Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is being the norm really a benefit for men?

Read this today at Pelle Billing's place.

Its a post in which Pelle questions the notion that for the male to be the default is a positive for men. I commented over there but I think I need to be a bit more clear.

While on one hand there are ways in which men being considered the default is a positive. When you see scientists in newspaper or on a tv show chances are that scientist will be a man. When you think about the military chances are you think of male soldiers. Certain tasks are regarded as "men's work".

However one thing that is lost in conversation, and I think its good that Pelle is bringing them up and hope it encourages actual men to talk instead of repetition of the same old rhetoric of "men are privileged!" this and "men oppress women!" that, is how these things do serious harm to men. It's high time we started speaking up on how the kyriarchy harms men.

I like what Pelle says here:
The key disadvantage of being the norm is that men are not encouraged to reflect on what it means to be a man, or what the male gender role means for men....Men are simply not raised to articulate men’s issues or to form men’s organizations.
Simply put we as men are socialized to not realize how the system harms us just like with any other group of people. We are raised up to do what we do because "that what real men do". We are told that to not do those things or to question those things is evidence that we are not "real men". We are fed this fucked idea of masculinity in which the only emotions we are allowed are lust and anger, not speak up when harmed, and to be attracted to whatever the various industries tell us we are supposed to be attracted to. By being the default we are taught that to be a certain type of man is the norm and to not abide by the script is trouble.

But what I really like is:
To understand this at an even deeper level we need to ask ourselves why men are the norm in the first place? Why not women, who give birth to the next generation, and whose lives have always been valued more highly than the lives of men? Men are the norm, since every successful society depends on the disposability of men. And one of the best ways to raise men to be disposable is to make the male norm so strong that it is simply “the human norm”.
Now I wouldn't say that women's lives are always valued more highly than men but it does happen often. However other than that I think he is on point about how making men the more makes us disposable.

Think about war for a bit. I found this chart on military deaths in the Middle East between March 19, 2003 and May 3, 2008. How many men have been killed? How many women have been killed? The difference comes from two things. One people (or at least the ones making the decisions) think that women are not suited for combat meaning they are kept out of it and two, which is not usually brought up, people have don't have as much of a problem seeing men die. This is why in articles that cover bombing victims a lot of them usually give the exact numbers of women and children killed, sometimes in the headline itself, and just leave the number of men killed to your math skills. Women and children (and notice how they are thrown in with children to drum up more sympathy?) are delicate beings that must be protected and men are cannon fodder for the machine. Two very sexist practices.

One thing that would really help when it comes to gender relations would be if people equally valued all life instead of using gender as indicator of value.

So in addition to what I said at the original post I have to say that my final answer to Pelle's question ("Do Men Benefit From Being the Norm?") is yes and no.

Yes there are times when it benefits men namely in how it leads to the male opinion becoming the default view point and the opinions and views of women becoming othered but no there are time when it does not benefit men namely in how since the male is the default things that harm men are seen as the norm and not very much concern is raised over it.