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February 09, 2005

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joe

Well and better said Hugo! A question, why does your feminism have to teach you this? What you have presented seems rather common sense and what could be picked up from most faiths or persons with rational ethics. It seems you want to teach people some self-responsibility, and maybe even reach a variety and or large groups of people. Why set up the "us and them" language i.e. feminism teaches or pro-feminist men should...it always leads to contention and diverts from the issue. I think you are at your best when you tend to drop this sort of language.

A question, not meant as a challenge(because it is probably not), could you recommend a work, labeled "feminist" and written by a women, that challenges women like you challenge men. It need also teach women to be "better", and not at the expense of blaming "men", patriarchy, or male privilege for their short commings. One last requirement, it must encourage women to first look at themselves and where they may themselves actually be the problem when problematic issues arise with men. I would like to read it and maybe hand out a few copies.

Hugo Schwyzer

Even if I were to know of such a book, I would never recommend one to a man, joe. For a man to pass it around is to be part of the problem. It's not our job to call women to account. Men have been telling women how to behave for too darned long -- we need to keep our gaze focused on our brothers.

Our feminist sisters may have specks in their eyes, but we have logs in ours.

joe

I was figuring if you knew such a book you would have read it. I would like to do the same. I guess I could have ask someone else, but you would be the most qualified I know. Of the few people I was thinking, my brother was one, I had no nefarious motive. give me some credit, please.

"It's not our job to call women to account."

hummm. Is it the job of a pro-feminist to call men to account? If so I am a pro-malist. :)

bmmg39

"For the men's movement, that means focusing on changing men rather than on lashing out at women, the legal system, or modern culture."

First off: hey, I made it into a daily posting!

Second off: looking within and lashing out at external forces are not mutually exclusive. I think certain men do need to take a look at how they think. But if the VAWA deliberately ignores male victims of abuse, just as an example, then we should lash, lash, lash away.

""Nice guys" -- as stereotyped -- and men's rights advocates actually seem to share something in common."

Perhaps we should move away from the phrase "nice guys" to mean "the woman-worshipping, man-despising males such as those who used to host THE OTHER HALF". I stick up for guys and yet I still consider myself to be a nice guy, at least a little...

"Men's rights advocates who blame the feminist movement and women for men's contemporary condition are no better."

I'm an MRA who will embrace feminism over a "traditional" woman who tells me, "Don't worry, boys! We'll still let you pay for our dinner and get the door for us and fulfill your masculine obligation by dying to save our lives." PLEASE, give me the feminist who just wants everyone to be equal. But, you see, part of the problem is one of semantics. You say that the "patriarchy" hurts men as well as women, but you still give it a male-sounding name, whereas the very nice goal of equality has the female-sounding name of "feminism." Again, this is why I prefer the word "egalitarian."

"When I was first a youth leader at All Saints, we had a teenage couple in our Wednesday night group who could not keep their hands off each other."

In what way? Were they cuddling, or was this a more R-rated public display of affection? I'm much older than these kids but I'd be much more likely to engage in the former rather than the latter if I ever were to be part of an "item."

joe

but really hugo, women have access to you calling men to account. could you suggest a blog. i have read many of those who comment here that proclaim feminism, however i don't see the same tact or discretion that you possess. i may have missed one. i am also sure you read them frequently and know i don't visit with trollish behavior-- i don't even comment. please give me some help, maybe a commentor can... but i prefer a book. thanks

Amanda

Um, I have been told what to do by men my entire life. Granted, more often than not, they were way out of line--I need to grow my hair long, cut it short, wear more make-up, wear less, lose weight, gain weight, speak up, shut up, get a job, stay at home, you name it--but that doesn't change the fact of it. But mostly I know waaaaaay better than to try to tell a man what to do. One time I got upset because I feared that my boyfriend's band was going to take him away from me. And that brought me the pleasure of having a couple of men tell me that I have no business telling my boyfriend what to do. Of course, it didn't occur to them they needn't tell me what to do, now that I think about it.

Hugo Schwyzer

Joe, the conditions you set down for a book are a bit extreme. First off, as much as MRAs and others like to pretend it doesn't exist, patriarchy is real. Its reality doesn't mitigate the responsibility of adults, but it is as real as racism. To be black in American society is to recognize that racism still thrives. Racism and patriarchal structures are factors that have to be accounted for. Our responsibility comes in not in denying their existence but in responding courageously.

bmmg -- patriarchy does hurt men and women, but it does hand men clear privileges that vitiate the damage. It's an oppressive system, but it is still one that gives men greater access to power and control than it does women.

A crude example: both men and women can get raped. Men are often raped in prison. But though both sexes can be raped, all but a infinitesmal number of adult rapists are men. In this instance, both men and women can be raped -- but almost invariably, men are the sole perpetrators of the crime.

joe

"Joe, the conditions you set down for a book are a bit extreme."

Honestly I was thinking that too. Then I thought, well Hugo blogs about this all the time, so maybe there is a counterpart.

I believe patriarchy is real. I don't believe it has to be a bad thing though(thinking the patriarchy of Adam, Abraham etc.), however, I am not delusional, I do believe it has been corrupted and exploited to men's advantages--saddening.

"To be black in American society is to recognize that racism still thrives."

I don't understand comments like these.

souraaron

I am all for introspection and self-accountability and all that - but I will be damned if, as an MRA, I and my bretheren can't call our justice system to account when they screw up. There is no reason we can't do both those things at the same time.

Victim blaming doesn't become more attractive when dressed up in the language of feminism. There are particular males that are victims of laws that, because of historical gender roles, are biased against males. Frankly, I can't see how that would not be the case. Gender roles are something that has been baked into our culture for a long, long time. They are social constructions that affect both women and men. Sometimes, they benefit men, other times, they benefit women. I could cite hundreds of examples.

The key is - what can MRAs do to be effective accomplishing their goals. Well - I don't doubt that commenting on blogs is a particularly non-effective form of activism. Most people here already have their mind made up, and while I would be happy to change people's mind, I really do not expect to.

So what do we do. Well - I know a lot of men (some of whom self identify as MRAs) - who actively parent their children - some even assuming a primary caretaker role. These men are showing by example that men can and do, in fact, operate as parents just fine. That is a good start - being a rolemodel - particularly for boys who will have experience being raised by an active father.

From there, we work to shatter stereotypes. We make sure that all men understand that being a primary caretaker of kids is a cool and honorable thing to do. We change diapers, tell bedtime stories, stay home from work when the kids are sick, and do the normal things that "primary caretakers" do. Funny enough - in the last 5 years or so, I have seen a marked increase in the number of men doing these kinds of things. Most of my cohorts who are parents (im in my early 30s) - are doing the same thing.

Now - I will say this. For every Obtestor, there is a NYMOM. No side of this debate has a monopoly of it's people who try to lay all the problems of their gender at the feet of the opposite gender. And until people cease being activists because of being burned by a personal experience... it will probably always be this way.

cmc

I am not sure if I have any books that meet Joe's criteria exactly, but his question made me think of a statement towards the end of Simone de Beauvoir's book, The Second Sex. De Beauvoir noted that (due primarily to social and cultural values) men and women tend to be more prone to different moral failings. Women, she said, have to be vigilant not to give in to the moral failing of apathy and sloth; historically and culturally women have not been expected to achieve so it is all too easy for women to sit back rather than push themselves to produce.

I read The Second Sex in 1994 so I can't remember what men's moral weakness is, but the point is that de Beauvoir is a feminist who certainly holds women accountable as well as men. While de Beauvoir attributes this particular tendency of women to cultural and social factors that she criticizes (the patriarchy, I guess), she also at the same time holds women as individuals accountable for overcoming those factors.

cmc

And to follow up on my last comment, that is why women and men may need to do different things when they (to use a sort of New Age-y expression) "work on themselves." Women, for example, may need to teach themselves or other women and girls to be more assertive, more confident, more ambitious. That is the idea behind leadership camps for girls, for example.

Certainly, there are plenty of women who have no need for assertiveness training but the point is that social and cultural factors make it more likely that women will fail to assert themselves when it's appropriate. Due to social and cultural factors the issues women in general may need to work on differ from issues men in general may need to work on.

joe

Thanks CMC, I have read Simone de Beauvoir's, The Blood of Others. Honestly I cannot remember the story (1990ish), but I remember the reading was excellent.

You also brought up a point I would be most interested in reading about, "Women, for example, may need to teach themselves or other women and girls to be more assertive, more confident, more ambitious." My wife lacks these skills mentioned, I would like to "hand" my wife such a book to read, but the other trouble I face is getting her to read it. I have a three year old daughter, I will have to teach her these things if my wife doesn't.

stanton

Hugo said, speaking of feminist men: "As such, they encourage women to challenge themselves, to better themselves, to become stronger, more empowered and more effective human beings."

This is great, Hugo. I believe that you would encourage men to do the exact same thing... but with the unfortunate added ingredient of a big dose of blame. Feminists (men and women) are truly a diverse lot, but a VERY common trait is their belief that men need to be reconstructed, while women need to be empowered. The error of some MRAs (IMHO a much lower percentage than in the case of feminists) is that they feel women need to be reconstructed and MEN need to be empowered.

Here is a radical thought: No one is to blame for anyone else's problems! Empowering is the key for both genders. An empowered person, woman or man, does not need feminists or a patriarchy to blame for their situation. Empowered persons are not threatened by the addressing of injustices - social problems are to be addressed no matter whether those who suffer from the problem are of some particular class.

I am a proud MRA. I am an empowered man. I do not accept discriminatory behavior, no matter who the target.

Amanda

Um, joe, you may not be so supportive of the basic thesis of "The Second Sex" which is very adamantly anti-patriarchy.

anastasia

Joe, I recently read Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks and this book meets your criteria with the possible exception of "blaming patriarchy." Nevertheless, I think you should check it out. Actually, everyone should read it.

NancyP

bell hooks' books seem somewhat over-rated. Feminist Theory I found a bit dated (maybe I am a bit dated myself).

Lauren

Stanton: Have you read "Stiffed" by Susan Faludi? It's a bit dated now, but quite an interesting look at masculinity through a feminist lens.

bmmg39@aol.com

"...patriarchy does hurt men and women, but it does hand men clear privileges that vitiate the damage. It's an oppressive system, but it is still one that gives men greater access to power and control than it does women."

I reiterate that the abuses and injustices to men often fly under the radar screen. We're just not programmed to notice them as much. I make my case below:

"A crude example: both men and women can get raped. Men are often raped in prison. But though both sexes can be raped, all but a infinitesmal number of adult rapists are men. In this instance, both men and women can be raped -- but almost invariably, men are the sole perpetrators of the crime."

I'm glad that you have acknowledge that women are physically capable of raping men; not everyone does. Today I was home between my appointments, and someone else was watching a soap opera. In the storyline, a woman had tied up a man and a woman and would only let them go after having sex with the man. Well, that's a rape, but it seemed as though the writers weren't treating as such, for they had the male victim tell his girlfriend that he didn't want to "betray" her, and the girlfriend said that it's okay, "Do whatever you have to to get us out of here." Now, can you imagine a guy telling his girlfriend, "Just let him have his way with you if it means us getting out of here"?

Yes, I know it's just a TV show, but it's a sign of how we don't recognize violation of a man's body as rape. (I also apologize if I'm going over the word limit here, but I'm not doing ten posts today, and I could be misconstrued if I cut myself short on this subject.)

Anyway, we're generally told in society that something doesn't qualify as _________ (DV, sexual harassment, discrimination, etc.) if it's a woman doing it to a man, and so I wouldn't be surprised if the number of female-on-male rape were dramatically higher than what we hear about.
One flip side to your argument, then, is that male victims of rape aren't treated as seriously by society, especially if they were victimized by women.

Furthermore, even if the number of male rapists hugely outweighs that of female rapists, that might be more of an anatomical difference than a social one. Furthermore, there are more women who commit child abuse than men, but I'm not about to argue that this is a clear sign of the "matriarchy."

Finally, let us not forget the other flipside: that many men are sent to prison for rapes they did not indeed commit. We have been following the case of a man who has been serving time for almost twenty years. His wife made a sudden allegation of rape as they were going through a divorce and he was about to be awarded custody of their children. There were no signs of injury on her person. In addition, the semen in her body contained sperm. This is a red flag because the man had undergone a vasectomy prior to the alleged rape. No matter. The court system has refused to reopen his case.

Alyric

Interesting posts, particularly the juxtaposition between Dr Schwyzer's allusion to 'original sin' and the concept of patriarchy.

I'm not a great believer in that very shaky abstract 'patriarchy'. IMO, in most of history, it's a bad fit for the local customs of the times. Maybe the 1950s when there was a concerted effort to get women to reclaim some mystical ties to hearth and home to free up jobs for the boys, there might have been some justification for the concept, but otherwise not, if you look squarely at 'rights' balanced by 'responsibilities'. Which leads right back to 'original sin'. Nothing too startling about that, simply the idea that we don't really have to blame some outside agency for the failures - we all carry the propensity in us, so why invent 'patriarchy' to be the fall guy? A mirror would be so much more useful, n'est ce pas?

stanton

Lauren: I bought "Stiffed" and read parts, skimmed others. Ms. Faludi can be SO long-winded!

I believe that Ms. Faludi truly wrote this book with good intentions, but if this is an example of masculinity thorugh a feminist lens (and oviously it is such, at least for Ms. Faludi) then we have big problem. The book selects a large number of angry men and postulates that patriarchy has brought them to their unhappy state, and thus feminism is their salvation. This is childishly simplistic, and she could have said it in a couple of paragraphs - she didn't need 650 pages. (and I wish she would have included some "stiffed" divorced Dads who are pauperized by child support and are shut out of their children's lives, and some male DV victims. I would like to hear her explain how patriarchy has stiffed THEM.)

And Lauren, I see that this is looking like a rant, which you certainly do not deserve for recommending a book! I do apologize for that.

mythago

I reiterate that the abuses and injustices to men often fly under the radar screen.

Whose radar screen?

I agree with souraaron's comments about making sure the justice system is fair. The problem is that the perceived anti-male bias (e.g. in custody) is not "feminist." It is exactly what patriarchy and a sexist culture dictate. The flip side of insisting that women should be home with their babies instead of pursuing a silly career (that's The Man's job!) is that women are going to be seen as the primary and default caretakers of children, and thus disproportionately get custody. The result of putting women on a pedestal is that they aren't going to be seen as moral actors and full adults, silly little things, and will get off lightly when accused of crimes.

You can't complain about favored treatment of women without looking at how traditional views of men and women dictate those results.

bmmg39

"You can't complain about favored treatment of women without looking at how traditional views of men and women dictate those results."

Yes, I've addressed that these traditional gender roles work to the disadvantage of both men and women. I've never said otherwise; in fact, that's sort of my overall point. But many here just seem to see those injustices toward women, or argue that those greatly outweigh injustices toward men; therefore, I make my comment about society's radar screen.

Anne S

"The problem is that the perceived anti-male bias (e.g. in custody) is not "feminist." It is exactly what patriarchy and a sexist culture dictate. The flip side of insisting that women should be home with their babies instead of pursuing a silly career (that's The Man's job!) is that women are going to be seen as the primary and default caretakers of children, and thus disproportionately get custody."

Exactly, Mythago! That is exactly the reason why mothers get more favorable custody results from older male judges than from younger female ones, as is often pointed out. The phenomenon is actually rooted in sexism, although in this particular instance it works in women's favor.

stanton

Anne S. said: "That is exactly the reason why mothers get more favorable custody results from older male judges than from younger female ones, as is often pointed out. The phenomenon is actually rooted in sexism, although in this particular instance it works in women's favor."

So does this mean that you agree that this situation is indeed a problem needing correction? Or do you take the position that no remedies need be available to the children unjustly denied access to their fathers, until we first change the percentage of men in primary caregiver roles?

BTW - does it become more paltable to any of you opposers of men's rights if we view this as CHILDREN's right to access to both parents? Including primary access to their fathers when this is)appropriate?

Anne

" does this mean that you agree that this situation is indeed a problem needing correction? Or do you take the position that no remedies need be available to the children unjustly denied access to their fathers, until we first change the percentage of men in primary caregiver roles?"

I agree wholeheartedly that it is a problem that deserves correction. While in general I favor a primary caregiver presumption in cases of custody, I am all for individual custody arrangements that reflect each parent's previous caregiving roles, and stricter visitation enforcement in sole custody cases (which I have a hunch might nip a lot of family court brawling in the bud, but that's just my opinion).

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