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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Why we have sex …
No, really. I am not crazy, or at least I’ve not yet gone crazy. It’s a legitimate question, based on my reading and research. So, again I ask: what is sex for and why do we have it?

Often, our conversations around sex consist of what we like, the things we are into, and our experiences with it. But rarely is the question asked, “Is our children learning …” no wait, I mean, rarely do we question the purpose of sex. The first question, many of you will recognize, is a Bush question.

In a culture where sex is framed by mass media and pornography, it’s important to ask that question, mainly because popular culture still frames sex as something men earn and women give. In said culture, where the purpose of sex is framed in a sense of pleasure, we see women as the source of pleasure whereas men are the takers of such pleasure. When framed in said mentality, we no longer see women’s roles in sex as one of humans, but rather humans who serve a specific purpose.

As such, said mentality takes away the idea of human connections. We simply see sex as mechanical, and not as an expression between two people. To be absolutely sure, there can be sex without love, and we have all experienced it, but when human connections are taken out of sex, it merely becomes a biological act, and has nothing to do with humanity. Further, it makes us see others as mere vehicles to our attainment of pleasure, rather than human beings with whom we can connect.

Whether we like it or not, sex involves emotions. Yet, within the pornography industry, it’s treated as a mere act. In the end, it teaches us to detach from our human beings. I am not saying every sex act ought to come with love. I am merely saying we need to see others as human beings. Once we see others as merely sex providers, whether paid or not, any feelings or empathy we have for a person is gone. I say this to merely argue the point that until we can see others as humans, with feelings, needs and emotions, the act of prostitution will still be one that views women as providers of pleasure, and not humans. Sex may be great on its own, but we need to recognize that the person from whom we are getting it has feelings and is a human being.

 
With such acknowledgment, we will be kinder and more in touch of that person. In such cases, date rape can certain be prevented. After all, no does not mean no if we do not respect the other person’s feelings as a human being. To be sure, I can be pretty dirty and kinky, but without sounding too cheesy, sex isn’t about just getting yourself off. There is a piece of oneself, a human connection, left in the other person. Despite of what pornography tells us, sex isn’t just sex. That other person is the body parts we like, is a human.

Again, I ask: why do you have sex? What’s it for? Is it merely a way to achieve pleasure, is it a show of mutual adoration, is it to create babies (who am I kidding) is it to show love and reward, or is it a way to attain mutual pleasure with someone you like and respect? By re-defining to purpose for sex, we too re-define how society sees homosexuality. After all, if it’s about mutual respect and culture, then why does it matter what is natural?



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.



Pornography, women, misogyny and feminism

I’d wanted to write about my recent examination of my own musculinity, violence, the struggle for power and the patriarchy, as a response to claims that I lacked (indeed I do) of self-examination, but I ran across something yesterday, after corresponding about musculinity and violence with Dr. Robert Jensen, a women’s studies professor, that I wanted to write about. More, tomorrow, on my recent discoveries of why my urges to fight for power through violent means are a direct result of male privilege and masculinity. For now, you get this.

As many of you know, I’ve become fascinated with research of pornography and how it effects our daily lives. I was in the middle of research when I found a slideshow that already had the things I was looking for. The link is below – and it’s upsetting.

http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=download&ufid=44490EB8214A0657

More than just objectifying women, porn also affects us in ways we’ve never really thought of before – in tells us what is sexy, what is desirable, and more importantly, how women should be viewed.

With porn, women are no longer seen as whole, complete people with feelings and minds, but rather, a vehicle for men’s pleasure. If we can separate fantasy from reality, is it wrong? The problem is when it starts becoming that prevelant in our culture, it’s hard to tell.

We start to buy into these ideas, and as a result, two things happen: women are harmed, in that they are seen as sex objects, and will become subjects of harrassments, bad relationships, and worst, rape.

Secondly, it doesn’t allow us to truly love one another – because we see our partners through the pornographic lense – they are all resemblences of what the porn industry portrays.

I have to admit – even as a pro-feminist male, I’ve gotten into the mindset of (in the past) women with whom I’d like to have sex, and women for whom I feel an affinity, and would like to know as a person. It’s the slut vs. good girls syndrome, and it pits women against one another.

The thing that most saddens me about porngraphy is that no one is spared. As you can see in this slide show, whether you are college student, school teacher, mother, wife, black, white, Asian, Latina – so long as you’re a woman, you are objectified.

Sex, no matter how kinky, is beautiful when it comes with respect and love. But these sex acts, especially when it comes with describing women as bitches, whores, dumb sluts and other adjectives, I have a problem with that. It’s hurtful, and it does not treat women as equals.

Feminism isn’t about just freedom to do whatever the hell we want. It’s the ability to free us all – from oppression, from a violent, male-dominated culture, from the social norms that have hurt us rather than free us



Feminist relationships.

Over at feministing.com, Jessiva Valenti posted the results of a study that suggested feminists, more often than not, are in more meaningful and satisfying relationships. My first reaction was: no shit – for us, the political is personal, and so our empathy, compassion and love in the political sense can translate into a person sense, thus we often treat our partners with with those traits.

But allow me to bring up another point. Sometimes, in a relationship in which we are both feminists, things can also be extremely frustrating, because we are aware of the political oppressions all around us. As feminists, we thrive to take personal actions that are consistent with our political beliefs, and as such, it can be frustrating sometimes. Because the personal is political and our world is still extremely gendered and patriarchy, and are based on gender roles and sexuality, most of our personal struggles are about relationships and sexuality.

But by no way am I bitching. The personal struggles we face and the questions we ask ourselves are nothing compared to the political struggles many have – especially the women of the Global South.

The following, then, are a list of question I’ve come up with when it comes to relationships and feminism; please feel free to add yours.
1) Is it for me to feel a sexual desire for a woman at the moment of meeting her, without first knowing her as a person? I actually thought of this last night while meeting with a woman at a bar and talking a lot about — nothing. I still felt strangely sexually attracted to her, caught myself and scolded myself.

2) Is it okay for me to buy flowers for a woman-of-interest, knowing the kinds of message flowers might send, and the reinforcement of gender roles and chivalry that it carries? Also – is it really the romantic and genuine gesture, knowing the plights of flower growers in South America (mostly women) where these flowers are shipped? Am I wrong for buying flowers?

3) At a pick-up joint, is it okay to feel like “the man” in having won the attention and affection of a beautiful woman, knowing that she is highly sought after, but is with me? I feel like it’s almost a trophy pick-up – and that is wrong.

4) Is it okay to fall deeply and dangerously in love with someone, knowing the implications of gender roles we might have to give in to, being so in love?

5) Just how adventuous and kinky can we afford to be in our sexual practices? What of roleplaying? Is it wrong to be turned on or to participate in consentual sexual practices, if said practices, in real life, are oppressive to women?

6) Whose names shall we take after the wedding? How do we go about doing this without appearing abnormal to families and friends? How do we remain true to our feminist values, yet remain “real” to the world at the same time?

7) Of diamonds, shall we even consider it for our wedding? Blood diamonds?

8) How do we juggle how much to fall in love, yet remain true to the feminist cause? How do we balance our devotion to each other and feminism at the same time?

9) How do we show our love and affection to each other, yet at the same, show the world that we are equals – and be the shining examples of what healthy relationships should be all about?

A book that doesn’t have all the answers – but rather highlights the struggles between the personal and the political of feminism is called, “To Be Real,” by Rebecca Walker. I highly recommend it to all feminists!



So, I am a misogynist. Huh!

Friday night, I was out with a few friends and was totally blitzed. After last call, we wandered around to find food when we ran into a girl – also a college student – who had been left by her friends in the parking lot. She was drunk, not in a familiar neighborhood and didn’t have a cell phone.

She used a pay phone to call some other friends to pick her up. Her plan was to stay there until her friends came, although she wasn’t even sure if her friends got the message.

So I offered her a place to stay in my apartment. “Look, my roommate is gay, and I am a feminist. It makes no sense for you to stay here alone until someone comes to get you. It’s not safe.”

She called her friends back with my contact info, and followed us home …only to be picked up a few minutes later.

The next day, she called to thank me, and suggested that we go out for drinks.

A friend who was with me at the time of the incident looked at me and said, “Marc, I am onto you. You’re just like the rest of them, with the feminist cover. You’re a wolf in  sheep skin.”

I took that personally. As a pro-feminist male, I shouldn’t get a fucking cookie for being such, but I don’t like my integrity and convictions questioned, either — especially by my friend, who is quite the objectifyer of women.

Just because I offered a pretty girl a place to stay doesn’t mean I am trying to fuck her. I don’t need a girl to be drunk to earn her affection and attention. I don’t need to lie to a girl to get laid. I don’t need to take advantage of a situation to get a girl to jump my bone.

If I were accused of having hidden motives by women, I’d totally understand …when one group has been oppressed by other group for their entire lives, they have the right to be cynical of unlikely allies. But when another guy, who often sees women as nothing but potential fuck objects, questions my intentions, I have a problem with that.

Has anyone had similar experiences? Should I kick this guy in the head?