Thursday, September 4, 2008

There is still plenty to be done...

Okay its been a few days so here goes.

Earlier today at Womanist Musings Renee made a post about the one question that could be considered the bane of all feminists, "What about the men?" I've already posted a response there but I cut myself off because more than likely in my attempt to explain that question I would be accused of doing the very thing she is complaining about.

Okay in order to get my thoughts straight I think I will take the surgical approach (meaning I will copy sections of her post and follow with my thoughts on it).

What about the men is a common refrain on feminist blogs. It seems speaking about womens issues is considered an affront to patriarchy. It does not matter what feminist blog you decide to read, at some point someone in the comment section will feel the overwhelming need to point out that men are oppressed to. Dear Lord how do these men manage to get by with the burden of owning and controlling over 95% of the worlds wealth? How do they survive daily beating their wives and raping women?

I most certainly agree feminists should have there own spaces to talk about the things they want to talk about. Take a look at the name of this blog and I'm sure you'll see I understand that everyone needs their space. But unlike my little slice of heaven here I think the reason feminist spaces get clogged up with "What about the men?" talk is because there are a lot of men out there that really are self centered jerks. Not every man that brings up gender relation issues has a valid concern just as not every woman that brings up gender relation issues has a valid concern. Just as feminists say some of those men disrupt feminist discussion for the sole sake of keeping the spotlight on men. However in the reading I've done feminists aren't all that innocent either. You see the last two questions in that section I quoted? Men may very well control 95% of the world's wealth but considering how that 95% is actually distributed among those men trying to lump all men together as if we all are intentionally keeping said wealth out of the hands of women is laughable. Greed is gender neutral. Daily beatings and rapes? Yes men do commit a large portion of violence but again to just put us all together like that? The stuff in those last two sentences sounds a lot like the men who unfairly go around calling women gold diggers and lying bitches.



A man that continually reads feminist blogs would learn how to look at the world with the eyes of a new born babe; not tinted with the social stigmatizations that regularly attach themselves to women's bodies.
Now this is actually good advice. And this is also why my blog roll has more women's spaces then men's spaces on it. I have a good understanding (but not absolute due to the fact that I alone do not represent all men) of how men think and feel so I want to make an effort to understand how women think and feel and what better way to do so than to look those women up?


Men are not struggling, largely living in poverty. Men are not reduced to their genitals and routinely treated as second class citizens. No, men are like a fine bottle of wine, only growing in value as they age.
Notice that I didn't copy the entire paragraph that this section came from. I didn't because I agree with the other part but generalizations like this are what attracts "What about the men?" type responses. About poverty, just as men dominate the top of the economic ladder men also dominate the bottom of the economic ladder. While it is anecdotal in my own experience I have seen way more homeless and impoverished men than women. Men are not reduced to their genitals indeed. They are reduced to their earning potential and class status. On aging I do notice that women are left to the wayside when they get older (which is odd to me because I find older women extremely attractive). But in reverse men are left on the wayside in their younger years and then in their older years they are valuable again. Could it be because they've had a decade or two to get their careers and live established? Notice that when it comes to strictly sex an older woman that goes for younger men is a "free, liberated, and knows what she wants" but a older man that goes for younger women is a "pervert that is only after he body and needs to wise up". So while women most certainly have a lot of issues to deal with men do not have a cake walk through life either.



Now while I agree that interjecting into women's spaces with men's issues is wrong the fact of the matter is in a world of equality men are going to be expected to take an active role in it. Which is why I think that Renee is level headed enough in But to think that women are already at the finish line waiting for men to catch up so they cross together is not true. And in fact one of the paragraphs in Renee's post hits the nail pretty good from the woman's perspective.

Equality would mean actually doing 50% of the housework, child care and elder care. That is right, taking care of the house means more than washing the car on Saturday and sitting on the driving lawn mower while you sip away at a beer. It means learning how to speak without invoking male privilege constantly. No more, calling women sluts, bitches, whores and cunts. It further means the unequivocal end of all violence against women. No more taking out your rage on your wife's body. No more raping, while blaming the victim. Equality means owning every single act of misogyny and hatred, and pledging never again to violate women.

I'd like to add this:

Equality would mean acknowledging there is MUCH more to maintaining society and the family than in housework and child/elder care. That's right busting his butt all week long working insane hours adds a little more value to that car maintenance (which means a lot more than washing it) and lawn mowing. No more, calling men bastards, dicks, assholes and jerks. It further means the unequivocal end of all violence against men. No more taking out your rage on your husband's body then hiding behind false allegations to get off the hook. No more gender sentencing discounts. No more taking your rage at your husband out on the children by abusing them, breaking up the family home, or separating them from their father out of pure spite. No more hitting men and then hiding behind the old gender tradition of, "You can't hit a woman." Equality means owning every single act of misandry and hatred, and pledging never again to violate men.



As well as this:
I would like to see the day that when a woman is not assumed to be a prostitute because of the way she dresses as much I would like to see the day a man is not assumed to be a criminal because of how he dresses. I would like to see the day that a woman with a large stomach isn't assumed to be pregnant as much as I would like to see the day that a large man isn't assumed to be playing for a sports team. I would like to see the day that a woman doesn't resort to making false allegations against a man as a revenge tactic as much as I would like to see the day that a man doesn't see the need to rape a woman to "keep that uppity bitch in her place."



Now imagine if I tried to post all of this over on Renee's place...

3 comments:

Woman said...

Danny,

Hi there. I tracked your conversation with Renee and followed it here. First of all, I really appreciate what you're doing here. I like reading the perspectives of reasoned men who are in good faith attempting to come to grips with issues of feminism and oppression. It gives me an interesting insight and perspective that I can't have on my own, so thank you for sharing it. That said, I am going to point some things out that you may not have considered, but I ask you to please try to read them just as the suggestions that they are; after all, you can always ignore them. The reason that I am pointing them out is not to try to fuck with you, win a zero-sum game, or be more right than you, but because I believe you when you say that you are really trying to get it.

I think the reason feminist spaces get clogged up with "What about the men?" talk is because there are a lot of men out there that really are self centered jerks.

That can be explored much more deeply than you have, though it tends only to be explored on feminist spaces. It would be so much more productive if men would really look into what makes some of these men the particular brand of "self centered jerk" that they are. They target women specifically and feel entitled to do so. Why? From where does that entitlement spring? How did it get there? What fed it? What allows it to grow in that very determined anti-feminist direction?

Those are questions that many men, even well-intentioned men, never really ask themselves. Instead, those "other" guys are just jerks or assholes, and no real thought is given as to why or how that translates to women's lives, and I posit that this is because you don't have to think of why. Not really. It doesn't really get in your way when guys do this to women on a daily basis. Not until you try to have a conversation with feminists -- women that I'm sure you'd like spending time with in person -- and they are immediately suspicious of you because they have no way of telling whether you're a jerk or not unless they allow you the opportunity to attack them. Thus, it might behoove you to do more than just dismiss those men as jerks and really think about the reasons behind their numbers and ubiquity, if you are interested in having better relations with feminist women, because it is very important to us. We do have to think about it all the time.

However in the reading I've done feminists aren't all that innocent either.

Of course not. Feminists are not a monolithic group of interchangeable non-human objects. Feminism is the idea that women are human beings entitled to suffrage, and it is understood that this is not accepted by society in varying degrees. Feminists are human beings who agree with that. That's all. It wouldn't be rational to expect that we are all perfect, or that we are all anything other than human.

Men may very well control 95% of the world's wealth but considering how that 95% is actually distributed among those men trying to lump all men together as if we all are intentionally keeping said wealth out of the hands of women is laughable. Greed is gender neutral.

This is a very complicated subject. Greed is a biological impulse, yes, because all living things want as much energy as they can get for the least amount of effort (energy) expended. That is true. However, men have a very specific set of advantages in acquiring that energy, and women have a very specific set of disadvantages against it. Procreating is expensive for women, in terms of energy. Men are larger and more physically strong on average, and do not share that same biologically mandated burden. This gives them the ability to obtain more energy than women, which men -- like any other creature operating strictly from instinct -- will tend to use to their advantage. In this case, men use it to hold women hostage, guaranteeing them a breeding partner, because as long as men have more of the stuff, women will have to comply more with male demands in order to get that stuff. When women have more of their own stuff, they are less compliant. In order to balance that out a bit more, our culture would have to adopt a gender-property relationship that is closer to the Mosuo's walking marriage model, where women control the property that they need to support their children within their maternal family. As long as women do not have all the resources that they need to take care of themselves and their children, and still require the majority of contributions from men in this because men still control the majority of the property and resources, then women will continue to be subject to male rules. Thus, yes, Greed may be gender neutral, but the means of how well each gender can act that out is definitely not. This makes a great deal of difference when talking about issues of poverty and class intersections with feminism.

This also speaks to some of your later paragraphs about men busting their butts to support a family. Women bust their butts, but domestic work is not paid by society. There is no promotional opportunity or advancement unless you marry up or divorce him for his money. Housework and the chores of childcare that are relegated to women most often are generally tedious, unfulfilling and repetitive, and yet we are constantly told that it is our nature to enjoy these things and find fulfillment in them. The male in that relationship determines how much she is paid, and yes, that is in turn determined by how much he makes within a very often unjust system of labor. Companies regularly count on and profit from the free labor of a woman at home in order to overwork men, because it is cheaper to overwork a man than it would be to hire more employees (including women), pay them fairly and work them reasonable hours that would allow both parents the opportunity to equally distribute home and childcare labor.

I'm just pointing out a very few things here that you might think on, in regards to how the Patriarchy affects the household and gender relations within it. There is a great deal more to it, but the point is not that you are wrong, because your observations are apropos. It's that you have not positively identified why these things are happening, yet, which would also explain why feminists spend most of their time concentrating on feminism. Without addressing the gender inequalities in the resource and labor distribution within society and families, we can't really address the exploitation of men within that system.

Daily beatings and rapes? Yes men do commit a large portion of violence but again to just put us all together like that?

I agree with you. Not all men beat or rape. More precise language would have been that 95% of rapes are committed by men. 95% of beatings within a household between adult partners is committed by men. That is not the same thing as saying that 95% of men rape and beat women. Generally, when a feminist is writing about those things, what she means when she says that men do these things, is that she's overlooking that 5% that's left over of women who beat and rape men and women. That doesn't make it correct, of course. It also is not speaking to the men who are raped in prison, gay men who are raped, or men who are beaten by gay partners. Those are all important issues, as well.

And yet, for that 95% number to be true, there are a great many men out there committing those crimes, because 1 in 4 women have been raped and/or beaten by men, and it is almost always someone that the woman knows well. Some guy she thought was nice at one point. Nice like you. Can you imagine how traumatic that is? That women who live in a world that hates them that much can manage to write coherently about it at all is a testament to their strength. It is understandable that some women who write about it commit the semantic error of not making it entirely clear that they realize that not all men rape when they say that men rape. In my experience, when those women are called on that they will openly acknowledge their error and correct it, which shows a depth of compassion for men that is very, very rarely returned. The men who are asking for that correction almost never comment with compassion for the women who must live in such a world where those experiences are very common. The fact that they are not leads many feminists to come to the conclusion that the men don't actually care that women are being raped, but rather that they just don't want to feel guilty about it.

Your comments about MRA's in the forum were interesting and I appreciated hearing them. I have looked into the MRA agenda and had many, many MRAs come to my site and berate me for not paying enough attention to their issues (a few threatened me with rape, in fact), and so I've been wary about MRA advocates. However, I have always agreed that the law is deeply flawed in regards to families, but I believe that in order for that problem to be resolved, women absolutely must receive suffrage first. If we cannot have equal wages and be seen as human beings without being threatened for simply being female.

That threat translates to a real hindrince on a woman's progress. I'll give you just a personal example: Yesterday, my car died suddenly and my cell phone was dead, too. So, I had to walk home 5 miles during the day alongside the freeway because there wasn't any other way to get home that wouldn't have required a 10 mile trip out of the way. While I was walking, every 5 minutes or so, some guy would honk at me and yell. Some people might suggest that this just happens and I should ignore it. The trouble is that two of those guys who honked decided to turn around. They were on motorcycles and so they pulled off of the freeway and came alongside me. They offered me a ride, which I declined. Then they started threatening me and pushing me physically back and forth between them, laughing. A cop drove by and beeped his siren at them, and so they gave me one last shove into the dirt (which made me cut my leg) and drove off. No one did anything. I had to limp home the rest of the way. So you see, it isn't safe to ignore those honks and catcalls. Chances are, one of them will turn out to be someone who is willing to take those thoughts they're having of hurting me and make them real, and I don't know which ones they are. I can't afford to ignore them or laugh or take them as compliments. What this means is that I cannot walk along the side of the road like men do all the time unless I'm prepared to be raped or beaten, which limits my movement and freedom in the world.

This is also true in many workplace environments, particularly those that are male-dominated already. They will say hostile things about women and then think it is unfair that women don't have a sense of humor about it. But how does a woman know if you're kidding or not? It makes working in those environments frightening and many women would just rather not take that risk, which limits their freedom to pursue those careers. Most men assume it's because girls don't like machines or cars or whatever, because nice guys like you don't realize how threatening it is to exist in that world.

Your complaints, such as they are, about the sexism against men are all valid. I would suggest that you examine more closely why those sexist definitions exist. Were they created by women outside of the Patriarchy, or are they the result of the Patriarchy's assignations of gender role that women are taught as well as men? I believe that they are definitely the result of the Patriarchy, and I'd be glad to talk more with you about why I think that, if you like. For now, I'll leave you with this epic length comment before I break Blogger.

S.

Woman said...

If we cannot have equal wages and be seen as human beings without being threatened for simply being female.

I didn't finish this thought... phone rang.

It should read:

If we cannot have equal wages and be seen as human beings without being threatened for simply being female, then it is impossible for women to have the resources that would keep them from feeling an instinct to resort to the things you're talking about out of self-interest. It isn't right, and I fully acknowledge that, but it is also a symptom of the Patriarchy. This is not to say that women would be angels if they had equal power and money, but rather that it would be then proper for men to be equally protected in property division and child custody disputes by the law. Right now, the law is broken, because women are so incredibly disadvantaged and a few incomplete laws dealing with only a very tiny part of the problem well after the ravages of the Patriarchy have already damaged that relationship, can't repair the vast systemic problem that brought it on to begin with.

There. Done now.

Danny said...

I appreciate the conversation.

It would be so much more productive if men would really look into what makes some of these men the particular brand of "self centered jerk" that they are.
Let me ask you this. Its very common for feminists to make the statement that all feminists are not some monolithic groups that all think, act, and feel the same and therefore should not be held accountable for each others actions. True right? You wouldn't hold Renee responsible for the actions/thoughts of Amanda Marcotte or La Chola would you? So why does that reasoning go out the window when it comes to the feminist thought that each and every man should take responsibility for the actions of each and every man when we are only linked by our chromosomes? (And not to offend the trans community but does this mean that trans men should also be held to such expectations?)


Not until you try to have a conversation with feminists -- women that I'm sure you'd like spending time with in person -- and they are immediately suspicious of you because they have no way of telling whether you're a jerk or not unless they allow you the opportunity to attack them.
I really would like to meet some feminists in person (namely Renee, despite what I may think of some of her views). I don't really blame women being suspicious (personal experience means a lot) of men but at the same time why is it wrong to be suspicious of feminists (again personal experience being meaningful). Hearing from your perspective is of interest to me but it won't do any parties involved any good if people bring unfair assumptions to the table.


Some guy she thought was nice at one point. Nice like you. Can you imagine how traumatic that is?
Only in the sense of knowing how it feels to have my trust betrayed. And that would make the "I'm going to be extra careful until get a read on him." attitude. However the "I was raped/beaten by a man therefore all men are the enemy!!!" attitude only drives the wedge deeper.


The fact that they are not leads many feminists to come to the conclusion that the men don't actually care that women are being raped, but rather that they just don't want to feel guilty about it.
Not wanting to feel guilt is a part of it (and I honestly think some make those claims with the intent to invoke guilt). But at the same time how can you expect compassion if you start off calling everyone the enemy?


Your story about walking home after your car trouble is terrible and it is true that something as simple as walking down the street can be a scary and dangerous experience for a woman. And things like that are the reason why despite my disagreeing with feminists I will never claim that feminism is dead, has outlived its usefulness, or that this is a post feminism world.


I believe that they are definitely the result of the Patriarchy, and I'd be glad to talk more with you about why I think that, if you like.
They may be the result of patriarchy however some of those sexist assumptions are now being actively reinforced by feminists. This is where you get those generalizations from. I think I would be interested in more conversation with you.

And don't worry about the length of the comments. I welcome the chance to talk. Thanks for dropping by.

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