Thursday, April 25, 2013

Seeking the Source

(Let me say off the bat that the things in this post are nowhere near my own experience. I've been frustrated with women for various reasons throughout the years and yes some of that frustration is related to some of what I talk about in this post. But its not an exact telling of my own experiences. Just one possible (and I think seldom explored in casual environments) outcome of such experiences.

So please don't think that the "Imagine...." portions of the post are actual recalls from my own life. They aren't. But I bet they have happened to other men.)

Okay one thing I like trying to do is stop and think about my anger and where it comes from. While in a twitter conversation a few days ago I mentioned where I thought some of the anti-woman behavior that is exhibited by some men. I think it's important to go over this because frankly I think the usual explanations are not always right. In fact I think they aren't just wrong but people who tout these reasons are more concerned about being right than actually resolving anger that real causes get missed.

Tell me if these sounds familiar.

"Men are angry at women because women dare to have opinions of their own."

"Men are angry at women because they are seeing their sense of entitlement being challenged."

"Men are angry at women because they are afraid of losing their male privilege."

"Men are angry at women because the use their anger to keep women in place."

After putting some real thought I can honestly say that these reasons miss quite a bit when it comes to a man's anger toward women. Why is that?

Because all of those usual suspect reasons are based on the assumption that no woman has ever done anything that contributed to that anger. No the anger is always something that men are just taught or that it comes from women not doing what they are "supposed to do". Now I'm not saying that that never happens, I'm saying there are other ways to develop and foster that anger. I want to explore one possible way.

Imagine for a moment being a young boy.

Imagine for a moment being a young boy that when attacked by a girl not only was his pain not acknowledged but the figures of authority actually defended the girl's actions (and I don't mean that bullshit "oh it wasn't that serious"* I mean straight up "you deserved to be hit by her"**) . Oh and she gets to freely laugh about and brag about it too.

Imagine being taught that while it is a severe taboo to hit a girl, girls have free reign to hit you.*

Imagine being taught that regardless of the situation you are expected to always, ALWAYS be mindful of your response to female violence, while women are free to respond as they wish to yours.***

Now imagine that all that pain, frustration, and hurt is not just dismissed, but possibly even ignored.

Not just "oh it wasn't that bad" but immediately responding by comparing it to how women feel and are treated as if the feelings and treatment of women are the litmus test for the validity of men's experiences and feelings.

Or how about even being told that because you are male your experience did not happen. Yes somehow your gender protects you from whatever it was that happened to you.

Imagine being older and a woman commits an act of violence against you.

Imagine that that is what you have to face when you reach out for help, even from people who brand themselves as being supportive or progressive.

Image that after being treated that way you the immediate response you get when telling other how you have been treated is to minimize your experiences, if not defend those who treated you that way.

Imagine that on everyday tv that female against male violence is actually okay and even something to be portrayed as funny in order to sell products.****

I know its a lot of imagining if you haven't been in that position but please try.

When faced with treatment like that I think another source for that anger comes apparent.

You learn that as a guy when it comes to being harmed by females (physically or otherwise) it doesn't mean anything.

When you are constantly exposed to this its no surprise that some rage is going to build and look for an outlet.

Now I'm sure someone would try to come in and say, "Its not women its the system."

While that is true the problem with that does nothing to hold girls/women accountable for what they have done.

Let me ask. When's the last time, when talking about men raping women, have you seen all the responsibility placed for it on the systems that support it? There's plenty of mention of how men themselves need to be held accountable for their actions (or even inactions).

It just seems to me when its the other way around you don't see as much calling for holding women responsible for the way they treat men.

And I think that's what's happening.

When that boy is hurt there is no holding the girl responsible.

When that man is raped/abused by a woman there is little to no holding her responsible.

When they reach out for support they are denied, if not attacked.

When they reach out for support they are sometimes lucky if the tables aren't turned on them and support rallies around the violent woman instead.

They take those responses and and hard lessons and decide they will have to correct things on their own terms. And without proper support and healing "correction" takes on a horrible, possibly dangerous definition.

Learning that their own mistreatment wasn't taken seriously they learn shouldn't it be taken seriously when they do it to others. Or maybe they even decide that acting out in such ways IS the healing process.

Now let me say that I am not trying to say that this not a well fleshed out though process meant to be the explanation for all male against female hate. But I do think it happens more often that people give credit for. Yes the, "He was raised to believe women are his property." types are out there but I think there are more "With no support and understanding, he grew bitter at women." types than we believe.

If you're a guy reading this does this resonate with you? Have you had some of the "Imagine...." experiences I've described in this post or other experiences that I didn't mention? Have you had similar frustrations that may or may not have festered into anger towards women (even specific women and not just women in general)? Feel free to share.

I think there is a lot of anger among men and I think currents attempts are resolving it are more like attempts are dismissing it or co-opting it for nefarious purposes.

What do you think?

* - And this is bigger than just "her violence isn't being taken seriously" which is a very common lip servicing side step to dodge the fact that there are actually two things going. Not only is that girl's violence not being taken seriously but that boys feelings, pain, and body are not being taken seriously. But unfortunately saying it that takes the spot light off of girls/women and when it comes to examining gender it must always be examined through the lens of "how does this affect females" right?

** - Unless someone wants to take on the task of explaining how "she's just a girl its not like she can really hurt you" (which is sexist by the way I'm not saying its not) leads into "whatever she hit you for, you must have done something to deserve it".

*** - I'm talking the difference between why you don't see too many people ask a woman why did she have to be so aggressive in defending herself but if a guy is so much as pushes back the first question is, "Why didn't you just leave." Apparently being more likely to be larger and stronger then your attacker actually means that you cannot be overcome with fear and cut loose. I guess the mentality of "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog" is temporarily suspended when it comes to female against male violence.

**** - Yes you could say that male against female violence happens on tv more often than female against male violence. But bear in mind that a lot of that male against female violence is used as a way to demonstrate that said male committing the violence is a bad man. On the other hand women committing violence against men on tv is often used as away to demonstrate that said female is a strong and empowered woman (or at least right).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

So what exactly is an acceptable form of support for men?

A few days ago I questioned exactly why the Ryerson Student Union created new rules for the purpose of blocking a group that students were trying to form for the sake of supporting and helping men. More than likely I'll never get a satisfactory answer to that question (well the satisfactory answer is that some people simply want men silenced, so maybe I should say I'll get an answer that's just) so I have a new question, which is the title of this post.
What is an acceptable form of support for men?
We've seen before that when it comes to helping men there's not just the reasonable expectations of making sure not to silence the voices of others or taking away support from others. Those expectations make perfect sense because no one group of people should get support that comes at the detriment of others.

On the other hand as Ryerson Student Union has shown us even when those expectations are met that's still not good enough.

I've had conversations with feminists who have clearly said that merely talking about helping men outside of feminism is inherently harmful to women.

I've been told that men have never been silenced and thus it is okay to shut out their attempts to speak up and make spaces for themselves.

We see efforts by organizations where they push against something that would be beneficial to both men and women by presuming the worst case scenario of men represents all men (but oddly they don't presume the same of women).

I'm really starting wonder if there is an answer to such a question that can please enough people on all sides.

Is there any form of support for men that can actually make room for men's own voices that doesn't do anything to limit the voices of others?

Feel free to answer in the comments.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

So why exactly did RSU reject Sarah Santhosh's men's group?

If you recall recently Sarah Santhosh and two of her fellow Ryerson University students were working on starting up a men's group on campus. Well Santhosh and her people met with the Ryerson Student Union (and the new rules that suddenly appeared two days before before the meeting) and a few hours later they were informed by email that their group had been rejected.

After slowing down and thinking about this I eventually came to wonder something.


Why would a group that simply wanted to create a space for men to talk about and address the things that affect them be rejected by a student union that basically pats itself on the back for being so diverse and so inclusive?

I'm not sure that the article I linked to doesn't have all the reasons for the rejection but the one that are mentioned are damning enough.
[RSU President Rodney] Diverlus said committee members raised concerns about the group’s association, and whether or not they were directly or indirectly associated with the groups A Voice For Men or Canadian Association For Equality.
The RSU seems to be concerned that the group may have associations and ties with A Voice For Men or Canadian Association for Equality. Just as I asked last time where are these associations and ties? Well I'm a bit of an lurker at A Voice For Men and dug up a few things of what they think about Santhosh's efforts. Here's Paul Elam* of A Voice For Men pointing out how these women that are trying to start this group are being silenced on the premise that women have been historically silenced. Hypocritical much?
[Marwa] Hamad, without any explanation as to what she was actually talking about, claimed that the measure will help RSU protect women’s issues, which ironically according to her, “have historically and continue to today to be silenced.”
It leaves one to necessarily wonder just how a group manages to be silenced when they are the only ones allowed to have the floor. The only women at RSU that are being silenced are the ones that are trying to speak to the issues faced by men.
I guess women are allowed to speak as long as they are talking about the "right" things I suppose. For the record while Elam, founder of A Voice For Men, has claimed absolutely no ties to Santhosh's group but he has encouraged people to show support for their efforts.

Santhosh had this to say about ties to such places: "We’ve already emphasized countless times that we are not a men’s rights group, we’re not trying to advocate men’s right over women’s rights and we’re not trying to somehow disqualify women’s rights".

So where is this suspicious coming from?

Well if Diverlus is any indication the suspicious seems to come from nothing more than group by gender association. In order to back up his claims that there are no systematic issues that affect men he does what a lot of people do, reach for analogies.
“We know that oppression and the marginalization of men is something that doesn’t exist just like the oppression and marginalization of straight people or white folks in our society,”
So because straight people and white people are okay that means there are no issues that affect men on a large scale? I can't help but notice that despite the information that Santhosh and her folks are presenting Diverlus is basically ignoring it and just saying that men don't have any problems. You'd think that a shorter life span, lagging in education, higher diagnosis rate of mental illness, and an outrageously higher suicide rate would be things that are affecting men and things that people might want to get together and address....

If you look back at the stated goal of the group, "create a progressive and constructive voice and lend representation to any and all Ryerson students concerned with the issues of men and boys.", you will see that there is absolutely nothing in there about ties to A Voice For Men, a desire to silence women, or a desire to overstate the issues of men. Yet that is exactly what the Ryerson Student Union got from it.

I like the last quote from Santhosh in the article:
“What they have in mind when they say women are the minority, they think of positions in power in government and corporations where men usually hold the higher positions. But they don’t take into account that…only a very small percentage of [men] are in power,”
So true. I can't be the only person that has noticed that whenever there is an attempt at trying to shut men's voices out of a conversation there is this desire to pull out the "men have the power" when in fact that is very much not true.

Maybe what's happening is that there is a small percentage of men that have power and that small percentage is held up as sole representation of the status of all men. And while I can't speak for Diverlus and his life I wonder if he is assessing the need for a space for any and all men based on that status of himself and men like him, concluding that since he and men like him don't need such a space then no man needs such a space?

(Or even the darker possibility that he knows that in order for he and men like him to keep the position they have they must work hard to push other men down. Or perhaps darker still he knows that suppressing efforts to help men curries favor with lot of unhealthy women's advocates, unhealthy women's advocates that have a lot of status and power.)

This is something that we have to get past people. We have to get past the mentality that one group speaking up inherently hurts another group or that all efforts that seek to help one group must be associated with the worst of the worst.

From what I can tell the Ryerson Student Union is blocking this group because there are some vile and mean MRA groups out there. Now I'll be the first to say that those groups need to be dealt with and there needs to be a rise of those who seek to work with and help men without resorting to such tactics.

Funny thing is that is exactly what Santhosh was doing. She and her partners were trying start up a space meant to help guys out and even in the face of having no ties with those extreme MRA elements the opposition simply created those ties (via heavy use of implication in lieu of actual evidence). So you can't blame this on A Voice For Men, Spearhead, or the extremists at Men's Rights Reddit (but if you do think that then that means we get to flip that coin over and say that the blame for people not wanting to work with feminists lies on the shoulders of Feministing, Feminste, and Manboobz). No the responsibility for this one lies squarely on the shoulders of the Ryerson Student Union.

* - Yes I know that Elam doesn't have the best of reputations when it comes to MRAs and I frankly disagree with some of what he says. On the other hand before you try to say that his show of support for Santhosh means that Santhosh is up to no good I require one thing. I require proof that anything that Paul Elam supports is inherently bad using some proof other than the negative things that he says and believes.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Moderation and Message with the Men's Movement

A pretty interesting video from Dean Easmay.