The Woman Racket: The new science explaining how the sexes relate at work, at play and in society. By Steve Moxon. Charlottesville, Virginia: Imprint Academic, 2008. $39.90. . 296 pages.
Steve Moxon’s book, The Woman Racket, has certainly taken the UK men’s movement, and perhaps even the world’s men’s movement, by storm. With the possible exception of Warren Farrell’s 1994 The Myth of Male Power, this volume has gotten more attention and distribution than any other work as hard-hitting against gender traditionalism and in favor of men’s rights. On two 2008 trips to London, I found that the volume could easily be found in any bookstore with a moderately academic inclination.
Right off the top, this book should be heavily sprinkled with salt before consumption. I didn’t do much rigorous checking, but I’m pretty sure that a number of the facts and conclusions are open to serious question if not outright refutation. Normally, a work such as this can be fatally flawed by such lapses, the sort of gaffes that Warren Farrell is so skilled at avoiding. I wouldn’t say that about Moxon, however, as The Woman Racket transcends its flaws, densely packed as it is with deep, original analysis even of relatively well-known information, as well as much new, relatively well-founded information.
From the opening page, we know we are in for a treat: “Nobody tells us why men are maligned as if they’re at one with the very few at the top of the pile, whereas all women are championed irrespective of who they are, what they have done, or how they have lived their lives.” On page two, Moxon makes the original point that “the real story of men and women is the key to tearing up the entire list and throwing it away,” thereby transcending divisive and ultimately pointless gender identity politicking.
Males “in effect quarantine genetic material without actually doing so… by behaving differently to females so that they come up against the environment in all sorts of ways that lead to natural selection… Males are driven to behave in ways that expose any genetic defects they have, and females then choose the better of them.” Thus evolutionary science helps demonstrate that misandry, by both men and women, is more or less biologically inevitable. Later Moxon demonstrates the related point that “in humans, as in animals generally, the most socially-disadvantages sub-group is always that of relatively low-status males.”
One remarkable fact relating to gender-specific behavior that I hadn’t heard before is that “a single gene has been found in mammals that allows males to engage [in] dominance behaviour when they encounter another male.” If you knock out that gene from male mice, they behave toward other males exactly as they do toward females, showing, Moxon comments, “that default male behaviour is to treat all others of the same species as females.” Conversely, removing the gene from female mice causes them to behave the same toward males and females, trying to mount them and generally treating both sexes as if they themselves were males and all other mice were females!
Another fascinating piece of information: Men incorporate low-pitched hums into their communications with other men that act as ranking signals telling other men the relative status of the signaler compared to them. Also, according to Moxon, men listening to other men activate an entirely different brain region than when they listen to women. Women, conversely, use the same part of the brain to listen to both men and women.
At times the author is nothing less than brilliant in his analysis: “Extreme feminism is… a disguised re-branding of the perennial conspiracy of the elite… To get round the fact that what is being railed against is a chimera, feminism has developed into progressively more extreme forms that argue simultaneously mutually-exclusive viewpoints. Ostensibly a politics of liberation, it’s the ultimate anti-democratic movement…. an ultra-conservative extension of what has always been the male-female dynamic…. There is seemingly no limit to what must be the greatest confidence trick in political history.”
Later on the same page, Moxon again hits it on the nose: “We live in a society that is based on a particularly bad combination: a rigorous ethos of egalitarianism, but one which inverts the truth of the most fundamental social structures and interactions. This provides a wide range of support for the very people who are already over-privileged, directly at the expense of those other very people who are under-privileged.”
The author shows in detail why men and women move in separate social worlds, and also why bell-shaped curves almost always have more males at both extremes. I enjoyed his lengthy analysis of women bosses, though he dubiously claims that men’s discrimination claims are actually outpacing women’s.
Moxon brilliantly parameterizes each gender’s level of domestic violence against its total violence, showing that DV is women’s most common type of violence and is among men’s least common forms. The author then conducts an engaging analysis of male and female mate-guarding and its relationship to DV. Moxon’s analysis of rape based on evolutionary psychology principles demonstrates that “rape… compromises the mechanism whereby the whole reproducing group skews reproduction towards the fittest [female] individuals,” explaining why forceful intercourse is dealt with so harshly, sometimes more so than murder. The claim that “nature conspires to skew the chances of conception to be considerably higher outside of the long-term partnership,” in short, that rape is likely to cause pregnancy, is engaging, but not well-documented.
Moxon is very good in chapters on prostitution, erotica, and pornography. “If men are consuming ‘pornography,’ shouldn’t it provide reassurance to wives or girlfriends that they are less likely to be finding satisfaction in extra-pair sex?… Women never understand that for a man, having sex with a regular partner is a completely different scenario from having a string of brief casual sex encounters with a range of other partners. In a man’s mind they are completely different.”
The book is not without its shortcomings. Moxon’s reference at the start of chapter two to the “profound insight” to which he asserts his books will lead is both premature and annoying self-aggrandizing.
Regrettably, assertions are often not documented, as when the author writes, “In all countries across Europe, for every thousand Euros increase in annual benefits, the number of single parents rises two percent.” Sounds plausible, but a reference would be helpful. The solution, the author points out, is “to place all of the financial obligation on a parent who simply walks out, or invents a reason to throw out the other.”
Is it really true that “we get the attitude that male criminals are essentially quite decent, whilst ordinary male citizens… are the real criminals?” Moxon is pretty weak regarding popular music, preposterously claiming that virtually no notable female singer/songwriters (other than Joni Mitchell, whom he likes) have appeared, and he specifically mentions Tracy Chapman, Jewel, and PJ Harvey as among those he feels aren’t up to snuff.
His point about relatively insignificant female artists and writers being lionized relative to more talented males has some validity, but he could scarcely have picked a worse example to prove his point than superlative poet Sylvia Plath and her relatively less talented partner, Ted Hughes.
Later Moxon embarks on a perilous justification of male over-representation in academia “to avoid compromising on the level of aptitude/ability.” His theorizing seems half-baked that objections to female participation in medical school included fear of competition between men for women’s attention and jealousy among the losers, and also the fear that women might exploit medical school as a marriage marketplace.
Nor did Moxon fully convince me of his contention that “women do not compete with each other in the way that men do—for status” but rather “so that they place themselves in the milieu of higher-status men.”
Moxon sums up his entire book by noting that he has been reviewing the many different manifestations of “the privilege afforded universally and unconditionally to women.” In the end, “this prejudice will always be with us, the over-privileging of the female along with unwarranted contempt for the male.” [emphasis in original]
The Woman Racket could be likened to The Myth of Male Power with the gloves off, or to Rich Zubaty’s books minus that author’s humor and readability. Moxon is, by turns, boring, irrelevant, annoying, and brilliant. This very wordy, dense, periodically infuriating, and frequently edifying volume is simply a must-read for anyone who cares about men and women. For all its faults, and corresponding strengths, I give it my highest recommendation.
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