"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, 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)


Anonymous said...

"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)

Doesn't this seem like a bit of a binary to you? Either you can choose violence or love seems like a false dichotomy to me.

To be fair, though, I don't know the complete context of the quote.

jeff said...

I'm glad you mentioned context, Eric, because I'm being unfair in some ways by putting this bare quote out there, when hooks has used the previous 20 pages or so building up to this conclusion.

That said, I don't think it's a false dichotomy, though what one thinks in this regard probably hinges on what one's definition of violence is. Oversimplifying quite a bit, hooks main point is that men are taught that their self-worth is tied to masculinity, and that masculinity is tied to violence; men who understand where these things break down are to be regarded as heroes.

Sweating Through fog said...

I like this quote, because to me it goes with the grain of what most men want. Most men want to see themselves as brave, they want to see themselves as potential heroes. Hooks seems to be saying "this is the base we have to work with we just need to find better, more productive ways to channel this energy."

In many ways my hero is Muhammed Ali. A champion with athletic violence. Yet able to transcend it, because he was willing to go to jail to avoid doing deadly violence.

Stentor said...

It may read differently in context, but to me these quotes come across as exactly the kind of cookie-giving that feminists and allies work so hard to avoid. Choosing love rather than violence doesn't make you a hero or someone to honor. It's a bare minimum of basic decency that we ought to demand from every man. She's right that it can be hard -- but the proper response to that is "boo-freakin-hoo, cry me a river."

jeff said...

You make an interesting point, though I'm not sure I agree with you completely. I would say that the whole cookie-giving thing is more complex than it might at first seem.

Thinking I'm a feminist because I did my own laundry is asking for a cookie. Going against everything I was taught about a gender hierarchy in the face of potential violence (which is what happens in some contexts if men speak out in love for women and for other men) doesn't seem to be cookie-begging to me.

That said, I think that it matter who one is wanting such praise from--I'm a lot less likely to seek praise for acting like a feminist from women who are feminists simply because I think they have (generally) faced a lot harder lives as women and as feminists than I have; asking for praise from other feminist men seems to me not such a sin--looking at it one way it's simply looking for a community of support.

But, as it's pretty complex (in my mind), perhaps I should be writing more about it, rather than just laying things out there so simply...?

Anonymous said...


When choosing the fundamental strategy you will follow in your relations with other human beings, it really is as simple as deciding whether you will seek dominance or cooperation. And pretty much everyone who has made the choice, consciously or unconsciously, will be able to make a pretty fair guess what choice you’ve made after they have seen your actions for a bit.

On the other hand, characterizing a distinct difference between good behavior that is based solely on commitment to goodness and good behavior based on seeking cookies may be problematic because humans are social animals--- part of how we decided which paradigms we will employ in our search for survival and well-being is based on what we got cookies for doing in the first place--- parental nurturing is essential to forming a conscience and learning how to cooperate and how to appreciate cooperation, friendship, and affection. Yeah, some people lack a depth to their commitment to behaving well, but such a lack usually becomes evident very quickly the first time you observe what they do when they don’t get their way--- do they attack or walk away? If they walk away from it, and you never give them a cookie for it, you’ve missed the chance to make a friend and ally. I think it’s pretty foolish not to validate people who behave well. At the very least you leave a good person isolated and lonely. And as far as the judgement that no man can have known the suffering you have experienced because you are a woman oppressed by patriarchy is to totally deny the capacity for human empathy. They may have suffered from their decision to defy patriarchy by not conforming to the male domination and refusing to reward other men who attempted to recruit them to machoism by sharing some of the fruits of male domination. They may also have suffered from discrimination for any one of a large number of other reasons--- not having lots of money, not going to church every week, preventing injustice against other victims, being of a different race or ethnicity, being born outside of the aristocracy, and even for refusing to share in the ill-gotten goods that people tried to give them. Failure to recognize what they’ve done even after they’ve built a consistent track record is not likely to help you build a community of people dedicated to working with you to bring prosperity to all people. Cry me a river, indeed.

Cameron Hollenberg said...
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Cameron said...
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