It's noon, and I am finally ready to blog. I tried going for a run on one of my favorite trails this morning -- but, alas, it was closed due to mudslides. The torrential rains of the past month have left my favorite fire roads and single-track trails impassable in many places. I think I may have to bite the bullet, as it were, and go back to doing serious training on asphalt. I might even do a paved marathon this spring for the first time in two years. I hope my knees hold up -- they do love dirt so! Of course, in the aftermath of all of the havoc that bad weather and natural disasters have wreaked upon our earth this past month, the last thing I need to do is complain about the fact that my favorite running spots are blocked off.
I just downloaded the MP3 of last night's Glenn Sacks show. (It's available, if you follow that link, in MP3 and streaming Real formats. You can also spring $7 for a CD). I've only listened to bits and pieces of it so far. Like most folks, I recoil at the sound of my own voice; "God", I think, "is that what I really sound like?" Perhaps I'll sit through more of it later. (By the way, if you listened live last night, there's now some "extra" stuff, about seven minutes worth, tacked on at the end of the show that wasn't originally broadcast.)
First off, I'd like to say that it was a very pleasant experience. My fiancee and I arrived early, and Glenn and his producer gave us a tour of their Glendale studios. I've never been to a radio studio before, and so I was very interested to see how a show gets put together. Glenn was very kind, answering all of my questions about the various screens and dials and microphones that he and his assistants operate. It was very educational.
The show itself may have been the quickest hour of my life! As a teacher, I'm used to adapting my lectures to the available time -- 50 minutes, an hour, 75 minutes. I'm accustomed to slowly building an argument in stages. I'm not used to the speed at which radio happens! One doesn't have time to construct an argument -- one only has time for quick, pointed soundbites. As a result, I felt that what I was saying was incomplete, partial, and in the sense of contributing to a truly lofty dialogue, totally inadequate. Still, I was able to get a few of my points across, and I felt better about my performance in the second half of the program.
There were times when I felt as if Glenn was baiting me, but I understand that's his job as a radio host. After all, programs like his are "info-tainment" -- and the teasing directed my way (describing me, sarcastically, as "more evolved" and "enlightened", things I've never said and don't believe) is part of creating a lively atmosphere. But I am also aware that my ability to take that in stride is, yes, a function of male privilege. Had I been a woman saying the same things that I do on this blog and in the classroom, I'm not sure I would have ended up on the Sacks show in the first place. And second of all, I suspect there might well have been more of an edge to Glenn's words to me. The very fact that I can laugh off the teasing, and say, "Aw, I disagree with Glenn, but he's a heckuva good guy" is pure male privilege. The men's rights advocates simply don't have the vocabulary to attack a heterosexual pro-feminist man with words that really wound. That's not their failing -- it's that our language is filled with far more hateful words for feminists than for the men who support them.
But here's what's really on my mind today:
Male privilege functioned for me in other ways yesterday. After the show, I laughed and joked with Glenn and his producers. There was hand-shaking and back-slapping and plenty of mutual affirmation along the lines of "Dude, you did great." Because I am a man, I can distance myself a bit from the issues I care so passionately about. You see, male privilege gives me the freedom not to take anything Glenn or his callers said personally, because I know their real "enemy", if you will, is not me! It's the people whose causes I choose to defend. But as a straight man, I have the unearned luxury of being able to walk away from pro-feminist positions any time I like. I can change my mind in an instant, and it won't cost me a damned thing. If I were a woman who had come to the feminist movement out of my own intimate experiences of oppression and brutalization, there is no way in hell I could have bantered so freely and so warmly with a man who held such radically different views from my own. That's not to say that women in the movement can't laugh, or be civil -- they can indeed -- but the firsthand experience of oppression surely makes it a lot harder.
In any event, we weren't able to get to many of the issues that I had hoped we would touch on. I would have been happy to spend an hour exposing the myth of gender symmetry in domestic violence cases, or taking on Glenn's association with Choice for Men, a project of men's rights advocates that I find particularly odious. (I was so ready! I had notes!) Above all, I wish I could have been clearer and more detailed about the fact that the profeminist men's movement is not hostile to individual men, but to the patriarchal structures that shape their lives. In any event, I'd love to be invited back to debate many more specific issues that were simply glossed over in the light and heat of a single hour.
I'll have more to say soon.
UPDATE: One thing I'll say about the Stand Your Ground fellas. They are an industrious lot. One of them is busy transcribing yesterday's show -- a snippet is here. It's always dangerous to take off-the-cuff remarks out of context, but I'll stand by what I said. For what it's worth, the language I chose around manipulation and domination is inspired by a well-known confession of sin in Anglican churches:
we have used our power to dominate and our weakness to manipulate;
we have evaded responsibility and failed to confront evil...
If there is a prayer that all of us working for justice could agree on, it might be that one.
I ought to cite my sources, but I don't think referring to prayer books would have been helpful last night.