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Sunday, March 9

Another interesting perspective on patriarchy hurting men

I've been a little more MIA lately than I intended to be. I had a week off from class at the end of February and went to New York City, and now I'm getting into the busy time at school when I have to start thinking about my course paper and am feeling the pressure of writing my thesis....

So here's a quick post about another post and comments to it that I found interesting.

Posted on Shakesville, "Robbing the Hearts of Men" is speaking about patriarchy hurting men. It's an excellent read, along with the comments on the post.

A few of my thoughts (and I commented on it as well):

  • I was immediately put off by her article at the beginning when she says:

It's long been my view that sexism and misogyny do every bit as much damage to men as to women.

I do not agree with this. Like one commenter says,

I do not think "sexism and misogyny does every bit as much damage to men as it does to women." If it did, they would stop it. Damage, yes. "Every bit as much damage" seems to me to be a stretch too large for reality to encompass.

The next commenter indicates why men being damaged by sexism is often hard for men to see or want to do anything about-this damage comes from a system that advantages (white) men. while in many ways they are hurt by it, there are many more ways (or perhaps more tangible or rewarding ways) they are privileged by it.

Perhaps there is a kind of sub-conscious cost-benefit analysis going on here-certainly women who yearn for traditional gender roles or who demand a man to take care of her do the same thing. In fact, attitudes don't need to be even as retro as that-there are many ways that women choose "the path of least resistance" (please! read The Gender Knot by Allan G. Johnson) by "using" patriarchal attitudes to their advantage instead of fighting them-many uses of "sexuality" to "get what you want" can fall under this category.

Another commenter made this interesting point,

I think many men aren't fighting to undermine the patriarchy not because they support it or hope to benefit from it, but because they literally don't understand it's there. The world is set up for them, it seems to run fine, why can't everyone else adapt?

It takes actually stepping outside oneself to recognize the level of privilege men have. Now, needless to say, some men are aware of that privilege and are happy to defend it. But many who are opposed to feminism are actually opposed to strawfeminism, many are opposed to "man-hatin' humor," which isn't part of any feminism I've seen, and many are afraid of change because they're just afraid of change.

True, true. There needs to be some way to educate men about feminism and gender analysis. There is the awful assumption that feminists hate men. Many feminists like men an awful lot, they just hate patriarchy. And it can be hard for men who feel like women want to "take away" "their" privileges to see how they are hurt by patriarchy and how its critique can benefit them. then there's also that darn cost-benefit thing which keeps many men from embracing feminist critique.
  • Another concern I had is the way that what she deplores (emotional men denigrated as feminine and therefore men are taught not to experience a range of human emotions) does not seem to be part of the feminist/gender analysis of the social construction of masculinity and femininity, which it most certainly is. She says,
In our society (at least), the following traits are considered primarily "female/womanly":
Tender, Emotional, Vulnerable, Receptive, Passive, Compassionate....

...If you are living in a misogynist, sexist society where privilege is awarded automatically by virtue of manliness/maleness or perceived manliness/maleness, and therefore, being womanly/female is an undesirable (if not despicable) position, then you are going to work hard to avoid the culturally-acceptable traits of womanliness...

...Men feel -- because they're human. They experience moments of tenderness, and vulnerability, and emotion (yes, emotions other than rage) -- as well as moments of compassion, and receptivity, and passivity.

The problem is: They can't express that without looking like a woman. Which, in a sexist, misogynist society, would be a bad thing. A thing that loses you jobs, and gets you called "pussy", and "mangina", and subjects you to suggestions that you "sit to pee" -- which would all be BAD, because being anything like a woman/female human is BAD.

This is exactly what the feminist critique of gender entails-both that what has been traditionally labeled "feminine" has been denigrated in order to support patriarchy and sexism, and also that there is nothing inherently bad or gendered about these attributes. Masculinity and femininity are not two separate social constructions where you can critique one without the other. consistent with a deconstructive analysis, masculinity is not self-defined-it is defined by what it is not: feminine. So to critique the arbitrary production of femininity and the subsequent denigration of all things female is to also critique masculinity. In this example there are many "wrongs" here-the idea that certain traits are considered "bad", that those "bad" traits are arbitrarily linked to a particular gender by arguing a natural connection, that this gender is denigrated all over society, that anyone in the dominant gender who exhibits said traits are denigrated as well...(see my post on the politics of the word pussy)

Now many female feminists do not necessarily write extended analyses about masculinity, but there are many male feminists who do, and they are well worth reading. (see my earlier post).