I find myself writing more frequently about social issues on this blog for whatever reason. I probably shouldn’t, especially since I’m white, male, straight, cisgender, old, conservative (relative to liberal states – in relation to Idaho, I’m probably a moderate), and religious.
In other words, based on that collection of labels, I’m a pretty terrible human being, at least among a certain set of demographics.
I’ll say at the outset that the closest article I’ve written to this one in terms of theme is Injured and Dangerous about a group of hostile, aggressive, and potentially lethal men called Incels. Click the link I provided if you haven’t heard of them and prepare to be terrified.
Earlier today, I read an article from Campus Reform called Feminist prof doubles-down on call to ‘hate men’ written by Toni Airaksinen. She was referencing an opinion piece written by Suzanna Danuta Walters for the Washington Post titled Why Can’t We Hate Men?.
Cutting to the chase, Professor Walters concluded the WaPo article with:
So men, if you really are #WithUs and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, start with this: Lean out so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down. Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power. We got this. And please know that your crocodile tears won’t be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you. You have done us wrong. #BecausePatriarchy. It is long past time to play hard for Team Feminism. And win.
According to Airaksinen’s article, Walters also granted an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, but it’s paywalled, so only members (or anyone willing to pony up the fee) can read it.
Airaksinen provided some of Walters’ quotes from the Chronicle article including:
After the article was published, Walters granted an interview with the sympathetic Chronicle of Higher Education, during which she told reporter Alexander Kafka that she doesn’t “hate men in some generic way.”
“My point here was to say it makes obvious sense for women to have rage, legitimate rage, against a group of people that has systematically abused them,” she wrote, adding that she could likewise ask “why can’t we hate white people?”
Neutrality puts men on the side of the oppressor, she added.
As you might guess, this is why I would tend not to interact with Professor Walters (who is a professor of sociology and director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Northeastern University, and the editor of the gender studies journal Signs) or similarly minded individuals.
I pretty much let this all go until I read another article published by Mel Magazine titled I Was a Men’s Rights Activist: One man’s journey from misogyny to feminism written by Sociology Ph.D candidate Edwin Hodge (or rather, as told to John McDermott).
Apparently as a twentysomething (he’s 36 now), Hodge became involved in the Men’s Rights Movement, and only slowly evolved toward feminism as he continued on his journey through a university education.
His article concludes with:
Every time I look back at the men’s rights movement, all I see is negativity, rage, hate, bitterness and fear. But I don’t feel ashamed of my time in it. I don’t even know that I regret it, because without it, I might not have ended up where I am now. It turned me on to the study of men, and eventually to feminism.
Can a man belong to a movement in which at least some of its female members hate men, or is that even a fair statement?
According to the Everyday Feminism article Can Men Be Feminist? written by Jamie Utt and Jenika McCrayer:
Feminists don’t hate men. We hate male privilege and the systems that create and reinscribe it. “Not all men” are awful, but all men benefit from male privilege.
Feminism is about dismantling the systems in which people are oppressed for their gender identity, those same systems that privilege cisgender men.
Thus, men can play a role in dismantling those systems so long as they are following the leadership of those who don’t share their gender identity!
Notably, though, many men think feminists and feminism hates them because men are not centered or made to feel comfortable in their privilege.
We need to be clear not to conflate men not being the center of a movement with that movement marginalizing or hating men.
According to the same article:
As a man, you also benefit from feminist ideals!
Feminism is about getting rid of oppressive forces that hold women down and also make men adhere to restrictive norms and ideals.
Patriarchy wants you to be dominating, assertive, hyper-masculine, athletic, emotionless, and the breadwinner of a heteronormative family. That’s a lot of pressure!
Feminism seeks to eradicate patriarchal norms like these that have men bound and women perceived as inferior.
Perhaps more importantly, though, the people in our lives who don’t share our identity are hurt to greater and varying degrees by patriarchal oppression.
That should be enough for us to want to strive for an intersectional feminist understanding of justice.
So relative to all of this, there are seemingly only two forces in operation, Patriarchy, which is bad, and Feminism, which is good.
So, according to the Utt/McCrayer article in particular and Feminist Theory in general, the only way to achieve male/female equality is through feminism. They do ask and answer the following question, though:
Should Feminist and Pro-Feminist Men Ever Meet or Do Work in Men-Only Spaces?
This one’s tricky because, in theory, yes, there should be spaces for men to do feminist work with other men where they can work through the hard stuff without relying on women to do this emotional labor for us.
However, in reality, men have not always proven trustworthy when meeting in all-male groups to talk about gender.
You know… because of those few thousand years in Western society where men ruled in all-male spaces and treated women as chattel while killing anyone who didn’t fit within those tiny gender constructs.
Okay, I can get why the authors would say that, but it still sounds less like equality and more like shifting the bias needle on the scale from one end to the other.
In fact, it’s worse that because according to online magazine Bright, Men Can’t Be Feminists. So then what? Author Bisi Alimi says:
Instead, I realized I am an ally of women’s rights — an issue for which I am ready to lay down my life. While some may say that this makes me a feminist, it is not a label that I feel I can wear.
Further, he states:
I believe that every man is a sexist. Every man has the potential to make remarks that are sexist, express opinion that put women at a disadvantage, or act with inappropriate force. They may not mean to do so, as it’s a form of unconscious bias. Unconscious bias also means that every white person is, to a degree, racist and every straight person is at least a bit homophobic.
I know I’m being overly simplistic here, but it sure sounds like my only two options are to be a knuckle-on-the-ground-dragging, club toting, woman beating, misogynistic Neanderthal, or an ally who would be required to be defined only by women who are in feminist leadership and yet can never, ever fully redeem myself from the patriarchal system that has kept women (and in theory, men) in chains for thousands of years.
Sorry, is there a third option available, because I feel that my free will is being drained out of me a little bit? Is it possible for men to support male/female equality in opportunity, pay, and along other dimensions without taking on labels such as “feminist” or “ally?” Do men have to stop being men (I don’t mean the hypermasculine role, but in being self-determining rather than having another entity define us) in order to be (stripping most of the labeling away from the issue) fair to other men and to women alike?
I’m pretty much nothing like the stereotypic American male in many respects. I don’t hunt or fish, I don’t work on my own car, I don’t do carpentry, I don’t have a shop in my garage (just a couple of cars), I don’t watch football or other organized sports, I do have a home office, but my wife uses it as well and I don’t consider it a “man cave,” and although I have numerous male acquaintances, I have only one close male friend.
And all that said, I’m still not going to wear a pink vagina hat.
I suppose by all the evidence, I’m not a feminist as its defined today (and I guess I actually can’t be) nor do I consider myself an ally, because both of those terms require I surrender my ability to self-define and I’m not ready to give up my free will.
I suppose the counter-argument is to say I should surrender those rights (self-determination and free will) because the patriarchy has denied them to women for so very long.
That’s sounds good as far as it goes, but again, that’s not equality.
The counter-argument to that could be the requirement for the pendulum to swing to the other extreme temporarily until the foundation for equality can be firmed up, but in my experience, those who hold control are highly reluctant to give it up, whether they be male or female.
As a weird sort of analogy, once upon a time the island nation of Cuba had a capitalist-based government and economy that was oppressive to a great number of people. Then Fidel Castro swept in as a hero of the little people, went on to overthrow the government, and then blessed everyone with Communism. Now, almost 60 years later, except for a tiny number of elite leaders at the very top, many, many more people live in poverty in that nation, so much so that Cubans will try to sail the 90 miles of ocean between their country and Florida on makeshift rafts and innertubes.
No, I’m not comparing feminism to a communist totalitarian regime, but I am saying that anything that can potentially be beneficial and that promises equality among groups will likely eventually be subverted so that there will still be the “haves” and the “have nots.” That’s not patriarchy, that’s human nature.
So what’s the answer? I don’t have one in specific terms except to promote equality without having to diminish anyone. Current feminism doesn’t do that. Is it possible? I don’t know. Some of the strongest advocates for equality and inclusiveness are Hollywood and entertainment industry elites, and as we have all seen in the media, they are also some of the biggest offenders against women.
The answer probably does involve men and women of good conscience working together to level the playing field, and relative to fifty or a hundred years ago, it probably has become somewhat more level. However, the minute the word “hate” comes into the picture, you’ve already lost a lot of your audience, that is, men.
Going back to Hodge’s commentary, I found him to be pretty self-denigrating, which hopefully isn’t an absolute requirement for being fair or promoting equality. His first introduction to the Men’s Rights Movement was a book on Misandry, a concept and practice he now denies even exists, and while Professor Walters believes female rage against men is historically and systemically justified, it’s not human nature for a person to respond with kindness, fairness, and submissiveness to rage. It’s human nature to either run away or push (no, I don’t mean physically) back.
The Superversive Press anthology To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity is getting good reviews (five of them currently, and all five stars) so far (though sales don’t look so hot yet), and I know the men and women who have contributed stories to that book believe that masculinity can be positive for men, women, and children. Masculinity can be just, fair, protective, and nurturing, which is often ignored in today’s social environment. If there’s a move toward intersectionality (which is a difficult concept in and of itself), could we have feminism and positive masculinity sit down at the same table and chat over a cup of coffee? Maybe something good could come out of it.