"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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Don't feel like you're contributing to building a better world enough? Feel insignificant next to people who are doing interesting, creative things? Don't worry--you could still be my girlfriend!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Death Threats

I don't have a lot to say about the fact that death threats are being put forth as some sort of protected speech at the moment, except to say that it really does sicken me that men think that it's somehow ok to make such threats, and then to add insult to injury by saying that people who won't tolerate death threats can't take a joke. This is one of the favorite techniques of bullies everywhere, from the playground to the presidency (those of you who are old enough to remember then-president Reagan joking 'the bombing will begin in 5 minutes' know what I'm talking about), but it's also one of the favorite ways that male bullies like to interact with women they don't agree with. As men who are pro-feminist, we need to shout down such violent voices.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Feminism - and Religion - My Recent Experience

Last weekend I was in Brooklyn, NY for the funeral of my aunt. S. died at age 77 of complications from cancer. She grew up Orthodox Jewish on the Lower Eastside of NYC - and became more religious than her parents living in what became a heavily Orthodox Jewish area in Brooklyn. She helped found and lead a Jewish girls school for approximately 30 years. Her entire life was based upon her Jewish identity.

At the funeral there was a white, simple curtain above a divider separating us men on one side of the room from the women on the other side. The lectern was on our side. Her three sons and a number of rabbis spoke - perhaps 7-8 men in total. No women spoke (she had two daughters).

During the funeral the tears of women were often heard. Much was said about my aunt, describing her in very positive terms. She was an incredible woman in many ways. The voices of the women present were otherwise not heard at all.

The remainder of my day-and-one half with my family was spent in a combination of being in the kitchen (which was "integrated) and the living room which had separate female and male space. While visitors were there around the times of the Shivah (mourning ceremonies for the deceased), there was a divider up creating a visual divide between men and women.

Within the world of Orthodox Judiasm there is a serious separation of men and women. Women, upon marrying, have their heads shaved and wear wigs, so that they are not exposing themselves to men besides their husbands. My aunt could not touch me (kiss or hug) beyond age 13 when I was Bar Mitzvahed (and "became a man") because I am male and was not her husband.

The world of Orthodox Judiasm, similar to some Christian faiths, relies upon an absolute belief in life being based upon "God's will". The father of one man paying respects was crippled for life because of a man (or his henchmen) mistakingly attacking the wrong man (who was thought to owe money to the attacker). This was "God's will" - not a random tragedy in their life view.

I appreciated the opportunity to mourn the death of my aunt. My relatives and their friends were very nice and supportive of me, an outsider to their way of life.

At the same time I felt very, very uncomfortable in this world of clear separations and distinctions between Men and Women that fixed us in our "life roles". Obviously many religions and many people view men and women in similar terms.

I do not want to label such people as "the enemy" in why we have sexism. They generally are not the ones who ridicule women because they are women or act in blatantly sexist ways to put women down. Where they are not hypocrites, they do things in a respectful way that in my mind is incredibly limiting to women.

My aunt would have argued that she was not discriminated against. She would say that her role was equal to that of men.

I always disagreed with that perception, though generally didn't argue with her. It is pointless to argue with "faith".

I wish to respect my aunt and others like her. I also want to help build a world where her view of our world doesn't limit the opportunities that women have to not have to face sexism and where men are not stuck in our roles as "real men".


Friday, March 23, 2007


There's a new Carnival of Feminists over at A Somewhat Old, But Capacious Handbag. Go check it out!

Most interesting so far to me is the post from Jeremy at Daddy Dialectic, a groupblog of stay-at-home dads. I'm not sure I agree that much with Jeremy, though, who says:

Let me tell you a story. One day I was talking with another stay-at-home parent on the playground. While our kids chased each other around the slide, we got to commiserating. I told her how overwhelmed I felt by the daily routines of childcare and housework. "Well, now you know how women have felt for centuries!" she said, almost cheerful. Right. I get it. It's a good perspective. And so, to all you ladies out there in reverse role families, let me return the favor. When I read about women who "seethe" with resentment against the obligations that supporting a family forces on them, or when I hear that they live in "terror" that they'll be the breadwinner "forever," I'm afraid that there's only one response. Get ready. You can feel it coming. Here it goes: "Well, now you know how men have felt for centuries!"

Not quite. I think it's important to recognize that being a man does come with lots of baggage--that getting up and going to work every day can take its toll, for instance, and when men were doing that more often than women (at least it was perceived as though men were doing that more than women, though this reflected a lot of ignorance around race and class), men didn't necessarily have it easy. But it seems disingenuous to imagine that women who are primary 'breadwinners' experience exactly the same level of stresses that men do--because they have all of the 'regular' stresses (i.e. deadlines, the emotional burden of having to earn the money or one's entire family loses out, etc.), but in addition they face sexism at every turn.

So, while I think it's important to recognize that few people who are primary financial earners have it 'easy', that doesn't mean that now women will feel how men feel as primary earners. Most likely they'll feel all the stresses that men feel plus more.

Also, the whole idea of there being just one person who earns the money is so foreign to most families now--perhaps there are some class issues around couples who are having the sorts of problems that Jeremy is talking about?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Women and Men in War

Katie asked us to comment on this article by a male soldier who had served in Iraq.

A few caveats: I have never served in the military in any capacity. I have no doubt that I wouldn't last 30 seconds if placed in any real danger in Iraq. I don't think that this means I can't say anything about the war there, or comment on what people who have fought there say, but I do think it's important for me to remember that I have little experience in my life which could help me understand what it's like to fight in war--or to live in a country which has been invaded, for that matter.

That said, I feel there are only a few things I'd like to say about the article.

First off, I think that Mr. Mockenhaupt is actually pretty brave for talking about how he misses the fighting, and then how he feels guilty about how he misses the fighting. And I think he has some great implicit insight when he says:
We [he and his wife] both came back from Iraq, luckier than many. Two of my wife's students have been killed, among the scores of journalists to die in Iraq, and guys I served with are still dying, too. One came home from the war and shot himself on Thanksgiving. Another was blown up on Christmas in Baghdad.

Thinking of them, I felt disgusted with myself for missing the war and wondered if I was alone in this.

I have to wonder myself how much similar feelings of guilt might have led one of his friends to suicide.

Secondly, I think it's unclear just what negative affects trauma that is suffered in war causes, but it's clear that there are lots of them. It also seems like learning how to kill-or-be-killed on a daily basis and then coming back to a world where one doesn't have to kill-or-be-killed would be a jolt that might be hard to recover from. He notes:
After watching the Internet videos, I called some of my friends who are out of the Army now, and they miss the war, too. Wells very nearly died in Iraq. A sniper shot him in the head, surgeons cut out half of his skull -- a story told in last April's Esquire magazine -- and he spent months in therapy, working back to his old self. Now he misses the high. "I don't want to sound like a psychopath, but you're like a god over there," he says. "It might not be the best kind of adrenaline for you, but it's a rush." Before Iraq, he didn't care for horror movies, and now he's drawn to them. He watches them for the little thrill, the rush of being startled, if just for a moment.

Frankly, that seems pretty psychopathic to me--but in a sense it's understandably psychopathic, because of the trauma one probably experiences when being put in the positions that people involved in war are put in. The question for me is: How do we help people deal with these feelings?

Thirdly, I'd respectfully object to the gender essentialism which underlies the whole piece, and the first section in particular:
That men are drawn to war is no surprise. How old are boys before they turn a finger and thumb into a pistol? Long before they love girls, they love war, at least everything they imagine war to be: guns and explosions and manliness and courage.

Boys and girls both play war, up until the girls are told not to, explicitly or implicitly. And if it's a matter of being somehow tough enough, it's becoming clear that women in war have to deal with everything that men do, plus they have to deal with the possibility of being harmed in various additional ways, including being raped, by members of their own military. I would hazard a guess that there are just as many soldiers who are women who 'miss' the fight as there are men; at the very least, I think it's wrong to assume otherwise until some evidence is offered.

I'm glad that this guy wrote the article, and I think discussion of the various issues is needed. Is there a way to better 'come down' after fighting in a war so that you don't crave that sort of excitement? Why do some people feel that way more than others? Are there gender/class differences in reactions? At the same time, the idea that this feeling is somehow a feeling that men feel because they are born to like war on some essential level (and that women aren't) would have to be backed up a bit for me to swallow it.

(This post leaves to the side all of the issues involved in whether the US ought to be in Iraq in the first place, whether war is a necessary evil and the like--these are good discussions to be had, but a bit too broad of a scope for me to tackle at the moment.)

Thanks for bringing our attention to the article, Katie.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Role Models

I'm currently reading an anthology, Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, and found an inspiring section written by Nico Dacumos, who writes about difficulties related to passing as it intersects gender and race (among other concepts)--in particular he writes about his various 'failures' to pass as masculine. But then he ends his piece with a bit of hope, recognizing how he is a role model for masculinity for his cousin:
I'm trying to find happiness in the spaces I inhabit. I'm trying to learn how to live my life free from fear and suspicion, to come at everyone with as much trust, patience , and love as I do my own family, the people I stick with despite all the ways they hurt me. I came to this realization recently while talking to my little cousin, a beautiful nineteen-year-old man of color who is trying to be a man in ways that the men in our family never taught him were possible. I know that he initially came to respect me because he saw my polyamorous lifestyle as playa-pimp, but now he comes to me because he values my advice and because I don't judge him. We talk about relationships and violence. He struggles: He's trying to learn to talk instead of throwing fists; he's trying to learn to cool down and walk away instead of slamming doors or being verbally abusive; he's trying to earn the love and respect of the woman whom he loves by giving respect. I am amazed and honored that he trusts me enough to struggle with me. I find my masculinity validated, in ways I know will never happen if I walk into a club or party or "community space' and hope for people who don't really know me to respect and value all the parts of me. In this way I also find myself doing activism and making radical change in the world in the ways I have always wanted. I find myself becoming the elder that I always hoped to find."

Nico is inspiring to me in various ways not only because he recognizes the positive ways he affects his cousin (it's difficult to see one's positive influences sometimes, when one also feels like one is constantly struggling), but also because he understands and appreciates the complexities involved in class, race, gender and the like, complexities that are sometimes discovered and understood 'on the ground' way before the theorists (gender theorists, feminist theorists, among others) start to get it:
"The Combahee River Collective showed me that those of us in the most marginal margins have always already figured shit out and will need to wait about twenty years for the mainstream and the theory heads to catch up."

Or maybe I just like him because of a common feeling centered around bell hooks:
"bell hooks taught me that I could love my urge to kill whitey and still love whitey at the same time."

Seems to me that Nico is a great role model for feminist men.

Back Up Your Birth Control

We missed announcing the Day of Action, March 20th, to back up your birth control with Emergency Contraception. We suck.

Still, check out the Back Up Your Birth Control site. It's got lots of good information.

(Do I need to explicitly point out that men need to take an interest in birth control that goes beyond wearing condoms?)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Feminist Lenses and Pop Culture

I've often thought about the fact that once one becomes aware of the issues involved in feminism, it's hard to look at the world without seeing it through the lenses that feminism offers up. This comes through in all sorts of ways, but one way that it's most apparent for me is in pop culture. Once you start noticing misogyny and the like in popular culture, it's hard to miss. (There are those who might claim that feminists look for it where it doesn't exist, I suppose, but that's a different topic.) More and more I'm unable to, say, watch a movie or read a book without sort of automatically filing things away under "sexist" and "patriarchal"--and various other categories.

Last night we went to see "300". This is a new-ish movie based on a comic book by Frank Miller. Miller is hit or miss for me, definitely, and the more of his older stuff that gets made into movies (Sin City, for example), the more it seems like it won't stand the test of time. But I expected 300 to be an interesting movie, and it was. Visually it was pretty intricate, I thought. But at the same time, it was really, really hard to not critique its portrayal of women (or a woman, really, since there were few women characters) as things went along. Sure, the Queen is a strong woman who stands up to various men, and is somehow first in her husband's heart--and yet her strength pretty much only comes from her alligience with her husband, and her loyalty to him. Maybe that's what society was like in Sparta, but I'm not talking about historical accuracy here--it's silly to expect historical accuracy from 300, and I don't think that's what the makers were aiming at anyway. What counts is the story and the concepts involved. The movie pushes hard on notions of democracy and reason (troublesome notions that it portrays mostly as not troublesome) and the like--but it doesn't push very hard on traditional roles for women as wives and mothers first, and as people second.

So when people ask me if I like a movie, there's always this hesitation, because there is almost always a caveat or three. And while this fact is hardly a heavy cross to bear, it still sort of creates a cloud over everything for me--it's tougher to enjoy stuff when it's got some of these problems.

On the other hand, as a movie that portrays various masculinities and problems therein, it's an embarrassment of riches. Perhaps a post about that stuff (which is not unrelated to the misogyny, of course) will be forthcoming. But what really gets to me is that these lenses just won't go away. It's good that they won't--I wouldn't want to become complacent about things, or to hide in some feigned ignorance, but still, it's sometimes tiresome to have to feel this way about most of pop culture, as well as culture in general.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Parents as Teachers

Sage over at Persephone's Box has an absolutely fantastic post up about moms teaching their daughters about potential dangers from men as they grow up. She notes that not talking about this stuff is putting your child out into the world with less information than she ought to have:
So, maybe, because I’m out there a lot, I’ve gotten more than my share of harassment. I’d like to think that’s the case because the stories are really piling up, and I’d hate to think it happens with this frequency to every woman. That’d just be too much to take. La la la, I can’t hear you.

But what really concerns me, is that I was never educated about this reality by anyone along the way. My parents didn’t like me wandering the streets at night, so I snuck out after they were in bed. But that’s not really the issue at all because harassment happens in broad daylight all the time. And I think we need to tell our kids all about it. We can’t just keep them locked in their rooms. They’ve got to be let out at some point. So they need to be really prepared for potential issues.

This just makes good sense, it seems to me, although I wonder how difficult it is to walk the line between giving good information/warning and encouraging a culture of fear--it's got to be hard to give your daughter all of the information without just scaring the stuffing out of her. Sage acknowledges this implicitly above when she says 'la la la, I can't hear you'. (Maybe you can't really inform without causing a tendency for fear?)

Part of Sage's strategy was to make a sort of ritual rite of passage with her daughter--they spent some time away together talking about these things, and also bonding and having some fun. What a great freakin' parent.

I'd like to say that it's got to be the case that dads need to be having similar conversations with their kids, boys and girls alike. Similar, but different in important ways--I think 'purity ball' thinking needs to be avoided, for instance. And what sorts of conversations ought dads be having with their sons? Presumably, one hopes one's kid learns not to stalk, like some of the men in Sage's stories. But what sorts of stories might a dad tell his son to encourage him to respect himself, to respect women, and to make this a less dangerous world for women and men, and those of various genders?

I'm not a parent, and I doubt that I'll ever be. But it seems to me that one thing dads can teach their sons is to speak out against the oppression of women when they see it, both on a day-to-day level and on a more grand scale. If I were to have a son (and I am an uncle, so I may get to do this), I'd tell him a stories about my mother, who stood up to sexist jerks her whole life. I'd tell him a few stories about how I or another man stood up to other men, resisted violence and the like. Come to think of it, I'd probably tell the same stories to a daughter, if I had one.

Those of you who are parents, or want to be (or are uncles and aunts), what lessons would you want told?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Feminism 101

I'm really enjoying the new-ish Finally, a Feminism 101 blog. It seems to be turning into a great resource. I like that they are linking to posts on various Feminism 101 topics that others have written in the past. And I like the Open Thread section. But most of all I am enjoying the 'clarifying concepts' section.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Romeo and Juliet Part Four: What About the Men?

In the last part of this series, I said that Juliet's obsessive love for Romeo was based on much on what he represented as who he actually was. This is true of Romeo as well.

From the very beginning of the play, we see that Romeo is alienated from the gender role assigned to him. When the Capulets and Montagues fight at the play's beginning, he is the only man missing. His reluctance to participate in feuding and bloodshed is likely a longstanding "problem." Lord Montague expresses his relief in 1.1 that Romeo was not at the street fight. We might say this is only because he is protective of his sole heir, but the sentiment is echoed later by Mercutio, who states that Romeo is no match for Tybalt, the young Capulet lord.

Similarly, Romeo has apparently grown distant from his peers. He seems reluctant to participate in the most obviously misogynist of Mercutio's jokes, for instance. We do see him twice in Mercutio's company, and Romeo does say some sexist things. But, as we learn, he spends much time alone and participates but little in the lords' escapes.

Perhaps the most significant sign of Romeo's alienation is his relationship with his parents-- or, rather, the lack thereof. Not one in the entire play does Romeo so much as share the stage with them.

Because Romeo lives in a prefeminist world, he is not aware that gender roles are his problem, nor would it occur to him to attempt to divest himself of them. Thus, he is forced to cast about for other masculinities, other male roles that he can play. This is where we find him when the play begins: attempting to portray the ideal Petrarchan lover, proving his masculinity through poetry rather than fisticuffs.

Juliet represents to Romeo three chances to escape his current predicament.

First, by trying on new roles and masculinities. By becoming the Suitor and The Husband, and perhaps The Lord and The Father soon thereafter, he escapes the obligation to be The Fighter and The Womanizer.

Second, by transcending social norms. Had Romeo simply wanted to be married for marriage's sake, his family could have arranged that. But an arranged marriage would not have made him more free, only given him another script to act out. His relationship with Juliet, by contrast, is liberating in its secrecy. Because their relationship is secret, they have no need for the elaborate social dance of courtship. Their relationship is honest and entirely free of artifice.

Finally, Juliet loved him before she knew who he was, and because of thier relationship is now also in rebellion against society at large. She is likely the only person in the world who interacts with him as Romeo, rather than as Lord Montague, Jr.

Romeo's relationship with Juliet is certainly marred by sexist conventions, but it is, for its time, a kind of feminist safe space, where he and Juliet can be themselve, not who they have been told to be.

Mama's Boys

I've begun reading Peggy Drexler's Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men recently, and so far I'm enjoying it quite a bit. Full disclosure: I hardly am objective about the subject, being mostly raised by a single mother. Drexler's main research focuses on the effects of parenting when boys are raised without a male parent. She originally was studying lesbian couples who were raising boys, but expanded her research to include single mothers.

The thing that I like about the way Drexler begins the book is that she's basically examining some long-held stereotypes about the way boys become men; these stereotypes are so long-held to seem to be unassailable truths to lots of people. Even very liberal adoption agencies who like to place children with lesbian couples, for instance, have a policy of questioning what male influences the kid will have, though they don't have a similar policy of questioning what female influences a kid adopted by two men will have. The stereotypes that Drexler is examining are (again) pervasive in the extreme:

According to Freud and others who followed him, June alone could not have achieved everything required to bring up “the Beav” successfully. During the first 3 to 4 years of Beaver's life, he would have needed Ward to imitate, long for, and react to, in order to gain the prize of being like his father. This theory—that boys acquire masculinity only with an in-house male in the mother's bedroom—has prevailed to the detriment of both mothers and their sons. It presumes that the earliest relationship between infant and mother is simply a caretaking one. The assumption is that the mother is only a need provider for her son, while he in turn becomes physically and emotionally depending on her. Eventually, assuming there is a present father in the home, the mother must withdraw herself from the child if her son is to become independent of her and escape the dire fate of being a mama's boy.(pp ix)
And , and as it turns out, women get all of the blame and none of the praise for raising sons:
It's a double bind for moms because fathers seem to carry much less responsibility for the problems their sons may have, but in the political and popular culture of today, they are considered absolutely essential to raising good sons.
Dads get lots of the praise, but little of the blame. They are essential, but they can do little wrong, as long as they are around. This is also part of the devaluing of men, really, because they somehow exist to just be around, but there's nothing that they do, except be role models somehow.

And then we have custody fights. More and more when the father wants custody, he uses the successful mother's career as a strategy to get the children. Pamela McGee, who plays for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, lost custody of her 4-year-old daughter while the court investigated whether McGee's work prevented her from being a good mother. In his motion for temporary sole custody, McGee's ex-husband, the Reverend Kevin E. Stafford, asserted that a career and motherhood are mutually exclusive. McGee's “level of achievement,” he argued, impaired her ability to parent their child. McGee was on the road 44 weeks a year. And the father said it tok away too much from the daughter. But the court did not investigate whether the father's travel schedule, which took him on the road 7 to 8 weeks a year, made him an unfit father.(pp 6)
I'll be getting more into Drexler's ideas the further I get into the book. She seems to have some wrong-ish ideas centering around gender essentialism (she seems to put a lot of weight on some sort of inherent boyishness that boys have regardless of their parents or anything else, which asserts itself), but I'm hoping that most of her points are like some of these first few--she has a bold voice which calls out wrongs which are so pervasive that they can be difficult to draw our attention to.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Our Bodies, Body Images - Gender, Aging and ...

Others have posted things on various blogs critical of the Washington State University events focusing on "body awareness" which particularly for some women touched upon some rather "sensitive" (at best) issues.

As a 55+ year old male who works out in the gym about six days a week I see both men and women regularly in our glory, shame, neither and both. Young women in particular seem very intent upon being so thin and properly shaped. Men seem often more focussed on their muscles and sometimes their aerobic strength. Older women and to a lesser degree men seem to often focus on our bending, stretching, our aching backs and the like.

It is sad to see the women who often appear to be around 45-50 years old, thin, but no longer "young", imitating the 25 year olds with their piercings in their midriffs and small outfits, trying fleetingly to be "youthful".

It is sad to see the sexism (at times at least) apparent as women must struggle to be appealing to men - to be thinner and appear younger.

It is also sad to see both women and men try to deny ourselves at times and in varying ways as we try to feel in control of our bodies and our lives, having increasing reminders of our vulnerability as we start to see peers dying too young. Our bodies don't bend as easily as they once did and we recover from injuries more slowly.

Sexually I no doubt am not the only man around who has issues relating to how I've aged perhaps "prematurely" . It is hard to talk with other men and women about such issues. Even if shame doesn't overwhelm us we've not learned to be open in areas we feel weak in and few of us have peers we feel safe regularly talking with.

I know that when I was younger I used to deny various parts of reality. I could use my strength - in running and later in bicycling to be an excuse for how poorly I stretched and bent my body. Now I must exercise regularly to avoid back pain.

Respecting our limitations and working with, rather than against, our bodies is important. As we learn to understand and respect ourselves we men in particular may also respect others and be more aware of our sexism and our excessive foci on various body related issues.

In a way I feel much better now, as I want to maintain my strength, rather than reach for some pinnacle as I might have done years ago. I also hope, no doubt vainly, that more younger men and women will learn from us older folks and make less mistakes than we have made in our lives.


Another Reason I Call Myself a Feminist

Tekanji over at Shrub.com posted a great youtube video of Kendra Urdang performing a piece of poetry, "To Every Man Who Never Called Himself a Feminist". I hope Tekanji doesn't mind my reposting it over here, because I think it is powerful and it sort of backs up one of the reasons I call myself a feminist (unless I'm in a group of feminists who pretty much don't think men ought to, which is rare): It immediately puts my beliefs up front, and doesn't allow me to stay as safe within my privilege.

Not to take away from the seriousness of Urdang's piece, but here's one more small example of speaking out against sexism and the oppression of women that has to do with why I might call myself a feminist:

The other day I got in the elevator with my new-ish neighbor and she was all dressed up in a way I hadn't seen before and I asked her if she was dressed up for a special occasion. She told me her workplace was having a celebration in honor of International Women's Day. I told her how great I thought it was that her workplace (a university) celebrated that, and she was surprised that I felt that way. This was an elevator ride conversation, necessarily short, so I told her, "Well, I'm a feminist." I could have gone into the ins-and-outs of what that means (some of them, anyway), but it's a great shorthand, most of the time that allows me to quickly explain to a surprised person why I might take an interest in International Women's Day, for instance.

Which is not to say that I don't understand that there are complexities involved with the label (including my deciding, as a man, to use it)--but just to lend some credit to the idea that labeling oneself both 'man' and 'feminist' can help get conversations going, can help me not be silent.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Maleness - One Side

In one of my spin cycling classes I had at first liked the teacher, a 51 year old, somewhat brash man. His words at first seemed challenging and interesting and his style was at first appealingly different from the 20 something year old female teachers who are polite and young in various ways.

Gradually I've felt like I've seen this man's dark sides - in small bites - that feels a little less comfortable. Feeling a competition and a need from this man to have him be visibly - "in control" - e.g. - that the class members are - in a sense beneath him - under his thumb, doesn't feel so benign or comfortable. While I don't like "smiley face" pleasantness, direct putdowns and similar aren't helpful either.

Thursday I began talking with the woman next to me, who was back, after some months of not cycling. She told me that she'd been through a depression and gotten divorced. I was trying to be encouraging to her.

Then our teacher intervened and made a Very direct statement asking if we would both quiet down and insinuated that we couldn't talk and work hard in the class. I responded that I would be quiet and got a further snide response from him (which is par for him in any case).

It was obvious to me that the teacher's words had shaken my neighbor. After class she talked with him and then I talked with her briefly. She was upset and angry and quite clear that she wouldn't let his actions get in her way of her mission to continue cycling. She told me that she had told him that he could have said what he did in a different manner that was less offensive. She said that he acknowledged this, but said that it wouldn't have been himself, if he hadn't reacted as he did. I apologized for my part in the matter, since I had known him from prior classes and she hadn't.

This experience brings up a part of maleness that bothers me. I also recognize that I can do similar things at times in my own way.

Part of maleness can be a justification for being direct and blunt and not acknowledging the feelings of others. We aren't concerned about the relationship - that is created and may exist from the perspective of the other person. We are "right" and that's all that matters (in our minds).

This is wrong! I acknowledge my part in this in my past and hope to do less of this in the future with others around me.


Friday, March 09, 2007


Dora over at Shrub.com has an absolutely fantastic post on what it means to be an ally (or what it ought to mean!). I think she gives a great, nuanced mountain of advice to those of us who want to be allies in various ways. For instance, she points out that simply agreeing with, say, feminist ideals isn't enough, especially for those of us who are part of the privileged group--to be an ally, you also have to speak out. She says:
Make your support known

Another huge part of being an ally is being a visible, vocal supporter of anti-oppression work. That means more than just agreeing with non-privileged members and remaining silent yourself. You’ve got to join the struggle.

This is not easy, right? For male allies of feminists, speaking up against sexism can generate adverse reactions from other men, because it threatens the collective performance of masculinity. Allies risk accusations of being feminine or possibly even gay. As for white people, bringing up racism is taboo in ‘polite’ conversation. They can be chastised for bringing up problems, making waves, being divisive, getting stuck on the past of racial inequities. In all instances of challenging privilege, you carry the risk of social disapproval, ostracization, and even hostility. Of course this stuff isn’t easy.

Now imagine what women and people of color have to go through, all the damn time.

I would add that an actual act of imagining this is something allies ought to be doing, and regularly. It takes effort, and act of will, to continually put oneself in the shoes of others as much as one can; it takes some imagination, I think. One thing that can help people who are allies deal with the adverse reactions of other men (and women) to speaking out is to remind ourselves that those in various non-privileged groups have to deal with adverse reactions all of the time, and don't have a lot of choice in the matter a good deal of the time.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

How Have You Spoken Up?

In honor of International Women's Day and Blog Against Sexism Day, I ask y'all:

What have You done to speak out against sexism? This is addressed to people of all genders out there, but as I think that it's important for men to address other men in this regard, this is especially for the men--when have you spoken out to other men against sexism toward women? (Yes, MRA readers, sexism is more complex than men-are-sexist-women-aren't, but in the spirit of International Women's Day, leave it at the door, please.)

One important little thing that happened in my life along these lines:
I have two bosses, one man and one woman, and together they own the company I work for. Oftentimes, when a man asks a question like "How does Lisa like working for Bob," I have to point out (gently, usually) that they both own the company, and that the question is more appropriately addressed to me. I also often have to point out that she is not his secretary.

This is sometimes not easy to do in a 'professional' situation. One doesn't want to make one's clients look stupid. But it's also not an option to make it a jokey situation. So I try to do it professionally, seriously, without a lot of shaming thrown in. It's a fine line between correcting and shaming sometimes.

I think that this sort of 'little' examples add up in the world, and the more men that are aware of this sort of thing the better. It's not *all* I want to do to fight sexism, but it's a day-to-day thing that needs to be done.

So: How have you spoken up?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Carnival and More

The 32nd Carnival of Feministsis up over at Bumblebee Sweet Potato. Lots of good stuff over there, including a heartfelt post by sailorman about the difficulty of raising feminist daughters.

Also, keep in mind that March 8th is International Women's Day, as well as Blog Against Sexism Day.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Misandry ??

My writing below is inspired by a deleted recent response from a disgruntled man.

I encounter situations where women are rude, condescending or otherwise inconsiderate at various times.

This doesn't mean that I face "reverse discrimination".

A woman may treat me in a way I don't appreciate for varying reasons. She may:

1. object to something I have done - what I have said, her perception of the tone of my voice, etc.
2. be having a bad day and I may be in the wrong place at the wrong time,
3. look down upon me and perceive me as "inferior" because I appear to not be of a "high enough class" to merit her time or am otherwise "objectionable" (my clothes are 'dirty', 'not neat', 'not stylish') or I am "ugly", "old", "fat", "thin", my hair doesn't look "right", etc,
4. know me or thinks she knows me and have baggage from the past,
5. be afraid of me because I am male,
6. generalize from past experiences with males that she associates with me or

many other reasons.

There are plenty of women who are "better" than me in the eyes of others due to various reasons despite the fact that I am a "man" and they are "women". Rich women often will have more status in various areas than less well off men. Being male isn't the only characteristic that we have in our lives.

My partner is: Black, Female, Bi-sexual, Large Bodied. All of these "classes" could lead her to be treated in a "discriminatory manner" and she certainly does face at least minor discrimination at various times. At the same time she has an excellent job and is definitely "upper-middle class".

Is "B" my partner higher or lower than me in status - being a Woman? When she's in public and someone hits on her, her status is "lower". Her earning capacity and skills in various areas are far stronger than mine.

Underneath everything - when we are "naked within our souls" - B - probably has "less status" than I do, not because she is Not a Success - which she is, but rather because the price she has paid for all that she is, including the effects upon her parents who raised her, including the issues she faced as a Girl because of who she was then have affected her more than what I faced as a lonely, awkward, Jewish, White Boy.

It is easy as a male to feel negative feelings about women! Whether such feelings relate to individual women or women as a whole the feelings are real. We may say: Women are "bossy". Women are too ... . My partner is controling. This bothers me some of the time.

Men are certainly excluded from certain areas such as:

1.) Some health clubs,
2.) Some social Clubs,
3.) Some self-defense classes
4.) Some colleges and other schools.

Men - as a class - have some "priviliges" that women don't have.

We have a disproportionate number of politicians, judges, heads of corporations, high level officials in most government entities and large corporations etc. We have a history of having more "power" than women do. The power continues today, though thankfully things are seemingly getting more equal.

Many "female only" institutions provide women an opportunity to experience equality and feel comfortable in ways that would be much harder in a co-ed organization.

A similar set of arguments could be made for me a White Person vs. Black People. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson and many other well-to-do Black people obviously wield far more power than I do, though they are Black and I am White.

Morehouse College in Atlanta, a predominantly Black institution, is no doubt a better college than many predominantly White colleges. It serves a purpose in allowing gifted Black (and other) students an opportunity to get an education they might not get elsewhere. It doesn't "discriminate against White people" because it is predominantly Black. I might well feel "discriminated against" if I had attended Morehouse, because of its foci on the needs of Black students.

I object to exclusive social clubs Which Wield Power over others or similar - such as The Bohemian Club - which tend to be limited to Wealthy, White Men. In general I do not see how most exclusively female organizations wield power over me as a man by excluding me. I do understand that the social networking within any club that I am not a part of can give an "advantage" to its members that I don't have. I do not see, however, that "female power" is a "class power" that in general discriminates against me as a Man.

I don't think that any of us as men can fully understand all that Women face as a result of their gender - that results in them being second class citizens as women. I know that I can' t fully understand: body image issues, hormonal cycles, derisive comments - catcalls etc., the fears of being assaulted or harassed by men and many other things.

I do not believe that we as men have it easy! Our fears may include:

1.) Being ridiculed or assaulted by other males because we are male and a threat to the feelings that other males have in wanting to feel in control - we can't be "sissies" or "weak".,

2.) Health issues - we die younger than females - from birth onward at much higher rates,

3.) Learning difficulties - in school as children we have far more troubles with attention deficit disorders and various other ailments,

4.) Dealing with our feelings - being independent and autonomous in healthy ways. It is hard to share our feelings safely.

5.) Rejections - from women - we try to date or marry (if we are heteroseuxal). Interpersonal relations can be very difficult

No doubt others could note many other areas we have troubles with.

I will be 56 years old in several months. I've made plenty of mistakes in my life. I've felt bad about many things over many years in my life. I do not see though how my being Male has made me face a rougher path than it would have been had I been born Female.

Yes, at times I do resent individual women as well as women in general. No, I'm not discriminated against by being male.


Marriage and Privilege

Looks like Lauren over at Faux Real (perhaps the best blog name ever), formerly of Feministe, is getting married. Before Lauren left Feministe, one of my favorite parts of that blog were Lauren's forays into parenting and other parts of her daily life. When she'd take a break from more traditional feminist blogging stuff and talk about her son, I would often find myself more interested in the feminism to be found in that day-to-day life. One only has to look at a picture of the kid rocking out, or of him in his superman suit, to know that it must be pretty neato to have somebody as smart and caring as his mom seems to be. As a man who was raised by a proto-feminist mom, it was really interesting to hear Lauren's ideas and feelings surrounding her son.

I also started to enjoy Faux Real more than Feministe on some levels, mostly because it did contain more of Lauren's personal story. Her writing is still infused with feminist concepts and ideals, of course, but sometimes less overt conceptual analysis is more interesting, and more useful. It's one thing to discuss what it means to be a feminist, and it's a different sort of thing to talk about one's life as a feminist. The two aren't mutually exclusive, of course, and each is important, but at times I find the latter more interesting and emotionally engaging. To paraphrase William James: give me lots of theory, yes, I can always use theory, but give me lots of practice, too, because I can always learn from practice. Lauren's newest project, Help Us Help Ourselves (or HUHO) is right along these lines, implicitly dealing with feminism right where it intersects class.

and yet, I'm afraid I'm having a pretty knee-jerk reaction to Lauren's announcement of her wedding plans, and to the outpouring of congratulations that have come from the announcement. Let me try to be very clear here: I think my negative reactions are knee-jerk and simplistic. I think that Lauren and Chef, who obviously work hard on their relationship and are very mindful about the ramifications of marriage to them and to Lauren's son, deserve The Happy Stuff. My reaction isn't about invalidating Lauren's feminist credentials--my reaction is an angry, bitter reaction to the fact that privilege is oftentimes mindlessly heaped on people who decide to (and are allowed to) marry. I think credit is due to Lauren to being explicitly aware of this privilege.

I don't think that pairing off under the auspices of marriage is some sort of anti-feminist act in any general way. But I do think that the blindly-following-tradition sort of pairing off of one man and one woman sometimes do can be something that either ignores or goes against some feminist principles. One way that this can happen is when people get married for reasons of gaining some privilege. This desire to gain privilege isn't an all or nothing sort of thing. It doesn't even have to be a conscious act. The fact is that when you announce you're getting married, you get lots and lots of praise, in the form of formal-ish sorts of congratulations, but also in all sorts of other forms--tax breaks and more readily available health care are two that come immediately to mind.

If the gain of privilege is unavoidable in whatever ways, how should that factor into a decision to get married, or to not get married, if one is a feminist? How does one deal with the uncomfortable-ness that may come from having such privilege heaped onto you when all you want is to mark your love for somebody with an event? Perhaps a non-traditional wedding? But how nontraditional? What about eschewing some privilege by asking that wedding guests donate to groups which are helping to support gay marriage? What else might be done to resist the sort of automatic privileging that comes from being married?