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January 11, 2005

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Comments

Brian Ulrich

Don't forget how any guy espousing feminist ideas supposedly has an ulterior motive. I've gotten this reaction from women before, as well.

Hugo Schwyzer

Absolutely, Brian -- very frustrating. Still, it's an opportunity to invite people to watch us closely, put us to the test, see if we "match" language and life...

Jeff JP

Homosociality (as explained so well in Michael Kimmel's Manhood in America) is the principle that all men, including heterosexual ones, are raised in our culture to be more eager to please other men than women.

And perhaps that's just as it ought to be.

Women are devices for creating non-sexual, same-gender bonds.

Of course, one can easily argue that men serve the same purpose for women, so I am not sure how this phenomenon explains any characteristically male behavior.

One of the most significant difficulties (and opportunities) about pro-feminist men's work is that it challenges homosocial norms.

Well, those are norms postulated by you. Further, you're making an implicit value judgment that challenging those norms is a good thing.

Pro-feminist men are often characterized as "wimps" -- soft, gentle men with submissive natures.

Perhaps that's how you like to see yourselves characterized. A while ago, you interpreted my comments as some sort of attack on your masculinity, even though they were nothing of the kind. Could it be that self-proclaimed "pro-feminist" men like to see themselves as victims, just as gender feminists like to see themselves as victims of the horrible "oppression" of the "patriarchy"?

Given the intense desire for male approval that most young men have, it scarcely seems likely that many will feel comfortable taking feminist positions in all-male environments!

Again, perhaps that's just as it should be.

When I was an undergraduate, I quickly mastered the "talk" of feminism. In my classes, and around female friends, I was, if not a model of egalitarianism, a thoughtful, polite, and intelligent critic of gender roles and the patriarchy. But get me alone with my male friends (especially with a beer or two in me) and I spewed the same objectifying garbage that they did.

Of course, it's OK when feminists spew "objectifying garbage," right?

There were many reasons for this. First off, I was deeply ambivalent about feminism as a younger man. Being alone with the guys gave me a chance to "blow off steam"; indeed, the more I tried to match my words, actions, and politics in mixed groups, the more I felt the overwhelming need to act boorishly around the guys when we were alone together.

Again, your contempt for men and masculinity shines brightly here.

I knew that to criticize their words and actions would be to lose their companionship -- and at that stage of my life, the craving for companionship won out over my ethics, hands down.

Even today, I hope you would not readily discard any friends--male or female--for the sake of some ideology or dogma. When you're in a jam and need a hand, ideologies and dogmas won't help you, but friends will.

Indeed, I often made fun of the very material I was studying, as if to reassure my companions that I didn't take it too seriously, and thus could be trusted to remain one of the guys.

That's one explanation. Another explanation is that the material deserved ridicule and that you really didn't take it all that seriously.

It wasn't until I started to do men's work with other pro-feminist men that I began to feel sufficiently empowered to start calling guys on their (sometimes) unintentional miosgyny.

Thanks for proving that "misogyny" is one of those words--just like "patriarchy"--that feminists have abused and misused so extensively that it's nearly devoid of meaning. I just checked several current dictionaries of Standard English, and they define "misogyny" as "hatred of women." Please explain how "hatred" can be unintentional.

Our sex has given us an unearned credibility with other men, a credibility that on many gender issues may exceed that of women feminists.

Is "unearned credibility" related to the "unearned privilege" that those of us with Y chromosomes supposedly have?

As for the women feminists' lack of credibility, I wonder why they're not credible?

I'm so grateful for the women in my life who have shared with me their stories, who have encouraged me to do pro-feminist work.

They brainwashed you good, son.

Jeff JP

thisgirl

hugo says;
...I felt the overwhelming need to act boorishly around the guys when we were alone together.

jeff jp replies;
Again, your contempt for men and masculinity shines brightly here

Boorishness and masculinity are not one and the same. Disliking that way of behaving is not the same as hating "masculinity".

Amanda

I agree with Jeff. You're carrying on like women have feelings and stuff. Clearly, we are meatballs whose most important purpose is to serve men.

As for the wolf-whistling thing, the fact that it's done to garner approval from groups of men just makes it all the worse for the woman, who is now not just an object but also a tool. It's also extremely scary. No matter how many times cars full of men slow down while I'm walking to yell abusive and sexual things at me, I still go into panic mode, always afraid this is the day the threats turn to action.

La Lubu

Jeff JP, I find your critique of Hugo's post most curious; where Hugo gives specifics, you address his specifics with generalities rather than countering with more concrete examples. The way your comments read, it seems as if you are saying that Hugo should just have gone with the flow; that boorish, obnoxious behavior is perfectly acceptable and shouldn't be questioned---something that I think would cause even the conservative brethren here to say "what the--?" In other words, if you plan on critiquing feminism, let's get down to the real nitty-gritty.

When Hugo talked about the norms of catcalls and objectifying women, well---those aren't norms that he just pulled out of thin air. And sure, I'm biased here because I'm female, but I think challenging those norms is a superb idea. Ever hear of the Golden Rule?

Frankly, I've got two critiques of this particular post. First, pandering to the stereotype of foul-mouthed rude construction workers catcalling women. Besides the fact that guys in suits can and do engage in that boorish behavior---I've worked on construction sites for almost seventeen years, and have never, ever heard commentary like that out loud. At the break table, or said between workers? Yeah. But yelling something to a female pedestrian would get a guy fired in my neck of the woods. Instantly. Not laid off, fired. If there's a good-looking woman walking down the street past the construction site, the typical response is for the male workers to stare, silently. (Which is even creepier in my view, but doesn't result in firing).

Second, I think Hugo is a little hard on himself for not consistantly standing up until he reached his thirties. Most people don't get comfortable with challenging their friends and acquaintances until that age, on anything, regardless of gender. People tend to get more comfortable with going against the flow when they start getting some length in their teeth.

Hugo Schwyzer

La Lubu, the construction worker reference was indeed stereotypical, and for that I apologize.

yami

Some men do try to mimic a commitment to feminism to get into a feminist's pants, though: "Oh, no, I respect women's independence!" when such respect transparently does not extend to women who independently rebuff a man's advances.

The fact that such profuse affirmations of gender equality only appear when I've offered to pay for dinner, or refused to come up to a guy's apartment, is usually a hint as to what's going on. But while I possess uniformly reliable insight into the purity of a male feminist's heart, I'm sure not all my sisters are so blessed. It's such a pity that the Feminist Conspiracy Secret Handshake Committee got so bogged down in arguments over whether fingers can be made to look like labia, or whether they're unalterably phallic...

La Lubu

thank you, Hugo. I hear that "construction workers" trope often during discussions like these, and I find it hopelessly dated, and classist to boot. Construction sites are not the problem they once were, and it would be good to see more recognition of that fact in popular culture. I have, and observe, less of a problem on the jobsite than women I know in the office world.

and yami? you're cracking me up!! The Feminist Conspiracy Committee claims my invitation got lost in the mail, but I think they're lying....

Hugo Schwyzer

Yami, I know what you're talking about. One of the ways such faux pro-feminists work is to flatter young women with the notion that to be sexual is to be daring, independent, courageous, and rebellious. Not wanting to have sex (with Faux Pro Feminist dude) is evidence of some sort of "hang up" that the FPF will be only too happy to help you work through.

I'd like to think that that sort of thing is on the wane these days, but maybe not...

Constantina

Dear Hugo,
Isn't it a great day? I promised myself that I would go on a hike today.__I hope that you are feeling better. I am proud of myself. I have managed to suppress my mothering instincts and I haven't offered to deliver a 'cold' care package (complete w/ homemade chicken soup) to your church for you.__I don't like suppressing my natural instincts, but being 'nice' has a tendency to get me in trouble.__People always take things wrong, they can't believe that anyone would just want to help out, they feel intimidated.
In response to your article on male homosocial norms; I applaude your honesty in admitting that you rely on male acceptance and approval, most men would never admit any such thing! It is indeed rare to find a man who has the courage to support feminism in front of other men, this is hard to do! As far as feeling fraudulent because your language and life don't always match up, you are not alone. As a woman, I admit to talking the feminist talk in front of peers and then falling short of making a conscious effort to match my life and language. It takes real courage to live up to personal standards and convictions. It is especially difficult to make changes that are ingrained in us from childhood. We all like to think of ourselves as being 'true' to ourselves, but in reality, few of us ever achieve these goals. There are many obstacles to impede our progress: cultural norms, ethnic or group acceptance, family ties, and what I like to call 'emotional baggage'.
It is reassuring to know that males can overcome the pressures of conforming to societal norms by banding together and reaching out to one another in mutual support.
Women need to live less fraudulent lives themselves by accepting the reality of their own convictions and taking the necessary steps to make changes in order to live up to those convictions.

yami

It's certainly part flattery - but I've also gotten vibes that not wanting to have sex is evidence of fear, rather than prudishness, and the FPFs are assuring me that I'm safe. Vampires can't speak the name of Christ, and rapists can't speak the name of Andrea Dworkin.

Really, though, such FPF flattery has plenty of cultural support - Cosmopolitan, anyone? I've been told things were worse in the 70s, but don't have a personal basis for comparison; hard to tell if it's really on the wane, or we're experiencing a backlash, or what.

Chris Tessone

Thanks for that, Hugo.

I think what the men's movement fails to understand is that feminism is not about turning traditional stereotypes of women (which are negative no matter how much "men's men" idolize them) into a vapid "you're good just the way you are" ideology nor turning women into power-hungry "feminazis" who emulate and seek to subjugate men. If feminism is ultimately about re-imagining gender in a way that allows a woman to participate fully in society and grow beyond social expectations to whatever kind of self-affirmation her philosophical or religious system envisions, then a men's movement or men's power movement ought to have the same kind of goals--which ultimately have nothing to do with women or men, but rather the stifling visions of gender prevalent in society. Such a men's movement would see the homosocial pressure you describe (and you're right, it is difficult to overcome) for what it is--a way of excluding women from productive communion with men simply on the basis of their gender. That disconnectedness and objectification retards everyone's spiritual growth, at least in my view!

Paul

Personally, I see nothing wrong with gender and gender roles as they are traditionally presented. In fact, I think if people were actually free to pursue traditional AND modern roles, we'd be a lot happier. Shouldn't the goal of the gender movement be about choice? Well, what if a woman actually WANTS to be a stay-at-home mother? Besides that, I always thought that traditional male roles urged men to protect rather than exploit women.

To me, feminists are often times just as bad as the patriarchy they criticize. I am proud to have finally cast off the lense of being a male feminist and instead choose to be a male human being, a black man and a realist.

La Lubu

Paul...keep that up, and I'll be washing back a couple aspirin with about half-a-bottle of vodka....and I hate vodka.

Wherever did you get the idea that feminism wasn't about having more choices available? I mean, I'm a mother (traditional role) and journeyman electrician (nontraditional role). Prior to the 1970s, only one of those options would have been open to me, y'see? Doesn't get much more "blended" than showing up on a jobsite with a toolbag in one hand and breast pump in other! ;)

biologist

Hugo, speaking as you are, such an authority on human behaviour, it surprises me how idiosyncratic your analysis is. If you want to understand some behaviour I recommend you pick up some biology books

Mr. Tracy Malloy

Sir, you need to drink more or do you drink too much? Men please women a lot more than they try to please other men. With you having studied feminism, you should have stated that feminist and liar are terms which mean the same thing. I'm trying to be frank and honest about that. Feminists have a long history of lying about men and if they do tell the truth, they often tell less than the whole truth. Being a pro-feminist like you sounds like you're saying its all the men's fault there are relationship breakdowns. I guess there's no such thing as a boorish woman, a woman who takes street drugs, or a woman which drinks to excess and then becomes beligerent to her loving male partner.

zuzu

I think each sex dresses/acts to impress the other members of their sex more than they do to impress the opposite sex, at least until they've gained some knowledge of their own selves.

Remember that line from Wild Night by Van Morrison? All the girls walk by/Dressed up for each other.

And the same thing happens with young men.

mythago

Isn't it interesting how anti-feminists have to try and stuff words in your mouth to criticize you, Hugo?

ankh

It is ridiculous to think that men catcall to be accepted by each other, they do it to see which one gets the look from the chicki in question. You're little blog site amused me while it also scares me that people actually invest in you're idea of a subdued man. A man that stiffles his natural competitive instict, tosses aside his carnal desire, bends to the whim of women who have forgetten what feminism means; that is a man who should not breed, and probably wont get the chance. :) If both genders would agree to be themselves instead of integrating into one sex maybe we could find the balance that would lead to less strife for people like dear Hugo.

Tony McRush

I hate men who bully, and i hate women who fancy bullies.
Why do so many scumbags decide to speak up for bullies and abusive men why why do they want evil to win how are they so ideoligcally passionate in their sadistic evil desire to cause pain and misery the nasty selfish evil shitheads. They think the more evil and nasty you are the more manly you are. They are evil ssss and should be locked up.
Just delete bullies view from the website. then see how they like to be dissmissed as inferior.

Kris

Enjoying this dialog, love reading how you are taking a stand for your beliefs and setting a positive example for other men. I think the hardest thing for me in relationship is to feel as if I am being set up as an adversary of my boyfriend’s time with his guy friends. In relationship, when the subject of doing "guy things" came up, I tip-toed around whether the trip to the mountain, float trip, etc. would be a "guy trip" or whether women were allowed to come. I've been accused of trying to get myself invited just because I asked who was going. I'm spending a lot more time with my girlfriends these days... after not being "allowed" to even lay eyes on guys on my girl trips (as if I would)--I was grilled about who was there. So I think the unthinking misogyny in my life has taken the form the good ol’ double standard. When I'm dating, I have to give up my guy friends. Then his friends become my guy friends. But I'm not allowed to hang out with them, either, because they’re for doing "guy things" with and I’m not a guy. Going to bars is included in doing "guy things." I’m divorced with a child, and I really don't want my son growing up thinking this behavior is cool. My son’s "girlfriend" has already treated him rudely under the auspice of "it was my 'hatred of guys' phase." Um, they're still in grade school, so there’s hope. But a lot of people my age act the same way...

mythago

Kris, why are you putting up with this crap from him? Honestly? It's not as though he has a legal right to grill you.

It is ridiculous to think that men catcall to be accepted by each other, they do it to see which one gets the look from the chicki in question.

Do you not see that the second half of your sentence actually disproves the first?

Joseph

If feminism is ultimately about re-imagining gender in a way that allows a woman to participate fully in society and grow beyond social expectations...

Then the obvious point is, feminists should demand that women be drafted. In fact, there should be an affirmative action military draft to make up for past discrimination against women who were not drafted. Having women in the military is a "role" that allows them to participate fully in society and grow beyond social expectations.

(I speak as a veteran, by the way.)

Joseph

Regarding construction workers:

Well, I come from a working class background. Doing construction work was part of the deal. Now, why did (the occasional) male construction worker "catcall" female passerbies?

1) Construction work is hard, dangerous work (not too long ago an acquaintance lost part of his hand in a construction accident). Men (and it was mostly male at the time) are risking their lives in order to build the structures that protect women and allow women to go about their safe pink and white collar jobs.

2) Women exercise a certain amount of power via their sexuality: walking down a street wearing makeup, short skirts, etc., etc., is a way for women to harass men. So men respond in kind.

3) Some of it is class based: working class guys seeing female lawyers, MBAs in their neat business suits who make more money in a week than the construction workers see in a month. Yet it is the working class guys who make it all possible. So look at the "catcalls" as a minor skirmish in the class war.

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