Moving Towards Positive Images of Masculinities
One of the great obstacles in front of male feminists is moving from a negative understand of masculinity to positive visions. We have a pretty good sense of what we don't like about masculinity: the violence, the homophobia, the bravado, the low expectations of parenting, the lack of expectations of communications, etc., etc.
But we don't have well-defined positive visions of masculinity. I mean, there's a few things most people can agree to put their finger on as something positive: male visions of being an involved parent is one I can think of. A sincere and good fatherhood is certainly a positive vision of masculinity (for those who want to choose fatherhood).
Part of this, I think is that many developing feminist men have deep misgivings about their own sexuality. It's difficult, or at least it was difficult for me, doing even a small amount of anti-violence work, not to internalize some of the negative attitudes towards male sexuality. After all, so much of male sexuality is violent and brutal, and that's a big part of what once is exposed to doing anti-sexual violence work. And hearing that, I suspect that a lot of men experience some self-loathing and question or fear their own sexuality.
(As an aside, some men interpret an attack from feminist women on male sexuality as an attack on them personally and all men, and rather than developing a shame or misgivings about their own sexuality, channel those feelings as anger against "man-hating" feminists. I merely point it out to demonstrate how I think different people respond differently to these things.)
While internalized misgivings and shame about male sexuality is problematic in and of itself, what's most problematic is that most men (feminist or not) don't have the tools to resolve and work through issues. Men are socialized not to talk about their feelings or sexuality with other men. So that means we either unload on women, who really shouldn't have to deal with nascent male feminists (or developed male feminists) working through their issues with them, or we suppress these unhealthy feelings.
Really the solution to all of this is to talk about these kinds of issues with other men. It sucks. And it's hard. We really don't have a vocabulary of self-expression for emotional issues, having been socialized that it's "unmanly" to talk about our or others' feelings. We have to develop one that we can use with each other. Part of that is developing safe spaces where we can discuss these issues. Though one might glibly reply that all spaces are safe spaces for men, it's intellectually dishonest to pretend to that those spaces are safe spaces for feminist men to discuss feminism. The world, while not as hostile to men who choose to express feminism as it is to women (who choose to express feminism or who simply try to exist), certainly is hostile to these kinds of discussions from anyone, men or women.
So men, we need to try to create safe spaces. I hope that this blog can serve as one, but I'd like to ask, what are other men using as safe spaces? Do you have other men you can talk to about these issues? Please let us know in the comments!