"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, August 19, 2013

bell hooks Monday: NOMAS and Ditching the Dominator Model

Been thinking a lot about whether men can get together with each other to work on shifting masculinities without falling so easily back into traditional masculinity and the misogyny that comes with it, partly because of the fucked up silencing that happened recently from NOMAS (details at Shakesville).

I'm starting to think that men, even really well-meaning men, should always work with women (and folks of all genders) when trying to transform traditional masculinities, or do any feminist work. (I recognize that this blog is guilty of that, and am thinking that through too.)  And yet that brings in other problems, of course: Men already ask women to do so much work in the world, and now we want/need to ask (some of) them to help us change? 

Not sure yet what to do, but it all makes me think of bell hooks infinitely deep contributions to men and feminism(s):
Before the realities of men can be transformed, the dominator model has to be eliminated as the underlying ideology on which we base our culture. We already see that within patriarchal culture men can be more emotional, they can parent, they can break with sexist roles, but as long as the underlying principles are in place, men can never be truly free. At any moment this underlying patriarchal ethos can overshadow behaviors that run counter to it. We have already seen that many men changed their thinking for a time when feminist movement was a powerful force for social change, but then when the patriarchal thinking that undergirds our society did not change, as the energy of the movement began to wane, the old order began to reestablish itself. Sexist thought and action that had been harshly critiqued during the height of feminist movement have once again become more acceptable. Clearly, ending patriarchy is necessary for men to have collective liberation. It is the only resolution to the masculinity crisis that most men are experiencing.--bell hooks, The Will to Change
The dominator model is so obvious in some of the exchanges between some folks at NOMAS and the women they're currently trying to gaslight--I also know that lots of men are working on ditching domination, and that (I think) they need feminism to do it.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

On Ally Work, and Men Creating Community

About a year and a half ago, I slowly, quietly, stopped reading Hugo Schwyzer's blog.  Over a few years, I had enjoyed his writing, though I so very often disagreed with him.  I liked that he appeared to want to build some bridges between folks who usually disagree; once I learned about his past murder/suicide attempt, of course, and how he reacted to the criticism of him as a "leader" in feminism given this past, there just wasn't enough good there to outweigh the fucked up stuff for me to keep reading his stuff. Hugo's meltdown has caused many folks to voice examinations of men and feminism that are always already in the background in feminism.  A lot of the questions I started asking in earnest a year and a half ago are, sadly, more than relevant today: 
I don't have answers--and in some sense I should be the one to come up with these answers. Lots of folks are talking about men and feminism now (this is one of many perpetual conversations that happens with feminist movement, so it's not all a bad thing). I, too, am reconsidering what I'm doing here. (Again, I kind of think that's something ally-ish folks have to do again and again.)

This blog has been around a while. It was originally conceived of as a group blog. I know that feminism(s) can help men, but I also know that "What about the menz!1!!" is a real issue. I thought that having a space for men to do some feminist work, and create a kind of community, without being intrusive in feminist women's spaces online, was something we all desperately needed.

By any objective account, this space represents a kind of failure--partly because there were already places in which pro-feminist and feminist men were keen to build community, and partly because I simply didn't have the skills to recruit and keep men writing for the group blog. And now, of course, there are kinds of male feminist communities on social media--one reason I don't post very much any longer is that the awesome feminist-leaning men on twitter say most of what I want to say.  And men can be/are part of various online feminist communities--there are good words for men on just about any feminist blog, and pro-feminist men are mostly welcome in comments sections. 

I still think men haven't yet created their own feminist communities (or I haven't found them!) in the way that I would like.  It's definitely possible these communities exist and I'm just not part of them, of course, but I think feminist men doing the work to create online feminist communities is inextricably intertwined with the work that feminist men need to do--without community, we are solo voices shouting out our opinions, aping a kind of traditional masculinity (a real man doesn't need anybody!) that we ought to be working on shifting away from.