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

18Oct/101

Recasting Issues from a Masculine Perspective

In popular media, violence against women is something you see a lot.  It might be in the news, but it's also in feminist discussions.  But you don't see it covered from a feminist perspective in the news, and when feminists discuss it, it's usually not from  the non-perpetrator male perspective.

Not that I have a lot of experience as an activist, but I was at a conference once in Boston called EngageMen about getting men involved in movements to reduce violence against women.  There was a great speaker there who talked about using the common experiences of men to talk about violence against women.  When he talked about getting men involved in violence against women, he said not to use the common experiences of victims (women in this context), but to use the experiences of non-perpetrator men to talk about it:

Have you ever walked down a street at night, and seen a woman walking towards on your side of the street?  Before she reaches you, however, she crosses the street, to get on the other side?  Why does she do that?  What does she think and assume about you?  How does that make you feel?

These are questions men don't get asked a lot, but it's something most men can relate to.  Yes, we've been in that situation.  The woman crosses because she fears us.  She fears that she might be attacked by us.

How does that make you feel is usually the interesting question for a group of men.  Confused?  Sad?  All these things, but I frequently hear is angry.  At whom?  The woman?  Society?  Rapists who make her fear?

This is an example of what you might call recasting a traditional feminist issue from a masculine perspective.  There's a lot written about rape and sexual assault in the media and feminism generally, but a lot of it is from a woman's perspective.  It might talk about women fearing walking alone at night, or what the woman wore, or where she went, or how much she drank.  These are experiences that don't resonate as well with a man because it's not experiences men share from our position of privilege.  Men aren't afraid to walk at night.  That's our privilege.  Generally, we don't have to worry about drinking too much, at least not in terms of becoming victims of sexual assault.

But we have been in that position, where we see that woman crossing the street because she fears us.  That's an experience we share, that's a commonality between men and it's something that can be used as a starting point into a discussion on sexual assault.

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17Oct/103

The Mission

Hi.  I'm Jeff, and I'm here to blog about feminism from a male perspective.

This post is a welcome post, with a bunch of disclaimers and caveats that should be considered when reading this blog.  I'll try to update it as I add more content to this blog, but still keeping it reasonably short.

First, a bit about me, because it's important to understand where I'm coming from.  I'm a white, middle class, heterosexual American man.  I'm also a feminist (or a feminist ally, whatever you choose).  How I came to feminism is probably something of a post of its own, so I'll leave that for later.

Privilege:

Being who I am, I have a lot of privileges.  I'm white, so I have privileges in that regard.  I'm straight.  I'm middle class.  And I'm a man.  That's a lot of privilege.  You might call me something like a "majority man," in that I come from a demographic that traditionally possesses the majority of power and wealth.

I mention this for two reasons.  One, to explain my perspective and offer a bit of a mea culpa as I show my privilege in what I write.  Secondly, because in the following post (and on this blog in general), I'm going to be talking about feminism reaching "men," but when I mean "men," I mean those in the demographics and in communities that feminism has the hardest time reaching: white, straight, privileged.  For instance, men who don't identify as straight frequently can become involved in or learn about feminism through their own communities, queer and gender theory and the like.  So when I talk about feminism not reaching "men," usually I'm referring to these majority men.

Feminism:

Let me begin by saying that when I talk about "feminism," it can sometimes seem like I'm talking about some monolithic movement, but as any feminist knows, we're a diverse and fractured movement, agreeing on perhaps a few key principles, but disagreeing on numerous issues of theory, strategy and tactics.  So understand when I speak of "feminism" or the "feminist movement," I speak generally and paint with a very broad brush, not doing justice to a large and complex movement(s).

As I came to feminism, I soon began to realize that there weren't a lot of people like me involved.  That's not to say that there aren't any, because there's lots of great men out as activists, writers, academics, anything and everything.  But feminism is, however, perceivedas a movement for women.

It's understandable how people unfamiliar with feminism would come to that conclusion.  Many of its outspoken theorists, its public personalities, and bloggers who run feminist blogs are women (or at least not men), and the issues they discuss frequently are about women.  I'm not making a judgment on that fact (it's understandable why this is), but merely an observation.

That's not to say there aren't men out there, because there are, and that's not to say that feminist blogs don't cover men's issues, because they do, but few blogs cover men's issues from a feminist perspective, fewer still from a male feminist perspective and yet fewer still exclusively.

And why is that necessary?  I believe that feminism is an ideology for everyone.  Some would disagree, and say that feminism is a women's movement designed for women.  I think that feminism can and should be a movement for everyone.

Male Feminism:

It's difficult for men to come to feminism for what I think are two major reasons.

Firstly, men have privilege.  There are many clear incentives for men to maintain the heteronormative patriarchy, the system that grants us many privileges and preferences.  Those incentives are clear for any consumer of modern culture, any person in the modern workplace, any person living in this country or others. The incentives for rejecting that system aren't clear in our culture, our body politic, or our country.

And that leads to the second point: feminism has a hard time reaching majority men.  A lot of "feminism" is directed towards women: from formal academic theory to casual blog posts and essays, and a lot of it is written from the female perspective.  Feminism frequently uses common and shared experiences between women to make any number of its points.  To say that women have a unique perspective, different from men, on any numbers of political and cultural issues is nothing radical.  In frequently framing feminism within that perspective, feminism loses its ability to be accessible to men as it is women.

My blog and my part:

And thus, this blog is born.  I certainly can't do a whole lot to change the first reason I mentioned: I'm just one guy and I can't change a system by myself, but I can change in some small way the second, by writing about feminism from a male perspective.  I hope that this blog, acting as a platform for content about politics, culture and everything under the sun using the common and shared experience of "man" the same female feminists do for women, helps to make feminism a bit more accessible, perceived as a bit more "normal" and maybe a bit more understandable.

Your part:

While this blog might seem like its purpose is to spread a perspective on feminism, that is not its only purpose -- this perspective, my personal perspective and your perspective only grows through healthy debate and discussion and of course, dissent.  As I, and hopefully you, continue to engage with all sorts of different people and each other on issues affecting feminism, our views may change and evolve.  So I ask you too to participate in this blog by commenting on posts, sharing it with your friends, and always engage with each other respectfully and vigorously.

Note: this is the same content as what is currently under the "Mission" page, but I'm posting it here to get it on to the front page.

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