Thursday, September 4, 2008

I think I may be on to something...

A short while ago I made a a post which was basically a response to a post made at Womanist Musings earlier.

Now that I've had made a post to work through my frustrations I've got a moment to think a bit clearer. Feminists are pissed off about the "What about the men?" factor that seems to come into their spaces. They are tired of being told that they have to consider the male perspective on the topic at hand. I can't blame them for that. And I know there is some feminist reading this thinking "How can he know how we feel when he has male privilege and shit?" Well frankly its called trying to think from the other person's angle or as I call it "The Test" (that's just a tentative name).

The Test is a simple exercise in trying to imagine someone else's angle on a situation by way of applying it to yourself. In this case the question is, "How would I feel if I had people coming to my site asking "What about ____ ?" type questions. Yes that sounds self centered but short of a massively radical change this is as close one can get.

I'd wonder is why are such people here. Well in the past I know that one of the things that attracted me to a feminist space with such questions wasn't the fact that men weren't the center attention but it was the fact that they were passing off generalizations about men that were untrue. So if I were to start throwing around generalizations like "Feminists hate men.", "They don't want equality they want superiority.", or "They have the upperhand in family court what else do they want?" I would expect a not so welcome reaction because I know such things are not true.

Now of course I'm free to talk about whatever the hell I want on my own site but at the same time is it really fair to think that I can sling generalizations around and not expect a reaction from the people I'm talking about?

In my reading about gender relations in recent times one thing I've noticed about men and women is that when men make unfair generalizations about women they will react on their own spaces and when women make unfair generalizations about men men will react on the space in question as well as on the own spaces. What makes gender relations tough is that fact that while the topic at hand is how can men and women come together men and women seem to feel more comfortable talking about such issues among themselves without the other gender around. How can we decide on how to come together when we insist on working out the kinks without one another?


Meadester said...

Danny, for those who have not read my response to you on WomanistMusings (or in case Renee deletes it as she has done with one of my previous comments) here it is again:
Renee is a "Marxist" (i.e. a Communist) ... you are mainly talking about cases individual injustice but in the Marxist world individuals do not exist, only oppressed groups and privileged ones. Injustice must be tolerated for the overarching goal of "regulat[ing]large corporations and wealthy individuals in the public interest."

Anonymous said...

I am so ramble-spamming your blog, aren't I?

How can we decide on how to come together when we insist on working out the kinks without one another?

I've been asking myself that same question for a long time now, and I wish I could find the words to tell you how encouraging it is to see a man feeling the same way and willing to say it publicly. I've been struggling with some seriously deep depression about this, because every time I've tried to engage with men I don't know well in their own spaces, I've been hated on so utterly that I've begun to wonder whether it's just impossible to find that ground. As you say, it makes me feel like pulling back into my safe zone and never coming out again, but then what?

You seem to have a good understanding for why women need feminist spaces to work out their feelings and experiences. Not all women come out of those spaces prepared or willing to converse with men about that, nor should they be expected to. But there are those of us who do struggle all the time with how to frame the issue in a way that is understandable to men without compromising the message or ourselves in the process, and that's very difficult. Male privilege accounts for much of that obstacle but, at least for me personally, there is also the fact that it is a constant process of development, learning and trying to work through my own experiences and conclusions in such a way that I can explain them to others coherently. That's a whole skill of its own that I have not yet mastered.

Trying to convince anyone to entertain a new idea always requires expressing understanding for them and making it personally relevant in some way. It is soul-crushing to face the fact that the simple idea that women are human beings is new to many men and it isn't already personally relevant to them. It isn't an abstraction to me: that's me and my life as a human I'm talking about and their willingness to see that shapes the very parameters of my existence in society, so it isn't the intellectual game that some men treat it as. It's incredibly serious. It makes it difficult to find the motivation to try to understand men's experiences when the cost/benefit ratio of that effort has been very expensive to me on every conceivable level.

However, after I've licked my wounds, I continue to try because I very much believe that without understanding how men experience their own lives and feminism, it is impossible to create an effective architecture of thought to communicate with them. If I don't understand where a given man's experience is preventing him from understanding feminism, and why he has come to conclusions other than that women are human beings, I can't know how to address the problem.

The trouble is that it is very difficult to get men to speak about this honestly and openly without clouding the truth with defensive rhetoric. I can't always tell when a man is distorting or withholding information because he is afraid that it will be perceived as a weakness. Generally, I have to show my own jugular first in order to hope for an appeal to his humanity and compassion, which about as often as not, results in him attacking me for it while I'm vulnerable. While over the Internet, I am relatively safe from those attacks having material effect other than the emotional pain of having just been hated on, I worry that if I piss that man off, he might take it out on whatever women he has influence over, because many men see women as interchangeable. That too makes me hesitant to engage men who I don't know very well personally.

So, the point of all that explanation is to let you know that yes, yes, yes, it would be absolutely fantastic if we could establish a basis of effective communication between feminists and men who don't understand feminism, but as a man, how would you propose that I could overcome some of those challenges? Taking for granted that I already understand and accept that generalizations about all men are not logical or productive, and taking for granted that you understand that not all feminists are representative of or accountable for every other feminist, what ways can you think of that would make feminism more comprehensible to men, without compromising the message of feminism, or the human integrity of women doing the communicating?

Danny said...

Don't worry about the rambling. You may cause me to think of something I haven't thought of yet.

I think one of the biggest problems preventing true open communication is the definition of "open communication". For some it would mean that everyone gets their laundry out into the air. For others it seems to mean, "You're wrong and I'm right and any reason you may think of to disagree with me is automatically wrong." I'm sorry but no matter what they think there is no way you're going to attain true equality if you come out of the gate blaming the other side for everything thats wrong with the world.

That blame is the reason you see the interaction between Renee and I play out that way. For some reason it seems to me that she is hellbent on trying to blame all the worlds problems on all men. And when you say something about that she just goes into guilty by association mode which basically means, "Most of the problems are caused by men and since you're a man you are benefiting from it and its your responsibility to resolve it." And honestly that is what the concept of "male privilege" is turning into. The reason I never dismissed male privilege outright is because it is indeed real. The problem is now it has been taken way out of context. But since I am a man anything I may have to say on the subject other than, "You're right I'm wrong, how can I fix this?" is rendered null and void from the get go.

Imagine being in a conversation with someone and the other person you're talking to has decided from jump off you are wrong no matter what? Not only that but when you ask about that decision they accuse you of trying to silence them. Renee is a good blogger and while I don't agree with her on everything I refuse to let one disagreement ruin it for me (I have a personally history of writing things off after one bad go around that I'm trying to overcome).

So, the point of all that explanation is to let you know that yes, yes, yes, it would be absolutely fantastic if we could establish a basis of effective communication between feminists and men who don't understand feminism, but as a man, how would you propose that I could overcome some of those challenges?
In all honesty the only way those challenges will be over come is if everyone would leave their grudges, shoulder chips, and hatred at home and only bring the issues at hand. A woman speaking her mind is not an uppity bitch and a man speaking his mind is not an exercise in male privilege. Their attitude and what they say are make the difference. As soon as both sides realize that we will all be better off.