Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year and All That Crap


(Go by Mark Tatulli's Lio book, please.)

I get a wee bit more excited about New Year's Eve than Xmas, though I have mixed emotions about NYE as well. I like the ideas of renewal, of taking a look at one's life, of looking toward the horizon for new ideas and feelings. I hate the idea that one changes significant things in one's life by deciding to on a particular day, which is often doomed to failure. (There are always lots of people in the gym I go to in January, and it's almost always empty the rest of the year, for instance.)

I do have some goals for Feminist Allies. I want to try to revive posting every day, and try to include something on the weekends. I want to have more in-depth posts a few days a week at least, rather than mostly blurby-goodness. I would love more discussion. And I'm hoping that this year I might find some allies who are interested in turning this into something of a groupblog again. (I'm also not going to jump into it with anybody--I've realized that to blog with somebody you need to not only have a passion for the subject; you also need some other things in common.)

Mostly I just want to read and write more, and get into more discussions with people. I've expanded and changed what feminism means to me since this blog was started, and I've 'met' lots of interesting people with complex ideas, and I'd love to understand it all a lot better. And hopefully help make some change.

Have a safe New Year's Eve everybody!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Men Doing Feminist Work: Michael Flood

Michael Flood is one of the 'fathers' of the modern pro-feminist men's movement, and an activist for feminism among men. He's one of the founders of XYOnline, a resource for pro-feminist men. And do I mean a resource. The Men's Bibliography alone would warrant much thanks for Michael. It's organized by subject, and contains thousands of article listings of interest to feminist men. (Though I do have reservations about the Men's Strength campain that XYOnline supports, as I think it helps to support rigid traditional gender roles to some extent--i.e. that strength=masculine.) He's critical of the so-called Men's Rights movement (and various offshoots/related movements) in a serious way. The trap that some pro-feminist men fall into is to attack these movements as some sort of man-on-man grudge match. Instead, Flood uses (in part) core feminist principles to ask pointed questions.

I particularly like his analysis (available as a PDF here) of Men's Rights advocates as riding a wave of conservatism, all the while claiming the mantle of 'new fatherhood':

Anti-feminist men’s groups have ridden the wave of right-wing backlashes against “political correctness” and efforts at social justice.In Australia as in other Western countries, the 1980s and 1990s saw the slowing down, or development of obstacles to, progress in women’s equality and gender justice. Australia underwent an economic and social restructuring, involving the winding back of the welfare state and the increasing dominance of market economics and economic rationalism. There have been at least three forms of attack on gender justice, part of the “revolt against behaving fairly”: justifications of social inequalities through biological determinism, social Darwinism and Sociobiology; attacks on policies or principles which have been a central part of feminist agendas such as equal opportunity and affirmative action legislation; and claims of a repressive ideological regime of ‘political correctness’. Anti-feminist men’s groups are a fourth, and they have taken up such discourses themselves in asserting pro-sexist agendas.


I'll probably talk more about Michael in future editions of Men Doing Feminist work, because, well, he's done a lot of work. But in the meantime, some linky goodness:


Wikipedia Article.
Men's Bibliography.
XYOnline

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What Men Can Do Wednesday: Mix It Up

Over my Xmas holiday, I spent a good deal of time watching my nephew open and enjoy some presents, but even more time sitting around with friends and chosen family, mostly eating. I had a lot of good food (but not too much, strangely--I managed to avoid that way-way-way-too-full feeling this year), all of it pretty much prepared by other people. Sure, I did some slicing and salad making, but mostly what I did was dishes. This is something that comes directly from my upbringing--my mama taught me, if you're a guest and food is made for you, you help to clean up. (Exceptions can be made at homes where guests aren't allowed to do such things, by virtue of their guest-hood, but they are few and far-between.) I have extended this to a general rule that I clean up, since I don't enjoy cooking very much at all, and I even kind of enjoy cleaning up.

It's a simple thing, but with my non-chosen family and even friends from the past, too often things play out along gender roles, with men sitting and eating (and maybe carving a bird, or doing the outdoor grilling), but women doing most of the cooking and cleaning up. Even among people who are aware of the perils of rigid traditional gender roles, such roles reassert themselves mercilessly, and one has to keep an eye out for 'em.

One of the things that I love about my group of friends and chosen family is that there is a real effort to erase gender distinctions around who prepares food and who cleans and...well, we just all do a lot of work to make sure the meals turn out good and fun and delicious for everybody involved, and that nobody is left behind when it comes to the work of the meal, or the enjoyment of it (and, for me, they are intimately related). We also tended to choose meals which aren't that labor-intensive, so that we could hang out a bit more.

The other way men can mix it up is to literally mix up the little groups that split up during gatherings--several times I noticed that we had all broken down along gender lines completely, and a couple of times I decided to mix it up a bit. I'm happy to say that my friend group doesn't as often break down along those lines (though it does at times), and that we have enough queer-ish-ness to make some of those lines blurry from the start.

So: Little things, to be sure, but worthwhile nonetheless. Mix it up a bit, guys.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Men Doing Feminist Work: Feminist Dad

Marc at Feminist Dad doesn't have much time for blogging these days, being the father of a new little kid, but when he does find some time to post, he explores a lot of interesting topics, and asks a lot of questions. I'm particularly fond of his discussion on the blog about the ins and outs of him joining a local "mother's" group:
But what about fathering? What does it mean to father, if mothering carries such a gendered connotation? If it means maintaining the breadwinner role, then many fathers today will strongly argue that for years we've been working to redefine what fathering means in our society. If this is so, are we conflating notions of mothering and fathering work? Are we all neutral Parents, or should there still be a "Mom's Group" and then perhaps a separate one for Dads? After all, there are Dads in our neighborhood. They just don't go to the meetings, or at least not the ones that I know about.

He also often notices the ways in which rigid gender roles along the lines of parenting pop up along the way, like when they first began planning a flight with their newborn:
The bad news is that only mothers seem to be expected to fly with (or without) their babies: Mothers flying with, and now without, their child will be permitted to bring breast milk in quantities greater than three ounces as long as it is declared for inspection at the security checkpoint. How about "Mothers (and now introducing, new and improved, Fathers!) flying with their child..." for a change. The rest of the TSA page speaks in gender-free language, mostly by using "you" and "your" alot. But that doesn't change the headlining picture of a mother feeding a baby.
There are lots of daddy blogs out there (Marc has some on his blogroll), but this is a great one for being explicitly feminist.

Go check it out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Men Can Do Wednesday: Avoid Being the Hero

I have long suffered from a tendency toward white knight syndrome, or wanting (subconsciously and consciously) to be somebody's knight in shining armor. As a feminist guy, it's actually a pretty easy default to slip into--when one is taking close looks at the world regarding how women are treated in the workplace, how much violence toward women is perpetuated by men, and the ways in which many women (and men!) are trapped, to various degrees, by rigid gender roles, it's disturbingly easy to see oneself as the Bringer of Logic and Reason, as The Hero, even as The Guy Who Gets It. Boys are taught that this is part of their job, of course, so it's not a huge surprise that this is something I have had to guard against in myself for a good deal of my life.

We all need to be rescued, from time to time. That's what friends, lovers and family are for, in part. Our social networks are also, to some degree, our rescuers, our safety nets. There's no shame in wanting to help people, or needing some help, gender be damned. However, men are trained from boyhood that they not only need to tend to their own needs, but they must rescue those women who need saving. They are also often taught that women are going to need a lot of saving, because they aren't as strong as men, or as resilient, or as brave, etc. This all sounds really heavy-handed and sort of silly, but you can see how pervasive this mindset is when you find men who identify as feminists who still have trouble not seeing themselves as saviors of a sort. (There are other ways of suffering from 'white knight' syndrome, of course, not the least of which is white folks coming into the spaces of people of color and telling them how bad they have it, and how to fix things, just as a for-instance.)

One key to overcoming this sort of behavior is to better recognize women as just as strong, independent and powerful as men. Overly simple, perhaps, but I find myself having to be reminded of it, because the training is pretty deeply-rooted, again and again. But it's not only the training; it's also the self-fulfilling nature of certain gender norms. It is a fact of the world that women get raped more than men get raped. How easy is it to go from that fact to an idea that a particular woman, or women in general, need to be protected, and protected by men? Of course, women do need to be protected--but they need to be protected as people, just as we all need some protection sometimes. Men have to be protected, too--much violence done in the world is violence against men, by men. And, of course, there are men (and boys) who need to be protected from women--this isn't always the main focus of such discussions, but that it happens warrants that we take it into account as well. So we all need some protection, sometimes. Do any of us need a knight in shining armor? Not generally. We need safety nets, we need places to heal, we need safe places to work, to love, to live. Individual white knights aren't likely to help in that regard--but men (and women, and people of all genders) who take action against violence, who create safe spaces for everybody, who recognize that independence can best happen when there are others we depend upon, and when others depend upon us; people who can recognize these things, and take action around them, are the people who we need most.

(Note: I do, on the other hand, really, really need to be rescued by Cate Blanchett riding up on a white horse wearing a suit of armor. So if you see her wandering around, send her my way. Thank you.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Apologies...

...as is traditional with much blogging, I apologize for the lack of posts for the last four days or so. Probably the thing to do is to chalk it up to being sick or busy, but I think I've become a bit burned out. Posting about the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence had something to do with it, the holidays and winter weather have had an effect on my mood, and then, one night, reading that somebody considers me a borderline anti-Semite because of some of my thoughts on atheism and feminism just drove me over the line, I suppose. It's possible I'm not thick-skinned enough to write about religion and feminism at the same time! Also, wanting to take a few days off of posting and realizing that what I had really wanted at one point was a groupblog, reminded me of the failure to accomplish that (so far), which added to my burnout.

It's also possible that I'm just going through a rough patch emotionally, and at another time of the year, I wouldn't have been so affected by things. So I may be posting a bit less in the coming weeks. I tend to like blogs which not only deal with particular issues/ideas, but also give you a glimpse into the lives of the writers. I know this isn't for everybody, but it's what I like, so I thought I'd let y'all know the reason for the lack of posting.

Tuesday Gender in Comics: Some Positive Role Models

In a break from the traditional posts on comics, I bring you a coupla comics from Lio, which bring me some hope regarding pop-culture and traditional gender roles:


Ok, sure, there is a certain amount of boys-will-be-boys stuff going on in the second strip, but what I see is love between father and son. Lio's dad is raising him on his own, and Lio isn't exactly the easiest kid to raise (he often builds robot replicas of himself to get out of doing something, for instance, and takes his Giant Squid Pet to places where mahem ensues). Traditionally in comic strips, you see fathers (especially) disciplining their sons, if you see dads interacting with their sons at all...but here's dad, loving his son, and Lio loving him back. It's just nice to see.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Can God Be a Feminist?

(Warning: Rambling ahead that is almost guaranteed to offend somebody. These are definitely thoughts-in-process, intended to begin a discussion, not end one.)

A discussion over at Shakesville in the comments from a post Melissa wrote regarding some of the GOP's presidential candidates and their differences over religion has got me to thinking, once again, about the relationship between the sorts of feminism I ascribe to, and my own atheism. For me, feminism and atheism are inextricably intertwined, but I understand that I am most likely in the minority in that regard. When I look at the tenets of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, I see so much misogyny. Of course, different people (and different denominations) find ways around the misogyny that burdens their main religious scriptures, and many people of different faiths do their best to reform their religion along feminist ideals.

But you have to do so much work to do so, it seems to me. You have to do a really interesting interpretive dance, for instance, to explain how the idea that, if you think your daughter is whoring around, you ought to take her out so that everybody can stone her to death:
...then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father's house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you. Deuteronomy 22:21

I'm sure you can come up with Xtian interpretations of this that don't seem as misogynist, but why do the dance? At what point does one's faith itself come under scrutiny, rather than one's interpretation of that faith?

Are there any readers out there who agree with some of my feelings here? On the other hand, are there any readers out there who have come to feminism through religion? In what ways do you find your religion to be compatible with feminist principles? Incompatible? (He said, sounding like the short essay question on a feminism and religion class...)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Men Can Do: Resist Gender Essentialism (with Accessories!)

(Note: Title suggests that you can take the man out of academia, but it's harder to take academia out of the man.)
Melissa over at Shakesville, as often happens, says what I wanted to say, just...better, regarding blogging during the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence project:
Today is the final day of the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence, during which I suppose I have blogged exactly as often as always about violence against women, in America and abroad. Sometimes it feels like it's all I ever write about; sometimes it feels like I can't possibly write about it enough to do the issue justice; often, those feelings exist within me simultaneously. All I ever do is try to empty the sea with this teaspoon; all I can do is keep trying to empty the sea with this teaspoon.
And it got me to thinking about one of the themes of feminism for me: Small Daily Acts of Feminism. I tend to think that (1)The 'little' things are often only seemingly little and (2)Lots of (seemingly) little things add up. Take, for instance, my little pink phone.

When I bought my current cell phone, there was a choice of cover colors. I wanted something not-plain, and my only real choices seemed to be the US flag or a pearl-ish pink. Being not-so-patriotic these days (or at least not finding an flag phone to be something on my list of wants, it was a no-brainer. Also, from time to time, I like to express my disdain for the strictness of traditional gender roles. At times that feels silly--like having a pink phone says anything to anybody about the rigidity of what 'being a man' means. It feels trite and pointless sometimes.

And yet: I've had lots of good conversations with people about gender norms that began with an offhand comment about that phone. These days, I usually respond to people who say "Nice pink phone" with "Thanks. Do you like pink too?" or some such. And then, I try to follow it up with simple questions about why pink ought to signify 'feminine' at all, why I can't have some traditionally 'feminine' likes and dislikes without it being a judgment on my worth, etc. And this is a little thing. And yet, conversations being had that wouldn't be had without this little thing make me think that, even if it's just a little thing, it's not nothing. Even if it is teaspoons emptying the ocean, it's better than no teaspoon at all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tuesday Gender in Comics: "Men Are..." Edition

This week, a celebration of manhood in the comics.

Men Are Insensitive and Forgetful
Rhymes with Orange on men:

True, Nose-Horned-Red-Guy could be Nose-Horned-Red-Gal, but it's interesting that the context tells us that he's not, given the stereotype that men are forgetful about anniversaries.

Families Are Proving Grounds for Success!
For Better or For Worse gives us a glimpse into the traditionally masculine male psyche:

There is, of course, lots of truth to this, as far as it goes. Lots of men do feel that they must succeed as the primary income-earners in order to be real men. But of course, one thing we wouldn't ever see in this strip is a role reversal, or even a glimpse into her feelings of needing to prove herself to her family--and of course men and women both feel these things.

Men Avoid Complex Relationships
Non Sequitur shows us that, not only do men carry around a 'Men's Relationship Handbook' (not so much), we also love to avoid 'drama':

Except in reality, it's just as often men who create the drama (or is that just my life?).

Monday, December 10, 2007

16 Days: Day Sixteen

Sokari of Black Looks has a great carnival with posts from all over by people who blogged the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence. I did some posting here, but not as much as I would have liked. Next year I'll try to do better, because, unfortunately, there will be a next year that we have to rally against and inform about gender violence. Thanks to those of you who kindly noticed and commented on the 16 Days posts. Hopefully those of us in blogland did some small part.

Go check out the Carnival.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Carnival

The 49th Carnival of Feminists is up over at Days in a Wannabe Punk's Life. Go check it out!
(And thank you to whomever submitted my post to the carnival...)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Men Doing Feminist Work: Kevin Andre Elliot at Slant Truth

Since I've been talking a bit lately about intersectionality, I'd like to quickly point out that y'all should be reading Kevin over at Slant Truth if you're not already. Not only does he do good work as a feminist man, he finds ways to consistently talk about the intersections of gender, race, queerness and class. He also often takes an international focus on issues, which is somewhat rare (in my experience) in lots of the great feminist blogs that I read.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Building (Online) Feminist Communities

I should start off by noting that I am absolutely no expert in building online communities. I hate myspace. I pretend I hate it because of how much I hate giving Rupert Murdoch money, but really it's because it's way too much for me, in that old-man curmudgeonly sort of way. I never even got into LiveJournal, with the communities there. And there are likely innumerable other ways of forming communities online that I'm not even aware of. Even more to the point of this post, I've basically failed in my personal attempts to create a groupblog out of Feminist Allies, after several go-rounds.

That said, I'll be really interested to see what happens over at feministing, when they make some intricate changes to their format, allowing others to create blogs (or 'diaries') under the feministing label. It looks really interesting, and they're doing some fundraising to support the upgrading, so if you like to support those great women over there, I encourage you to go check it out and donate.

I'm trying to take a wait-and-see attitude. They note that the new site will have diaries 'like DailyKos', which I think is an unfortunate comparison, since one of the things I don't like about DailyKos is the way in which the format of that site has allowed the marginalization of feminists from the discussion, at times. Feministing's site may well solve some of the problems around marginalization, and given the neato-ness of the women who run it, I have high hopes. And yet, there's something else I don't like about the 'diarist' format, a la DailyKos and the like--it reminds me of a kind of informational pyramid scheme, where a small group of people reap rewards from lots of other people's writing. And then there's the whole notion that something has to be 'branded' (in this case, helping to create feministing as a brand of feminism) in order for it to have more value, which squicks me somewhat (says the guy whose blog doesn't even have a proper banner).

On the other hand, such criticism is really silly before I see what happens in this particular case. It may be that a wonderfully informative site becomes even more informative, and more of a community.

Wait and see. Wait and see.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

16 Days, Day 11: What Men Can Do: Recognize What Counts As Violence

I try to do a regular Wednesday thing about "What Men Can Do" as feminists and feminist allies. This week, we'll continue focus on something that I think men can do to engage in feminist practices around gendered violence, in the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

What Counts As Violence
Unfortunately, there are lots of obvious forms that gendered violence takes, and we often think of these obvious examples when we think of activism against gendered violence. But violence isn't a concept with clearly delineated borders, and it's important for us to recognize this, too. What counts as violence can vary from context to context, from person to person (though, obviously, some sorts of violence are universally recognized as such). This doesn't justify violence in any context--but recognizing the subtleties involved can help us understand the pervasiveness of gendered violence.

First of all, we need to keep in mind that violence can take the form of threats of violence. I count somebody raising their hand as if to strike me, in order to strike me, as violence itself. Stalking is a threat of violence, and inasmuch as it is, is violent itself. Such threats, however, are often much more subtle, taking form with a word or two. And words, even when they aren't veiled threats, are a kind of violence sometimes as well--from 'stupid' to 'slut'.

And, if we take some time to look, there are other sorts of violence that are more pervasive, and perhaps more hidden. Certain types of religious indoctrination are both violent and gendered, for instance. Blocking access to reproductive care can be a violent act, inasmuch as reproductive care is health care.

Also, I think we ought to take seriously that the 16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence isn't called 16 Days of Action Opposed to Violence Against Women, and take violence against men seriously as well, especially when it is done in a gendered context--for instance, using prison rape as a supposed crime deterrent, or as the butt of a joke--especially if it's men committing rape against men--is gendered inasmuch as we separate prison populations along gender lines.

The long and short of it is that, though it's hard enough to look at the more obvious forms of gendered violence, we also need to keep an eye out for acts that we might not, at first, recognize as such.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Have a New Goal

To be the next President of Feminism.

From The Onion:Man Finally Put In Charge Of Struggling Feminist Movement
"All the feminist movement needed to do was bring on someone who had the balls to do something about this glass ceiling business," said McGowan, who quickly closed the 23.5 percent gender wage gap by "making a few calls to the big boys upstairs." "In the world of gender identity and empowered female sexuality, it's all about who you know."
The best part is the picture. Or the supposed Gloria Steinem quote. Go check it out.

16 Days, Day 10: Gender in Comics, Ain't Violence Funny, Volume 2

Today in Gender in Comics we continue to honor the spirit of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, by bringing you a couple of sadly violent comic strips.

Bullies Are Funny!
First up, Monty shows us just how funny the threat of violence between men can be, complete with indifferent woman friend and 'wimpy' guy references:
This is facet of boys-will-be-boys explanations/excuses regarding men's violence against men. We are conditioned to laugh at this, because, y'know, nobody got hurt and we get to see how wimpy Monty is, which is part of the running joke of the strip. But that helps to normalize such violence, just as boys-will-be-boys explanations/excuses helps to normalize violence.

More Bullying
Next up, Fusco Brothers gives us another dose of creepy guys who threaten violence in what is, in one way, the most subtle of ways--by implying that no doesn't mean no:
Creepiest part of this strip is that you can't see anything below chest level. And this has a similar problem as the Monty strip, above: We're supposed to laugh at silly men who can't control themselves, who don't understand the signals women give off (even when those signals aren't signals at all, but rather, statements to get the hell away). Ha! Ha! Maybe next he'll follow her home! Or call her at work constantly! Ack.

Monday, December 03, 2007

bell hooks Monday: Resources

Moving away from the regular quote-comment format on bell hooks this week (mostly because my weekend was busier than I had thought it would be!), I'd like to point out two interesting resources regarding bell hooks. Well, one is a resource, and the other is a sort of meta-resource.

First of all, those of us on the left coast can sigh a deep sigh because it looks like hooks isn't coming to speak here anytime soon, but we can be happy because we have a place to check in to see when she will be coming. Check out South End Press' schedule for hooks. (And while you're there, browse their books, because they're got mountains of good stuff.

And then, for all things hooksian (I just made that up, I think), go check out this page of bell hooks resources, provided by the Critical Thinkers Resources pages. In addition to links to articles by hooks, and an expansive bibliography of her work, there are links to lots of sites where you can find lots of people discussing her work, more formally or less formally.

Side note: The picture comes from a funny and interesting site: theorycards.org.uk, which created these online trading cards for theorists of various flavors back in 1999.