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

16Jan/135

“Shaming” Nice Guys of OKCupid: A Discussion From Reddit

So, for those of you don't know, I'm on Reddit, and I post occasionally in the comments over at reddit.com/r/feminism.  There's a thread over there that's led to some interesting discussion.  You can probably figure out who I am.

It discussed the now defunct "Nice Guys of OKCupid" blog.  You can find an archive of that blog here.

Pretty much the discussion point is this: is "shaming" misogynist men an effective tactic?  Is it feminist?  Is it something we, as feminists, should promote?  I'm torn, but not that much.  From the comment thread, a lot of people (I'm going to presume men) take offense to the blog because it's shaming men.  A couple comments have pointed out that it's like slut-shaming.

My responses have mostly been that I think shaming can be an effective tactic to get men to change their behavior.  It shouldn't be your only tactic, but it can definitely be one of them.  Different men will respond to different thing.  As I've written before, I think one of the most effective tactics is for people in the misogynist's life to call them out on it.  Tell them that their statements are hurtful towards women, towards specific women (maybe you!  maybe your mother, sister, daughter, significant other, friend).  But I recognize that not everyone feels comfortable (for physical, emotional, other reasons) calling men out like that.  But what do we have?  The anonymity of the internet.  Certainly not as effective, but it can reach more people.

So we have to move on to other tactics.  I certainly support education, and I think reaching out to men and trying to educate them about feminism is worthwhile.  But I don't think that tactic is going to reach all men.  Some men are going to respond to shaming.  Some men will respond to shaming because they might be genuinely surprised or come to a realization that their behavior hurts women, and they might engage in the kind of careful self-examination that most (if not all) male feminists eventually have to go through.  I think, however, that of the ones who stop their behavior because of the shaming, most of them will do it simply because they don't want to risk society's disapproval.

Will this embitter some men and make them angrier towards women?  Undoubtedly yes.  But were these men you were going to reach through other means?  I don't know.  I'm all for bringing feminism to as many men as possible, and I've tried to write a lot about tactics to reach men.  I think that at this stage in the feminist movement, and in the movement to bring bem into feminism, we need to try to get the low-hanging fruit.  We need to find the men who are sympathetic to our ideas but aren't quite there yet, and bring them in.  And then bring in the next most-sympathetic group, and so on.  I don't know that we can afford to tailor our messages to the lowest common denominator, with the goal of not further embittering men we were never going to reach in the first place.

Thoughts on this?  I'm going to post this on the reddit/r/feminism section, and see if any redditors and my normal commentariat can get a discussion going.  (If there's any normal commentariat left, given the lack of posting on this blog).

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14Jun/120

Great Article from Yes Means Yes on Reforming NY’s Rape Laws

Just to comment briefly: there's a fantastic post on the Yes Means Yes blog here on reforming New York State's rape laws. I highly recommend it.

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20Dec/110

A Response to Tom Matlock’s “Being a Dude is a Good Thing”

I might be a tad late on this bandwagon, but a friend pointed this out to me (h/t to Lindsey!) and I had to write something.

So I have to disagree with Tom Matlock. Being a "dude" is not a good thing. Tom Matlock's article talks about a lot about being a dude, and being blamed for being a dude, and not liking it when women blame him for being a dude, but he never really says what a "dude" is. He claims he doesn't want to look at the "macro," but look to at the "micro" instead. He doesn't really look at either.

Well, listen here: I think we all know what a "dude" is. If Tom simply meant "dude" to mean "human who identifies as male" or "human whose sex is male," I suspect if he would have said so. But by using the term "dude" to describe men, he uses a word rich with meaning and one inextricably linked with the kyriarchy and it's very fucked up sense of gender.

Tom asks "why men are blamed for everything?" I'll give him two answers. Firstly, they're not. Plenty of things happen that are the fault of women. The world is replete with women who buy into all sorts of fucked up gender things, and willingly or not, perpetuate it. There's also plenty of women who quite knowingly advocate for policies that I think leads to all sorts of fucked up ideas about gender. So, I'm going to call shenanigans on the premise of the question. But secondly, on the other hand: let's really examine the premise of the question. Ultimately, who has had power in this nation (and in most of the world), since the beginning? Men. So if you think there's a problem in this country, chances are, a man made it. Did he make the problem because he's a man? Probably not. But a man he was, and a problem he made. I don't think "men are blamed for everything" because they're men; I think men can get blamed for a lot of things, because we made just about all the things.

Tom's theory is that men and women are "quite different," and that women want men to be more like them. Thus, men must be resigned to the fact that they are unacceptable at some level to a woman in their life.

Well, that's pretty fucked up, so let's unpack that. I, for one, don't believe men and women "are" different. I think we're socialized differently; I think we're taught very different norms and practices about what is acceptable for us to do, to think, to be; but I don't think we have profound and innate differences. Tom again eschews any sort of macro analysis that might lead to these conclusions and thus to doubt his own theory, again pointing out that men and women "think differently, [...] express emotion differently, [...] are motivated by differen things, [...] think about sex differently, and [...] use a very different vocabulary."

These are all things that are taught. The Good Men Project, and I will give them credit for it, does point out how so many of these things are socialized. There's certainly many articles about how men are taught that they can't express emotions, except base ones like rage and lust, certainly not sadness. And there's been many articles about how women and men are taught wildly different things about sex. What's puzzling is that underlying all of Tom's "theory" and his post is that whatever differences there are between men and women, and Tom does say that they are "basic instincts," women should pretty much just shut up and accept men for how they are.

And the fact is, they shouldn't. There's not a whole lot redeeming about the stereotypical way that a cis, het man is socialized. Cherishing fatherhood? Sure. Being a provider? That's okay. But oh, the challenges, the obstacles, the travesties we men heap on our sons, our brothers, our fathers, I want so little of that for myself, or my unborn sons, or my male friends. And I certainly wouldn't want to be with a woman who would accept those things in me.

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14Dec/116

More on Reverse Sexism

So my Reverse Sexism post has gotten quite a few comments, and I thought I'd address some of their points.

 

1.  Discrimination based on sex is not sexism

 

Sorry dudes, it's not.  "Sexism" is a manifestation of a large, societal system that privileges men over women.  Frequently it manifests itself in the form of discrimination against women.  But just because it does that, it does not mean that discrimination against men is "sexist."  In fact, much of the "discrimination against men" that I see bandied about is really just legal mechanisms for redressing men being privileged over women.  Evening the scales, as it were.  Let's look at some examples, shall we?

Spousal/child support.  This is a big one, frequently cited, but it's not sexism.  Yes, men more frequently pay spousal and child support, and compared to women, they often pay more.  An unsubtle analysis might make it seem like men are getting the short end of the stick.  No, dudes, we're not.  Women who work are paid less than men who work.  So frequently, because our marriage laws generally demand a division of property, that means that a man who makes more than a woman has to give up some of his income to continue to support that woman.  And that's for women who work.  Women also have more barriers to entering and re-entering the workforce after having been a parent/caregiver.  Women who care for children of a marriage give up the opportunity to work and make money, and engage in what we might call uncompensated child care.  That's a disadvantage to women, post-divorce.  Looking at child support, we see a similar pattern.  Women are overwhelmingly expected/forced to take care of children in an uncompensated manner, so post-divorce, society looks to the income-earning spouse, generally the man, and expects him to pay up and help support the child.  Moreover, society generally expects women to continue taking care of children after a divorce, without much of a regard to whether or not the woman wants to, or the woman's ability to re-enter the workforce and earn a wage to support those children.  So as far as these forms of support, they're not things that "disadvantage" men, but legal mechanisms to help redress an imbalance that overwhelmingly favors men.

Let's look at a less legal example (and a much simpler one): "ladies' nights."

Some dudes look at this and say, "This is discrimination against men, because women get free drinks, and men don't."  You're wrong.  This isn't discrimination, but rather, a pretty blatant attempt to get dudes to go to bars by advertising to dudes that something they want is going to be at the bar: women.  What these bars are doing is pretty much offering you a service/promise of women being there.  You're getting something in return for not getting free drinks.  And it's all a product of the pretty effed up kyriarchy.

Another example from my comments: the "concrete basement" or the fact that men are overwhelmingly involved in more industrial accidents than women.  First off: see above re: the pay gap.  More men are in industrial accidents because women were not allowed to be employed in industrial jobs.  Men got the huge advantage of being in jobs where there was good wages (and as the 20th century wore on, benefits) while women were routinely denied being able to work at all and those good jobs too.  Yes, there were more accidents, but women never even had the opportunity to take those jobs with its attendants risks and rewards.  And certainly a discussion of sex-based fatalities could not be complete without what was the historically #1 killer of women for all time: child-birth.  Sorry victims of industrial accidents, but there's a crapload more deaths of women at childbirth both today around the world and everywhere historically than there are for industrial accidents.  This is a pretty common tactic of anti-feminists: to take a negative byproduct (industrial accidents) of what is a huge advantage for men (having jobs for wages), and make it seem as if it is "sexist against men" because of that byproduct.

One of my commenters, "John," laid out some more examples, and I'll address them.  He mentioned the draft (selective service).  While again, this is sex-based discrimination, but historically, selective service was viewed as a responsibility for citizens.  And who weren't citizens?  If you guessed women, you're right!  The draft is another example of a negative byproduct that hurts men, but a byproduct of something overwhelmingly privileged in favor of men.  When the U.S. was founded, women couldn't vote, mostly couldn't own property, couldn't be elected to office, couldn't engage in most occupations, etc., etc.  Citizenship, and all its attendants rights (voting, participating in elected office, holding property) and responsibilities, like the draft, was exclusively male.

John made a pretty crazy argument about circumcision that I won't adress, suffice to say that according to my understanding of how this all works mechanically, female circumcision as practiced is far worse than male circumcision.  John also brought up adoption, but I think I've addressed how legal rights in favor of women have developed to redress society's privileging of men on this stuff already.  He brings up a pretty crazy argument about men who rape women (in statutory rape cases) don't have a choice in whether or not to abort, give up for adoption, or keep the child.  I don't think I need to cover that one much more than simply to say that after committing the crime of rape, you don't get to press any parental rights upon the victim.

 

2.  The Kyriarchy sucks for men too

 

Yo dudes, believe me, I get it: the kyriarchy, patriarchy, heternormative world sucks for men too.  That doesn't make it "reverse sexist" however.  It makes it shitty.  And we should do stuff about it, but whatever it is, "reverse sexist" is not the appropriate term to characterize it.

One comments, in responding to comments about how women are often forced to prove themselves in workplaces, often competing against other women in a cutthroat manner, made the point that men also have to compete in a cutthroat manner against other men in the workplace.  I'll wholeheartedly agree, but whatever you want to call that phenomena, "reverse sexist" isn't it.

If you're a man who recognizes that society sucks for men in the way it places expectations on men to act in certain ways and be certain ways, let me point in the right direction of the enemy: it's society and how we structure our culture, not women.  Sure, women can buy into how our society is structured just as much as men can, but those women, just like men, but that doesn't make all women any more than it makes all men the enemies or opponents of feminists.

I hope that covers some of the common arguments the Men Dare Do! commentariat gave me, and I look forward to whatever else you guys are going to throw at me!

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12Nov/112

Men Getting Catcalled in the Gaming World

So it might not shock anyone to know that I used to play a bunch of video games.  Mostly lighter stuff: text based political simulations like NationStates and CyberNations, but every now and then (usually while waiting for jobs to start), I'd play a little WoW or something like that.

So a bit of background about these games, political or otherwise, is that they're role-playing games.  You have to create a character and go play as it.  Frequently, in the political games, people would create a person who just represented whatever their own political views are, which frankly, seems a bit boring to me.  But some people would create entirely different personas, and others still might have multiple personas.  And although these games are usually overwhelming populated by men, a lot of these guys woud choose to RP a female character and (perhaps unknowingly) engage in some genderplay.

A common "complaint" among other men playing these political games is that they would point to a woman who had some sort of political position, or power, or influence and say, "She only got that because she's using her femininity to take advantage of all the kids/young men in the game," or something to that effect.  Whether or not most women were using some magic female tricks to lure men into giving them power, I couldn't say (protip: I could say: they weren't).

But what was most interesting was talking to people who created new character who were women, either for the purposes of spying or role-play or whatever, because they got harassed, stalked, and the cyber-equivalent of being cat-called.  I always knew it happened.  I wasn't one of those deniers who felt women only held power in these games because of their femininity, but it was so fascinating to watch some guys who did think that, having pointed out to all the apparent hay made of women's sexuality in these games, not realizing that so much of it was unwillingly foisted on these women.  I recall a specific time one guy role-played a woman in order to spy on some other group in one of these political games, and he came back after a few weeks telling me that because he was performing as a girl, he got hit on constantly, cat-called, harassed, and that generally people just assumed that any benefit or position he'd achieved he had gotten solely by (mis)using his female sexuality.  It was pretty eye-opening.

On another front, and perhaps more familiar to my readers than some niche political games is World of Warcraft.  It's not hard to find lots of interesting commentary on being female in WoW.  But what's interesting is how so many male players who have a female character (or "toon" as they're often called) on WoW will report being shocked at the sexism and harassment that goes on.  When you go into any of the main towns in WoW, you'll find hundreds, perhaps thousands of characters.  It's pretty hard to be a female toon in town and not have male characters blow kisses at you, try to hug you, flirt, or makes jokes.  And I'd be remiss not to mention the gendered expectations in how well you fight, heal, or do whatever it is your character is supposed to do.

A friend of mine who had played WoW for a while remarked to me that he liked playing as female characters, but in order to avoid the harassment that would come with it, would pick a character of a race (for non-WoW people: "race" means "species") that was least human-like, and thus least attractive to our norms.  That way he wouldn't get harassed or catcalled, because he wasn't playing as a "pretty" character.  Similarly, since he wasn't playing as very "girly" character, the assumptions that female characters are played by women and are therefore less competent were reduced; it was assumed that women would choose the girlier of the female characters.

I bring all these things up, because I wonder, as I usually do, can these phenomena, of men experiencing a bit of femaleness by RPing a female character in the gaming world, someone be made into an educational tool?  I'm always trying to wonder how we can bring an understanding or an acknowledgment of feminist issues to men who aren't on board with the movement.  Has anyone else had similar experiences in the gaming world?

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23Jun/114

A Response to NSWATM

No Seriously, What About Teh Menz? responded to my most recent post on reverse sexism:

I'll address their arguments in two parts: firstly the substantive parts, and then the strawman dictionary argument.

But this is really beside the point. And that is, OR-sexism collapses the entire system of kyriarchy down to a single oversimplified notion: That all men always have the social leverage to enforce or exploit their prejudices, and that no women ever do. But this is simply not the case. In the kyriarchy, different groups experience power advantages in different ways, in different contexts, and at different times. There is no one Group With All The Power, and no Ultimately Victimized Group. It doesn’t work that way, and frankly, the Oppression Olympics hurt everyone and help no one.

Firstly, they clearly mistake my argument.  Simply put, what we call "sexism" is a term that is used to describe the manifestations of a large system that privileges men (and certain types of men).  While I certainly agree that men can be discriminated against on the basis of their gender, that's not sexism the same way the above-mentioned sexism is sexism.

And this is an important point: the discrimination against women and discrimination against men are not the same types of discrimination.  Their overall cause, our cultural system, is the same, but their manifestations are starkly different, bringing the issues to light is very different, and solving the issues is different.  I think it's very important within feminist circles to be very clear in the terms we use, because using the same language to describe problems that have very different approaches to solving them is confusing.

I've talked a lot about how I believe a "problem" of feminism is that it is extremely ineffective at reaching "mainstream men."  As in, your white, middle class, cisgendered men.  Feminism casts issues from a feminine perspective, generally, because by using shared and common experiences, you can best reach your target audience.  As a male feminist, attempting to reach a male audience, I (and people in our movement) need to use our shared and common experiences, which are necessarily different in many respects than women's experiences, in order to reach men.  This necessitates a fundamentally different approach.

As I said within the context of talking to men about sexual assault: "talking to an oppressor is different than talking to the oppressed."  That's not to say that men are not victims of the system we live in, and that many men do feel (rightly so) as if the system disadvantages them.  Our system privileges certain men who perform masculinity a certain way.  All "acceptable" masculinities have limitations, and men are no less victims to this than women are.  However, they are not victims of the same things in the same way.

One of the reasons I sometimes cross-post, and I enjoy reading, Manboobz, is that David Futrelle's shining of a light on the MRAs also shines a light on a lot of underlying feelings and anger that men have at the system in which we live.  While I tend to think that most of their ways to address or process their anger is misguided, it's there, and it's something we, as a feminists, have to find ways to address.

A second part of their argument, which I can't simply let slip by, is their reliance on the dictionary.  Doctormindbeam writes, adding a dictionary definition at the end[1]:

To begin, a linguistic pet peeve: words mean shit. You can’t simply redefine them to suit your needs. They have meanings, and they’re there for a reason. Namely, so that we can all fucking understand each other. In particular, “sexism:”

This is a pet peeve of mine.  Dictionaries are great things.  If you don't know what a word means, they can give you some pretty solid general definitions of words.  But they're generally pretty poor at giving exact, specific, and academic meanings to words.  Quite topical that this has happened this week, as this was brought up in the legal context by Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court Correspondent for the New York Times.  He wrote in the context of Supreme Court Justices using dictionary definitions as evidence of the meaning of Constitutional phrases.  Jesse Sheidlower, Editor at Large of the Oxford English Dictionary is quoted in the piece as saying: "I think that it’s probably wrong, in almost all situations, to use a dictionary in the courtroom[.] Dictionary definitions are written with a lot of things in mind, but rigorously circumscribing the exact meanings and connotations of terms is not usually one of them.”

This equally applies in an academic setting  or in other settings where we ascribe very specific meanings that represent complex ideas and theories to single words.  If we moved out of the realm of the feminism, for instance, and sought out a definition of "communism," I'd suspect we'd find as many definitions as we have dictionaries, and more than a few people who have been willing to fight and die over those definitions.  Recourse to a dictionary is a strawman argument that obscures actual differences in ideas and theories.

 

***

[1]I'd also note, for the record, that the definition used is from wikipedia, and it has a warning at the top: "The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue on the talk page(January 2011)"

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19Jun/1148

“Reverse Sexism”

A few days ago, a man I know leveled an allegation at a woman of "reverse sexism."  It was within the context of him alleged that referring to men as "guys" or "boys" was derogatory, infantilizing, and thus, "reverse sexism."

I feel like talking about sexism, and "reverse sexism" deserves a post of its own.  Let me begin by saying that generally speaking, there is no such thing as "reverse sexism." There just isn't.  When one uses the word "sexism," you're not just referring to say, a derogatory term for a woman (e.g. "slut"), but rather, sexism exists at a macro level.  It describes a system that privileges men (and specific kinds of men) over and at the expense of women (all women generally, while privileging some women over others).  A remark or action that we call "sexist" is sexist because it exists within that larger context.  If you call me, a man, some slur, let's say "bastard," that's not "reverse sexism" or anything of the sort, because it's not a manifestation of a larger system that is working against me based on my sex.

And of course, as has often been noted, the worst slurs against men are ones that attack their masculinity, and thus their privilege within that system.  Calling a man a woman (not a man), or gay (not a man within the traditional system) are the worst things you can usually call a man and aren't "reverse sexism."

Talking about examples probably best illustrates this: I've seen some men point out that since "the feminists" say that terms such as "gals," "ladies," "chick," because they are frequently infantilizing, dismissive and such, then similar  terms "boys," and "guys," must also be similarly infantilizing and dismissive towards men.  This is wrong.  The terms described above for women are dismissive and infantilizing depending on their context and within the heteronormative patriarchy, which is where we after all live.  The terms for men are not derogatory, and if we examine them specifically, we'll find out that they're actually privileged terms.  Think of colloquialisms for each term.  To be described as "one of the guys," is a good thing.  It means fitting in.  Men are almost automatically "one of the guys;" women are not.  Same with the term "boy."  (Discarding the racial use of the term for now.)  I think of the phrase "boys will be boys" as a means to excuse behavior in (grown) men that would be unacceptable in women.

In fact, I can't really think of many terms for men that are derogatory and based on their sex.  "Dick" comes to mind.  All the others I can think of either are A) terms that reduce their masculinity by associating them with a woman (e.g. pussy), B) terms that relate them to women (e.g. motherfucker), or C) terms that are sex-neutral (e.g. asshole).

Now, I don't doubt some commenters might take issue with my description that the larger system isn't biased against men.  A fairly typical MRA argument points to alimony, divorce law, custody, and things of that nature.  Although addressing those points could very well be posts of their own, I would merely point out that those laws are structured in ways that "favor" women in order to redress the systemic imbalance that exists in the system.  So rather than pushing a scale against men, it attempts to equalize.  (Let me editorialize a bit about the scale metaphor, and just state that I strongly dislike metaphors describing women and men in some sort of "war" or having "sides.")

So next time you hear someone make an accusation of "reverse sexism," just remember, it simply doesn't exist.

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29May/110

Dating While Feminist: Question to Captain Awkward

I only discovered Captain Awkward a couple months ago, but I've been loving every post!  Captain Awkward is an advice column/blog, covering dating and relationships, work situation, and just life in general as a young something awkward person (and who isn't?).  From her about page:

I write screenplays.  I read advice columns.

Advice columns are full of conflict.

Good screenplays are full of conflict.

People who write to advice columnists are usually looking for help in having a difficult conversation.   Most advice-column advice comes down to “Have you tried telling that person what you just told me?”

Movie characters are all direct and brave and articulate the way that we almost never get to be in real life. They get to have those difficult conversations and make them sound awesome.   That’s not because screenwriters are life experts.  We are not.  You should probably not be taking life advice from a woman whose plan for paying back $100K in grad school debt is “write a screenplay!”

I can’t tell you what to do.  But I can probably tell you what to say.

Liking Captain Awkward as I do, I figured I'd throw out the question I was pondering a couple months ago: Dating While Feminist.  And less than 24 hours later, I got my response!

Captain Awkward started out with some solid, all-purpose advice:

My rules of dating are the same for all people.  Let’s review:
  1. The other person is just a human
  2. Ask the person out sooner rather than later, before you get too caught up in a fantasy or invested in the outcome.
  3. Nobody owes you time or affection, so don’t approach dating with a sense of entitlement.
  4. Be cool with rejection.
  5. You can’t control whether someone will like you.
  6. Listen to the other person – pay attention to the actual interaction that is taking place and not the one in your head.
  7. Don’t date anyone who isn’t as cool as your friends.
  8. Acknowledge the awkward. Don’t try to be smooth if you’re not smooth.  It’s okay to say “I feel shy about asking you out, but I like you."

Captain Awkward then goes on to some specific advice.  I'd ask you to go read the whole response there, because I'm going to riff on a couple themes she has going on there.

Firstly, "Some people are feminists who don’t necessarily identify as feminists."  I think this is hugely important for all people (not just straight, cis dudes like me), especially of our (20's something and younger) generation.  I've written some before about strategies and tactics for reaching men, and I think that this is one of the most important principles behind these strategies: there's a lot of low-hanging fruit out there.  A lot of people believe all the things that one normally associates with feminism, but just are afraid to self-identify with.  I think that part of whatever place men have is the larger feminist movement is to de-stigmatize identifying yourself as a feminist as a man.

Secondly, on to the dating stuff.  I think all of Captain Awkward's advice is spot-on, and good all-around dating advice to anyone.  Not to get defensive, but I sure hope I'm not mansplaining, as Captain Awkward suggests I might be, but I recognize that that's a big problem for men in the feminist movement, particularly new men in the feminist movement.  We're excited that we "know" things we didn't once know, and we want to tell people about it.  We're excited when we meet other feminists and want to engage them in conversation, even if they might know worlds more than we do.  I think in particular, we men new to the movement, when it was often hard for us to get into the movement, automatically assume that all women, or at least a lot of them must be just as feminist as we are, and that's simply not the case.  So in a situation like dating, or meeting new people, we assume people hold views similar to ours, when that's simply not the case.  Then we end up being all "mentory" as Captain Awkward says.  That's sort of the flip-side of meeting someone feminist and being overbearing about it.

Thirdly, something else that Captain Awkward mentions is a bit like the Bechdel Test.  The Bechdel Test is a test from a comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, where a character explains she'll only watch a movie that satisfies three criteria 1: it has to have two women in it, 2. who talk to each other and 3. about something other than a man.  Captain Awkward has something that strikes me as a variant of that test: don't date someone who in their online dating profile only has music, TV shows, movies, and books written by men.

Sadly, still being out here in Kansas for work, I don't think I can take Captain Awkward's suggestion and take a date to see Meek's Cutoff (not that I've been dating out here), but I'll have to give it a shot when I get back to DC!

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16Apr/110

Rebecca Traister’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry”

Rebecca Traister's BookI finished (in March; this post has been sitting as a draft for a bit) Rebecca Traister's "Big Girls Don't Cry," a chronicle of the 2008 election cycle from a feminist perspective, with a particular emphasis on Hillary Clinton's primary run.

Traister articulates very well on how Clinton's primary run affected her, as well as how it was viewed in different corners of the feminist community, from older second generation feminists to the younger generation.  I'm not going to go into a full-on book review or anything, but I did want to talk about something that Traister talked a lot about: sexism among Obama supporters against Clinton supporters.

I think this is a particularly important issue for feminist men or progressive men.  I didn't support Obama in the initial three-way primary race (I supported Edwards; guess who feels a bit stupid now?), though I ended up supporting him after Edwards dropped out.  But I think we need to face some facts and it's pretty simple: there was rampant sexism from the left against Clinton.  The only thing that really needs to be said on this point is that feminist men have a responsibility I believe to call out their male brethren on this when it happens.  But 'nough said on that point.

I think a more important point made in the book is the fact that Obama (and McCain obviously) didn't really surround their campaign staffs (particularly initially) with a lot of women.  The whole fraternity like vibe of the Obama atmosphere always bothered me, and Traister's books talks a lot about it influenced a lot of their policies.  Similarly, Clinton's Mark Penn-ran campaign, which discounted traditionally Hillary Clinton stalwarts (many of them women) in favor of many of Bill Clinton's male advisors.

What does that mean?  Well, I'm always interested how well organizations, be they companies or political organizations, fare in their marketing/outreach towards women, and how that compares to how many women are actually working to put together their campaigns.  I suppose it's interesting that according to Traister, depsite the faults of the Obama campaign, it worked pretty eager to engage women early on in the campaign, and although Edwards began earlier (and in more radical ways with his hiring of feminist bloggers), the "losers" of '08 were candidates who didn't engage women enough or explicitly until the end of their campaigns: Clinton with her final acknowledgement of both her place in history and the attacks against her, and with McCain's ludicrously misguided and stupid choice of Palin as VP.

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12Apr/112

An Open Letter to Boners Re: Feminism

To: Boners Everywhere

Re: You & Feminism

Hey there Boners.  How you doing?  I couldn't help but notice that Feministe has a blog post called "Feminism Makes Boners Sad," about an article by Doctors Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam in Psychology Today called "Why Feminism is the Anti-Viagra." I was concerned that you might be sad and getting misinformed by Psychology Today, so I wanted to give you a bit of straight talk:

Now, Boners, I get it: a Boner is a pretty self-centered thing.  I can't say that I have a whole lot of intellectual control over my own.  Sometimes it happens when I want it to; sometimes it doesn't when I do.  I bring up that you're selfish to make this simple point: I understand Boners aren't intrinsically feminist.  I'm pretty sure I can safely say that you don't ascribe to any ideology.  So the Boner doesn't care if something that turns it on is feminist, or misogynist, or anything else.  The Boner is undiscriminating.  It takes all comers.  It is an equal opportunity employer.  I've written before about how I think feminism for men means that the sex will be better, but I've never really addressed my points to you specifically.

With that said, let us begin, Boners:

Anyone who got any semblance of sexual assault education probably knows this statistic: one in four women who attends college have been victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.  So, Boners, I understand you're self-centered and well, unfeeling (emotionally speaking), so I'm going to talk to your baser instincts.  Having sex with people who have been victims can be very hard.  People often need a lot of help and support, professional and otherwise, to be comfortable with themselves sexually again.  You know who you have to thank for that?  Feminism.

I'm gong to shoot straight with you Boners, a lot of people in this country get some pretty effed up sexual education, where they end up ashamed of their sexuality, afraid to engage in their own pleasure, unwilling to try anything but the most vanilla things with the most vanilla frequently, and well, Boners, that kind of sucks (and not in the good way).  But there's people out there Boners who want everyone to be comfortable with their sexuality, to do what turns them on safely and consensually, and well, give dudes Boners.  That's Feminism there for you.

Now Boners, I don't mean to be a downer or deflate the otherwise happy note of this conversation, but as we all know, not every Boner has a happy ending.  We all know that sometimes Boners can get all sorts of diseases from all sorts of places and things, but luckily, there's way to prevent that with prophylactics that can prevent the spread of STIs and HIV.  You know who's out there spreading the word, distributing contraceptives to low-income people, and pushing for more progressive policies on family planning?  Feminists.

Even though we all came from a Boner some time or another, from every Boner, a child is not made.  But despite our best efforts, sometimes we have unplanned pregnancies, or planned pregnancies that don't progress the way they should.  And the only reason that abortion is an option for women who need them is because of, well, you know who, Feminists.

Now, I know that the average lifespan of a Boner isn't very long, but if we can stretch our minds back a bit, we can probably remember times when we couldn't even talk about sex openly, when sex education was non-existent, or even to times when people believed that sexual activity for non-procreative purposes was sinful.  I mean, I didn't count back then, but I think there were a lot fewer Boners in those days.  It really sounds pretty shitty (and not the kind of shitty that's sometimes the byproduct of well ... a certain former Senator from Pennsylvania).

So Boners, I hope I've been able to get my point across.  Feminism has done an awful lot of awesome stuff to gives lots of dudes Boners.  And If really at the end of the day, you need some good ol' Victorian misogyny to get the blood flowing, well, there's all sorts of roleplay for that, which you know, is only really acceptable due to a lot of work by, well ... you know who.

Love,

Jeff & His Boner

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