Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Equality, Misandry and Oppression: Part One:

Where We Agree, Where We Disagree and What We Might Want to Talk About

The comments on the list of ways that men might better participate in discussion in feminist spaces continue unabated; first we had lots of input from nobadges, and now PaleCast and others are giving us all a lot to chew on. Then Geo put some ideas out there about 'misandry' that seem to have interested some commentors as well. We've all been given a lot of food for thought, and some of my ideas around those thoughts are finally gelling into something that might be ok to post. I'm still thinking of a lot of these ideas as beginnings of conversations, not endings.

We've Got Some Good Commentors, Don't We?
I'd like to first thank both nobadges and PaleCast for their input here. I think both of these people have done more than their fair share of keeping a conversation going, keeping it interesting, yet keeping things quite civil. In a space where not too many of us agree on everything, having some solidarity in (at least) the idea that we all ought to be talking and thinking about all of this stuff is refreshing. I think this is a rare thing out here in the ol' bloggy world to have people intelligently disagree with such passion but without (much?) anger and bitterness, and it should be recognized as such. So, thanks to you both. I also encourage you both to get your own blogs--not because I want y'all to stop commenting here at all, but because I think there is plenty of room for all of our various opinions, and having many forums, however slightly or very different from each other, is almost certainly a good thing.

Where We Agree, Where We Might Disagree
Reading PaleCast's various comments, I am tempted to simply begin at the beginning, start quoting, and offer up a point-by-point list of disagreements. But I'm not sure that's the best way for the discussion to continue. Perhaps a better way (for me!) is to begin from a place of agreement, because it seems like there are a lot of things PaleCast (and others like him--hope I'm getting your gender right there, PaleCast, as I don't think you've explicitly given it) and I probably agree on.

Seems to me that we both would agree that both men and women are harmed by current structures of socioeconomic power, and of constructions of gender power, for instance. Can we agree at least on that? I think it's been clear from the start that I think that men are harmed by current power structures, and I've pointed out on various occasions how that happens, at least in 'small' ways, though my short little analyses on comic strips and advertisements. I think more in-depth discussions of that sort would be a benefit to everybody. For instance, an analysis of how men and women are treated differently in 'wartime'--whatever that word means in the present political climate!--from who-gets-drafted to who is 'in combat'--is something well worth doing. Not only would it highlight the harm that is done toward men by picking a fight, but it would be easy to show how 'the system' negatively affects everybody of every gender, and how 'the system' does that in different ways for different genders.

It's my intuition that, given possible agreement on the above problem, that one 'meta-conversation' that we might want to have surrounds not conceptions about whether or not current power systems harm men, but rather conceptions about:
1) Where discussion about how these power systems harm men ought to take place.
2) To what degree harm to men ought to take up time and energy in the larger discussion of power and harm, as well as in the 'smaller' particular discussions of power affecting women and power affecting men.
3) What are the various relationships between the harm done to women and the harm done to men (and those of other genders, too, actually) by current systems of power?

There are more possibilities of course, but it seems to me that we might agree that these are some of the questions we would like answers to, or that we have opinions on. Does that work so far?

For the next post: Where ought we be putting forth concerns about the ways that men can suffer from the current power structures around gender?


mi·san·dry (mĭ-săn'drē) pronunciation

Hatred of men.


I'm obviously missing a lot here!

1. I'm walking down the street regularly and Women:

a. Whistle at me and tell me what a cute butt I have
b. Stare at my breasts and can't seem to see that I have eyes
c. (Seemingly) follow me down dark streets - so I look back to see if I'm in danger of being attacked.

2. All kinds of Women's Institutions Won't Let Me In because I'm a man such as:

a. Women's Colleges
b. Many Self-Defense classes
c. Womyn's Music Festivals

Certainly women often want: "women's space" and exclude men such as me from being a part of them. I won't ever be privy to much socially in my Jewish Peace Group's young Lesbian core of leadership. Individual women may pre-judge me as a Man and may "discriminate" against me in various ways.

As men we ought to push more to be teachers in our elementary schools so that it is not "female dominated". Misandry isn't what keeps things bad for little boys (when it is bad) not having male teachers. Low salaries and difficult working conditions make the job unappealing to most men (and many women).

When Lesbians "separate" from men they rarely take "female privilige" with them. Often, though not always, men take male privilige in their hunting outings and similar.

1. As men we ought to be struggling more building support with other men.
2. As men we ought to be confronting male violence towards men and boys (as well as women and girls) and see how we are socialized to injure and kill each other.
3. As men we ought to be confronting how we are the fodder for Wars - how Older Men send Younger Men to be killed usually for no good purpose
4. As men we ought to be confronting the fact that we die at higher rates from birth on and that the rates get worse as we get older (generally) and in that sense we clearly are the "weaker gender",
5. As men we ought to confront the types of pressures that other men put on us to conform - to be "real men" in so many ways. Women may make fun of us, but Men threaten us in far more dangerous ways.

Being Male often is hazardous to our Health! While individual Women do hurt us, I don't see in general how Misandry is a major force in most of our lives most of the time. I do see many ways in which we have difficult and important work to do in bettering ourselves and in making our own lives happier and safer.

Blaming Women to me is generally a copout! Blaming Men isn't helpful either. Listening, learning and growing as Men, building "men's space" that isn't oppressive is helpful in many different areas. Being the allies of both women and men is necessary.

Expecting individual women to see us as allies is not useful. It isn't helpful to talk as White People about "Black Racism" (while it may be necessary and important to confront individual unfair situations one may encounter). It isn't helpful to talk as Upper-Middle Class People of the "oppression of having money".

We should do our best for ourselves, our children, our partners and our world!


Monday, August 28, 2006

More Fun with Marketing and Gender

Marketers are more and more recognizing that they need to create and play on the fears of men about aging like the create and play on fears for women around aging:

Men: You've Come a Long Way, Baby

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More Feminism 101

Just to continue what we started, y'all might check out Martha Nussbaum's excoriation of Mansfield's recent book, "Manliness". She gives a pretty good account of a lot of basic feminism (and a pretty good account of Socratic method, while she's at it).

Among the things Nussbaum (who is something of a controversial figure as a feminist, at times, is this:
Where to begin? Since in Mansfield all roads lead back to the bogey of feminism, let us begin there. Modern feminism is a hugely diverse set of positions and arguments, but almost nobody has seriously suggested that gender distinctions ought to be completely eradicated. Indeed, much of the effort of legal feminism has been to get the law to take them seriously enough. Thus feminists have urged that rape law take cognizance of women's unequal and asymmetrical physical vulnerability. Some courts had refused to convict men of rape if the woman did not fight her attacker. In one recent Illinois case, the conviction was tossed out because the woman, about five feet tall and less than one hundred pounds, did not resist a two-hundred-pound attacker in a solitary forest preserve. But in a situation of great physical asymmetry, feminists have urged, fighting is actually a stupid thing to do, and in the Illinois case even crying out "No!" would have been stupid, given the extreme solitude of the place and the likelihood that shouting would provoke the attacker to violence. (I take this example from the feminist legal scholar Stephen Schulhofer. Mansfield utterly ignores the existence of male feminists, though they are many. Feminism is a concern with justice, not an exercise in identity politics.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Men and Housework

According to a story from the feminist daily news wire, women do about 16 hours of housework (things like cleaning and meal preparation) a week, while men do about 10 hours of it. And apparently this is the way things have been for about 20 years now:
Since 1985, however, progress toward gender equality in domestic work has stalled, according to the time use studies, which show a 20-year plateau that continues with the recent ATUS findings.

Any ideas on how it might change?

I live alone, now, and have had women as roommates, but haven't been living with a significant other in a long while. For the times that I did, I'm quite sure I would have reflected this statistic very well, which I'm not proud of. Recognizing this is, of course, half of the problem--but even recognizing it is complex. For instance, in the cases where a man 'just is' not as concerned about cleanliness, does this simply reflect a preference, or is it part of his socialization (i.e. mom cleaned up after him to whatever degree) that he ought to unlearn because of the sexism involved in it?

No blanket answers here, of course, and there will always be men and women who are exceptions that prove the rule--but given the 16hr/10hr statistic, what can men to encourage themselves to change around this issue?

Also, I'd be interested to hear from people who live somehow outside the glaringly heterosexist nature of these comparisons--people who are part of variously gendered couples/triples/etc. and how they do or don't see these statistics reflected in their relationships...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Feminism 101

Jeff recently posted a link to a list of suggestions for male (pro-)feminists in standard feminist communities.

They echoed sentiments I've seen in many feminist communities--first, that there is a need for spaces devoted mainly to women, and second, that it is not a feminist blogger's responsibility to teach Feminism 101. Several times, I've seen male readers advised ot employ google to get a handle on basic feminist concepts.

This is, of course, perfectly true: we *do* need spaces for women, and it *isn't* every individual woman's responsibility to explain feminism. But it occurred to me that, although we have Feminist Allies as a space for feminist men, what I haven't seen yet is that online course in feminism 101.

Google exists, of course, but I get the feeling that finding reliable information on feminist theory online might not be the easiest thing in the world. I certainly wouldn't trust wikipedia, for example.

So I'm wondering: does anyone know of a good online introduction to academic feminism? If not, would it be possible to assemble one?

Monday, August 14, 2006

More List Food for Thought

Nobadges was kind enough to give us some ideas to bounce around, with his list of things that "fem-bloggers" could do to please him.

I hope you don't mind if I take your list seriously, even though it has a bit of a snarky tone itself...I'm hoping that all of us better understanding what we might want over here at FA, at least, might be a good exercise. Since you and I have butted heads before, I want to make it clear that I really do think we might all be able to learn something from further examination of your list, as well--and that is something that explicitly probably ought not be done on various feminist blogs (i.e. you're definitely turning the discussion back to what bothers you....)

nobadges list points are quoted:

1. If you don't like what someone is saying, but they are being polite and reasonable, don't assume they are uneducated.

On the face of it, sounds great. Two problems, one minor, one not-so-minor. Problem one: Seems pretty 'strawfeminist' to me. Can you cite an example where this happened? I haven't seen it much, but this could just be the particular feminist blogs I read. Problem two: Polite and reasonable are, of course, subjective terms, and their definitions are often what is at issue regarding disagreements about who's 'trolling' and such. For some, being reasonable means not even marching out the tired old platitutes about 'reverse sexism', just as a for-instance. So, as a rule, without exposition on what it means to be polite and reasonable on one's blog, it doesn't get you very far. Sure, common-sense can take you pretty far, but not all the way. And presumably people are using common-sense without the explicit rules anyway.

2. If you don't like what someone is saying, but they are being polite and reasonable, don't assume they are conservative or of some other particular political affiliation.

Depends on what they're saying, doesn't it? As an extreme example, if they are saying "I am a conservative and a Republican," then you can easily take what they say and assume they are conservative and a Republican. But this is, of course, a limiting case. Still, if somebody comes along and starts spouting 'that's sexist tripe', it's pretty clear from they get-go that he or she doesn't like the same flavors of feminism I do, and probably votes more 'conservatively' when it comes to women's issues than I do. So, the context is all important, which sorta makes the rule again, common-sense, which will only take us so far.

3. Be aware that there is an entire branch of the social sciences that does not consider "patriarchy" to mean "the big boogey man that oppresses all women", that is, anthropology.

You've brought this up before, and it still puzzles me as to why you think its relevant. Every discipline (including feminist theory) has technical terms, and may use those technical terms even if some other discipline uses those terms for different ends and in different ways--even if that discipline started using it that way 'first'. In philosophy, for instance, "Idealism" has a couple of very definite technical meanings that have nothing to do with, say the Idealism talked about in Political Science. But we don't have a bunch of Poly Sci people complaining about it.

In addition, I'd hazard a guess (just a guess!) that there has been more written in feminist theory on patriarchy than there has been in anthropology. What do you think? Should antropologists stop using the term? ;)

4. Be aware that the way fem-bloggers talk about "the patriarchy" is not really even consistent with academic feminist literature.

This is overgeneralized (and not backed up by you, here at least) to such a degree to be pretty not useful. Who do you include in academic feminist liturature? What flavors of patriarchy that feminist bloggers are using are you talking about. There are differences across the board, at every intersection. Which isn't suprising. Patriarchy can be a very complex concept. The academic feminist literature I like and agree with the most (i.e. bell hooks, for example) gels very well with, say Jill at Feministe, but not so well with Lesbian Separatist bloggers.

5. If you have a moderation policy, apply it evenly to people who both support your views and who argue against your views. Hugo (more) and Ampersand (less) are both guilty of looking the other way when the fem-bloggers get snarky in the comments. Standyourground.com, an MRA site, is absolutely awful in this respect.

Great rule, though again, the devil is in the details. "Evenly" is the problem word. Is it 'even' if you let 10 men come into a discussion on rape and say 'she asked for it' if 10 men and women say 'no, she didn't'? I don't think so. Sometimes 'even' means 'a safe place for women because there aren't enough of them on the interwebby'. I think your examples of Hugo and Ampersand are interesting, because they've both been accused of looking the other way when anti-feminist commentors get snarky, too.

6. Read something, anything, besides pop feminist books and the feminist blogosphere.

Condescending much? ;) You seem to be sort of violating your own rule #1 here, aintcha? I've found the bloggers I read to be pretty well-rounded, though you probably woulnd't consider me well-rounded enough to make the judgment.

7. Don't label men who don't toe the fem-blogger groupthink line as MRAs reflexively.

This is the best rule you came up with, I think, and one of the things that Feminist Allies has taught me. There are lots of positions that a feminist man can take, and not all of them are as pro-feminist as I consider my own to be (and Dave is proably 'more' pro-feminist than I am, so it works both ways). Of course, it depends on which part of that line you aren't toe-ing, nobadges. When people come in and say things like 'that's sexist tripe!', it's easier to place them within the MRA box. Maybe not the main, MRA box, but one of 'em. Still, I think this advice is great.

8. Don't tell second wave feminists that they aren't feminists.

Well, this one is either problematic or not too useful, actually. I don't think discussions about who gets to be 'a feminist' and who doesn't only get us so far, so saying 'you aren't a feminist' isn't usually the tach I like to take. However, if you're a feminist who doesn't think that, say, people of color have some legitimate axes to grind with second wave feminism, than it's likely we're going to disagree on lots and lots of things, and doesn't seem too far out to say that we're in 'different waves'. And that third wave is better than second wave, in that it incorporates lots that second wave left out that ought to be included.

9. If you are a lawyer/doctor/expert and you participate in an open discussion that is not specifically meant only for experts of your type, do not expect everyone to be a lawyer/doctor/expert. Also, do not expect anyone to care, or take your word for whatever you are proclaiming to be the truth.

This is a complaint against feminist bloggers? Seems to me that if it's a legitimate complaint at all, it ought to be against a large cross-section of bloggers. Who did you have in mind, though? I've actually had run-ins with piny regarding workplace issues of sexism, and been told that I don't undestand law offices, so to some degree I sympathize. Still you've got some work to do to convince me that feminist bloggers are more guilty of this than others.

10. If you think that every change to culture that blurs any distinction between women and men is a good thing, that's great. Be aware that many feminists do not share this view. Refer to #1, #2, and #7 above when you encounter this line of thought.

Feminism can be quite full of complexity, a tapestry of various views, that's for sure. But again, I call 'strawfeminist'--there aren't many who profess--at least explicitly--that every change to culture that blurs any distinction between men and women is a good thing. You have somebody in mind?

Some Suggestions

This set of suggestions for men in feminist spaces that has cropped up in a couple of places again recently. I'm curious what y'all think about it.

In particular, Rule One seems apropos for discussion on this blog:
1. Realize it's not all about you. No, really! Shocked? This is because:

Corollary to Rule 1: Feminism is about women. Girls, ladies, females, grrrrlz, womyn, wimmin, whatever you call them, it's about us. It's for us, by us. Not how you feel harmed or threatened by feminism or women, or about how you are oppressed as a man. We know that patriarchy affects all people negatively - but this isn't the space to draw attention to how men suffer. I strongly encourage you to form your own men's group to discuss those issues.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Feminist vs. Pro-Feminist - Missing the Main Point?

(I tried to post this elsewhere in response to another posting referenced two postings before mine and am trying to add a little to it.)

I think that whether a man can be a "feminist" or "pro-feminist" is really missing the most basic issue. Women face issues of sexism regularly in their lives (as People of Color face racism).

As men we can be "nice guys" while not substantively confronting and helping end sexism. Women have regular reminders that they are "only a woman".

For men to really be supportive of feminism we need to both support women and to affirmatively work with men to help end misogyny.

Such work can clearly be at many levels from confronting sexist jokes and statements to working with batterers and "normal men" (who aren't visibly misogynst)to help change our whole culture.

When we as men do even 25% of the work that women do, I'll start being concerned about what title we have.

In the 1960's when I was a teenager Black folks said to White folks that it was time that we should start leaving the leadership of the Black focussed groups to Black people. What nearly all of us White People missed then was the addendum that we needed to work among White people to end racism in our communities.

Similarly, it's way past the time for us Men to start doing the hard work with other men! It's much easier to cozy up to Women. It's much easier to talk with men about "safe topics". Similarly if we want to change the political status quo we need to work and organize and not to simply cozy up among our allies and bemoan our fates or celebrate the recent failures of many on the right.

In "my day" in the 1980's - men's violence issues were predominant. They're still important. No doubt today we can look at many many issues where we need to confront "maleness" and how it impacts both men's and women's lives. I would think that issues of video games, web exploitation and many other issues would become apparent to anyone who thinks much as well as militarism, homophobia, etc.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

When "Masculine" Equals "Jerk"

100 Little Dolls has a post up about her experience as a gamer/comics fan and some of what she's had to put up with being a woman within those subgroups. She understands quite clearly that the men/boys who were spouting sexist crap were doing so in part because they wanted to bond 'as men', and that they have probably been left out of a lot of such bonding given their own geek status. She says:
I’ve been thinking and thinking about the whole situation and managed to come up with this: the guys I was around were taking part in a form of alternative masculinity. They’ve suffered the consequences of not being traditionally masculine: they’re not rich, they don’t have tight bodies or physical prowess. A way for them to prove their masculinity is through wins and game scores, and extensive comic book knowledge. Another way is verbal; by using sexist and homophobic slurs, masculinity can be proved by effeminizing their peers.
Unfortunately, I wonder what sort of 'alternative' masculinity this is. This seems to be something of the 'norm' of masculinity; the alternative involves not trying to bond with other men over misogyny....

There's a few interesting comments over there...check 'em out.

A (pro-)Feminist by Any Other Name...

Jessica over at Feministing takes a look at an article about men and feminism, and asks about men's place within feminist movement and what the heck they ought to be called, anyway...

Maybe y'all could go check it out and put your two cents in?

The original article (in The Guardian) Jessica is looking at is worth a read, as well.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

More From Others on Alpha-Male Feminism

Jeff over at Official Shrub has a couple of posts relating to the discussion of 'alpha males' and feminism. Hugo chimes in on this topic again as well.

This is exactly the sort of discussion that I hope can continue and lead to a better understanding of how men interact (including how feminist men interact with other men) and the best ways for men to combat patriarchy and sexism.

Those coming here from Hugo's blog or from Official Shrub, welcome.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


A new Carnival of Feminists is up, over at Super Babymama. Lots of good stuff about class and its relationship to feminism. Check it out.

No Pressure

This morning, and oftentimes, I'm greeted by ads like this:

I understand how target markets work in advertising (at least the basics). I understand that somebody somewhere figured out that they might make more money if they targeted men with kids for life insurance (although I would like to see the actual reasons; because more men would buy into this sort of ad? because fewer men are currently concerned about life insurance?), but these sorts of ads are ubiquitous, at least on the sites I frequent (and no, not a dad here--so much for marketing), and it's got me to thinking.

This seems like one more piece of cultural pressure on men to 'provide'--at once suggesting (by being targeted at 'dad' in the first place) that men are the providers, and at the same time, by suggesting that not only the kid, but also mom, won't be able to survive without dad's life insurance; that women aren't providers. I know there are practical benefits to having life insurance--but whatever they are, it's almost certainly a good idea that both parents have it, right?

A little thing, perhaps, but they add up.