Men are often reticent to be vulnerable and talk about their internal experience, particularly with women. As a result, many straight women find men to be an enigma. They are generally very interested in the internal experience of their male partners and frustrated to know so little about what makes them tick.
As a feminist, it came as a surprise to me to realize that feminism as a field has not shown much interest in men’s internal experience. I asked a feminist scholar colleague of mine why she thought this was so. My colleague stressed that it is not the responsibility of feminism to be interested in the internal lives of men, in the same sense that it is not the responsibility of members of the Black Lives Matter movement to be interested in the internal experience of white people. She said that feminism as a political and social movement is rightly focused on issues that were most important to women and that men should be responsible for being interested in their own experience and not expect women to do that for them.
I agree with my colleague that feminism should not be responsible for doing the work of understanding men’s internal experience. However, I think it would still be valuable for feminism to include an interest in men’s internal experience within its field of study. For example, as the conversation continued, my colleague and I inevitably began to talk about the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings. She made the point that men use language as a tool of power to control women. I suggested that this was an excellent example of the ways in which an understanding of the interior dynamics of men could help to flesh out her understanding. I agreed that the outcome of men’s use of language is the control of women, but I suggested that men’s motivation is often less about controlling for the sake of power, and more about their fears of the conversation straying into more personal, emotional areas in which they would feel one down to a woman, if not inadequate. Their use of language to control the conversation has as much to do with trying to protect themselves from feeling inadequate as it does with trying to control women.
A central feminist principle of relationships is mutuality, meaning that a relationship cannot be growth-enhancing for one person if it is not also growth-enhancing for the other. Conversely, any relationship that is harmful to one person is also harmful to the other. While men clearly are the primary beneficiaries of the patriarchy, they are harmed by the same system that harms women, harmed by the limitations the patriarchy imposed on men’s capacity to lead fully emotional lives and participate in mutual relationships. The only way out of this mess is to work together. We are going to have to include an interest in the internal lives of men if we – women and men together — are ever to work our way out of the grip of the patriarchy.
Join the Sex, Love Etc. FACEBOOK GROUP here.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all-access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class, and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group, and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo Credit: Pixabay