What About The Men: Chapter 1, Introduction and Principles

The first chapter of Noah Brand and Ozy Frantz’s provocative book What About The Men? explores feminism, gender performance, and why the “man box” is a bad fit.

 

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This is the first chapter of a book in progress, What About The Men? by Noah Brand and Ozy Frantz. It is presented here as a preview and a source of discussion; feel free to note your opinions about its contents in the comment section. Future chapters will be presented here as they are completed.

 

If you are anything like the authors of this book, you spent some time when you were younger playing with optical illusions: the vase that, if you looked at it differently, was two faces; the fish that were also birds; the old woman who was also a young lady.

If you were reading this book in a bookstore, and some malicious person had not moved it into the Local Birdwatching category, it would almost certainly be next to some other books about gender. (Yes, this is related.) Look at the other books, and you’d find they have one thing in common—they’re almost all about women. Women and work. Women and body image. Women and race. Women and sex. Women and feminism.

You’d think that only women have a gender.

For a long time, we’ve only been able to see half the illusion—we see the birds, but not the fish; the vases, but not the faces. We’ve noticed the thousands of ways, big and small, that our current gender system wounds women; however, rarely and often only as an afterthought does anyone remark on how the current gender system harms men.

 ♦◊♦

We live in a sexist society, one where gender programming starts at birth (though the advent of the sonogram has allowed parents to get a head start by painting the nursery pink or blue and stocking up in advance on gendered toys and clothes) and is so pervasive as to be inescapable. Feminism has done an excellent job analyzing and challenging the ways that these assigned and enforced gender roles damage and deform the lives of women. The same tools of analysis can be applied to the damage and deformation that men suffer. And that damage, sad to say, is severe.

The general term for the incredibly restrictive social codes on male behavior is hegemonic masculinity, though Paul Kivel refers to it as the “Man Box” in his work, and Charlie Glickman clarifies that to the “Act Like A Man Box” to emphasize the performative nature of the restrictions. We choose to use hegemonic masculinity as our term because it is less likely than “Man Box” to be used in a trend piece about how it’s okay for men to own steamer trunks now.

Indeed, the current cultural trend of terms like bromance, guyliner, mancession, and so on, “bromanteaus” as we call them, just demonstrates the power of hegemonic masculinity. Anything that might potentially be seen as outside the narrow bounds of acceptable male behavior, such as having a close relationship, wearing makeup, or being out of work, must be given a special name to assure people that it really is masculine, it’s not outside the box in any way.

So what is the box? What are the bounds of hegemonic masculinity? We’ll be exploring that in more depth in later chapters, but the essence of it is that the things we think of as “manly”, the things a “real man” does or is, are a mess of unreasonable, contradictory, and impossible expectations and assumptions. A real man is supposed to be attractive to women, but not do anything for women’s approval or attention. A real man is supposed to be stoic and emotionless, but is permitted to show anger. A real man is supposed to be tall and have a big penis, for heaven’s sake, and if your genetic dice didn’t shake out that way, you’d better perform the rest of the list even harder to make up for your supposed deficiency.

Men who do not fit the box of hegemonic masculinity get all kinds of stigmatized. For instance, consider men who want to help raise their children. Stay-at-home dads and men on the “mommy track” often face disapproval and the belief that they “laze around all day” or “aren’t real men.” In public, men are all too often patronized as “Mr. Mom” or treated as though it’s exceptional and startling that they want to spend time with their children; it’s depressingly common for men openly interested in childcare to be called pedophiles.

Social pressure has astonishing effects on people’s behavior: just ask any teenager who drove home drunk from a party. Many people find it so unthinkable that men might want to have traditionally feminine jobs such as nurses or teachers that they tend to promote men out of those jobs and into more traditionally masculine positions such as administration; this sounds like an advantage, but most people become nurses to take care of patients, not to deal with paperwork, and it’s based in misandric stereotypes around what men can do. The social pressure to conform to the man box can be internalized, too, sometimes with tragic effects: unemployment increases a man’s risk of suicide more than it does a woman’s[i], partially because of the association between masculinity and success.

Even if they don’t experience social pressure, the expectations that they should act in a certain way can disadvantage men who don’t act that way. Straight men are all too often expected to approach women, ask them out, and pay for the date—which causes disproportionate pain to men who are socially awkward, shy, or just broke. Male virgins are more likely than their female counterparts to feel shame because of their virginity[ii].

Ultimately, the most important concepts in hegemonic masculinity are “strong”, “tough”, and “winner”. Each of these is code for a wealth of symbolism and subconcepts, so that “tough” implies both “stoically emotionless” and “does not seek medical attention”. “Strong” covers “supports his family financially” and “bench-presses more than his bodyweight”, among other things. “Winner” is the key to a Pandora’s box of competition and inadequacy, where the twin concepts of “loser” and “failure” lurk, waiting to consume men’s sense of self at the least excuse.

Even for men who conform to these demands, these ideals of masculinity can burden them. Take toughness, for instance—it’s good to be tough, right? Chuck Norris is tough. Wolverine is tough. Toughness lets you survive in this hard world, keeps you from being weak and vulnerable. That’s a good thing to encourage people to be, right?

Turns out, not so much.

The ideal of physical toughness kills people. Especially men. Except for sex work, the most male-dominated jobs are the most dangerous, from lumberjacks to firefighters to soldiers[iii]; men are more likely to be injured on the job and suffer an astonishing 92% of fatal occupational injuries.[iv] Historically and cross-culturally, men’s life expectancy is shorter than women’s; in the United States, men tend to live four years less than women[v]. While some of the discrepancy may be biological, much of it is due to socialization: in fact, the level of patriarchy in a society is associated with lower life expectancy for men.[vi] Men are encouraged to “tough out” pain and not go to doctors unless they absolutely need to.[vii]

Emotional toughness can also cause men pain; if you can’t open up emotionally to another person, it makes it more difficult to have friends. The “social support gap” is large and growing—men tend to report having fewer close friends and being less connected to their communities than women[viii]. For far too many men, romantic relationships are the only acceptable venue for them to express their feelings (and even there, the idea that men hate emotional intimacy limits them). In fact, men tend to report more distress due to a strained romantic relationship, possibly because women are far more likely to have a group of friends to help with the social support.[ix] The nervously-joking societal construct of “bromance” arises from the notion that having a close male friend is something weird enough that it needs its own name.

Then there’s rape. When was the last time you heard men mentioned as rape or molestation victims in any public discussion of such issues? Despite the fact that 1 in 6 men are subject to unwanted sexual activity before the age of 18[x], despite the fact that 1 in 4 rape survivors in America is male[xi], far too many people still believe a man cannot be raped, especially by a woman: the myth that an erection is consent, instead of a biological function, remains strong. The Center for Disease Control’s own statistics draw a line between “rape” and “being forced to penetrate someone”. Not to be rude to the CDC, but we have a word for sex that someone is forced to have against their will. It’s called rape.

Even in cases of boys as young as thirteen who are raped by teachers or other authority figures[xii], many people congratulate them or call them lucky. Try to imagine anyone saying that to a thirteen-year-old girl who was molested by her teacher, and you begin to see how deep the gender gulf is here. In fact, some male rape survivors never acknowledge, even to themselves, that what they endured was rape. Rape of men is endemic within the prison system[xiii], which is not treated as a human rights outrage, but as an appropriate subject for jokes. Some even speak glowingly of prison rape as the real deterrent to criminal activity. It’s amazing how many people are downright enthusiastic about their government running rape camps, so long as the victims are male.

The ideal of “toughness” also impacts male survivors of abuse. Many people believe that men cannot be abused, because they’re “stronger,” or that if a man is abused it’s proof that he’s a wimp or a weakling; many believe that men who were raped are responsible for and enjoyed their rapes. [xiv] Many of the guides to recognizing abuse are gendered with a female survivor and a male perpetrator, rendering abuse of men invisible. Many shelters do not provide services to male survivors (although some female-only shelters will put male survivors up in hotels).

Most men will never end up in prison, a majority will never be raped or abused, but the same societal expectations that allow us to laugh off the rape and abuse of men give rise to a thousand smaller microaggressions, all the little ways in which men are made to feel horrible in a gendered way. It sounds strange to say that the same system tells men that they are grotesque and laughable for being masculine, and simultaneously pathetic and laughable for not being masculine enough, but bizarrely, that is the case.

Of course, a few men do manage to perform hegemonic masculinity quite well and even avoid most of the negative consequences of masculinity. They avoid the treacherous edges, they navigate the contradictions as best they can, they do everything they’re supposed to to stay inside the box. And what’s the prize? They get to live the rest of their lives inside a box, unable to make even the slightest move lest they fall out of it. These, we are told, are the winners.

The problem of gendered, sexist expectations of men is enormous, and deeply ingrained into the culture. How are we to even begin dismantling such profoundly entrenched and damaging ideas? By using the same skills and tools that have worked before.

 ♦◊♦

The title of this book is based on a well-worn trope in the feminist community, “what about teh menz?” It’s a dismissive trope, and has come into being with good reason. In many feminist spaces, most particularly on the internet, it is difficult to establish a decent dialogue about women’s issues without various men intruding, insisting that circumcision rates in the U.S. must be addressed instead of the issue of female genital mutilation in Africa, insisting that male rape victims must be discussed instead of female rape victims. These persistent conversation-derailers have succeeded in making a bad name for themselves, and given rise to the “what about teh menz?” trope as a boilerplate dismissal of these tired distractions from the addressing of women’s issues that is the raison d’être of most feminist communities.

There’s a problem with that, though. Once the dismissal is done and the conversation is dragged forcibly back onto the rails… what about the men?

Feminism tends to focus on women. The name’s a bit of a giveaway there. Many of the biggest feminist issues have been women’s issues: reproductive rights, discrimination against women in the workplace, derogatory stereotypes of women. These are all serious issues, and feminism has made great strides in addressing them. The historical abuses against women’s rights are too numerous to list here, but even a cursory glance at the history of feminism shows that a focus on the rights of women has been necessary, important, and successful.

Then, too, many feminists have done excellent work in dealing with men’s problems. Stronger rape laws and paternity leave are just two of the benefits men have received because of feminism, and many survivors and many families are better off for it. Shelters, counselors and hotlines for survivors of rape and abuse, usually established by feminists, almost always also provide support for male survivors, support that would not exist otherwise. Groundbreaking feminist theorists like Michael Kimmel and Shira Tarrant have focused on men’s issues in addition to women’s. However, this valuable work has just made the problem clearer by highlighting how much more needs to be done. Freedom is not a zero-sum game. Liberating men from restrictive gender roles and gendered oppression is intrinsically bound up with liberating women from the same things.

Many feminists respond to arguments along these lines by saying that men ought to start their own movement, that they don’t see what feminism has to do with any of it. Unfortunately, this is the latest manifestation of an issue that has long dogged feminism and held it back: the inclusion problem. Feminism started as a movement by and for straight white middle-class women, and there were struggles over the inclusion of people of color, poor people, sexual minorities, trans people and the disabled. Many of these struggles continue to this day, and they all have one thing in common: the side of “we wish you well, but that’s not our thing, and that’s detracting from the important issues we want to deal with” turns out to be wrong. In fact, second-wave feminist lack of inclusion turned out to be wrong with such embarrassing regularity that the third wave gave up and invented a word for it being wrong: intersectionality, the overlapping and reinforcing structure of different forms of oppression.

The same thing is true for men’s issues within feminism. The anti-racism, economic freedom, queer rights and disability rights movements all are movements independent of feminism: however, they are all movements that feminists agree with and pay attention to when they work on the same issues. Similarly, the feminist movement ought to take the same attitude to men’s rights.

Underscoring this point is the fact that there is something that calls itself a Men’s Rights Movement, but it consists of nothing but knee-jerk anti-feminism. It is made up primarily of angry, alienated men who have fully bought into the myths of hegemonic masculinity and gender roles, and not found the success and happiness that the myths implicitly promised. Since feminism is the only movement around that is attempting to dismantle those myths, they conclude that feminism is the cause of their unhappiness. If not for those meddling feminists, things would be okay. They would argue that this is a mischaracterization, but a thorough examination of their arguments reveals that this is, in fact, their sole intellectual basis. Any analysis of any issue that does not begin and end by blaming feminists, or preferably all women, is immediately discarded. Thus, lacking the social analysis tools feminists pioneered, they can accomplish nothing but surly misogyny and occasional outbreaks of violence. The authors of this book spent quite some time attempting to find MRAs who could be engaged in a constructive manner, but eventually gave up. If men’s rights are to be addressed on any kind of serious level, it will have to be by feminism.

The inextricable interconnection of men’s issues and women’s issues is a complex subject, and one we will be addressing at some length. That entirely aside, though, the simplest reason why feminists should get involved in masculism is this: feminism is the single largest and most politically powerful gender-oriented movement. Millions of feminists across the globe have been trained in analysis and activism by the feminist movements. Feminists have developed the verbal and conceptual vocabulary necessary to unpack and examine “how things are supposed to be” and all the ugly assumptions that go with that. Feminist theories of privilege and gender performance work just as well when applied to men’s issues. This toolset exists, and it’s the right one for the job. Facing a problem that hurts a lot of people and having the tools to solve it is, frankly, enough of a reason to do anything. In and of itself, the invaluable help it could provide is enough of a reason to say that feminism ought to support masculism. However, there are practical reasons for feminism to support it as well.

Masculism is a great recruiting tool for feminism. Everyone is best at seeing the problems that affect them personally. A man skeptical of the harm caused by sexual harassment or the beauty myth may be well aware of the harm caused by macho attitudes toward sports injuries or the social pressure to be “a success”. If we have a gender egalitarian movement that addresses his concerns—not in opposition to, but along with, women’s concerns—then we have a movement that has massively expanded its potential base of supporters.

Many men get a bad first impression of feminism from zealous young feminists who, regardless of their intentions, alienate the heck out of men. Some of those men will later see the nuance that they initially missed and come to understand the value of feminist thinking. Many, perhaps most, will not. This is not a net win for feminism. Most feminist spaces, online and in the real world, are not particularly welcoming to men. Even given that there are often good reasons for that, how many men have been lost to gender egalitarianism forever because they didn’t put in the extra effort to overcome that perceived hostility, or because they had already had their bad first impressions cemented and were not willing to change their minds? What might have been accomplished by not chasing away so many potential allies?

There’s a concept, generally used in communities that help people get out of religious fundamentalism, of a safe landing zone. When someone is leaving an ideology, such as a traditionalist view of gender roles, they need to have somewhere safe and welcoming to leave to. It can feel strange, confusing and lonely to question something that everyone around you believes; a community of people who think the way you do can mean the difference between fully leaving that belief or sticking with it, no matter how obvious its flaws. Human beings are social animals; even the nonconformists usually need a group to conform to.

A lot of feminist communities don’t make good landing zones for guys who are still learning the ropes of gender questioning, who might still have a lot of work to do on their own problems and assumptions. These communities might be bad landing zones for many different reasons: sometimes, they might be a safe space (for instance, for survivors of abuse or rape) and so have no tolerance for questions that sound like victim-blaming; sometimes, anti-feminist trolling or harassment has made a community so sensitive that they lash out at well-intentioned but naive newbies; sometimes, they are intended for feminists to talk to other feminists and new people detract from this purpose.

That’s fine: it’s not any particular feminist’s duty to create a safe landing space. Education is often difficult activist work, and many people are not suited to it: it takes a lot out of you to answer the same questions about “But is there really a gendered wage gap?” over and over again, particularly when the people you’re answering feel like their questions are very original. You can’t have every place be a safe landing space for everyone: you’d never get anything done.

That is just one of the ways that masculism will benefit feminism. Because masculism can be a safe landing space for men entering into gender egalitarianism, the same way that feminism is a safe landing space for women entering into gender egalitarianism. It will engage with their problems and issues that they can see affecting their own lives. It will provide a supportive environment for men unlearning their sexism. It will answer the questions men have about gender theory and the realities of how sexism works in our society. It will socialize them into the norms of social justice work, such as call-outs and checking one’s privilege. In fact, it will do all the things that feminism does for women in similar situations, and that is an unambiguously good thing.

 ♦◊♦

Ultimately, however, there’s another reason why feminism needs men—more than practical issues of making the movement more efficient, more than ethical issues of inclusion. In fact, it is impossible for feminism to accomplish its goals without men; liberating any gender requires liberating all genders.

One of the central principles we’ve come to recognize is that, in the binary-gender thinking of most culture, sexist stereotypes always come paired. Generally speaking, any stereotype or assumption about women carries with it an implicit stereotype or assumption about men, and vice versa.

Men have to be the breadwinner… women have to take care of the family.

Men are all slobs… women should be keeping house.

Women need to cover up their bodies or they’re asking to be raped… men are animals who commit immediate rape at the sight of cleavage.

Women shouldn’t feel desire for men… men can’t be desired by women.

Men always want sex… women never want sex.

Men don’t cry… women are hysterical.

Men don’t need emotional support… women need constant emotional support.

Women are expected to know how to take care of children… men can’t be expected to even know how to change a diaper.

Men who put on makeup are gay… women who don’t put on makeup are dykes.

Women are all gold-diggers… men are only valuable for their success and money.

Women are only valuable for their looks… men are all shallow.

You can sit all day and come up with sexist tropes about men and women and pair them up. The moment one looks beyond the surface, it becomes impossible to come up with something stupid and sexist about one gender that doesn’t link directly to something stupid and sexist about another gender.

Based on this, we have proposed a rule of thumb called Ozy’s Law: It is impossible to form a stereotype about either of the two primary genders without simultaneously forming a concurrent and complementary stereotype about the other.

Or, more simply: Misandry mirrors misogyny.

This isn’t to say that in any given case, the misandry and misogyny are necessarily equivalent. Sometimes they are, other times one or the other definitely predominates. But they’re always paired. Often they’re just an unspoken assumption, something people take for granted as axiomatic, which is why it’s so difficult to notice the trend.

Feminists sometimes speak of “click moments” or, more recently, “seeing the Matrix”, the moment when an unexamined structure of oppression is suddenly examined and comes into sharp focus. Once you see that every structure that seeks to condemn women to household servitude also seeks to condemn men to wage slavery, that every structure that seeks to “protect” women from the toxic invasion of male sexuality also casts men as toxic and invasive, there’s no unseeing it.

It’s interesting to observe the different forms the paired stereotypes take. Sometimes a negative stereotype of one group is paired with an unfair expectation of another group: for instance, men are slobs, so of course women have to do all the cleaning. Sometimes unfair expectations are paired: men are supposed to sleep with dozens of women, while women are supposed to only have sex in committed relationships; that one’s not only sexist, it’s mathematically implausible. Occasionally negative stereotypes pair up: for instance, men are all shallow (and hence probably unkind and also dim), while women are all only valuable for their appearances as opposed to their brains (and hence probably unkind and also dim).

Most of the Ozy’s Law pairings have one of two sources. Some are naturally complementary: for instance, “men are all slobs” provides a nice justification for why women always have to clean house. Others come from a dichotomous, “complementarian” view of gender: if men don’t cry, this thinking goes, women must cry a lot; after all, if they didn’t, how would we be able to tell which gender was which? The one thing both sources have in common, however, is that they both make misandry and misogyny feed into and reinforce each other.

The problem is that it’s possible to question one half of an unspoken assumption without even really examining the other half. Thus, you get women who (rightly) complain about the wage gap without seeing how men are made into “success objects”. You get men who complain about the stupid-manchild-husband trope in media, without seeing that it always comes with the humorless-killjoy-wife trope. You get people unable to see past their own sense of grievance to look at how the system that’s hurting them is hurting other people.

Unfortunately, for a long time, feminism has been blind in one eye. It has seen half of how sexism damages people, but it hasn’t been able to engage with the other half. A lot of ugly stuff and a lot of pain has gone unnoticed by a movement dedicated to unpacking and examining the stuff that used to go unnoticed. Not only does that leave half of society still wounded, but it dooms the larger feminist project to failure. When the oppression of women and the oppression of men are so deeply linked, one cannot ever defeat one without addressing the other.

Ozy’s Law suggests that misandry and misogyny are inherently linked: if you eliminate one without the other, it will only mutate into a new sexist form. For instance, “the second shift” is when women who work outside the home come home and still do a disproportionate amount of the chores. It’s the classic consequence of liberating women so they can work outside the home without having their femininity questioned, but not liberating men so they can lift up a dishrag without having their masculinity questioned. By not liberating men, feminism traps women in a sexist situation that is little, if any, improvement.

Without masculism, feminism will never fully succeed. As soon as we defeat one unfair expectation or negative stereotype of women, a new negative stereotype or unfair expectation will pop up, shaping itself around the negative stereotypes and unfair expectations of men. The hydra of societal sexism will keep growing new heads. Only when we slay the hydra, only when we liberate people of all genders from unfair and regressive gender roles, will we be able to liberate people of any gender from those roles.

 ♦◊♦

Thus, one of the fundamental premises this book is based on is that traditional assigned gender roles are unfair and awful for everyone. It might be possible to create a list of all the disadvantages men face and all the disadvantages women face and add them up to figure out which one is currently worst off, but that’s not really necessary, and really, who wants to win that fight?

As a corollary of that, gender liberation is a positive-sum game. All the patriarchal ugliness is connected: when you tug on one string in the knot—no matter where that string is—you end up loosening the entire knot. When you say women can work outside the home, you give men more freedom from having to support their wives; when you encourage men to have closer platonic friendships, you take the burden of caretaking and providing emotional support off women; when you allow people who identify as neither men nor women to live in peace, you give more freedom to everyone.

Our other major premise is the concept of “privilege”. Everyone has some privilege. If you’re white, that’s privilege. If you’re middle-class or even upper-class, that’s privilege. If you’re American, that’s privilege. If you’re able-bodied, that’s privilege. If you’re neurotypical, that’s privilege. If you’re straight, that’s privilege. If you’re cis (not transgender), that’s privilege. If you’re college-educated, that’s privilege. If you’re conventionally attractive, that’s privilege. And so on and so forth down the list.

Many people, on hearing that they are privileged, perceive it as an attack on them. This is understandable, but not really helpful. Being told you’re privileged feels a lot like being told that you’re bad, that you’ve had it easy, that you don’t deserve what you’ve got. None of these are true, of course. Everyone’s luckier than some folks, less lucky than others. Just because you got a slightly easier path to run doesn’t mean you haven’t run as fast and hard as you can. It just means your path lacked a couple hurdles some other people had to deal with.

The nature of privilege is that it’s invisible to those who have it. Most people generalize their experiences, holding a vague, unexamined idea that everyone else is basically like them. This is a known bias in all human cognition, known as the Typical Mind Fallacy. This means that an able-bodied person may, with the best intentions in the world, plan a meeting in a third-floor walk-up, because they’ve never had to think about mobility problems.

Similarly, a person may generalize about the experiences of women when they actually mean the experiences of women who are white, middle-class, American, abled—well, you can fill in the rest. They might even write The Feminine Mystique. Thus, a common practice in social justice circles is to ask people to “check their privilege”, or stop and think about how other people’s experience of the world might differ from their own. Unfortunately, in practice “check your privilege” often sounds like “shut up, rich boy” and leads to further misunderstanding.

In general, people who are marginalized multiple ways, such as by being both trans and gay, tend to experience their marginalizations differently than a person who is only marginalized one way: this is called intersectionality. For instance, a trans gay man may be told he’s not “really” trans, because clearly there are no men who are attracted to men in the world; although this relates to both the marginalization of gay people and trans people, it’s qualitatively different from either. Nevertheless, it is a gay and trans experience, and as such subject to its own set of intersecting issues. Within this book, whenever we discuss the disadvantages that men face, we will do our best not to erase marginalized men and to acknowledge the ways that other identities—sexuality, class, race, ability—can intersect with masculinity.

Everyone is a little bit privileged and a little bit not privileged. Think about a wealthy black man: he’s privileged because of his class, but marginalized because of his race. In some ways, his wealth shields him from racism: however, he is still more likely to be called a racial slur than a white person is, even if the white person is poor and therefore more likely to work a crummy, low-paying, injury-prone job. In fact, that wealthy black man might perpetrate harmful stereotypes about poor people at the same time that he is a victim of harmful stereotypes about black people. The complex interaction of privilege and marginalization is called the kyriarchy, which some have defined as “everyone oppressing everyone else.”

The thing about the kyriarchy is that there aren’t a bunch of people in a shadowy headquarters, twirling their mustaches as they plot how to best use their Oppression Beams and Discrimination Rays to cause misery and suffering on earth. It would be easier if there were, because we could blow up their headquarters, make a wry quip, and roll the closing credits on social injustice. Instead, the kyriarchy is made up of real people, some of whom are saints and some of whom are bastards and most of whom are just muddling through as best they can. The kind of people that love their families and give to charity and foster kittens and sometimes get angry at drivers who don’t know how to use turn signals. Ordinary people. And it’s those people who are perpetuating the kyriarchy, the sick system that oppresses all of us.

Unlearning your kyriarchal conditioning is a process. Nobody is as good as we deep down know we ought to be: you, us, Mother Teresa, famous people who write about feminism for big-name print magazines, everyone messes up. The point is to learn to do it less. As Samuel Beckett once said, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

That in mind, we two fallible, privileged, well-intentioned authors have some ideas about gender, about oppression, about the men.

 

 

Photo—”Man Box” by Barry Deutsch. Barry Deutsch is an award-winning cartoonist, best know for his graphic novel Hereville, about the adventures of an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl who wants to fight monsters. Hereville, which won the Sydney Taylor Book Prize and was nominated for an Eisner Award (among many other awards) was called “the best graphic novel for kids of 2010” by a School Library Journal reviewer. Barry is also the longtime political cartoonist for Dollars and Sense Magazine, and his political cartoons, which can be read at www.leftycartoons.com, have won the Charles Schulz Award. Barry founded “Alas, a Blog,” one of the first feminist blogs, in 2002. He lives in Portland, Oregon, in a bright blue house with pink trim he co-owns with housemates.


[i] The “glass escalator,” originally coined in Christine L. Williams, “Hidden Advantages for Men in the ‘Female’ Professions,” Social Problems 39, no. 3 (1992), 253-267.

[ii]Laura M. Carpenter, “Gender and the Meaning and Experience of Virginity Loss in the Contemporary United States,” Gender and Society 14, no. 3 (2002), 345-365.

[iii] See the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s 2011 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2010 (Preliminary Results). The top ten occupations for fatal injuries fall within the fields of farming, fishing and forestry occupations; rail, water, and other transportation occupations; extraction workers; construction trade workers; material moving workers; firefighting, prevention, and law enforcement workers; and installation, maintenance, and repair occupations. All of these are male-dominated (some, such as extraction workers, hilariously so) according to the Census 2000 brief Occupations 2000, pg 3.

[iv] Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Census of Fatal Occupational Activities in 2010 (Preliminary Results) (Washington D.C., Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011), pg. 10; Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nonfatal Occupational Injuries And Illnesses Requiring Days Away From Work, 2010 (Washington D.C., Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011), pg. 7.

[v] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Deaths: Final Data in 2009 (Washington D. C., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). See Table 7.

[vi]D. Stanisleet, C. Bambra and A. Scott-Samuel, “Is Patriarchy The Source of Men’s Higher Mortality?”, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59, no. 10 (2005), 873-876.

[vii]Erik K. O. Boman and Gordon A. Walker, “Predictors of Men’s Health Care Utilization,” Psychology of Men and Masculinity 11, no. 2 (2010),113-122.

[viii]Department of Health, Health Survey for England 2000: Social capital and health (London: The Stationery

Office, 2000); Barbara J. Bank and Suzanne L. Hansford, “Gender and Friendship: Why are Men’s Best Same-Sex Friendships Less Intimate and Supportive?”, Personal Relationships 7 (2000), 63-78.

[ix]Robin W. Simon and Anne E. Barrett, “Nonmarital Romantic Relationships and Mental Health in Early Adulthood: Does the Association Differ for Women and Men?”, Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51, no. 68 (2010), 168-182.

[x]www.1in6.org.

[xi]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (Washington D.C., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). To get the correct number of male rape survivors, include both the “forced to penetrate” and the “rape” categories.

[xii]Kelsey Peterson, a Nebraska teacher, raped a twelve-year-old boy and transported him across state lines. Her attorney said the survivor was the aggressor and described him as a “Latino machismo teenager.” For more information, see Jeff Fecke, “This Is Not The Right Type of Equality,” Shakesville, July 3rd 2008 (http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2008/07/this-is-not-right-type-of-equality.html).

[xiii]Department of Justice Statistics, “PREA Data Collection Activities 2011” (Washington DC, Department of Justice, 2011).

[xiv]Ronald E. Smith, Charles J. Pine and Mark E. Hawley, “Social Cognitions About Adult Male Victims of Female Sexual Assault,” The Journal of Sex Research 24 (1988), 101-112.

About ozyfrantz

Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at ozyfrantz@gmail.com or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.

Comments

  1. Superficial, largely because it keeps making so many glib generalizations about “men”, and for that matter, “women”. Anyhow, Ozy Frantz is indeed an undergraduate, because he writes passionately about life without ever having really lived it.

  2. CitizenOf1Earth says:

    Good luck. I’ve made many of these same points to feminist friends and they fall on deaf ears. Ideology is a bi… pain in the ass.

  3. Damn! I’m already excited about this book. Great work 🙂

    One small thing (wearing editor’s hat): “In some ways, his wealth shields him from racism: however, he is still more likely to be called a racial slur than a white person is”. Can someone be called a racial slur? I’d suggest “more likely to be subject to a racial slur” etc.

  4. Thanks for your concern. but as a self described “liberal alpha male” I feel in no way: misshapen, hampered, deformed, banboozeled, brainwashed, indoctronated, cheated, or lied to in regards to my “man box”. Being secure in your masculinity, you don’t need to clarify things like being unemployed/underemployed or having a deep, plutonic love for another man. Masculinity should be celebrated and applauded, not treated as some symptom of an ill and unbalanced society. If a man chooses to be feminine then that is his business, and not yours or mine. The same goes for a man choosing to be masculine.

  5. Great stuff! Thanks for bringing so many perspectives into your writing! Fascinating article!

  6. Feminism really has a schism between the academic set and the pop-culture set as embodied by Jezebel, and I have a lot of issues with the pop-culture set. Basically I see pop-culture feminism as sexist because it promotes the stereotype of men being predators and women being victims. The problem isn’t just that men are portrayed as the evil, aggressive one, but just as much so that women are portrayed as weak and frail, unable to defend themselves from being touched in the small of the back at a bar, and in fact wallowing in victimhood forever is encouraged! Read the comments in the Jezebel take on the Redit rape thread to see what I mean:

    http://jezebel.com/5929544/rapists-explain-themselves-on-reddit-and-we-should-listen

    The overriding message I take from the comment stream in that blog is that, “every man is a potential rapist, and you can’t tell, ever,” which is just another way of saying, “every man would rape under the right circumstances.” Woah, really? Isn’t that a horrible gender stereotype to perpetuate that would cloud every interaction any women who holds it forever? That’s being a victim, allowing an offense committed against yourself to change who you are and how you act towards others. It’s holding onto the pain, bitterness. and anger and I can’t condone that under any circumstances.

    The other giant failure of pop-culture feminism is it promotes perfectionism. It says that women should be able to have a career, a family, to do it all and live better than any foppish magazine says they can. Consider the reaction towards Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Meyer being pregnant: mostly indignation from anyone who would question whether she can manage a child and be the CEO at the same time. But let’s be honest, being a mom is a full-time job and being a CEO is more than a full-time job, so Meyer is being put on a pedestal and woah if she stumbles! I feel very sorry for her because the expectations being ladled onto her are immense.

    I have dated or had relationships with a few women who would consider themselves strong feminists, or wanted to be so. However, they all shared the sames traits of perfectionism paired with self-loathing because no matter how hard they tried they couldn’t live up to the hype. And it was heart-breaking, because they were lovely, competent women but at the same time, broken by unrealistic expectations.

    I hate the excuse of privilege and I think you should reject it as a cornerstone of your thesis, because it enshrines the notion of victimhood as something to embrace and it is fundamentally incredibly corrosive to developing feelings of self-worth. It’s like saying we are all bound by fate, that nothing we do matters. Look my parent’s had a bitter divorce when I was eight. They didn’t handle it well, they both tried to use me as weapon to hurt the other for years and as a kid you’re completely dependent on them and unable to walk away from the situation. Am I going to use that giant negative event to excuse any time I fail in life? Hell no, it’s the source for my determination to be a better person than they were.

    The concept of privilege is a built-in excuse generator. I didn’t succeed because I’m a woman. I didn’t succeed because I’m black. Privilege is just another word for stereotype. The concepts of equality and privilege are NOT compatible. Privilege says it’s better to be white than black because it’s an subjective attitude and not an absolute fact. That’s a stereotype and if you think otherwise, you’re being dishonest.

    I’m not a predator, I’m not a victim, and I’m not privileged nor do I want to be any of those things. QED.

  7. Sweet Baby Satan says:

    “Then there’s rape. When was the last time you heard men mentioned as rape or molestation victims in any public discussion of such issues?”

    Two days ago, at a bar, because Penn State was all over the news.

    • trey1963 says:

      Men not boys…….that is ignored……..or treated as only a men on men thing, never accepted as that female on male rape is a commonly occurring crime.

  8. I loved this article, I found it very articulate, inspiring, humane and (in the best possible way) careful. I have long considered myself a feminist, but find the way men and their experiences are excluded from debate by some feminists and the way anger and territorial behaviour flares up on both sides when feminist issues are discussed incredibly tiring. So often I’ve seen threads degenerate into bitter, bitter rage and wondered why we can’t be good to each other while standing up for ourselves. Maybe help each other to stand instead of beating each other down. Your elaboration of the pairing of gendered qualities and the way misandry and misogyny mirror each other was inspiring and true. I’m so glad you are doing this work. Good luck and all the best to you.

  9. Seems like my comment got lost. So here goes another try:

    The authors of this book spent quite some time attempting to find MRAs who could be engaged in a constructive manner

    By your own admission you have rejected any kind of dicsussion with MRAs long before writing this. You never wanted to find MRA’s to engage with and claiming to have attempted it is unconvincing at best.

    Want to prove me wrong? Then what would you do if I found you a men’s rights blog/website that can absolutely be engaged in a constructive manner? Would you retract and revise your position or not?

  10. wellokaythen says:

    I love the point the article makes about the mirroring that happens with misogyny and misandry. Insults or stereotypes about men tend to create or reinforce stereotypes about women, and vice versa. Even apparently positive gender stereotypes come with a downside, for all genders.

    I think seeing much of the MRA movement as reactionary and single-minded is a pretty common experience for many people, even those generally sympathetic to it such as myself. However, what I read in the article was the argument that because the MRM is intellectually bankrupt then the only alternative to address men’s issues is feminism. Perhaps that is the case currently, but then again maybe the best thing for men is some “third option” that has yet to be fully developed. There may be a false dichotomy at work here that’s widely celebrated by extremists in both camps – “stick with us, because there’s only one other alternative, and they’re crazy.” Or, “you think I’m an extremist? Just look at what the enemy is saying!”

  11. Thank you for the article, I expect good things out of the whole thing.

    However, I’d like to add some personal experiences.

    I have stopped admitting being MRA. (I live in Finland. I know basicly nothing of MRA in the US, except for the fact that they are basicly invisible from over here, unlike the US feminists who are relatively visible.)

    It turned out to be pointless and simply resulted in me having to take verbal assaults from my friends. (Yes, friends. I never really got to the point of admitting to outside.)

    Note that I don’t dare write this either with my name or even my standard alias because I don’t even want to discuss this with the people I know who read this site anymore. Yes, it’s that bad. (It’s not always that bad, but I recently had one of my best female friends storm out from dinner over what I thought was a highly non-controversial topic. Three other people on that people thought it was an okay topic too, one of them my wife and one a confessed feminist man.)

    When I first tried talking about the subject on Facebook, I promptly had two private messages from male friends warning me to not get into that. When I did, my male friends would generally only dare to back my comments up in private, even if there were several female friends backing my comments in the same conversation. (To give you a general idea, my friends generally vote left or green. And they always vote.)

    In a period of 2-3 years of being openly MRA I heard the line of “I tried to find a reasonable MRA person but failed” too many times to keep count. If I tried to mention that I’d be happy to have that conversation, nobody ever got back to me. They would never refer to the article they were writing, they would never tell how or where or when specifically they did that search, they would never mention, even when asked, what forums they had been reading and what topic.

    So don’t take this personally, but when someone says that he’s looked for a reasonable MRA person, I consider them to be lying unless proven otherwise. It’s like someone telling you an urban legen as a personal experience.

    On the other hand, based on my experience it takes a somewhat extreme personality in some way to publicly claim to being MRA. Which of course creates a loop.

    I have also stopped admitting to being a masculist, for pretty much the same reason.

    I expect the public perception of masculists to go down the same drain.

    Is there a way out? I don’t know, but it would help if people would stop accepting feminism as an excuse to bad behaviour.

    I was basicly floored when that dinner was over. Nobody else seemed to think that the one doing the storming out (and yelling and banging her fist on the table) was in any way out of the line. My wife simply said that “we better apologize”. I know for a fact that had I done the same, my wife would have me apologizing for months.

    It’s the classic “women are sentimental” trope in action. In the Social Justice crowd, it comes out as nobody daring to question a womans rage over something. (This is a good example of a new head of the hydra popping up.) It’s harmful to everyone, but it’s of special relevance in the metadiscussion over feminism.

    As to mens experiences being ignored in discussion (Jonns comment), that’s also the old trope of mens experiences being individual and womens experiences being universal. (Which is a part of “female is a gender, male is not”.)

    Thus the existence of womens discrimination in the workplace somewhere makes my wife the expert on what that feels like, despite her never experiencing it personally. (I’ve asked.) This is despite the fact that I’ve been told “we only hire women” to my face three times in total when I was unemployed. She never remembers this when it comes up.

    This came out as a bit longer than I meant it originally.

    To summarize, my point is this: from what I’ve talked with a couple of my friends, I dare to suggest that my experiences are not very unusual. (I might be quite a bit more analytical than your average person, but I’m of rather average intelligence otherwise).

    There are a lot of men out there who generally identify with masculist or even MRA ideas, but have learned to hide it. It’s too big for any individual, and since men inherently are treated as individuals…

    It’s just a no win situation.

    Just…

    don’t ask me where are all the reasonable mens rights activists. Thank you.

    PS:
    Your comment about them in the context of this article was in my opinion not in any way needed, and the style was an unprovoked attack on people you mostly surely don’t know and who are not here. (That’s completely regardless of whether or not they are as you describe.)

    Essentially, any claim you might make that feminists are not inherently aggressive towards mens rights activists will sound hollow coming from you after that.

  12. I’d like to point out that “Check your privilege”, far too often, doesn’t merely resemble “Shut up rich boy”, it’s used in exactly that manner, as a silencing method, a way to imply that the critic’s opinion is inherently less valid because it comes from a position of privilege. This is often used in reverse; opinion X can only be held by privileged group Y. I once read a discussion on Tumblr, that Pit of Moles, that involved a transgender individual. They declared that someone else only had their opinion because they were cisgendered. The person they were yelling at simply responded that they were not cisgendered. The first guy never responded.

    I’d like to think Tumblr’s SJ brigade wasn’t representative of the larger discourse, but again and again I see themes and ideas clearly derived from those expressed by the larger Social Justice community, including the reluctance to give two craps about men, even when their experiences were directly relevant to the discussion. Yet it’s perfectly okay, apparently, to make pronouncements about what men were apparently motivated by, regardless of what the actual men in question say.

  13. I’ve been reading this blog for a few months, but I’ve never commented here before. I am now moved to say that although I’d previously thought in an unfocused way about harmful male stereotypes and the problems faced by men who don’t fit them, and although I’ve long been a feminist, your work has prompted me to think much more seriously about ‘the other half’ of the equation and how it all fits together.

    Well done Ozy and Noah – I look forward to reading the whole thing. I wish more people were ready to think about these kinds of issues, and a book like this can only help.

  14. Oh and here is another poorly turned phrase;

    “You can sit all day and come up with sexist tropes about men and women and pair them up. The moment one looks beyond the surface, it becomes impossible to come up with something stupid and sexist about one gender that doesn’t link directly to something stupid and sexist about another gender.”

    ‘Stupid and sexist’ are not informed states if it were stated perhaps as;
    “It is possible for many tropes to be constructed using this logic, even value statements that upon a prima facie viewing seem positive often have a darker mirror when the argument is carried over unto other genders. To some extent this point can be forced into ad absurdem arguments, but for the purposes of this book we will focus on some of the current commonly held values regarding the gender binary.”

    I’d go on to list some more, and if possible source some advertising/marketing data for popular tropes regarding gender stereotypes.

  15. DysgraphicProgrammer says:

    I love this. The description of the kyriarchy is somthing I am going to link to in Facebook arguments. I will buy this book once I am once more employed.

    But I am going to jump on the band wagon of those asking for a softening of the language about MRAs. I agree that the MRM seems to have a malignant ideological tumor, but statistically there must be some reasonable people on the boarders.

    Even if what you say were 100% true, if sacrifices any chance of seducing reasonable fringes back to the light side.

    • From my experiences on Reddit the two groups don’t like each other, and both have fairly large quantities of wrong-bad peeps. However most of the wrong bad feminists are in SRS, and the good and bad MRA’s are all mixed together. Outside Reddit I the only MRA type site I go to is Toysoldier, and he has had some major bad experiences with feminists, but he’s fairly reasonable. There are a good number of reasonably good feminists sites I frequent as well. a I know there are bunch of other really bad MRA’s and feminists floating around as well outside of Reddit.

      tl;dr There are fairly bad packs of people in both groups

      So in summary,

      • Lamech, for the record, I am not a men’s rights activist. I do not support any particular ideology, nor do I claim any labels. That said, I am more inclined to agree with men’s rights activists’ concerns than those of feminists.

  16. Ugh, the writing tone is great for an online blog, but completely inappropriate for an academic paper or book – at least in sociology or psychology. If this gets pigeon holed under Philosophy, fair enough, but even then the tone of the book should feel a little more professional and less like one person’s opinion.

    For example; “A real man is supposed to be tall and have a big penis, for heaven’s sake, and if your genetic dice didn’t shake out that way, you’d better perform the rest of the list even harder to make up for your supposed deficiency.”
    Or; “Chuck Norris is tough. Wolverine is tough. Toughness lets you survive in this hard world, keeps you from being weak and vulnerable. That’s a good thing to encourage people to be, right?

    Turns out, not so much.”

    Even pop-philosophers like Alain deBotton avoid cliched lines like that in their writing, so perhaps we should be moving this book to the ‘Self Help’ section where the authors there prefer to write in this style.

    TL;DR: Academic writing tone needs fixing if it wants to be taken seriously by other academics. I don’t think some of the big names in sociology are going to be quoting this book for fear that it doesn’t ‘sound’ serious enough.

    • Sara Dalton says:

      Maybe academics should chill out a bit? As much as I love academia, it’s pretty silly in the way that it limits itself.

    • Amanda J says:

      I wouldn’t dismiss the casual tone so quickly. You don’t need to dress up good ideas in pretty and rigid words, you just need to pick the ones that mean what you want them to. Colloquial tones are perfectly legitimate in today’s writing, and a decent homage to where these theories were first aired by these authors — on a blog.
      Rules of writing are only rules until it makes sense to go against them, and I think this is one of those cases. Obviously there is some cleaning up to do, but if a few cliche phrases are all you have against it, well, any first draft starts out with those. I would be more concerned with the density of new terms. But that too is less a sign of incompetence and more of a first draft.

      • Academic writing styles exist to prevent nihilism by way of subjectivity. Any and all ideas are fair game, but the way in which those ideas are presented – in an open and informative fashion, is what separates good papers from bad.

        As a graduate in philosophy (and sociology – double major), I was taught to analyse any proposition from every angle and to explore, in my papers, the most pertinent counter-arguments by detailing their merits and then breaking them down to strengthen my own arguments. Further more where the arguments were solid one must admit weakness in one’s own argument.

        Obvious exceptions apply, but the whole remains true. If one writes from a dogmatic position it makes for poor writing, especially in instances like the above in which the author is gathering work to support their argument but failing to acknowledge possible faults within the case studies listed. Instead of opening and promoting dialogue, which the academic writing style does, it shuts down potential arguments and turns into easily dismissed rhetoric.

        A course I did on Sociology of Sex and Sexuality (done by the well published feminist Gail Dines) presented it’s material supporting a liberal view on the subject by carefully analysing historical data and leaving the reader to draw moral value out of it on their own time. It was a fascinating unit with an excellent professor and well written reading material.

        So while I think it is commendable that Ozy has published material, I think that said material should be revised with a more formal academic tone in mind to prevent peer dismissal.

        Oh and bequeathing a convention of thought after oneself, i.e Ozy’s Law is a bit of a faux pas. Normally such things are ascribed to one by other scholars after review to prevent constant rehashing of the same concepts over and over again during the counter argument phase.

        • Noah Brand says:

          I named the law, actually. And while I do hear what you’re saying, I think you’re seriously underestimating the issues of accessibility and rhetoric. This book is being written to make a point, and it’s being written to be read. Academic jargon is useful insofar as it helps make and strengthen the case being argued, but accessibility of tone is also necessary, because the denser the jargon gets, the fewer people will ever read or give a crap about it. In other words, if we were writing solely for academics, this would be poor writing, but I don’t know why you assume that’s the case.

          • Credibility mostly, it hurts a good cause when potentially powerful statements (or rhetoric) doesn’t appear to have authority. In this case by keeping it at the lowest common denominator it just appears to be blog-rambling, when it should appear to be coming from a position of authority on the actual subject.

            Take for the example the new atheist movement, the sudden surge in popularity and uprising was made possible by the right combination of vitriol (Dawkins) and measured, well spoken reason (Hitchens, Dennett and Harris). For causes like the one espoused here, one requires the same thing. It should be noted that in the example of new atheism that two of the ‘loose cannons’ (Hitchens and Dawkins) still managed to turn a mighty fine phrase and minimize the use of ad hominem attacks except as driving punctuation after a fine volley of literary jabs.

            I support the effort and cause by providing constructive criticism, because it’s a cause that deserves to succeed. It isn’t going to do that if it comes across as jejune, because then it will appeal only to an already converted audience, rather than convincing those on the fence with well mannered and finely turned phrases. And the best way that I can think to do that is to follow in the example of Dennett and Harris and support an academic tone.

            • Amanda J says:

              I think the issue here is if you were to write a book on the same subject, you’d have very different priorities from Noah and Ozy. They’ve never sought to be above reproach. There’s value in allowing their statements to be flexible, to leave empty spaces for the readers to spawn theories or even misinterpret the old ones. A mainstream masculinist movement is still in its infancy, and priorities are not to shut down conversation and tell people how to think, to be above argument, but spark that argument. (That’s not to say academic papers don’t bring about arguments, but an academic who argued their point to the last detail and became the end-all in such arguments would most likely not be displeased, if their argument were truly infallible.)

              You reference the atheist movement, a movement that could only move forward on iron-clad logic, upholding the objective because they were fighting the unquestioned, the subjective. They had to be everything that religion was not, to make their point and make it in an appealing way.

              Gender theory and equality movements in general, however, generally suffer if they came from this same authoritarian tone in conveying their message. Instead, they encourage interaction. If you look at the shelves where these books sit today, you’ll find an increase leaning towards an accessible tone — as Noah said, and that’s something that can never be underestimated when you’re pitching a spark and hoping it catches fire, and you need to reach the greatest number of people rather than just the greatest thinkers — and often, phrases that invite the reader to relate to their own life experience in a manner differently structured from an atheist argument. The atheist authors, because they are only seeking to support the point they make, favor rhetorical questions. Gender theory authors, particularly in the less explored aspects of their field, will often offer a frame work and ask readers to apply it to their own life. (There are, of course, cases in each discourse where one type or writer uses the style of question I’ve assigned the other, but this is generally the trend.)

              You say that as it stands, they will reach only those who already agree with them, but I see a book that will actually reach more people for not asking the reader to do the extra work of reading an academic tone (you and I may find it enjoyable; for your average bookstore browser, this isn’t the case). As someone who had never given much consideration to men’s rights before finding No Seriously, What About teh Menz? I’m inclined to say Noah and Ozy are perfectly capable of reaching the ignorant. As to the out-right reluctant, I do doubt this book will reach many of them. I also don’t think, with the status quo, it has much a chance of reaching them anyway, no matter how it is written. Doubling down on an audience with a semi-open mind looks like a good bet to me.

  17. Juuulia says:

    How do I purchase this book immediately?!

    Also, as a weird side remark, none of my true click moments have been brought on by ads or men on the street or in offices. My strongest ones were triggered by my mother. ><

  18. Peter Houlihan says:

    I like this, but there’s a few issues:
    “The general term for the incredibly restrictive social codes on male behavior is hegemonic masculinity, though Paul Kivel refers to it as the “Man Box” in his work, and Charlie Glickman clarifies that to the “Act Like A Man Box” to emphasize the performative nature of the restrictions.”

    This is an important concept, but hegemonic masculinity is the wrong word to describe it. Just like “patriarchy” the concept has been wrapped up in the idea that men are all-privileged and all-powerful and women are all-oppressed and all-powerless. I know there’s commentators that don’t use it in that manner, but it’s become a dirty word. There’s also the issue that the female equivalent is rarely described as “hegemonic femininity.” This causes the same problem we see where the benefits women derive from their gender roles are referred to as “beneficial sexism” whereas the benefits men derive are called “male privilege,” implying that the former isn’t really an issue.

    “Then, too, many feminists have done excellent work in dealing with men’s problems. Stronger rape laws and paternity leave are just two of the benefits men have received because of feminism, and many survivors and many families are better off for it. Shelters, counselors and hotlines for survivors of rape and abuse, usually established by feminists, almost always also provide support for male survivors, support that would not exist otherwise.”

    Ish. Any support I’ve seen from mainstream feminist groups has been incidental. And I have seen attempts to exclude male victims from what are seen as “women’s resources.” Of the many benefits feminist groups have brought to society “excellent work in dealing with men’s problems” isn’t one of them.

    “Underscoring this point is the fact that there is something that calls itself a Men’s Rights Movement, but it consists of nothing but knee-jerk anti-feminism. It is made up primarily of angry, alienated men who have fully bought into the myths of hegemonic masculinity and gender roles, and not found the success and happiness that the myths implicitly promised”

    I acknowledge that extremists exists within the MRM, just as I acknowledge that feminism has it’s fair share of haters. This doesn’t make it appropriate to dismiss the entire movement on the basis of some of it’s members. You claim that the MRM is primarily made up of the haters but you don’t have any statistical evidence that this is true. I could equally claim that feminism is “primarily made up of angry alienated women who blame all their problems on men and fantasize about the wonderland that would exist if the Y chromosone were wuped out,” and it would be equally untrue. Not that those people don’t exist, but they don’t represent all feminists.

    I’d agree with the rest though, especially the bits about sexism being inextricably linked and misogyny mirroring misandry. It makes gender rights completely different from any other civil rights issue in that it’s not completely one sided.

    I’d go a step further though: We need to ditch feminism (and ultimately masculism). I’d go with Warren Farrell’s view on this which is that a men’s movement needs to exist in order to bring the awareness of men’s rights issues up to speed with feminism. But ultimately a gender equality movement which focuses on the needs and wants of one gender is going nowhere. It’s impossible to escape from the fact that the word “feminism” refers only to women. It’s divisive by definition.

  19. I look forward to the day I can proudly display the complete book on my bookshelf. Bravo team!

  20. Overall, I quite like this, but I do find the sudden “AND THAT MRM SURE SUCKS HUH” rather unfair and out of left field.

  21. Color me impressed! Can’t wait to read the rest!

  22. I loved it. Really well done you guys. The messages are clear, it educates with out condescension, and flows logically and easily from one topic to another. I’m so glad you have both decided to write a book, I look very much forward to reading more of it.

  23. I want to echo Ally on this one. I like most of what is going on here but I do take a bit of issue with a few things in it.

    Like this:
    Many men get a bad first impression of feminism from zealous young feminists who, regardless of their intentions, alienate the heck out of men. Some of those men will later see the nuance that they initially missed and come to understand the value of feminist thinking. Many, perhaps most, will not. This is not a net win for feminism. Most feminist spaces, online and in the real world, are not particularly welcoming to men. Even given that there are often good reasons for that, how many men have been lost to gender egalitarianism forever because they didn’t put in the extra effort to overcome that perceived hostility, or because they had already had their bad first impressions cemented and were not willing to change their minds? What might have been accomplished by not chasing away so many potential allies?
    It sounds like an effort to down play the hostility that men have encountered from feminists and feminism. Maybe if if that hostility were acknowledged as being than “perceived” maybe some of those men could see it as reason to give it another go. Oh and also that hostility wasn’t the cause for some of us to “lost to gender egalitarianism” it caused us to be lost to feminism that plays itself up to be gender egalitarianism., sometimes in favor of seeking actual gender egalitarianism elsewhere.

    That’s one of the main reasons I’ve got more into writing about these topics in recent years, and I’m not the only one. I think you two do something very similar, and the GMP more generally is on the same track. There are a handful of others scattered around the internetz and the media following a similar path, (whether or not they consider themselves feminist), there aren’t enough, but I do think it is a growing trend.
    I’d like to think that I fit this bill.

    What matters is that we aspire to social justice, compassion, the demolition of gender prisons (or boxes) and all the rest of it. Feminism has a major role to play in that (and of course has already made huge strides) but I don’t think it should be the only game in town.
    Sure I don’t have the backing of a massive movement behind me but I’d like to believe that what I’m bringing to the table is helping in doing away with these scripts (most people call this boxes) is somehow not having it’s value determined more by what badge I wear (because right now I don’t wear any) than the contents of what I’m bringing.

    I think the ideal we should move towards is for men’s advocates to provide a complementary voice to feminism, moving in parallel to feminism, not opposition, but not subservience either.
    AllyFogg shoots, AllyFogg scores! In this chapter here even as you say that men should be looked out for you seem to reduce masculinism to just being a way to get more people on the the feminism train.

  24. Fingenieur says:

    Personally, my greatest issue with (US-centric) MRM is that they are not even a movement. More like a pattern of thought. An alternate viewpoint for the dominant discourse. What I see on Reddit, VfM etc, I don’t see people willing to move anywhere or to change things. At most, people advocate for lifehacking (PUA, MGTOW) and for discontent towards status quo. But it’s damn rare for a US MRA to propose anything but a total dismantlement of the modern society via increasing exclusion of men. I don’t think they want their readers to fare better in life. I think they want them to fare worse and play scorched earth.

    That is not to say the MRM strain-of-thought is entirely harmful or useless. On the contrary. They do manage to draw attention to important issues and frankly – it’s naive and intellectually dishonest to raise anything – even feminism – above critique. Like you said:

    ” feminism is the single largest and most politically powerful gender-oriented movement”

    Feminism is also the single most important element influencing the gender discourse and behaviour during the last 100 years. You can question how important “patriarchy” has been and is right now as a gender influence, but the role of feminism is undeniable. Especially with lifting the “woman-box” (and indirectly leaving men behind).

    It’s damn useful to question such structures. Feminism is made out of people like anything else. They make mistakes and need to be critizised. Anti-feminism ain’t a bad thing by itself. Yeah, extremists are silly people and there’s plenty of those in MRM-thinking circles. Though, extremism is more of a rule than exception in infant ideologies.

  25. The Bad Man says:

    TL;DR

    I prefer a man’s perspective about men’s lives and I would expect such from a so called ‘men’s site’. I truly enjoyed Warren Farrel. Too bad feminists disowned him rather than embracing him.

    • Sara Dalton says:

      Yo, you may want to take note that this was written by a man, and another person who’a gender I don’t don’t.

  26. Great chapter, I want to read the whole book.

  27. Ozy & Noah, I loved this, can’t wait to read the rest. There is so much here I agree with. But there is one pretty major point where I don’t. It’s a similar point to the one I made on Noah’s piece about feminism last week.

    “The authors of this book spent quite some time attempting to find MRAs who could be engaged in a constructive manner, but eventually gave up. If men’s rights are to be addressed on any kind of serious level, it will have to be by feminism.”

    I fundamentally disagree with this. While most feminists will allow space in the conversation for a Kimmel or a Schwyzer (or even a Brand) feminism is and should be a women’s movement. Female feminists will be rightly resentful of any man who comes in and tells them what is right and wrong or tells them what they should be thinking or doing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, as you say, the clue is in the name.

    But that does mean that if it is to be feminism that identifies and attempts to address male-specific issues, or even masculinity, then it will be women controlling the agenda and the narrative for men. This is problematic for loads of reasons, not least because even if the analysis is 100% correct and the solutions are perfect, most men will still be suspicious because it will be largely an external imposition rather than an internal awakening.

    I think the ideal we should move towards is for men’s advocates to provide a complementary voice to feminism, moving in parallel to feminism, not opposition, but not subservience either. I fully believe in Ozy’s Law, and don’t think feminists should be afraid of men raising and addressing their own issues. And in return, any men’s movement that is actively working in opposition to feminism is likely to prove harmful to men as well as women.

    Personally I’m not prepared to abandon men’s issues to either feminists OR the misogynist, paranoid, anti-feminist wingnuts of the modern MRM. That’s one of the main reasons I’ve got more into writing about these topics in recent years, and I’m not the only one. I think you two do something very similar, and the GMP more generally is on the same track. There are a handful of others scattered around the internetz and the media following a similar path, (whether or not they consider themselves feminist), there aren’t enough, but I do think it is a growing trend.

    Ultimately it probably doesn’t matter too much whether we identify as feminists or not. What matters is that we aspire to social justice, compassion, the demolition of gender prisons (or boxes) and all the rest of it. Feminism has a major role to play in that (and of course has already made huge strides) but I don’t think it should be the only game in town.

    • PsyConomics says:

      “Separate but equal” is an enticing line of thought but dangerous. Historically, it has never worked well for long, and the fallout from its collapse is felt for generations.

      There is a good chance that certain spheres of feminism need to be gender-segregated for purely therapeutic reasons – assault/rape support groups, support groups in general, that sort of thing. There is also a good chance that gendered policy advocacy would be effective in reaching equality in some aspects – for instance lobbying for men’s shelters where they’re needed, that sort of thing. But to split the entire discipline along gender lines feels like it’s missing the point of “equality.”

      In more abstract/philosophical terms, if you believe that “patriarchy hurts men too,” you’ve just made room for men in your movement. Implicit to that belief is the notion that men experience gendered “violence,” that the mechanism that causes this violence is similar to that which hurts women, and that feminism can see/measure/deal with this mechanism. To acknowledge these notions then set them aside seems like it is artificially hampering the growth of feminism as a discipline, to completely ignore them is to silence the stories of many, many men.

      Instead of splitting feminism asunder, it might be more beneficial to acknowledge a set of sub-disciplines. Go into a major university’s psychology department and you’ll get the idea. There are neurologists, cognitive psychologists, developmental psychologists, social psychologists, why do we feel this need to restrict ourselves to one focus of feminism? Couldn’t someone be a therapeutic feminist, specializing in group therapy? Or an advocacy feminist working to raise awareness? Or a men’s issues feminist focusing on how gender hurts men? Nothing prevents cross-training and/or combinations of the above, and the existence of one sub-discipline in no way invalidates any of the others.

      • Thanks for an interesting response.

        In more abstract/philosophical terms, if you believe that “patriarchy hurts men too,” you’ve just made room for men in your movement. Implicit to that belief is the notion that men experience gendered “violence,” that the mechanism that causes this violence is similar to that which hurts women, and that feminism can see/measure/deal with this mechanism. To acknowledge these notions then set them aside seems like it is artificially hampering the growth of feminism as a discipline, to completely ignore them is to silence the stories of many, many men.

        You see you’re losing me already 😉 I don’t think ‘the patriarchy hurts men too’ is the full story. I don’t accept that patriarchy is the over-riding ideological discourse in society, and I don’t believe analysis of patriarchy provides all the tools necessary to understand, say, restrictive gender roles, socialisation, alienation etc etc etc. By making patriarchy the heart of gender debate you are saying that the starting point to all discussion of gender roles is the systematic oppression and disempowerment of women (as a gender) by men (as a gender). That may or may not be true, but at the very least it must be a topic for legitimate debate.

        Instead of splitting feminism asunder, it might be more beneficial to acknowledge a set of sub-disciplines. Go into a major university’s psychology department and you’ll get the idea. There are neurologists, cognitive psychologists, developmental psychologists, social psychologists, why do we feel this need to restrict ourselves to one focus of feminism? Couldn’t someone be a therapeutic feminist, specializing in group therapy? Or an advocacy feminist working to raise awareness? Or a men’s issues feminist focusing on how gender hurts men? Nothing prevents cross-training and/or combinations of the above, and the existence of one sub-discipline in no way invalidates any of the others.

        But feminism is not equivalent to psychology as a multidisciplinary topic. Feminism is a school of gender theory. It’s more equivalent to just one branch of the subject, equivalent to cognitive psychology or whatever. So I would be very happy if within the field of gender theory there was room for complementary schools of feminists, masculinity theorists, men’s rights activists, post-structuralist gender theorists, queer theorists.

        I think your analogy is more like saying within the field of psychology, neuroscience has all the tools necessary to find all the answers to any question, so instead of having a broad faculty of psychology, we’ll just call it neuroscience, and if any social psychologists or cognitive psychologists or psychoanalysts want to understand their specialities, they can just do it through the prism of neuroscience, and everyone should be happy.

        It’s not likely to be a happy recipe!

        • PsyConomics says:

          Patriarchy doesn’t have to be one’s focus, nor the philosophical center of the discipline for it to be the shoehorn that makes room in the movement for men. It existing and hurting men too is sufficient. That being said, it looks like we may have been trained from two different perspectives philosophically. I was taught feminism from a pragmatic “here is a bunch of tools, use them, tweak them, apply them as best you can” sort of perspective, it looks like you come from a slightly more academic background.

          As such it might be difficult to find a common ground how I had originally planned, which is by no means bad, but I would like to try a slightly different argument.

          As I mentioned earlier, separate but equal may be needed in certain therapeutic situations. So imagine a male survivor who is looking for help. As someone who’s had some psychological first-aid training, I should be able to help him. Too bad all my training and connections are feminist inspired. Instead I would have to refer him to a speciality MRA group/counselor or to a more traditional counseling situation. I have the skills and the connections, but I have to turn him away for no real good reason.

          Why not have a support groups for male survivors that take inspiration from female support groups? Why waste all that experience that feminism has given us? Is it worth the suffering of male survivors who would get turned away from “feminist” centers that could help?

          I have a feeling that the spirit of your argument is quite correct, “simple” traditional feminism wont help too much beyond being a place to begin looking for questions/ideas/tools. Any tools used to examine the male condition need to be tweaked, refined, modified, and reapplied. What mostly concerns me is that a split that you suggest might discard those tools before they have a chance to be adapted into something more applicable to the male sphere.

          • What mostly concerns me is that a split that you suggest might discard those tools before they have a chance to be adapted into something more applicable to the male sphere.
            Well it’s not like discarding said tools is inherently bad if they are shown not to be useful (and even if modifying tools there is only so much modification one should go through before it comes time to discard and work on something from scratch).

            (While you may not be saying this) It seems like some of the folks that are pushing for feminist tools to be used to help men seem to be doing so based solely on the fact that they already exist. As if since those tools are used in gender theory (and partly because they came first) we are now obligated to use them as if we owe feminism some sort of debt of gratitude and not using them is indicative of disrespect and hatred of feminism, women, and of course equality.

  28. Something else worth considering about the pairs of M/F stereotypes: Not only do they complement each other, more important yet, they reinforce each other.

    It’s as if they arose specifically to pressure each sex to keep to the roles society assigns, in order to keep society from breaking down in some unspecific way.

    • abyssobenthonic says:

      I had a long post agreeing with your hypothesis and arguing for it while debunking evo-psych, but the refresh ate it.

      Seriously, why was having a Refresh: header ever considered a good idea?

      • Probably just as well. You can say you don’t agree with evo-psych and reason from there, but spend too long debunking it and you’re liable to be flamed skinless.

  29. Copyleft says:

    Ignorant, cheap shots at the MRM negate any other value the piece might have had.

    • I think that the MRM is exactly like the man hating radical feminists. Often they say sensible things, however their arguments are driven by an unexamined hatred of men/women, and healthier people react to the misogyny / misandery rather than the content of the argument.

    • Calling people misogynistic assholes and then expecting them to engage in a constructive discourse with you is ludicrous. Maybe the authors should try the whole “constructive discourse” deal before throwing around insults and mischaracterizations.

      • Amanda J says:

        It sounds like that was step one, and then writing them off was step two. If you’re the person with whom to have constructive discourse, you’re just going to have to be the bigger person and offer it despite being dismissed. Kind of par for the course in fights for gender equality, no matter which movement you identify with.

    • I went to see MRM sites out of a desire to understand where they are coming from.

      I recall one of the first things I stumbled across was some guy claiming that “women have never accomplished anything in human history except making baskets and inferior carpets.” I read comments by guys arguing that women really shouldn’t be allowed to work or vote. I read stuff claming that women are inherently stupid and vile and need men to keep them in lie, I read some of the most awful, hateful stuff I’ve ever seen outside of loony white supremacist tracts. I mean, I started thinking that some of these guys really need to move to Afghanistan or something. Except that I wouldn’t want to inflict them on innocent Afgani women.

      Now, I realize every movement has extremists, including feminism. I’m more of an egalitarian than a feminist and I’m not trying to get into a “who’s worse” kind of argument. Extremists of all stripes are bad. My point is that the MRM folks are doing a terrible job winning sympathizers when someone like me, who is curious and open minded and wanting to know where they are coming from, has to wade through a hundred tons of this horrible, scary, sexist dreck to find two ounces of sanity and rational discussion.

      • Yep.

      • Amanda J says:

        This.

      • Swap “feminism” and “MRM” in that last paragraph, and I know exactly how you feel. Or don’t swap them, and…I still know exactly how you feel.

        The difference is that feminist sites are more likely to block your curious, open-minded questions entirely, while MRM sites are more likely to have an extremely weak commenting policy leaving you open to mocking and insults. Personally, I’d rather be heard and mocked instead of censored – I’m infinitely more likely to get an honest answer to my questions.

        • pocketjacks says:

          God, yes. I’ve seen what passes for “moderate” feminism. Do I really want to even ever glimpse at the places that even they acknowledge as extremist? Well… actually maybe but only out of morbid curiosity.

  30. Fingenieur says:

    I’ve not been that big of a fan for this blog (lately), but this introduction is bookworthy. Bravo!

    Though I still consider the characterization of the “MRM” unfair and misjudged. And severely arrogant. You wouldn’t be writing a book about men’s issues, if they weren’t doing something right. It sounds more like a need to build a big strawman of all the bad men-folk with dickish behaviour and delegitimize the term via association. Sounds kind of familiar. That kind of forceful association probably much perpetuates the process keeping the “sensible” ones anonymous and away from the dialogue.

    Meh, you know what’s wrong with it. No-one’s perfect. Not MR-folk, not feminists, not me

    • Amanda J says:

      You don’t think addressing the MRM’s failure to become mainstream due to some undesirable aspects, hostility, and attempts to hinder or reverse some of feminism’s accomplishments is relevant in a book that will be one of the only books on the shelf regarding men’s equality to an audience that might have marginal familiarity with a movement with a similar sounding (on the surface) objective? Especially given that the entire movement works counter to Ozy’s law and main theories? And that most readers, if they have any interacting with the MRM, will have found it to be negative — and it will be with that in mind, that they pick up this book, and wait for it dismiss them, whether it’s a woman who got a rape threat for daring to say “I’m a feminist,” on the internet or a man who found himself uncomfortable in the movement.

      And you’re right! This will scare men’s rights activists away. This is a way of declaring who the book is directed to, something every marketable book does, to some degree. When you put a book in the YA section, you say “This book is aimed at ages 11ish-16ish.” When the cover has blood on it, it says, “If you don’t like horror and/or murders, not for you!” And when it starts off with dismissing a movement, it says, “If this is what you identify with, you won’t agree with me. Knowing that, feel free to continue to read on, but you’ve been warned.”

      • That assumes that the reason the men’s rights movement is not mainstream is due to some undesirable aspects, hostility, and attempts to hinder or reverse some of feminism’s accomplishments. Yet that is not a given. The lack of mainstream acceptance likely stems from a lack of political and academic support, cultural attitudes towards men talking about their problems, and negative feminist responses to men’s rights advocates (like the authors’ comments).

        As for most readers finding the men’s rights movement to be negative, I suppose that depends on the audience for the book. From what I can tell, the intended audience is feminists, so it would come as no surprise that people do not think men can be oppressed and believe that men ironically cause their own problems would have a negative view of the men’s rights movement.

        However, if the intended audience is broader than just feminists, then broad attacks on the men’s rights movement will not win over many converts, although will make those readers unlikely to support any efforts to address men’ issues because they will view the issues as born out of misogyny.

        I do not begrudge anyone their right to preach to the converted, however, when a person wants to talk about a broad issue does so by trashing the only people actually talking about that issue, it looks bad.

  31. Brandon Pendleton says:

    Very insightful. It puts into words many ideas that (I’m pretty sure) I’ve recently thought about masculinity but just couldn’t seem to articulate. Looking forward to more.

  32. Bravo! Well done.

  33. In before sensible commentary!

Trackbacks

  1. […] is part four of the second chapter of a book in progress. Chapter One is here, and the first three parts of Chapter Two are here, here, and here. […]

  2. […] of a book in progress. Part one of this chapter may be read here, and chapter one may be read here. […]

  3. […] This is part one of the second chapter of a book in progress. Chapter one may be read here. […]

  4. […] the struggles men face every day,” says The Good Men Project Editor in Chief Noah Brand. “We’re considered the default, normal human gender, which creates a curious invisibility for manhood as a gender. Combine that with a masculine ideal […]

  5. […] you can read the first chapter over here to see if you like it! Basically, it’s like the blog except it’s edited, and […]

  6. […] What About The Men: Chapter 1, Introduction and Principles […]

  7. […] What About the Men: Chapter 1, Introduction and Principles […]

  8. […] with fellow NSWATMer Noah Brand about men and feminism titled, naturally, What About the Men. The first chapter, written by Ozy, is up on the Good Men Project web site, NSWATM’s (sort of) new home. […]

  9. […] and I wrote a book! The first chapter is here! You should go read […]

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