Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Men and Feminism Interview in Bitch Magazine

This is a timely interview, especially since we are using the very book she refers to in the interview. Check it out!


Anita P. said...

Thanks for sharing this. I really enjoyed the question addressing columnists Bob Herbert's piece in the NYTimes because I feel that often times I'm torn between the two perspectives Shira Tarrant describes in the interview. On the one hand we can be glad that the issue is finally reaching the hands of the public through an outlet as huge as the NYTimes, but it's just so frustrating when women have addressed it for years and a man gets to be the one who reaches the masses through that same message. I admire her statement of "the point is to end male violence against women" because all to often, we can get caught up on HOW the message is spread instead of simply appreciating that the message is getting out there to begin with.

Sara N said...

Did anybody else see the comedy in the interviewers name - Page Turner- how Dickens . Thanks for the link; I really like everything that Tarrant said. I agree that it is important to remember that feminism, as something that relates to women, is not the same thing as being exclusive to women. We need all the help we can get but that can be a double edged sword as Tarrant and others (including but not limited to Bortnichak in our text) have noted. It means we are all in this together but it also comes replete with cultural obstacles like the invisible privilege of males to be visible in our society. When is it acceptable for men to speak out on behalf of women without perpetuating the paternalism and patriarchy it is intended to eradicate?

This problem is, paradoxically, part of the solution. As Anita correctly notes, “we can get caught up on HOW the message is spread instead of simply appreciating that the message is getting out there to begin with.” Do we have to be satisfied with this forever? No, but it is a place to start. History has taught us this is precisely why we need all the support we can get. Nobody said it would be easy or problem free but isn’t the beauty in the struggle?

art. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
art. said...

I agree with the article, along with Anita and Sara that it is problematic that an article written by a man gets so much coverage, but it is something.

Often in the interview the author focuses on language, and I'd like to do the same. She says "Feminism is also relevant to men, and genderqueers and transgender folk, because feminism is an inclusive social movement." This is problematic. Often values are deemed relevant to feminist discourse in an attempt to create an inclusive space across race, class, gender[variance], and ideologies. That being said, feminism has largely been [and still is] a white cisgender bourgeoisie discourse.

"The way I put it in Men and Feminism is that feminism is about taking action in the interest of women and also on behalf of all groups that are affected by hegemonic power."

This is, to me, sounds like the same benevolent paternalism that whitewashed the 1st and 2nd wave. "Taking action...on behalf of all groups affected by hegemonic power"?! Hopefully you'll make sure to work with them first.

"To emphasize engagement with feminist struggle as political commitment, we could avoid using the phrase "I am a feminist" (a linguistic structure designed to refer to some personal aspect of identity and self-definition) and could state, "I advocate feminism." Because there has been undue emphasis placed on feminism as an identity or lifestyle, people usually resort to stereotyped perspectives on feminism. Deflecting attention away from stereotypes is necessary if we are to revise our strategy and direction. I have found that saying "I am a feminist" usually means I am plugged into preconceived notions of identity, role, or behavior. When I say, "I advocate feminism," the response is usually, "What is feminism?""
--bell hooks

Zen Lien said...

This was a great interview. Especially since I just happened to have a copy of Bitch lying around I'd bought while waiting in the airport that had an article written by Shira Tarrant. It is about how the trouble with masculinity isn't that men aren't masculine enough but that they feel forced to when they don't want to be.

The part of the interview that stood out to me also was the the reference to the male-written article about violence receiving more attention because it was authored by a man. I agree there is a lot of truth to that, and it is unfortunate men and the public in general heed a man's advice more than a woman's. However, I don't think it helps our (feminism) cause if we are going to separate ourselves from a men who are on our side. I also think more men may listen to another man because it is simply a person they can relate to, rather than a woman, who they may feel has no perspective on their place in society. To be honest its often hard for me to listen to men talk about women related issues such as reproductive health, motherhood,...even occasionally fashion without rolling my eyes and thinking "what does he know?" I think we should be thankful that men like Bob Herbert are using the platform, however privileged it may be, to help the efforts of feminism. As Tarrant said "it's not women's jobs to fix these problems alone."

It would be nice if any men planning to make statements to help feminism in the future could preface them by giving feminist ladies a shout out first and acknowledge they are "reinforcing" the ideas we have been talking about for years and its about time men joined in on the action.

j.leigh said...


This! "This is problematic. Often values are deemed relevant to feminist discourse in an attempt to create an inclusive space across race, class, gender[variance], and ideologies."

This is something that has always bothered me when discussing feminism(s) - the need to define what is a "woman's" issue and what "values" we, as advocates of feminism (I really like that identification) we should be promoting. I always bring this up, and I'm sure my close friends are tried of hearing this, but while reading "The Joys of Motherhood" last year, the Nigerian author, Buchi Emecheta, denounced identifying as a feminist because she could not relate to the Western notion of what feminism meant. Her culture celebrated motherhood as an honored achievement and she couldn't understand why Western feminists were encouraging women to leave behind the family and enter the workplace.

This is just one example of many, but it begs to ask what the "values" of global feminism(s) really are, and how all people can fit into the movement. It's a challenge to include everyone under the feminist umbrella - not just men/women but people of ALL gender identities, and from all different culture/ethnic/class/abled/etc backgrounds. It's idealistic to say, perhaps, but I think it's possible as long as people, myself definitely included, continue to check and have their privilege checked, and be made aware of the voices and values of others.

Sara N said...

If I understand your position correctly, I completely agree that indirection is important. By indirection I mean taking a position of "doing" or "advocating" feminism rather than identifying or "being" a feminist.

However, it is important to remember that feminism is an identity based movement. As would be expected, this is the paradox of identity politics; on the one hand it tells you who your are-- on the other hand it tells you who you are! Feminism has been (rightly) critiqued as such. If it focuses on women that necessitates that one identify AND qualify as such. Paradoxically, this is one of the notions that feminism wants to trouble "what is a real man?... a real woman?" We don't fit into these little boxes that society constructs!

Though the movement has shifted since its inception, by definition, women must be the focus or it will cease to be feminism. Interestingly, movements can come out of and still differ from its origins. Take Queer theory for example; it came out of gay and lesbian studies but took a different trajectory, questioning the logic and politics of identity

Hence, this is one of the problems of feminism as an identity based movement. The trajectory feminism has taken in it's later waves is still limited by our modern understanidng of the 'self' as an identity (feminism is something I am, not something I do). I think that this is one of the ways we can reimagine the possibilities of the future of feminism.
Great blog!