Back for more? Me, too! This is Part two of a three part saga dismantling the arguments found in this Lawsonry post about what makes a male feminist a “fauxminist.” Part one is here. Consider reading it because the response follows Milanese’s points chronologically.
He insists that feminism must make time for men and men’s issues.
Hoo boy. This one’s a beast. First and foremost, it’s troubling because I think that lot’s of men’s issues are real problems and they deserve to be solved. But the spaces for talking about them tend to be dominated by, uh… men’s rights activists (MRAs). Who are terrible. So, maybe if you’re a friendly, non-MRA egalitarian, you might think that you could find friends amongst folks who often fight under the banner of “gender equality.” In my head, that seems pretty reasonable?
Of course, we only have so much time and energy, and it’s fairly reasonable to claim feminism as a space to focus on women specifically, rather than gender equality generally. If you want feminism to focus on women, I can see how it’d be frustrating to have someone ask you to open the focus to gender at large.
But the problem with that is that limiting feminism to discussion of women’s issues leaves gender equality and men’s issues without a real home populated by actual progressives. I’m an egalitarian and a masculinist, so it’s hard for me to come down on the side of someone who thinks that if you think feminism should be more about gender equality, you’re wrong. While I want feminism to be that space, I accept both that this is my personal brand of feminism and that not agreeing with me on this point does not necessarily make anybody else a bad feminist.
Anyway, so, Milanese states that we should focus on misogyny because misogyny is actually the cause of men’s issues too: “It is a systemic devaluation of femininity that creates the rigidly defined masculinity by which men must abide.” Which, whoa. That’s quite a claim. To be perfectly honest I don’t know if I agree with it or not. I think it’s an interesting argument and I’d like to see more support for it and more discussion about it. But, right this second, I can neither agree or disagree. I’ll think about it more and maybe get back to you.
And that’s the thing. The notion that misogyny is the root of all gender problems is a thesis. It’s a theory. And not everybody is going to agree with it. And somebody who does not agree and thinks that men’s issues are separate, equal and should be talked about is not necessarily a bad feminist. Even if he happens to be a man. He’s not necessarily “expecting women to drop everything and mommy him.” He might just not agree. Or he might think that, while destroying misogyny would fix everything, it’ll take a long time, and in the short-term men and children are being harmed by the way tat paternity laws work, and it might be a good idea to work on that for a bit. Or something. The assertion that he’s just a crap feminist is crap feminism.
Milanese goes on to say that men’s issues, while they do exist, are “in no way, shape, or form… of the same caliber as the problems and oppression facing women.” Which, what. I don’t… Okay, I guess? I mean, look, I’m willing to say that ladies have the shorter end of the stick. I’ll say that. But issues not even of the same caliber? Whoa.
And she goes on: “If he is intent on making feminism about men, or inflating the issues that men face in order to play Oppression Olympics with the women he is conversing and organizing with, he is a fauxminist. Seriously: the minute he mentions the draft just stop listening,” (emphasis original).
This quote is… quite the thing, because she says that men shouldn’t show up and try to play Oppression Olympics because they’ve already lost. She is actually arguing against playing Oppression Olympics by playing Oppression Olympics. Also her conclusion is that good feminists should just stop listening to anyone who disagrees with that position. Just ignore his ideas and don’t engage. Not at all. I think that’s a pretty shitty thing to do.
He continues to partake in media or activities that objectify/degrade women.
Here Milinese uses an example of a guy she once knew who went to feminist events and stuff, but his desktop was always a picture of ”some conventionally attractive, usually white, thin, barely-clothed woman.” She continues: “When men have stated a commitment to feminism, they need to go all in. This means thinking critically about themselves, their interests, and the media they consume.”
Now, I agree with the notion that a commitment to feminism necessitates critical thought about myself and the things I do and like. My issues here are the following:
a) That dude might not think that he was objectifying or degrading women. He might have specific thoughts about gaze in photographs, or about sexuality and pornography that make what he was doing totally acceptable in his book. And those opinions might be valid even though Milanese would disagree with them.
b) He might have critically evaluated what he was doing in some other way, and accepted it. Or he might have been struggling with it.
c) Milanese never talked to him about his desktops, at least not that she mentions. She seems to just have assumed he was a crap feminist and moved on. That’s shitty, ma’am. This failure to engage with him denied him the chance to respond; which is unfair given the importance she’ll give later to mens’ responses to being called on these sorts of things.
Furthermore, the attitude that “men need to go all in” if they’re going to be feminists contributes to that high bar for male feminists that I was talking about in part one. Do women need to go all in, Ms. Milanese? What about women who engage in “media or activities that objectify/demean women”? And, could we have some standards for which media and activities objectify or demean women? Even if such standards were provided, could they be anything besides subjective and easy to disagree with?
Also, gosh. I participate in tons of sexist media. Ask me about my thoughts on Supernatural: I have them and they’re not all bad. Enough media is sexist enough that, especially if you happen to be attracted to skinny white women, their nudity and their come-hither gazes, I’m not totally sure how you can engage with your attraction through media without its being problematic. Therefore is seems easy for me to imagine being attracted to those things and having to reconcile feminism with my tastes fairly immediately.
Milanese closes: “At the very least, they must come to terms with their interest in possibly harmful media, and if another feminist calls them out on it they need to be willing and able to defend themselves without demeaning that person,” which I actually think is pretty reasonable. Most of my issue with this section is in her summary judgment of her male feminist acquaintance based on his taste in desktop wallpapers.
He calls women he doesn’t agree with “bitches,” “whores” or other gender-based slurs.
I actually have no problem whatsoever with this section. Don’t use gendered insults, y’all. Not unless you have permission.
And, on that great note, let’s leave off. I have good feelings about this!