Every oppression, like an unhappy family, is oppressive in its own way. Each is a unique snowflake of kyriarchal crap.
One of the ways that gender is unique, as an axis of oppression, is that it is one of the few forms that totally sucks for everyone. As a white person, I can inform you that I have never actually had a disadvantage noticeably related to the color of my skin. As an upper-middle-class person, neither having health insurance nor my parents being able to retire sometime this century have left me in a particularly marginalized position.
But gender roles just fuck it up for everyone.
That’s why I believe we have to have feminism and masculism.
Feminism is the movement for gender liberation primarily focused on women. Feminism’s focus on women is a good thing. For one thing, a lot of the most pressing issues during the second wave in America were primarily women’s issues: sex-segregated Help Wanted ads, company policies that kept women out of top-paying jobs by forbidding them to lift more than 35 pounds, facilities that refused admittance or service to women, rules that forbid women from getting credit cards in their own name. Prioritizing those issues was a smart move, politically, and often benefited men as a side effect– say hi, paternity leave and stricter rape laws!
Fortunately, a lot of the glaring inequalities between men and women have been corrected. (Not all of them, but a lot.) We still have the gender liberation movement primarily focused on women, though, which is excellent. Because we still have way too few movies that pass the Bechdel Test, and the idea that a woman’s worth is defined by her hotness, and that damn Mississippi Personhood amendment, and so it’s nice to have a movement that’s focused on ending that shit.
On the other hand, we also have problems for men: they’re far more likely to die on the job than women, and are the vast majority of deaths in the military, and often have their rapes or abuse downplayed, and have their roles as fathers to their children devalued, and are less likely to get custody of their children, and so on and so forth. However, there is only a very small movement for gender equality focused on men, and quite a lot of it is under the impression that Amanda Marcotte is the single worst enemy, bar none, that men face today.
We need masculism.
I also like the term “gender egalitarian”, as an overarching umbrella term for feminists, masculists and other people concerned with gender. For the purposes of this blog, I’m defining gender egalitarian as a person who believes that the genders are more far similar than they are different, that gender roles should be eliminated and that such ideas as killing off 80% of men or replacing all women with sexbots are both stupid and evil. Gender egalitarianism, as a term, is cool for a couple of reasons:
First, it reminds us that we’re all far more similar than we are different. Whatever my political differences with Feminist Critics or Sady Doyle, we are all generally on the same side. Feminism, masculism and related movements (such as “hey, how about we not discriminate against trans people for employment?” or “for Christ’s sake, can we queers just get married already?”) have intertwined goals. Even if we have different foci, victory conditions look the same for all of us. You can’t liberate women without liberating men; you can’t liberate men without liberating women. If you try, you’ll only end up with a bunch of women coming home from work to a second shift taking care of children and doing household chores, because the men still won’t fucking do them if it makes you a sissy to pick up a dishrag.
Also, the concept of gender egalitarianism allows us to simultaneously condemn and recognize the importance of certain people in the beginnings of our movements. For instance, consider Mary Daly. Her work was of tremendous importance to feminist theology: she also compared trans people to Frankenstein’s monsters, suggested that the male population ought to be reduced to 10% and was called out by no less a light than Audre Lorde for her racism. It’s dishonest in the extreme to kick Mary Daly out of feminism: she identified and was identified as a feminist and concepts she came up with are still used in feminist theology. More importantly, just saying she’s not a feminist because she’s a racist, transphobic, misandric asshat means that we won’t face up with and engage with the racism, transphobia and misandry in the feminist movement even today.
Fortunately, there is a solution here! Mary Daly was a feminist, yes, but she was not a gender egalitarian feminist. She was part of feminism-the-political-movement, sure, but she was sadly mistaken, blinded by her prejudices, about its overall and eventual goals.
(Digression: yes, trans rights are an integral part of gender egalitarianism. If you deny someone the right to be taken as the gender they identify as, you are saying they cannot do particular actions (be referred to by certain pronouns, have certain surgeries), simply because of the bits they were born with. That’s… not very gender-egalitarian.)
A similar process can be used about many masculist (defined broadly, as “the movement for gender liberation focused on men”) people. The Spearhead is certainly masculist, but it’s not gender egalitarian masculist, and therefore its commenters should not be held against people who do not actually hate women.
I think gender egalitarianism is, ultimately, an aspirational thing. We all have bits of sexist shit floating around in our subconsciouses, courtesy of the society we grew up in; anyone who says they treat the genders perfectly equally all the time is lying. But as the wise man once said, “try again, fail again, fail better.” Right now, our society is in the “fail better” stage of fighting sexism, and that’s really, really good.