Monday, July 19, 2010

Working on being a man pt.3

(This is one of many parts in the ongoing series of working on being a man.)

Amazing that its been a month since my last post in this series. How the time flies. I was reading a post over at Zora and Alice and something hit me. In order for men to get the help they need in overcoming the ways they are marginalized by The System they need a voice and voice needs to be heard.

(I'll say that while I did post over there I restrained myself a bit but I don't think I could have gone in greater detail without derailing or being accused of "making it all about teh menz", if they are the types to use that argument. And also I think I need to go into detail here because this is where my voice is loudest and this post is about men using their voices.)

Okay when talking about marginalized people for the most part people (even so called progressive people) will go straight to presuming that men are not a marginalized group. I beg to differ. Nearly every person on this planet is marginalized in some way and being male not only doesn't protect against it but being male itself leads to be marginalized. While its nice to see other people talking about the ways in which men are harmed what I often see is this.

A given woman's advocate wants to talk about how men are harmed so they reach for some Audre Lorde, bell hooks, other women (which would include feminists constantly linking between themselves). While I do appreciate women taking interest in the concerns of men (because powers that be knows they have enough on their plates) I find it a bit odd and almost dismissive that they seem to prefer to only talk amongst themselves about how men are harmed. You see the problem here? You have people who have spoken up about how they are harmed by society because they don't want other people speaking for them and then when dealing with another group they pretty much only talk amongst themselves?

If you wanted to listen to a voice in the gay community would you listen to me or Sparky? If you wanted to hear about how it is to be a black woman would you come here or stop by Renee's? If you wanted to take peak into the life of a transgender woman would I be the correct one to look at or would it be Monica? (Mind you I am not saying that those three are the end all be all of those communities of people but I think its a safe bet that since I am neither gay, woman, or transgender I'm not what you would call a valuable source of insight into those communities.) So why would you go to feminist sites to hear men's voices?

Now I know this might sound like a slight against feminists but its not. The thing is by their very name feminists are mostly interesting in helping women and that's not a bad thing. Women want to be heard they (well not all of them but that's another story) took up the title of feminist and are demanding to be heard. Frankly men need to do the same but its not going to go well if people limit their research to nothing but women.

At the same time there are men who choose to operate under the banner of feminism. No offense to them but they don't speak for all men anymore than feminists speak for all women. Quoting some Ampersand, Hugo Schwyzer, and/or figleaf doesn't mean you suddenly know what everthing there is to know about the life of a man.

Just like with any other group if they are to be heard and helped outsiders can't limit themselves to cherry picking a few voices they like (you know, the ones that they are more likely to agree with) and try to pass them off as representative of that group. And men are no different. We have voices that aren't being used and aren't being heard. Its time that changed.

3 comments:

ariseile said...

Hey--I just jumped over here to your blog from your comment on Alas, so I should say off the bat I'm not familiar with your writing. I might be misinterpreting things.

But I'm noticing that you seem to be operating under the idea that to be a feminist, you have to be a woman/female. While a segment of feminists DO think that, the majority believe that feminism is a declaration of beliefs and not a declaration of gender. Men can be feminists, too (like Ampersand, Hugo, etc.).

Feminism is not just about helping women. Sure, that's the focus a lot of the time, because women are the group that have been disproportionately harmed (hence the use of terms "oppression" and "discrimination") by the patriarchy. Which is not to say men aren't also incredibly damaged by it (though I wouldn't say marginalised.... if you want, I'd like to know why you use that particular word). Men are. We ALL are. Which is why patriarchy sucks so frickin' much. But being a feminist does not mean being a women's advocate, and anybody who thinks that's all feminism means isn't getting the point (I'm not saying that's what you've said here). Similarly, not is masculinity the territory of men. It it not solely "men's concerns," precisely because we are affected by it and have grown up in a world where [twisted, toxic] masculinity rules.

And feminists AREN'T just "talking amongst themselves." And while we may reach for hooks or Lorde, we might be just as likely to reach for Michael Kimmel, Robert Jensen, or Paul Kivel (for three recent American examples). As a feminist, when I try to talk to others about masculinity and/or feminism, I am ignored. Ignored even more than when I try to talk about these topics as a woman. Period.

I'm curious--how do you define feminism? Also, have you read any hooks? Or how about Kimmel's "Guyland"? The latter is actually especially good if you're trying to explore what it means to be a man but put off by the language of feminism.

Anyway, if you'd like to have a conversation, I'd be interested.

Danny said...

Thanks for dropping by ariseile.

But I'm noticing that you seem to be operating under the idea that to be a feminist, you have to be a woman/female. While a segment of feminists DO think that, the majority believe that feminism is a declaration of beliefs and not a declaration of gender. Men can be feminists, too (like Ampersand, Hugo, etc.).
Oh no I don't think that and my apologies for giving that impression.

Which is not to say men aren't also incredibly damaged by it (though I wouldn't say marginalised.... if you want, I'd like to know why you use that particular word).
I myself would say that in certain ways men are marginalized as a class. I'm of the mind that its borderline unfair to just declare that someone is not marginalized in any way just because they're male when as you there are ways in which the system damages men. In fact I don't even use the word patriarchy because I don't think it fully covers the various marginalizations at work (and given the many walks of life there are a lot of them). Yes there are patriarchal forces at work but I think to call society a patriarchy is to miss a lot of what's going on.

And feminists AREN'T just "talking amongst themselves." And while we may reach for hooks or Lorde, we might be just as likely to reach for Michael Kimmel, Robert Jensen, or Paul Kivel (for three recent American examples).
Ah I do see those names pop up and I also notice that (at least in Kimmel's case) they seem to come from the angle that men are broken and its all our fault. While I certainly can't speak for all of feminism (because I haven't crossed paths with all feminists) its my experience that when talking about men and masculinity it seems that there needs to be just enough twist of acknowledging men's experiences while also trying ot hold them solely responsible for them in order for such talk to be accepted among feminists.

Danny said...

Sorry had to split it because there is a 3000 character limit on comments.

As a feminist, when I try to talk to others about masculinity and/or feminism, I am ignored. Ignored even more than when I try to talk about these topics as a woman. Period.
Which is why I just don't bother with the label. Yeah I'll interact with feminists but it seems to me that in order to join them I have to pretend only certain things need to be addressed. That's too high a price.

I'm curious--how do you define feminism? Also, have you read any hooks? Or how about Kimmel's "Guyland"? The latter is actually especially good if you're trying to explore what it means to be a man but put off by the language of feminism.
Truthfully I see feminism as a movement to bring equality to all people. The problem isn't the base definition but rather the people who say and act in the name of that goal (ie feminists). They are not as cut and dry as the definition may be. I actually bought a copy of "Guyland" and is on my reading list. I've heard mixed opinion on it (pretty much a strict line of feminists praising it and MRAs jeering it). I'll just have to get to it myself. Its not the language of feminism that puts me off its some of the people themselves that put me off at times. I'm all for trying to explore being a man but I refuse to do it under the banner of feminism.

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