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.   
Post a Comment