Feminism is NOT enough by itself to liberate men from the problems they confront; a treatise on male empowerment

One of the biggest sticking points between feminists and those who oppose them is this creeping thinking that “women are the oppressed gender, and men are not.” That it is only women who need the safe spaces, the redress of injustice, the activism, the specialized attention to problems only they face, the throwing off of traditional restrictions, and so on. Men are sometimes thought to need none of that; as the gender that is not oppressed, men are just fine as they are. They deserve no special attention.

I couldn’t disagree more. While it’s true that there are a million things that women have to deal with that men don’t (and that feminism is still very necessary), men also have their own struggles peculiar to their manhood, and things they go through and are expected to do as men that women are free from. That should not be denied.

And whether or not you want to play Oppression Olympics and talk about which gender faces more barriers, one thing is for sure: in the area of gender justice, women have been making great strides forward, talking to each other about the obstacles they face, calling out and defining their issues as women, and pushing back against sexist norms - while men’s issues are still most often shrouded in silence.

This silence around men’s issues is not the fault of feminists or feminism. Sure, there are bad feminists. There are bad doctors too. Does that make the practice of being a doctor a bad one? Feminism is overall a very progressive phenomenon – one that takes women’s issues, yanks them out of the dark, and calls them out so that they can be known about and dealt with.

The constructive answer to this problem is to replicate for men what feminism has been doing for women, rather than pushing back against feminism.

One of the big reasons feminism gets an undeserving bad rap sometimes is, frankly, because feminism’s work is far from over. Women are still not nearly equally represented in positions of visible power (how many state/national legislative bodies can you name that are even close to 50-50 male/female?) and women are still often looked at as victims, subject to the whims of society, rather than as the architects of their own lives.

The whole normative notion of femininity, in most societies, has a kernel of “vulnerability” and “delicateness” and even “sacrifice” at its core; thus there is a passive expectation, even from people who don’t have a sexist bone in their body, that women are going to be weaker and more yielding. This is one reason why anti-woman politics, such as the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood in the USA, can still quite easily get a foothold; despite the many examples out there of strong women, women as a group are still thought of, by and large, as people who don’t fight back – so they are easier to attack.

That is, except for the feminists. And since the “orthodox” expectation of women is to not fight back, the surprise that a feminist response to an attack on women inspires (this surprise is represented perfectly in the term “bitch”) often leads to an adversarial view of feminism – as though “feminism” is this great big she-dragon that breathes fire at men on women’s behalf, protecting women [the victims, of course] at the expense of men, keeping men from their children in divorces, decimating men’s ability to take initiative in romantic situations, and just waiting for the opportunity to label a guy with “creep!” or “perv!” or “abuser!” if they say something that isn’t politically correct.

This is definitely off the mark in terms of how and why things look this way. HOWEVER … I’d like to say to those who don’t like how anti-male attitudes and stereotypes fester in some environments: You’re quite right to feel this way. When I hear someone say “men don’t have any needs of their own,” or “all men are perverts” or even “the patriarchy is the problem, and feminism battles the patriarchy, and men benefit from that anyway,” I try to clarify that a progressive movement does not exclude or sideline other concerns, but rather, it works hand-in-hand with them (the same thing goes for male-focused movements, or any progressive movement for that matter).

So now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at feminism in the positive sense, in terms of the good that it has done and still does - and how replicating this for men could help men so much to draw out the problems they face and get some redress for their issues.

Consciousness and empowerment is where it’s at

A group that faces struggles cannot effectively deal with these struggles until it is able to empower itself. And the path to empowerment is paved with the cement of consciousness. This part of any anti-oppression project – consciousness-raising and empowerment – is the glue that binds all the other causes together and truly causes changes to occur on every level of society, right down to the very attitudes people have about others and themselves.

Now let’s clarify something: “empowerment” does not mean lording one’s power over others. Empowerment means that a person or group is able to feel a sense of self-determination. When a person is empowered, they have less of a need to dominate other people, because they are content with where they are and have less need to make comparative judgments about their position or abilities relative to others.

With regard to feminism, when I talk about consciousness-raising and empowerment, I’m talking about the process of women reaching out and finding other women, encouraging other women, supporting other women, talking to each other about the problems they face as women, and sharing the approaches and solutions they have found to these problems. All [usually] without a great deal of focus on “fighting back against men” (something that is often confused with “fighting back against the system” or “fighting back against the sexist norms” both of which can be easily personified by a woman/women as well as a man/men).

THIS is the heart of feminism – An overall sense of sisterhood in womanhood, and a pride in womanhood, as a result. And from there comes the strength to build a movement and fight for change, which reinforces the sense of empowerment. The fact that some strands of feminism may seem power-hungry is due, in my opinion, to the lack of empowerment still felt among many women.

Now - if we apply the concept of “empowerment” to men, what do we see? Men these days are feeling less and less empowered as men. These men’s rights advocates, pickup artists, and “men going their own way” are searching for a sense of collective masculine empowerment. But this is very hard to do without a collective sense of self-understanding as men. That’s what women have – thanks to feminism – that many men are in desperate need of today.

What – not who – is stopping men from feeling empowered?

Anti-feminist men’s movements make the mistake of automatically looking for someone to blame when grappling with the barriers they face as men. This is negative and counterproductive. It’s a waste of brain power and energy, and it certainly does not endear people to the cause; if anything, it drives away potential allies and has the effect of preventing others from hearing the message. And these men’s movements continue to stay on the fringes, because they are seen as being combative and negative instead of constructive.

So … I decided to take a trip around the Internet, ask some friends, and reflect on my own personal experiences as a man to come up with a nice thorough list of the troubles men face in particular because they are men. Let’s start with the rampant stereotyping, from which we can take a look at the bigger picture, without throwing blame around. There are a lot of them – and please keep in mind, when I talk of stereotypes, I’m not talking about some little harmless joke; these stereotypes deeply cut into and affect men’s lives, often in a very silent manner; every social construct about men is infused with many of the assumptions that men are:

  • Stone-hearted: stoic, devoid of much emotional expression unless that expression is one of anger or contempt. Thus, programmed / expected to handle a higher threshold of abuse.
  • Narrow-minded - focused solely on their obsessions or the things that matter to them.
  • Selfish and egotistical. Self-centered and self-serving.
  • Socially ignorant – unable or unwilling to see the effects their actions have on others.
  • Dumb – as in, emotionally not there. Out in the la-la land of their own minds.
  • Shallow: easily distracted by or engrossed in their TV program or videogame or other obsession, if not drooling over a passing woman’s body parts.
  • Unempathic – unable to express solidarity with other points of view that don’t reflect their own.
  • Thick – unable / unwilling to listen; impenetrable.
  • Pig-headed. Callous and rough. Unkind, with little attention paid to the consequences of one’s actions on others.
  • Inflexible. Stubborn. Unable or unwilling to yield to others.
  • Closed-minded. Stuck in their own head, unable to open up and take in / accept what’s around them.
  • Simplistic. Focused solely on one or two particular details, thus unable to discern finer details.
  • Bad at communication, being unable to discuss these finer details that they don’t discern.
  • Lazy; always trying to do the bare minimum necessary. Minimal effort to get maximum return, if the effort needed involves more than a small amount of thought.
  • Obsessive about the things they care about; willing to let everything else go for the pursuit of an obsession. Go fetch, doggie!
  • Not self-aware. Having little understanding as to what makes them tick (which permits such obsessions because they don’t see how it affects them).
  • Aimless – because when a man is neither self-aware nor obsessive, he’s often thought to be “without focus” which a man shouldn’t be, according to the normative “men must be in control” mentality.
  • Impulsive: both the “aimlessness” and the “obsessiveness” are thought to contribute to this one, along with the selfish / narrow-minded stereotypes; the average man is often thought to be impulsive if he isn’t too “stoic” or “dumb” to embrace any of his impulses.
  • Immature: not well-rounded, not fully grown up; still a child on the inside.
  • Opportunistic – specifically, opportunistic for their own masculine goals, whether it be sex, power, or whatever else. Women also get stereotyped as opportunistic, but the stereotype focuses around a different set of goals.
  • Untrustworthy – unable to be counted on or confided in. As though their “impulsiveness” combined with their innate “opportunism” will increase the chances of them betraying you.
  • Sex-crazed – that a man will do “whatever it takes to get laid,” and that sex is always on men’s minds.
  • Perverted – always willing to sexualize women and situations.
  • Dirty, unkempt, and unhygenic. Particularly attributed to men of lower social standing.
  • Disorganized. Sometimes in the same vein as lack of hygiene, but this one also teams up with “immature / not well-rounded” to give us the “absent-minded professor” stereotype of the male intellectual who can sit around and talk theory all day but has shockingly lacking basic skills in organization and order.
  • Controlling. Psychologically pushy. Constantly demanding of “respect” or other desired actions from other people.
  • Impatient. Always wanting things his way, on his time.
  • Pompous and self-aggrandizing – because a man is supposed to have “swagger” in order to command “respect” and get things done on his terms.
  • Coercive. Impulsive, impatient, and controlling at the same time.
  • Domineering. Needing to always be in the driver’s seat, to be the “alpha male.”
  • Power-hungry. Because a MAN can’t be weak, no sir!
  • Combative. How else to get the power and respect a man needs? Get the fuck out of my way!
  • Bigoted. Homophobic and misogynistic. More likely, in their “impulsive social ignorance,” to say or do something truly heinous on a bigoted or prejudiced level. Less tolerant of divergence from the norm (the usually much-greater taboo against male-male sexual activity relative to female-female sexual activity among women is often cited as evidence of this).
  • Violent. More likely to start a physical fight, or to jump at the chance to engage in physical fighting, brawling, warmongering, or what-have-you.
  • Threatening – because of the last few of these previous points, this one is kind of automatic. And thus…
  • Potential rapists, child-molesters, murderers, violent criminals, etc. Whoever imagines a woman as a rapist? Sure, we all know by now that women can rape, yes – but the stereotype of who commits such heinous acts, along with child molestation and murder and other violent physical assault is ALWAYS male. This automatic association grouping violent and heinous crimes solely with masculinity forms the substantive basis for much general mistrust of men, particularly when such men will be interacting with women and children that they don’t know. Men sense this innate judgment and distrust and often resent it, and it does undeniably figure into real-life decisions about everything from child custody to certain kinds of job opportunities to the severity of a disciplinary action.

Before we continue, let’s keep some other things in mind, lest anybody get confused:

  • This is not a statement about how true or false these things are regarding men. That debate is too massive to fully get into here. This is just a list of the common stereotypes.
  • Such stereotypes don’t get applied equally to all men all the time. Every man has different experiences.
  • This is a society-wide problem. “Women” and “feminists” are not the culprit. Men perpetuate these stereotypes onto themselves, in addition to women perpetuating them. Everybody is implicated.
  • These negative stereotypes don’t erase the existence of positive ones associated with masculinity.
  • There are also positive stereotypes attributed to women, in addition to the negative ones against women that feminism seeks to combat.
  • Everything considered, these stereotypes mentioned here are still negative stereotypes that disproportionately affect men in a way that is not true for women as a group.

Stereotypes like these also function as double-edged swords. You see, if a man fulfills the “men are stubborn and aggressive” stereotype, well, he is doing what is expected of him, so there is no immediate bother – but the stereotype lives on and will come back to bite him and other men in the behind later on (i.e., his behaviors match some of the stereotypes, so suddenly all of the litany of male stereotypes – about everything from being dumb and uncaring to being a potential rapist – are potentially attributable to him). However, if the man embodies calmer, meeker behaviors not exemplified by the male stereotypes, people around him, both men and women, may very often question his manhood – as though he is failing at being a man.

Some of these stereotypes are so deeply embedded within us that often it doesn’t even take anyone else to pass a judgment; many men set their goals for satisfactory manhood in conjunction with some of these stereotypes, and lose confidence in themselves when they don’t feel they pass muster. It’s like no matter where you go or what you do, you’re fucked.

You feminists out there who are reading this know exactly what I’m talking about, with regard to women’s struggles. Because it’s the same monster: you play to the stereotype, you lose; you avoid the stereotype, you lose. And even when no one else attacks your womanhood, that inner judge inside you is always ready and waiting to shame you and tear you down, because “you aren’t good enough.”

Thought men face a different set of issues, we still go through the same sort of process of being judged – and of self-judgment and shaming – with regard to our manhood. We just don’t talk about it very much. But we desperately need to talk about it.

Why are male issues not more talked about?

There are a number of reasons. The most obvious [yet not very talked about] one, perhaps, is the passive thinking that “men are the norm.” There is society, and then there is women in society. It’s very rare that a man was ever distinguished in history for being specifically a male member of the human race that accomplished some feat, because males are thought to be the “common accomplishers of feats.” Of course, this passive thinking shows just how deep the stain of sexism runs – as well as how it hurts both genders.

There is also the masculine code about being strong and stoic and not getting too emotionally mushy; not spilling your guts. That would be exposing yourself and making yourself vulnerable – something that is such a strong taboo that even men without such insecurities don’t realize how much their behavior has still been shaped by social expectations to “take it like a man” to the point that, out of sheer habit, they don’t open up about their issues.

Sure, many men find ways to let go and open up with people the know well and are comfortable with – but the idea that men as a group would publicly admit the ways in which they are vulnerable, that they have problems that need attention, does not mix well with the prevailing view of “men in control.” Both men themselves and society at large hold hidden but very present expectations that men must be in control and “have it together.” Admitting that you feel weak and powerless and, moreover, out of ideas for how to respond to a problem – this goes against the “I’m in control” and “I have it together” image that men are taught is so important to maintain.

This is, I suspect, a major reason why many men and male-focused movements throw blame at feminism; simply saying “there is a problem and I don’t know what to do about it” does not feel as good and empowering, at first, as saying, “there is the problem, X person/movement is to blame, let’s get ‘em!” The idea of jumping into battle temporarily takes away from men’s sense of powerlessness by turning the focus toward a new activity of problem eradication or conquest – something simple and graspable, in any event – rather than all this complex shit that one doesn’t have an answer to. After all, feminism does have everything to do with the changing of sexual and gender norms in the past 100 years, so there is a seemingly logical association made. Thus, it is thought, if you can beat down the feminists, even if it’s in a small argument and nothing really changes in the big picture, a sense of victory can be felt, just for a moment at least.

But those outbursts of raw male anger are not making anything better, for men or for women; in fact, they are digging a deeper hole for men to climb out of. Any man that wants to talk about men’s issues (such as myself) is faced with the task of first separating himself from the negative rhetoric often associated with this uncontrolled male anger in order to be heard clearly. If men want their issues to be heard and talked about the way women’s issues are, it is necessary to completely reject the negative mudball-throwing school of activism. Otherwise, it’s nothing but a continuous spinning of the wheels.

The uselessness of an adversarial approach to feminism

This issue – the rejection of feminism – is one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of a healthy men’s empowerment movement. Those of you out there who profess to hate feminism – you realize that without feminism, we would have little notion of women as even being adults, let alone in any way equal to men … right?

You may not like where some modern strands of feminism go; you may find yourself at loggerheads with some people that call themselves feminists. That’s ok. It happens to me all the time. But let’s be real here: do you want women to go back to being thought of as unfit / unable to work most jobs, unable to vote, to buy property, to freely choose sexual partners, to go outside of their home alone, to achieve pretty much any measure of independence for themselves from their family? If the answer to these questions is “no,” then you are not completely against feminism and you inherently recognize feminism’s progressive qualities at least to some extent. Because without feminism, we are still in the dark ages as far as women are concerned.

Some people say “well, ok … it’s just that feminism has gone too far.” But saying that “feminism has gone too far” is not the same thing as being against feminism. After all, as you read this, there are still parts of the world where women

  • cannot vote
  • cannot drive
  • are unable to get property in their name
  • are circumscribed from working paying jobs
  • are discouraged / prohibited from pursuing an education
  • are prohibited from having any open leadership role in their community
  • are required to wear clothing covering their face and hair
  • cannot walk down the street alone
  • are subject to clitoris removal in infancy – or even in childhood
  • are bound to marry somebody that they didn’t choose, often at a very young age
  • must tolerate their male partner having multiple other partners, but cannot themselves take other partners
  • are prohibited from reporting a rape committed by a man they are married to
  • can be raped as a “punishment” or “corrective” gesture
  • can be killed for having sex outside of marriage – or even being the victim of a rape

So yes, I understand the disagreements with some of the branches of modern feminism. But when vitriolic attacks on “feminism” as a whole are put out there by angry individuals that want to “strike a blow for justice,” it gives the rest of us no choice but to completely and unequivocally side with feminism, even though most of us have some key disagreements with one thing or another within feminism. Because as much as many people may not like some of the modern faces of feminism, the vast majority of people who live somewhere with a living feminist tradition do recognize, even if only passively or subconsciously, that feminism as a whole has been a development of great progressive character in our societies, and that this progress is worth being upheld and defended.

That is why anyone who wants to raise the profile of men’s issues must not indiscriminately attack feminism. Attacking feminism outright amounts to basically attacking a key pillar on which modern free civilization exists. That’s not going to win you a lot of friends – even among men who should be receptive to a male empowerment message.

The trouble with “feminism has gone too far”

People that call themselves “feminist” can be adversarial also, of course; this article is written to correct some of that, in part. But as I have said before – it’s important not to magnify one’s dislike of part of feminism into a rejection of the whole. Saying that feminism has “gone too far” is often used to imply that the work of feminism is only in the past, and now, it is useless; that women have achieved complete freedom from the things that oppress them, and no more specifically female-oriented empowerment is necessary. This is not the case – feminism is still incredibly important worldwide, including in those countries that already have a substantial history of feminist activism. I’ll get into that another time.

Once again – those that have a beef with one particular kind of feminism, or something that some feminist somewhere is saying must avoid making statements about the superfluousness of feminism in general. “Feminism has gone too far” goes down this road. What is usually meant is something more along the lines of “this kind of thinking is questionable / incorrect / anti-progressive / unjust / exaggerated,” or something of that sort. Heck yeah, let’s have a debate about that.
 
For example, I can’t stand the trans-exclusive radical feminists – those that claim that trans women aren’t really women. Out of a fear of men invading women’s safe spaces has grown this exclusivist ideology that labels trans women as “posers” and “impostors” and other, much nastier shit. This is bald-faced bigotry; there is a world of difference between a man who crossdresses recreationally and a person who lives her life 24/7 as a woman and happened to be born with male genitalia. Such a woman faces pretty much all the same social issues and problems that non-trans women face – often in even greater measure, in fact, because they are transgender. In my opinion, transphobic “feminism” has no place alongside feminism’s progressive accomplishments – because transphobia is not progressive!
 
So there you go. Got a problem with something that came from a feminist/feminists? Focus on the problemnot the feminism. Of course, you have a right to do whatever you like – but framing issues in terms of feminism itself being at fault mucks up the message; rather than people hearing the content of the message, they hear “an attack on feminism” – and the rest is lost.

The “wretched gender?”

For much of modern history, women have not only been looked at as weak, but also often as wretched, or pathetic. This has definitely changed, however, wherever feminism has left its mark. These days, it often seems like things are the other way around: men are made out to be the gender that has fallen behind. Many men’s rights activists point out that in a lot of TV programs and other shows, men are often made out to be these stumbling, bumbling idiots who don’t have a clue about what’s going on around them, or their “privileged existence” – and these stereotypes have some concrete founding: Several books have been written lately about the decline of men (examples: 1 2 3) and it has been widely noted that men have been losing steam in many fields of education and academic achievement, at a time when such achievements mean more than ever before.

This situation is real. Those stereotypes listed earlier in this article are not happening out of thin air – and while it is quite true that visible power is concentrated worldwide heavily in the hands of men, this does not negate at all the sense of powerlessness that so many men who are not in positions of visible power feel in their everyday lives.

“But men still rule the world”

This is what a male friend of mine recently told me. He continued, “men do things for other men; they form their own networks, and promote themselves, and the cycle of male supremacy continues.” So yeah – pay is still by and large unequal (with women earning substantially less than a dollar for every dollar men earn in a similar job position) and women are still underrepresented in positions of visible power – as elected officials, CEOs, and authority figures generally. I sure ain’t denying that. However,
  1. This does not at all mean that men are happier, more fulfilled, or more satisfied with who they are, and
  2. This certainly does not mean that all men are doing the “ruling.”

One of the problems I have with the “men rule the world” view of things is that it excludes an awful lot of men. That’s like saying “Muslims destroyed the World Trade Center” or “Americans love dictators.” It’s a gross misunderstanding of reality based on simplistic labels regarding the identity of a few people that are way more visible than the rest who act “in the name of” the rest – and also often act very differently from the rest. For every man in a position of visible power, there are twenty who have little to no sense of empowerment – who are working their tails off, out of work, buried in debt, unable to move up in life, and so on. If you tell these men that they rule over women and thus are in positions of power as oppressors, it looks like folly, because their whole life experience tells them otherwise – especially when it comes to the power most of them don’t have outside the home, in the workplace, courts, and other public arenas.

And even in the home, personal relationships are a lot more complicated than stereotypes suggest, and whether or not the women many of these men know and live with also feel powerless does not change the men’s own feeling of powerlessness. Take it from me – I’ve been in a miserable heterosexual marriage; both parties often simultaneously feel powerless!

The issue of “male privilege”

Think about this for a second: which men are most likely to get angriest when it is suggested that they [men] are the oppressors, or that they wield power over women? Those that feel most unfulfilled, invalidated, marginalized, powerless, and overall ignored, of course. That’s why the Internet is full of them. Some may say that “these men simply don’t like having their privilege challenged,” but I often see, in these angry moments, a desperate sense of flailing powerlessness; the “male privilege” spoken about by others is thought by many of these men simply as “the benefits of being a man” in equal measure to “the benefits of being a woman” that men have no access to. And now these benefits are to be taken away from men with no corresponding action against women’s “privileges?” Yet another reason many men get frustrated with what they perceive as a one-sided feminist assault on their livelihood as men.

The problem with the “privilege” formulation is that, especially in cases of “challenging male privilege,” it often appears to the men being challenged as though their privilege is a bad thing that must be taken away – a negative paradigm – when the real issue is that everybody should have such privileges: ok, so men can walk alone with less fear of rape and violent assault than women, men can travel to certain places alone that women can’t, men earn more money in the same job than women, men are more likely to get an automatic “respect” in positions of authority in which women have to prove themselves, yes, ok … but the solution to this is not to “knock back male privilege” to the point where men have it as bad as women, but rather, to fight so that women can have it as good as men. THAT would be the positive [and yes, very feminist] response.

No matter what the level of privilege (or lack thereof), men that truly feel validated and empowered do not feel this deep need to “fight back” every time something questionable is said about men. They may disagree (the way I do, for example), but they don’t take it nearly as personally. Lashing out is a hallmark of feeling disempowered, not privileged. The solution to the lashing out is healthy empowerment.

How gender-training promotes different values in men and women

One of the things about traditional gendered upbringing is that, for members of both normative genders, one set of values tends to get emphasized way more than the other. The values and characteristics on the left, in purple, are much more cultivated in women; those on the right, in blue, much more cultivated in men:

  • Vulnerability versus resistance.
  • Gentleness versus firmness.
  • Consideration of others versus consideration of self.
  • Patience in response to injustice versus fighting back in response to injustice.
  • Empathic listening skills versus solution-oriented listening skills.
  • Self-understanding from the point of view of others’ needs versus understanding of others in regard to self-needs.
  • Awareness of feelings versus ability to think objectively.
  • Complex understanding versus straightforward understanding.
  • Attention to subtleties versus attention to the big picture.
  • Ability to hear others speak versus ability to speak out.
  • Consciously letting others have attention versus commanding attention.
  • Letting somebody else win or get it right versus winning or getting something right yourself.

Each of these characteristics, on both sides, has its value; women are disproportionately trained in the purple values on the left. They often face a struggle to cultivate the corresponding values on the right. But wherever a modern sense of female empowerment has taken hold, there are women proudly and reflexively embodying the values on the right as well as on the left. And that’s good. The best scenario is one in which a person is able to encompass all of these characteristics at the appropriate times, balancing each of them out in such a way as to resist when resistance is called for, vulnerability when it’s time to be vulnerable, and so on.

What is stunting men’s growth is that modern society is that as a group, men are generally learning only the values in blue, on the right. Though individual men do learn the [traditionally "female"] skills in purple on the left, there is pretty much no imperative among men as a group to do such a thing; society settles for men that learn only this one set of skills on the right side, while many modern women are constantly encouraging each other to learn both kinds of skills, and feminism has won parts of society over to helping that cause. That is a big reason why, as a group, men are falling behind in so many areas.

As long as we as a society don’t do anything to modify such trends and cultivate more well-roundedness in our boys, we are simply raising another generation of males to be condemned to having the same half-baked set of social skills that we see in many men in previous generations – thus the stereotypes of men being bumbling, stumbling idiots; without those traditionally “female” skills like empathy and self-understanding from other points of view, how are these men ever supposed to grasp the things that society has let them miss out on? Whatever privileges such men have are often invisible to these same men – something that frustrates everyone, when all is said and done. Invisible privilege doesn’t feel like privilege at all. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist – but I am saying that the person experiencing such privilege is very unaware of it, especially when such privilege, by its very nature, hampers one’s ability to develop awareness of themself in relation to others. That feels more like an impediment than a privilege.

The wrong kind of empowerment

Members of which gender commit the vast majority of *violent* crime? I’m totally not saying here that women are exempt from doing criminal, harmful things, but think about something for a second: the more flagrantly violent a crime is, the higher the percentage is of men that commit it. A friend of mine recently remarked that he had heard of exactly one female serial killer; I have noticed on my own that instances of female dictators and female officials at the very top of an armed forces hierarchy almost don’t exist.

This is not an indictment of men as dictators and authoritarians; it is, however, a recognition of how broadly our image of men – and men’s own image of themselves – is influenced by these details. The more openly competitive, win-or-lose, black-and-white thinking – which prevails far more openly and frequently among groups of men than among women – subtly teaches men that a measure of their sense of empowerment is found in how much power they are able to wield over other people. This is very much the wrong kind of empowerment.

Not that individual women can’t also think this way – sure they can. But because of a certain tacit acceptance that “boys will be boys,” a creeping tolerance of more potentially domineering and violent tendencies develops generally among men. Women who develop power-hungry tendencies develop them as individuals in contrast to the feminine norm – whereas when a man is power-hungry and domineering, we tend not to be surprised – as though this is a “normal,” though often regrettable, expression of masculine behavior.

Being able to express strength, lead others, and take charge is a valuable skill for anyone to have at their disposal, no matter what their gender. But when, as a man, you constantly hear messages over your lifetime that in order to be empowered, you can’t be weak, that you can’t be passive, that you can’t let others mess with you, that you must always be strong, always ready to stand up and fight, always ambitious, always the “alpha male,” and all that other normative rubbish, it tends after a while to stick. Especially when you are given NO sense of an alternative way to feel empowered – to feel your strength through letting go and accepting things, for example.

It’s not surprising, then, that many men, when challenged, often get stuck in one of two paradigms: macho self-aggrandizement on the one hand, or just completely turning off, tuning out, and receding into their own world on the other. Neither way is a model for healthy male self empowerment.

What is to be done?

I’ve got some ideas. This applies to everybody who wants to discuss men’s self-empowerment, of course, but I am particularly directing myself to other men here, since we are talking about men dealing with men’s issues:

  1. Let’s talk! Break your silence about what affects you. Bring your life out of the shadows – even if you don’t think this is that serious of an issue. Other men and women need to hear from you.
  2. Don’t neglect your own observations. If you see some place in which men are at a higher risk than women or are significantly behind women in opportunity / development, don’t be afraid to talk about it! This is the whole problem: this stuff is not being talked about enough.
  3. Take a principled but uncombative stance when talking about men’s issues. If bullied or ridiculed, be firm about your convictions without “striking back” in an aggressive way. An aggressive reaction is exactly what bullies want, because it shows that they’ve gotten to you, and then they get to look like the good guys. Don’t fall for it.
  4. Always use nonviolent communication when talking. Disagree with ideas, yes – but do not attack or slur the people saying them. Mudball-throwers aren’t serious about being constructive and moving forward – they just destroy. Don’t be one of those.
  5. Distinguish yourself from those that are “on your side” that you do disagree with. I, for example, am advocating male empowerment, but I will have nothing to do with those hot-headed folks whose idea of empowerment is diatribes against feminism. I also am a feminist, but you’ll never find me siding with anybody, feminist or not, who wishes to exclude trans people, or who thinks that men need no empowerment. It’s important to make these things clear.
  6. Be as constructive as possible. When you are going to shoot down an idea, offer an alternative viewpoint. Avoid falling into too much either-or thinking. Overwhelming negativity also lowers the level of discussion and ultimately gets nowhere. An empowering dynamic raises the level of discussion.
  7. Don’t debate just for the sake of disagreeing. If you disagree, that’s ok – but don’t fetishize it and turn it into a verbal gunfight. If you want to be constructive, the emphasis should be on agreement and common ground when possible.
  8. Discuss in order to learn and to inform - not to win. Constructive discussion is about learning each other’s point of view, so that we can better understand why the other side believes things that we may find ridiculous. If you are going to engage, you might as well learn. The other side does have its reasons for thinking the way they do, and if they see that you are open to hearing their point of view, they will likely be more open to learn from you.
  9. Don’t try to take advantage of somebody’s inability to express themself perfectly. If the other person is just not able, for whatever reason, to be quick and well-organized with their thoughts, give them some room. Don’t overpower them. Engage them in a way that you are able to understand them as best as possible. This is part of playing to learn as opposed to winning an argument.
  10. Don’t give people who communicate violently or negatively what they want. If somebody can’t extract themselves from a combative, domineering position, you have every right to say “ok, I guess we disagree” and walk away, so as not to waste your time. Don’t fall into their I-win-you-lose mode of debate. It’s a waste of breath and brainpower.
  11. Listen – a lot. Show interest in what those you are talking to actually think, and where they are coming from. What’s the point of having a discussion with them and trying to convince them of things they don’t know about if you aren’t going to listen to figure out first of all where their heads are at?
  12. Stay as clear as possible of assumptions. Speak for yourself, and mirror back what you hear other people say, rather than taking what they say and turning it into your own version of things. For example, you can say to someone “when you say X, it sounds to me like Y,” because you are clear that this is what you perceive – and you thus avoid making assumptions about *the* meaning of what somebody has said.
  13. Ask for clarification. A lot of the time, assumptions get made because of simple misunderstandings. Especially when you feel offended by something somebody says – ask them to clarify. Quite often, it’s not what you think.
  14. Frame what you have to say in less potentially offensive ways. Of course you can’t please everybody all the time – but remember, the less offensive your words are, the more likely you are to be heard. Part of the learning process, when discussing with someone who sees things differently than you, is learning what may make them feel belittled, also. Much of the time, a simple adjustment of the words one uses (like avoiding the term “bitch” to refer to a feminist, as an obvious example) can foster a great deal more openness; if the other person feels you are considering them and their values, they are much more likely to consider yours.
  15. Respect and advocate for female empowerment. You are free to disagree with me, of course – but I’ve just spent a long time here trying to convince you that female empowerment is not antithetical to male empowerment. We are teammates, comrades fighting against the same beast of social pigeon-holing and stereotyping, even though we go through very different forms of it. Which is something I want to address next.

Why “feminism” and “male empowerment?” Why not just “equality” or “humanism” or “normalism?”

The short answer is, because we don’t all face the same issues. Different pieces of the fight for equality have different names, because they concentrate on different aspects of injustice.

It also has to do with the fact, however, that these issues can also be very intimate. Many women who might not feel empowered in mixed company to speak out about their experiences regarding sexism will come forth and speak out in an environment for them and by them, specifically focusing on their particular issues. The same can be said about men: a lot of men keep very silent about the things that they are thinking and feeling inside, only opening up when they feel like they won’t be judged or misunderstood for the things they say. We need our separate safe-spaces – on all sides – until the day we truly feel safe enough to let them go. I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

The thinking that we can all come together and work out our problems together is a very necessary one. We need cross-dialogue very much – this is how we learn about each other. But having cross-dialogue does not negate the need sometimes for people that are in a specific group that goes through a specific set of issues to create a safe space to talk about these issues amongst each other. We take this reality for granted when it comes to women; men, however, are not generally encouraged to seek out and create such safe spaces – unless it’s a “man-cave” that offers a respite from even thinking so much about challenging issues. Thus, when men face challenges specific to them, they can become prone to feeling that they have nowhere to say what is truly on their mind and be seriously listened to – by either society-at-large or other men.

Or, when men do speak their mind, they can get the feeling of having to walk on eggshells, lest somebody criticize them and call them out as being politically incorrect, or sexist, or “whiners.” This last epithet is an egregiously unfair macho-baiting slur, because it’s a slap in the face to men who do try to speak out about their issues – which is another understandable reason why some of these men oppose themselves to feminism. The good news is, the more men talk about their issues, the more resistance there will be generally toward such macho-baiting.

Feminists know that men don’t go through certain things that women go through, and that because of this, women have to be at the forefront of defining and dealing with their own issues. The same needs to be said – much more often – about men’s issues. Nobody is in a better place to call out and define the problems a group faces than a member of that particular group. It’s that simple.

Don’t be afraid …

… of the labels. They are not meant to be litmus tests of what you are or aren’t. Use them when they work for you, and avoid them when they don’t. I, for one, identify with “feminism.” I call myself a feminist. That doesn’t mean that you or anyone else has to go by that label. It also doesn’t mean that I’m going to agree with everything that other feminists say. And it CERTAINLY doesn’t stop me from advocating for male empowerment.

It also doesn’t mean that you should be afraid of me, or respect me any more, just because I call myself a feminist. Find out what I really believe, what I really want, and listen to me; I’ll listen to you, we’ll have a dialogue, and most of the time, we’ll find we actually have a great deal more in common than it seemed before.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Achieving peace and understanding, Beliefs and worldview, Debate!, Healthy vulnerability and weakness, Long posts, Sex and sexuality, Staying strong and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Feminism is NOT enough by itself to liberate men from the problems they confront; a treatise on male empowerment

  1. Frothy says:

    Solution to every single problem listed?

    MORE FEMINISM!

    (PS; Radical Feminists don’t believe in the gender binary. We’re not the ones telling you all men are rapists, yada yada yada… That’d be the patriarchy)

    • You say

      Radical Feminists don’t believe in the gender binary.

      After you’ve said

      Solution to every single problem listed?

      MORE FEMINISM!”

      Do you perhaps see how the mere use of the word “feminism” can sound to people outside the choir as being a term that very much validates the gender binary?

      In my opinion, the best way to advance in all of these causes is to not try and apply a cookie-cutter approach to these things. Sure, more feminism is good. So is more antiracism, more anti-transphobia, more empowerment of any group that struggles. But each of these struggles has its own history and its own terms of dialogue, and if we are to activate the consciousness of a broader stripe of people, one-size-fits-all is not enough – whether it’s a feminist saying “more feminism for everybody” or a men’s rights advocate saying “more equality and less feminism for everybody.”

  2. Reblogged this on transynchr0nicity and commented:
    Very, very good post — too well-written not to share!

  3. Pingback: Why men are the sexual hunters and women are considered “keepers of sex” – and what can be done to address this imbalance | Positive Juice

  4. crowepps says:

    I disagree that the solution is ‘more feminism’ because part of the push-back is against the idea that women are trying to ‘fix’ or change men. Men as a group need to identify their problems, find solutions on their own terms and put them into place. As a byproduct of doing so, they will likely improve their interactions with women but the point of liberating men from their oppression by the patriarchy should *not* be to ‘make women happy’, but instead to allow men to be have more satisfying lives free of restrictive gender stereotypes.
    I’d add that child custody is affected by those stereotypical male qualities because men are assumed to be incompetent as nuturers and mistrusted when interacting with their own children as well, as evidenced in every ‘incompetent dad’ comedy ever made and the ubiquity of the question ‘babysitting the kids today?’ Mothers would be insulted by being asked if they are ‘babysitting’ their own children.

    • Seems like we’re pretty much in agreement here! Only thing I would say is that “more feminism,” in my opinion, is definitely part of the solution. Women’s issues are not exactly completely resolved these days. My difference with some feminists is that I think that “more feminism” is not the only part of the solution.

  5. Pingback: Some thoughts about individuals who go on deadly shooting sprees | Positive Juice

  6. the idea of feminism – that women have rights and are equals – is not antithetical to male rights, and in fact includes male rights. For example, males suffer from patriarchy also. males have been conditioned to act in violent ways in order to fit in with the patriarchy’s definition of masculinity, and this is harmful to them. they are also stigmatized for expressing vulnerability or emotion.

    but all this article needed to say was that the fem- in feminism is misleading because feminism is not just about female empowerment, but rather about gender and sex being a non-issue as people should be viewed as equal individuals. perhaps the movement should be renamed to equalism in order to clarify that.

    however, the reason why ‘male empowerment’ language is so offensive is because the world is, by and large, in every country, a patriarchy. worrying about male rights is akin to the USA worrying about white rights. Reading a history book might square that one away — this country has a history of ethnic oppression, not white oppression. If the history were different, you could justifiably feel oppressed. but feeling ‘oppressed’ because of affirmative action or something is ridiculous and invalidates the actual oppression like slavery which existed.

    Similarly, men feeling oppressed in a man’s world is delusional. After all, the only thing each US president had in common was a penis. The constitution did not say “All women were created equal”, all our past presidents did not have vaginas, and the women in Afghanistan are not forcing men to cover their whole bodies up and denying them access to education. if this were true, then i’d agree with you that men’s empowerment was needed.

    but listen — there is no country where females are the ones in charge.

    IF that country ever exists where men are denied the right to publish books in their own name and have to publish it under their wife’s name, i’ll agree with you that ‘male empowerment’ is needed.

    until then, i think we can safely call feminism a bid for equality, not matriarchy, or whatever it is that anti-feminists are worried about, and treat it as the solution to both men and women’s problems.

    • I agree with pretty much everything you have written here. When I wrote this, I was thinking more in terms of “and” than “instead.” As in, we need feminism and we need a sense of male empowerment among men – internal empowerment, not oppressive “power over other people.”

      The reason I don’t go full on for “equalism” is precisely because it’s important that we recognize the need for women’s empowerment, i.e. feminism – and that this movement is completely necessary and men should want to get involved and not be afraid of the word “feminist.” This is part of recognizing open solidarity with women’s movements as necessary.

      However, there is this often missing piece of the puzzle: you say that “men feeling oppressed in a man’s world is delusional.” Ok … so why are there many that feel oppressed? Are their feelings invalid? I don’t think it’s simply a privilege thing. Perhaps we could say it’s a class issue. Certainly, men with the means to feel that the world is theirs have no reason to feel oppressed. But when a man of more limited means encounters situations in which society and the justice system are mistrustful of him both because he is of a lower class background and yes, because he is male (and not female), I’m not willing to dismiss his feelings of oppression as “delusional,” even if we determine that overall, such a man does not face a systematic cradle-to-grave network of sexual oppression in every facet of society, the way women do.

      “Male empowerment” is not about men getting political power; it’s more of a personal struggle. Perhaps I should have called it “male self-empowerment” to be less confusing. In the same way as feminism contains that personal, consciousness-raising element, many men desperately need this kind of consciousness-raising – otherwise, they are more likely to isolate themselves and turn to destructive, anti-feminists ideologies. This is why I believe in a “feminism plus” approach to these things, rather than “feminism will cure all by itself.” It should not take away from a feminist’s cred that they wish to point out that men also have their own issues, and that these issues, though not stemming from any alleged “female supremacy,” still matter.

      • Thanks for the clarification; I too agree with everything you’ve said. However, yes, I do feel that men who feel oppressed by and large are delusional, although there are a rare few – as I stated- who have legitimate claim to feeling oppressed – such as those men who may have lost child custody due to a female-centric bias in child custody situations, or not being taken seriously if they endure domestic violence from a female. In those cases, their feelings are legitimate. However, by and large, when I hear men complaining I hear a complaint about a sense of loss relating to the past – a sort of wistful, nostalgic view of the “good ole days” when it was a man’s world. They’re often whining about the loss of privilege and construing this loss of privilege as “oppression.” In other words, a rise in feminism necessarily entails a decrease in male privilege, but a decrease in male privilege is not genuine oppression. I do feel that their feelings are invalid, especially when their feelings are based in a sense of entitlement. Just as an example – I sat next to a very racist, sexist older white male on the bus the other day, and the things he was saying completely astounded me. You don’t hear those kinds of comments (about women, blacks, immigrants, and resentment towards their success in America) and hear the spite in his voice and think “oh poor baby, he’s been oppressed.” Who’s oppressing him? Is anyone telling him he can’t vote? He’s pissed off because things weren’t what they used to be, back when being a white male meant you could do whatever you wanted. And the anger stemming from that entitlement is invalid, imo.

      • are a rare few – as I stated- who have legitimate claim to feeling oppressed – such as those men who may have lost child custody due to a female-centric bias in child custody situations, or not being taken seriously if they endure domestic violence from a female.

        I wonder just how “rare” this is. I don’t think it’s smotheringly common, but there’s often a lot of silence among men regarding anything that might make them look weak. Domestic violence also comes from male intimate partners and members of one’s family, and I think that male victims of it often (no matter who the perpetrator is) face a kind of “man up” pressure that prevents more of them from sharing their experiences. Not unlike the “keep silent and don’t disappoint your husband/family” pressures that women face/have faced in places where feminism is shunned and women’s issues are not talked about – such as the “good ol’ days.”

        I think the main issue is how much we are able to talk about these things we face. This article was trying to point out that men, as a group, do not have this space to critically and self-analytically talk about their problems between themselves. Men do have “man spaces” and “man caves” – but these are places in which men “tune out” rather than “tuning in.” Men are socially permitted to talk about their problems in a “rant/fix-it” manner, but there is still not much space for them to get deeper, more vulnerable, more group-introspective, and such space is desperately necessary. And while feminist men are likely the leaders of the creation of such male-consciousness-raising spaces where they are established, this kind of talking about men’s issues goes outside the purview of traditional feminism, because it is now focusing specifically on the situations of men.

      • why define that “safe space” as separate from feminism? The definition you gave seems to make it synonymous to feminism – men are silent about their spousal abuse because patriarchal norms shame them for appearing weak. If feminism is about dismantling the patriarchy, what is the difference between traditional feminist discourse and the “safe space” you suggest? I can’t grasp the difference. You suggested that traditional feminism was focused exclusively on women — which is true, but modern feminism isn’t about just women, and both conceptions — old and new — fall under the bracket of feminism. To me, this seems to be about semantics.

        Or perhaps you’re suggesting something different. Do certain males feel attacked by those feminists who are concerned solely with women’s issues, and thus need a separate playground to wrestle with gender-related ideas because they don’t think feminists are open to male issues? I believe that this is true if this is the point you are trying to make. I think that’s a real problem. However, I’m not sure that segregating issues by “male” and “female” issues is the solution. They should still be looked at within a unified framework. In fact, I think it would be ironic to segregate a movement related to gender equality by gender. As for men feeling safe to discuss things, universities are already changing “women’s studies” programs to “gender studies” to make discussions more hospitable to issues pertaining specifically to males, so while I feel bad for those males who might currently feel as though they are being attacked in such settings, I don’t think a new ‘male empowerment’ movement is necessary because institutions are already aware of this problem and actively correcting it. I think a bigger problem within society is the stereotype of the angry-ugly-lesbian-feminist used to discredit feminism as a movement with the perfect mix of lookism and homophobia thrown in. I’ve seen feminists being attacked far more than I’ve seen or heard of males being attacked for complaining about child custody laws. If anything, there needs to be more safe spaces for feminists, as being a feminist is essentially highly stigmatized these days, while being sexist, at least according to popular media and hip hop songs, has always been “in.”

      • You say that youdon’t believe that a male empowerment movement is necessary … but what about all those men that do feel it’s necessary, and are indeed feeling powerless and rudderless? Do you presume to speak for them? Not all men feel this way, certainly not … but quite a few do. Enough so that the backlash against feminism is becoming quite a problem.

        Modern feminism is about women principally. I understand that it deals with power structures that affect men also, but it is not about men, and we should not make the mistake of leaving men with the impression that feminism is about them. (Often, debates devolve into “what has feminism done for men lately?” which I am not a big fan of. Feminism doesn’t have to do special favors for men in order to “prove” itself)

        To me, male self-empowerment (I will start using “self-” from now on, to be clearer) is not about pulling the poor men up out of their wretchedness, or anything like that. It’s men’s own journey – a journey men (those of us that are categorized by society as men) have to take for themselves and by themselves, dealing with challenges specific to their own existence.

        Just as only a woman knows the experience of being a woman, so the same applies to men. And if men are creating their own exclusive spaces (that are not passively normative “boys clubs,” but rather spaces for active dialogue about men’s situation and self-improvement), well, I’d rather that such spaces exist so that I can argue within them that feminism is an allied movement. If such spaces are threatened and ignored, rather than respected, conversations like that may not always happen, and more men will be driven into that space of perpetual opposition to what they will claim is a feminism-supremacist society.

        You must not see this as a comparison about which gender is more oppressed. It’s merely a commentary on the fact that men, between themselves, have a lot of unfinished business to work out, especially given how the prevailing view of what masculinity is is often so disgustingly reactionary – and though they very well should see feminism as their ally, sometimes they need the space to figure it out on their own, as it applies to their issues and their struggles. Feminism by itself, insomuch as its focus is principally around women’s issues, cannot do that for them.

  7. Just to edit my above comment: However, by and large, when I hear men complaining I hear a complaint about a sense of loss relating to the past – a sort of wistful, nostalgic view of the “good ole days” when it was a man’s world.

    *** I meant to say that while it still is absolutely a man’s world today in 2013, it was far more of a man’s world in the 1950s and there’s a sense among certain right-wingers that those were the good ole days when you could get away with sexism a lot more openly. These days, it’s more covert because it’s no longer institutionalized. That said, sexism against women is still common and it is still a man’s world today.

  8. One thing caught my eye toward the end of your rant. I think the idea that “people in a group are better able to call out issues facing that group” is true to the point that people are able to *identify* their issues, but that doesn’t mean that they’re better able to comprehend them or find solutions to them. An example would be the oft-cited problem women have of “feeling unsafe” when they walk alone at night, despite the fact that men are more likely to be victimized by all forms of violent crime, and random crimes in particular. I often hear feminists identify the problem as *being* unsafe, when the real problem is the feeling of danger (which I’d argue arises from media sensationalizing violence against women). They campaing to raise awareness for a problem that doesn’t really exist, and in doing so exacerbate the actual problem.

    What I’m getting at here is that, while you should definitely call out problems you feel aren’t being addressed, and listen when people call out their own problems, you should seek as much feedback from as many different viewpoints as possible in defining those problems.

    • Hmmm … I agree with you in principle … but why use that particular example? A lot of what you say isn’t totally true (ex: men are more likely to be victimized by all forms of violent crime – this is not so).

      I’m all for listening and adjusting language. But when the advice is coming from a suspect place, it becomes a lot harder to trust, if you see where I’m coming from.

  9. The problem many men have with the MYTH of male privilege is that it is simply bunk. The only area where men have “privilege” is at the executive level, less than one percent of the population. Outside that level, “male privilege” includes, among other things being sentenced to (on average) 40% more prison time than women for the same crimes and making up virtually all of workplace fatalities. To insinuate that common men somehow have some built in advantage over women just for being men is frankly, bullshit. Men don’t take issue with the fact we don’t have privilege any more. Men take issue with the fact that feminists are still pushing this idea that this big built-in advantage for men still exists. It is deeply insulting and not remotely accurate. The people who still believe in the myth of male privilege are people whose minds are still stuck somewhere around 1976. The rest of us have moved on. You might want to join us in a time I call THE PRESENT.

    • Men take issue with the fact that feminists are still pushing this idea that this big built-in advantage for men still exists.

      Some men do. Not all. Many agree with this conclusion, actually.

      First of all, your comments only apply to some parts of the world. In many parts of the world, Women are openly and legally still second-class citizens. This is not the case for men anywhere.

      Now – in the United States and other western countries: There are areas in which being a woman can be an advantage, sure. When interacting with children or other vulnerable groups, or in certain legal situations, for example. But situational advantages are not the same as having the whole society structured in such a way that it is the norm for men to be in positions of power. CEOs are over 95% male. Heads of armies and other military divisions are almost exclusively male – the higher up the hierarchy you go, the more male it gets. And in the workplace, men get paid more than women in the same jobs – across the board.

      Then there’s sexuality and sexual harassment. Not that all men have it pretty – but few men know what it’s like for their sexuality to be potentially part of every interaction they will have in their working adult life. A lot of people poo-poo this, saying that women use the attributed value to their sexuality to their own advantage, but as a result of this automatic sexualization there is this really, really vast underbelly of insecurities about weighing too much, smelling bad, being too bony, having too much hair in certain parts of the body, having wrinkles, being considered ugly, imperfect skin, the right makeup, the right hair look, the right matching clothes and shoes, not being too “slutty” nor too “prudish,” and so on.

      Women don’t have a choice to opt out of this, and few men that are both straight and normatively male-presenting really understand what this feels like, and how it affects an entire life’s trajectory. There is no equivalent for men on this issue: socioeconomic background and status do affect men’s luck, yes – but this is also true for women.

      You are right to point out that things have changed since generations ago, but that doesn’t mean you can just sweep the inequalities that still exist under the rug and call it done. That’s wishful thinking – if only it were truly the case!

  10. Very interesting blog here!

    I agree with it almost entirely, and I would like to share a small story and some thoughts.

    Recently, my friend, who is a woman, shared a story on her facebook account. She described her frustration in being followed home from work one day, her account of street harassment. This has happened to her before, and this was a general post of frustration, not with men, but just with the fact that street harassment actually happens. That is definitely something be frustrated about and I agree, it’s frustrating.

    But not just for her, nor other people whom encounter such street harassment.
    Several of her friends also responded, some men, some women. One of the men that respond described all the men in the city to be, quote, “Privileged ignorant fucks.”
    The other man said it was things like this that made him hate his own gender.

    Surely, they don’t mean everyone. But it’s everyone’s problem.

    How does this make me feel?

    I know that I would never harass something on the street, but I feel like I have to put extra effort into not coming off as a creep. It’s something I worry about. I wouldn’t even dream of approaching a woman on the street. Even with my smile.

    “Oh, you have to worry, poor you!” you might say.
    You’re right, I wouldn’t say this is oppression. But it is frustrating, just as is my friend’s situation.

    Like you said in this blog post, and something that really resonated with me: “Because it’s the same monster: you play to the stereotype, you lose; you avoid the stereotype, you lose.”

    It really is everyone’s problem. I agreed with you again, when you said that the term “‘feminism’ can sound to people outside the choir as being a term that very much validates the gender binary.” Sadly, I think it is used in such a way. In my opinion, Feminism is as much of a men’s movement as it is a women’s movement.

    After all, it is a progressive movement. Why drag down a gender for the sake of another? Why drag any gender, at all.

    Easier said than done, I’m afraid.

    Chris

  11. Pingback: Some things I’ve learned about recognizing, coping with, and fighting oppression and bigotry | Positive Juice

  12. Pingback: What’s a “FEMINIST” | Amalgamated Feminism

Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s