] Their leader Gretha Wiid She blames South Africa's disorder on the liberation of women, and aims to restore the nation through its families, making women again subservient to their men.[19] Her success is attributed to her balancing claims that God created the gender hierarchy, but that women are no less valuable than men,[20] and that restoration of traditional gender roles relieves existential anxiety in post-apartheid South Africa.[15]


Criticisms and responses

Some critics believe masculism focuses on male superiority or male dominance (i.e. androcentrism)[21] to the exclusion of women.[1] Some masculinists believe that differentiated gender roles are natural. There is some evidence for social influences (e.g. gender division of labor, socialization) as the sole or primary origin of gender differentiation.[22][23] Some parts of the masculinist movement have to some extent borrowed concepts from evolutionary psychology: this theory argues that adaptation during prehistory resulted in complementary but different roles for the different genders, and that this balance has been destabilized by feminism since the 1960s.[10]


Some masculinists have been described as explicitly antifeminist by feminist activists.[10] According to Blais and Dupuis-Déri, "the contents of [masculinist] websites and the testimony of feminists that we questioned confirm that masculinists are generally critical of even moderate feminists and feminists at the head of official feminist organizations."[10] Some masculinist activism has involved disruption of events organized by feminists and lawsuits against feminist academics, journalists, or activists.[10] Furthermore, masculinist actions are sometimes extreme; father's rights activists have bombed family courts in Australia and have issued bomb threats in the UK, although it is ambiguous whether there was public and organized militant group involvement.[10] They have also engaged in "tire-slashing, the mailing of excrement-filled packages, threats against politicians and their children."[10] Spokesmen for these groups have also spoken out against public awareness campaigns to prevent sexual assault, arguing that they portray a negative image of men, and one masculinist group harassed administrators of dozens of battered women's shelters and women's centers.[10][24]

Philosopher Ferrell Christensen states that if masculism and feminism refer to the belief that men/women are systematically discriminated against, and that this discrimination should be eliminated, there is not necessarily a conflict between feminism and masculism, and some assert that they are both.[2] However, many believe that one sex is more discriminated against, and thus use one label and reject the other.[2]

See also

Men's organizations
Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Australia, India, United States, Singapore, United Kingdom, Malta, South Africa, Hungary, Ireland, Ghana and Canada
Notable people associated with masculism


  1. 1 2 3 Bunnin, Nicholas; Yu, Jiyuan (2004), "Masculinism", in Bunnin, Nicholas; Yu, Jiyuan, eds. (2004). The Blackwell dictionary of Western philosophy. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell. p. 411. ISBN 9780470997215.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Christensen, Ferrell (1995). Ted Honderich, ed. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866132-0.
  3. 1 2 Cathy Young (July 1994). "Man Troubles: Making Sense of the Men's Movement". Reason. Masculism (mas'kye liz*'em), n. 1. the belief that equality between the sexes requires the recognition and redress of prejudice and discrimination against men as well as women. 2. the movement organized around this belief. References Warren Farrell, Jack Kammer, and others activists in the men's movement.
  4. "masculism, n". Oxford English Dictionary Online (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. 2000. masculism, n. †1. The possession of masculine physical traits by a woman. Obs. rare. 2. = masculinism n.
  5. "masculinism, n". Oxford English Dictionary Online (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. 2000. masculinism, n. Advocacy of the rights of men; adherence to or promotion of opinions, values, etc., regarded as typical of men; (more generally) anti-feminism, machismo.
  6. Duerst-Lahti, Georgia (2008), "Gender Ideology: masculinism and femininalism", in Goertz, Gary; Mazur, Amy G., Politics, gender, and concepts: theory and methodology, Cambridge University Press, pp. 159192, ISBN 9780521723428
  7. Dupuis-Déri, Francis (2009). "Le " masculinisme ": une histoire politique du mot (en Anglais et en Français)" [“Masculinism”: a political history of the term (in English and French)]. Recherches Féministes. 22 (2): 97123. doi:10.7202/039213ar.
  8. Christensen, Ferrell (2005), "Masculism", in Honderich, Ted (ed.). The Oxford companion to philosophy. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 562563. ISBN 9780199264797.
  9. Hoogensen, Gunhild; Solheim, Bruce Olav (2006), "Women in theory and practice", in Hoogensen, Gunhild; Solheim, Bruce Olav, eds. (2006). Women in power: world leaders since 1960. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 21. ISBN 9780275981907.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Blais, Melissa; Dupuis-Déri, Francis (2012). "Masculinism and the antifeminist countermovement". Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest. Taylor and Francis. 11 (1): 2139. doi:10.1080/14742837.2012.640532.
  11. Sommers, Christina (May 2000). "The war against boys". The Atlantic. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  12. 1 2 Farrell, Warren (2001). The myth of male power: why men are the disposable sex. New York: Berkley Books. ISBN 9780425181447.
  13. Mvulane, Zama (November 25, 2008). "Do men suffer spousal abuse?". Cape Times. South Africa. p. 12. Archived from the original on February 21, 2009 via IOL.
  14. de Castella, Tom (May 2, 2012). "Just who are men's rights activists?". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
  15. 1 2 3 Nadar, Sarojini; Potgieter, Cheryl (Fall 2010). "Liberated through submission?: The Worthy Woman's Conference as a case study of formenism". Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Project MUSE. 26 (2): 141151.
  16. 1 2 Dube, Siphiwe (July 2015). "Muscular Christianity in contemporary South Africa: The case of the Mighty Men Conference". HTS Theological Studies/Teologiese Studies. AOSIS OpenJournals. 71 (3): 19.
  17. 1 2 Dube, Siphiwe (November 2016). "Race, whiteness and transformation in the Promise Keepers America and the Mighty Men Conference: A comparative analysis". HTS Theological Studies/Teologiese Studies. AOSIS OpenJournals. 72 (1): 18.
  18. Pillay, Miranda (2015), "Mighty Men, Mighty Families: A pro-family Christian movement to (re)enforce patriarchal control?", in Conradie, Ernst M.; Pillay, Miranda (eds.). Ecclesial reform and deform movements in the South African context. Stellenbosch, South Africa: African SUN MeDIA. pp. 6177. ISBN 9781920689766.
  19. Nortjé-Meyer, Lilly (2015), "A movement seeking to embody support of patriarchal structures and patterns in church and society: Gertha Wiid's Worthy Women movement", in Conradie, Ernst M.; Pillay, Miranda (eds.). Ecclesial reform and deform movements in the South African context. Stellenbosch, South Africa: African SUN MeDIA. pp. 8693. ISBN 9781920689766.
  20. Nortjé-Meyer, Lilly (November 2011). "A critical analysis of Gretha Wiid's sex ideology and her biblical hermeneutics". Verbum et Ecclesia. AOSIS OpenJournals. 32 (1): 17.
  21. . Responses:
    • "masculinist, n". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
    • Brittan, Arthur (1989). Masculinity and power. Oxford New York: Basil Blackwell. p. 4. ISBN 9780631141679. Masculinism is the ideology that justifies and naturalizes male domination. As such it is the ideology of patriarchy. Masculinism takes it for granted that there is a fundamental difference between man and women, it assumes that heterosexuality is normal, it accepts without question the sexual division of labour, and it sanctions the political and dominant role of men in the public and private spheres.
    • Kahl, David H. (2015). "Analyzing Masculinist Movements: Responding to Antifeminism through Critical Communication Pedagogy". Communication Teacher. 29 (1): 21–26. doi:10.1080/17404622.2014.985600.
    • Ruth, Sheila (1990), "An introduction to women's studies", in Ruth, Sheila (ed.). Issues in feminism: an introduction to women's studies (2nd ed.). Mountain View, California: Mayfield. p. 7. ISBN 9780874849370. Masculine-ism or masculism (sometimes called androcentrism) is the elevation of the masculine, conceptually and physically, to the level of the universal and ideal.
  22. Risman, Barbara J. (August 2004). "Gender as a social structure: theory wrestling with activism". Gender & Society. Sage. 18 (4): 429450. doi:10.1177/0891243204265349. JSTOR 4149444.
  23. Basow, Susan A. (1992). Gender: stereotypes and roles (3rd ed.). Pacific Grove, California: Brooks/Cole. ISBN 9780534121204.
  24. Martin, Janet M.; Borrelli, Maryanne (2001). The other elites: Women, politics, and power in the Executive Branch. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers. ISBN 9781555879716.


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The title is a play on the Christian theological terms church militant and church triumphant.
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Journal articles
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