Saturday, November 27, 2010

Troll / What About The Men.

Man, I got some nasty troll attacks last night. The weird thing is that they were mostly calling me fat. Like I don't have a mirror? At least if you say "you're fat and that's bad," it's a proper insult. This is just, like, an observation.

But it does annoy me, because I'm fairly sure they're responding to the rape/blame posts, and I wish they'd just go ahead and say that they're offended by something I said, instead of latching onto something irrelevant that they think I might be insecure about. If something I said made you mad, Trolly, say so, don't get all "and I bet your dog's ugly, too!"


Anyway. One of the things I've had difficulty communicating as I've transitioned from being a "feminism means I'm free to give blowjobs!" feminist to a "feminism means I'm free to demand social respect and campaign for equal rights and give blowjobs!" feminist is that absolutely nothing about feminism (as I practice it, etc.) is about playing Boys vs. Girls. We are not on opposite teams.

And I don't just mean that feminists don't hate men, although we don't. I mean that we actually want their lives to be better. For some it's a side effect of liberating women and for some it's a goal in itself, but feminism actually has a lot to offer men.

For starters, anywhere that women are forced into a stupid little box labeled "femininity," men are being forced into an equally stupid box labeled "masculinity." It's a slightly nicer box, to be sure; you get to be in charge of stuff, and your clothes are comfier, and you don't have to deal with baby poop. But though the restrictions are fewer, they're there, and they're absolutely brutally enforced. If femininity means being forced into weakness, masculinity means being forced to play hyper-tough and often violent. A guy who isn't at least a little cruel is a guy who's going to be accused of being a girlyman--and woe betide a guy who really is kind of girly. You'd be more popular if you ate puppies.

I feel like this is ingrained deeply enough that a lot of guys will (in loud, deep, growly voices) protest that they don't want to get in touch with their feminine side. Well, that's okay. I would never stop a guy from grunting and watching football or whatever. I would just like it to be--just like the high heels! funny how that works!--no longer compulsory.

(By the way, one of the few legitimate gripes that "men's rights advocates" have is that women tend to automatically get custody and men tend to get child support and alimony judgments in family court. They generally blame this on some evil feminist agenda [because they blame everything on that], but I'd say that they should actually be looking at sexism. Compulsory masculinity means you must be a provider but cannot be a caregiver, and so men are expected to provide money and denied the opportunity to care for children. So if you want a better deal in family court, support single dads and high-earning women.)

The other big thing men would get out of feminism is happier, freer women. Don't smirk, 'cause I'm serious. When you treat someone like a trophy, an enemy agent, a sex toy, a child, or a space alien, the response you get is going to be about as bizarre as those options suggest. When you treat them like a person, asking no more and expecting no less, they're going to respond like a person.

Powerful people don't nag--they can get things done themselves. Powerful people don't cling--they can survive on their own. Powerful people don't manipulate--they can get what they want honestly. Powerful people don't complain--they have less to complain about. Powerful people don't make guys pay for dinner--they can afford to pay their share. When women are happy with our lives, we don't subtract from the finite happiness pool held by men; we spread it around and make everyone happier.

Finally, feminism is good for men because unlocking the potential of half the human race massively increases what the human race can accomplish. Letting women contribute to the world isn't some sort of generous favor we really ought to do for women. It is--once those contributions start rolling in--a favor to the world.


  1. I have to admit, I don't much grok this "compulsory" thing you keep referring to, both here and in the "no longer mocking Twisty" post. I'm a guy, I've never felt any sort of compulsion to watch football, (though sometimes I go to Superbowl parties because hey, food and beer and pals, and it's a good place to get some knitting done) or, erm, grunt, for that matter.

    And both my wife and my girlfriends are definitely gals (I've checked!) and as far as I'm aware, they've never felt any compulsion to wear heels, either for my benefit or anyone else's. Though I suppose I should ask. -- Wife reports no, girlfriends are not online at the moment.

    So, the patriarchy doesn't seem to be very successful at compelling either of us to do anything we don't feel like doing, really.

  2. Perlhaqr - The patriarchy is dying, is why. Feminism is actually working. The younger and weirder (and, let's face it, middleclassier and more urban) you are, the less pressure there is. But it's not none. You wear a skirt and heels around town--no irony, no performance, just an outfit that strikes you as comfy--and tell me it's none.

    We're not all the way deep in the shit of patriarchy right now, and our gender roles aren't 100% fixed. That's awesome. I don't want to claim it isn't awesome, only to get more awesome.

  3. RE custody: it's more complicated than that and hard to say whether it's actually true. This post explains some of the reasons for confusion.

  4. Sarah - It's incredibly complicated. And it's something I have no personal experience in and very limited knowledge. But I did want to parenthetically throw it out there as an example of how feminism (or at least my personal feminist utopia) is more about fairness than about women just winning over men.

  5. It's easy to look at the friends and lovers we've chosen to surround us, and think we've made it, and that's a wonderful thing that we can make our own little utopias, but it's not representative of other peoples' experiences.

    When dealing with non-feminists, we can get into circular arguments where we're both making logically correct arguments based on different unspoken assumptions... and without addressing and challenging those assumptions, neither side is really communicating with the other, and no changes can be made.

    As a guy, I can certainly attest that the more 'feminist' I've become, the better my love and sex life has gotten. Enthusiastic consent is not just hot, but it makes the sex/play so much better since you have all partners working together in a collaborative effort.

    I think masculinity is woefully under addressed in feminism. Without re-imagining masculinity, creating a new 'what it means to be a man', there becomes a disconnect between feminism's 'new womanhood' and the unchanged 'old manhood' (for which there is no ready alternative).

    There are definitely men who've figured it out, but there aren't as many strong and vocal advocates, and ultimately most people don't have the time, interest, and resources to figure it out... they've got other interests and passions, and they just go with the most familiar and convenient model of masculinity society provides them.

  6. Rowdy - I feel like there's room for a whole world of "men's feminism" that isn't primarily about supporting women (although I hope they'd be at least friendly to the concept), but about freeing men from patriarchy.

    Probably such a thing exists? But not enough.

  7. I have read through quite a few of your entries, and I'm not trying to be rude here so I apologize if it comes off that way, but I've noticed you make a lot of assumptions. You seem to assume everyone is against you for this one particular reason, it's almost as if no coincidence can exist in your world.

    People can be assholes and make comments on your weight simply because they are bored. It doesn't always have to come back to the same thing.

  8. Wonder Woman - The timing lined up with getting into a rather nasty argument on one of the rape posts. Plus drive-by assholes usually don't bother to comment on four posts plus my OkCupid with "you so fat."

    I bring everything back to that post because I have gotten an unbelievable load of shit for that post, not because I have some random lunatic attachment to it.

  9. I have to admit, I don't much grok this "compulsory" thing you keep referring to...

    Yeah, at first I too was thinking "but I don't feel any need to be stereotypically sexy." I mean, I don't wear heels, I rarely wear skirts or makeup, and I buzz my hair - and the last bunch of guys I dated didn't just put up with all of this, they liked it.

    But then I remembered a few Hallowe'ens ago when I wanted to dress as a boy and had the epiphany that guys can wear huge baggy clothes without any value judgment and women can't. If I wore the "boy jeans" I bought without actually trying to be a guy, people would figure I was a lesbian, or antisocial, or hiding some horrible figure flaw, or something. How dare I go outside without clearly displaying the contours of my body? Dudes can conceal their entire bodies and nobody sits around wondering why.

    I also remembered the fast food place I worked at in high school that made me wear a skirt and pantyhose (the skirt was baggy and hideous and not sexy at all, but still - why wouldn't they let me wear pants?!?). And then there's my friend's sister who worked some kind of office job in, I think, North Carolina, and skirts and pantyhose were literally compulsory for all female employees.

    So, even if looking flat out "sexy" isn't compulsory per se, there are a lot of times and places where staying in your prescribed gender box is. And it sucks.

  10. There is actually feminist work done on masculinity.

    I just finished reading Kimmel's Manhood in America and would strongly recommend it to anyone else interested in the topic.

  11. I just finished reading Kimmel's Manhood in America and would strongly recommend it to anyone else interested in the topic.

    I hear the name Kimmel and I immediately think of Jimmy Kimmel, host of The Man Show - a television program whose closing credits featured a scantily dressed woman bouncing on a trampoline in slow motion.

    But it's probably not the same Kimmel.

  12. Another great one for working on masculinity through a feminist lens is Hugo Schwyzer. He's not always right, but hey, who is in the activism world? I particularly like his work on the myth of male weakness - the idea that men are so malleable and pathetic that women need to do things for them/women need to be careful not to look too sexy around them because they just can't help themselves/many and varied bullshit.
    He used to be rather anti-porn, but his stance has softened in recent years, and he's been chatting with Clarisse Thorn a lot, which I think is helping - incidentally, she also does great work in this area.
    Some posts to get you started with both of them:

  13. Michael Kimmel is definitely a forerunner in the gender studies/sociology arena who has focused his life's work on masculinity and what it means for men and people in general. I second the recommendation for "Manhood in America", which traces a lot of the anxiety about what being a man (in the US, at least) means to a 360-view of historical, political, economic, and social forces at work throughout the history of the US. That is, it's not about the boys vs. girls, as Holly wisely said, or about feminists ruining it for the XXers, but more about shifting societal/cultural patterns and...wait for it...political and economic forces that have more to do with control and class than gender.

    "Guyland" is also a good read that really is quite sympathetic to the dudebros/frat douches by framing their culture in terms of structural shifts and cultural values that are in flux. I don't agree with all Kimmel has to say, but he gets me really thinking and questioning and seeing the bigger picture, which is never a bad thing.

    I also had the opportunity to hear him speak in person/meet him/chat briefly and he is a warm and engaging down-to-earth person who credits wanting freer choices for his young son as one of his motivations.

  14. "I think masculinity is woefully under addressed in feminism."

    The concept of women having to do everything, on the other hand, is still flourishing. (To give credit where due, here in Australia there are a few good dudes doing good work on this.)

    "Dudes can conceal their entire bodies and nobody sits around wondering why."

    The reverse is true, too. I often see men out in their front yards watering the garden shirtless on a balmy summer evening - must be a great feeling but if women tried it it'd bee seen as slutty and scandalous, and would be all over the news.

  15. I actually have a friend who's a grad student in a psych program, and the main area of his research actually is constructions of masculinity.

    He's done a couple of studies which involve how men react and how their attitudes about (thing that could be perceived as less than utterly masculine in whatever way) change in response to "gender threat"... and so far the subjects seem to be extremely sensitive to the possibility of gender threat.

  16. Dear Trolls,

    "You so fat" may work perfectly well as an insult in meatspace. However, on teh Intertubes, you lack the necessary body language and vocal cues to truly express the depths of your hatred for any female body that dares to not fulfill its God-given role of giving you boners.

    Therefore, you have to make up for it through a strange and wondrous thing known as "cleverness." I know you may lack this, since you are a troll. However, after two or three years of studying the greats-- Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare-- you too may learn to craft a honed insult that will pierce your enemy to the bone, nay, to the very heart of their insecurities and imperfections.

    Indeed, you have begun well, young Padawan. Women in this culture tend to be sensitive about their weight, due to a lifetime of patriarchial conditioning and general suckage. But a grand field of insult splendor awaits you, if you only choose to embrace it.


    P.S. Learn to English, kthnxbai.

    1. This comment kicks ass. That is all.

      (P.S. This comment may also be fat. It's hard to tell on the internet. Nevertheless, if it is a fat comment, it is still a fat and *awesome* comment. Fat and awesome--just like so many people out there in the world!)

  17. I think part of the issue may be a difference in our individual connotations / definitions for "compulsory" and "compelled", here, too. I tend to reserve those terms for pretty heavy circumstances. I get the impression that you may be framing it in a slightly broader "society looks down at you if you don't do X" sort of way, where I tend to look at it more as "I didn't do X and then the cops showed up", though obviously, that's not a perfect definition of the meaning I'm trying to convey either.

    I dunno, I've never had anyone give me a ration of shit for not being interested in football, or even felt like I was being excluded from a group for it, though that may also be some of Rowdy's "local utopia" effect, too.

    And while I've never worn heels (where do you find heels in a men's size 13?) and wouldn't want to (I did a long and detailed report on "The Foot" in 4th grade, and know how bad those things are for you) I've worn skirts in public before, and, well, maybe people just don't want to fuck with the 6'5" 275 lbs linebacker looking guy, even if he's wearing a skirt. I dunno. I may be a bad data point.

  18. Hugo's feminist commentariat sort of fumbled three threads on male sexual frustration "Of Never Feeling Hot", "Pro-Feminist PUA", and "Of the Validation of Desire." So while he's against anti-feminists writing off men as beasts, he doesn't actually have anything to say to men who are trying to relate to women better in the context of anxiety about their attractiveness and feminist opposition to boundary-overstepping expressions of male sexuality. A lot of PUAs really tried dialoguing on that site and actually got farther than ever before elsewhere in terms of mutual comprehension, but it still came up short.

  19. Dammit Holly, you stole my idea again, and by stole, I mean you had the same thoughts I did and wrote them down better and before I did. You're not leaving me a lot to write about these days.

    Masculinity as its currently envisioned by America isn't the most welcoming place in the universe. It's sort of a shithole, actually, a lot of the time.

    And likewise: we've got some SERIOUSLY bad things coming down the pipeline at us, like as a SPECIES (climate change, potential nuclear winter in Korea, etc). I'm not the smartest dude out there, so the idea of half the population being able to fully and realistically help put together solutions for these very real problems makes me moderately more hopeful for the future. That does require, though, that women DO have the opportunity to help put together those solutions...

  20. Curious. What do you think of the handful of "feminists" who claim that pointing these things out, or otherwise voicing any reminder that feminism is NOT a matter of Boys Team vs. Girls Team, is "just another way to turn the conversation back to men and their issues" and that therefore it should never come up in conversation? (This is a really weird phenomenon I've encountered recently, but apparently widespread enough to add a "The Patriarchy hurts men too!" square to the "anti-feminist bingo" memes floating around. WTF?)

  21. Perlhaqr - We do indeed have different definitions of "compulsory." Mine isn't so much "literally forced" as "pressured." Sure, peer pressure can be resisted, but most people don't have wills of iron, particularly in adolescence when bullying is brutal and in the business world where many people decide self-expression isn't worth losing their job over.

    Azkyroth - I do think it's derailing to talk about men's issues when a specific female concern is the topic of discussion, or when it's used to implicitly diminish women's issues in a "shut up, we got problems too" sort of way.

    But when someone is simply in good faith saying "The Patriarchy hurts men too!" they're absolutely right.

  22. I agree that "compulsory" is peer pressure, but I don't always think that accurately portrays the word. You mentioned wearing a skirt in public. I live in Oklahoma, I can guarantee there are places here where the pressure to be "manly" would quickly become physical. I'm a "city boy", a nerd, an intellectual elitist...I've had members of my family say I was so heavenly minded I was of no earthly value, because I'd rather read a Foreign Policy journal than change the oil.

    I'm also a big teddy bear who has had to remind people that being a feminist or a liberal doesn't mean I'm a pacifist if it comes down to it. I don't like the assumption that liberal = weak. Nor do I like that I have to imply a threat of violence to prove otherwise.