Sunday, November 25, 2007

Men Matter: Lashes for Everyone

Introduction
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.
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