When I was a nipper, which was quite a while ago as you can estimate by the fact that nursery rhymes had not yet been replaced by rap music, there was one piece of doggerel which was very popular with my sister. "What are little girls made of?" she would recite. "Sugar and spice, and all things nice!" Then her voice would drop into a sneer: "What are little boys made of? Slugs and snails and puppy dogs' tails!"
My sister, as you can probably guess, grew up to be a feminist. But not before she had given me several pastings - Sugar and Spice was three years older than me and, until my "poisonous" testosterone came to the rescue, much bigger. I mention this story not to avenge myself on my sister or claim victim status - we get on famously now, I'm sure I deserved what I got and besides, apparently I actually used to eat slugs and snails - but because it does somewhat cast doubt on the idea that the female of the species is, as one of the media women quoted in this book gushes: "More sensitive. More emotional. More caring. More dependable than males."
Spreading Misandry doesn't mention that nursery rhyme but it does make a convincing argument that, since the 1990s, much of mainstream popular culture has effectively taken up this childish paradigm as the only explanation of good and evil in the world. Men, say the authors, have become society's official scapegoats and held responsible for all evil, including that done by women they have deluded or intimidated. Women are society's official victims and held responsible for all good, including that done by men they have influenced or converted.
To prove their point the authors subject innumerable TV shows such as Oprah and The Golden Girls, and films such as Sleeping with the Enemy, Fried Green Tomatoes, Cape Fear and The Color Purple to painstaking and frankly somewhat tedious analysis to demonstrate that misandry is much more visible these days than misogyny and that it has become the dominant discourse in popular culture. Males and male values and qualities are disparaged, ridiculed or shamed in direct proportion to the way that females and female values and qualities are validated, endorsed and held up for approval (something I myself, by way of confession, was more than slightly guilty of in my 1994 book Male Impersonators: Men Performing Masculinity - though I'd like to think, of course, that I was ahead of the wave).
Hence the importance the authors attach to the word misandry, which they describe as "culturally propagated hatred for men". Like misogyny it is often expressed as negative stereotypes of the opposite sex. But unlike misogyny, misandry is not monitored because it is considered morally and legally acceptable: "The face of man, as it were, has been so distorted by public expressions of misandry that it has become unrecognisable even to men themselves." But is it really worth monitoring? Monitoring moreover in a lengthy, earnest, very American academic tome freighted with indigestible chunks of political philosophy? Is it worth the risk of "misandry" becoming a word that is bandied about ad nauseam by a legion of male Joan Smiths and Germaine Greers?
Oddly, the answer to this question might just be a qualified "yes". They may overstate and restate their case, but that's what books are for; and, as the authors point out, misandry is an ideology whose assimilation has been so successful that most don't even recognise it as an ideology. This is why sexism is regarded as a one-way street and any men who complain otherwise are mocked for being stupid or wet or both. Worse, it's become the law, at least in regard to political correctness: our cultural guardians are completely blind to misandry, which literally doesn't exist: there is only righteous "anger" or a necessary and healthy "corrective" to the crimes of men and patriarchy over the millennia etc etc. Hence even a pointedly, dramatically misandric film such as The Company of Men is attacked as being misogynistic. …