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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10Oct/114

Buying Drinks

It's been quite a while since I've posted on this blog, and hopefully I'll be getting back into it.  As some of you may know, I've been taking an LSAT prep course post-midwest trip, and that sucked up a lot of my time.  Hopefully, I'll be blogging more soon!

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I recently came back from a trip, and saw an interesting interaction that I think is ripe for some feminist and male feminist analysis.

They're pretty common interactions, I think, so let me just describe what I observed specifically first.  To set the scene: we're in a bar.  I'm in a group of similar twenty-somethings, men and women.  One of the women, who is in a relationship (more or less) with a man, announces that she wants a free drink.  She meanders over to the bar, focuses her attention on a man probably in his mid-40's or older, begins talking to him, flirting.  He buys her a drink.  She continues talking for maybe five to the minutes and then leaves, drink in hand.

Now, I can't speak to the man's intentions or his thinking, but I can speak to the girl's, since she said them.  She had no intention of really engaging in much of an interaction with this man: she wanted a drink, she flirted, got her drink, made some perfunctory conversation and left.

I think this is interesting, because it's illustrative of something that I observe in a lot of MRA arguments.  The MRAs and their types, feel that their purchasing of a drink for a girl constitutes some sort of signaling or intent of the woman to form a relationship, sexual or otherwise.  That is, they expect some sort of genuine interaction, and not simply being "used" for their free drink.

Before I delve into that, I should say that there's obviously there's some fucked up societal expectations there that I'll spell out before I continue: buying women things does not constitute permission for romantic/sexual/any interactions.  Also the age difference certainly has a skeezy feel to it.  That aside, the man's in a kind of crappy position.  Regardless of whether or not his intentions in buying the drink followed that patriarchal narrative, he's just been used.  He wasn't there to give out free drinks.  I think it's certainly understandable that such a guy is pissed when this happens.  I also don't think it's feminist to support that: getting free drinks from guys with whom you don't intend to have any sort of interactions doesn't push forward the cause.

So, why do I find this all so interesting?  Well, as I've written about before, I think feminism needs to reach your "mainstream" men better, men who are benefiting from the heteronormative patriarchy.  The MRA types who are pissed that a girl got a free drink, because he was expecting to get laid off of it isn't the kind of anger I'm sympathetic too, but I wonder if we can somehow re-channel that thinking from a "I'm pissed I paid money and didn't get laid," to some sort of analysis of that interaction.  This leads into the whole "beta male" theory that some MRAs have, which I'll paraphrase a bit tongue-in-cheek: men who don't conform to societal expectations of "real men" don't get laid.  They have to resort to buying drinks and other PUA type tactics.  There has to be some way of steering the kind of anger and emotions that come from these (typical, I think) interactions that men can have away from MRA arguments towards more feminist.

I don't know that I have in-hand a good set of talking points.  Perhaps one is to have men examine how that's a shitty situation and how both men's and women's understanding of societal roles construct that narrative, much like one of my other favorite examples to use: the woman crossing to the other side of the street as she approaches a man walking towards her on her side.  Reaching MRAs certainly doesn't seem to be easy, though people like ManBoobz really analyze the phenomena well.  I'm convinced there's some number of them that we can reach.

So, if any of y'all still actually read this thing, what do you think?

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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.

 

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[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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4Jan/1112

Male Sexual Agency

Much has been written about female sexual agency, and how according to traditional notions of sexuality, it's sublimated to the masculine.

Also, however, male sexual agency is reduced by traditional notions of sexuality.  Unlike women, whose sexual agency is always supposed to be "off" until a man wants it, men's sexual agency is always supposed to be "on."  We always want to have sex -- when it's appropriate, when it's not appropriate.  We're already supposed to be horny; we always want it.  Moreover, if a women wants sex, and we don't want it, something's very wrong with us.

I find that all very dehumanizing.  I have agency.  I can choose to do things, or I can not choose to do things.  I can want things, and I can not wants things.  Although I'm not a straight, cis woman, I would suspect that this might be the kind of feelings women have about their own agency.

But there's another argument to be made about all of this, and I'm intrigued in it, because it's the kind of the argument that appeals to the some of the emotions that I suspect are behind some of the Men's Rights Activists (MRA).  If you don't know about MRAs, well, they're, shall we say, interesting folk.  They're generally explicitly anti-feminist, anti-woman and pretty friggin misogynist.  Another male feminist, over at the blog Man Boobz, chronicles them very well.

So now, if you read a bit of the MRAs write, they're a pretty frustrated folk.  A lot of them want to get laid.  A lot them really hate women.  A lot of them have, or at least they write about, a lot of negative experiences they have with women.  Some try to use pick up lines to meet women, while others follow other stereotypes we feminists ascribe to men, just viewing women as objects.

But I think a lot of the source of these feelings is that these men (and most cisgendered straight men who aren't feminist) have bought into this notion that we're always horny, we always want to have sex, and we have to pursue it.  I think it's one of the reasons why you'll frequently hear men claim that men and women can't ever have a platonic relationship.  How can you, if the only thing on your mind is how you're going to screw this woman?  If we're always horny, how can we have genuine relationships with other men, who after all, are our competitors?

I don't know if arguments like that are really going to be effective with some of the MRAs.  My mantra is always: don't preach to the choir, don't preach to the damned, preach to those who can be saved.  But if some of those underlying emotions behind some of their anger towards women is from an inability to recognize that they don't have to be horny all the time, then maybe this is a kind of tactic that would be effective in reaching some men.

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31Dec/108

Assange and the Unfortunate Lessons Men Learn

Firstly, it's been a while since I posted.  I can't say I really have a good reason, other than that I've been busy with all the usual work and life.

Secondly…well, a lot of ink has already been spilled about Julian Assange and the allegations of sexual assault.  People have far better than I made the point that one can separate his wikileaks project and whatever stance one takes on them from the allegations of sexual assault.

What I'd like to briefly talk about is how the so-called majority man view this.

This case is not unlike some of the other sexual assault cases that the media has highlighted over the years.  As I've written about in the past, one of the problems with discussing sexual assault with men is that the only major media depictions of sexual assault are when (let's use the term very generally) "celebrities" are accused of it.  This leads to a lot of problems when discussing the issue with men.  Bring up Kobe Bryant in that context, and a man will ask, "Doesn't that woman have something to gain by accusing him of sexual assault?"

It's a difficult question to deal with.  On the one hand, our automatic (and quite correct) response is to give credence to any allegations made by a victim of sexual assault.  However, at times, that instinct leads us to deny the possibility that a false allegation could ever be made.  This leads to problems building credibility with men.  Statistics show that false allegations for rape/sexual assault are not made with any greater frequency than for other crimes.  There's a host of reasons why a woman would not make a false claim, from the lack of rape shield laws in many states, permitting attorneys in Court to probe their sexual past to the publicity (either on a local or national scale) and the difficulties that publicity brings.

When you have someone like a Kobe or a Roethlisberger, people with power or money, from a purely objective and rational perspective, one would think that the likelihood of a false allegation would be higher with them, because the women could stand to gain money.  When you do this kind of education, I think you have to admit that: "Sure, the gains could be higher," but on the other hand, you also have to tell men, "But the costs are higher too," due to the increased publicity and scrutiny.  (Of course, one cannot discuss either of those men without noting that the allegations seems to have been borne out, with Kobe Bryant pretty much admitting to facts that are rape, and with Roethlisberger's behavior being pretty much following the textbook Lisak-Miller definitions of the behavior of a serial rapist.)

You have to discuss these issues in all their nuances with men, or lose credibility.

As the media depicted Kobe Bryant or Ben Roethlisberger, we have now a man in the spotlight for sexual assault who is someone with power or money.  Unfortunately, we see a lot of people on the left unable to separate the two issues: the fact that Assange has a certain power and there are people opposed to it, and the allegations that he committed sexual assault.  And just like any other of these celebrities, perhaps these women have something more to gain by making an accusation against Assange than they would against a regular Joe, but also the costs are far higher.  The facts alleged sound like sexual assault within my humble and not-expert reading of the relevant law, and it's unfortunate that many on the left have chosen to distort those facts in order to defend Assange based on his political activities.

But enough about Assange.  What this incident unfortunately teaches men, is that sexual assault cases are like Assange's, or like Bryant's or Roethlisberger.  These types of cases are, after all, the only ones we see on TV and in the media.  However, it's simply not true.  Their cases are so far removed from the norm that to say that 99.9% of cases are not like theirs would be understating the fact.  Sexual assault cases do not involve grand politics on the world stage; they do not involve celebrities; they do not involve professional athletes.  The overwhelming majority of sexual assaults and rapes are perpetrated by "normal" people, without all these confounding issues of politics or money that seem to frequently confuse both the less-educated majority man who we would like to bring in to the movement, as well as much better educated progressive pundits who we would otherwise think we would be our allies on sexual assault.

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24Nov/102

Dan Savage’s Straight Box & Male Feminist Strategies (h/t to Jeff @ Feminist Allies)

With a hat tip to Jeff at Feminist Allies: Dan Savage recently spoke about the "man box" for cis, straight men.

Now, Dan Savage gets a lot of crap from feminists sometimes, usually because he can insensitive on a number of issues (sexual assault victims, weight for instance).  And though those aren't inapt criticisms, I do admire Dan for generally acknowledging the criticism and correcting himself.

But I did want to write briefly about the "man box," and how that kind of rhetoric can be used to reach men.  Dan is correct in noting that men are constrained by a lot of expectations about what "men" are supposed to be like.  We're supposed to do certain things and not do other things (things that women, gay men, and other non-cisgendered persons).

There's an appeal to not having to act like the archetypal alpha male, and I think that if male feminism also framed itself in such a way, men might come to it more easily.  Few men are able to perform in such a way that aligns themselves properly with gendered expectations.

Savage perhaps explains it best in the context of sexuality.  Because unlike a lot of things that we can be cultured to accept or perform, or things that we can make conscience choices to adopt and perform in order to better align ourselves with a societal gender expectation, we have little control over our sexual desires (another frequent topic of Savage's writings).  So with sexuality, where we have little control over our own desires, we find (in Savage's context) that men are very frustrated.  But if we move beyond that into matters where because we have more conscience control, such as how we dress, what we like to do and such, and also realize that we're not bound by societal gendered expectations, I think we can persuade a lot of men that they would be happier as feminists.

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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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31Oct/100

Sisters Make You Happier; Why Not Brothers?

Sisters Make You Happier; Why Not Brothers?

There's been a lot of talk of a recent study (one in a string of them), that found that people with sisters were generally happier.

As the linked article suggests, a lot of this has to do with communication: men don't communicate about emotional issues very well.  So when a family has a daughter, she's able to emotionally communicate effectively with her siblings.

So I suppose it doesn't tell us anything that we don't already know, anecdotally, about men, which is that we're not very emotionally mature or communicative.  This isn't particularly revelatory, and it certainly isn't particularly revelatory to women or to feminists, I imagine.

But it does have some interesting implications for talking to men about feminism.  A lot of feminist issues are framed as emotional ones or have emotional aspects of them.  I'd be hard-pressed to name a feminist issue for which I don't have an emotional and often visceral response to.  Now the problem comes in is that when men are presented with feminist issues from a woman's perspective (as feminist issues usually are), men frequently have more difficulty understanding the issues because of the emotional content, or men are made uncomfortable talking about the issues because of the emotional content.

One of the reasons we're made uncomfortable talking about emotions is that we're pretty much taught that men have to suppress certain kinds of emotions.  Sure, we can be happy and angry, but "boys don't cry," is pounded into us at a young age.  We're not taught to embace any outward displays of affection, platonic or otherwise, to any people.  We're not taught to give much thought to our feelings or others' feelings as it comes to things that bother us cause us concern.

I think a lot of feminism is talking about emotions, and feminist issues like identity and sexuality are intensely personal and require a certain emotional vocabulary that men don't traditionally have a lot of facility with.  For male feminists, part of our strategies and tactics have to take into account overcoming this challenge.  Male feminism needs to help men become more comfortable talking about feminist issues with an emotional aspect, and communicating with both men and women.

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25Oct/102

How I Came to Feminism

How I Came to Feminism

A question I get, as a male feminist, is how I came to feminism.  While it might seem a bit personal, and hard to extrapolate to a wider audience, I think my personal experience is very illustrative of something that all feminists need to do.

Although I didn't identify as a feminist probably until I was in high school or college, I always held the fundamental political beliefs of feminism.  That is, I believed in equal wages, was in favor of laws banning forms of discrimination, and supported women politicians.  I was a rather typical "liberal" and "nice guy" in that I believed in a great many abstract policy objectives, but I didn't incorporate any of those beliefs into my daily life.

As I moved to college, a bunch of my friends entered a men's feminist group and I sort of tagged along, though enthusiastically, and I learned a lot more about feminism.  I starting reading a lot of feminist blogs, starting buying a few of the less academic-y books out there and reading those too.

But I still made sexist jokes among friends, I was still very much a "nice guy" (or so I think, in retrospect), and even though I had abstractly accepted feminism, I had not incorporated it into my personal life.  I didn't view my world as a feminist, and I didn't treat my friends, women and men, as a feminist would.

One day, a friend of mine, a girl, who was then and still is one of my best friends, and I were hanging out.  I couldn't tell you where or what we were doing, but I think we were perhaps on our way back from a party, or maybe going to one.  She mentioned to me, very casually, "You know, Jeff, sometimes you make these sexist jokes, and they're hurtful."

It was in a very casual situation, and perhaps my remembrance of it gives it more weight than it really had, but that was my "click" moment.  Somehow, that casual comment, even though I'd already read about and believed all these things about feminism, hammered home the fact that I was not living by the principles I purported to stand by.  How I was living was hurting my friends, and not unlike other young people, my friends meant everything to me.

I've described it in a few other posts, but like a recovering alcoholic (chauvinist), I realized how my personal life was structured around the same societal forces I had read about.  I won't pretend to now, and I certainly hadn't then, figured them all out, or struggled to remove them all, but I tried.  And that was my "click" moment.

So there's a bit of a lesson here, even if only anecdotally.  Speak up.  If you have someone who says they're a liberal, a progressive, or even a feminist, and you see them engaged in a pattern (or even one instance) of sexist behavior or speech, call them out on it, but also tell them how it affects you.  How you, their friend, someone in their life, is hurt by it.

That's something we all have to do, but especially male feminists.  I say especially, because, unfortunately, a lot of guys will shrug off the protestations of their women friends when they call them out on sexism.  While I didn't, in my anecdotal case, I know a lot of men who do, and I know that the pre-feminist me probably would have too.

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24Oct/102

The Yale DKE Incident: Moving Forward

There's already been a lot of really excellent posts about the Yale DKE Chapter that marched around the Yale Women's Center shouting, "No means yes!  Yes means anal!"  Some of the posts have analyzed how the Chapter apologized.  Salon had an interview with a DKE member.  Hugo Schwyzer told the story of his legacy at DKE.  Readadultsex has a great post analyzing how men are gendered to need to "win" women, absent the possibility that women could have sexual desires.

Now there's a lot to be said about this issue, and most people have said it far better than I have.

But there's definitely a certain voice that I haven't heard much, and though I am by no means connected to every blog on the Internet, I can't say I've seen anything written (outside the DKE Chapter) by other fraternities condemning this.

So, as a former frat boy, let me add my voice to those who have condemned what DKE did, and let me also say: this isn't an isolated incident.  There are many, many fraternities out there that ascribe to the same ethos as the Yale DKR Chapter clearly did.  That being said, there are plenty of fraternities that are somewhat more enlightened, and that would have never in a million years pulled off this stunt.

The question we need to ask ourselves is how do we move fraternities from the mindset of DKE to a feminist or pro-feminist mindset?  Now, although others certainly disagree, I am opposed to simply abolishing the fraternities system, as many schools have done.  I think that there can be benefits to these kinds of societies, from the somewhat altruistic ones, like brother/sisterhood, community service, to more practical ones such as throwing a good party.

Well, I can think of a few ways certainly: firstly, make education on sexual assault mandatory for all members.  If you enforce the policy and make the program good and effective, most will go.  Perhaps only few will leave taking away something substantive and positive, but that's a few more than you had before.  Secondly, force each Greek organization to have membership in some sort of cross-campus violence prevention program or organization.  Even making one or two members of each chapter more aware of these issues, their effects on the community, and more importantly, their effects on their house can do worlds of good.  Thirdly: have serious consequences when incidents like this happen.  I don't know what's happening at Yale in regards to any discipline that might be happening to this Greek Chapter, but even if nothing is happening, this Chapter clearly has some image cleaning up to do and is working to do it.  So even if not a one member believes in any anti-sexual-violence messages or principles, having clear consequences for their actions will make them clean up their act and stop doing these kinds of things.  Fraternities are notoriously effective at damage control, from dealing with neighbors who are pissed at parties to keeping the police off of their backs -- if you make sure there's damage when they commit pro-rape acts, they will control it, and they know that the most effective control policy is prevention.

On of the off chance that someone reads this and is in a fraternity or a sorority who knows someone who is, let me tell you what you can do: go submit an opinion piece in the student newspaper.  Talk about the DKE incident and how it relates to how things are on your campus, and make it clear that it's okay.  One of the most important things in this kind of work is for people to stand up and let their voices be heard.  As male feminists, and as fraternity members as well, we need to stand up in our communities, on campus, off campus, in our chapters, as alum or current members, and speak out against this kind of behavior and work towards making our own communities safer for everyone.

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