Ask the Feminist: Can Men Talking About Men’s Issues Be Feminists?

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GMP’s resident feminist, HeatherN, tackles readers’ questions about men and feminism and how society sees men’s issues.

Welcome to the weekly series in which people ask me questions about feminism and I endeavour to answer them. If you’ve got a question for me about feminism, go ahead and ask it in the comments below. Alternatively you can e-mail me at [email protected].

Last week, OirishM asked the following: If feminism is for men, why do feminists assume anyone speaking for men’s issues isn’t feminist?

I suppose one way to answer that is to point out that though feminism is also for women, feminists don’t assume that anyone speaking about women’s issues is a feminist. There are plenty of women out there who make a living telling other women that it is their feminine duty to have children and be home-makers. These are women speaking about women’s issues, and yet they aren’t feminists. The reason for this is because of the position they are taking on the issue. Generally speaking, someone’s only assumed to be a feminist if their position is a feminist one, i.e. if they’re promoting ideas which dismantle patriarchy.

I think another way to answer that is to point out that the Centre for Gender and Sexuality Studies at my university is going to have a workshop on Wednesday. The first lecture is on “hegemonic masculinities,” so it’s definitely about men’s issues. Now since this is academia, I don’t know whether this particular lecturer takes on the label of “feminist.” However, this is certainly a lecture that a lot of feminists will be attending, and no one has suggested that a lecture about masculinity isn’t appropriate. In fact, there’s a great deal of discussion about masculinity in gender studies right now.

Finally, though, I’ll address the trend in more activist-minded feminist spaces in which mentioning men’s issues is sometimes met with aggression. Part of that has to do with the fact that an activist space is going to be focused on a narrow topic and wary of potential derailing. Part of that also has to do with the way in which women have been silenced, both historically and now. So sometimes when men talk about men’s issues without acknowledging their social privilege as men, it can seem as though they are trying to divert whatever attention feminists have managed to obtain for themselves.

John Anderson asked: Why is it when something affects women it’s viewed as a societal issue requiring societal solutions, but when something negatively affects men it’s viewed as a personal failure requiring each individual man to correct his behaviour? Like the question above, there are a few different ways to answer this. This first bit is going to be a bit abstract, but stick with me. In the fifth episode of the new Starz series Da Vinci’s Demons, we find out out that da Vinci’s love interest, Lucrezia, is being forced to spy on the Renaissance man. She very explicitly states that she is not acting of her own free will, and that she has no choice but to follow her orders. It so happens that the person to whom she says this is also under very explicit orders regarding what he’s supposed to do to da Vinci. However, he disregards his orders and decides on his own course of action.

There are many other examples of this type of scenario, particularly in our entertainment and media. A woman is forced into a situation in which she has no choice but to do what she’s told, while a man is forced in a very similar situation but entertains more freedom of choice. Think of just about every arranged marriage depicted on television, ever. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s patriarchy which denies women’s agency and decision making abilities. Patriarchal systems assume women are docile and unable to do things for themselves and therefore they are more susceptible to outside influence. Patriarchal systems place pressure on men to always be in control of their lives and assume that when something negative happens to a man, it’s his fault. That is all part of patriarchy.

I also feel it necessary to point out that the trend of assuming men’s issues are all about individual failing is a dying one within feminist circles. “Toxic masculinity” and “hegemonic masculinity” are two phrases that are often used to talk about the social pressures which affect men’s lives. There are other, more specific examples, but the point is that feminism and gender studies completely recognize that society affects men.

In general, I don’t think most feminists would say that women are more affected by social circumstances than men. Rather, I think they’d probably argue that the social circumstances which affect both men and women recognize a greater degree of human agency for men than they do women.

 

 

Photo: Flickr/Heather Cowper

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About HeatherN

Heather N. is a Californian living in the United Kingdom. In order to survive, she has developed a keen appreciation for the color grey, rain, and sausage rolls. She spends far too much time reading, writing, blogging, and gaming. You can also find her saying witty things on Twitter.

Comments

  1. So sometimes when men talk about men’s issues without acknowledging their social privilege as men, it can seem as though they are trying to divert whatever attention feminists have managed to obtain for themselves.
    I wonder if this becomes a point of contention because of the question of when does this social privilege exist (as in what topics does it affect) and does there always have to be an acknowledgement of even if it does exist.

  2. OirishM says:

    Yikes, fame at last!

    I should clarify (if I didn’t already) that the remark was pulled off a meme on Tumblr – make of that what you will – and is obviously a hasty generalisation. But I suspect it rings true enough in the experiences many have of feminists to be worth repeating, IMO.

    With respect to the latter part of Heather’s answer about potential derailing, I will also refer people back to the first part of my comment:

    M.A. Melby: The “What about the menz?” phrase is general pulled out not to belittle the men’s topic brought up, but to react to common derailing.

    OirishM: This assumes that all mentions of men’s experiences with respect to an issue are derailing, which isn’t true. If you claim that men are the primary cause of a problem when they aren’t or that an issue is the exclusive preserve of women when it isn’t, then it’s hardly rocket science to expect that some people will weigh in to correct you. Many of them will be men.

    M.A Melby’s initial comment in full:
    http://goodmenproject.com/gender-sexuality/hesaid-ask-the-feminist-if-patriarchy-hurts-men-too-how-can-it-still-be-considered-patriarchy/comment-page-1/#comment-530801

    My response in full – the comment that the first question in this article was drawn from – (mind inserting this into the body of the article? Pretty pls?)
    http://goodmenproject.com/gender-sexuality/hesaid-ask-the-feminist-if-patriarchy-hurts-men-too-how-can-it-still-be-considered-patriarchy/comment-page-1/#comment-535766

  3. I am happy to see a space on GMP dedicated to men and feminism. And as a male feminist, I wish these answers had more clarity. I often find that articles which address feminism without any clarity provide discussion fraught with hostility and misunderstanding.

    I would like to address the first question and response. The question itself implies a very alarming generalization: feminist represent one group that generally considers men’s issues non-feminist. I whole-heartedly challenge this assumption. Over the past decade (at least), there has been a focus on men and masculinity under the umbrella of feminism. Feminism provides a gender-focused lens to view the world that, historically, has placed women front and center of everything–this has changed. Now gender is front and center, and many people apply feminist theory previously used to examine women vs. patriarchy (and “hegemonic masculinity”) to examine men vs. the same issues. I believe it is absolutely wrong for any feminist to automatically assume men’s issues are anything but feminist issues. In my recent studies in feminism, it is often argued that men and women or both oppressed by hegemonic masculinity (I won’t say equally; I believe the effects of this affect men and women differently). Simply put, the question assumes a generalization that “all feminist” think one way or another, and that should have been the focus of the answer.

    To respond to the second question: who exactly says societal issues affecting men shouldn’t be addressed with societal solutions? Pay attention each time “it’s” appears in the question. Note the lack of clarity–who views it like this? The issue here isn’t about agency and which who’s affected by societal circumstances *more*, the issue is that both men and women face societal issues which often affect each gener differently, but the issues–for men and women–should ALL be addressed with societal answers.

    I believe that feminism needs total PR makeover. I am a recent women’s studies graduate and not once have I met any student in my cohort or professor that claims there is no space for men’s issues in feminism. In fact, all of the people I know believe that in order to fully acheive gender equality, societal issues which affect both men and women must be remedied by societal solutions. Furthermore, men AND women alike have agency in the matter and we all need to be held accountable for and reflect on the actions we take to perpetuate gender inequality.

    • I don’t think the big point of contention is whether or not there should be space for men’s issues in feminist but exactly what form should that space take on.

      I’ve crossed paths with feminists that want men’s issues to be on the table…as long as they don’t become the main focus. Well how can a movement be about everyone if you’re too busy trying measure and dole out focus?

      I’ve crossed path with those that want men’s issues to be on the table….as long they are only looked at in certain, self serving, lights. (I see this a lot from those that seem to be able to twist everything into how it “really harms women” and then affects men through collateral damage).

      And I think this is something men have a hard time with. We and our issues are welcome….as long as feminists still dictate the terms of discussion?

    • I agree with what you’re saying about the problems with the construction of the questions. Just, a bit of self defence here…but I’m generally trying to provide a range of perspectives for these questions, so it can be a bit unclear at times. And, also, I’m trying not to make these answers too long…just a few paragraphs each.

      Aaaaaanyway…got any questions you’d like addressed for next week? I’m always looking for more topics to cover.

    • > The question itself implies a very alarming generalization: feminist represent one group that generally considers men’s issues non-feminist.
      >Simply put, the question assumes a generalization that “all feminist” think one way or another, and that should have been the focus of the answer.

      My original question included “so many feminists” in there, and was misquoted.

      Feminism, for most of its existence, has focused pretty much exclusively on women’s issues, and reacted to suggestions that discussing men’s issues should be discussed with hostility. Even today, more than one feminist claiming to care about men’s issues only wants to discuss it in the fashion they prefer. There’s a popular article on Jezebel that starts with Lindy West saying that if men try to talk about their issues to her, she will hate them. She then goes on to claim feminists care about men’s issues, while repeatedly mocking and downplaying said issues. One wonders how she claims to have such knowledge of the issues of people she doesn’t want to listen to.

      I do find it interesting that you neglected to discuss whether there is a general tendency among feminists to assume someone talking about men’s issues isn’t a feminist. Addressing masculinity – which is not the same as addressing men’s issues – is actually a fairly recent development. And, I’m sorry, you’ve met maybe a few hundred people in your course? There are millions of feminists worldwide.

      >Feminism provides a gender-focused lens to view the world that, historically, has placed women front and center of everything–this has changed.

      You think feminism needs a “PR” makeover. Perhaps it really needs an ideological makeover. A movement that has spent decades biased in women’s favor cannot cast off it’s old ways so easily, especially since most feminist discussions of masculinity revolve around how it can be reworked. Women’s gender roles need to be eliminated, but men’s merely need to be renovated. That’s…odd, especially in light of the complete absence of any major feminist initiatives mainly about actually fixing men’s issues or removing women’s privileges.

  4. “Think of just about every arranged marriage depicted on television, ever. ”
    Like Game of Thrones where the man didn’t have a choice? Let’s not forget in many situations of arranged marriage in media THOSE MEN ARE SOLDIERS WHOM HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO FIGHT. It’s only very recently that conscription has been removed in many countries, men’s agency wasn’t as much a many think.

    • It’s kind of funny because I was going to use the Game of Thrones wedding as an example…it just would have made the thing too long. But so yeah, let’s look at Game of Thrones…when Robb Stark is ordered to enter an arranged marriage with one of the Frey women, he has his choice of which woman he will marry. On top of that, he’s shown to posses enough free will to actually back out of that agreement and marry the woman he actually loves. Then, when he orders his cousin to marry one of the Frey women instead, his cousin takes a good deal of persuading in order for him to agree. Actually, the big thing that finally convinces his cousin to agree to marry a Frey woman is that Robb brings up how his cousin had disobeyed orders before…thus exerting his free will.

      What’s interesting about this, from a feminist perspective, is that the consequences of all these men exerting their free will is that the patriarchal system ends up crushing them. Robb’s cousin decides to charge ahead and not wait for Robb, ruining Robb’s military strategy…and the consequence is that he’ll be forced into marrying a Frey woman. Robb himself refuses to enter into an arranged marriage, and the consequence is…well…the Red Wedding.

      But you’ll note that, in so far as this example of Robb and his cousin and the Red Wedding, the women have absolutely no say in the matter. Either Robb or Walder Frey get to choose which woman will be married off. Their value is solely based on their looks (Robb’s cousin is not happy about the marriage until he finds out the woman who was chosen for him is beautiful). They never speak and are only seen for a few moments, even the bride on her wedding day.

      So men’s agency is recognized…men might be punished for it by a patriarchal system, but they can exert free will. Women, on the other hand, aren’t shown to have any agency at all.

      (It’s also important to note that I was deliberately talking about DEPICTIONS of arranged marriages, not necessarily the realities of arranged marriages in the real world).

      • Rob Stark IS NOT A NORMAL PERSON. Comparing men to Rob Stark is as silly as comparing women to Cleopatra. He has choice because he’s at the very very very very very top level of society. His underling had zero choice in who to marry. Even the underlings aren’t really representative of people though. Do the peasants get to marry, and if so do they choose? Your example just shows the elite have agency.

        • It’s a story, Archy. The reason I highlighted that I was talking about representations and not real life is because there is always a disconnect between the two. The Robb Stark example is about what sorts of stories we tell about men and agency and women and agency. In theory, everyone has every choice…I could take what little money I’ve got, fly to New York and try to find work in a deli. Or I could shut myself away in my room and never leave the house again. I could get married to a British person for immigration reasons so I don’t have to leave the country. I could sell all my possessions and join a convent after converting to Catholicism.

          So in some ways my choices are limited by my gender…I couldn’t become a Catholic priest, for example…and my class, etc. But what the Robb Stark example (and the Lucrezia example in the article) are all about are how social pressures make some choices either invisible, or highly unlikely to be chosen. So in this case, Robb’s choices are visible, but because he takes the course of “free will” he suffers the consequences when society doesn’t align with his choices. In the case of the Frey women (who are also at the top of society), their choices aren’t even acknowledged. In theory they could have all refused to marry Robb’s cousin…but that possibility isn’t even considered by anyone.

          So in this example, social pressure affect both men and women. But the difference is that, in this example, society recognizes that men have agency, whereas it doesn’t recognize women as having agency (even the elite ones).

          • KC Krupp says:

            Now I’m not a Game of Thrones watcher so I don’t know what was actually covered in the episode, but what I would ask is it that the reason they didn’t highlight the woman’s choice in the matter because their choice in the matter wasn’t important to the rest of the central plot? If the story is about Robb and his cousin and about the dynamics between them, then it doesn’t really matter about the woman’s sentiments for the purpose of this specific story.

            What would the story be like if Rob had been female instead? I’ve seen that troupe far more often where a woman is set to be married and is feeling trapped and then either she 1. has another love (and the guy she was arranged to be married to is a dick anyway so everyone roots against him) and she chooses he other love, 2. she marries the guy she is arranged to marry, but only after she has fallen in love with him because he has proven his worth to her, or 3. and this is rarer neither person wants to marry the other and then through a series of events they decide they are in love with one another and choose to get married after all. In other words, typically when the female is the focus of the story her choice IS highlighted front and center to the plot.

            • I’m just simply going to reiterate what I’ve said in another comment: “There is a narrative that men have agency and choices, and women don’t. It’s a patriarchal narrative. One of the examples you can see this particular narrative play out is in our representations of arranged marriages. One example of a representation of an arranged marriage which fits this is the Red Wedding. That’s what I’m saying.”

            • KC Krupp says:

              I understand that is one of the narratives and I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree as to whether or not that narrative paints an accurate picture of the way the world actually works. The problem with your example is that the narrative uses that example to purport that the narrative exists. I then argued that there are many examples that directly contradict the example being used to argue for the existence of that narrative. The narrative you argue exists, in my opinion, only exists if you ignore the examples that directly contradict it.

              This is the problem I have with the patriarchal narrative and with the way I’ve seen you commonly respond to others on this site. I firmly, personally, believe that the patriarchal narrative is an oversimplification of the way our world actually works. Those who use this narrative reinforce their belief in it existence by going out of their way to find examples that support it while dismissing examples and evidence that either directly contradict or at the least bring the patriarchal narrative into question.

            • Literally every narrative about the way the world works is an oversimplification. Even intersectionality, which is all about addressing the very complicated ways in which various narratives interact with each other…is in itself a simplification of the huge variety in humanity.

              But these narratives which are critical of mainstream narratives are useful ways in which we understand power dynamics and general cultural themes. The world is too complicated and diverse to attempt to understand it without using frameworks and narratives to narrow things down a bit. Patriarchy theory is one way in which to understand a given piece of literature/situation/whatever. Socialist theory would be another…queer theory would be another…so on and so forth. And each of these frameworks can be used to highlight some aspects of a given event, and simultaneously hide others. So they need to be used intelligently and with care, and often multiple frameworks can be used to understand different aspects of a piece of literature/a character/an event/whatever.

              You’re making the mistake (and really a lot of people make this mistake) of assuming that when someone uses a single example to explain a point, they’re also trying to use is it as PROOF of their point. They’re not, or at least I’m not, using an example to prove anything.. Were I to try to prove what I’m saying about gender and agency, I’d do a hell of a lot of research, reference a bunch of different critical thinkers (not all of them feminists), and probably end up writing a whole big essay about it.

              I used an example, specifically from two t.v. shows, in order to…well…exemplify what I meant. Often, I’ve found, when discussing abstract ideas it can be difficult to really get a grasp on them without having a more specific example with which to view them through. So…here is an idea, and here is an example of the idea. The example isn’t meant to prove the idea, but rather just to provide a concrete, close to real world, example of the idea.

            • KC Krupp says:

              Heather your point about it being just one example is fair, and came from what seemed to me as an ambiguous shift in your comment from talking about how the feminist perspective would examine that example to the statement that men’s agency is recognized while woman’s are not. It sounded to me that you had shifted from describing how the feminist perspective would read that situation to an assertion that men have agency in society while women do not. I see now that you were giving an example of how a feminist would read the red wedding and not an example of why the feminist narrative is necessarily true.

              I disagree that every narrative is an oversimplification, and in general I don’t entirely have a problem with the simplification of narratives to examine an idea or way of looking at something, the problem is when an oversimplified social narrative, devoid of complexities, becomes the de facto all ruling, this is the way the world absolutely works way of looking at the world. To many feminists the patriarchy narrative and the men have agency and women don’t narrative aren’t just a few tools that exist in their toolbox for understanding social dynamics; many feminists consider these narratives, in their simplified form, the absolute and true representations of our social order. There is no caveat mentioned, there is no “as a sidenote there are these other factors at play as well” such as work that does not require hard phsyical labor and technology that allows women to have more time to devote to things outside of the house.

              This oversimplification, which is being exacerbated by bite-sized “facebook journalism” and memes, is little more than propaganda. Political agendas thrive by simplifying narratives and by excluding complexity and gray areas, resulting in really dangerous thinking. This is how we get narratives like “we, the Americans, won WWII,” “there is a war against Christmas,” “Islam is the enemy,” or “an 18 year old girl was expelled and is being prosecuted because she’s gay (even though she had sex with an girl legally underage and engaged in sexual activity on school premises.)”

              These narratives also often rely on anachronism, taking our current, modern-day set of values and rewriting history or our view of other cultures to fit within these narratives. I love how so many American women talk about how Muslim women wearing a hijab is demeaning and a symbol of their oppression when most of my Muslim female friends will say that today they choose to wear the hijab and actually feel more free because they wear it. Do many Muslim women see it as oppression? Yes, and I’m not disregarding their opinions. My point is that we forget that we view the world using our own set of values, perceptions, and assumptions. We, as Americans, tend value individuality and monetary success over say familial piety, and that changes how we interpret what is considered “right” or “wrong” in the world. We so often forget that the entire idea of a set of inherit human rights is an extremely recent idea in human history, and what these specific rights should be and that they even exist are a purely human construct based on our present-day set of values. Anyway, I’m digressing now.

            • A better way for me to have phrased it would be every narrative is a “simplification” of the way the world works. Oversimplification does, indeed, imply that the simplification is negative and harmful to our understanding. And while some feminists out there certainly oversimplify the various systems of oppression at work, I totally disagree that it’s “most” or that it’s mainstream to do so. The very complicated intersections of colonialism and feminism, and capitalism and feminism, and queer theory and feminism, are constantly being talked about and worked through right now.

              Plenty of Facebook memes and what-not are oversimplified, but generally those memes are meant as in-jokes, in which the audience targeted is assumed to understand that it’s an oversimplification but still funny for one reason or another. And the audience of such things matters. When I see a Ryan Gosling meme, for example, I’m not actually going to try to critique the philosophy/critical theory used. Generally it’s meant to be a light-hearted joke that highlights a specific issue, but by no means examines the nuance of an issue.

              But the point still stands that every narrative is going to simplify the way the world works.

            • KC Krupp says:

              It’s less the simplification that I mind and more the lack of recognition of the caveats associated with the simplification. That is the problem with “bite-sized” journalism. It’s naive to say that a meme is reserved specifically within a target audience memes are intended to be shared, spread, and imitated. If it is not imitated and does not spread it is not a meme. While some memes are innocuous and clearly sarcastic, like the Ryan Gosling meme, others result in quick and massive spread of misinformation that have larger political and social consequences. Even more damaging is the spread of news articles with questionable sources and perspectives that have one or two moments of bite-sized commentary attached to them. I’m not saying that this is necessarily intentional, rather it results the complete erasing of the the nuances and creates a highly polarized and uncompromising world view.

              We’re going to have to agree to disagree about EVERY narrative simplifying the way the world works. I think this is simply not the case. Yes a narrative will have to highlight or focus one a few key points or topics, but the key is whether or not the way the narrative is written opens itself to the possibility of more complex factors. It is one thing to say “the Americans entering the war resulted in the defeat of the German war machine,” and another to say “while the Americans entering the war helped exacerbate the German defeat and that will be our focus of this discussion, we cannot discredit or ignore the importance the Soviets and a host of other factors that led to the end of the Nazi regime.”

              One narrative says “This is the way” the other says “this is how we’re looking at it, and don’t forget that there’s a lot more going on here.” The problem I have with most social justice oriented narratives is that they focus on the first approach and not the second.

        • Using television, movies, etc. as examples of different social systems is kind of abstract sometimes. It’s more like an analogy, rather than an apples-to-apples comparison. This is one set of characters in one set of situations which I am using to highlight a single aspect of the way our society talks about gender. I could, similarly, talk about Arya (who is adamant that she won’t get married), and Loras (who has no choice in his engagement to Cercei), and Maegery (who strategically uses arranged marriages to her advantage). They are all examples of different ways in which marriage and gender and class intersect within the Game of Thrones universe, and then also how that universe reflects western society today.

          • Of the arranged marriages in Game of Thrones, the ONLY male that I can think of that get’s choice in the arranged marriages is basically so high in society that his actions cannot reflect on men. Daenerys, Cersei, Tyrion, Rob’s cousin, and the partner’s of each with Z E R O choice in who they married. Rob get’s choice but he’s pretty much in line to be king. Most men n women do not get agency, only power in the most extreme form grants it and that depends on how lenient your father or leader is. The patriarchs (Tywin, and Ned Stark) have agency, the rest follow orders.

            • So I’ll reply in two ways. First, I’ll reiterate what I said to KC Krupp: “You’re making the mistake (and really a lot of people make this mistake) of assuming that when someone uses a single example to explain a point, they’re also trying to use is it as PROOF of their point. They’re not, or at least I’m not, using an example to prove anything.. Were I to try to prove what I’m saying about gender and agency, I’d do a hell of a lot of research, reference a bunch of different critical thinkers (not all of them feminists), and probably end up writing a whole big essay about it.

              I used an example, specifically from two t.v. shows, in order to…well…exemplify what I meant. Often, I’ve found, when discussing abstract ideas it can be difficult to really get a grasp on them without having a more specific example with which to view them through. So…here is an idea, and here is an example of the idea. The example isn’t meant to prove the idea, but rather just to provide a concrete, close to real world, example of the idea.”

              Second, though, let’s look at the marriages you mention. Daenerys doesn’t have a choice, but Khal Drogo does. He had the final say in whether or not to marry Daenerys. Cersei didn’t have a say, and neither did Rob Baratheon…except that Rob Baratheon was “forced” by circumstance…he needed the Lannister’s money. He did make a choice, just within limiting circumstances and this is acknowledged when Rob Baratheon and Cersei talk about their marriage.

              So again, I’ll point out that the reason I used that example wasn’t to suggest that men have a bunch of choices and women don’t. Rather instead it was to highlight the ways in which the stories we tell acknowledge men’s limited choices and limited agency but also fail to recognize women’s limited choices and assume that women have no agency. ALL men and women have agency; that’s part of the point…that agency is limited by their social situation, certainly…but here what I am addressing is the matter of whether that agency is recognised or not.

      • (It’s also important to note that I was deliberately talking about DEPICTIONS of arranged marriages, not necessarily the realities of arranged marriages in the real world).

        Which is an important point because those two does not match up. In the real world the narrative about arranged and forced marriages we hear about through media is almost always about women being forced into marriage. The grooms-to-be to be are almost completely absent from any public discourse. Do they all think the situation is hunky.-dory? Do those young men enjoy the freedom the popular depictions/fiction of arranged marriage/forced marriage depicts them as having? Does young men in cultures where arranged marriage or forced marriage is common break out/escape/prevent the marriage more often than the young women? There are plenty of “Jane escaped” stories while there are virtually no “John escaped” stories.

        Germany put up a site against forced marriage called “Das Mädchenhaus” (which translates to The girl house) which offer “Our online counselling service will provide you with information and support to protect you against forced marriage. We are only there for you. Exclusively women work with us. All consultants do have lots of professional experience in supporting girls and young women.”

        Yet almost 10% of the people they helped were young men – young men who were desperate enough to call a site which states that they cater to women (and by exclusion – not men). How many men did not call because they presumed that Das Mädchenhaus did not offer help to young men?

      • Heather, the “patriarchal system” doesn’t crush Robb Stark. War and jockeying for power/economic benefit kills Robb Stark.

        And the “arranged marriage for political purposes” vs. “love” is a huge theme in many of the characters within the books (Daneys, Robb, Theon, Cercei/Jaime, Jon Snow’s parentage, Ed Stark, etc.).

        • Not, “the patriarchal system,” but “a patriarchal system.” And, as I said, that is when one views it through a feminist lens (I think the exact words I used were, “from a feminist perspective.”) Right so, war and jockeying for power within a patriarchal system are what kills Robb.

          And as I pointed out, I could go into great detail about all the different arranged marriages in the books, and all the different ways in which the characters involved react and what-not. The point of using an example isn’t to say, “this is the only way things are.” The point of using the example, especially when it’s from a piece of fiction, was to point out a trend within western society and then have a single concrete example with which to highlight it.

          There is a narrative that men have agency and choices, and women don’t. It’s a patriarchal narrative. One of the examples you can see this particular narrative play out is in our representations of arranged marriages. One example of a representation of an arranged marriage which fits this is the Red Wedding. That’s what I’m saying.

          • Then, perhaps, “a patriarchal system” isn’t the right discourse to employ in totality. There’s no reason why Feminists can’t step outside of the “Feminist” lens when it ceases to be the most apt means to provide commentary. In fact, I suspect it would soften a lot of this back and forth if the wide scope of Feminism could look outside itself when dealing with things that have ended up on it’s plate (see my longer comment below). One becomes no less of a Feminist because they can engage with class/race/economic/cultural discourses. In fact, I’d probably argue that it prevents the sort of one-note discourse that causes a lot of these issues.

            • Certainly. I’m all for engaging in a multitude of frameworks and discourses. In this case, however, I was answering a question about feminist discourses surrounding a specific gendered issue.

  5. OirishM says:

    Found the original. And it didn’t contain the generalisation, so my original question was a misquote.

    http://25.media.tumblr.com/c8f82812d705a4842f27bebf14cad1d7/tumblr_mk4yd25h2j1rluoaco1_1280.png
    http://siryouarebeingmocked.tumblr.com/post/46114727201/if-feminism-fights-for-men-too-why-do-so-many

    ‘If “feminism fights for men too”, why do so many feminists assume anyone talking about men’s rights and issues is not a feminist?’

  6. I really wish people would stop using fictional movies and TV shows to illustrate problems in real life and to use them as though the movie or TV show was real.

    • No one is suggesting that the characters are real people. However, they were created by a real person, living in the real world…and in the case of Game of Thrones, George RR Martin is quite deliberately creating a story and a world which examines all sorts of social systems.

      Art, whether it’s a book or a painting or whatever, reflects the society and culture in which it was created. It might reflect a sub-culture, or it might reflect discontent with the mainstream…but, regardless, it cannot be divorced from the culture in which it was created. So part of understanding that piece of art involves understanding the cultural context in which it was created. But similarly, by taking a close look at that piece of art, it can provide insight into the culture/society which created it.

      • OR it could just be a work of fiction with no context whatsoever.

        As the old saying goes “TO a hammer everything look like a nail”

  7. Mr Supertypo says:

    interesting

  8. My first, quick thought is that a lecture on hegemonic masculinities sounds like pretty standard feminist fare. I’m not saying it isn’t valid or interesting, but it may not be the best example of feminists tackling a “men’s” issue. Or perhaps it is, which kind of diminishes you point about evolving feminism.

  9. You know, I often feel that Feminism has been pushed into a particular corner recently (in the last decade or so) where the majority of Leftist movements essentially lost their steam/membership/activity and there came a big huge vacuum that was filled by Feminism.

    I wouldn’t call it an argument as much as a curious hypothesis. OWS was quickly shown to be ineffective. Scott Walker and his ilk still continue their crusade against their constituents on the behalf of business. There exists minimal pressure, as we claw our way out of a recession, to address economic issues of inequality and the Democratic Party still can’t seem to actually get anything done with the exception of a rather weak (comparatively) Healthcare bill years and years ago.

    I guess the brand of Feminism I have always followed was a logical outgrowth of Socialist (for a general term) Activism. It’s the sort of position where issues like the wage gap and the necessity of a living, minimum wage adjusted annually for inflation can be held up and approached with the same effort and under different discourses.

    There is the suspicion that Feminism has taken too much under it’s own discourse, and has become a movement that is sometimes muddled and ad-hoc in terms of the scale and scope. Whereas it would be common, in my experience, to hear individuals discussing minimum wage in terms of economic/political discourse and then turn around and discuss the wage gap in terms of Feminist discourse, it feels like in the last few years we’re trying (sometimes unsuccessfully) to hold all of these Leftist conversations under the auspices and frameworks of Feminist discourse.

    I suspect that a lot of the “Feminism helps men too!” is the sort of straddling discourses which muddies the waters and presents issues under a Feminist lens which are far better suited to being discussed under a more generalized economic/cultural Leftist lens. Things like workplace fatalities, paternal leave and alimony may, in fact, be a better sell to everyone if it were framed within an economic discourse as opposed to a specifically Feminist discourse. Now, to be clear, Feminism can provide a great deal of perspective to these issues, but at the end of the day many of these issues hold a genesis in the exploitation of American (and elsewhere) workers, essentially everyone who isn’t the one calling the shots and part of the 1-2% wealthiest families (and clan/alliance politics are far more apt as a problem than gender politics when we get to that sort of upper vs. middle/lower class issue).

    And this is where you have the issues that arise from “Patriarchy hurts men too!” because there are two separate discourses that get lumped together: economic and cultural. Workplace fatality rates are a prime example, because they affect men far more than any other gender identity. At the core of preventable workplace fatalities you have issues surrounding companies (owners) not willing to pony up money for safety. It’s a class issue. The “disposability of men”, which is another MRA talking point, is primarily economic. It isn’t gender issues that force men into a place where they’re overworked, underpaid and then let go as soon as they get too old/burnt out/bothersome, it’s an economic issue primarily surrounding productivity creep, stagnant wages and the elimination of any individual thought. There’s a lot to be gained by examining these issues in a Feminist lens, but the discourse that needs to be addressed is, again, economic.

    And another “to be clear” moment is that none of this is Feminism’s fault. To continue with a fitting metaphor, it’s like Socialism, Anti-Racism and Feminism were all on the same team at the office when Socialism got laid off. Instead of hiring a new movement to replace Socialism, the unseen hand of Social Justice just dumped all of Socialism’s projects on Feminism’s desk and said, “Oh, by the way, all this stuff is your responsibility now.” While before, Socialism and Feminism worked together to both provide their own conceptual framework and contribute their own strengths, now Feminism is stuck trying to keep up with both Feminist issues and Socialist issues all via the only way they know how: through the lens of Feminism.

    • “Workplace fatality rates are a prime example, because they affect men far more than any other gender identity. At the core of preventable workplace fatalities you have issues surrounding companies (owners) not willing to pony up money for safety. It’s a class issue. The “disposability of men”, which is another MRA talking point, is primarily economic. It isn’t gender issues that force men into a place where they’re overworked, underpaid and then let go as soon as they get too old/burnt out/bothersome, it’s an economic issue primarily surrounding productivity creep, stagnant wages and the elimination of any individual thought.”

      The disposability also has a lot of issues with conscription, which is gendered but also the types of jobs involved which are also gendered. Men are seen as stronger physically and thus are pushed more into the physically demanding jobs that have a high risk. Men are also socially expected to work at a job more than a woman, earn more money and provide for women n the family, again this is gendered. Economy and class plays a large role but gender also plays a significant role.

    • The “disposability of men”, which is another MRA talking point, is primarily economic. It isn’t gender issues that force men into a place where they’re overworked, underpaid and then let go as soon as they get too old/burnt out/bothersome, it’s an economic issue primarily surrounding productivity creep, stagnant wages and the elimination of any individual thought. There’s a lot to be gained by examining these issues in a Feminist lens, but the discourse that needs to be addressed is, again, economic.
      I have to disagree if for no other reason that the expectation is that men go out and work while a “woman’s place” so to speak is to stay in the home. Even when you try to bring economic status into it yes you may see that as go further down the scale you see women engaging in such conditions but that work is seen as “the family needs the money so she has to do it” or “there is no man of the house so she has to do it”.

      The thought process is that “If she had a man, she wouldn’t have to work like that or.” which isn’t too far from “She needs a man in her life to take care of her.”

      So regardless of the economic situation the expectation is that the man should do the overworked/underpaid job.

      • “So regardless of the economic situation the expectation is that the man should do the overworked/underpaid job.”

        Yeah, because goodness knows being a stay at home parent isn’t an overworked/underpaid job!

        • You know I was going to go into the external provider/internal provider differentiation but I figured that I’d brought it up enough times around these parts that people would know what I was talking about without making it all about women.

          Congratulations Heather.

          Damn.

          • You were arguing that the “disposibility of men” issue is gendered and not primarily economic because men go out and work underpaid jobs. And then you made a very blanket statement that men are working all the overworked/undervalued jobs. ALL. You didn’t say external, or out-of-the-house, or whatever…no, you said all. Which, by the way, also totally ignores how many women have traditionally (yes, traditionally) worked outside the home in overworked/underpaid jobs. I’m thinking, of course, of nurses and house-cleaners and maids. Traditionally women; traditionally working outside the home; traditionally overworked/underpaid.

            Also, traditionally quite disposable. And as for mothers in the home, well the lower classes have always been considered disposable…yes, even the women. In fact, throughout various bits of history there have been great efforts to PREVENT working class women from having kids. There’s a current narrative happening RIGHT NOW about how much a drain on the system working class mothers are. So working class mothers are also disposable. Thus, what Crow was saying about it being a primarily economic issue, not gender. Gender plays a role, of course…exactly which narratives are used to justify disposability of lower classes varies from one gender to another. But the disposable nature of those narratives is the same, regardless.

            • And then you made a very blanket statement that men are working all the overworked/undervalued jobs. ALL. You didn’t say external, or out-of-the-house, or whatever…no, you said all.
              So I said all even when I said, “you see women engaging in such conditions”, in acknowledgement that there are women that work such overworked/underpaid jobs?

              Which, by the way, also totally ignores how many women have traditionally (yes, traditionally) worked outside the home in overworked/underpaid jobs. I’m thinking, of course, of nurses and house-cleaners and maids. Traditionally women; traditionally working outside the home; traditionally overworked/underpaid.
              I actually did account for those women because traditionally (or maybe “for the most part) speaking the women in those jobs are seen as being “further down the scale”. Where scale is economic scale.

              As I said even in the lower classes a woman working is still often seen as a last resort.

              If you’re going to disagree with what I said then fine do so. But please do so without misreading my words and going with that misread.

            • Bob clark says:

              Sorry but i respectfully have to disagree.Men are expected to be protectors and providers.Men are judged by their ability to provide for women and a failure to do so makes the man a pathetic figure in societies eyes.It’s no surprise that suicide hits men the harder than women when they lose their lobs.That is how we measure up mens worth.Women?They have inherent personhood which is why the provisions we put in place to ensure female safety are humongous compared to do for men.

              The existence of campaigns such as “men can stop rape” prove the existenc of male disposability.As men we’re expected to be protectors for women.

              The ever so disposable women was so valued that she didn’t have to fight and die in a war,yay for the privileged men.She didn’t even have to work because thats what a MAN is suppose to do.I don’t see why it’s so hard for you to admit that society cares more about men then women.Even in feminist circles mens issues are framed in the context of how they affect women,that doesn’t seem very egalitarian to me.

        • KC Krupp says:

          Can we please stop pretending that being a stay at home parent (SAHP) is a job? Does it require effort and work? Yes. Are there important responsibilities and obligations involved with being a SAHP? Yes. Just because something is hard work DOES NOT make it a job. A job is a very specific social, economic, and legal relationship that involves the negotiation and exchange of rendering service for monetary reward. How much is the work of being a SAHP worth? Give me a number. $30k? $50k? There is no economic demand for the work of a SAHP because the labor of a SAHP directly benefits the SAHP and the SAHP’s family unit while in the case of a job the labor benefits a client or employer who in turn pays the laborer. It’s not that SAHPs aren’t important it’s that their work renders no direct economic benefit to anyone outside of their own family unit.

          While we’re at it, let’s also stop pretending that being a SAHP is “the most difficult job in the world.” (To be clear, I’m talking specifically about the responsibilities associated with managing the home and childcare needs, being a work from home parent or part-time working parent is very difficult, but it’s because you have additional responsibilities, the more responsibilities you have and more on your plate will ALWAY means more stress and more work.) Is there work involved with being a SAHP? Yes, and I would wager that the work of a SAHP is at most equivalent to their full time working counterparts.

          I would also argue that there are greater emotional rewards in being a SAHP than a general full-time worker. If my wife were to tell me that she would work 60+ hours a week instead of me and that I could stay home and take care of the house and (when we have them) kids, I would take her offer in a heartbeat.

          Talking about how being a “SAHP” is just “so hard” is, in my opinion, ludicrous, and I’ll end this comment with just one example, this by no mean describes all relationships like this, it’s an annecdote, but it’s illustrative of how much entitlement there is with telling SAHP just “how hard” their jobs are:

          I have a friend who works 80-90 hours a week in architecture and he brings in about $60k. His wife is a stay at home mom and she takes care of their baby and the home. Babies are a lot of work, I completely recognize this, and I’m not discrediting the work that my friend’s wife does. What I think is ridiculous is that when he comes home after a 12 hour day working frantically towards a deadline one of the first things his wife will do is tell him how “hard” her day was and tell him that she needs a break from their son after spending “all day” watching him. Nevermind that she spent part of the day shopping and gossiping with her gal pals, never mind that she got her nails done, and never mind that she fed the baby while streaming X-Factor, she DESERVES a break, and her husband who spent the last 12 hours frantically trying to meet his firm’s deadline is expected to give it to her, because what she does is “so hard.”

          • Lol uhoh, you went there. I think that parenting is a job that varies. Some kids are awesome and sleep through the night, relatively well behaved, etc. Other kids keep you up, they scream, they break stuff, etc. I was an ADHD kid and always got into trouble and was a lil bastard quite frankly. I have a friend with 2 of her 3 kids has autism, that would be an incredibly hard job. I know of people who seem to be able to watch tv or do their hobbies, even run home business whilst minding the kids and others who are 24/7 carers for children whom are disabled. It CAN be a very hard job but it’s not like all will be as tough as a job in the mineshaft for instance. Some jobs are better than others, and some individual instances of a job are easier than others. 2 miners may have very different levels of work.

          • wellokaythen says:

            Wow. You’re not supposed to say that out loud! : – )

            The comedian Bill Burr has a whole routine on this. One of my favorites of his:

            “Any job you can do in your pajamas is not the hardest job in the world.”

          • trey1963 says:

            On average the SAHP role is easier than the working role. Hundreds of years of tech have made running a household physically easier. In the 1880’s US middle class women hired help to run the household as there was a lot of physical labor required to clean clothes and produce 3 meals a day, Beat rugs clean…etc along with all the still needed roles of the SAHP. One of the reasons women went into the paid workforce is they could……chores at home had become easier. Not fewer…that number of individual tasks still seems to increase.

            And before I get jumped upon, Yes I’ve done both roles for multi year stints…..SAHP is the easier and in most ways more rewarding role

        • wellokaythen says:

          One indication of how much people respect childcare is the amount of money they are willing to spend on it. Consider what parents pay babysitters and nannies. Clearly there are many parents who don’t have too much respect for the demands of childcare, because many of them are willing to pay teenagers really low wages to babysit their kids. In some ways, people really do vote with their pocketbooks, and parents are just as guilty as anyone else at undervaluing childcare.

          There is some inherent tension, maybe even some contradiction, between people’s desire to have “affordable child care” AND to have childcare that’s “not underpaid.” A lot of people want it to be both cheap and well-compensated, which may be quite difficult to achieve. Those two desires may not be compatible with each other.

          • I’d just like to point out that having a high school kid watch your child for an evening falls more under the “pocket money for teens” rather than “living wage to feed your family”. Childcare is prohibitively expensive if you’re looking at the professional “9-5 Monday to Friday” sort.

            I know many families where they look at paychecks versus childcare costs and one parent decides to stay home because the cost of having their kid(s) in daycare all workday long is more expensive than what they bring home from working that job. It’s primarily a lower-economic class problem, certainly.

  10. Yes, of course.

  11. Many men discussing men and their issues are clearly feminist, like Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner.

    When they suggest men stop repressing emotion, stop defining manhood in terms of things that dominate others, for instance, they’re talking about both men’s and women’s humanity and dignity, and it encourages equality.

    • >they suggest men stop repressing emotion,

      I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Kimmel saying men should prioritize the feelings of women at least once, which implies they should suppress their own. I know I’ve seen Katz saying it, and many people have said that a male feminist must suppress his own opinions and let women speak.

      >stop defining manhood in terms of things that dominate others

      “The Patriarchy” actually demands and sometimes requires men be willing to take a disposable, sacrificial role for the benefit of families and society, barring a few men at the top, and even they’re often expected to serve in the military. It’s…certain groups more than anyone else who equate “manhood” to “dominance”, I find.

      Of course, the question being responded to never said anything about whether the people bringing the issues up were male or female. Heather added that. And talking about what they see as wrong in what they see as masculinity is not the same as actually addressing the issues facing men.

  12. wellokaythen says:

    I think there’s a real difference between 1) society treating women like they have no agency and 2) women not actually having any agency. In the example you mentioned, Lucrezia has enormous pressure on her and definitely feels somewhat trapped, but in reality she does have some agency, because everyone has agency. She can still make choices, however restricted her choices are due to the gender context. (She is used as a spy precisely because as a woman she is underestimated, and unnoticed.) Patriarchy creates a difference in the level or degree of agency, sometimes an extreme difference, but it’s never an absolute difference between men having lots of choices and women none.

    Women’s history is filled with evidence of women working within a patriarchal system in all sorts of underground ways. Sometimes the most patriarchal societies are the most blind when it comes to seeing the reality of women actually making decisions and using their agency. Patriarchy may assume that women have no choices when they really do. There are some strands of feminism, or ideas (mis)labeled feminist, that have a similar blind spot. It reminds me of the way that the history of African American slavery used to be taught, saying that slaves had all their culture taken away and had no existence of their own, when in fact slaves had a deep, sophisticated, distinct underground culture, including a culture of resistance. Saying slavery took away their agency denies their humanity, just as saying women under patriarchy have no agency denies their humanity. Women under patriarchy clearly have some agency, because there’s a long history of women fighting patriarchy, just as there’s a long history of slaves fighting against slavery….

    As for whether men can be feminist, or what it means to be a feminist man, I keep coming back to a practical issue that is somewhat unavoidable in the internet age and is at the heart of gender studies in the first place.

    If the sex and/or gender of the person matters, how do you really *know* that the person making a statement is a “man” or a “woman” or someone of another category?

    Presumably an idea is feminist or not, valid or not, accurate or not, constructive or not, whether the speaker is male or female or other. Otherwise, we would then be in the position of evaluating whether something is true or not based on the (perceived) gender of the speaker. A statement can be a feminist statement regardless of the gender of the writer. Otherwise, we’d have to hold off on accepting it until we somehow verified the author’s gender.

    If men cannot be feminists, then a feminist reader would wind up saying things like this:

    “I think I like what you say here, but I need to know if you’re a man or a woman before I can decide if I like it or not.”

  13. > Part of that has to do with the fact that an activist space is going to be focused on a narrow topic and wary of potential derailing.

    Except that feminism is supposedly about gender equality. It should be dealing with many of those issues already. Feminists frequently gender discussions of rape and domestic abuse so they’re M>F, for example.

    > Part of that also has to do with the way in which women have been silenced, both historically and now.

    Except for the part where women have wielded immense politcal power even before they could vote, and their issues are more prominent than those of men in modern society. Look up the Tender Years Doctrine, or Prohibition. Look up the efforts and massive successes of feminist lobbyists and legislation. Please don’t make the mistake of assuming that because a man is speaking, he’s speaking on behalf of men.

    >So sometimes when men talk about men’s issues without acknowledging their social privilege as men, it can seem as though they are trying to divert whatever attention feminists have managed to obtain for themselves.

    This isn’t “sometimes”, Heather. This is the default, predominant reaction to any discussion of men’s issues in feminist spaces. You also seem to assume that the people talking about men’s issues are men, which is odd, because when I made that image, I specifically used non-gendered terms. And, frankly, requiring someone to accept your claim – and one that is commonly used to dismiss the opinion of people in that group – before even discussing theirs with them strikes me as …problematic.

    The intent to “derail” is assumed, not proven, and is a bad faith assumption. I have repeatedly seen people going “why not talk about men’s issues too?” accused of trying to silence all discussion of women’s issues. Heck, I have a few examples of people being accused of “derailing” when the feminist discussion actually was about men’s issues, because they didn’t stick to the party line.

    My fundamental point is that discussion of men’s issues within feminism is generally given such low priority that a significant amount of feminists, if not the majority, seem to think that it’s not a trait of the movement. Barring, I admit, when it’s couched in rather narrow ways, such as “toxic/hegemonic masculinity”, concepts which are themselves subject to criticism.

    /not MRA

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