America’s Next Bill Clinton!


On feminism, pro-feminist men and group think

So, to start off with, a disclaimer: I originally posted this on Feministing.com, but it was taken off about 30 minutes after it was posted. Irony of it all? The post is about how the mainstream feminist movement doesn’t deal with dissent very well. Here, then is my effort to restart an old blog. Original content of the piece originally posted on Feministing is below.

I found feminism in the fall of 2005. I was an American soldier at the time, interested in going into politics, and started my college career as a political science studies major. Something about gender studies pulled me in. If I wanted to change lives and help women, I needed to know their plight. I signed up for my first women’s studies class – Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions, it was called, and immediately got pulled into the feminist world. Feminism grabbed me by the collar, pulled me and loved and respected me. I eventually became a women’s studies major as well, and relished in the feminist organizations on campus and weekend getaways at feminist conferences. But as I grew within politics as well as the movement, there was a sense of uneasiness – one that I completely ignored and wrote off as male privilege tugging at me. Eventually, I’d had enough. I turned in my feminist card, began to look at feminism from a larger perspective, and while I still stand for gender equality and believe with every fiber of my being that we have a responsibility to end sexism, the majority of which directed at women, I could no longer call myself a feminist. I went quietly because I knew the movement wasn’t about me. It was about women. Yet, with the fallout this week between the pro-feminist males at the Good Men Project, I can no longer stay quiet. The problems I had with the movement are the very same ones that played out recently. To put it more succinctly, the pro-feminist movement, although good by intentions, currently faces many problems and is a symptom of the larger cause with the feminist movement. I want to address these problems today, not because I want to attack it, but because I feel it can improve.

 Being a man within the feminist movement isn’t easy. Right from the start, in Feminism 101 or whatever the name that version of the class is called at each Women’s Studies department, we are told to let go of our privilege and listen to women. We’re told to be aware of our gender and the power that it came with. We’re reminded that no matter how we view ourselves – that even if we think ourselves as just another well-intentioned guy looking to end gender discriminations, that we would be looked at differently by women, that we might inadvertently pose a threat by our actions, because of women’s experiences.

All fair points. Men within the movement do need to examine their actions and what they say, and indeed, men do have privilege and power within the movement. But that ends there. Because men are the minorities within the movement, and because we’re told to give up certain privileges and expectations, within the movement, men are not the ones in power. There’s nothing wrong with that. A reversal in roles within gender politics can be good. But such expectations become a problem when, rather being stuck in “gender neutral,” which is just as bad, the movement becomes stuck on gender overall. That is, when men’s gender becomes the focus of what they have to say, and women’s experiences become “truth” within the movement, we’re no longer practicing feminism; we’re deciding whether we agree with a person and what they have to say valid based on gender.

Because of that, any man who takes the time to speak about disagreements within the movement must be “mansplaining.” Any man who speaks ill of another feminist within the movement – as long as she isn’t pro-life or Naomi Wolf, is an MRA in disguise –a wolf in sheep clothing. Any man who challenges the experiences of women not based on her gender, but because some experiences might just be wrong regardless of gender, is considered a failure in feminism’s number one tenet – listen to women.

It is almost as if, within the feminist movement, there is a reversal in role in having a voice. Whereas within a greater society, the picture of obedient women who agree with the patriarchs, getting pats on the head and approval from men in power is a powerful one, within the feminist movement, it is also true for men. Suddenly, “truths” become the experiences of those in power instead of a group as a whole, and just as we’ve learned that those at the top rungs of the power ladder are less likely to see the whole picture, as they are blinded by their own privilege, the same can be said for that power within the feminist movement. I know it already. I know that someone will come along and say that this is yet just another argument from men who feel like their power is taken away, and are fighting for that power back. Such is not the case. I say this not because I want more feathers on my headdress, power at my disposal or more room at the podium, but because such a practice within the movement has hurt more than it’s helped the movement. Just as sexism has hurt our society as a whole, this practice – which is far from the sexisms women face in the “outside world” – has also hurt the progress of the feminist movement. As a result, much like women in patriarchy, men are conditioned from day one of the movement to be “good allies” – and by such – they are implicitly told that being a good ally meant spouting theories and ideals that the movement agrees with. Do so and one gets a reward and a pat on the back. Disagree and one gets labeled as a man threatened by having power taken away and, worse yet, a member of the MRA.

Yet another way the movement has silenced dissenting ideas is to accuse men who disagree with the movement’s certain messages of falsely being threatened. While, indeed, the language that some men use for fear of being silenced is ridiculously out of proportion, the truth is that some men within the movement are fearful of speaking out in disagreements for fear of being an outcast. Whereas “good allies” are taught to respect women’s perceived threats, and that based on lived experiences, women do have the right to feel threatened and men should take great care in recognizing that and not act in threatening ways, the experiences of men within the movement and the threats some of them feel, are cast of to the side. Any claims of being threatened, and let’s be fair – the threats men feel within the movement and the “reprisals” to be felt, are nothing compared to what women often have to deal with – are perceived as a silencing tactic by men to save their feelings, where men’s utmost concern is often not their feelings, but being able to speak truths within the movement without being outcast. In short, rather than listening to their allies, mainstream feminists revert to old and stale feminist theories, created originally not to examine the movement from within, but a gendered culture from the outside.

But all of this isn’t about men at all. It’s not about Hugo, it’s not about the Good Men Project, and it’s most certainly not about men. The fall out between GMP and Hugo is symptom of bigger issues within the pro-feminist men as well as the feminist movement: how to deal with dissent and intellectual challenges. Just as feminism challenges conventional wisdoms of gender roles within a larger society, there also has to be room within the feminist movement for disagreements and challenges of feminist theories that are stale, tired and no longer make sense. At the current time, there is no room for that. There is a monopoly within the movement, and anyone who disagrees is written off as sexist, antifeminist or misogynistic. The feminist movement and the pro-feminist men’s movement within it have a lot of growing up to do.

Within the mainstream movement, unless one is a cookie-cutter feminist, one is considered wrong. Suddenly, the pro-life feminist who works every bit just as hard for comprehensive sex education, to promote girls education and fight for gender equality, becomes a misogynist who does not trust women, and has no room within NOW or the FMF. Any woman, and I’ve seen the discussions within my own eyes, who acknowledges a need for feminism but doesn’t see it as being important in her own life for she’s lived a life of privilege, is labeled a “victim of the patriarchy” and apparently does know her own life. Feminists think she knows herself less than feminists know her. Feminists, again, I’ve seen firsthand, will claim she is blinded by patriarchy and she herself is a victim. Women who have passionate concerns of the feminist movement – the Naomi Wolf, Camille Paglia and the likes, all the sudden become non-feminists, and even get implicitly compared to Nazis in the process. And men get it too. All the sudden, for all he’d done for the women’s movement, Edward Kennedy, in endorsing Barrack Obama over Hillary Clinton, became a betrayer of women, according to Marcia Pappas of New York State NOW. Even well-intentioned and decidedly feminist organizations and writers, the Good Men Project is a good example, become misogynistic for straying from the narratives of what mainstream feminism requires of them.

Because of this, mainstream feminism as we know it becomes an echo chamber. Rather than being open to new ideas and looking at itself critically – “being introspective,” one calls it when encouraging male feminists to look within themselves – the current feminist movement becomes more interested in whether someone agrees with them. The measuring stick for being good feminists, and good men, in this case, isn’t about the work one does or the difference one makes, but rather, whether one spouts of ideas that are in agreement with others within the movement.

As a result, the people the current feminist movement set out to help aren’t helped at all. In fact, their voices are silenced. When Amanda Marcotte suggested sending a certain politician sanitary pads in protest over anti-choice legislations, rather than condemning the idea as being counterproductive, feminists jumped on board – all the while, young girls in Global South nations continued to miss school days when their menstruation cycles begin and they do not have any sanitary pads with which to take of themselves. Instead of calling out NOW for its condemnation of David Letterman for his affairs with a subordinate, feminist supporters jumped on board with it, all the meanwhile taking away the voice of the woman in question, without so much as asking her whether her relationship was consensual or considering that, perhaps, the relationship was a part of her choice. In short, the feminist movement of the current time will support women’s choices, but only if they agree with those choices. Instead of reaching out to men and young boys to mentor them on issues of consent and respect for their partners, and at the same time, listening to the concerns of young men and their experiences regarding sex and masculinity, feminists across America attended Slut Walk last summer and fall, choosing instead to solve the problems with one-way conversations rather than listening to the people they wished to change. After all, if men are the problems in the sexual assault epidemic, and they are, the right thing to do – the effective thing to do is to engage them in conversations, not to yell at them. In the end, Slut Walk accomplished nothing because mainstream feminists were more interested in having a day at the park with the people they agreed with rather than doing the tough thing and engaging the people they disagreed with.

In “The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help,” Jackson Katz posits that men concerned about gender equality must live examples of being good allies to encourage their sons to do the same – often, Katz writes, this means supporting women’s causes and not turning a blind eye to Take Back the Night and other events with a focus on eradicating gender violence. What this does, he goes on, is impresses upon boys that gender violence is their concerns, too, and that it also falls upon them to end gender violence. While it is true that men must make good examples for young boys (and girls) regarding the eradication of gender violence and promoting gender equality, by simply attending rallies and not challenging conventional wisdoms of the movement also sends another message – that men can help, and that such help is welcomed, but only if it falls in line with the narrative an perspectives of the mainstream feminist movement, which sometimes can be wrong. It’s no wonder so many men and boys – and so many women interested in feminism – shy away from it. While they want to help, many are threatened by the possibilities of being called sexist, stupid, unaware of their own privilege, a victim of the patriarchy, and too many other names that have been thrown toward dissenting feminists when disagreements happen.

As a result of this, the mainstream feminist movement becomes less effective than it can be because it consists of people who share the same ideas and values about what works and what doesn’t.

Epistemologically, by only welcoming those whose ideas fall in line with their own, mainstream feminists not only denies themselves the ability to grow, but also the experiences and skill sets important to achieve its end states. Moreover, the rejection of new and dissenting ideas also takes away some of its credibility of becoming a welcoming organization. If feminism asks of men to listen to women, then the movement in itself must also listen to men – and women – who come to it with genuine interests and support, but may not share the same ideas

The world isn’t black and white; it does not consist of only good and evil; and, most certainly, it’s not about us vs. them. It consists of various ideas, some good, some bad, and we ought to focus on the ideas that work best, rather than whether someone working alongside us, for the greater good of the world, agrees with us.

In all, the fallout experience between GMP and Hugo is a “fail forward” experience. It can serve as a learning experience. It can allow all feminists to look within themselves and ask not whether others agree with them, but whether the practices and cultures within the movement are best for gender equality. Until it does that, until it chooses to welcome all ideas, and condemn bad ideas regardless of from whom such ideas came, and allows the men and women within the movement to share ideas that might not necessarily reflect the conventional viewpoints and theories of feminism, it will have shortchanged itself, and even more, will have shortchanged the people it wishes to help.

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Anti-rape campaign. Join me!

Here’s the deal: you and I both know rape is a big problem on many campuses. We know the statistics. We know people who are survivors. We know that rape is more prevalent in social situations than any others. And most importantly, we have the answers on how to fix the problems.

Now is your chance to step up and take charge and be a feminist leader – whether you are an undergraduate, a graduate or otherwise. We need you to start a local chapter on your campus.

Rather than starting my own organization – I am piggybacking with another already existing organization that aims at community education and outreach to curb rape. The blue print to our goals and missions is being put together. We should finalize it in less than a month.

There are two goals: to education young men about rape, through encouraging them to deconstruct their masculinity and understand why they take the actions they do. Rape happens, I believe, because we live in a culture that eroticizes masculinity, dominance, and gender roles, in which men’s identities are defined through sexual conquests and ownership.

We’re going to hold talks at bars, freshmen orientation, and other places college students frequent. We’ll also have posters, discussion groups and outreach programs.

The second goal is to give women voices – the survivors of rape never often speak up because of the backlash and stigma that rape carries – and as such, to be able to lead a healthy life, both physically and mentally. By giving women a network to work through, we’ll be able to give women voices – and put their lived experiences at the forefront of the matter.

So, I need your help to start this not only on your campus, but in your community. This is something I want to start at all levels – as low as junior high school, in fact. I need you to spread the message to your brothers and sisters, friends, boyfriends, and anyone who you think might be a good addition to this, in your various cities and campuses.

The majority of my friends are women. I need more men to get involved to this, as to show rape isn’t an issue that affect women and that not only women can speak out on this, but this is an issue that affects everyone, and everyone has the responsibility to make our communities and campuses safer.

Contact me if you are interested. And pass on the information to everyone, please. My contact info is below.

Email: mloix002@odu.edu



Can I still be “masculine” and be a feminist?

My apogogies for the lack of posting. I’ve been extremely busy, and extremely sick. I am still kind of walking around in a haze, not having eaten since Tuesday because of this really bad flu … 

Can I be a feminist and still, at the same time, hold on to my masculinity? I mean, if a female feminist can still cling on to her “womanhood” and be a feminist, why can’t I be the same? If a woman can still wear make-up and high heels and be a feminist, why can’t I be masculine and still be a feminist?

I bring this up because lately, I’ve been charged with not being a feminist because I still enjoy male privilege.

The most serious charge is that I still want power – that in having political ambitions, rather than giving up power, I am clinging on and going after power.

But if I am using such power for something good – feminism, why is it so wrong?

So what if I enjoy a good fight? So what if, upon hearing a Navy guy make an anti-women, anti-feminist comment at the bar, and acting like a misogynist objectifying jackass, I challenge him to a fight? Sure, it’s violence; but it’s violence for feminism?

So what if I enjoy the sense of women (sexually or otherwise) or the taste of beer, or that on Sundays, I am watching football? So what if I love the feeling of being able to shoot my M-16 so accurately that i can hit a target 500 meters away? I am still a feminist.

I can still be tender, loving, caring, and I can still stick by my values and convictions.

To be sure, those who accused me of such are 2nd Wavers, those who live in their own worlds, reject what is reality, and just are “radical.”

I like sex, I like beers, I like violence, I like football, and I still speak out on behalf of human and women’s rights.

I still fall in love I still enjoy wooing women, I still enjoy wearing my heart on my sleeve.

I love being the center of attention. I love power. I love being in control.

But I would never harm, objectifying, hurt, or deny women of their humanly rights.

Why am I not a feminist?

A girl I just spoke to told me one can still be masculine and “manly” and be a good person and a feminist and that I am an example of such.

I shouldn’t give a fuck what the 2nd Wave thinks. But I still need to give up male privilege, as it is how we pro-feminist males are supposed to act.

What am I to do? What’s a guy supposed to do? If I give up masculinity, all that’s in me will be gone. I’d be left with no passion, no drive, no ambition. This is not because it’s what defined me as a man, but it’s because it’s who I am.

I want to be a man, but I still want to be a feminist.

Thoughts?



Of love and masculinity

For the last few weeks, I’ve become more interested in exploring the theories of masculinity in feminism. This came after charges were brought up that I was still hanging on to male privilege – and that my tendency to compete, be violent and even my ambition to grab power and go into politics are signs of male privilege. Because of that, I will be exploring male privilege and masculinity a lot in my notes.

 

One thing I’ve noticed a lot – sometimes in my own life, but in other men’s lives, is their reaction to a rejection of love – and how, no matter how genuine they were in wanting to get to know someone, a rejection drives them into showing their masculinity.

It is, as if, a rejection of love is a challenge to their “manhood” and masculinity – speaking volumes of their maleness when they are rejected. More over, it also says something – coming from a male perspective, that they’re not manly enough and that they don’t have what it takes.

The rejected man, his ego and self emasculated, takes it upon himself then, to re-energize his manhood. How does he do this? He does this by being a womanizer. This does not always have to be about sex – but sometimes does include it. He has to prove to himself (not to others because the rest of the world probably doesn’t know or doesn’t give a damn) that, much like Stacy’s Mom, he still has it going on.

He has to prove to his close circle of friends that he still has it. That he can still get women – even if it just means them falling for him, and him rejecting them. This reinforces his masculinity and ability to attract women. I am not a fan of evolutionary psychology, but I think that there’s some truths hidden in that idea when mixed with masculinity.

This brings up a paradox: if women are seen as less than men, and if what is “feminine” – or belonging to women – is considered negativity, then why does a man, in his manhood, need a woman to elevate his status and to make him feel good about himself?

The reason I bring this up is that I am beginning to realize that masculinity can hurt us all. It hurts us in that our relationships and interactions aren’t defined by who we truly love or care for, but rather, how does our interaction with that person make us feel? Further, it also opens doors to less-than-desirable relationships, in which the purpose isn’t to nurture and to share and to love, but to boost one’s ego.Also – in such cases, the victims are also the women who fall for men who feel like they need to be with these women to feel boost their masculinity. When come to find out that they’re not in it for the love, but rather, their status, women are hurt.

Moreover – it does make one wonder: did this man want to get into the relationship with the original and supposedly true object of his affection because he truly felt something for her, or was it just to boost his masculinity?

Love, after all, isn’t defined by how you react if your romantic advances are welcomed. It’s how you react if your romantic gestures have been turned down.