"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

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why MRAs Want to Kill the Messenger

I've just started reading Susan Faludi's 1999 book, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, and so far I'm impressed with both the depth of her analysis and her writing style. Apparently she was lambasted from all sides when this book came out--some feminists thought she was being easy on men, and anti-feminists were pissed she was writing a book about men at all. But (so far, at least) she seems to simply be taking the concerns of how men get screwed by patriarchy seriously, not offering up excuses for men. And she's got the most succinct response to prototypical MRA concerns that I've run across, while at the same time offering up a sketch of an alternative way of understanding some men's reactions to feminism:

"Women's basic grievances are seen as essentially reasonable; even the most blustery antifeminist these days is quick to say that, of course, he favors equal pay and equal opportunity. What women are challenging is something that everyone can see. Men's grievances, by contrast, seem hyperbolic, almost hysterical; so many men seem to be doing battle with phantoms and witches that exists only in their own overheated imaginations. Women see men as guarding the fort, so they don't see how the culture of the fort shapes men. Men don't see how they are influenced by the culture either; in fact, they prefer not to. If they did, they would have to let go of the illusion of control.

Today it is men who cling more tightly to their illusions. They would rather see themselves as battered by feminism than shaped by the larger culture. Feminism can be demonized as just an "unnatural" force trying to wrest men's natural power and control from their grasp. Culture, by contrast, is the whole environment we live in; to acknowledge its sway is to admit that men never had the power they imagined. To say that men are embedded in the culture is to say, by the current standards of masculinity, that they are not men. By casting feminism as the villain that must be defeated to validate the central conceit of modern manhood, men avoid confronting powerful cultural and social expectations that have a lot more to do with their unhappiness than the latest sexual harassment ruling."(pp13-14)
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