The Guy’s Guide to Feminism: Two Excerpts

Two excerpts from Michael Kaufman and Michael Kimmel’s book The Guy’s Guide to Feminism

Kaufman and Kimmel’s new book is a short, funny guide to the A-Z of feminist theory, intended for men new to feminism but open to the basics. In these two excerpts, they make light of the performative masculinity we call machismo, and explain the meaning of the phrase “the personal is political”.

 

Machismo

Famous interviewer: Michael K-1, let’s start with you. What’s it like having such a big dick?

Michael K-1: Pretty awesome. Except when you’re standing up in front of a group of people and it comes out the bottom of your pant leg.

Famous interviewer: Now, Michael K-2, I read in one of your autobiographies that you actually felt an emotion once.

Michael K-2: And I’m man enough to say so. Yeah. I had one of those once. It’s a bitch, but I’d just had all my arms and legs slowly chewed off by this friggin’ pack of wild hogs and right then the waiter comes and wants me to sign the credit card slip and I don’t mind saying I was pretty pissed off at him.

Famous interviewer: Have you ever met a girl who didn’t want to get it on with you that second?

Michael K-1: Tell you the truth, it did happen once. I’d just met Mother Teresa for the first time and, I mean, I got no vibes from her at all. Strange but true.

Famous interviewer: What’s it like being the King of the Castle? The Boss of the Hoss?

Michael K-2: I wouldn’t have it any other way. I said to the wife when we first met, “To make good decisions, to be rational, to lead the way, you need balls.” Not figurative ones, I mean real ones. There’s something about the chemical composition of sperm that puts you in charge. Am I right? … I said, am I right?

Famous interviewer: Take it easy there champ. You The Man.

Michael K-1: Hey, wait a minute. I thought I was The Man.

Michael K-2: You got to be The Man last week.

Michael K-1: That’s because …

Famous interviewer (ducking for cover): But first, this important message …

♦◊♦

THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL

Every so often a phrase comes along that captures an entire political philosophy. “The personal is political” is one of them. It means that politics is not just about what happens in government, but that our most personal and intimate relationships are also political. And it’s in our personal life that the intricacies of male-female power relations get acted out.

Don’t get us wrong. The opposite, “the political is personal,” is also true. What happens in the realm of politics (for example, enacting certain policies) is experienced at the personal level.

Here’s a sweet little example: Say you want to be a really involved father. The policies of your government either help or hurt your ability to do that. A country like Norway—with generous government support for both mothers and fathers to take paid leave to be with their children, with good national healthcare and good free education through university—enhance your ability to do that. A country that professes “family values” but doesn’t provide any policies to help you value your family? Well, not so much. The political is personal.

The personal is also political. How you choose to act in your family, how you and your partner negotiate parental responsibilities, how you divide housework and childcare—these are certainly personal decisions. But they’re “political” in the sense that they can support or challenge the existing arrangements between women and men.

You see, “political” has to do with relations of power. Not only in the corridors of governments, but in the hallways of your apartment or home. Does one person dominate discussions and decision-making? Do you have a relationship based on equality or is one person the boss? Are both persons’ needs, ambitions, and desires equally addressed, or does one person take precedence?

Changing the world depends not just on voting or supporting certain government policies. It also means we’ve got to make changes in our own lives. It’s not enough to believe in equality and then go home and expect dinner on the table and a wife or girlfriend who takes care of the children. Those personal decisions are political too.

Buy The Guy’s Guide To Feminism today!

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About Michael Kaufman

Michael Kaufman is a writer and educator who’s worked for 30 years engaging men and boys to promote gender equality and transform our ideas of good men. He’s the co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women. Author of 9 books, his latest is The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. @GenderEQ www.michaelkaufman.com www.michaelkaufman.com/facebook

Comments

  1. Mark Neil says:

    I think Erin Pizzey covers this pretty well here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhliqceyoL8

  2. You know what I’ll agree with Mark? That people of any race or gender who have been through hell? May make good activists but unless they also do healing work on themselves (“my dad’s a shit so all men are shits”, as Pizzey stated also goes for “My mom was abusive so women are abusive”) or any movement they make will mirror dysfunction.

    I firmly believe that about any group. The healthier the members the healthier the group.

    For me? I didn’t grow up thinking men were rapists or shits or evil, nor did I feel women were, and my politics and my understanding and experience of various social justice movements reflects that.

    If people have been abused and not heard and then form groups to stop the abuse and mix it not with compassion but with anger, you get what you get. And I’d say that goes for Men’s Rights groups as well as Feminists or any other ism so far as I can tell. And what I’ve been seeing from an outsider perspective is a whole lot of cycles.

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      Julie, you hit the nail on the head.
      And I’d add that, the bigger the issues one has, the higher s/he will tend to dis-own them, project them onto others (“all men are jerks”, “all women are bitches”…), and be less likely to hear any opposing opinion.
      We can easily see this in enraged radical feminists and MRAs as well. They’re literally blinded by their (unresolved) emotions.

      Alas, human beings are not rational creatures (mostly), thus expecting them to be aware of their issues is idealistic. Some do, most don’t.

      • We can easily see this in enraged radical feminists and MRAs as well. They’re literally blinded by their (unresolved) emotions.
        Yes. Those emotions emenate from old wounds that must be properly healed. I think that’s one of the big barriers that a lot of people face. They were simply not able to heal those wounds and the pain still persists for months, years, even decades after the initial event.

        • Eagle34 says:

          Danny: “Yes. Those emotions emenate from old wounds that must be properly healed. I think that’s one of the big barriers that a lot of people face. They were simply not able to heal those wounds and the pain still persists for months, years, even decades after the initial event.”

          Don’t forget, Danny, that they also likely couldn’t find any support for those wounds either no matter how loudly they yelled.

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