"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

Monday, December 29, 2008

Saturday Morning PMSing

The webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is sometimes borderline misogynist, but today it hit the nail on the head:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Men's Story Project: Drain the Main Vein

I love this piece from the Men's Story Project, because it highlights the ridiculousness of one part of traditional masculinity while making one laugh:

Friday, November 21, 2008


Have y'all heard of the RHRealitycheck.org? It's a great organization that focuses on reproductive health ("RH", get it?) issues, in part from the standpoint of countering misinformation spread about reproductive health by those who would restrict reproductive health to married baby-making hetero people. On of my favorite parts of the site is the "Reality Video Series," which tells the stories of the parts of people's lives that revolve around reproductive health issues. In the clip below, I was struck by how much Monica desired her partner to take a larger part in the decision making when she became pregnant--I hadn't thought about the fact that a man "being supportive" in this situation might take various forms, not all of which mean that man ought to keep his feelings and opinions to himself.

I think this is the strength of these sorts of videos--personal stories reveal facets of complex situations I wouldn't have thought of otherwise.

Our Reality: My Name is Monica and I Had an Abortion, Part 1 from RH Reality Check on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Men's Story Project Online

Well, considering the only person besides me who is still reading this blog already saw the show, it may be silly to post this, but I'm proud of it, dammit, and hopefully one or two people go ahead and go see more of the Men's Story Project online. I'm proud of my piece, but I'm more proud that I got to work with the other men of the show, and the woman who got the whole dang thing put together in the first place. I highly encourage y'all to go check it all out. More information on the project itself can be found on the internets.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


And if you're in CA, please vote No on Prop 8:

Oh, and of course no on Prop 4:
What of the "parental involvement" Proposition 4 wants to mandate? In California, the majority of young people (79%) already talk to their parents about sexual issues. According to studies, anywhere between 61-70% of teens nationally involve their parents in their decision about whether or not to have an abortion. That number skyrockets to 90% in minors 15 years old and younger. When a young woman, 16 years old or older, chooses not to, there are usually good reasons. According to the ACLU:

One study showed that 22% of teens who did not tell a parent about their abortion decision feared that, if they told their parents, they would be kicked out of the house. More than 8% feared that they would be physically abused because their parents had beaten them before. Of those who did not tell a parent, 12% did not live with either parent and 14% had parents who abused drugs or alcohol.

It's not only about communication with parents though. Abortion providers would not be doing their jobs if they did not advocate for the health and well being of their patients -- and that usually means encouraging parental involvement when it's safe and possible. "I think that people don't know that abortion providers usually encourage parental involvement -- it's just better all around if it's possible," says Peg Johnston. "Younger teens almost always involve family and older teens mostly fear disapproval of their parents." In fact, Peg created the Mom, Dad, I'm Pregnant project to "help teens tell their parents, and almost more importantly, to help parents respond in helpful, rather than hurtful ways."

Monday, November 03, 2008

Bigger, Strong, Faster

Just finished a darn good documentary: Bigger, Stronger, Faster--directed by Christopher Bell. Not only is it a well made film, it also has a surprising number of twists and turns--in the end explaining that fear of steroids has been drummed up, but centering on the ways in which using steroids really is The American Way, and questioning if that's really how we want things to continue.

Along the road to making these points, Bell also does a mini-expose on the ways in which men's body image has shifted over the past three or four decades, and the ways in which men now think they need to be bigger, stronger and faster in ways they perhaps weren't as concerned about in the past. In this way, Bell indirectly is questioning one traditional mode of male masculinity, and as such I thought it might be interesting to anybody who might still be stopping by here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Second Men's Story Project Performance

Update: I'm putting this back on top. Hope to see lots of people there. I also hope I have a voice by Wednesday, because right now, not so much. Thank you, strep throat.

Free performance, and donations at the door will benefit SF Women Against Rape, which works with people all genders in prevention and response to gender-based violence.

Monday, October 06, 2008

House of Cards

This has been floating around for a bit, I think, but darn if it isn't very, very funny.

Hat tip to fem-men-ist.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Update: They made it! Yay!
Bitch magazine is in some financial trouble. If you have ever thought of subscribing and/or donating, this may be your last chance.

This is a pretty sad thing to learn the day after I got excited because there was the magazine in my mailbox...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Men's Story Project

Anybody local to the SF Bay area might like to come out to see this show I'm involved in. Men exploring traditional and non-traditional masculinities. I'd love to see y'all there.

Also, listen Josie (the one responsible for all of this mayhem, our producer and the creator of the Men's Story Project) and Robert (a contributor) talk about the project on KPFA (the MSP section is about 72 minutes in, but the whole show is pretty interesting!) here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If I Didn't Know Better...

...I'd think that maybe Jim Meddick, the guy who creates the strip Monty, has been reading this blog, and is now making fun of himself:

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Wee Bit about Kyle Payne

Renegade Evolution has a great roundup about Kyle Payne, if you have been under a rock and haven't heard about this jerk. I think everything that can be said has been said, but I will say this: It's good to remember that there are sometimes good reasons why feminist women and trans feminists are suspicious of feminist men. It sucks that there is a tendency for people to lump feminist men together, as we are of course as different from each other as feminist women are different from each other, but one can understand this tendency when somebody like Payne pops up.

Of course, lots and lots of feminists don't lump us together like that, and also recognize that, while the potential wolf-in-sheep's-clothing problem is always going to be there, men contribute a lot to feminism.

bell audio

I used to have a weekly series on bell hooks that has (as much else here) fallen by the wayside. But if anybody who loves hooks is still around these parts, you can listen to some of her speeches and Q&A's online. Thanks to Lisa at Black Women, Blow the Trumpet! for the link.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Body Positive

My friend Jen pointed me to a great organization, The Body Positive. They do work with people through the Health At Every Size model of health, and they place a good deal of their focus on restructuring how we imagine our own bodies. Jen, who has worked as a fitness trainer for many years, had this to say:

Two years ago I had the great fortune of meeting Connie Sobczak. Connie is the co-founder of The Body Positive, a non-profit organization created with the purpose of helping people overcome negative body image and distorted relationships to food. The Body Positive connects people to their internal wisdom, freeing them to live joyfully in their bodies. When Connie and her good friend, Elizabeth Scott, LCSW, founded The Body Positive in 1996, concerned stories about body image and eating disorders we're still topping the news. Lately, most of the stories covering body image focus on female celebrities' weight loss/weight gain extremes, trivializing the significance of the issues.

I can tell you that for the years I worked as a Fitness Trainer I don't think I worked with a single client who wasn't afflicted with some degree of body hatred. It broke my heart to see otherwise healthy, successful and dynamic people who existed in a constant state of dissatisfaction with their bodies or questioned their very worth as human beings because they were unhappy with the way their bodies looked.

Recently I was telling a good friend of mine about The Body Positive and how important and urgent their work is. Her look told me she wasn't convinced. My reply was this: "Consider over the course of your life all the time you've spent agonizing about your body, trying to lose weight or control you're appearance in some way. Now multiply that number by virtually every woman (and now more men) in the U.S. Now imagine all of those collective hours being redirected towards something positive for our world."

The Body Positive is trying to raise some money. If you have some, you might think about giving some of it to them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Men's Project

For those of you in the SF Bay Area, spread the word. Deadline extended to May 30th.

Call for submissions:
Men's Story Project

Men of all ages and backgrounds are invited to participate in the Men's Story Project! This project will bring together a diverse group of men's real stories to create a local performance about men's life experiences. We're looking for stories from men of a variety of race/ethnicities, sexual orientations, social/cultural backgrounds, life histories, etc.

The pieces can be poems, monologues, prose, raps, just a few powerful sentences, a dance piece, music, etc. - on subjects such as lessons you were taught about what it means to be a man, social/cultural expectations, learning on your own what it is to be a man, experiences of violence, experiences of promoting peace/healing, relationship with your body, sexuality, gender, power, transformation, taboos, etc. Pieces should last a max of 5 minutes. It may also be possible to exhibit visual art in the space.

Contributions of all kinds are welcome -- funny, serious, vulnerable, risk-taking, triumphant, etc - the main theme is REAL. We will present them to an audience in a Bay Area venue TBD in June or July, with the lofty goal of helping move society forward in conceptions of what it can mean to be a man.

If you want to create a piece but would prefer to have someone else read it, that's fine - authorship can be anonymous. If you have a story in mind but want some coaching to get it on paper, we have folks who can help you.

This is a progressive event and will be a safe space.

*Submission deadline: May 22 May 30th*

Participants will be paid $50.

This is an independent project getting off the ground, and is not affiliated with any organization.

Please send submissions + a short bio and any q's to Josie Lehrer at jlehrer1@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sticks and Stones

From The Fusco Brothers, which provides a seemingly endless supply of blogfodder: Because domestic violence is hi-larious.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Don't Vote For McCain, Because He's Pussywhipped

Ted Rall has some interesting stuff, but this cartoon about McCain bothers me:
Rall's point that McCain is supported by special interests--in this case, special interests related to his wife's business--isn't unimportant. But the idea that we shouldn't vote for McCain because hes somehow emasculated by his wife's power and money is distracting, rather than interesting or funny.

There are so many other reasons to not vote for McCain, other than the idea that his wife made him sign a prenup, or that she makes him keep the toilet seat down (that BITCH!).

Note: This is all leaving aside the lack of compassion toward anybody who has ever been a prisoner of war that Rall exhibits with the "I miss the Hanoi Hilton" comment.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Mildred Loving

Mildred Loving has died. From her wikipedia page:
Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights. I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

To think that it was in the late 60's that her case came to the Supreme Court makes me shudder.

Note: When I first went to the wikipedia page, I found this:
Richard [her husband] died of AIDS from having sexual intercourse with a nigger in 1975.
I'd never edited a wikipedia page until today, when I deleted that sentence. It makes me wonder how many lessons have really been learned, of course.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Killing Hookers is Funny!

From A Softer World:

First of all, ASW loses points right away for trying way too hard to be 'edgy' or something, here. So the humor is supposed to be that the kid is a violent racist? Aside from that being not-so-funny, it's not worrisome that a kid might enjoy killing hookers in the video game, because they're not, y'know, human beings--instead, they're women, and sluts on top of it. On the other hand, "blacks" (ack) are human, so it's ...funny?

Friday, May 02, 2008

One More Thing Feminism Can Do: Critique Traditional (White) Masculinity

I've been thinking some more about why I think the tragedy that is Sean Bell's death is a feminist issue. Holly pointed out at Feministe that part of the reason why it's a feminist issue is because it's difficult to take in the situation without also taking in the women that Bell's death has left behind, and the anguish his fiance, Nicole Paultre-Bell, must live with. Holly also notes:
The problem here, as Delores Jones-Brown points out, is that there is a systemic pattern of police officers shooting unarmed suspects. The problem is that this disproportionately affects communities of color. The black men who are most often slaughtered by such violence, and all the women and children in their lives too, their loved ones, friends and relatives. A system that is all too eager to exonerate “the thin blue line” and continue business as usual. All of these are feminist issues. Racism must be a feminist issue, for any kind of feminism that counts. Police brutality must be; the biases of the criminal justice system must be.

There is another aspect of this, which was revealed to me in a comment by donna darko, who said:
Sean Bell and Jena 6 are not feminist issues although feminists are interested in them and post about them. For example, what is the feminist solution to the Sean Bell and Jena 6 case? There are feminist solutions to incidents of police brutality involving women. This is feminism’s worst nightmare: IT’S NOW ABOUT TEH MENZ!

I think I see Donna's point. To take it to an extreme, we ought to be concerned about the ways in which feminism and feminists may lose focus to the point of making everything a feminist issue. But I also think that it can be worth our time to look at most problems through a feminist lens. In the case of the Sean Bell tragedy, feminism can offer up an analysis of the force of traditional masculinity, for example.

First off, I think that what happened to Sean Bell is at least partly the result of the enforcement of traditional masculinity, a masculinity based on fear-of-other-men, on might-makes-right. Mixed up in all of this is also the way in which traditional conceptions of masculinity revolve around traditional conceptions of white masculinity, where men of color aren't 'real' men, but rather, animalistic, and dangerous. And traditional white masculinity is so entrenched in various institutions that it affects all of the people in those institutions--even to the point of men of color reinforcing such masculinity themselves, as (I think) is the case with the two men of color who shot Sean Bell.

And where do we find critiques of this type of masculinity? Well, one place we find it is within the frameworks of feminism. This isn't the only place we might find it, but it's where I see a consistent critique of it. Which is not to say that anti-racist analysis, for instance, isn't just as viable a lens through which to see this tragedy--but so is the feminist lens, inasmuch as traditional masculinity has had a hand in such tragedies, and inasmuch as feminism offers us ways of critiquing and changing masculinity.

So, in part to speak to Donna's point, I want to say that while there may not be a feminist solution to what happened to Sean Bell, there is a feminist analysis that can be done, that needs to be done, on how traditional conceptions of masculinity helped to cause Sean Bell's death (not to exonerate any of his killers from their individual responsibility, to be clear). Feminism isn't the only tool to use in order to do this, but it's a good one.

Also: Sudy makes a similar point regarding a feminist analysis of the Iraq war:
The question is not what makes the issue feminist, but has a feminist perspective been applied to the issue? Many perceive the Iraq war not to be a feminist issue. I don't give two shits if it's a "feminist issue," I care if feminists have applied their analytical skills, intelligence, resources, and insight to the Iraq war.

Also: If you don't think that some of the problems of police abuse of power don't revolve around conceptions of traditional masculinity, you might watch this, courtesy of Lauren:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pick a Gender

Today, two comics which embrace gendered stereotypes without actually keying in on gender. That is, they both struck me as sexist-ish, but then I recognized that gender, while invoked implicitly, was explicitly left out of the equation. Still embracing gendered stereotypes? Hmmm...

First, Mr. Boffo has a backseat driver:

I had to take a closer look at the person in the backseat to realize that there seems to be some (purposeful?) gender ambiguity there. It's interesting to note that women in Mr. Boffo tend to be variations on a theme of tall, pretty, skinny white women with ponytails, so it may even be more likely that the person in the backseat is meant to be a guy (I doubt Mr. Boffo understands that there are myriad genders, so I'm going binary in my discussion of it). My first reaction is now nixed by a mixed reaction. More importantly, this ain't one of the funniest strips I've seen.

Next up, one of my new-ish favorite strips, Savage Chickens, takes on the whole men-want-sex-women-want-love trope:
Thing is, these both seem to be hens, not roosters. So am I projecting the stereotypes? Maybe. Or perhaps, to give Savage Chickens more credit, Doug Savage, who writes and draws the strip, is defying the stereotype, and just commenting on how sometimes people (chickens) want different things than they profess to want. Or maybe he just doesn't know how to draw a rooster? Or maybe they're both roosters, and he can't draw hens? Or maybe he's a gender outlaw, and purposefully doesn't draw gender in at all...?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Being An Ally -- How Hard Is It, Really?

Sudy has a great post that includes some words about how it really isn't that difficult to be a good ally (and why people should stop asking her how to be a good ally):
Being an ally is not as dramatic as people paint it lately. I mean, how difficult is it to decenter yourself and your own life and absorb someone else's for a few minutes of your day? Do you realize it's not just about you? It's not just about YOUR definitions of what is an ally. DO you know acknowledge the larger systematic boot of violence against womyn of color and the knife of economic violence that shoves womyn of color into corners of poverty, rape, and silence? (I mean, really acknowledge it.) Being an ally is not ripping the mic from someone else and thrusting it in the face of WOC. Because, in the end, fast forward 60 years from now, the only person who can answer if you led a life of transformation and solidarity is you. Why ask me?

I think she's right, but I think there are some good reasons why potential allies look to those we are trying to be allied with for some answers. If I sit around and talk about how to be a good feminist ally (for instance) with a bunch of feminist men, we're going to be missing out on some of the answers, just by virtue of blind spots of privilege that we may not be able to even know are there. This isn't to say that we can't come up with good, interesting, varied answers to our questions, or that we shouldn't try to, that we shouldn't do the work required to figure this stuff out. I don't want to make it Sudy's job to teach me how to be a better ally. And yet, I want her views on it, so what to do?

Well, that's where the above quote comes in. Decenter from my own life and soak up her views for a while. Read her, and not just what she has to say about allies. Shut up and listen more often. That's some of the advice I'm going to keep giving myself, even though she, and others, have given me the inspiration to do so.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Embracing the Enormity

One reason that I've stopped posting regularly was that the enormity of the various tasks at hand are sometimes overwhelming. Fighting sexism? Ongoing, huge battle. Fighting classicism? Ditto. Fighting racism? Yet another seemingly impossible task. All the while, finding a space to do this as a white, middle-class man? Sigh.

Add to that a growing understanding that communities of protest, communities that seek justice, often aren't very good allies, well, that makes one take a few steps back, reassess and rest.

But of course, 'resting' can be privilege-driven, can't it? I can stop posting, sure, but here I am, living in the US as a white, middle-class man...putting down my pen (so to speak) just means I get a break, to a large degree (though I would claim that men don't get a break from the hardships that patriarchy places on them, either). When BFP stops posting, and takes down her site, because she's understandably fed up, she still has to face a racist, sexist world.

So I'm starting to feel like my hiatus here, while fueled by understandable concerns for my own mental and physical health, is also a way of letting my white/male/able-bodied privilege win out. And, while I think that shutting up can be a lot of what an ally ought to be, I also think that there are ways that I can raise my voice without shouting down those-who-I-would-be-an-ally-of.

So, to start off, howabout a little checklist for myself, to combat the desire to take another break?

1. But it's hard to hear that one isn't being a good ally.
Yep. Sure is. Getting called out feels like shit, especially since people are much more likely to blame than praise in the world o' blogs. You work really hard on trying to bring social justice, and you get called out for what, to you, might seem like small things. But you know what? You don't get to judge what counts as a 'small thing'. These are communities we're talking about, and we're all in it together, so if enough people call you out and say it's important, then it is.

2. There's just too much work to do.
Also true. But keep in mind that you're not doing it alone, and you're not even facing the most daunting challenges--others are. You post about comics and men & feminism, for goodness' sake, not systematic rape in the congo. Maybe you should be posting about other, more important things, but to claim that posting about comics and gender is too daunting, as one of your tasks, is to embrace your privilege. Fight that.

3. But I'm Not Welcome.
Not in every community, not all of the time. That's why this space exists, in part. And there are those who value your voice, and who value what you say. Seek them out. Nurture them. And continue to understand that it's ok that you're not welcome some places. Keep the righteous indignation at a minimum, because it is so often a reflection of your privilege.

There's more, of course, but this is a start.

What to Say

One feels the need to respond to the controversy, but really, there isn't so much left to say that hasn't already been said, and said better than I could say. I guess I'll just say this:

Feminism and anti-racism ought to be inextricably intertwined. Lots of times, they aren't seen that way. That's something we ought to work to change.

Other than that:

First, just go see what BFP has to say abut the whole thing.

Then, take these words from Lauren to heart:
What I don’t get is how so many of us that were irritated by what often seemed like an intentional oversight are suddenly scandalized to be called out on our own biases, blindnesses, and lenses of privilege. Put your big girl panties on and take notice.

Update: Ok, go read what Twisty has to say as well:
You feel that, white feminists? That’s your obstreperal lobe telling you that feminism and good intentions do not a get-out-of-racism-free card make.

Restrained Amusement

In yet another example of one of my favorite comics annoying the crap out of me: XKCD Thinks Restraining Orders Are Funny...

Thing is, I get that this is funny, conceptually. At the risk of going Monty-Python-esque, the humor is found within pushing the boundaries (no pun intended) of the concept of a restraining order--normally, it's just meant to keep people away, so a restraining order as described in the comic is antithetical to what restraining orders are for. The cognitive dissonance provided by holding the original concept and the revised concept in one's head helps create the humor. And yet, for me, it can't help but conjure up the women (and men, and people of all genders) who have to get restraining orders, for various reasons, which helps the funny slip away quickly and quietly.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Family or Prison?

Mr. Boffo:

I could be playing basketball right now. Y'know, instead of looking out the window ignoring my screaming wife while she screws up my dinner and doesn't keep my kids in line very well.

Also: Make some insights about gender roles, but make sure you bring it all back to body issues, because, you know, that's what women do:
For Better of For Worse:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

It Would Be Dark (Like This Blog Has Been for a While)

This is how I feel about feminism right now:
Not that feminism is dark, of course, just that it's very complex and can produce endless debate--and for right now, most of what I can come up with isn't much more than something like "It would be dark."

But I'm getting there. Hopefully back soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On Burnout, and Bigger Pictures

Warning: Personal Rantiness Ahead

I've been on a road trip for a week with limited internet access. For a few weeks before that, I found myself not wanting to blog about feminism. And now that I'm back, I'm trying to ease back into it, but I'm finding myself still feeling burned out on it all.

Immediately I feel the pull of privilege--when I think about taking an extended break, my first thoughts are about how I 'get' to do that more easily than some others do, in part because I'm a guy, in part because I'm middle-class, in part because I'm not a person of color. But then I realize that I haven't stopped thinking about feminism, about class, about race (and their intersections). I have stopped feeling like I'm contributing to something that helps the world. Instead of being inspired by others, instead of inspiring myself, instead of feeling part of a larger movement, all I seem to be able to focus on lately are the hurdles in front of us, the infighting that is so prevalent so as to seem inevitable, and the mountainous pile of work to do to just stay in one place as regards equality, not to mention trying to move ahead.

I know that a lot of these feelings come to anybody committed to social justice. This is what burnout does--it narrows your focus to the negatives, for a time. But I also know that, for a few years now that I've been reading and writing feminism online, I'm not feeling any progress. That includes progress (or lack thereof) on a macro level, but also includes the lack of progress in my own ideas about feminism, class and race. Mostly I feel like there's a lot of pointing to sexism, and not enough analysis of the whys of sexism's pervasiveness. As much as I think it's important to keep pointing out sexism--silence is permission to whatever degree--I've definitely found myself stuck in pointing-mode, without much analysis to make my pointing useful, or interesting. Also, I find myself parroting the 'talking points' of feminism, without incorporating more of feminism(s) into my larger world-view.

So, if anybody is still reading, I'm going to ease back into writing, probably with some posts on gender in the comics, but with an eye toward also analyzing why I think pop-culture stuff is central to understanding social inequalities. But I'm not ready quite yet. Hopefully I come up with enough interesting stuff that people will come back and read. If not, I'll still feel better that I'm not just reiterating what others are saying, but contributing something to (at least) my own world view.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


I've been away. Not literally. Wait--can you be away literally from a blog? There are various reasons, not completely unlike Roy's reasons at No Cookie for Me and legions of other bloggers everywhere, I suppose. Issues of relevancy, of utility, and of being just plain burnt out. And then, of course, as a male feminist blogger, there are added issues of privilege--the idea that men can more easily take a break from understanding sexism does tend to pop into my head, though I know it's more complex than that.

And now I am going to be out of town for a week or so, back The second full week of February. So I'm going to let my road trip help me percolate up some of the ideas I have for change here at Feminist Allies into ideas worth writing about. Something clearly has to change so that I can feel not only like I'm creating some interesting ideas in people's heads, but also that I'm not setting myself up for another burnout.

My original conception of this blog was for 4 or 5 men (and women) to post middle-length posts about men, masculinity, and feminism. When the groupblog didn't work out, I resolved to do short little posts on a 5-a-day basis, with perhaps a long-ish post thrown in once or twice a week. This appears to be too much for me--I just haven't felt like I've had enough to say that often. So I'm working on some other ideas, which I'll hopefully start up when I get back from my trip.

Count me as down, but not out.

See you in a week or so!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Roe v. Wade

On this, the 35th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, I'm digging Courtney Martin's take on things, which includes complex analysis and inclusion of the opinions of many:
As we celebrate the 35th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade this week, I hope we can remember a bit of the spirit at the Women's March for Choice in Washington, D.C. -- a gathering of over a million people according to some estimates -- back in 2004. Surrounded by men, women and children of all ages, I felt empowered to stand up for every woman's legal right to reproductive choice (not to mention health), but also free to disclose my complicated feelings over the issue. There was space for transformational dialogue as we lay in the grass, listening to the diverse speakers. There was time to look women of all ages in the eyes and say, "This is where I'm coming from. How about you?"

Gender in Comics: How Soft is Your World?

I was probably one of the last people to discover A Softer World, an interesting 'comic' that utilizes pictures of the real world, but sticks to a three-panel daily comic form. Usually the third panel has some sort of turn-around in thought. Mostly they are charming, funny, and full of bleak humor--and the bleakness is certainly part of the humor. One often finds oneself thinking, "Ouch!" while chuckling all the same. For a good example, check out this one. But sometimes, not so much. After reading through a bunch of their archives, I've found way too many references to violence against women than one would have expected from such a witty source.

As is par for the course with a lot of the comics I detail here, I actually really like this comic, generally. So, once again, this is tough love.

There Is Always More 'Humor' About Stalking, It Seems
Am I an old feminist curmudgeon? Perhaps. But this sort of thing still doesn't touch my funny bone at all:

I Said Peanuts
Poisoning Somebody? Not funny. Thinking About Poisoning Somebody? Funny...?

See What I Did There?
Another reference to domestic violence that's not really happening, so it can be funny, right?

The Cat's Out of the Bag, Hopefully
And finally, just out and out 'humorous' misogyny!
Because fantasizing about killing all of your ex-girlfriends and then playing video games is hilarious.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gender in Comics: The Women As Objects Edition

I'm going to pick on F-Minus a bit this week, but that's not because I think it's more of a problem regarding gender stereotypes than any other comics. In fact, it's often better around gender and race. I love F-Minus. So think of this as tough love.

What Better Present Than a "Secretary"?
The root of this joke is pretty funny, actually--the idea that somebody would employ somebody around their home for writing daily emails or whatever (though how a secretary would do that with a steno pad isn't clear--I think the steno is there in lieu of a nametag that says "secretary", as an identifier). Thing is, as it stands, it's just creepy, what with the short-ish skirt and the fact that, by default, the secretary is a woman.

Even Creepier: A Womb as a View
Or is my title for this comic even creepier? Probably.
I think what bothers me most about this is that this represents at least a couple of things going on here that are only very slightly magnified for so-called comic effect--things that people do and experience daily. The sign isn't far from how some men talk and think about women. And the experience of having to walk by such a sign, as a woman, isn't far from the general harassment many women go through daily.

Dating Women as a Class of Things
There's an interesting storyline going on in Monty over the past few weeks, which I'll probably talk more about, because it's relatively nuanced for a comic. But some of the first strips are great examples of what men sometimes do: They attempt to date a gender, rather than a person:
Single? Check. Woman? Check. And that's all it takes, because they're interchangeable objects!

Monday, January 14, 2008

bell hooks Monday: God and Love and All That Good Stuff

Since I haven't responded yet in detail regarding a bunch of comments from my post Can God Be a Feminist?, I thought I would at least offer up a different point of view (than my own) from one of my favorite feminists on god and worship. For bell hooks, what is central to the necessity of a spiritual life is the need to keep our focus on love. It's interesting to note that she moved from being a Christian, to becoming interested in Buddhism and Islamic mysticism, to just keeping in mind that love is where we often find truth.

From Wounds of Passion:
"When I come to college, it does not take me long to realize that the really hip people do not believe in god, that no one talks about religion expect the boring born against. My relationship to god is the most private union. I learn not to speak of it. Although in classes it is always I who can name a scriptural reference. I konw the bible and am not ashamed of this knowing. In fact, it surprises me that everyone in my classes is so ignorant, mostly though they brag about being atheist. That's what is really cool--to not believe in the existence of god. I believe."(pp 152)

I had a moderately different experience in college. I did meet some self-professed atheists in college, but mostly I meet people who claim agnosticism, or a generalized 'spirituality' not unlike what hooks tells us she ends up with. Of course, the atheists I did run across there (some of whom became friends!) were relatively vocal in their atheism not unlike the people hooks seems to be talking about. Hooks, for her part, moves along from her Christianity to look around for other paths:

"Mack finds my devotion to religion strange. I have moved away from the conventional church but I have kept in me the love of the inner life, the need to be one with the divine. I search for the meaning of religious life everywhere. I study Buddhism and Islamic mysticism. In town there is a Sufi meeting. I go there to dance in the circle of love. And that I am learning about the mystical dimensions of religious faith takes me back to the heart, to loving. To be with god is to love. It is required and understood that a man be found faithful. The ethics of being that govern my life are grounded in spiritual life.(pp152-153)"

Who can argue with love, or paying attention to one's inner life? I find it interesting that hooks doesn't seem to explicitly talk about the misogynist aspects of various religions--though I haven't read everything she has written. She does, however, express various ways in which religion has left her wanting--the white Buddhists who say race doesn't matter because we all choose our race, those who try to force their beliefs on others, the difficulties of letting go of the things in this world in order to be more spiritual. In the end, she likes the seeking--seeking seems to be her religion:
"I contemplate my work. I pray for divine guidance. It comes between me and Mack that I am turning from poetry to writing critical essays, on subjects that are more political. He feels I am abandoning the aesthetics of the artists life for the mundane realm of social theory. I am trying to invent a world that can sustain me as a writer, as a woman dedicated to the life of the mind. I want to remain a seeker on the path."(pp160)

I sometimes feel this way about feminism itself, actually. The infighting just kills me sometimes. And, the need for the infighting--there are real problems that need to be addressed--kills me too. When I start feeling like abandoning feminism for, say, humanism or some such, one thing that helps me is to understand the ways in which my relationship to feminism has developed, and the ways in which feminism itself has changed and grown, is to look at it in a similar way to the way that hooks is looking at religion. Seeking a better and better feminism seems to be the way to go--still seeking, even while unhappy with the current path. (Of course, I feel this way about humanism, and anti-racism, and lots of other ways of framing the world.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shorter Gloria Steinem:

Systems of oppression involving gender and race can only be uprooted together, but gender is way more important than race.

Early on in her latest op-ed piece, she says:
Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House.

And then a bit later:
I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together.
Um, yeah, you know, you sort of are advocating a competition, what with claims of what is the most restricting force in American life. And then you offer 'evidence' for this view by noting that black men got the vote before any woman did, ignoring (just off the top of my head) lots of other facts, like the fact that white women weren't literally slaves as black men and women were. Just as a for-instance. Sheesh.

I'm disappointed in the extreme with Steinem's writing here, which feels for all the world to me like Steinem hasn't heard a word that has been said in the past three or so decades from those who have been rightly critical of feminism for being stupid about race.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What Men Can Do Wednesday: Get Some Help with Being an Ally

There is a great discussion going on over at Creek Running North on an 'Ally 101' thread started by Theriomorph around how to be a good feminist ally, and how to keep one's privilege and racism in check as much one can. I encourage everybody who isn't already reading it to check it out.

Some of the comments are simply put, but full of good advice. From commentor Christina, of Say Nothing Charmingly, in particular sticks with me:
I really just think that listening, leavened with a touch of empathy, is what is needed. Since historically, white folks haven’t had to listen to others much, nor feel empathy for others much, it’s not as easy as it sounds to learn it.

Hat tip to BlueAlto.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tuesday Gender in Comics: Stereotypes and Double-Standards

MmmmMm...Canned Soup and Waffles...
First up, Calvin's dad provides the model for the supposed 'typical' dad, when faced with preparing dinner:
Gender stereotypes are interesting, especially when they feel sort of rooted in reality. Men aren't encouraged to learn to cook as much as women are (unless you get to the 'chef' level of cooking, and then there are more jobs for male chefs than female chefs, and a lot of sexism from higher-ups, apparently). But of course lots of men do love to cook, and lots of women are happier making soup and waffles. My stepfather loves to cook, and my mother (like me) doesn't like it so much. It works out great for both of them, because she often cleans up (and enjoys his meals!), and he gets to do what he thinks is pretty fun (I don't get it), and make meals.

Growing Fat and Love Handles
A 'classic' For Better or For Worse spells out a double-standard pretty clearly:
It's interesting to note that this 'classic' strip is probably 15 years old, at least (rather than just retire outright, Lynn Johnston has opted to do some new strips and some 'flashback' strips), so it may be slightly dated, but still mostly holds true. I think things are changing in this regard, at least in the realm of the pressures of advertising. Men are more and more encouraged to buy products that help them appear/feel younger-looking, thinner, hairless and the like. I would be happy that things are evening out if it weren't for the fact that they are evening out in the 'wrong' direction; instead of people of all genders being happier and healthier at various sizes, men are becoming (to some degree, anyway) objectified in ways that will likely not be good for their self-value.

It's Just That Simple
Mutt 'n' Jeff sum it up:

Men like to read. Women like to shop. Enough said!

Monday, January 07, 2008

bell hooks Monday: Men Who Change

Sorry, only enough time for some insightful words from bell herself this morning. Back to more regular posting soon.

From The Will to Change:
"It is not easy for males, young or old, to reject the codes of patriarchal masculinity. Men who choose against violence ar esimultaneously choosing against patriarchy, wherther they can articulate that choice or not." (pp73)
"Ultimately, the men who choose agaisnt violence, against death, do so because they want to live fully and well, because they want to know love. These men who are true heroes, the men whose lives we need to know about, honor and remember." (pp74)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Men Who Do Feminist Work -- The Men of the Movie "Protagonist":Mark Pierpont, Joe Loya, Mark Salzman and Hans-Joachim Klein

I recently had the great pleasure of watching Jessica Yu's film, Protagonist. I am sometimes a bit of a documentary film junkie, and I was looking around for something to watch on ye old online-dvd-in-the-mail service's webpage, and ran into this film. Yu has several other prior films to her credit, and I haven't seen any of them, though I hope to see them all, now that I've seen this one.

The premise of the documentary is simple: Yu interlaces the stories of four men who, on the face of it, only seem to have a few things in common. As the film goes on, the relationships between the men's stories begin to come into focus, and it turns out that all four men have been struggling with various strains of traditional masculinity, and, though self-analyzing struggle, have found different sorts of masculinities to embrace.

I'm being extremely heavy-handed in my analysis, but the film itself has a pretty light touch. It wasn't until the last third of the movie that I realized that masculinity was really at the center of things for these men--and recognizing the ways in which they could reject rigid gender roles helped them to overcome some of the central difficulties of their lives. Feminism isn't mentioned by name here, and it's pretty clear that the men involved might not characterize themselves as doing feminist work, but, since feminist theory has done so much of the heavy lifting as regards railing against traditionally rigid gender roles, I say they are doing feminist work nonetheless.

I encourage everybody who is interested in documentary storytelling, men who are struggling with traditional conceptions of masculinity, and pro-feminist men in general to check out the film. And I don't think I can encourage you to do so more than by giving a bit of background on these four men. From the movie's site:
The Stories At the heart of each man's story is the quest to transcend his imperfections. While each man's motivations are highly personal, the stories demonstrate how the individual struggle between fate and character can have far-reaching consequences.

HANS-JOACHIM KLEIN suffers through a cruel childhood in a working class neighborhood near Frankfurt, Germany. When Klein joins the leftist movement in the 1970s, he is driven as much by idealism as by the desire to rebel against his authoritarian father, a cop. As Klein's activism evolves from radicalism to terrorism, he becomes a trusted comrade in the Revolutionary Cells (RZ), an offshoot of the notorious Baader-Meinhof gang. With the RZ he joins Carlos the Jackal in the violent kidnapping of eleven OPEC ministers, which leaves three people dead and Klein with a near-fatal gunshot wound.

MARK PIERPONT has a strict religious upbringing in New Jersey. The "black sheep" of the family, he realizes his attraction to other men, but desperately wants to avoid this sentence to "eternal hell." Pierpont's drive to suppress his homosexuality leads him to become a missionary, preaching abroad to crowds of thousands. Back in the states he infiltrates gay bars to spread the word of Jesus, convincing himself that his "homosexual problem" has been cured.

JOE LOYA also comes from a home steeped in both love and fear of God, as enforced by his zealous father. At age seven, Loya's mother dies, and his father's grief explodes into violence against Joe and his brother. When Loya finally fights back against years of abuse, the act of dethroning his father ignites a sense of intense power, of triumph over hypocrisy and brutality. Loya's determination to recapture that thrill leads him to his own life of brutality, in which he eventually robs over thirty banks.

MARK SALZMAN comes from suburban Connecticut. The smallest boy in his class, he is the subject of relentless torment from his peers and his mild-mannered parents offer little guidance. Upon seeing the show "Kung Fu" on television, Salzman is convinced that he can achieve personal transformation through the study of martial arts. Though he becomes best friends with the chief bully in his school, Salzman's quest to become a man of physical and spiritual strength is warped by his allegiance to a sadistic master.

PROTAGONIST seeks not to judge its subjects or make political pronouncements, but rather to use these stories as a window into human nature. Though our subjects' backgrounds are diverse, their shared experience points to a universal conflict: the conflict between the desire to control our world, and to accept our fundamental limitations.

What these descriptions don't tell you is that all four men were able to creating something of a reversal of their own fortunes, even though there was still a cost associated with how they were before the reversal.

Thanks for Jessica Yu, and to these four men, for creating such an interesting window into the inner lives of men and their relationship to traditionally rigid conceptions of masculinity.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

New Book!

Y'all should check out Shira Tarrant 's new anthology by/about/for pro-feminist men:
Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex, and Power.

I can't hide that I'm jealous as heck that the piece I submitted didn't make it into this anthology, because it looks pretty neato. I'll be buying it in spite of my bitter heart, and I'll enjoy it, dammit!