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November 15, 2006

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Stephen Frug

Wow, I hope that if and when she *does* email you we can hear the rest of that story -- I'm quite curious myself about what she meant.

Ampersand

My guess is that it's a reference to the depth and outspokenness of your Christian commitments, but that's only a guess, of course.

Plus, at the time you knew her, were you pro-life? That would certainly lie outside the feminist mainstream.

rrede

I am not your student.

However, I've been lurking/reading for some months. While I have not been moved to comment before, this post intrigued me. I'm a feminist (have been since the early eighties), a queer woman, and, while I do not teach "women's studies" (I teach college English), all my courses are anti-racist/queer/feminist in some way. I know Christian feminists, atheist feminists, pagan feminists, agnostic feminists. I know Marxist feminsts, equality feminists. I know sex-positive feminists and anti-porn feminists. I know lesbian separatists and heterosexual, married feminists. I know feminists who would never choose to have an abortion (including myself) although few of us are willing to force our "choice" on other women. While many of us differ on strategies, our central focus, concern, and eventual goals center on women.

In this blog, you seem much more interested in men. If you did not clearly label yourself as "women's studies" (and if the blogosphere did not clearly label your blog as "feminist" -- though I agree with a number of people who have posted about the irony of the patriarchal system which claims two males as running the best-known/popular "feminist" blogs--sort of like Tootsie which showed that the best woman is really a man!), I would have located the persona and space you create here as much more about men's studies than women's studies--at least in this space, you are much more interested in the constructions of masculinity and the effect on men.

I have no idea about your classes, of course.

Questioning the social construction of traditional/heroic masculinity as it's been perceived as the domain of men is a valuable part of gender studies. The process is even related to various aspects of feminist theory and politics. (But queer and gender work while overlapping feminist work also has separate goals--I would recommend Judith Halberstam's Female Masculinity for an interesting take on how to de/construct social constructions of masculinity, including the assumption that it has to be tied only to male bodies).

However, for someone to claim to be a feminist and spend so much time talking about men, making men the center of it all, is problematic *if* the claim is made that such work is "feminist."

Traditional/heroic masculinity, especially as associated with whiteness, heterosexism, and high social class in this country, needs to be critiqued. Some elements are positive; many are not.

However, that project is not sufficient on its own to be considered feminist. For that reason, although I read your blog, I would not consider you a source of, inspiration regarding, or part of feminist movement except in a very minor sense.

I would be interested in hearing more about the female feminist theorists, scholars, writers, etc. who inspired you, whose work you teach. Or the women athletes, coaches, religious leaders, etc. who are important to you.

Hugo

Rrede, look on my sidebar under "popular posts" -- over 50% of what is there is about feminism and women.

rrede

As I said, I've been reading/lurking for some months. Your sidebar may have 50% or more posts on "women and feminism" (I am not going to take time 'counting'), but in my classes, 50% is not a passing grade. Your blog, your choices, of course. I just don't see women as that central to you in this space.

Hugo

Rrede, if you read my note at the top, I am a "gender studies" prof. I don't just teach women's studies -- I teach courses on men and masculinity too.

Justice is not a zero-sum game.

Sara

rrede, there is no feminism without men. That is, making feminist progress is necessarily going to practically effect the lives and thinking of men. Obviously, women stand to be the major (material, bodily, etc.) beneficiaries of feminism, but taking the power that by right of being a human being ought to belong to women out of the hands of men and returning it to women is going to create just as radical a change in men's lives as it will women's. In fact, Hugo, I would argue that justice is a zero-sum game, or at least when it comes to power differentials. For example, a rapist takes the power of a woman to make decisions about her body from her, and if he can not rape, this is power he does not have. This doesn't mean that everyone doesn't win in a world with perfect gender equity (they do, in the sense that being in the right is a part of winning), but it does mean that men lose power in the world when they cede it to women or when it is taken by women. I may just be misunderstanding a semantic debate here - where rrede is accepting "feminist" pursuits as describing those that either evaluate the historical or current condition of women or explore or attempt to create the possibilities that exist for women in the future - but if that's the case, I have to wonder what exploring the effects of feminism on men would be called, anyway.

Mr. Bad

Hugo said: "Rrede, if you read my note at the top, I am a "gender studies" prof. I don't just teach women's studies -- I teach courses on men and masculinity too."

Heh, "men and masculinity." Reality check: Hugo teaches a decidedly feminine masculinity where healthy, normal masculinity is seen as malignant and normal masculine men are 'broken' and in need of fixing. Those of us who actually know and understand healthy, normal masculinity would call his model 'femi-boy'"masculinity."

Mr. Bad

Oh wow, I missed this - rrede said:"Traditional/heroic masculinity, especially as associated with whiteness, heterosexism, and high social class in this country, needs to be critiqued. Some elements are positive; many are not."

Well, you certainly seem to approach this from a decidedly racist, sexist POV. Why not look at how all cultures manifest "masculinity" as you describe it? After all, Latino/a and African American culture definitely takes a different - IMO more "macho" - approach to masculinity than does 'white' (whatever that is) culture in western societies. And how about discussing and critiquing femininity and feminism as it's associated with "whiteness, heterosexism, and high social class in this country" as you call it? After all, things like affirmative action, etc., have primarily benefitted white women, so obviously the effects are different vis-a-vis race, ethnicity, etc.

Oh, but wait - oh, that's right: No candid and honest examination and criticisms of women, femininity and feminism - of any racial and/or ethnicity - is allowed in so-called "gender (wink, wink) studies," right? It's all about men=bad, women=good, right? Silly me, for second there I forgot.

rrede

A combo reply before I go back to lurking, since the work week starts tomorrow and I've used up my allotted time for such surfing around the blogosphere.

Hugo, this post was about why your student might call you outside the feminist mainstream. Since it was an open, public post, I thought it not inappropriate to comment on why I perceive the persona/space you create here as well outside feminist movement (I don't know what the feminist mainstream is, and am probably not in it myself). Your teaching credentials or class assignments are not likely to convince me otherwise since most universities will assign a women's studies class to anyone who volunteers (or any woman around who cannot argue against it) without the requirements for credentials that they would presumably demand in, say, physics.

Sara, I would call a study exploring the effects of feminism on men to be either a gender study or a masculinity study. Men's liberation from traditional masculinity is a related project to feminism, and important overlaps and coalitions can take place. But I gave up long ago trying to work with men on feminist movement because too many of them make it all about themselves and too little about women. That holds true for both straight and queer men. YMMV.

Mr. Bad: On a personal level, I do not care about Hugo's masculinity or yours. What part of "queer" do you not understand? I live with a woman, I socialize with women, I collaborate with women, I hang out with women. I work with men, collegially (they gave me tenure instead of either lynching me or burning me at the stake as some charming men on the internet have suggested should be done with me). Politically or theoretically, I will take Hugo's brand of masculinity over yours, based on the only thing I have to judge either of you by: your style (hello!English teacher!) of writing. And my work is on ethnicity and gender in feminism: what part of anti-racist feminist do you not understand? I focus on 20th North Amerian texts rather than world or other national topics because I live and work in the U.S, and I am not an historian so don't do earlier periods. And if you are, as I seem to be recalling, the one who recently claimed that "white men" are the majority (which they aren't, locally, nationally, or globally), I doubt I would benefit from your insights on other cultures.

Cheers!

Hugo

Rrede, thanks; you and I have a different understanding of what constitutes feminist work, and yours is perhaps closer to those who are teaching my former student. I'm a "big-tent" feminist, as any long-time reader knows; I've got room for Andrea Dworkin and Christina Hoff Summers in my syllabi; I've got room for Naomi Wolf and Laura Kipnis and Gloria Anzaldua and Bethany Torode; I've got room for NOW and the IWF. And I've got room for men's work as well. I asign Robert Bly and Michael Kimmel together.

Mr. Bad

rrede said: "Mr. Bad: On a personal level, I do not care about Hugo's masculinity or yours. What part of "queer" do you not understand? I live with a woman, I socialize with women, I collaborate with women, I hang out with women. I work with men, collegially (they gave me tenure instead of either lynching me or burning me at the stake as some charming men on the internet have suggested should be done with me)."

Well rrede, aside from your hysterical raving vis-a-vis men on the internet wanting to "lynch (you) or burning (you) at the stake" (I trust you're familiar with "The SCUM Manifesto") I would argue that since you spend almost all of your time with women and only (begrudgingly) associate with men when absolutely necessary, I assert that you are by no means qualified whatsoever to evaluate men and masculinity. Therefore, I surely hope that you don't pretend to do so in your (wink, wink) "gender" studies courses (hello! Science and logic teacher!).

As for my writing skills, heh, like I care. Seeing what comes from the cadre of people in the "ethnicity and gender" (understanding that "gender" is PC code for "womenist/feminist") crowd, I'm proud to be readily distinguishable from you folks. The general consensus re. the works of your ilk produce is that it's amateurish, incomprehensible twaddle, and from what I've read I have to concur.

Joe Smith

"based on the only thing I have to judge either of you by: your style (hello!English teacher!) of writing."

Awkward use of colon. Splitting up a subject and predicate with a parenthetical statement. Use of cliche ("Hello! English teacher!" "What part of 'X' do you not understand?").

Hugo

Cool it, all of you, with the grammar discussion. On topic, and politely, please.

Mr. Bad

You're right Hugo - sorry about taking the bait that rrede threw out.

However, a couple of people have made the reasonable point that feminism doesn't exist in a vacuum and that 'masculism' and masculinity is germane, especially in so-called "gender" studies. And if my point wasn't clear, it's that if one is going to engage the topic of "masculinity" then all POVs of masculinity must be examined in a respectful manner, not just the traditional masculine = bad, feminine/femi-masculine = good paradigm that is currently in vogue. Just as there are many POVs re. feminism, 'queerness,' etc., so there is with masculinity. I think that what irks many feminists, causing them to question your feminist credentials, is that you allow men who are friendly to traditional masculinity a seat at the table when discussing "gender" issues. Not that you are friendly to the ideas set forth, but at least you don't shut us out in the way mainstream feminists have to-date, and IMO that's where you get in trouble with the mainstream feminist crowd. Consider how pissed-off they are whenever you discuss your friendship with and respect for Glenn Sacks? That should tell you a lot - it certainly resonates with me.

Thomas

I would argue that justice is a zero-sum game, or at least when it comes to power differentials.

I rather think that patriarchy is a classic "prisoner's dilemma," a situation where adverdarial and distrustful dynamics between participants advantage one side over another in a relative way, but produce absolute disadvantage for both. That is to say, I think that patriarchy is bad and limiting for men, but is much worse and more limiting for women; both men and women have more to gain by opposing than by maintaining it, but for men that realization is hard to come by because the relative advantage is so easy to see.

If it really were a zero-sum game, then effective change would require a military overthrow of patriarchy, complete with slaughter of huge numbers of men, which is just not something that is going to happen. The only hope to actually attack patriarchy is to enlist men's self-interest in eliminating a system that imposes the burdens of "manhood" on them.

labyrus

Mr. Bad - I know VERY few feminists (and most of them are men) who would say that masculinity/maleness is "bad" and femininity is "good". There are people who put forth essentially this idea, but they are definitely on the fringes of feminist thought.

Most think that traditional definitions of either gender include both good and bad elements, but that people should be able to make their own choices, and to define themselves, rather than be defined by their gender.

I think most feminists respond angrily not so much to your ideas about masculinity, but to the fact that you constantly misrepresent feminism, misrepresent the arguments of feminists, belittle gender studies as a field, and are extremely rude when you argue with people (and then whine about polite discussion when others respond in kind). Perhaps this rudeness is part of what being masculine is about for you, but it's unlikely to impress or convince anyone.

I've seen you occasionally make pretty good points (ie. I think you do have a point that women are less able than men to evualate the subjective experience of masculinity, since they don't generally experience it), and I think if you were to take some time to actually understand what feminists say, rather than just making wild assumptions about it, then a discussion with you might actually be interesting. As it is, it's mostly just frustrating because you're such a jerk about putting your ideas forward.

rrede-> I don't know what the feminist mainstream is, either (in any case, as an anarchist I'm surely well outside of it), but I think saying that Hugo is outside of the feminist movement is a tough thing for me to agree with. Although the more I reread your comments, the more I'm getting the impression that you're limiting that to saying that this blog is outside of the feminist movement.

Personally I'm not convinced, but I think we maybe have different conceptions of what "the feminist movement" is. I think of feminism as a social movement (not the Academic discipline) when the word "movement" pops up, and I don't really think that the divisions between Academic fields are really relevant to that movement, or really that most women's (or gender) studies classrooms have much to do with that movement either.

rrede

Labyrus: I did not intend to say that Hugo was "outside the feminist movement" (although I tend to say feminist movement, to work against the perception that there is one, or feminisms, because there are multiple areas of feminist movement). It's too simple to say in/out, as if there's some checklist for feminisms; I did say that *in this blog* only (thank you for reading carefully enough to see that was my point) that I could see why someone might agree with Hugo's former student in placing him outside a mainstream feminist movement (for purposes of definition, say NOW, a group I consider fairly moderate/mainstream--despite all the media calling them radical). Not "Hugo" in totality, but the persona and focus of this blog -- the contrast between the Bobby Knight post and this one, after some months of lurking, encouraged me to post.

In terms of academic vs. activist: many feminists activists in community groups would agree, that the acacemy has nothing to do with feminism. But then, since Hugo (as well as I) both teach in higher education, we'd both be out of the reckoning then! I'm sure both of us extend our work outside the academic setting as well.

(In fact, I teach in an English department and other than one women writer's course which is not required for the major or any minor, I don't teach "women's studies" or "gender studies." I do incorporate multicultural, feminist, and queer readings by male and female writers in most of my classes. Ditto science fiction/fantasy. And yep, as soon as I get all my students brainwashed into handing in their essays in manila folders, I plan to brainwash them all into feminism! Too bad it takes so long to get that manila folder brainwashing into place.)

However, since Hugo brought up the issue in regard to a former student who had gone on to major in women's studies at a university and was addressing him as her teacher--that's the context I assumed was being discussed; that context is the one in which I made my evaluation.

Feminism is (among other things) a social movement. One of the results of the social movement, good or bad, has been the establishment of an academic presence where "feminism" is now a theoretical project, a major, an intellectual process. One does not preclude the other; I see them as connected and interactive.

Rest assured, many feminists would agree with you that what goes on in the academy (might) have little to do with "feminism." And as I said to Hugo, given the disain many academics have about such classes, they're likely to assign them to the nearest woman (whether or not she has any course work in the subject). In this case, I'm talking about places where there are stray classes, not fully developed programs. The same tends to be true for other "minority" classes.

My sense is that feminist movement can take place anywhere, in many forms, and through many different ideological and practical strategies. I do see Hugo's work as complementing in terms of that area called masculinity studies--he says himself he teaches men's studies as well. I just don't see his space here as one that is particularly welcoming to feminists, or, more accurately, to this feminist.

octopod

Did Mr. Bad actually just call that "hysterical raving"? Hahahahah!

I call feminist-baiting. Kudos to rrede for not taking the bait.

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I would have located the persona and space you create here as much more about men's studies than women's studies--at least in this space, you are much more interested in the constructions of masculinity and the effect on men.

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Questioning the social construction of traditional/heroic masculinity as it's been perceived as the domain of men is a valuable part of gender studies. The process is even related to various aspects of feminist theory and politics. (But queer and gender work while overlapping feminist work also has separate goals--I would recommend Judith Halberstam's Female Masculinity for an interesting take on how to de/construct social constructions of masculinity, including the assumption that it has to be tied only to male bodies).

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Politically or theoretically, I will take Hugo's brand of masculinity over yours, based on the only thing I have to judge either of you by: your style (hello!English teacher!) of writing. And my work is on ethnicity and gender in feminism: what part of anti-racist feminist do you not understand?

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