What Men Dare Do! "O, what men dare do! What men may do! What men daily do, not knowing what they do!"

8Nov/106

A Response to Commenter Roboto on Towards Positive Masculinities

I'm going to take this opportunity to make a stand-alone post in response to a comment I got on my post "Towards Positive Masculinities," because I feel that the post puts out a lot of feelings that a lot of "feminist, but…" men have.

Roboto writes in response to my post that men should not invade traditional feminist spaces to work out problems of masculinity until they have a more secure feminist:

I think this is an unsatisfying answer because it attempts to segregate the discussion of equality and sex into two gendered groups. […]But realistically speaking, if we are to accept the premise that feminism is a movement that should be in its simple and purest form about egalitarianism, why such a division?

Let me say in response that I believe that feminist men should eventually join feminist groups that traditionally are filled with women.  However, I think that before anyone joins a feminist group that they need to have some familiarity with feminism.  All people, not just men, need to know have a baseline of feminism before becoming involved in the movement.  It should not be women feminists' responsibility to educate men about feminism, or to subvert their own group's efforts and make their group into a discussion of masculinities, just because a newly feminist man joins their group.

And moreover, traditional feminist groups should not be educating the newly feminist men for a number of reasons which I will elaborate on, but the commenter sums it up well when he says:

I feel that feminism does a poor job of selling itself to men.

Let me say you're absolutely correct.  Feminism does not sell itself well to men.  Feminism frequently teaches, explains and analyzes societal phenomena and constructions using the common and shared experiences that women possess.  One can analyze, for instance, a commercial in the media attempting to sell some product by painting it pink, or using unrealistic body images to sell an idea of feminine perfection.  Women can relate to this because it's a shared experience, and it's one that men lack.  Men's body image issues are different than women's.  Men products are marketed differently than women's products.  These differences are neither so stark in such examples, nor are they so far removed as to be inaccessible to men, but there are other more personal examples, such as discussions of sexual assaults, rape and harassment, or dating or other personal issues that are discussed in feminism by using common women's experiences that are difficult for men to relate to.

So if feminism does a poor job of selling itself to men, well, then it stands to reason that traditional feminism should not try to sell itself to men.  But who should?  Why us!  Feminist men!  We need to develop strategies and tactics for reaching our brethren.

Thus, I agree with the commenter that feminism does a poor job of selling itself to men, but the solution is not to turn away from feminism, but for men, who possess their own body of common and shared experiences to take the principles of feminism and develop new strategies and tactics to market them to men.  Rather than create some "new" movement to become a vehicle for what is essentially "male feminism," we should embrace feminism as it is, and simply develop new ways to reach men.  While we might analyze different things in society than most women feminists do, and we might focus on constructions of masculinities ultimately we look through the same analytical and theoretical lens of the feminist.  We are not different, though we may look at different things.

That's why I think that creating a new movement would serve to artificially divide us, when really we are ideologically alike.

But, as the commenter aptly demonstrates, many men are nonetheless afraid of the label:

I’m not for labellng myself a feminist simply because I a.) feel like the term doesn’t represent me, and doesn’t linguistically speaking, lend itself to a masculine identity, and b.) because I feel like you are right, that traditional feminist spaces are not as open to men because men are viewed as the problem and not the solution, and moreover, that we are seen as some alien curiosity.

Let's address each of those arguments in turn.  As for one: while I'm sympathetic to the argument that "feminism" is not a very manly term, I really can't come to a thoughtful response other than "get over it."  What do we call "male feminism?"  I really don't know.  If someone can suggest a better idea, I'm all for it, at least for marketing and message politics purposes, but at the end of the day, I don't believe that I use a theoretical framework to analyze the world at a macro level, or look at my own personal life that can be labeled as anything but "feminist."  I've suggested, somewhat tongue in cheek that "recovering chauvinist" might also be an apt term to describe us feminist men, but I suspect that a man concerned with calling himself a feminist would not care for that label either.  Heh.

As for the second point, I admit, I am much more sympathetic.  Men are frequently viewed as hostile, or as a curiosity in the feminist movement, and with good reason as to the first, and with very negative effects as to the second.  Men are viewed with some hostility at times, because in my experience, a lot of newly feminist men who join feminists groups often 1) aren't really feminist and are just there to present themselves as a curiosity or even subvert the group, or 2) end up playing up their masculinity as a unique curiosity and try to dominate the group.  Both are obviously negative.  As to the second issue, I think that some feminist groups, perhaps meaning well, encourage the feminist man to discuss his issue, but again, maintain the patriarchal construct where everything is about the man, rather than the man participating in the broader feminist effort.  But as I've said in my post on "Don't Mess Up Other Feminists' Stuff," it's the male feminists' role to subvert traditional feminist groups, but to create our own movement, our own groups, while working towards the same goals.

I hope that this addresses some of Roboto's comments, and I think him for his thoughtful response to my original post.

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