"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year and All That Crap

(Go by Mark Tatulli's Lio book, please.)

I get a wee bit more excited about New Year's Eve than Xmas, though I have mixed emotions about NYE as well. I like the ideas of renewal, of taking a look at one's life, of looking toward the horizon for new ideas and feelings. I hate the idea that one changes significant things in one's life by deciding to on a particular day, which is often doomed to failure. (There are always lots of people in the gym I go to in January, and it's almost always empty the rest of the year, for instance.)

I do have some goals for Feminist Allies. I want to try to revive posting every day, and try to include something on the weekends. I want to have more in-depth posts a few days a week at least, rather than mostly blurby-goodness. I would love more discussion. And I'm hoping that this year I might find some allies who are interested in turning this into something of a groupblog again. (I'm also not going to jump into it with anybody--I've realized that to blog with somebody you need to not only have a passion for the subject; you also need some other things in common.)

Mostly I just want to read and write more, and get into more discussions with people. I've expanded and changed what feminism means to me since this blog was started, and I've 'met' lots of interesting people with complex ideas, and I'd love to understand it all a lot better. And hopefully help make some change.

Have a safe New Year's Eve everybody!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Men Doing Feminist Work: Michael Flood

Michael Flood is one of the 'fathers' of the modern pro-feminist men's movement, and an activist for feminism among men. He's one of the founders of XYOnline, a resource for pro-feminist men. And do I mean a resource. The Men's Bibliography alone would warrant much thanks for Michael. It's organized by subject, and contains thousands of article listings of interest to feminist men. (Though I do have reservations about the Men's Strength campain that XYOnline supports, as I think it helps to support rigid traditional gender roles to some extent--i.e. that strength=masculine.) He's critical of the so-called Men's Rights movement (and various offshoots/related movements) in a serious way. The trap that some pro-feminist men fall into is to attack these movements as some sort of man-on-man grudge match. Instead, Flood uses (in part) core feminist principles to ask pointed questions.

I particularly like his analysis (available as a PDF here) of Men's Rights advocates as riding a wave of conservatism, all the while claiming the mantle of 'new fatherhood':

Anti-feminist men’s groups have ridden the wave of right-wing backlashes against “political correctness” and efforts at social justice.In Australia as in other Western countries, the 1980s and 1990s saw the slowing down, or development of obstacles to, progress in women’s equality and gender justice. Australia underwent an economic and social restructuring, involving the winding back of the welfare state and the increasing dominance of market economics and economic rationalism. There have been at least three forms of attack on gender justice, part of the “revolt against behaving fairly”: justifications of social inequalities through biological determinism, social Darwinism and Sociobiology; attacks on policies or principles which have been a central part of feminist agendas such as equal opportunity and affirmative action legislation; and claims of a repressive ideological regime of ‘political correctness’. Anti-feminist men’s groups are a fourth, and they have taken up such discourses themselves in asserting pro-sexist agendas.

I'll probably talk more about Michael in future editions of Men Doing Feminist work, because, well, he's done a lot of work. But in the meantime, some linky goodness:

Wikipedia Article.
Men's Bibliography.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What Men Can Do Wednesday: Mix It Up

Over my Xmas holiday, I spent a good deal of time watching my nephew open and enjoy some presents, but even more time sitting around with friends and chosen family, mostly eating. I had a lot of good food (but not too much, strangely--I managed to avoid that way-way-way-too-full feeling this year), all of it pretty much prepared by other people. Sure, I did some slicing and salad making, but mostly what I did was dishes. This is something that comes directly from my upbringing--my mama taught me, if you're a guest and food is made for you, you help to clean up. (Exceptions can be made at homes where guests aren't allowed to do such things, by virtue of their guest-hood, but they are few and far-between.) I have extended this to a general rule that I clean up, since I don't enjoy cooking very much at all, and I even kind of enjoy cleaning up.

It's a simple thing, but with my non-chosen family and even friends from the past, too often things play out along gender roles, with men sitting and eating (and maybe carving a bird, or doing the outdoor grilling), but women doing most of the cooking and cleaning up. Even among people who are aware of the perils of rigid traditional gender roles, such roles reassert themselves mercilessly, and one has to keep an eye out for 'em.

One of the things that I love about my group of friends and chosen family is that there is a real effort to erase gender distinctions around who prepares food and who cleans and...well, we just all do a lot of work to make sure the meals turn out good and fun and delicious for everybody involved, and that nobody is left behind when it comes to the work of the meal, or the enjoyment of it (and, for me, they are intimately related). We also tended to choose meals which aren't that labor-intensive, so that we could hang out a bit more.

The other way men can mix it up is to literally mix up the little groups that split up during gatherings--several times I noticed that we had all broken down along gender lines completely, and a couple of times I decided to mix it up a bit. I'm happy to say that my friend group doesn't as often break down along those lines (though it does at times), and that we have enough queer-ish-ness to make some of those lines blurry from the start.

So: Little things, to be sure, but worthwhile nonetheless. Mix it up a bit, guys.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Men Doing Feminist Work: Feminist Dad

Marc at Feminist Dad doesn't have much time for blogging these days, being the father of a new little kid, but when he does find some time to post, he explores a lot of interesting topics, and asks a lot of questions. I'm particularly fond of his discussion on the blog about the ins and outs of him joining a local "mother's" group:
But what about fathering? What does it mean to father, if mothering carries such a gendered connotation? If it means maintaining the breadwinner role, then many fathers today will strongly argue that for years we've been working to redefine what fathering means in our society. If this is so, are we conflating notions of mothering and fathering work? Are we all neutral Parents, or should there still be a "Mom's Group" and then perhaps a separate one for Dads? After all, there are Dads in our neighborhood. They just don't go to the meetings, or at least not the ones that I know about.

He also often notices the ways in which rigid gender roles along the lines of parenting pop up along the way, like when they first began planning a flight with their newborn:
The bad news is that only mothers seem to be expected to fly with (or without) their babies: Mothers flying with, and now without, their child will be permitted to bring breast milk in quantities greater than three ounces as long as it is declared for inspection at the security checkpoint. How about "Mothers (and now introducing, new and improved, Fathers!) flying with their child..." for a change. The rest of the TSA page speaks in gender-free language, mostly by using "you" and "your" alot. But that doesn't change the headlining picture of a mother feeding a baby.
There are lots of daddy blogs out there (Marc has some on his blogroll), but this is a great one for being explicitly feminist.

Go check it out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Men Can Do Wednesday: Avoid Being the Hero

I have long suffered from a tendency toward white knight syndrome, or wanting (subconsciously and consciously) to be somebody's knight in shining armor. As a feminist guy, it's actually a pretty easy default to slip into--when one is taking close looks at the world regarding how women are treated in the workplace, how much violence toward women is perpetuated by men, and the ways in which many women (and men!) are trapped, to various degrees, by rigid gender roles, it's disturbingly easy to see oneself as the Bringer of Logic and Reason, as The Hero, even as The Guy Who Gets It. Boys are taught that this is part of their job, of course, so it's not a huge surprise that this is something I have had to guard against in myself for a good deal of my life.

We all need to be rescued, from time to time. That's what friends, lovers and family are for, in part. Our social networks are also, to some degree, our rescuers, our safety nets. There's no shame in wanting to help people, or needing some help, gender be damned. However, men are trained from boyhood that they not only need to tend to their own needs, but they must rescue those women who need saving. They are also often taught that women are going to need a lot of saving, because they aren't as strong as men, or as resilient, or as brave, etc. This all sounds really heavy-handed and sort of silly, but you can see how pervasive this mindset is when you find men who identify as feminists who still have trouble not seeing themselves as saviors of a sort. (There are other ways of suffering from 'white knight' syndrome, of course, not the least of which is white folks coming into the spaces of people of color and telling them how bad they have it, and how to fix things, just as a for-instance.)

One key to overcoming this sort of behavior is to better recognize women as just as strong, independent and powerful as men. Overly simple, perhaps, but I find myself having to be reminded of it, because the training is pretty deeply-rooted, again and again. But it's not only the training; it's also the self-fulfilling nature of certain gender norms. It is a fact of the world that women get raped more than men get raped. How easy is it to go from that fact to an idea that a particular woman, or women in general, need to be protected, and protected by men? Of course, women do need to be protected--but they need to be protected as people, just as we all need some protection sometimes. Men have to be protected, too--much violence done in the world is violence against men, by men. And, of course, there are men (and boys) who need to be protected from women--this isn't always the main focus of such discussions, but that it happens warrants that we take it into account as well. So we all need some protection, sometimes. Do any of us need a knight in shining armor? Not generally. We need safety nets, we need places to heal, we need safe places to work, to love, to live. Individual white knights aren't likely to help in that regard--but men (and women, and people of all genders) who take action against violence, who create safe spaces for everybody, who recognize that independence can best happen when there are others we depend upon, and when others depend upon us; people who can recognize these things, and take action around them, are the people who we need most.

(Note: I do, on the other hand, really, really need to be rescued by Cate Blanchett riding up on a white horse wearing a suit of armor. So if you see her wandering around, send her my way. Thank you.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


...as is traditional with much blogging, I apologize for the lack of posts for the last four days or so. Probably the thing to do is to chalk it up to being sick or busy, but I think I've become a bit burned out. Posting about the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence had something to do with it, the holidays and winter weather have had an effect on my mood, and then, one night, reading that somebody considers me a borderline anti-Semite because of some of my thoughts on atheism and feminism just drove me over the line, I suppose. It's possible I'm not thick-skinned enough to write about religion and feminism at the same time! Also, wanting to take a few days off of posting and realizing that what I had really wanted at one point was a groupblog, reminded me of the failure to accomplish that (so far), which added to my burnout.

It's also possible that I'm just going through a rough patch emotionally, and at another time of the year, I wouldn't have been so affected by things. So I may be posting a bit less in the coming weeks. I tend to like blogs which not only deal with particular issues/ideas, but also give you a glimpse into the lives of the writers. I know this isn't for everybody, but it's what I like, so I thought I'd let y'all know the reason for the lack of posting.

Tuesday Gender in Comics: Some Positive Role Models

In a break from the traditional posts on comics, I bring you a coupla comics from Lio, which bring me some hope regarding pop-culture and traditional gender roles:

Ok, sure, there is a certain amount of boys-will-be-boys stuff going on in the second strip, but what I see is love between father and son. Lio's dad is raising him on his own, and Lio isn't exactly the easiest kid to raise (he often builds robot replicas of himself to get out of doing something, for instance, and takes his Giant Squid Pet to places where mahem ensues). Traditionally in comic strips, you see fathers (especially) disciplining their sons, if you see dads interacting with their sons at all...but here's dad, loving his son, and Lio loving him back. It's just nice to see.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Can God Be a Feminist?

(Warning: Rambling ahead that is almost guaranteed to offend somebody. These are definitely thoughts-in-process, intended to begin a discussion, not end one.)

A discussion over at Shakesville in the comments from a post Melissa wrote regarding some of the GOP's presidential candidates and their differences over religion has got me to thinking, once again, about the relationship between the sorts of feminism I ascribe to, and my own atheism. For me, feminism and atheism are inextricably intertwined, but I understand that I am most likely in the minority in that regard. When I look at the tenets of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, I see so much misogyny. Of course, different people (and different denominations) find ways around the misogyny that burdens their main religious scriptures, and many people of different faiths do their best to reform their religion along feminist ideals.

But you have to do so much work to do so, it seems to me. You have to do a really interesting interpretive dance, for instance, to explain how the idea that, if you think your daughter is whoring around, you ought to take her out so that everybody can stone her to death:
...then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father's house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you. Deuteronomy 22:21

I'm sure you can come up with Xtian interpretations of this that don't seem as misogynist, but why do the dance? At what point does one's faith itself come under scrutiny, rather than one's interpretation of that faith?

Are there any readers out there who agree with some of my feelings here? On the other hand, are there any readers out there who have come to feminism through religion? In what ways do you find your religion to be compatible with feminist principles? Incompatible? (He said, sounding like the short essay question on a feminism and religion class...)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Men Can Do: Resist Gender Essentialism (with Accessories!)

(Note: Title suggests that you can take the man out of academia, but it's harder to take academia out of the man.)
Melissa over at Shakesville, as often happens, says what I wanted to say, just...better, regarding blogging during the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence project:
Today is the final day of the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence, during which I suppose I have blogged exactly as often as always about violence against women, in America and abroad. Sometimes it feels like it's all I ever write about; sometimes it feels like I can't possibly write about it enough to do the issue justice; often, those feelings exist within me simultaneously. All I ever do is try to empty the sea with this teaspoon; all I can do is keep trying to empty the sea with this teaspoon.
And it got me to thinking about one of the themes of feminism for me: Small Daily Acts of Feminism. I tend to think that (1)The 'little' things are often only seemingly little and (2)Lots of (seemingly) little things add up. Take, for instance, my little pink phone.

When I bought my current cell phone, there was a choice of cover colors. I wanted something not-plain, and my only real choices seemed to be the US flag or a pearl-ish pink. Being not-so-patriotic these days (or at least not finding an flag phone to be something on my list of wants, it was a no-brainer. Also, from time to time, I like to express my disdain for the strictness of traditional gender roles. At times that feels silly--like having a pink phone says anything to anybody about the rigidity of what 'being a man' means. It feels trite and pointless sometimes.

And yet: I've had lots of good conversations with people about gender norms that began with an offhand comment about that phone. These days, I usually respond to people who say "Nice pink phone" with "Thanks. Do you like pink too?" or some such. And then, I try to follow it up with simple questions about why pink ought to signify 'feminine' at all, why I can't have some traditionally 'feminine' likes and dislikes without it being a judgment on my worth, etc. And this is a little thing. And yet, conversations being had that wouldn't be had without this little thing make me think that, even if it's just a little thing, it's not nothing. Even if it is teaspoons emptying the ocean, it's better than no teaspoon at all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tuesday Gender in Comics: "Men Are..." Edition

This week, a celebration of manhood in the comics.

Men Are Insensitive and Forgetful
Rhymes with Orange on men:

True, Nose-Horned-Red-Guy could be Nose-Horned-Red-Gal, but it's interesting that the context tells us that he's not, given the stereotype that men are forgetful about anniversaries.

Families Are Proving Grounds for Success!
For Better or For Worse gives us a glimpse into the traditionally masculine male psyche:

There is, of course, lots of truth to this, as far as it goes. Lots of men do feel that they must succeed as the primary income-earners in order to be real men. But of course, one thing we wouldn't ever see in this strip is a role reversal, or even a glimpse into her feelings of needing to prove herself to her family--and of course men and women both feel these things.

Men Avoid Complex Relationships
Non Sequitur shows us that, not only do men carry around a 'Men's Relationship Handbook' (not so much), we also love to avoid 'drama':

Except in reality, it's just as often men who create the drama (or is that just my life?).

Monday, December 10, 2007

16 Days: Day Sixteen

Sokari of Black Looks has a great carnival with posts from all over by people who blogged the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence. I did some posting here, but not as much as I would have liked. Next year I'll try to do better, because, unfortunately, there will be a next year that we have to rally against and inform about gender violence. Thanks to those of you who kindly noticed and commented on the 16 Days posts. Hopefully those of us in blogland did some small part.

Go check out the Carnival.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


The 49th Carnival of Feminists is up over at Days in a Wannabe Punk's Life. Go check it out!
(And thank you to whomever submitted my post to the carnival...)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Men Doing Feminist Work: Kevin Andre Elliot at Slant Truth

Since I've been talking a bit lately about intersectionality, I'd like to quickly point out that y'all should be reading Kevin over at Slant Truth if you're not already. Not only does he do good work as a feminist man, he finds ways to consistently talk about the intersections of gender, race, queerness and class. He also often takes an international focus on issues, which is somewhat rare (in my experience) in lots of the great feminist blogs that I read.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Building (Online) Feminist Communities

I should start off by noting that I am absolutely no expert in building online communities. I hate myspace. I pretend I hate it because of how much I hate giving Rupert Murdoch money, but really it's because it's way too much for me, in that old-man curmudgeonly sort of way. I never even got into LiveJournal, with the communities there. And there are likely innumerable other ways of forming communities online that I'm not even aware of. Even more to the point of this post, I've basically failed in my personal attempts to create a groupblog out of Feminist Allies, after several go-rounds.

That said, I'll be really interested to see what happens over at feministing, when they make some intricate changes to their format, allowing others to create blogs (or 'diaries') under the feministing label. It looks really interesting, and they're doing some fundraising to support the upgrading, so if you like to support those great women over there, I encourage you to go check it out and donate.

I'm trying to take a wait-and-see attitude. They note that the new site will have diaries 'like DailyKos', which I think is an unfortunate comparison, since one of the things I don't like about DailyKos is the way in which the format of that site has allowed the marginalization of feminists from the discussion, at times. Feministing's site may well solve some of the problems around marginalization, and given the neato-ness of the women who run it, I have high hopes. And yet, there's something else I don't like about the 'diarist' format, a la DailyKos and the like--it reminds me of a kind of informational pyramid scheme, where a small group of people reap rewards from lots of other people's writing. And then there's the whole notion that something has to be 'branded' (in this case, helping to create feministing as a brand of feminism) in order for it to have more value, which squicks me somewhat (says the guy whose blog doesn't even have a proper banner).

On the other hand, such criticism is really silly before I see what happens in this particular case. It may be that a wonderfully informative site becomes even more informative, and more of a community.

Wait and see. Wait and see.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

16 Days, Day 11: What Men Can Do: Recognize What Counts As Violence

I try to do a regular Wednesday thing about "What Men Can Do" as feminists and feminist allies. This week, we'll continue focus on something that I think men can do to engage in feminist practices around gendered violence, in the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

What Counts As Violence
Unfortunately, there are lots of obvious forms that gendered violence takes, and we often think of these obvious examples when we think of activism against gendered violence. But violence isn't a concept with clearly delineated borders, and it's important for us to recognize this, too. What counts as violence can vary from context to context, from person to person (though, obviously, some sorts of violence are universally recognized as such). This doesn't justify violence in any context--but recognizing the subtleties involved can help us understand the pervasiveness of gendered violence.

First of all, we need to keep in mind that violence can take the form of threats of violence. I count somebody raising their hand as if to strike me, in order to strike me, as violence itself. Stalking is a threat of violence, and inasmuch as it is, is violent itself. Such threats, however, are often much more subtle, taking form with a word or two. And words, even when they aren't veiled threats, are a kind of violence sometimes as well--from 'stupid' to 'slut'.

And, if we take some time to look, there are other sorts of violence that are more pervasive, and perhaps more hidden. Certain types of religious indoctrination are both violent and gendered, for instance. Blocking access to reproductive care can be a violent act, inasmuch as reproductive care is health care.

Also, I think we ought to take seriously that the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence isn't called 16 Days of Action Opposed to Violence Against Women, and take violence against men seriously as well, especially when it is done in a gendered context--for instance, using prison rape as a supposed crime deterrent, or as the butt of a joke--especially if it's men committing rape against men--is gendered inasmuch as we separate prison populations along gender lines.

The long and short of it is that, though it's hard enough to look at the more obvious forms of gendered violence, we also need to keep an eye out for acts that we might not, at first, recognize as such.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Have a New Goal

To be the next President of Feminism.

From The Onion:Man Finally Put In Charge Of Struggling Feminist Movement
"All the feminist movement needed to do was bring on someone who had the balls to do something about this glass ceiling business," said McGowan, who quickly closed the 23.5 percent gender wage gap by "making a few calls to the big boys upstairs." "In the world of gender identity and empowered female sexuality, it's all about who you know."
The best part is the picture. Or the supposed Gloria Steinem quote. Go check it out.

16 Days, Day 10: Gender in Comics, Ain't Violence Funny, Volume 2

Today in Gender in Comics we continue to honor the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, by bringing you a couple of sadly violent comic strips.

Bullies Are Funny!
First up, Monty shows us just how funny the threat of violence between men can be, complete with indifferent woman friend and 'wimpy' guy references:
This is facet of boys-will-be-boys explanations/excuses regarding men's violence against men. We are conditioned to laugh at this, because, y'know, nobody got hurt and we get to see how wimpy Monty is, which is part of the running joke of the strip. But that helps to normalize such violence, just as boys-will-be-boys explanations/excuses helps to normalize violence.

More Bullying
Next up, Fusco Brothers gives us another dose of creepy guys who threaten violence in what is, in one way, the most subtle of ways--by implying that no doesn't mean no:
Creepiest part of this strip is that you can't see anything below chest level. And this has a similar problem as the Monty strip, above: We're supposed to laugh at silly men who can't control themselves, who don't understand the signals women give off (even when those signals aren't signals at all, but rather, statements to get the hell away). Ha! Ha! Maybe next he'll follow her home! Or call her at work constantly! Ack.

Monday, December 03, 2007

bell hooks Monday: Resources

Moving away from the regular quote-comment format on bell hooks this week (mostly because my weekend was busier than I had thought it would be!), I'd like to point out two interesting resources regarding bell hooks. Well, one is a resource, and the other is a sort of meta-resource.

First of all, those of us on the left coast can sigh a deep sigh because it looks like hooks isn't coming to speak here anytime soon, but we can be happy because we have a place to check in to see when she will be coming. Check out South End Press' schedule for hooks. (And while you're there, browse their books, because they're got mountains of good stuff.

And then, for all things hooksian (I just made that up, I think), go check out this page of bell hooks resources, provided by the Critical Thinkers Resources pages. In addition to links to articles by hooks, and an expansive bibliography of her work, there are links to lots of sites where you can find lots of people discussing her work, more formally or less formally.

Side note: The picture comes from a funny and interesting site: theorycards.org.uk, which created these online trading cards for theorists of various flavors back in 1999.

Friday, November 30, 2007

16 Days, Day 6 -- Men Doing Feminist Work: A Call to Men

In the spirit of 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence, this week's Men Doing Feminist Work focuses on a group of men doing work on men's violence against women. I discovered this group because of Melissa over at Shakesville. She's got their great 10 Things Men Can Do To End Men's Violence Against Women list up over there (which she got via Kevin, who got it via Donna Darko), but the site is full of other good information as well, like this list of places to get statistics about men's violence against women.

In addition to all of that, they have a freakin' Hip Hop CD. (Sure, it's done with what is -- to me, the atheist that I am -- a creepy "Christian" slant, but the world needs more socially conscious music in general, so I'm not complaining.)

Go check 'em out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Intersectionality: Conversations We (Still) Need to Be Having

Yet another reason that y'all should be reading Slant Truth: Kevin just knows how to find good posts by others that may otherwise have slipped under the radar of those of us who are not diligent as he is about keeping the intersections of race and gender in mind. This time he points us to a great post by Vox of Vox ex Machina which makes it very clear that we need many more in-depth, open discussions about the intersections of race and gender while we go about doing feminist work.

From Vox:
My patriarchy looks a lot different from theirs. My patriarchy has propped itself up with sexism, yes, but also with racism, homophobia, classism, ablism, organized religion (just because I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I can’t criticize the Church and organized Christianity in general — oh no, circular firing squad!). My patriarchy keeps anyone who isn’t a wealthy, able-bodied, straight, white, Christian male down by turning them against each other — not via “circular firing squads” but by teaching them that the world is, excuse the pun, “black and white.” That there are hard definitions to movements, and that solidarity is presenting a united front and hiding the tensions and turmoils within. It’s not.
Please go read the whole post, which also serves as a good roundup about one particular discussion around race and feminism, while pointing to the larger discussion that needs to be happening.

16 Days, Day 5: Men Against Sexual Violence

Another great resource to consider, in the spirit of 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence is the group Men Against Sexual Violence. Based in Pennsylvania and put forth as a resource for Pennsylvanians, I still find their site to be full of great information and support. They also focus not only on violence against women but violence against men, as well as focusing on what men can do to help prevent such violence. From their site:
It is estimated that 876,064 rapes of adult American women, and 111,298 rapes of adult American men occur each year. Traditionally, participants in the anti-sexual violence movement have focused efforts on treating those individuals whose lives have been permanently altered by perpetrators of sexual violence, and much progress has been made toward helping survivors, convicting perpetrators, and raising awareness of this horrible epidemic. However, the number of sexual assaults has not declined since the anti-sexual violence movement was begun in earnest in the 1970’s. Children, women, and men still fall victim to an unimaginable number of sexual crimes in our state and across the United States daily. Therefore, a new strategy must be utilized in order to address the issue of sexual violence. It is necessary that we as males of all ages recognize that we need to take part in the struggle to end sexual violence. We need to become aware that there is a problem. We need to talk to our friends, our children, our wives, our mothers, and our peers in order to spread the message that rape and sexual violence are problems that will not go away without a collective commitment to end the problem.
I would add that we need to seek out multiple strategies for dealing with these myriad problems, and I'm always happy to find men doing feminist work to help do so.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

16 Days, Day 4: What Men Can Do: Recognize Violence by Men Against Men as a Feminst Issue

I try to do a regular Wednesday thing about "What Men Can Do" as feminist allies. This week, we'll focus on something that I think men can do to engage in feminist practices around gendered violence, in the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The subject of men's violence against men is, for me, a feminist issue, and is also something that often get overlooked, even among people working on recognizing and fighting gender violence.

Gender Violence Also Means Violence Against Men by other Men
While I think that violence against women by men is rightly the primary focus of much feminist work to be done around violence, and I don't think that claims about violence by men against women ought to be responded to by noting other ways that violence happens (men cause violence against other men, women cause violence against men, people on the transgender spectrum are also harmed,violence by women against women is too-often ignored by feminists and queer communities, etc.), I do think that all of the various kinds of violence warrant some of our attention. As men who are feminist allies, we have a responsibility to address violence committed by men, including violence against women, but also including (but not limited to) violence against other men.

Men's violence against other men often gets overlooked as some sort of grownup version of boys-will-be-boys. Men police their own gender by beating up men who are seen as less than manly (which usually means 'feminine' in some way). Men get raped by other men, and when this fact isn't overlooked, it is often treated as a joke (heard any good 'don't-drop-the-soap-in-prison jokes, lately?). And, though some may argue for or against feminists spending more or less time on this issue, it's always important to recognize that a good deal of violence by men against men has some of the same causal roots that men's violence against women has: The policing of traditional masculinity. To 'be a man' has come to mean, at many times and in many ways, dominating others--and this can include dominating people of all genders through violence. Lots of this dominating/policing takes the form of simple, brutal physical violence. To the extent that we ignore this, we risk continuing various cycles of violence by men, against people of all genders. And one of the best tools we have for rooting out this sort of policing is feminism.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

16 Days, Day 3: Engender Health's Men As Partners Program

Hopefully by now everybody has been made aware of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. As we tend to talk about gender violence a lot in the land of feminist blogs, it may be more helpful if more people who write primarily personal or political blogs, which may or may not be feminist, to be talking about gender violence, but that, of course, doesn't mean we should avoid talking about it for these 16 days.

For my part, during the 16 Days, I'd like to point people to various resources for men around the issue of gender violence. The 16 Days site has a good list of resources for men, which I'm working from.

Engender Health's Men As Partners Program
From their site:
Around the world, women carry disproportionate responsibility for reproductive health and family size. And while women receive the bulk of reproductive health education, including family planning information, gender dynamics can render women powerless to make decisions. Men often hold decision-making power over matters as basic as sexual relations and when and whether to have a child or even seek health care. But most reproductive health programs focus exclusively on women. EngenderHealth recognizes the importance of partnership between women and men, as well as the crucial need to reach out to men with services and education that enable them to share in the responsibility for reproductive health.
To address this, EngenderHealth established its Men As Partners® (MAP) program in 1996. Through its groundbreaking work, this program works with men to play constructive roles in promoting gender equity and health in their families and communities.
Another great thing about Men As Partners is it's international focus, which is often lacking in feminist discussions (though I see this slowly changing), even on this very blog. And, like any good feminist organization which gives some focus to men, Engender Health and Men As Partners recognize that men are harmed by traditional conceptions of masculinity, as pointed out in an article on the site, Transforming Male Gender Norms to Address the Roots of HIV/AIDS:
It is widely recognized that gender norms—societal expectations of men’s and women’s roles and behaviors—fuel the global HIV epidemic. Women’s low status in many societies contributes to limiting the social, educational and economic opportunities that would help protect them from infection. At the same time, traditional male gender norms encourage men to equate a range of risky behaviors—the use of violence, substance abuse, the pursuit of multiple sexual partners, the domination of women—with being manly. Rigid constructs of masculinity also lead men to view health-seeking behaviors as a sign of weakness. These gender dynamics all play a critical role in increasing both men and women’s vulnerability to HIV.
It's great to see an interesting organization of international feminists helping to reach out to men. Go check 'em out.

Gender in Comics: Ain't Violence Funny?

This week's theme is Ain't Violence Funny? (especially if it's associated with gender roles!).

Because She Asked for It
Here's part of what Wikipedia has to say about Anne Boleyn:
Anne Boleyn, Queen Consort of England, 1st Marchioness of Pembroke[1] (ca. 1501/1507 – 19 May 1536)[2] was the second wife of King Henry VIII and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I. Henry's marriage to Anne, and her subsequent execution, were part of the complex beginning of the considerable political and religious upheaval which was the English Reformation, with Anne herself actively promoting the cause of Church reform. She has been called "the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had".[3]
Silly Wikipedia, she was executed because she called Henry a name, and damaged his fragile ego:

Shouldn't It Be the Bride of Frankenstein's Monster, Anyway?
I quibble. One more from Mr. Boffo:
It's funny 'cuz he would beat the shit out of her if she didn't lock him up! Ha!

Bat = Not Funny. Open Hand = Funny!
In the boys-will-be-boys stereotyping category, Boondocks gives us the ultimate in funny: Riley smacking his older brother upside the head:
I sure am glad he didn't use the bat, or I would have laughed until milk came out of my nose! And I'm not even drinking milk!

Also: Grandpa Still a Tool of the Patriarchy
I've talked about grandpa's sexist stereotyping before, and he's up to his old antics again:

His grandkids are bruising and battering each other, but it's just boys playing, so that's ok! And funny! And, if you think Aaron McGruder's just making fun of boys-being-boys, then maybe you haven't seen the hi-larious cartoon he created with the funny pimp! Don't get me wrong: I love so much about Boondocks. I think The Adventures of Flagee and Ribbon were genuine brilliance. I guess I feel the way Mikhaela Reid feels about it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

bell hooks Monday: Race, Class and Feminism

I am always fascinated when I discover yet another way that feminist concerns intersect with concerns of racism and of class. Continuing our look at Teaching to Transgress, we find hooks giving us some of her students' insights around some of the difficulties with being a black feminist, including some of the difficulties specific to being a black man who is also a feminist:
"Throughout the semester, there was more laughter in our discussions--as well as more concern about negative fall-out exploring feminist concerns--than in any feminist course I have taught. There were also ongoing attempts to relate material to the concrete realities they face as young black women. All the students were heterosexual and particularly concerned about the possibility that choosing to support feminist politics would alter their relationship with black men. They were concerned about the ways feminism might change how they relate to fathers, lovers, friends. Most everyone agreed that the men they knew were grappling with feminist issues were either gay or involved with women who were 'pushing them.' Brett, a close partner of one of the women, was taking another class with me. Since he was named by black women in the group as one of the black males who was concerned about gender issues, I talked with him specifically about feminism. He responded by calling attention to the reasons it is difficult for black men to deal with sexism, the primary one being that they are accustomed to thinking of themselves in terms of racism, being exploited and oppressed. Speaking of his efforts to develop feminist awareness, he stressed limitations: "I've tried to understand but then I'm a man. Sometimes I don't understand and it hurts, 'cause I think I'm the epitome of everything that's oppressed." Since it is difficult for many black men to give voice to the ways they are hurt and wounded by racism, it is also understandable that it is more difficult for them to 'own up to' sexism, to be accountable."

Some similar blinders are in place, I think, as regards some of my peers, who aren't burdened by racism the way hooks' student is, but who are burdened by class issues--once one begins to understand issues of class, and one's own position within those issues, it's sometimes hard to see things through a race-theory lens, or through a feminist-theory lens. My intuition (and it's just an intuition) is that this is one of the reasons that there are often conflicts within, say, liberal politics, between men in power and those of us with feminist interests at the forefront of our goals. (I wonder how much of The Pie Fight Incident over at DailyKos is to blame for this tendency, for instance.)

The lesson isn't that one frame of reference is better than the others, but that movements need to understand intersectionality. Kos may think that ignoring feminist concerns won't matter to his cause(s) in the long run, but I think that's doubtful, given that class issues, feminism and race issues (among others) are inextricably intertwined.

Bonus Poetry on Intersectionality: Stacyann Chin

Sunday, November 25, 2007

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Feministe has a great overview of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which begins with today, November 25th, the The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends with International Human Rights Day on December 10th. Go check out Cara's excellent overview at Feministe.

Men Matter: Lashes for Everyone

From time to time, when some feminists point out something that shows that misogyny has deep cultural roots, some anti-feminist, MRA, or genuinely concerned person will put forth their opinion that feminists tend to give short shrift to the ways in which men are harmed by other men. These men (and women, sometimes) think that, because many feminists focus a good deal of their attention on the hardships of women, that said feminists are somehow slighting men, saying that the hardships men face aren't worth talking about at all. Many of the people commenting in this way think that men deserve 'equal time'.

I don't think it's the case that men deserve equal time from feminist women in general. This is a controversial point, probably, but I tend to think that it's feminist men who need to better articulate the harms that traditional gender roles sometimes have on men. And yet, I also disagree with the aforementioned commentors on a factual matter: They tend to claim that feminist women don't value the well-being of men--that men are completely left out of feminist analysis, except when noting the patriarchy. I disagree. Most of the feminisms that I find myself engaging in acknowledge the harm men face as regards rigid gender roles, and most of the feminists I interact with do more than acknowledge these harms. So, while I don't think that women feminists in any way need to prove themselves to these commentors, I find myself wanting to simply note a few counterexamples that I find through my daily perusal of feminist blogs and literature, as well as through my conversations with other feminists. I hope this will become a resource, over time, for people to recognize and remember that the lives of men are, indeed, important to feminists.

First up, Jill from Feministe notes that most media outlets are picking up a story about a woman in Saudi Arabia being punished with 200 lashes for being raped, but these same media outlets are generally playing down (or ignoring all together) the fact that a man who was with her was also raped, and is also being punished (though it's unclear for what at the moment) by lashing. And why might the media be doing this? Because it helps to reify the idea that women are treated so badly within "other" cultures, without addressing the fact that men and women are often treated horribly. Jill says:
This is a women’s rights issue, and it’s a human rights issue. But the erasure of the male rape survivor serves a variety of purposes, of which highlighting women’s rights abuses is only one. It lets us separate us from them; when we highlight the atrocity of a rape victim being put on trial, we allow ourselves to ignore all the other ways that our own systemic human rights abuses reflect those of Saudi Arabia: the death penalty, secret prisons, harsh punishments for juvenile offenders, lack of due process rights, disproportionate prosecution of minorities, and on and on. We position ourselves as the enlightened saviors, the ones who speak truth in the face of a nation of backwards Muslims. Of course, the people who were initially outraged over this case and who publicized the woman’s cause are Saudi — the lawyer, human rights activists, the media. And while that gets a mention, it’s only to further highlight the backwardness of Saudis.

And I think it's important to note explicitly that it isn't feminists who are ignoring the plight of this man; rather, those who have it as part of their interests a hyper-masculine sort of patriotism (i.e. Americuh needs to go save those women!) are the ones creating the silence around this poor man. In fact, if it weren't for Jill and Feministe, I wouldn't have known about the man in the story at all, even though I've ready many accounts from mainstream media about it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Men Doing Feminsit Work: Ahmad Ghashmary

Hopefully you're all already reading Diary of a Black Male Feminist, but just in case you're not, you may not have seen the video of Ahmad Ghashmary, posted over at DoaBMF last week. Ghashmary is an interesting guy, doing feminist work in Jordan, where his views seem to be often met with either apathy or aggression.
First, check out the video:

A good deal of his blog is in English, and well worth reading. In a post about so-called honor killings, he says:
But the question remains, why are people doing so and thinking in such a backward way? Regardless of these accidents there are many indications that people in Arab societies are beginning to be more aware of the danger and barbarity of these rituals that say that whoever tends to defame the reputation of the family deserves to die. In a referendum done on the internet by www.alarabiya.net the results were hopeful. 62.96 % of the voters think that this crime is not justified, and it is not supported by any religion or law, but is another example of the domination of rituals and customs in our daily life. A minority of 12.36% think that it is the only resort to eradicate bad people from our society. 24.68% were neutral. What we are aiming at is to leave no single person in our society who might believe that killing innocent people might be a remedy to any problem.

And, when confronted by a friend about his feminism, Ghashmary has a succinct, practical approach to explaining his motivations:
I spent almost two years looking around me for men who might share me the same views, but it was all in vain; everyone believed I'm wasting my time. A friend of mine has recently blamed me for dedicating my efforts to fight for women's equality, and he called that "Lunacy"; I answered him saying, "The best person in my life is my sweetheart and she's a woman, my favorite Arab singer is Fayyrouz and she is a woman, my favorite non-Arab singer is Celine Dion and she is a woman, my favorite professor is called Fadia and she is a woman, my favorite athelet is Maria Sharapova and she is a woman, my favorite movie star is Julia Roberts and she is a woman, my favorite talk show presenter is Oprah Winfrey and she is a woman, my favorite novelist is Jane Austen and she is a woman, and so on. And still you wonder why I am fighting for their rights.
I like this guy so much that I'm willing to forgive him for the Celine Dion thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What Men Can Do: Support Other Men

One of the things that has struck me as I've begun to enter middle age (I'm thirty-seven, I'm not old!) is that several of my male friends are experiencing some intense worry and stress over being the 'primary breadwinner' in their families. These are fairly socially conscious, intelligent men who are mindful enough about traditional gender roles to know that conversations must be had around who ought to be the primary breadwinner, if anybody--and they are nontraditional fathers in the sense that they are extremely conscious of being partners in raising kids in various ways.

And yet, having taken on the 'primary breadwinner' mantle, they see themselves as carrying the burden independent of the fact that they have support from their partners. They feel like they are carrying the burden alone, even though they are being supported emotionally (and financially, to some degree) by their partners--even though their partners 'have their backs'. The mortgage payment, while paid with money that both partners earn, feels to him like it's his alone; he feels that if he doesn't produce, then the entire family will fall.

Conceptions of traditional masculinity help to shape men's identities so they feel that their main contribution to any relationship is what they can provide financially. There are infinite complexities involved that I won't go into, but it's relatively clear that men's self-value is inextricably intertwined with doing work that provides financial security, not just for themselves, but for any family they are a part of. Add to this conceptions of traditional masculinity which limit the other ways that men may be important to others, which limit the ways in which men may relate emotionally to other people, and you end up with men who value having a job more than they value having the family which they think they must work to provide for.

Susan Faludi, in Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, points us to one logical conclusion of this conception of masculinity when she discusses a man who has been part of a large group of layoffs from McDonald Douglass. He spends most of his time at McDonald Douglass' 'job placement' center, with the only community he knows, that of other men who have been laid off and haven't found work. Then, one day, he gets into a car accident that he has caused, and is arrested. Thing is, he prefers prison to looking for work, as Faludi reveals when she and Don's friend Steve go to prison to visit him:
"The phones by which we were to communicate didn't work for five minutes, and so we held up signs, telling Don that he was missed at the center. He smiled and nodded serenely. For once, there were no tears behind the smile. The phones were finally switched on and I asked Don about the accident. But the accident was old news for Don; he was far more eager to tell me about his life in jail, especially his position as a prison trusty. He was working in the clinic and in the cafeteria. He wore a different-colored shirt as a trusty, a cut above the inmate masses. "The deputies say to me, 'We don't know why you're here!': They "respected" him, he said. "It's not all bad here."

I reluctantly handed the phone over to Steve Williams, who even more reluctantly took it. He peered at his friend through the smudged glass barrier. "Since you saw me last, I have not had a position," Steve began hurriedly. "In fact, I'm looking at poverty in January." Then he hastened onto the common ground of news about the center moving, about who hadn't found a job, and what changes had been made to the decor. "Were you there since they put the new wall in?" Steve asked Don. The inmate shook his head. "Yeah, well," Steve said, "It's a pretty good arrangement. It makes it more like an office.

By the time Steve finished recounting the details of the center's home improvements, our twenty minutes were up and the phone went dead. I scribbled down a last question on a piece of paper and held it up to the window. "Is going to jail worse or better than being laid off from McDonnell Douglas?" Don pointed at "better," smiled, and then vanished.

Later, Don's wife, Gayle, told me that he could have applied for release two months earlier for time served but had declined. "He wants to stay in jail, " she said, marveling."(pp100-101)

Again, there's a lot going on here--I think people in general like to work, like to feel like they are contributing to their own lives, the lives of their families and friends, and to society at large, and these desires exist across all gender lines. But I also think that men are taught that there are only certain ways that they can contribute--and financially supporting a family is one of the few. What men can do is remind ourselves, our friends, our family, and our fellow men in general that we bring a lot to the world aside from financial security.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gender in Comics: Reversals

As much as I talk about the ways in which comic strips help to solidify and perpetuate traditionally conceived gender roles, it's probably a good thing to note that they also sometimes manage to confound these stereotypes to some degree, or at least to allow gender to be slightly more complex than it is often thought to be.

Vanity, Thy Name Is Pirate Guy
Whereas women are more often portrayed as absurdly vain, this Overboard strip shows a pirate who is perhaps a little more interested in his image than perhaps he ought to be:

Susie + Lacrosse = Calvin On His Ass
This is one reason why Calvin can be more of a jerk than, say Dennis the Menace. He freaking throws rocks at people. Sure, Dennis had his slingshot, but did he use it to just sling rocks at people? I don't think so. Calvin can be more menacing, for sure. Ok, maybe it's a pinecone. In the first frame, it looks a lot like a caterpillar, which is a lot less menacing in some ways, more menacing in others (getting smacked in the face with a caterpillar? Not pleasant, I would guess.)

And, of course, if you're often the target of Calvin's thinly repressed rage, your Lacrosse training comes in handy from time to time:
I think it's the smug, happy, almost zen-like peacefulness on Susie's face that makes me love this one.

Monday, November 19, 2007

bell hooks Monday: Teaching, Learning and Safe Spaces

From Teaching to Transgress:
"The unwillingness to approach teaching from a standpoint that includes awareness of race, sex, and class is often rooted in the fear that classrooms will be uncontrollable, that emotions and passions will not be contained. To some extent, we all know that whenever we address in the classroom subjects that students are passionate about there is always a possibility of confrontation, forceful expression of ideas, or even conflict. In much of my writing about pedagogy, particularly in classroom settings with great diversity, I have talked about the need to examine critically the way we as teachers conceptualize what the space for learning should be liked. Many professors have conveyed to me their feeling that the classroom should be a "safe" place; that usually translates to mean that the professor lectures to a group of quiet students who respond only when they are called on. The experience of professors who educate for critical consciousness indicates that many students, especially students of color, may not feel at all "safe" in what appears to be a neutral setting. It is the absence of a feeling of safety that often promotes prolonged silence or lack of student engagement." (pp 39, Teaching to Transgress).
All through grade school, high school and college (at least while I was an undergrad), I loved the sort of 'safe' classrooms that hooks describes above. I loved lectures, I loved answering questions when called upon, and I would get frustrated when students would interrupt that by asking questions out of turn, or bringing up information I thought tangential to the conversation (and pretty much, anything the teacher thought was tangential, I thought was tangential). I tended to not like group work for various reasons, most of which revolved around the sort of psuedo-safety ideas hooks is talking about.

In college, my major was philosophy, and despite the preponderance of individualistic, opinionated people in that discipline, most classrooms were still 'safe' in the way hooks describes. From time to time, somebody would point out the lack of diversity in the discipline, but generally, arguments of that sort were seen as ignoring the 'universal' knowledge that philosophy often purported to reveal--"Yeah, yeah, yeah, women philosophers aren't talked about much, but that doesn't matter because 'critical thinking' is genderless," was the basic line of thought, which ignores the need to 'think critically' about, say, the fact that Socrates (and/or Plato, depending on your viewpoint) thought that women were not only inferior to men, but also sprung into being as former men who were cowards.

When people brought up such subjects, they were often quickly shut down. Of course, there are volumes to be said about the complexities of teaching and learning--'safety' is just one of many goals, for instance. But I think that hooks is right to point out that 'safety' isn't obviously safe for everybody, and is often masking something more like 'safe-for-some' through the shroud of 'normal'.

And this doesn't only apply to the classroom, of course. In fact, one runs into problems of deciding whether or not to rock the boat, which will be seen by some as violating the safety of others, on almost a daily basis. And it's often a fine line to walk, because one does want to limit the parameters of discussion to some degree--no forum is completely "open", and for good reasons. So it's a constant sort of decision-making process, where one is always having to choose in order to create a space where ideas can flourish (and compete?)--allowing in as many new ideas as possible without letting a few people (or ideas) distract from the overall conversation. Anybody who has taught in a classroom or tried to moderate blog comments knows that these decisions aren't always easy, but that they are pretty much constant.

Still, I like to err on the side of not promoting so much 'safety', a good deal of the time, both in classrooms I might find myself in and in conversations with people in general, while in a place like this blog, I find myself policing what I see as not apropos views (anti-feminist talking points, racism, and the like) more than I would in other public forums, partly because of the lack of social pressure to be kind to others, and respectful, on The Interweb. Luckily, there is not just one idea space which can be safe or unsafe--there are lots of communities where various opinions can be explored.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Men Doing Feminsit Work: Michael Messner

This week we'll take a look at Michael Messner, a sociologist who specializes in the relationship between masculinity and organized sports.

From his bio on the University of Souther California site, where he is a professor:
Michael Messner's most recent books are Politics of Masculinities: Men in Movements (1997), Men's Lives (2004); Paradoxes of Youth and Sport (2002), and Taking the Field: Women, Men, and Sports (2002). His articles have appeared in Gender & Society, Theory & Society, Men and Masculinities, and Sociology of Sport Journal. He is a past president of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, and has conducted several studies of gender in sports media for the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, and for Children Now.

His 1992 book, Power at Play: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity, takes a critical look at how masculinity is shaped by organized sports, but it is his complex analysis of the impact of traditional masculinities on women's sports (and the effects of Title IX) that I find the most intriguing. In a review of Welch Suggs' book, A Place on the Team: The Triumph and Tragedy of Title IX, Messner brings his analysis to bear:

Yet, herein lies a tension in the public debates about Title IX, and to a certain extent in Suggs's narrative. Suggs is right to raise questions about women's sports' uncritical adoption of "the male model" of sports. Sport sociologists have documented the many ways that men's college sports reflect and perpetuate many of the most negative aspects of narrow conceptions of masculinity (including violence to self and others) and promote values of commercialization that are antithetical to what many see as the mission of university life. Suggs points out that women athletes now face a rising rate of serious injury (especially to the knees) and other health-related problems; that their higher graduation rates, compared with those of men athletes, might now tumble; and that the "club" system of youth sports, as a feeder system to the university, has favored white middle-class kids, thus making it difficult for African American women to benefit from Title IX to the extent that white women have.

These are all important issues, but since Suggs falls short of a radical critique of men's sports, two unsatisfactory alternatives remain: women's sports should use Title IX to "go for the money" and mimic men's sports as much as possible, including taking on all of the costs and negative consequences of men's sports; or women's sports should return to the pre-Title-IX ethic of healthy noncompetitive sports and games. This latter will not happen, of course. As Suggs points out, Tide IX and women's sports are here to stay.

So are we stuck with the unsatisfactory dynamic of liberal, equalopportunity feminism fighting against the backlash of an anti-Title-IX conservatism that claims to fight for fairness for men? I think not. Although Suggs does not become a critic or an advocate-preferring to stay, I believe, in the middle space of the reporter-I think it's consistent with his reporting to suggest that women's sports activists need to proceed simultaneously on two fronts. First, continue to use Tide IX to fight for equal opportunities (still far from achieved, as Suggs points out with ample statistics on recruiting, coaching, and funding in women's college sports). second, wage a critical analysis of the negative aspects of the dominant men's sports-especially football, I would argue, which stands at the center of the sport-media-commercial complex. Far from being the goose that lays the golden egg (as its advocates like to suggest), institutionalized football is a major reason for the perpetuation of gender inequity in sports, for the ramping up of commercialization processes, and for a disproportionate number of the problems generally associated with college sports. And football's monopoly over resources, as economist Andrew Zimbalist's work has so clearly shown, is one of the main reasons that the "marginal" ("nonrevenue") men's sports are so vulnerable today when university athletics departments need to trim their budgets. Playing sports is good for girls and women-that has now been established by research, is accepted in public opinion, and is supported by the law. But the question of how we organize our sports-both for women and for men-needs to be put at the center of the table. Until we ask those more radical questions, we will be stuck in the quandary that Welch Suggs so nicely describes.
Messner is utilizing the feminist conceptual took of intersectionality, noting where gender, race, sexual orientation and class contribute to organized sport in order to take a critical look at male masculinity.

Messner has continued to broaden his study from men's organized sports to the ways in which men organize with each other in general, as the title of his Politics of Masculinities: Men in Movements suggests.

You can't help liking a guy who says it like it is, even when he's liable to ruffle more than a few feathers. In an article about Chico State Alumni, Messner is quoted talking about the way some men use gang rape not only as a way to control women, but as a way to bond with each other sexually:
"Gang rape is not about sex as far as the victim is concerned, it's a brutal assault, and a stripping away of dignity, but when it comes to the group dynamic of the guys I think there is something sexual going on in gang rape, and it's not necessarily sex with a woman, because in gang rape the woman is really not there as a human being -- she is the vessel through which men are having sex with each other," said Messner.

More on Messner:
Other books by Messner.
Messner's Wikipedia entry.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Theory Thursday: Lenses and Malleability

After posting about Armchair Feminism, it's probably not a fantastic idea to do a post that is theory-heavy, but here it is.

In the comments from a recent post, Eric notes some problems with the idea of understanding the world through a feminist lens:
See, I sometimes think the "lens" is the problem itself. I am cautious about adopting lenses that produce rigorous conceptual models; I would prefer to gain some insights into the world from various philosophies and political movements and literatures and ideas and worldviews and religions by keeping an open mind. Thus the eclectic part, I grab bits and piece from all over the place and rethink things. Now, of course, that's what works for me at this point in my life.
I admit a lot of this is also very intellectual/academic for me. I'd rather understand and be able to teach/explain/discuss/lecture rather than necessarily agree with/internalize a particular viewpoint. My problem with framing it as a "lens" is that it implies your applying them a priori to reading something or looking at something or watching something. I find this problematic because it then prevents you from developing other possible lens, of opening other possible world-views, or ways of looking at the world or experiencing the world gained from those works.

I agree that the conceptual tool of 'lenses' is problematic in some of the ways Eric points out--though I find it useful to quite a large degree, when people think I mean something apart from, and prior to, experience, problems can arise. The main weakness of the 'lenses' metaphor is that it can imply that a person can pick and choose lenses prior to experience, when in fact even the very choice of which lenses we choose from is given by our current world-view. But one strength of the 'lenses' metaphor is that it allows for, I think, one of the things that Eric also values: Malleability of a world-view. I can choose to look at something through the lens of feminism. And then I can look at it through lenses of race theory, and atheism, and class theory--and even where these conceptual frameworks don't intersect, I can gain more insight into the world as a whole.

On a related note, I'm all for malleability. In fact, that's central to my truck with traditional gender roles (which is one basis of my interest in feminism): I don't have a problem that there are roles. My problems begin to arise when the roles are seen as forever-and-ever-amen, writ in stone, and very not-malleable. (Not that I believe they are infinitely malleable, either, of course, which becomes important rather quickly.) And many varieties of feminism focus on anti-essientialist conceptions of gender roles (among other things), which is one of the things I like about feminism.

I think I get Eric's take on an eclectic world-view, using concepts he's chosen from various other world-views--and I tend to do that more than most as well.

I do think there is a danger of letting the malleability of one's thoughts provide an excuse to stay on the sidelines regarding the world. I start wondering if this happens to Eric as often as it happens to me, when he says this:
I'd rather understand and be able to teach/explain/discuss/lecture rather than necessarily agree with/internalize a particular viewpoint.

For me, one place that I come to feel ok with identifying as a feminist is as regards real violence done by what I see as a patriarchal dominance hierarchy; when I look at my mother's life, and the hurdles she had to overcome, the violence she faced by virtue of being a woman, it makes me want to get off the sidelines and take to the streets (so to speak) more, even if I may be subscribing, for however long, to a set of concepts that I may not agree with at some point in the future. When I see men suffering violence at the hands of other men over what amount to traditional conceptions of masculinity, when I see women going through something like what my mother has gone through, I want to do more than teach/explain/discuss/understand/lecture, and I think that's a good thing--and I think internalizing a viewpoint, if one recognizes that such a viewpoint is often just a starting-point, and that the viewpoint itself is malleable, isn't such a bad thing. In fact, It's doubtful to me that we can avoid internalizing viewpoints to some degree in order to better understand them. And I think using the conceptual tool of 'lenses'--as long as we do recognize the limits of conceptual tools in general--can be powerful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What Men Can Do Wednesday: Armchair Feminist, Part Two

Months ago now, I wrote about the idea that men who identify as feminists or feminist allies have to watch out that they don't get caught up in too much 'armchair feminism'--that is, we have to keep in mind that we may too often slip into a detached sort of conceptualizing of feminism, in part because we don't as often or as easily find ourselves face-to-face with the harms that patriarchy and misogyny can cause.

But the more I read and think about the conceptual frameworks that help create our relationship to gender and to power, the more I think that men can gain some motivation for better understanding feminism by paying attention to the ways in which patriarchy harms boys and men. This is not to take away from how these things harm people of other genders, of course--and for many people, avoiding harm to others is a pretty powerful motivation. But for many of us, avoiding harms to ourselves is also a powerful motivator, and I think feminist men should better understand this.

Thing is, the harms that men experience as a result of rigid gender roles, rigid hierarchical societal structures, and the like, are sometimes more subtle than the harms that women often face, or harder for men to see. Some of this just has to do with the way that men are harmed by rigid gender roles, and some of it flows pretty directly from men being at the top of the dominance hierarchy--it's tough to see the water that we're swimming in.

In addition, because of the very way that masculinity is envisioned and enforced, often these harms go unclaimed by men themselves, for fear of being seen as unmanly. Rather than, for instance, feeling the immediate, visceral effects of being verbally accosted while doing something like trying to buy some gas, men have to face the stress of being thought of as, and being taught to think of themselves as, protectors and providers, even in contexts where such things are impossible (as one example). Which is not to say that women don't face subtle forms of harm, or that men don't face visceral, physical and obvious harm in part by virtue of conceptions of masculinity--but it may be that men need to more often look harder to find a harm that exists.

Part of the risk of armchair feminism for feminist men comes from not recognizing these harms--once recognized, we might better feel the passion of our ideals.

(Part one.)