"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

Friday, July 06, 2007

Chicks Dig Feminists

I know, I know. The title is silly and stepping over several lines. But I like it nonetheless, because it not only points to the stereotype of the guy-who-says-he's-a-feminist-to-appear-more-attractive-to-some-
feminist-women but is also sort of pointing out something of a truism, inasmuch as men who embrace feminist ideals can sometimes really become better men. Plus, a scandalous title is the centerpiece of any good blog post, right?

The Seduction Community
So, this post in tangential to the discussion(s) going on over at Feminist Critics and Thinking Girl regarding, as some people put it, "The Seduction Community". This is not a response to that discussion in any direct sense. I think the discussion is so convoluted that I'm not wanting to enter that fray just now. Still, reading some posts and some comments has got me thinking, once again, about some of the problems that trying to better understand gender and patriarchy present to us in our daily lives--specifically, if we are supporting overthrowing (to whatever degree, in whichever ways) how traditional gender roles work regarding romance, love and sex, what sort of alternatives to traditional gender roles do we hope to create?

I want to first make it clear that I think this topic is a huge and complex set of conceptual puzzles, and I'll necessarily be oversimplifying to some degree. There's always a danger in oversimplifying, but one has to begin somewhere. And this is where I'm going to begin: I think that feminist men would do well to pay close attention to the fact that traditional forms of masculinity can keep us at an emotional distance from other people, and as such can help to cause some intense, deep forms of loneliness. The kind of loneliness I have in mind is most often thought about in terms of romance, perhaps, but I think it permeates other realms of relationships, from families to friendships, working relationships and acquaintanceships.

Romance, Friendship, Family and Loneliness
One reason that loneliness is often understood in terms of lack-of-romance, rather than as lack of connection to others in general, is because romance (and/or sex) is put forward as something that men, especially 'masculine' men, ought to have and even something that they are owed, whereas other sorts of close emotional relationships that men might have with others aren't encouraged as much. That is, traditional male masculinity doesn't much encourage (or enable!) men to have close emotional family bonds or close emotional friendships with other people of all genders; it does, on the other hand, encourage (though perhaps doesn't enable!) men to have romantic (or, in other formulations, sexual) relationships.

I don't mean to play down the importance of loneliness in terms of romance. In part because of the emphasis that traditional male masculinity has placed on romance and sex, losing a romantic partner or not having a romantic partner is a serious emotional pit of sad-stuff. (And, of course, this is not to say that only men suffer all of the emotional fallout from traditional gender roles as regards romance--traditional femininity tells women that they aren't woman enough if they don't have a romantic partner, for instance.) Once we have some basic needs met, lacking romantic love can feel (at times) like an unbearable burden.

Traditional Male Masculinity and Loneliness
But I want to emphasize that I think traditional conceptions of masculinity contribute to the sometimes unbearable feelings of loneliness in a way that we might work to change. First of all, though loving relationships with family and friends may not feel the same as loving romantic relationships, we might want to blur some lines as regards how we think about giving love and getting love. While it's true that there's nothing quite like falling in love with somebody, there's also nothing quite like creating a loving friendship or experiencing maternal/paternal love, either. We might get more out of life if we put as much time and effort into our friendships and families as we do into our more romantic relationships. Having created a close, loving circle of friends and family, we might find that romantic loneliness is easier to bear (though still tough to feel).

We might also find that when we have better loving social relationships in general with friends and family, that we end up having a 'better chance' at having good romantic relationships. Men who have closeness in their lives, men who have worked on being loving people in terms of family and friends, might also tend to be more loveable in their family lives, their friendships and their romantic relationships. It is sometimes the case that people who have good, loving relationships in their lives are hotter than those who don't--and are almost certainly more attractive than those who have no non-romantic loving relationships and are only focused on creating romantic relationships.

I bring this up because reading some of the stuff around the 'Seduction Community' makes me feel a strong sense that there are just so many men in the world who are feeling a kind of loneliness that is powerful and pervasive. And I don't say this to put anybody down--I say it from the perspective of somebody who has felt that intense loneliness, who sometimes still feels it, from time to time, who remembers what it was like to feel it intensely on a daily basis. (Even the men who are just out to use techniques provided by the seduction community to only have lots of sex, I think, are suffering from problems based in part in traditional male masculinity, though that is perhaps a discussion for another time.) And I think it's wrong to wholly dismiss those feelings of romantic loneliness as unimportant, or petty. However, at the same time, it seems to me that if men learned to relate to others in some other ways, they would not only feel the strength of romantic loneliness less, but also feel the love of other people, in various ways, more.

One way to find more romantic love in one's life might be to subscribe to various of the schemes that the 'Seduction Community' offers up--though I'm unconvinced that most of the advice given (to oversimplify) leads to any sort of lasting, loving romantic relationship that I might want--but another way may be to hone one's skills in being a loving person in other realms.

That said, I think that men with feminist sensibilities do have a special set of problems that they have to deal with when seeking out romantic love, which will be the subject of the next post along these lines...
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