Research Brief: Misandry in the Media and Pop Culture


Negative and ‘flawed’ images of men are perpetuated by most genre of popular culture – books, television shows, movies, greetings cards, comic streeps, ads and commercials and more. Men and boys are widely represented as violent and aggressive thieves, thugs, murderers, wife and girlfriend bashers, sexual abusers, molesters, perverts, irresponsible deadbeat dads and philanderers, even though, in reality, only a small proportion of men act out these roles and behaviours. Media discourses are powerful and shape perspectives of social attitudes. While much literature space has been dedicated to understanding how media influences the role of women in society, little work has been dedicated to media and the portrayal of men.

Media sources have a tendency to deny, minimize and at times ridicule male victimization such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and emotional trauma to name a few. The message we give to male victims is that they either “deserved it”, “asked for it”, and/or are “lying”. Violence towards males is normalized in our society, and so are the images that reinforce harmful stereotypes about males and masculinity. The male voice is further stifled by the media’s portrayal of the “butch man”, meaning that if a male victim wishes to complain or report an incident, they will be “whining” because society expects them to “take it as a man”.

Prison rape, injury to a man’s genitals, sexual abuse of boys by women under the guise of initiation and other behaviours, easily identifiable as physical or sexual abuse and assault when they happen to girls or women, are exploited for humor so regularly that they have become a norm in comedy films and entertainment.

Male sexuality faces a growing trend towards objectification in mass media strikingly similar or parallel to the objectification of women which has been widely documented. Among many other examples, pause to consider the mass appreciation of movies such as “Magic Mike”, shirtless photos of sexy male celebrities in Cosmo, or the “14 photos of hot guys who have great butts” on Elite Daily. The reality is that images that objectify, demonize and devalue men have negative consequences for men, women, and gender relations itself.

The very notion that men have a unique set of issues and concerns including fatherlessness, increasing suicide rates and declining post secondary enrollment rates has been met with criticism. Conferences with titles such as “What makes a man: Drawing a new map to manhood,” which seek to define the “right” kind of masculinity, would surely be considered simplistic and offensive – had males not been the topic discussed – are attended in large numbers. On the other hand, events with titles such as “From Misogyny to Misandry to Intersexual Dialogue”, or “Boys to Men: Transforming the Boys Crisis into our Sons’ Opportunities”, seeking safe spaces for men to discuss uniquely male problems across university campuses are protested. Misandry exists, and it is has become pervasive enough to enter academic, legal and political forums.
















































































































Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young, Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture (Montreal, Quebec, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001).

Jim Macnamara, Media and Male Identity: The making and Remaking of Men. (London: Palgrave Macmillan 2006)

Femiano, S., & Nickerson, M. (2002). How do media images of men affect our lives? Retrieved June 25, 2004, from Center for Media Literacy Web site

Andrew Bock, Dumb stereotypes take heart out of boys’ hopes. September 19, 2003

The Conversation US Pilot, For father’s day give us men who aren’t shown as fools or clowns. September 4, 2014.

Kristin J. Anderson, Melinda Kanner and Nisreen Elsayegh, Are feminists men haters? Feminists’ and nonfeminists’ attitudes toward men. June 2009.

Joshua Hart, Peter Glick and Rachel E. Dinero, (2013), She Loves Him, She Loves Him Not: Attachment Style as a Predictor of Women’s Ambivalent Sexism Towards Men, Psychology of Women Quarterly, Vol. 37: 507-517

Benatar, D. (2012), The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys, Malden; Wiley-Blackwell.

Synnott, Anthony (2009), Re-Thinking Men: Heroes, Villains and Victims, Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 1409491951.

Rosenblum, Darren (2010), “Beyond Victimisation and Misandry”, International Journal of Law in Context, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 114–116.

Kathleen Evans, Media Representations of Male and Female ‘Co-Offending’: How female offenders are portrayed in comparison to their male counterparts. 2012.

The Invisible Boy: Revisioning the Victimization of Male Children and Teens, Health Canada
Vice, We went to a Men’s rights lecture. April 2013.

Sarah Boesveld, What makes a man? As male icons fall from grace, regular guys struggle to identify ‘right’ kind of masculinity. The National Post November 21, 2014