"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

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Masculinity in Cartoons

On Women of Color Blog this morning, brownfemipower has a video up, created by Sanjay Newton and posted up on racewire, about the way masculinity is portrayed in Disney films. Like brownfemipower, I have a couple of misgivings of some of the analysis--I think, for instance, that Gaston from Beauty and the Beast is mocking some aspects of traditional masculinity, rather than representing the men we ought to become--but there are some very good points there as well, and the general theme is interesting. My favorite part is from Mulan (which I've not seen), wherin the song seems to be "Be a Man," which involves physical strength and hunting ability, pretty much.

I hope brownfemipower doesn't mind my swiping this video for others here to see:

Communication and Worry

I've thought a lot about what I've seen as a certain thread of sexism in my life, the one where I tend to worry more about the women in my life, from friends, to family, to lovers, than I do about the men in my life. It struck me most recently because a my cohort (who is a woman) is moving out here, and I found myself obsessing a bit about what I could do to help, but also worrying in a way that I didn't worry about, say, my buddy Dave when he moved out of SF, or Steve when he moved across the country. I thought about them leaving, and thought about the difficulties that they would have, but I wasn't tempted to try to take on their burdens—or at least, I wasn't tempted much.

I started to chalk this up to my own sexism. What other reason would I treat equally capable people differently in the above ways?

I thought of another reason, and while it's still related to gender stuff, it's not sexism per se. I realized, as some friends and I were talking, and one of my male friends was talking a bit about some personal stuff, that another reason that I tend to be tempted to take on the burdens of my women friends, family and lovers more than the men in my life is that the women in my life tend to share how they're feeling more with me than the men; in addition, aside from any particular individual people in my life, I have a whole life history of women telling me how they feel, through words but also through body language and the like, more than men ever have. Which is not to say that the men in my life didn't share their hopes and dreams, their fears and the like with me—I think my experience is probably atypical in the amount that my male friends and I have talked about this stuff. But still, we tend to talk about it less than I talk and listen with the women in my life.

And then, of course, it's much easier to worry about people when you have been given some potential reasons for worrying.

And regarding another facet of the emotional spectrum, it's likely that I'm more connected to the women in my life as regards the joys in their lives than I am the men in my life.

Yet another way that traditional masculinity, in as much as it keeps men from communicating their feelings to other men, can make life...less.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A frustrating conversation

A week ago, at my workplace, one of my co-workers had said that he felt another co-worker was homophobic. I had agreed. Yesterday, I was approached by yet another co-worker, a highschooler. We had the following conversation, transcribed word-for-word.

Her: Do you really think [male coworker] is a homophobic?
Me: I don't think he's *a* homophobic, as in some kind of alien species. I think he's a person who is somewhat homophobic. Most people are, and him more than most.
Her: What makes you think that?
Me: You can just tell... I mean, look at how he talks about women.
Her: That doesn't make him a homophobic.
Me: It all goes together. There are certain sets of attitudes... men invested in traditional gender roles are usually homophobic.
Her: But he talks to gay people!
Me: Are you saying no-one who talks to black people is racist? Look, I'm not saying he goes around beating up gay people or anything like that. I just think that the idea makes him uncomfortable.
Her: Oh, but it makes everyone a little uncomfortable. Doesn't mean they're a homophobic.
Me: (stunned silence) .... yes. Yes, it does.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Being "in Control" - ??

Last Monday evening in Chicago I enjoyably went to a Chicago Cubs baseball game. During the game I went to the men's room. It was a fairly large room with very long metal urinals and toilets in the back.

As I approached one of the large urinals I saw a 20's ish young lady moving out of the restroom. I have to presume that there was a line for the women's room and she had decided instead to use the men's room.

For me it was amusing and not an issue.

I heard several men responding to what was happening (not positively). One in particular said: "She had a smirk on her face" in apparent anger at "his" male space being violated (I'm guessing).

While not attributing too much meaning to what happened, it seemed and seems amusing to me to see what it can feel like when men have "their space" invaded and feel disempowered faintly, faintly in ways that women and girls and sometimes even boys may face in many other ways more frequently from (some) adult men.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Living with Feminist Anger Toward Men

There's something of a discussion going on over at Twisty's place regarding the abhorrent article in Details magazine y'all may or may not have seen entitled "Is Anal Sex the New Deal-Breaker?" The article is (as Twisty points out) a perfect example of deeply held misogyny in action, there's no doubt about it. And when reading such a thing, I'm struck by a definite sense of (for lack of a better term) impotence regarding what to do about it. I can decry it here, I can talk about it with friends, but what else (directly) can I do about it, as a feminist man? The men I hang out with don't read that crap anyway, and, short of hanging out at the newsstand and haranguing anybody who buys Details, what do I do?

So here's what I do: I decry it here. I talk about it with my friends. And, when the chance arises out in the world among men who might just love articles like that one, I try to engage them, as best I can. I try to better understand their blind spots, their ignorance, and how to communicate to them. Is there more I could do? Sure. I could hang about newsstands and harangue people who buy Details. I could start a boycott of the advertisers in Details. But these things don't seem to me to be ways of really changing things--engaging others in dialog to foster change is the way that I generally end to find the best successes, though they may be few.

Here Comes the Anger and Self-Hatred
And what else do I do? I lament. I feel guilty for my gender. I have anger toward men who just won't listen. I have anger toward myself for the ways in which I buy in and sell out. And, to whatever small degree I can, I turn to my community for emotional support when I feel so overwhelmed by the whole thing--and Feminist Allies can be a huge part of that community.

Lest this be seen as turning an issue regarding misogyny of women into an issue of men having to deal, I want to say that there are at least two things involved in discussing something like the Details article: There is the misogyny of the article, which must be called out, along with the ways it relates to general misogyny encouraged by men and society at large, and there is the set of emotional crap that comes along with being a man who wants to stand up to that sort of thing, who spends a good deal of his time trying to encourage change in the world around feminist issues. Is my emotional reaction to the article the most important thing in the world, or even in the feminist world? Nope. Is it something that I think feminists need to address in general? Nope. But it is something that I have to address, and something that I think a community like Feminist Allies can help with. It may not be the most important thing to deal with, but it must be dealt with, or I can't do any good in the world.

Rad-Fem Anger
I enjoy reading what I consider to be radical feminist writings, and there are some good rad-fem blogs out there. I would put I Blame the Patriarchy in that category. And I enjoy reading Twisty in part because it's often very hard, as a feminist man, to read I Blame the Patriarchy without getting my defensive hackles up. I think that we often do our best thinking when we feel uncomfortable, and it's good practice, as a feminist man, to read stuff that sometimes rubs me the wrong way, in order to flush out my blind spots, and in order to better spot just where I'm getting knee-jerk defensive and where I might be able to contribute to the discussion.

And yet, it's hard as hell to read words like these:
Whenever I write about how much men hate you, somebody — usually a dude, but sometimes a Mrs Nigel — always chirps up, “That’s no way to win men over to your nutty Twistolution!” And they are right. Dudes won’t support feminism unless there’s something in it for them.--Twisty

Of course, Twisty isn't trying to convert men to feminism--as far as I understand her, that's not her job, and I agree wholeheartedly. I think that it is the job of men to win other men over to feminism, in general, though I think we should take all of the help from people of all genders that we can get. I also think there is ample room for Twisty's flavor of feminism, for radical feminism in general, in the larger scheme of things, even if I don't agree that everybody should do radical feminist action. And I agree with Twisty--men ascribe to feminism (in part, at least) because of what they get out of it, though I do, of course, want to add that some men see 'what they get out of it' as a healthy dose of humanism, of egalitarianism, of a balancing of power systems and the like, rather than only what Twisty has experienced as what men think they ought to get out of feminism, which is mind-boggling in its misogyny:

In my case, they seem anxious that I behave solicitously toward them, to reassure them that radical feminists don’t really want to substantively diminish their social status. My advocacy for women’s entitlement to domination-free lives may sometimes look good on paper to liberal ‘feminist’ dudes, but they loudly demur when it comes time for them to acknowledge that they oppress women whether they like it or not, by virtue of their participation — whether it is a voluntary participation matters not a whit — in male dominant culture. When I explain why their position is untenable, that oppression is experienced by the oppressed as hate, it is interpreted as my crossing the boundaries of feminine propriety. This makes’em mad. And they get mean, e.g. “I don’t hate women, you stupid bitch!” These glittering examples of Western manhood appear not to grasp the irony of responding with hate to a men-hate-you argument. The justification for their subsequent personal attacks (one fellow human recently expressed his happy anticipation of my rapidly impending obituary) seems to be that I am just not obsequious enough. Insufficient obsequiosity apparently invalidates any argument made by a feminist, however shimmeringly astute it may otherwise be. As a cause, the fight against the oppression of half the human population is only supportable if it is presented with a solicitous head-tilt, a pert giggle, and an invitation to fuck you in the ass. But hate you men do, however often certain of them wish you dead from cancer for saying so without first offering to bend over.--Twisty

And, of course, my defensiveness immediately rises up to shout: "But! But! But! Not all men are like that! What about me?! What about Dave and Orion and Geo! What about Roy, and Hugo?" And I recognize the inappropriateness of this response, on its own. Still, while it's not appropriate for me to plead with Twisty to remember that not all men are like that, and not all feminist men are like that, it is appropriate for me to remind myself that not all feminist men are like that--though there's always an echo of "well, not all the time" which marks the places where those of us immersed in a culture find ourselves supporting the status quo, however much we try to consciously resist doing so. Reminding myself of the good that some feminist men can do is another way of dealing with the anger and self-hate that can come from being a feminist man.

Dealing with Violent Words Against Men
And it helps me also, to remind myself of those things, when I read a comment in that same post that involves a fantasy of violence toward men:
This topic has inspired a new sexual fantasy for me: Some wicked-smart lady scientist develops a roofie antidote—some kind of alkaloid that the partay girl can injest pre-party which is harmless to her, but which renders unconscious any male engaging in sex with her. When she regains her judgment enough to determine whether or not the sex was consensual, she can decide to either wake him up with a bit of fellatio, or gently extract his testes from his nutsack and insert them in the orifice of her choice.--Dawn Coyote

Admittedly, this is couched in the form of a fantasy (though as a sexual fantasy, it makes me feel a bit oogie)--and people often fantasize about violence. And, admittedly, this is a fantasy about possible violence toward somebody who has done violence. And yet: I think such talk is wrong, unhelpful and, well, violent. Is it as bad as the sexual violence that is advocated in the Details article? I don't think so, if we can make such judgments. Still, it's hard to read such words, and have them go unchallenged in a discussion forum.

Yet I am limited as a feminist man in the ways I can respond to such things. I don't think it's appropriate for me to go on that thread and comment about it--that's exactly the sort of tactic that "feminist" men who like to draw attention away from women's issues to their own issues are wont to do. That's one reason I think FA is the better forum for this discussion, in as much as it allows us to talk about these things without drawing attention away from the issues that affect women directly. But even here I am limited, because I can't just say: All talk of violent acts is wrong. And the reasons I can't are inextricably intertwined in the reality of our current system(s) of oppression. It's not my place to tell women that such talk is out of line, in part because we, as feminist men, have more important things to do: For instance, to convince other men that misogyny and sexual violence against women is as wrong as it is rampant.

And yet, I can understand the anger that leads one to such fantasies (though, again, the sexual component doesn't ring true for me): I have a recurrent fantasy of getting Bush Jr. alone in a dark alley, for instance. And I also understand that my concern about violent words isn't a good response to the fact that the Details article is violent in its own right, and the ways in which that article tries to make sexual violence ok. And yet, and yet, and yet, I still want to cry out: Can't we all talk about this stuff without the violence? (And I hear myself immediately wondering if that isn't my male privilege talking, just a bit.)

And, frankly, I feel discouraged and demoralized by Twisty's words, and by Dawn Coyote's words, and by the silence around violence against men in a forum that is responding to the horrible prevalence of violence against women. Is it their fault I feel this way? No. Am I asking them to stop? No. But I must do something about these feelings, and here I am, letting it all out. What else can I do?

Pleasure for Women During Sex Is All About Style

There was an interesting article in the SF Chronicle this past Sunday detailing some claims by Kristen O'Hara that uncircumcised penises help create more pleasure for women during Penis-In-Vagina sex, in part because the foreskin helps to cushion the ridge on the glans of the penis, which can be 'like a harpoon'. Apparently, O'Hara is likely full of crap (according to people like Susie Bright), and her methods aren't (yet?) scientific at all, but anecdotal. I've got no problem with anecdotal evidence, actually, as long as it's not the only evidence one is offering up. It can buttress science or sometimes act as counterexamples to method. But standalone, it often ain't enough.

The most interesting thing about this article, however, is that it was in the Sunday Chronicle, in the Style section, with the headline: "A CUT BELOW: Uncovering the truth about women's pleasure". So, um, if we're really uncovering the truth about women's pleasure here, why is this in Style? Well, clothes are pleasurable, aren't they?


Friday, July 13, 2007

Traditional Gender Norms Comics Roundup

As usual, you can click on the image to get a slightly bigger version. (I really need to change the blog layout so that the larger versions fit on the page...)

Mr. Boffo tells us that men really need women, but only to ogle:

The Fusco Brothers gives us some not-so-hot man-on-man action:

Monty explains that feminists don't get scared or need hugs:

On the other hand, Rymes with Orange manages to put a fine point on part of the so-called immigration debate and the value of housework:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Feminists <3 Trannies

[cross-posted to my blog]

So for some reason my friend Jen decided to randomly ask me a question about the intersection of feminism and queer visibility. I know I didn't cover all the bases here, but given that I hacked this together in a few minutes while at work I think it's a pretty good basis for further examination. What do you think? What would you add? What would you change?

Reposted with permission (unabridged), from a chat with a friend:

[2007-07-10 11:20] jen: jen has started a chat with you
[2007-07-10 11:20] da5id: oh hai
[2007-07-10 11:20] jen: why is women's empowerment/strength associated with sexually ambivalent behaviour (drag, androgyny, bisexuality) ?
[2007-07-10 11:20] jen: hello :)
[2007-07-10 11:22] da5id: Because all of those things challenge people to consider the meaning of gender. If one denies the socially constructed nature of gender one cannot work to break down its socially rooted injustices.
[2007-07-10 11:23] da5id: And, um... "ambivalent"?
[2007-07-10 11:23] jen: my professor's phrasing
[2007-07-10 11:23] jen: not mine
[2007-07-10 11:23] jen: what do you mean, by the way
[2007-07-10 11:24] jen: if you're busy, it's cool
[2007-07-10 11:24] da5id: Give your professor this link:
[2007-07-10 11:24] jen: will do
[2007-07-10 11:38] da5id: In order to address women's equality issues (which drive the empowerment/strength stuff), one must first accept that such issues exist. In order to do so, one must ditch essentialism and recognize that gender is a social construct. A great way to do so is to break out of the man/woman binary and show that lines, if they exist at all, are blurry as all hell.
So: person X is bisexual, and this is accepted rather than treated as aberrant. Ergo, bisexuality is an acceptable and natural state. Ergo, there is no strict duality of MSW/WSM, nor is there even a duality of hetero/homo. Things are fluid, and it becomes a whole lot more difficult to pigeon-hole people based on sex and gender.
Also: person Y is a transvestite, and this is accepted rather than treated as aberrant. Ergo, clothing that is commonly seen as either feminine or masculine cannot be strictly associated with one sex. Gender constraints are eroded, forcing observers to relax or even abandon their notion of gender. This means gender is not an absolute. Ergo, it is a social construction. Ergo, it can be changed. Then we are drawn to examine it and ask how it can be changed for the better, leading us back to issues of female empowerment.
[2007-07-10 12:07] jen: sorry i was in a meeting - also, i am in love with you
[2007-07-10 12:07] jen: thank-you for the help
[2007-07-10 12:10] : jen has left the chat.
[2007-07-10 12:16] da5id: No problem.
[2007-07-10 12:17] da5id: Hey, is it okay for me to post this conversation on my blog?
[2007-07-10 12:17] jen: sure
[2007-07-10 12:17] jen: thanks for asking
[2007-07-10 12:17] jen: permission
[2007-07-10 12:18] jen: off to lunch and take care
[2007-07-10 12:19] : jen has left the chat.

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...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Five Paces Behind

Once in a while I walk to work, which takes me about 35 minutes. It's a lovely walk, actually, half of which is right next to a lake. I've often noticed that people are a bit more friendly in the morning around the lake--oftentimes people nod or say hello, and it looks like the 'regulars' all know each other. I did notice something interesting and strange today, while walking. Two separate couples passed me going the opposite direction. In each case, they were older couples, both people of Chinese descent, and the man was walking about 5 steps ahead of the woman. It's odd to me, and I was beginning to think about it in terms of gender and race, when a third couple passed me with the same configuration, except that both of these people were of some sort of European descent. Now, I don't know the actual cultural histories of any of these people--could be they were all born and raised in the US, or that they were all recent immigrants, or any combination in between. I think it says something about me that I began to attribute something to racial/cultural reasons, when in fact it may have little to do with race--in fact, it may just have more to do with age or class than race.

Also, there is a somehow similar tradition I've recognized ever since I was a kid in the US--if two couples are walking together, the men will often walk in front and the women behind.

Still, it bothers me when I see couples like this. Not that they should all be walking hand-in-hand getting smoochy--just that I (so far) have never seen a couple where the man walked behind, so it smacks of patriarchy no matter how one looks at it. In once case, I actually felt sorry for the man, because he was obviously straining, with a cane, and possibly older than his wife, straining to walk faster than he might want to, because his wife was in obviously better shape than he was...why on earth not let her lead? Ah, the standards of male masculinity.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Sassywho went ahead and tagged me last week with the 8 random things meme. I don't usually do memes, but how can one resist our most prolific commentor? Thought about responding on my personal blog, as FA seems perhaps not the right forum, but then I realized what the heck, the personal is political and all that:

Eight Random Things About Me:
1. I used to be a lifeguard at a waterslide park, but I was only trained to save lives in shallow water. I still have my nametag that reads: Shallow Water Lifeguard.
2. I'm a dutch boy.
3. I love cherries, and hate anything strawberry flavored.
4. I'm a bastard, in the literal sense.
5. I used to be a libertarian, and fan of Ayn Rand.
6. I'm nonmonogamous.
7. When I was a little boy, my grandfather and I would sell corn door-to-door. In order to sell more corn, grandpa would dress me in torn clothes to make me look more poor. It worked.
8. I was born with an extra hole in my heart, which closed up on its own when I was seven. Some people say that I should believe in god because of this 'miracle'. I ask them: Why the hell did god put that extra hole in my heart in the first place, the jerk!

Ok, Dave, Geo and Orion: Tag.

bell hooks Mondays: Video Companion to Outlaw Culture

This interview/speech is a few years old now, but it's always a treat to listen to hooks. In this video, hooks gives us a sort of video companion piece to her book, Outlaw Culture. In the first section, she explains why studying popular culture is important for critical thinkers, feminists and (yes) even literary critics to do. The short answer to why is: Popular culture is where hegemony works its evil magic.

But of course, hooks says it better: