A look inside the place where the conversation no one else is having happens.
One of the greatest gifts of the digital era is the ability to share ideas rapidly among a multitude of people. Every day on our own internal Writers Group Facebook page, the writers and editors of The Good Men Project gather together virtually to discuss and debate the most compelling issues of our time. We’re now curating the best of these discussions and bringing them to you in our new feature, “Inside the Conversation.” In doing so, we hope to offer our readers deeper insight into the minds and hearts of the writers you’ve come to love and admire—and to include you more fully in the conversation that no one else is having.
The following are excerpts from our conversation regarding a BuzzFeed story about a Tumblr site called “Meninists,” and the hashtag #MeninistTwitter, both of which feature posts and tweets by men advocating for men’s rights by calling out what they consider double standards applied to men in media and the larger culture. The group addresses the question of whether movements like meninism help men and concludes that they are ineffective at best and hurtful at worst. Interestingly, our conversation touches on many of the points in today’s New York Magazine article on meninism.
The use of the term ‘meninism’ begins as a laughing matter.
Christian Marcus: Would that make us “meninites?”
Then Adiba Nelson and La Shawn Pagán move the discussion away from gender, leading Jason Evans to comment that feminism – understood as humanism – is the gender equality movement.
Adiba Nelson: I need “peopleism“. Because People MATTER. Sorry. I had to. I’m starting to wear thin of the “us” and “them” mentality.
La Shawn Pagán: Adiba, I’m with you. A lot of people ask me if I’m pro-women’s rights, or pro-men’s rights, and I say “I’m pro HUMAN rights.” The reason I shared the post is to demonstrate how we need to come together as people in order to create a better future. We need to stop gender-segregation and have equal rights across the board for EVERYONE. Christian, ‘Meninites’ lol!
Jason Y. Evans: Gah. I’m so tired of people not understanding what “feminism” means and why it’s not called “humanism.” Please do some homework on this issue. It’s getting very old, and feminism does not prop up women over men.
Matthew Facciani chimes in with a reminder that men don’t need meninism, because they haven’t been oppressed in the way women have. Parallels to racism are noted.
Matthew Facciani: Yes all people matter, but the purpose of feminism is to eradicate gender inequality and dismantle patriarchy. While men can be discriminated against, they don’t face the same systematic oppression that women deal with. That’s why we need feminism and not ‘meninism.’
Christian Marcus: Just like I have NEVER subscribed to the definition of “racism” as skin color, I have NEVER subscribed to the notion of gender roles being solely appointed to different genders. Those are such outdated theories that need to change in our daily lexicon.
Thomas G Fiffer: I’m all for anything that helps break down misunderstandings about feminism and gender equality in general.
Siobhán Patricia Lynch then calls out the radical fringe groups and notes that they do not represent or define movements such as feminism; Jason Evans offers a history lesson.
Siobhán Patricia Lynch: My issue with people taking issues with the word “feminism” is similar to my issue with people taking issues with “libertarian”— there are fringe groups in each who are louder, who have co-opted the term, but that are nutcases and bat-shit insane. I refuse — simply refuse — to be lumped in with those people. I want to reclaim my words, damnit. (Full disclosure, and confession, 4 years ago, I was a raging misandrist, I would NOT call misandry feminism, by any means.)
Jason Y. Evans: I think it’s time people understood the terms as they are before the “reinvention” of lexicon begins. If you don’t understand the history and why it’s called “feminism” in the first place, you’re missing the point altogether. The “human” thing also reminds me of the #humanlivesmatter co-opting. It’s an entitled ignorance to say that we are humans because it assumes that our differences aren’t significant and we are all treated equally. #blacklivesmatter is important because it highlights the specificity of the problem and what needs addressing. We are not homogeneous and things don’t get better by assuming that we are.
Thomas Fiffer, who moderates the writers group on Facebook, supports the ideal of equality for all, while recognizing the need for oppressed groups to push against injustice.
Thomas G Fiffer: Jason, I both agree and disagree with your perspective on #humanlivesmatter. I agree that we need to call attention to systemic injustice against particular groups to end that injustice. But I believe #humanlivesmatter is the stronger—strongest—position. The Dalai Lama says when he meets someone, the first thing he remembers is that we are all people, that he has a basic human connection with that person regardless of their differences. That attitude is what we’re trying to achieve.
La Shawn Pagán I agree with Thomas – I don’t consider my “human rights approach” to be entitled ignorance, because what I’m really tying to push is that we are supposed to treat each other with dignity, respect, and equally so. All lives matter, and injustices, while continuously prevalent in the world, must be eradicated by taking on a ‘humanist’ approach to it. We need to stop looking at people as black/white/orange/purple/brown/green and see them as people, who matter, who have feelings, needs and should be allowed to live with dignity.
One commenter brings the discussion back to the BuzzFeed article and questions its intent, leading Danny Gibbs to call for a discussion of the actual problems men face.
Siobhán Patricia Lynch: See – this is the thing – we see it with all “ism” discussions – and I get that point of view – but erasing specific injustice doesn’t all of a sudden fix things – each of these things has very specific systemic symptoms – and while yes – ultimately the goal is to just see “people” – that’s not the status quo. If you have a tumor in your stomach and one in your brain – irradiating a whole body is probably a bad idea – focused, surgical strikes is probably the way to go there. I believe there are enough people outraged by injustice in all its forms to attack separate issues such as racism, sexism, genderism, etc, while still learning that everyone is human at their core and we should take everyone individually.
Siobhán Patricia Lynch: Double standards are always weird. I can’t even get through all of those pictures, some make some really good points; (“Just because I ejaculated doesn’t mean I wanted it”) – and I agree wholeheartedly… other photos, like the Plan C, one are just offensive, and as to the question of “Where is Men in History” – pretty much everywhere… the reason there’s a “Women in History”, is because historically women have had to be twice as good or remarkable to get mention.
La Shawn Pagán: You’re right Siobhán, I was looking at the ejaculating” meme as well as the exchange of height information, like why is that necessary? Also the point made by Mike when he says if he ‘takes a shirtless picture with his friends he’s called gay. I’ve seen so many people cringe at a group of shirtless guys posing for photos together like, “Why would they be touching their bare chests?” Also the “we’re not here to please you” response to a woman sharing a photo of a hypster-like bearded guy (which is also a thing for women, we’re not here to please men, why should we make such demands from them?) The female fan running into the baseball field and grabbing a players butt, that’s ‘cute’ and I’m sure she wasn’t charged with assault…..just to name a few.
Thomas Fiffer brings up the equally negative stereotypes of the absentee father and the helpless stay-at-home dad and points out that these leave no room on the spectrum for actual fatherhood.
Thomas G Fiffer Another friend of mine posted this article on her personal page, and here was my comment there:
“I think the undertone here is much less about white men or men for that matter decrying the loss of privilege and more about men saying, you know, there’s a whole movement that stands up for women when they’re victimized or treated unfairly, but no similar legitimate one (I don’t consider MRA’s legitimate) for men. And there are societal customs that stereotype men or treat them unfairly in comparison to women. I was talking with some friends the other day about how you have on the one hand the stereotype of the absentee father who is letting his family down, and on the other the stay-at-home dad, who can’t possibly do as good a job as the mom. So where does that leave actual fatherhood on the spectrum? I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I do think men are searching for a legitimate, non-whining, and definitely pro-feminist way to voice their concerns. Neither the MRAs nor the extreme fringes of feminism help matters.”
And Lisa Hickey, Publisher of The Good Men Project, then responds that the idea that everyone matters can be used to dismiss the real suffering of oppressed and devalued groups who are still fighting for equal treatment and returns the discussion to the issues men face.
Lisa Hickey: That said, Thomas, here is why I agree with a point that Jason and Matthew and others are making. The reason that #HumanLivesMatter is wrong is NOT because all human lives don’t matter. OF COURSE THEY DO. It’s because racism kills and has always killed. And saying “oh, don’t talk about black lives, all lives matter” is dismissing the fact that historically we have not valued black lives in the same way as we value white lives. We–as a society—don’t value the lives of POC themselves, we don’t value the economic worth of POC, we don’t value the type of education they get, we don’t value their freedom, and overall we don’t value their worth as fully functioning members of this society. So YES, all lives matter, but to co-opt a social justice movement by saying “Hey, stop talking about people who have been oppressed, all lives matter” makes no sense to me. And that, as I see it, is what Meninism is doing. It is not saying “Hey, let’s talk about men’s issues”— which is what WE are doing here at GMP — all day, every day, all the time, respectfully, insightfully and with consideration. That is saying “Hey, feminism has become this silly little thing, cuz, look at what happens to men too”. And then it uses violence against women and objectification to make its’ points. And what I want to do here, at GMP, is to talk about the issues of men in a way that is NOT anti-anything else. I want to talk about the fact that fatherhood is in flux. I want to talk about the fact that men are not seen as victims. I want to talk about the problems of male body image. I want to talk about the fact that men die earlier, and commit suicide more. I want to talk about how hard it is to talk about the issues of men. I just don’t want to do it in opposition to other movements. And that is, I think, what we do so well here.
Matthew Facciani: I wrote an article about why I’m a male feminist and not a men’s rights activist, which sums up much of my main point for this discussion:“MRA’s make some accurate observations, but they incorrectly attribute the source of injustices to ‘female privilege’ instead of patriarchy. Patriarchy, a culturally-enabled distribution of power which, taken on the whole, favors maleness and masculinity, to the disempowerment of all, explains these social phenomenon much better than women trying to oppress men.”As Lisa said, not only is it incorrect to have a “meninism,” but it is counterproductive because of the confrontational nature. I think working within the framework of feminism is more accurate and more helpful for men. We just have to be careful when we talk about things. Nuance is crucial for such a complex and emotional subject!
Finally, Christopher Anderson, executive director of MaleSurvivor, brings up the way society and the media ignore male survivors of abuse and trauma, and Thomas Fiffer ends the discussion by concluding that movements such as meninism delegitimize men’s real issues.
Christopher M Anderson: Tom, the one thing that your friend is either overlooking or unaware of is the growing movement of male survivors of sexual violence and other traumas.
It’s not unsurprising, however, because time and time again our efforts to be heard get shot down by people who presume we are trying to coopt the great and important strides that feminism has made, or who just ignorantly believe that violence against men is an issue that is so marginal (when we consider the overwhelming power that all men have access to by virtue of their gonads) compared to violence against women that we cannot afford to pay attention t the issues that we are raising.
Siobhán Patricia Lynch: ^^^ here here. I would add more, but Chris put it perfectly. I think male survivors of sexual trauma deal with similar issues as female survivors, but different in some ways that bear examining as a society, in some ways it presents in different ways, because … well…. patriarchy. It hurts everyone, even men. The tendency to sweep sexual violence against men under the rug is definitely a major part of why.
Thomas G Fiffer: Returning to the article that started this thread: If we start with the premise that men’s concerns are important and need to be heard, we can move to the idea that men do themselves and their legitimate concerns a huge disservice when they express those concerns in the context of blaming feminine oppression or painting feminism as oppressive. I think that’s a key point here—that memes like meninism actually delegitimize men’s real issues.