My Own Feminist Manifesto

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About Richard Jeffrey Newman

Richard Jeffrey Newman is a professor in the English Department of Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York. He is the author of The Silence of Men, a book of poems, and three books of translations from classical Iranian poetry, most recently, The Teller of Tales: Stories from Ferdowsi's Shahnameh. "For My Son, A Kind of Prayer" is from his second, as yet unpublished poetry manuscript, Because Men Only Understand Cliches. He blogs at Because It's All Connected.

Comments

  1. courage the cowardly dog says:

    Ok I am as vehemently opposed to sexual violence, exploitation and abuse of anyone, men, women, children. I am a man, but I am proud to say I am not a feminist. Your premise is faulty. You needn’t be a feminist to be opposed to people who abuse or take advantage of someone weaker than themselves. I find it a bit offensive to presuppose that the only way you can be truly opposed to the mindset that provokes horrendous acts of sexual violence is it to be a feminist. Horsehockey!!

    • Adam McPhee says:

      His premise is not faulty at all. Feminism is the only politics he knows that fits what he needed to find strength. His idea of feminism may be different from yours and mine, but his premise is why HE is a feminist, and what HE knows of feminism.

      When someone mentions they are a feminist, to me it is akin to them telling me what religion they believe in. This is why there’s the old saying of “you don’t discuss politics or religion at the dinner table”, because both are the same; both are matters of belief. Even within the same political or religious view, there can be descension. Take the West Baptist Church vs other Christian groups for example.

      As with you, I also disagree with his view that feminism is the only view that does all that he says, or that one even needs to be a feminist in order to see this is inaccurate. However, his posting is chock full of “I” statements. I may not agree with feminist viewpoints, but I agree with a person’s right to view themselves as a feminist for whatever reason they wish.

      “Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.”
      -Karl Marx, Communist.

  2. Richard Jeffrey Newman says:

    Courage and Adam:

    I did not write that the only way to be against sexual objectification and its effects is to be a feminist; I wrote, rather, that feminism is the only politics I know that explicitly commits itself to a world without sexual objectification. There is a difference. If you can name another politics that does this, that puts the politics of sexual objectification at the core of its political analysis, makes it the “motivating moment” of personal, cultural and political change–and I am talking here not about a personal political position, but a politics, a systematic analysis of power relations in the world–I’d be very happy to learn of it.

    • Adam McPhee says:

      I quoted Karl Marx because I feel communism does the same without restraining itself by only looking at a single binary (men vs women). The human race is so much more complex than that. Feminism, from a communist lens, would perceive men as the ruling class and women as the proletariat class. I however disagree with the idea behind feminism, and pardon me for simplifying but I don’t feel like writing a 100 page dissertation on feminism, that all men had all the power at the expense of all women (who had none).

      I felt Courage was unfairly attacking you for something which you shared as your view, not something as an unarguable world truth. I may disagree with your view of feminism as the only political view which can end the world as a place of sexual objectification, but I’ll defend your right to it.

  3. John Anderson says:

    I’m sorry you had to live through those experiences.

    “I am a fem¬i¬nist because, if I am hon¬est with myself, I can¬not deny that I am, as a man, always and already on that side, because to be hon¬est with myself is to rec¬og¬nize the changes that “my side” needs to make”

    Funny, as a man, I realize that I’m on whatever side I choose to be. It’s a matter of agency. I believe almost every adult in the United States has at least some agency concerning most things and that’s probably why I’m not a feminist.

  4. Courage the cowardly dog says:

    The implication is that if you are not a feminist you objectify women and others. Maybe I am not getting it but that is wrong. Our constitution protects people to be secure in their persons. Fundamental Judeo-Christian philosophy recognizes the sanctity of the individual. Arguably when it comes to the unborn feminisim is extremely violent, arguing for the premature terminaiton of the life of a person while the person is still in utero. Feminism is not this holy philosophy that respects life universally. Feminism has also argued for and fought for policies that disadvantage men. Now a feminist will say that men dominate so women need these policies. Anecdotely, my nephew, who was a really good baseball player wanted to attend Syracuse University, but because of Title 7 Syracuse defunded the mens baseball team. My sister, a zealous feminist (and my nephew’s mother), argued that Syracuse’s men’s baseball team was defunded not because of Title 7 but because it was a losing program and not well attended. I asked her if that is the standard we are applying to funding Collegiate athlietic programs think about all the women’s programs that would be defunded. At this point, given the tremendous gains women have achieved across a whole spectrum of societal functions I believe any and all vestages of “leveling the playing field for women:” should be removed. The playing field is level at this point (if not tilted against men).

  5. Courage the cowardly dog says:

    Why was my prior post deleted?

  6. MR_Supertypo says:

    I think that if it works for you its fine. I disagree with your points like :

    ” I am a fem­i­nist because, like both those men, I was raised in a cul­ture where men are taught that it is our right sex­u­ally to objec­tify those who are weaker or are per­ceived as “less than” we are, start­ing but not end­ing with women;”

    Im a man to, but nobody ever taught me that. Actually quite the contrary, I was taught to help who was weaker like children, elders, small girls ect. Not considering them less than nothing.

    “I am a fem­i­nist because, if I am hon­est with myself, I can­not deny that I am, as a man, always and already on that side, because to be hon­est with myself is to rec­og­nize the changes that “my side” needs to make ”

    So it means, female abusers get a pass?

    Anyways if labelling yourself as feminist make you happy. More power to you :-)

    • John Anderson says:

      When I was young, boys were taught never to hit girls or people with glasses. I agree. It seems boys were actually taught the opposite of what the author is suggesting.

  7. Courage, you wrote, “The implication is that if you are not a feminist you objectify women and others.” Well, no, that’s not what I said, but judging from the rest of your response, I imagine we will have to agree to disagree.

    Adam: I know that Marxists will say that communism addresses the concerns I talked about, but there’s a reason that Marxist feminism developed, and it was very clearly that Marxism, without a feminist component, was not addressing them.

    John and Mr. Supertypo: Learning not to hit girls and to help those who are weaker does not, admirable as those lessons are, preclude the possibility of sexually objectifying and exploiting those one was taught to help.

    And Mr. Supertypo: The issue of female abusers, particularly female abusers of boys and men, is a serious one that I would agree feminists have not adequately addressed. Little to nothing, as far as I know–and I do have a couple of scholarly articles that I can’t lay my hands on now–has been done in terms of writing and research. This fact, however, does not by definition invalidate what feminism has to say about men and male (and specifically male heterosexual) privilege.

    • courage the cowardly dog says:

      Disagree about what that feminism advocates for the right to choose to kill the unborn? There really isn’t much to disagree about. Feminism unequivocally advocates for a woman’s right to choose abortion, which is killing an unborn fetus (a more comfortable way of saying “a baby”).

  8. Richard Jeffrey Newman says:

    John:

    I also wanted to respond to your point about agency. You wrote:

    “Funny, as a man, I realize that I’m on whatever side I choose to be. It’s a matter of agency. I believe almost every adult in the United States has at least some agency concerning most things and that’s probably why I’m not a feminist.”

    Independently of why you are not a feminist, this seems to me a very odd use of the concept of agency. The fact that we can make choices in life does not change the fact that we all come from places, have characteristics, etc. that we did not choose and cannot simply, on a whim, disown. You–and I mean a generic “you” here–may choose, as a man, to call out sexism, or as a white person to call out racism, or as a Christian to call out antisemitism, each of which is an laudable choice, but that does not change the fact that you are calling those things out as a member of the group that those “isms” generally benefit. Now, to be more specific in talking about feminism, if you are a man who calls out a woman’s act(s) of discrimination against men–or instances of social/cultural/political harm done to men by traditional gender roles–that also may be a laudable choice; but the fact remains that, in doing so, you will be expressing solidarity with the group of people that, historically and currently, overwhelmingly benefits from traditional gender roles. Agency changes none of that.

    • John Anderson says:

      I disagree. Agency is everything. Agency is the ability not just to make your own decisions, but it’s the ability to affect those things around you. I am half Asian and half white. I grew up in a white neighborhood in the most racially segregated city in the United States in the 70s. We were picked on and were consistently at a numerical disadvantage. Was it fair? No it wasn’t, but we didn’t hide in the shadows. We responded by learning a martial art and /or weight training. We won way more fights than we lost even at a numerical disadvantage. Now, I go where I will.

      After a few years, people left us alone. Even the Asians that came later were left alone. The gangs left us alone. When the local gang tried to recruit me, they didn’t threaten to beat me up. They sent girls to recruit me. By the time we left, the local gangs consolidated into one large gang and people who wouldn’t talk to us 30 years ago expressed disappointment that we were leaving.

      People like to pretend that violence against women somehow subjugates women by denying them access to public spaces. What feminists ignore is that men are killed at four times the rate of women. Public spaces are no more inviting to men. Men just partake in these spaces despite the risks. Men are not advantaged. They just choose to utilize their agency. Pretending it’s some societal conspiracy against women doesn’t change that.

      Read the article on how the rules of racism don’t pertain to Asians. How Asians are held to a higher standard, yet meet that standard and actually have outperformed other ethnicities on average in the United States even the “privileged” white people. Asians on average do better in school and make more money than the “privileged” white people. I made the statement and asked the question. Yes, it sucks that Asians have to perform better just to get the same recognition as other ethnicities, but is mediocrity really a better answer? Yes, it’s all about agency. Pretending it isn’t might make women feel better, but it doesn’t solve their problems.

  9. Adam McPhee says:

    Richard,

    As I said before, people can hold onto whatever beliefs they wish. I disagree with most feminist mantra, since it looks at the men at the top, and not men as a whole. When it talks about men in power, it does not look at men without power. It discussed the glass ceiling without discussing the glass floor (the level which women can’t fall below). It had women fighting for rights, not obligations (women’s right to fight in wars if they wished, not forced to whether they wanted to or not, as was done with men).

    I would highly recommend Warren Farrel’s “Myth of Male Power” if you have not read it already, as it highlights the singular view of supposed sexual equality as pushed forth by the feminist movement.

    You can argue all you want that communism doesn’t fit your criteria, I said you were welcome to your views. Just because a subset of marxism, feminist marxism, developed does not mean that marxism or communism did not already address these issues. If feminism touched on true gender equality, then why the men’s right movement? Why all these people here talking about how they feel it doesn’t promote true gender equality? If you feel marxist feminism proved that communism didn’t address such things, then the men’s right movement proves feminism doesn’t truly address equality among the sexes.

    “Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.”
    -Karl Marx

    “For what reason, then, should the woman worker seek a union with the bourgeois feminists? Who, in actual fact, would stand to gain in the event of such an alliance? Certainly not the woman worker.”
    -Alexandra Kollontai

  10. Richard Jeffrey Newman says:

    Adam,

    Marx might have made that statement, but those are only words. There are an awful lot of countries that claim to give equal rights to women; it’s in their constitution. In practice, however, they don’t. And as far as I know, being a Marxist, living in a communist state does not immunize men against becoming rapists–just to take an extreme example, and one that is connected to the specific claim I made in my post, which is that feminism is the only politics I know that commits itself explicitly to a world without sexual objectification. That doesn’t mean I think that feminism–to imagine, just for the moment, that there is one monolithic thing that can be called feminism–gets everything right all the time. I’ve read the Myth of Male Power, actually more than once, and I think it says some very smart things, but I think that Farrell makes the same mistake that a lot of men make when thinking about this topic. Male expandability, which–as I remember it–is what his book is primarily intended to illuminate and argue against is a feature of patriarchy not a bug; and so ending male expendability, if you really want to do that, is not about competing with feminism/feminists over whose vision of equal rights is more equal, it is about ending patriarchy. Pure and simple. Changing the rules of the system that we currently have so that they are more fair to men is not going to do that–which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work for those changes too since the differences they would make in men’s lives are important. In the end, though, I am sure that you and I will end up having to agree to disagree about this.

    Cheers!

    • …..and so ending male expendability, if you really want to do that, is not about competing with feminism/feminists over whose vision of equal rights is more equal, it is about ending patriarchy.
      Sure the desired end result is to make the world a more fair place for all involved I’ll be the first to agree with that.

      I think the reason things devolve into arguing over whose vision of equal rights is more equal is because at the end of the day, it will be some vision of equal rights that will be applied to the world we live in.

      It would be great if there was no arguing. But if there was no arguing that would probably be a sign that nothing is wrong in the first place.

      I suppose we have to find a way so that every’s vision gets a fair shake rather than just being dismissed because it’s this or that or because it’s a vision of something that is this label or that label.

    • Adam McPhee says:

      One could also make the argument that all feminism, and all you said is just words. I’ll stop there before I stop waxing existentially.

      As for male disposability, it highlights a total inequality. You forget also that Mr. Farrell is himself a feminist. The problem is feminism focuses on the inequality of women as a whole, by focusing on the power a few men hold (think the 1%). It does not focus on the inequalities faced by the majority of men.

      Your example that communism does not prevent rape, neither does feminism. You say communism addresses it, but does not stop it. Neither has feminism. Some have actually argued that feminism allows rape and violence to happen within lesbian relationships (no men are involved, so there is no issue!). You dismiss communism for what you perceive as its flaws, but embrace feminism despite its flaws (at least you acknowledge them).

      I am not a devout communist or anything, I was just pointing out that feminism is not the only political/personal view that addresses all the issues you laid out. However, I’m glad it has worked for you for dealing with what life has thrown at you.

  11. Not buying it says:

    For what it’s worth:

    Ideologies, social theories, religions, social cultural movements & Entire civilizations Had came and went away the way of the Dodo bird, Sir

    I believe in social Darwinism & Evolutionary psychology & human evolutionand in general to be more precise Genetic gender evolution which disapproves & blows out of the water the central tenets of the feminism theory (patriarchy) tenet in particular.

    Men and women are equal but not the same in many detrimental ways that technology advances can gloss over only to a certain extent, but the difference goes way way deeper then (I hunt – she gathers) analogy.

    Take a look by Googling :
    1- The gender equality paradox
    2- The story of David Reimer

  12. Not buying it says:

    By the way There’s a new article In the Telegraph.Co.UK, by Sally peck(feminist), dated Oct/18/2012 – called:” feminism means equality between men and women & we are not there yet “, in regards to a survey by Netmums, anyway in it it states :
    ” 6 out of 7 woman have rejected the term feminist ”

    There got to be something more than just patriarchy at work here, Sir.

  13. Adam McPhee says:

    Since I was arguing communism against your idea that feminism is the “only pol­i­tics I know that com­mits itself explic­itly to a world with­out sex­ual objec­ti­fi­ca­tion and the per­sonal, cul­tural, socioe­co­nomic and polit­i­cal vio­lence” (emphasis on “only politics YOU know”)

    What are your arguments against egalitarianism?

    • Richard Jeffrey Newman says:

      Adam,

      I’m really not sure what you mean by your question. You are the one who suggests that feminism is not in favor of egalitarianism, not me, and so I don’t have the argument you are asking me for. I stand by my claim, though. You have not shown that Marxism, for example, has explicitly committed itself, etc. and so on. Marxists, as a movement, were not the ones who worked to change rape laws, to name and work against sexual harassment, to establish domestic violence shelters, to name and bring child sexual abuse into public consciousness as something that ought not to be swept under the rug. Feminists, women’s rights advocates, whatever you want to call them, did that, those are not just words. And, yes, they did it primarily for women, and yes that means male survivors were not included, and yes that is a problem, but that does not invalidate the fact that feminists–both men and women–acted specifically and explicitly to do things intended to end sexual objectification and that successfully put the problem(s) of sexual objectification on the table for serious social, cultural, and political discussion and debate. We would not be talking now about the sexual abuse of boys as the horror that it is had it not been for those feminists. Marxists have done an awful lot of important work throughout the world in terms of economic oppression, some of it here in the US, and I support it; I like a lot of the political stances they take on questions like the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, on workers’ rights and so on; I do not know, however, that they have made the issue of sexual objectification a specific issue in the way that feminism has. I, frankly, do not see feminism vs. Marxism vs. any other progressive political ideology as an either/or proposition, nor was I suggesting that in my original post, and I think it is very telling that people continue to read me as if that is what I was saying.

  14. Not buying it says:

    For what it’s worth:

    Ideologies, social theories, cultural movements &Entire civilizations that lasted for thousands of years had came and went away the way of the Dodo bird, Sir

    Basically it’s still about survival & Evolution of humanity in which a lot if the so called patriarchy was just another survival method in which human history proved cultures &the civilizations that adapted it survived, where do we go from here only time & history will tell, nevertheless I lot of wise minds reject the idea that men as a gender alone are responsible for patriarchy or more precisely all the negative Evolutionary human drama that went along with it & got us here (today & now).

  15. Not buying it says:

    Richard,

    Sorry for the duplicity in my comments, due to the constant refreshing & moderator timing in releasing the comments on the thread chat.

  16. Adam McPhee says:

    My challenge is just on your perceiving feminism as the only political/ideological theory that promotes equality via freedom from sexual objectification.
    From Merriam-Webster:

    Definition of FEMINISM
    1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
    2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

    Definition of EGALITARIANISM:
    1: a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs
    2: a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people
    ——–

    Both are separate beliefs/theories. I was wondering if you felt egalitarianism did not also promote the same tenets for which you maintain such a strong belief in feminism?

    Since you challenge that I have not shown that Marxism / Communism also challenges a lot of the same issues feminism does, I will return the challenge. Show me examples of where Feminism did any of the things you listed from a perspective of gender equality. If someone were to suffer the same abuses you unfortunately did, as outlined in your article, where would you send them? As you mentioned yourself, feminism/feminists have not done this for men, and they push back when men try to obtain it for themselves. How is this fighting against sexual objectification/gender equality?

    I work with a lot of gay men. To relate just one story, a client told me that when they were fleeing a domestic violence situation, they were referred to a men’s homeless shelter as a place of refuge. At this shelter they then had the pleasure of further being abused and having their teeth kicked in. Where has feminism also advocated for shelters for men fleeing violence (sexual or physical)? Why does america have the “violence against women” act, and not an “intimate partner violence act”?

    The issue I have with the supposed gender equality pursuits of feminism is that they are one-sided. I do not disagree that feminism has highlighted and brought attention to a lot of issues that needed to be addressed, I just disagree that they come at it from an angle of gender equality.

  17. Adam McPhee says:

    “I, frankly, do not see feminism vs. Marxism vs. any other progressive political ideology as an either/or proposition, nor was I suggesting that in my original post, and I think it is very telling that people continue to read me as if that is what I was saying.”

    Do you find it telling of the views of others, or a place to improve how you convey this?

    I, personally not challenging an either/or, I’m challenging the perception you have that feminism is the only way through which to combat inequality. As I’ve said from the start, I’m fine with all of your beliefs and everything you said for how it helps you. However, if I were to look at it as if feminism were a religious doctrine (as I wouldn’t doubt some people feel it is practiced by feminist zealots), it is as if saying feminism is the one true God, and no other false idols can address these issues.

    “the changes that “my side” needs to make”

    I would challenge that a true feminist, via the form of feminism you seem to identify as one of gender equality, should address that BOTH “sides” need to make changes. The most basic and earliest example of this is to say that women fought for the right to vote, men granted it. That still gives men the power, and states that it was men who did this for women.

    I’m sure you see the inequality issues inherent in only one side changing.

  18. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    It’s odd. The labor movement in the US at its peak was actually a movement of traditional families and communities, especially in its heyday 1936-1973. It took much of its power from the family unit and community in which the workers lived. Nixon began wrecking the gains labor had made by insuring that tariffs went from 14% to about 3% in 1973, insuring the internationalization of production (not good because it offloaded labor to countries that did not support unions and that took advantage of ultra-cheap labor.) There was similar but not as serious offloading in the US due to relocation of smaller factories in the South, and up-teching them so that many fewer workers became technicians. My experience of second wave feminism is that it arrived to blind-side working class movements in the early 70s. I think that this is because it’s been a movement of upper-middle class women for the most part. So the emphasis has always been on developing women’s managerialism and professionalism, issues that I confess to not caring all that much about.

    Marx was fairly correct about early capitalism, but not, I think, about later capitalism and the road forward. I think the best we can get would be a Scandanavian-style world as far as politics and economics go. I would not like to see the stifling PC culture that has installed itself there along with feminism, however. I think that “the personal is political” is a mistake. If you give people political and economic equality, they can figure what they want personally. It’s a mis-prioritization, at any rate.

    I do want women to be the political and economic equals of men, but I don’t (just as with men) want to develop them as new, even more cooperative with the boss than men were, management. I’d like to see flatter, more democratic organizations in general.

    I deeply sympathize with OP here. I’ve had at least two sexual offenses commited on me by adult men when I was a child (not as bad, though) so I know what that’s like.

  19. Rowan Butler says:

    I understand your argument Richard, it’s something I’ve struggled with myself – I’m willing to bet that you’ve been told in the dusty halls of academia that men can not be feminists, only pro-feminist. That said, Feminism has given us men the language to speak up and out about our experiences, which have until recently been steadfastly silenced. We’re all oppressed by the system, and owe the feminisms a great debt. At the same time, Feminsm is, at its core, for women. I didn’t always understand what that meant, but it’s more than shared experiences, it’s also about women claiming a space by them, for them. If they allow men to become feminists, then others will surely follow – the gendered arms race metaphor. Within academia especially, there are vested interests in allowing women to carve out a niche of their own. Theoretically, practically, whatever, these are women’s spaces. Part of the reason I stumbled on to the Goodmenproject is that I was searching out a space which allowed for positive, nuanced understands of masculinity and male-hood, one which almost literally encapsulated the ‘good men’. Good men, across all cultures and history, have actively fought against rape, predation, abuse, and so on. Feminism has given us a language outside of the male hegemoy to speak about these practices. I’d argue that it’s time for men to develop a language of their own.

    • Richard Jeffrey Newman says:

      Hi Rowan,

      Thanks for your comment. I would agree that men need to develop a language and a space and politics of our own with which to change things. I don’t think–and I’m guessing you probably don’t either–that this is an either/or proposition in terms of men’s relationship to feminism. I am sensitive to the whole feminist/pro-feminist issue when it comes to men’s relationship to the movement, and I respect the position that says men cannot be, and ought not to be, feminists, since feminisms should be by, about and for women–though I honestly have little patience for how that argument plays out in academia. And I think also, within the academy, people sometimes lost sight of the fact that there is a difference between Women’s Studies as an academic discipline and feminism(s) as a political movement the goal of which is to effect social change. The two are, obviously, related, but pursuing one is not necessarily the same thing as pursuing the other. As a practical matter, I tend to be a bit of a chameleon when it comes to these things. If I am somewhere where the accepted term is pro-feminist, then that’s what I call myself and that’s the rhetoric I adopt; if not, I call myself a feminist–even though I would acknowledge that men who want a way out of male hegemony have a very complicated relationship with feminism. When there is a term that denotes what people want terms like “male feminist” to mean that is not also as freighted as, say, “masculinism” is with the possibility of the precise opposite reading, I will be happy to use it. In the meantime, as long as part of the feminist agenda is to change what it means to be a man–and I think it is fair to say that is part of the agenda–I will call myself a feminist.

      As a practical matter, however, I think worrying about that distinction is more distracting than anything else, not because the issue is not important, but because it tends to focus on language more than men’s actions and behaviors. I understand the need to draw boundaries and the role of language in making those boundaries clear

  20. Not buying it says:

    Women & any inequality that they face is only a part of other inequality some people face ( men & women ), feminism might had a positive outcome to men in the beginning but were it stands now & since a fair number of feminism advocates are pro laws & provisionsthe that at best are unabashedly anti-male , it seems more & more men & women whom their male family , friends & mates are being affected negatively are realizing the adverse affect it has on men, women & children in particular boys.

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