I've been reading a book called The Psychology of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. First interesting factoid, the original Swedish title translates as Men Who Hate Women. This puts a very different spin on the story than the English one, which clearly identifies Lisbeth Salander as the heroine.
Unsurprisingly, most of the essays have to do with gender politics and gender identity. One of them had something very interesting, a short quiz which let you rate your hostility levels towards men and women respectively.
This quiz was published by Glick and Fiske in 1996 to establish the level of beliefs inherent to Hostile Sexism. To take it, rate each question on a scale of 0-5 with 0 being disagree strongly and 5 being agree strongly.
Hostile to Women:
1) Many women are actually seeking special favours, such as hiring policies that favour them over men, under the guise of asking for "equality."
2) Most women interpret innocent remarks or acts as being sexist.
3) Women are too easily offended.
4) Feminists are seeking for women to have more power than men.
5) Most women fail to appreciate fully all that men do for them.
6) Women seek to gain power by getting control over men.
7) Women exaggerate the problems they have at work.
8) Once a woman gets a man to fully commit to her, she usually tries to put him on a tight leash.
9) When women lose to men in a fair competition, they typically compalin about being discriminated against.
10) Many women get a kick out of teasing men by seeming sexually available and then refusing male advances.
11) Feminists are making unreasonable demands of men.
Hostile to Men:
1) A man who is sexually attracted to a woman typically has no morals about doing whatever it takes to get her in bed.
2) When men act to "help" women, they are often trying to prove they are better than women.
3) Men would be lost in this world if women weren't there to guide them.
4) Men act like babies when they are sick.
5) Men will always fight to have greater control in society than women.
6) Even men who claim to be sensitive to women's rights really want a traditional relationship at home, with the woman performing most of the housekeeping and child care.
7) Men usually try to dominate conversations when talking to women.
8) Most men pay lip service to equality for women but can't handle having a woman as an equal.
9) When it comes down to it, most men are really like children.
10) Most men sexually harass women, even if only in subtle ways, once they are in a position of power over them.
The higher the score, the higher your hosility levels against a particular gender.
I think there's no doubt there's been an increased level in outright hostile relations between the genders. But it strikes me as a perhaps unavoidable step in the path towards true equality.
You can't be hostile to someone who you truly believe is inferior. There's no threat to someone who is actually inferior. Hostility arises along with a fear that the other person is perhaps not inferior. It's a way of trying to keep an artificial superiority.
In Angel, there was an episode called Billy, where a young man was able to bring out what he called a "primal misogyny" in the men he touched. They became physically and verbally abusive to women they had previously called partners and equals. Only it didn't work on the title character, Angel, a 200 year old vampire.
The writers were always a little hand-wavy about why Angel was immune but here's my theory. Angel isn't threatened because he was raised in a period which genuinely supported a belief that women were the weaker sex and needed to be protected. Deep down in his subconscious, he's not afraid of women. Consciously, he is clearly supportive of strong, independent women, as are the rest of Billy's victims.
That story line is what first got me thinking about the link between hostility and equality. Granted, it's fiction but it makes sense.
There are still battles to be fought on the equality front, no question. But I think this culture of hostility and accusation also needs to be addressed on all fronts, whether about gender, orientation, race or Star Trek franchise preference.