"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, February 14, 2011

A Bunch of Men Argue About a Woman's Right to Choose, Part 4,580,800

This is a fascinating piece of video to watch. It's long--I recommend watching it while doing some chores or whatever, but then you won't get anything done, because you'll keep coming back to it. The short version is this: A bunch of men argue about a bill to restrict a woman's right to choose, and the only woman who attempts to speak (at 1:09:15) is first of all repeatedly not recognized to speak, and then is shut down, even in the face of her pointing out that a bunch of men have just been allowed to speak about a law that only affects women.

Hat tip to: Crooks and Liars, although the folks at C&L then also cut off the sole woman congressperson by cutting off the clip just as she begins to speak. Sheesh.

Friday, February 11, 2011

If I Don't Lurve the Good Men Project, Am I Evil?

Recently I wrote about how much I was enjoying The Takeback, and about why I enjoy it more than The Good Men Project. I prefaced that piece by noting how exciting and great it is to have so much good writing around redefining masculinity in positive ways--when I started blogging, this just wasn't so much the case.

Thomas Matlack didn't *quite* appreciate my "faint praise" of his GMP, which is sort of understandable--who loves faint praise? And yet, I think his response to my criticisms deserves a response. Thomas says:
Well as the founder of THE GOOD MEN PROJECT I take this as faint praise as worthy of the cause. I actually think manhood in 2011 is a complex topic that doesn't fall easily into one user fits all definition, of what it means to be good, a good dad, husband, worker, son or man. That's why we promote discussion rather than playing God. If you want to hear what you already believe perhaps that is uncomfortable. But we think its important. Please come join us.

So. Here goes.

Thanks for stopping by--it's always nice when the A-listers (a published book and a for-profit blog? I say you're an A-lister!) take notice.

I do have to ask: Are the ALL CAPS really necessary? I mean, I already linked to your site a couple of times. Then again, you're making money and I'm not, so what do I know about promotion? :)

I don't appreciate the condescension ("if you want to hear what you already believe perhaps that is uncomfortable"), but such a response does rather reinforce my point that I don't enjoy GMP as much as The Takeback, in part because the GMP isn't explicitly pro-feminist. If you *really* think that my preference for explicitly pro-feminist writing means that I only want to hear what I already believe, then we probably don't have a lot to "converse" about. :)

That said, I've already responded on your site (in some comments) to all y'all's "boilerplate" response to criticism, which amounts to, "Hey, we don't take sides (or, "play God", as you put it--though most people wouldn't count necessary, practical editing of content as playing god) because we want everybody in the conversation."

I had a complaint, which was part of a conversation, on your site. The "conversation" that was being had started with a post that can be summed up as "men shouldn't get married because women are gold-digging bitches and the courts hate men because of feminism" included this super interesting sage advice:
Learn from your partner’s behavior. How does she act when you disappoint her? What is her reaction to hearing the word “no,” or when you choose your way instead of her way? If she takes it in stride and moves on, then you might have a keeper. However, if she responds to the fact that you went golfing when she didn’t want you to by cutting you off in the bedroom for a few days, or by telling you how selfish and immature you are for having any interests that don’t revolve around her, what do you imagine she will do when she fully believes that you are responsible for every ill in her life?

When some folks (who are, y'know, part of the conversation that you're all wanting to have, right?) criticized the author (I use the term loosely) for not only his bitterness, but also his thinly veiled misogyny, and then criticized all y'all for your editorial decisions around letting this douche post his bile, one of your editors chimed in with your boilerplate editorial response to criticism:

Henry P. Belanger says: Mordicai, would you like our staff determining / defining “good” for everyone? It’s unfortunate that our name can be misleading, but I think you’d agree that a magazine that told everyone how to be good wouldn’t be around very long. Goodness also entails being open, listening to divergent voices, allowing for the possibility that people’s minds can be changed, believing that “once bad” doesn’t mean “always bad,” etc, etc. I can’t tell you how many comments we’ve had in the past 8 months that sarcastically put “good men” in quotes, suggesting that we did not meet their standards for goodness. these commenters have come from all across the political / ideological spectrum. The more it happens, the more confident I am that our approach here — being a wide, open marketplace for ideas — is the good approach to take.

I responded with this:

Your “editorial” position is either not well thought out, disingenuous, or both. Putting forward that you want to encourage conversation doesn’t absolve you of drawing *some* lines. There are men, after all, who believe that “being a good man” includes physically and emotionally dominating women and other men–-presumably you wouldn’t allow a well-written, clear article which centered “being a good man” on how to beat the crap out of any person who challenges one’s opinion. So, you do draw lines circumscribing the conversation that have nothing to do with how well-written something is. You just don’t keep folks like Paul Elam from adding his voice to the conversation. What folks like Mordicai and SaraMC are saying (in part) is that this sort of unsupported tripe isn’t just one more opinion among many (as you imply)–rather, it’s unsupported misogynist tripe.

Which is fine. It’s your site. Just don’t expect everybody to pretend along with you that it’s a useful conversation.

Short version: Criticism of your site and/or its authors is part of the conversation.

I'll probably keep reading The GMP (for some reasons I'll give below). So, in effect, I already have joined your conversation. But I'll likely keep complaining that you're giving voice to opinions that aren't "complex"--they're sometimes misogynistic. And you'll continue to get called out on that for as long as people who read your site care about women (and men, and folks of all genders). Saying "it's all a conversation" doesn't get you off the hook for criticism of the editorial choices you are making.

Having said all of that, there are some things I like about the GMP, in the way that I will read BUST magazine, but prefer Bitch magazine, if I can get it--you're writing to men about alternative masculinities, even if I'm of the opinion that at least some of those masculinities aren't alternative at all, but rather more of the same (e.g. MRAs who love privilege and making more money than women but hate alimony). I mean, right now you've got a great post by a transguy. It will be a long time before traditional men's magazines have such an article, I'd guess. So, yay, I welcome the GMP. That doesn't mean I have to always loooooove it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shall I STFU?

It's All About Me, Right?

Sometimes, I don't do well with people who are in positions of authority. It may be the case that I have a neurotic problem with authority--in part because I grew up watching my mother struggle with sexism in her workplace, with her husband, and in the larger world. I think that having "problems with authority" may be a relatively healthy reaction to an unhealthy society, where it is often the case that those in power are harming those with less power. What is an appropriate response to oppression, other than a desire to fight back? (Of course, this is oversimplifying--other responses include caretaking of self and others, compassion and empathy. But I think a desire to fight should be in there too.)

And yet, there is another aspect of my resistance-to-authority, and it is rooted in patriarchy. Men are taught The Hierarchy, and are shown over and over again, that they have a place in it--above some men, below others, above all women, etc. And generally, we are told, we should be striving to be as high up on that ladder as we can be. This is putting it very starkly, of course, but this is essentially a big part of what men are taught. So, I resist authority in part because, on some levels, I want to be higher up on that ladder of hierarchy than the men (and women, and folks of all genders) who are currently above me.

Given these two factors, and many others, my instant reaction to having bullshit called on me, and/or being told to shut the fuck up, is that my hackles go up, and all of my defenses come to the fore. (Of course, having the safety and space to be defensive, may be a reflection/product of my own privilege.) So I am sometimes left in the following position, when somebody is attempting to call me on what they see as my own bullshit: I have to decide--Are they right, in which case I need to stand down and apologize? Or are they being bullies, in which case I need to step up and perhaps take them down a notch?

And sometimes the question is very easy to answer: If I use the word "lame" and get called out for ableist language, it's pretty clear that I need to apologize and take a step back to examine my privilege in that regard. (For some reason, "lame" has been a hard habit to break for me.) If an MRA guy tries to call me out for not including his woes around child support in a post about how women make less, on average, than men, I can be pretty assured that he's a douche and a bully, and is trying to impose his opinion in a way that isn't helpful (in part because of the aforementioned privilege that makes him think he needs to/deserves to move up the ladder with every interaction). And of course, somebody can (correctly) call me on my bullshit and also be cruel and rude about it: But that doesn't make them a bully in the sense that I'm talking about. It matters who is holding privilege--women feminists being cruel to me can cause me some pain, but they (generally) aren't using their privilege to do so. Which, y'know, matters.

Sometimes, though, it really is hard to tell whether I am responding to a sincere bullshit-call-out or a bully. And in these cases, I tend to err on the side of re-examining my own privilege, because, really, who couldn't stand to do that some more? Also: I don't have to stand up to every bully myself--I am part of various communities that do social justice work, and there are lots of people ready to stand up to bullies in those communities. And this is also a situation that will always recur: Given that I live in a patriarchal society, and given that I engage with both activists and folks in the larger world, I will sometimes screw up and get called on my own bullshit, and I will sometimes run into bullies who need to be stood up to. It just will happen.

All of which is to say that I have myriad reactions when I read Twisty's words at I Blame the Patriarchy:
But really, it’s comical, the predictability with which dudes who fancy themselves feministically enlightened just can’t seem to shut the fuck up when they are found to be duding the joint up a little too hardcore.

My first reaction is that my hackles go up. (Ok, my *first* reaction is to chuckle at "duding the joint up," because that's great use of language.) But then I reflect on where that feeling I'm having is coming from (privilege!), and where the criticism is coming from (Twisty, who knows her stuff, generally)--and I have to let it go. And it's not that I can say, "Well, she's not talking about me." She *is* talking about me, and men like me, when we screw up and can't see our privilege getting in the way of our thinking and talking. It does happen, even to those of us who are trying to not let that happen. I do my best, and I will sometimes get it wrong. Nobody likes to think of themselves like a douchebag, but all of us find ourselves saying stupid stuff sometimes, getting things wrong sometimes. So, sometimes, if I'm told to STFU, it's good to do just that.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Enjoying The Takeback

Why I'm Enjoying The Takeback more than The Good Men Project

Is it just me, or is there a cacaphony of intelligent, thoughtful writing right now that centers around redefining masculinity in ways that reflect at least some of the progress that has been made by feminism against patriarchy? Most recently, I've started reading both The Takeback and The Good Men Project.

Originally, I thought I'd write a long post comparing and contrasting these two sites, but upon further reflection, that seems like a lot of work, and there's no real reason to do that. The two groups of men are coming from different places, have different goals, and will therefore produce different content. And, though there are interesting articles in both places, The Takeback is explicitly pro-feminist, while The Good Men Project embraces the idea that they are allowing "both sides" to have a conversation (as if feminism, with its long history, is on one side while MRA's, who are comprised mostly of men who love the status quo of patriarchy except where it means they don't get laid and/or get custody of their kids sometimes, are on the other side).

Which is not to say that The Takeback is free from controversy, or that I like everything they're writing about; rather, it's more clear that the men (and women, and folks of all genders) who are putting The Takeback together are obviously more aware of the work that has already be done by feminists, and want to build on that. The Good Men Project is more obviously a profit-motivated sort of enterprise, with aspirations of a media empire--and as such, they cater more toward the mainstream.

It reminds me a little bit of what I perceive as the difference between Bitch magazine and BUST magazine--Bitch appeals much more to me, in that they take a more feminist stand on lots of things (for instance, they don't accept tobacco ads, in part because it's a feminist issue), but I can totally see why folks might want to read BUST, because it is something of an alternative to traditional women's magazines. At any rate, I think it's good that The Takeback and The Good Men Project are both out there, though I'll turn to The Takeback more often for more interesting conversations.

And I have to face it: The Takeback is the sort of thing I had envisioned Feminist Allies becoming someday--only it's way more slick, interesting and inclusive than I could ever have made this site, probably. But I'll happily read them, quote them and link to them!