"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, July 22, 2013

bell hooks Monday: On Feminist Masculinity

Wonderful drawing by k funk. Please go buy stuff from them. 
"As interest in feminist thinking and practice has waned, there has been even less focus on the plight of men than in the heyday of feminist movement. This lack of interest does not change the fact that only a feminist vision that embraces feminist masculinity, that loves boys and men and demands on their behalf every right that we desire for girls and women, can renew men in our society. Feminist thinking teaches us all, males especially, how to love justice and freedom in ways that foster and affirm life. Clearly we need new strategies, new theories, guides that will show us how to create a world where feminist masculinity thrives."--bell hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love
 Yet another passage that demonstrates why bell hooks is a favorite writer of many a feminist man!  (I would also add that "feminist masculinity" isn't something that only men can benefit from, but people of various genders who think that traditional masculinity is long overdue for some seismic conceptual shifts.) 

I think it is interesting to re-read The Will to Change, a book that is only 8 or 9 years old, and to see how things have changed as regards men and feminism (and also, of course, how they haven't).  Certainly online feminism seems to have upped the ante as regards including men and addressing issues with traditional masculinity.  An article from 2012 on Feministing even addresses the issue that hooks is talking about directly.  Shira Tarrant's book, Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex and Power is now in its second printing (full disclosure--I have an article in the 2nd edition).  I also see a lot of change coming online in the twitterverse--there are myriad feminist and pro-feminist men on twitter who are doing the day-to-day work of online feminism.  And IRL feminist men exist in some of what one might think are the oddest of places.  For instance, I had the good fortune to attend the "allies track" of the Ada Initiative's Ada Camp not too long ago, and met a bunch of feminist and pro-feminist men (and other folks!) who work in open source technology, and are vehemently interested in getting more women to work in open source software fields.  

All of which is not to say that hooks' point doesn't still hit home:  One of the reasons I'm still (occasionally!) writing on this blog is because there need to be various places where men and feminism get discussed, in part so that men don't "take over" feminist spaces that women create, but also simply because the more the merrier (and the more work we'll get done).

Monday, July 15, 2013

bell hooks Monday: Feminism Defined by Patriarchy

As all advocates of feminist politics know most people do not understand sexism or if they do they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.
—  bell hooks
 Yet another reason why bell hooks is the go-to feminist for many feminist men.

Monday, July 01, 2013

bell hooks Monday: From Personal Struggles to Systemic Change

From The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love:

"Even though not all men are misogynists, feminist thinkers were accurate when we stated that patriarchy in its most basic, unmediated form promotes fear and hatred of females. A man who is unabashedly and unequivocally committed to patriarchal masculinity will both fear and hate all that the culture deems feminine and womanly. However, most men have not consciously chosen patriarchy as the ideology they want to govern their lives, their beliefs, and actions. Patriarchal culture is the system they were born within and socialized to accept, yet in all areas of their lives most men have rebelled in small ways against the patriarchy, have resisted absolute allegiance to patriarchal thinking and practice. Most men have clearly been willing to resist patriarchy when it interferes with individual desire, but they have not been willing to embrace feminism as a movement that would challenge, change, and ultimately end patriarchy".--bell hooks
Some of what hooks says is here exactly why I think showing men how patriarchy hurts men can be such a powerful tool, but can also be a bit of a trap if you don't follow through.  Show men how traditional masculinity creates men who can't show feelings (other than anger), and some men get that. But if you don't continue to show/see that this fact also harms women, and then on to how women are harmed in general by patriarchy, then you end up with a Men's Rights Activist instead of another feminist. 

And it's a tough move to make--for all of us who have some kind of privilege, it can be a struggle to continue to recognize it, and divesting oneself of it even more of a struggle. (Which is not to compare it to the struggles of folks who are oppressed.)

In some meditation traditions, compassion for others begins with compassion for self; the way it spreads to compassion for others is (in part) by recognizing our interdependent relationships with others.  In the case of the harm of patriarchy, I can, at times, have compassion for men doing harm through patriarchy by myself recognizing how I have been harmed by patriarchy, but then by also acknowledging how we all have been harmed by it--even the men doing the damage right now. It's not a simple thing, of course, and part of the idea is that it's a process that may go on for a lifetime. 

I'm playing with ideas here, and may be way off base, but I suspect that one way of getting more men to understand and embrace feminism has to do with having compassion for the ways that men are harmed by patriarchy--even though this harm may pale in comparison to the harm that women continue to suffer (most often at the hands of men).  I don't claim this is what feminism is all about or anything--but I do think that we men who embrace feminisms need to have compassion for ourselves and for other men, even before those men have begun to understand the harm they are doing. In this way, maybe we can more easily move from what hooks notes is "individual" stuff to actually changing the status quo.