Sunday, August 9, 2009

Week 3: Cultural Constructions of Masculinity

*Blog Prompt: How can we a) make room in feminism to account for men as "our comrades in struggle," while b) retaining a central focus on women, yet c) avoid reinscribing the gender binaries that feminism-as-female invokes? (Tarrant, 106)

31 comments:

Sara N said...

I have a request. If anybody can provide a link or explanation of when to use and how to conjugate gender neutral pronouns it would be much appreciated for those of us who are not (and want to become) familiar with the appropriate usages. Thanks!

art. said...

gender neutral pronoun wiki

transgender wiki

transgender a language guide for new comers <== this doesn't cover pronouns, but more specific usages of trans positive termenologies.

cisgender

those links will give you a good start. i also want to say, that i did not explain myself very well when i said "ze is used in the text so you should use ze". i was quite taken back by the use of 'it' and i was too upset to put myself in the position of someone who is unfamiliar with these terms. i apologize for that. before class i had just read one of the MSO articles that uses ze so i was very much in that mindset. less than 6 months ago much of this was foreign to me, and i still slip up.

considering it is pronounced just like the letter "Z" it probably sounds completely bizarre to someone who is not familiar with usage.

There's TONS of stuff on youtube and livejournal about various trans understandings.

it's rad that you posted this. :)

Ani Reina said...

Here is a link to a really great chart that lists the correct uses and pronunciations of each. :)

http://web.mit.edu/trans/GenderNeutralPronouns.pdf

Brian Homberger said...

While feminism is inherently women oriented, it's still important to acknowledge men as "comrades in struggle". It's crucial to include as many people, regardless of gender, in the movement because with an open mind, anyone can educate others on issues. I feel that the presence of men in feminism only builds a stronger coalition. Just about every movement includes people of different backgrounds, races or orientation. For example, the queer movement has straight allies and the African American civil rights movement has white allies. It's important that the feminist movement include men or male identified individuals just as any other movement in history.

As a man, I don't feel that me identifying as a feminist takes the central focus off women. I know that I'll never be able to fully understand A LOT of things about being a woman, and femininity, but I try to understand the best to my abilities. What I do know is that patriarchy not only oppresses women, but men as well. While the oppression is different for both genders, both are pressured or oppressed in different ways to conform to a desired image or norm. I think that feminism is not only the liberation of women, but the liberation of everyone, regardless of gender, to behave exactly how they want.

This prompt reminds me of an AWESOME poster that my good friend had. I’m sure most of you have already seen it, but for those who haven’t the link is:

http://12.media.tumblr.com/EfFLvTB7Qgc0evz6RfmX4nIso1_400.gif

Sara N said...

Wow! Thanks art. and Ani Reina *smiley face*

Although I continue to be skeptical about wikipedia with good reason, I found these links very helpful tools that I am sure I will continue to use in the future! Thanks again

Brian Homberger said...

Ummm did I post in the wrong place? lol

Sandy P. said...

Instead of addressing the blog prompt, I was very interested in discussing the Hombres y Machos reading by Alfredo Mirande.

I thought it was extremely important that the author distinguishes between the expectation of a Latin culture based on “simultaneous veneration of the male and denigration of the female” (51) and the reality of there being a much more complex system of gender roles. Although there is truth to the widely accepted belief that Latin culture—not only Mexican/Chicano culture—is prone to marginalizing females, it is also true that traditionally “masculine” and “feminine” character traits are interchangeable between the sexes without consequence. The gender hierarchy is present in Latin culture, as well as in any other culture, but it is refreshing to find an author that doesn’t completely relegate Latin culture to inherently misogynistic tendencies; it is not definitive of the culture, it is more a product of outside forces restructuring the culture to function in this matter.

As Mirande points out, “negative machismo was imported and imposed on the indigenous population via the Conquest,” (52). Cortes seems to be the epitome of the hypermasculine conqueror; racist, misogynistic, greedy and violent. What better way to show off one’s masculine power (and European privilege) than to destroy a people and come out as the courageous victor of the barbaric and primitive natives? Cortes as a champion of conquest is the main image one sees in a historical context; how does someone who is a product of this culture reconcile these two opposing views? Mainly, one internalizes the view and succumbs to the belief of mainstream culture that “indigenous cultures” are primitive and barbaric and Europeans were necessary to bring civilization to the culture. These are the anglocentric principles instilled in history that in turn reinforce the belief that “exaggerated masculinity...was a response to the Conquest [or] an extension of pre-Columbian warring Aztec society,” (51), when in fact these behaviors are linked--directly and indirectly-- to the Conquest.

I was happy to see that there was finally someone who was ready to address the fact that Latin culture isn’t simply a system of male good, woman bad, but a more complex system that overlaps between “masculine” and “feminine” traits. Latin masculinity can be based on “physical strength, sexual prowess, fighting ability...” (52) but it is not only based upon these concepts. Latin masculinity encompasses a “code of ethics,” that has more to do with development of moral character and self-worth. In this sense, Latin conceptions of gender roles could possibly be more fluid than their “more civilized” American counterparts.

Kevin Alvarez said...

I believe that the readings this week showed us what it is like to grow up male and confront the prescribed identities we’re handed. I feel that any meaningful discussion on whether or not men can be involved in or be described as feminist needs to begin with a discussion on how men need to overcome personal sexism and how feminism has shaped their lives. Chris Crass put it bluntly “No one is free until we are all free” and I don’t see a constructive discussion on the roles men can play in feminism existing without a better understanding of men’s evolving roles in society and within their own personal lives. I obviously believe that men must play a role in the feminist movement while understanding that we can’t be the ones to lead it. I take my own personal experience with my leadership role in the National Organization for Women – UCF as a test; when the time came for our organization to elect new officers I could’ve ran for anything ranging from Herstorian to President. I like to believe that I try to live a very egalitarian and pro-woman life but I am still a beneficiary of male privilege (but not class or racial privilege) and would have found it weird, if not disrespectful, had I won a high leadership seat like President or Vice-President. In the end I decided I would run for Treasurer because I felt that I was not being as intrusive as I could have been had I taken a stronger leadership position. It is my belief that men should support and enable feminist work and organizations, but to lead one would be like an old white male leading the NAACP. I felt that Crass' article did a great job of identifying sexism even within movements that would be pro-feminist. This is something that should be looked at because all men experience some form of privilege and don't realize it. In my younger years I also fell prey to not giving women's opinions the same weight, or being sexually distracted, and I never considered myself sexist. Even in my daily life I struggle to try to remain as egalitarian as possible but it is difficult to remain so in a system that places my sex above others.


The reading “Macho” opened up my eyes to how other Latino men experience the word and the effects of machismo in Latin America. I believe that this is something that is not accurately or sufficiently discussed because it is predominantly a problem of foreigners or (if they are in the United States) illegal immigrants because we still have a large stigma when it comes to being Latina(o) in this country. I feel that the discussion revolving on men of color and their role in feminism and the women’s movement is important and necessary because we do not want to see similar schisms opening like we saw in the 60s and 70s between the Civil Rights movement and the Women’s Liberation movement. I hope that our discussions this week will be able to bloom into an understanding of the role feminism has had in men’s lives and how we react to it.

taco said...

I feel like this ties in really closely with the blog prompt from last week, but to reiterate: I don't think that there's really any need to "make room in feminism" for men. By that, I mean that there is enough metaphorical "room" for men without female feminists exerting any effort to accommodate them. Just as there are roles that male feminists can't possible perform for female feminists, there are specific roles that male feminists can fill that female feminists can't; further, there are roles that both can perform equally (I went further into this in my post last week. For the succinctness' sake I won't repeat myself).

I don't think that allowing men into the "girls club" of feminism compromises our focus (women), either. Feminism sets up a framework in which we fight patriarchy by highlighting its innumerable negative effects on women, which in turn illuminate patriarchy's negative effects on all members of society. So often we explore only the female side of oppression by patriarchy - and maybe rightly so, because that is the focus of feminism. But our societal system defines the lives of men just as much as it defines the lives of women. In "Straight Guys Can Dance, Too," Jared Margulies writes, "[W]hat is important... [is] the widespread unease so many men and women continue to have when guys do things our culture deems outside the masculine arena" (MSO 41) - in his case, dancing.

If we acknowledge that patriarchy sucks for everyone regardless of gender, then it only follows that a movement which aims to dismantle this social system can and should be embraced by not only women but by men as well. And though we fight predominantly under the auspices of women's rights, we avoid re-inscribing the gender binaries that feminism-as-female invokes simply by allowing men to join the fight and recognize that it is also their fight. Every gain for women is a gain for men; breaking down female gender constructions inevitably breaks down male gender constructions; every step toward equality is a step taken not by one gender but by all genders.

Lauren said...

I think the key component in allowing men to move into feminism while retaining its general feel and origin comes directly down to communication. Feminists should never feel, after letting men into the movement, that it has been hijacked or disassembled. They should never forget their mothers and sisters who have helped pave the way. I do not agree with certain readings we have taken on in class that men should be deemed “pro-feminist” rather than actual feminists simply because of their sexual assignment. To me that’s all fa├žade and little substance, and that’s the last thing we need from a dominant group in this patriarchal society. I do, however, think that as men continue to become a part of the movement, that they should be granted equal footing in the future of the movement, but not allowed to alter the importance of the past.

The editor of our Men Speak Out text, Shira Tarrant, says it best: “Thinking of feminism as a girls-only club would make feminism a political movement with inclusive goals but with exclusive membership. That doesn’t even make logical sense!”

So how do we make the room? Simple: we knock down the walls we’ve been securely behind, enjoying our all girls powwow while maintaining the feeling of sisterhood and sharing it with the boys. We invited them in, and I think the feeling that permeates through the current feminist movement shouldn’t be overhauled or made accommodating. The last thing I want in our movement is this focus on professionalism that usually comes out of male/female relationships, and would be likely to occur if we focus on the differences between us. This is about altering the current state of affairs not being malleable to it, and I think taking what is that makes “sisterhood” what it is needs to be spread and that familial approach needs to be between genders. We’re already, according to the reading on warrior narratives, branching from a patriarchal to a fratriarchal (competitive brothers, virtually), so the move is well-timed and relevant. I also think that’s a key in retaining a focus on the womyn in the movement and the origins while conquering new frontier with men and showing them alternatives to a crushing world that hegemonic masculinity tends to dictate.

Andrea said...

This week’s prompt is very similar to last week’s prompt, and I don’t want to repeat myself, so I’ll try my best.

“Patriarchy tears me up. Every person I meet bears the scars of patriarchy. bell hooks writes that love is impossible where the will to dominate exists. I want to believe that I can genuinely love and that it is possible to forge a non-patriarchal political practice for men---a political practice that moves men to meaningfully join with all people in a collective struggle to re-organize our society towards systemic liberation” (MSO 281-282). “How Can I Be Sexist? I’m An Anarchist!” was definitely one of my favorite readings, because of the quote above and the realization that the author encountered. Crass is an activist and social justice leader, but he was being sexist and did not even realize it until his girlfriend pointed it out to him. Interrupting womyn when they spoke, not looking to them for information, or not fully being engaged in what they were saying, were some of the issues that were brought to his attention. Once these issues were addressed and Crass was able to overcome his defenses, he was able to change these things about him and in turn change the dynamics of their groups. I’m not saying that just because he is a man he was able to change things, but he was able to change his actions and bring it to the forefront as a genuine concern to the rest of the group, and making sure that he nor anyone else overshadowed. Men and womyn I believe should work side by side one another to achieve social justice and liberation for everyone, and not just one side trying. The only way to change society as a whole is to have all sides of the spectrum working together to actually make this happen, no one should have to fight alone.

So for me, what it comes down to is simple. I believe that men should be a part of Feminism as “our comrades in struggle,” because we all suffer from patriarchy. Patriarchy has dictated our language and actions towards one another and it’s terrible. Men not being able to follow their passions (“Straight Guys Can Dance, Too”) because they are scared that they will be called “faggot,” and their “manhood” would be stripped of them (“Boyhood”) is ridiculous and completely uncalled for. This behavior is constantly being perpetuated and it needs to end. “Remember no one is free until we are all free” (MSO 284).

Leila said...

Hi all, This blog prompt is very along the lines of last week's discussion. I should have actually modified the blog prompt, since it wasn't as applicable to the readings, so excuse the oversight! Feel free to elaborate on any element of the readings or to continue these discussions. You may consider the relationship between gender and racial constructions and how this contributes to the fixed (or fluid) nature of masculinity constructs.

Leila said...

Thanks so much for the gendered-language resources, Art. It serves us well to see how our language (another system/construct) can be deconstructed to make room for change, especially where identity is concerned.

amanda said...

While I highly enjoyed the readings for this week there was one article that really stood out to me was How Can I Be Sexist? I’m an Anarchist by Chris Crass (Men Speak Out, 276-84). As someone who is involved in the “progressive community” I have sadly witnessed this a lot, men who identify as being progressive, or a feminist, or an anarchist still making sexist comments or not valuing the opinion and voices of women. As someone who is in mostly in feminist organizations this hasn’t happened to me first hand (as there is usually only four men in the clubs) but I have heard from other women that this is happening to them in their organizations. I think a lot of time these men think so highly of themselves as being liberal and radical that they do not see that they are still perpetrating the cycle of patriarchy by being sexist. I recently got into an argument with a male friend who identifies as a feminist yet makes sexist jokes. I said that you could not be a feminist and make these jokes, he obviously did not agree. By making sexist jokes and comments you are just feeding into patriarchy and misogyny. You yourself may know that it’s just a “joke” but others may not know that. Also with jokes, the only reason they are funny is cause they have, or had, some truth to them, so some part of you must think these jokes are true. Now I’m not trying to be elitist and say only certain people can be a feminist, I just don’t see how one can make these “jokes” but then try to fight against everything these “jokes” are saying. Back to the article now though, there was two quotes that stuck out at me. The first, “Sexism is systemic like capitalism, and it’s not just about you” (280). The other, “Patriarchy tears me up. Every person I meet bears the scars of patriarchy” (281). The latter quote seems to answer the question of how we can make room in feminism to account for men as “our comrades in struggle.” Everyone has been the victim of sexism and patriarchy, no matter what gender you identify with. Not only does it tear women down but also men. It gives these ideals that men are supposed to stand up to and puts them in a box. Men can’t take dance lessons (Straight Guys Can Dance, Too) or boys are not allowed to enjoy cooking and sewing (Sissy Boy, Progressive Parents) without being labeled a “faggot” or “sissy.” So while it may not be thought of as often, men also struggle with patriarchy too. To help us fight against this sexist society that we live in, we need men right there helping us. Maybe with men in the movement, speaking out against what is happening to women and themselves then more people will take notice and realize we have a problem.

Now if we involve men in the movement many people may think that we are going to stray away from it being a women centered movement. I don’t agree with that statement at all. There are many different things in the feminist movement that we are fighting against and for. Reproductive rights will always be about women. The right that women should be able to make their own decision about what they should do with their bodies or the right to birth control. By having men out there protesting and fighting for these rights is only going to help us. It’s still going to be about women even though men are fighting with us.

I think it would be very elitist of us to say that just because you are a male then you cannot be a feminist. Two voices are better than one. By having men in the movement we are just going to strength our voice and make it harder for us to be ignored.

Kelly T said...

Each week gets me thinking about men in feminism in a different way, I love it! When it comes to “making room in feminism” for men as our “comrades” I think that the room is there, and that feminists are already considerably more accepting then might be perceived. I’m not saying that there is not a problem with the task of including men in the feminist movement; I just think that it will take a bit more time than we would like it to. Just because men are now being incorporated into the issues does not mean that the central focus is shifting from women to men. Just look at our Universities. Women’s Studies programs are a rarity and what’s even rarer is finding a course within those programs about men in feminism, or masculinity. Obviously men are being integrated into the cause, just slowly and subtly.

Crass’ statement below is a good summation of things we all fight for and should be able, collectively, to continue fighting for.

“It was becoming clear to me and to the other men that challenging sexism was about far more than learning how to make eye contact with women and asking them what they thought during UAF meetings. Indeed, it was a political commitment to challenging a system of power that operates on the political, economic, social, cultural, and psychological levels. My lack of direct eye contact was one of a thousand subtle was that male supremacy enforces the worldview that women’s work is insignificant, marginal, or non-existent. While I wanted to just stop being sexist, I was learning that this would involve a long-term collective struggle to transform the world in which we live” (MSO 280).

If more people, not just men, saw feminism in this light maybe everyone would be more accepting of a more inclusive movement. “Not all progressive boys are feminists”, that’s what my roommate Bianca once said and sadly, it’s true. There are a lot of us in the “progressive’ community, all supporting at least one cause, but all seemingly supporting equality in general. But when I hear my “progressive” friends making jokes about rape or women I start to wonder what exactly do they think “equality” is? Why do they attend every other organization’s meetings but exclude the feminist ones? What do we do when even the “progressive” men don’t take gender issues seriously?

Making room for men in feminism is something that needs to be tackled not just by men, but by everyone. We all need to be able to do what Poole did for himself when he said he was able to “recognize the importance of questioning what we believe, grappling with why we believe it, and ultimately, facing the challenging task of de-centering ourselves so that we have the opportunity to grow” (MSO 275). Female feminists, who believe that men should not be incorporated need to take this advice, step back and ask themselves… why not? Similarly, men who don’t see the need to be involved in the feminist movement need to take this advice, step back and ask themselves the same question.

Ashley Halpin said...

It is my opinion that men in particular become defensive about feminist views (as was the case with Chris Crass) because we all like to believe that we are generally good people. When something is brought up where our “goodness” as people is questioned, it is a perfectly normal reaction to defend ourselves as good (for lack of a better word) individuals. Now, I do not want to make it sound as if someone who is sexist is a horrible person because that is not my opinion in the least. However, those of us that highly value equality and acceptance can quickly be taken aback when someone tells us that some of our actions and thoughts speak to the contrary. It takes a lot of thought adjustment and open-mindedness to understand that while we may be good people, there is always room for growth as human beings. That is why I found the article by Crass so interesting. It showed the process one man took to understand what feminism is really about and that even a man dedicated to social justice still has learning to do.

With this in mind, I think there is already plenty of room for men in feminism, as long as we have the patience to explain it to men as well as women. The ultimate goal is equality and this cannot be accomplished through the acceptance of only half our population.

When it comes to how women should remain in the forefront of feminism if men are involved, I really do not feel that this is an issue. Anyone who is involved in the feminist movement or considers themselves a feminist or profeminist should be aware of male privilege and how to consciously avoid such privilege to promote equality. With this knowledge, men can still identify as feminists and be involved in the movement without becoming dominant over women.

Lisa said...

The phrase "comrades in struggle" or "allies in struggle" perfectly represents the role that men should occupy in feminism. These phrases express the need for male identified folks to occupy an active supporting role in achieving feminist goals, while leaving the leading roles and a loudest voices for those who are oppressed by patriarchy. I believe that the room being made for men in feminism should primarily focus on education and becoming away of every single way in which male privilege is benefiting even the most sympathetic of men.

It's difficult to have a "women's movement" without blatantly adhering to gender binaries. However the male-female gender binary is still being enforced when we claim that "men should be considered in feminism as well". This statement is assuming that there are only "men" and "women" and no other way to identify in between. So rather then making feminism about women and addressing men as allies or comrades in struggle (because this would force us to define "what is a woman/man"), I prefer to think of feminism as those who are oppressed by patriarchy vs. those who reap the benefits of patriarchy, If we think of feminism in these terms, then a person could potentially belong to both groups. For example in "All Men Are Not Created Equal" and the exclusion of Asian- American men from the Euro- centric notions of masculinity (ML 17).

One of the articles that I found most interesting was "How Can I Be Sexist? I'm An Anarchist!" For the most part I found this story to be enjoyable and pretty relatable, however there was a section that immediately struck me as sexist (perhaps subconsciously) and adhering to gender binaries. It was the section where the author talks about trying to end sexism in their group by trying to further engage the women of the group so they decided to start an FNB. My initial thought was "How Typical!", the assumption that FNB will be a women's project is only reinforces the stereotype that women are nurturing, care about feeding the needy, like to cook, and should be doing "safer" work like FNB rather than participating in a black block. Did anyone else get this feeling when they read that?

art. said...

Ani, that PDF file you linked to is awesome! It's much more user friendly that the wiki stuff. hell yeah.


Lisa, i didn't get that initially but that's a really good point. When i did work for orlando FNB downtown there men perpetuated a lot of sexist tendencies: relegating women's work to dishes, kitchen work, etc. and a lot of work behind the scenes. When it came to give credit to the group in anyway or talk to the press everything was dominated by males. It was very hard to talk about anti-oppression because so much of the people's identity and self understand was wrapped up in a "radical, anti-hierarchical movement". It became a way for people to use the language of anti-oppression to maintain hiearcchies and to dominate others, just like in the Crass reading.

I'd like to take that situation as well as some of the readings and talk about what you said last week “I would hesitate to claim that men are oppressed as being men” I really like this. In a gendered world if you don't want to fit into prescribed gendered norms, or heterosexuality then yes, dominant male culture oppresses a man's desire to break those norms. However, solely as male bodied people who get privilege from the "hegemonic constructions of masculinity" men are not oppressed (kane 60). Male bodied persons have the option--ie privilege--to fit into a paradigm which although may limit certain areas of our cultural construction, still places us in a dominating position; a position which defines itself on “notions of anti-femininity” (kane 54).

Futhermore, the connection of masculinity or femininity among males as a product or means to hetero or homosexuality seems like an oppression against men, but it is much more than that. The connection of "gendered behavior" to sexuality in male bodied persons versus no connection to such in female bodied persons furthers the paradigm of the hypersexualized male, as well as the desexualized female. What may seem as oppression against men furthers to serve the "hegemonic masculine" hatred for women on the grounds that women are "free" to take on masculine traits while men are "oppressed" when they do so. What often is seen as "oppression against males" is actually sewing the seeds for men to dominate and opppress females as well as homosexual males.

It may seem like a small distinction, but think about it this way. In the article "No way are my boys going to dress like that!" most parents did not mind if their daughters lived up to a more male identity and or characteristics. Some of them because they like doing "manly" things with their daughters, others so that their female child would be safe "i never wanted a girl...who was so fragile" (Kane 56).

Both in girls and boys who acted feminine, the fear of being pushed around and fragile exists. Although in the article there were much more explicit concerns for boys' safety, it is important to make the distinction that existed only when said boys deviate from existing norms which privilege men and dominate women.

When women fulfill normative forms of femininity--a position subordinate to a man--they are oppressed. When men fulfill normative forms of masculinity, they are privileged. Men are not oppressed as men alone. Men may be oppressed when they deviate from dominant gender norms, but have the privilege of not being forced to do so for safety and respectability.

Zen Lien said...

Much like everyone else, I too felt this blog prompt integrates the same concepts of last week's prompt. Feminists must practice what we preach. Which is often how feminism is not about viewing women better than men but rather putting us all on an equal plane as we are all humans. If we only focus on how women are affected than we lose sight of the goal of equality. The focus and education of women's issues are undeniably integral to feminism but men who feel oppressed by patriarchy are an also and important element to be validated by feminists.

I think the point of "Straight Guys Can Dance,Too" was that Jared Margulies was trying to say that even the most stereotypical white straight male may want to cross over the masculine wall occasionally, but can't. He enjoyed dancing but couldn't openly participate it in without feeling ridiculed for being too feminine. Even female dancers made fun of him for even attempting to show interest. Women are locked out of masculinity which is seen as powerful but we forget many men are locked in. Femininity has been viewed as weak for so long, a man can't feel they can be feminine without abdicating power.

I also noticed Sandy's blog prompt about the focus on "Hombres y Machos". Being half Latina and half Caucasian I have seen how both cultures view masculinity. Mirande makes and excellent point in saying the machismo term as we know it is not the way Hispanic people know it. I have heard my own (Puerto Rican)grandmother complain about my White father not being a man. When she did her complaints were always about how he didn't support me, my brother and mother;whether it was financially, emotionally or even just physically being there. As Mirande says the worst a man can do "is fail to take care of the family" (MSO 54) Despite my grandmother's traditional view of father=breadwinner and mother=homemaker, she also believes a real man is simply nurturing to the people he loves, just as a woman would be. Being a real man is also just being a good human, not necessarily attributing gendered characteristics. And perhaps this may be unique to my family but if there are any other Latinos to attest, our culture is quite an openly emotional and passionate one. As Mirande put it "I assure you if we had a Superhero, he would most certainly cry."(MSO 54) Sadly America has created a hegemonic definition of masculine and feminine, and furthermore imposed their own definitions of what they mean to the various ethnicities make up our culture.

To relate this a little more closely to the blog prompt, Mirande shows how we incorrectly attribute gendered traits on other cultures.We reinscribe gender binaries by simply assuming that every culture is like ours and actually has a binary. Not all cultures are patriarchal, not all only have two genders and so on. So if we only focus on how things are wrong, we won't know what to do right. Mirande I felt defended his heritage by admitting, yes there are some stereotypes, but so many people break them, all the time. So by assuming men don't have it hard too, and they all love patriarchy or that they just don't get women's struggles is likely to be just another stereotype in an enlightened, progressive mask.

Gravityreigns said...

No one is free from and ruling within the patriarchal hierarchy. All peoples cognizant or not play/abide or do not play/abide by roles within the patriarchy. The standards and roles present within the patriarchy are the manners in which the peoples are oppressed. Not one person escapes the expectations of their role or the standards of their life. By either fulfilling or rejecting these roles a person still participates within the hierarchy. Even those “higher” on the hierarchy are demanded to participate in the role-playing and standards of their “position.” Should any person not uphold the standards and expectations of their role they become oppressed from the entire hierarchy because their role is unfulfilled. Even white males, should they not uphold their position, are oppressed within this system because the system works to further itself it does not work to further any individual. All peoples are the means to the end of the patriarchal system. Understanding this it’s easy to allow all people into a community based on providing an outlet against oppression with the goal of change.
Yet, feminism is a women’s movement. Created by women for women. The underlying goal is to end oppression. Oppression is present within all people’s life experience. Here is where the problem occurs. The different positions within the hierarchy judge/dismiss/allow other positions into the movement based on their placement within the hierarchy. This selectivity assumes some positions are not oppressed. But all positions are oppressed. Yet, by acknowledging the oppression of one group, like women in feminism, the proverbial ball is rolling and gaining speed. Even that women have to ask whether men should be allowed into feminism is a positive sign relating the idea that all people from all positions are beginning to understand the bigger oppression that doesn’t just “pick on” minorities or “lower” positions. Keeping feminism focused on the oppression of women is paramount because the struggle is not over. But, allowing a diverse membership from all positions helps create a fuller understanding to the extent of oppression within the patriarchy. Helping women helps men. Should an understanding of the difference between women (actuality) and their role there too can be an understanding of the difference between all people (actuality) and their roles. Understanding and equality for one “subordinate” group within the patriarchy creates a discourse available to all positions of the hierarchy. By focusing on women’s issues (as that’s the basis of the movement) all people are helped. Women’s roles are dichotomous to men’s roles within the patriarchy and by opening the role of either to all peoples destroys the dichotomy. Thus by involving all people within the patriarchy in feminism all people are helped.

carly mac said...

Homosexuality: The Man’s Ultimate Guide to What-Not-To-Be

It is clear that being called gay/fag/queer is a common, if not the most common, punishment for men when they step outside of their gender role or display characteristics that are not masculine enough. In his essay Abandoning the Barricades: Or How I Became a Feminist, Michael S. Kimmel alludes several times to his fear of being perceived as or actually being homosexual. “There was always a residual fear that my resistance to these men’s behaviors might mean I was gay, yet I was pretty sure I was heterosexual” (176). Kimmel also states, “Many men I spoke with voiced fears about their own sexuality, and a sizable number were anxious about possible being latent homosexuals” ( 179). Kimmel says yet again, “We are afraid to relate to other men for fear that we might be secretly gay, or that they might be, or that ‘things’ might just get out of control” (180).
Jared Marglies also speaks about the fear of homosexuality in Straight Guys Can Dance, Too. “Much of this seemed quite tumultuous and devastating at the time. No doubt it had something to do with prepubescent fears dancing would turn me gay” (40).
Homophobia is obviously an integral part of masculinity. The readings demonstrated very clearly (from a straight male POV) that straight men must fear being gay. It is a horrible, negative thing that no one wants to be associated with. Gay men are apparently the example of what NOT to be. When a man comes out of the closet, it seems that the ultimate man-crime has been committed.
What are the implications for males who actually are homosexual or bisexual? How does one develop a positive self esteem when they are constantly shown that what they are is wrong?
I feel like if I were a gay man, the impression I would get from these readings is that I am unable to be proud of my sexuality. I cannot scream out, “I’m here! I’m queer! Get used to it!” but instead should be ashamed and embarrassed. I should be afraid of being called gay, even if it is what I am.
How are the gays feeling about all of this? And why haven’t we heard from them?! Many of this week’s readings were from a heteronormative standpoint, marginalizing homosexual men and leaving them out of the discussion of masculinity. For example, Margulies states on p 42, “I’m not suggesting that we censor the use of words like ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’.” This may be true for a straight man like Margulies (who can easily assert his heterosexuality, prove that he is none of these things, and move on with his life). But I somehow doubt that a gay man feels the same way when words like ‘faggot’ and ‘queer’ are used against him.
I know that many men in this class identify as queer, therefore I am disappointed that so many of the authors were straight and talking about gayness as something far removed from themselves, something to avoid. Apparently Week 4 is the “Male Homosexuality” Week. Does this mean that there is only one week where gay men have the authority to speak about masculinity? That is their time to shine, but on all other weeks we must forget that they exist (or see their existence as just a negative model for straight men)? Is this because even we, people taking a feminist course on masculinity and gender, don’t view homosexuals as “real men”?
I think that more appropriate questions for this week would be: What role do homosexual men play in the feminist movement, seeing that they do not choose to spend their life with a woman and are not seeking to achieve a hetero/ egalitarian relationship with a woman? Should gay men be spending their time fighting for women's rights, when they could be spending their time fighting for LGBT rights, because they are so oppressed by homophobia and heteronormativity?

Ani Reina said...

Maybe I’ve missed something but I view feminism as needing to move beyond using women as a “central focus”. If we look at “No Way My Boys Are Going to Be Like That!” we can see that female children were encouraged to step outside their gendered box, where as male children were only allowed so much room to express themselves. “Parents not only specify the items that strike them as problematic but clearly indicate the actions they take in accomplishing gender.” (59, ML) There are numerous examples of parents, specifically fathers, stating that they would not be comfortable with their sons exhibiting certain “feminine traits”.
While I have discussed this issue with men outside of this class and some outside of the “leftist movement”, they have expressed to me that 1. They of course understand that men can never fully grasp what it is like to be a woman. 2. Each of them has experienced some sort of pressure to fit within a certain type of masculinity. 3. They would not want to be part of a movement that ignores how some issues that affect women also affect men (classism, racism, and homophobia). Also with issue 3, I feel that if we, as women, understand that each woman’s experience is different and within that I do not share all of each woman’s oppressions or PRIVLEGES but I can still look to her as an ally, why would I deny a male-identified person just based on his privilege?
We can see examples of men wanting to break out of their gendered roles throughout our readings and describing feminism as the avenue for gender equality. Such as Michael S. Kimmel “I felt, for myself, that in feminism was the ability to break free of arbitrarily defined modes of behavior that had been defined for me by someone else and to finally develop ways of relating that were consistent with both my personal experiences and my political philosophies” (177, MSO). Kyle Brillante offers other definitions of feminism and women’s studies. “Together, past, present, and future embodied representatives of feminism in women’s studies classrooms, coupled with courses which emphasize gender and feminism as applicable to everyone, will be the first foundation by which we can bridge the gender gap in women’s studies” ( 223, MSO). Lastly he states “If feminism is a movement that teaches us to identify and end oppression-in all its manifold forms- than feminism is not solely a single-gender interest” (226, MSO).
I have a feeling that the argument will come up that not all men are enlightened as those quoted above, while neither are most women. Not only do some women hold more privilege than some men, but some women do not care about feminism. Do we not allow them into our “club” because the “don’t get it” no we educate them. We show them examples of sexism, homophobia, classism, ageism and every other –ism. Then they are our “allowed in”, just like male-identified people should be. To those who want a central focus on women I say that is entirely possible and in fact that is what I am saying. We should say to men “as your mothers, partners, daughters, nieces, aunts, sisters, friends, we see your privilege, we see your oppression, the box you are forced into and we want you to join US to fight against it.”

Ariel Dansky said...

Speaking of cultural constructions of masculinity, I would like to elaborate on my reaction to a particular text that caught my interest: Hombres y Machos by Alfredo Mirande.

When we speak of cultural constructions, we are, of course, not just speaking about American Cultural Constructions. However, because we are Americans, it is easy for us to think in terms of American constructions of masculinity.

For instance, in the video on "tough guise" we watched in class, the boys described a "real man" as being "tough, strong, and in control."

Yet, as we read in the text, the meaning masculinity Mirande' learns growing up in Mexico is quite different than dominant one we have studying in class. According to the author's research, even those men he found that identified as "macho" did not identify with the brute, tough masculinity that seems to be the dominant cultural construct in America. In contrast, those men were careful to distinguish between being masculine and being "machista" (sexist). Further, the qualities that exemplified Masculinity were not external, such as physical strength, but internal; within this internal form of masculinity was a sort of ethical code, including qualities such as honesty, respect, sincerity, and loyalty.

Interestingly, the dominant American idea of masculinity was far more similar to that of Cortes and his Conquistadores of Spain, who conquered much of the South American Region in years past.

As a Political Science- International Studies major, many a time I have debated with my peers as to whether the good effects of European colonialism outweigh the bad. While the answer to this prompt is unclear, what is clear is that when Europeans conquered less developed areas of the world, they seem to have brought with them not just their religion and governmental system, but their cultural construction of masculinity as well.

Ariel Dansky said...

(continuation of previous post)

Fortunately, the indigenous and far less problematic contstruction of masculinity in Mexico has remained prevalent. Intrestingly, that of Americans is far more like the European colonial powers. Could it be the manifest destiny, our historical desire to expand our territory, that could have affected this construction? Is the desire to conquer nations an inherent element of the construction of masculinity?

What do you think?

mixed enigma said...

This blog is to formulate a critique on the discussions ongoing in class and the text. I feel as though fellow scholars are identifying, whether intentional or not, with the marginalization of gender, race, class, sexuality, etc. Of course, once brought forth to their attention I do not assume they recognize this discrepancy. Rather, I feel as though intersectionality is a very important aspect when discussing in discourse that calls for equality amongst individuals. Instead of partaking in the third wave movement, scholars have predominately associated their views expressed with ones of the initial wave of feminism. But should scholars who aren’t aware of such oppressive behavior continue in the right, or shall I say left, direction as opposed to working backwards? First, when discussing race very few authors have been of varying ethnic backgrounds besides caucasian, and if there are races being addressed it’s from the perspective of a caucasian. Thus, scholars should take the time to question the authenticity of the author speaking for various cultures not of their own descent. The material at hand should be, and most definitely could be, cross-cultural. The narrow-mindedness of scholars, or shall I say non-exposure, only solidifies the notion that prevailing white folk may make assertive claims. Even in the syllabus, we have designated a week to cover issues dealing with a particular race and varying sexualities which not all white folk may identify with (e.g., homosexuality, black masculinity). As feminists, as I would assume most scholars would proclaim, in the third wave we must emphasize divergent issues than that of a caucasian. Constantly, one is exclaiming the differences in class, sexuality, and race, but this should no longer be. Feminism calls for equality of all which entails looking beyond these trivial labels societal behaviors that they suppose best befit the criteria culture has created. We must bridge a gap and see these differences as a matter of opinion in addition to showing comparisons of such oppressions through cross-culture intersectionality. I suppose what the aim of this is to hope that as feminists we can open our eyes to the oppressive behavior and take the time to find what other perspectives lay outside of this domineering realm. Not one single ideology is superseded by another; however, some, I believe, have more discrepancy to oppression than that of the prevalent authors we’re reading.

Cristoina said...

I want to start off by saying that I really enjoyed the articles in Men’s Lives that discussed child development and I feel that adolescence is a stage of life that is most influenced by gender and gender stereotypes. Adolescence is also a time for parental care books, parents questioning themselves and their practices and the worry that one’s child will grow up ‘abnormal’ because one failed as a parent. It is a difficult time that arouses difficult questions, especially when discussing the issue of gender neutrality. After watching a film in my Sexual Behaviors class, I want to direct this week’s blog to the issue of intersexed children and the research proposed by science that does not take into account the idea of gender fluidity.

The film we viewed in class discussed a particular instance of a young boy who had a circumcision go awry. The baby’s penis was severed and deemed unusable. The decision was then made for the young male to be ‘made into’ a female. This infant procedure was regularly used, and is still used today, for intersexed children, when the internal reproductive organs do not match with the external sex of the child, and for children whose external genitalia is considered “ambiguous.” It is most common for this type of sex reassignment surgery to take place when a young boy’s penis is too small and would not grow to adequate size, which would then lead to overwhelming psychological problems in the future. So if the penis is too small…make it a girl? If a male cannot fulfill the expectations put on him, then he should be relegated to a female. This kind of mentality insults women roles and their bodies as well as perpetuating the debilitating implications of masculinities. What does it say about our society that if a child was born and raised male, but had a small penis, he would not be able to function? This stems from the strong importance placed on penis size in our culture and is reinforced by the media. Also this reinforces the notion that, that same child being medically manipulated and then gendered as a girl while she grows up, will have less psychological damage? Clearly there is a problem in how these medical professionals are handling ambiguity and how they view gender. This reflects the view of biological determinism, that ones genes determine how one lives out their sexual role in society, as opposed to the social construction of gender that states there is a problem with the polarization of gender. I feel that this lack of fluidity in sex plays a strong role in the construction of gender norms. There is male and female, masculine and feminine and that is easy, convenient and offers all the answers. Ambiguity is not discussed, instead it is morphed into questions of ‘which’. Which sex will they be? Which gender stereotypes will be instilled? Which toys, games and environment will be constructed around the child to go along with their sex? When these questions are being raised, there is no suspicion to how science has become inherently sexist and that there should be a balance between nature and nurture.

Abigail said...

Men have to be an equal partner in feminism if we are ever going to accomplish our goal of equality, with the exception of being lead by men. It is important that we (women) are able to lead and govern ourselves within a women’s movement yet it is essential that we praise and lift up our feminist brothers.
In the reading by Michael Kimmel he describes his time at Vassar College which used to be a women’s only college though became coed and he was granted the chance to expand his understanding of what it meant to be male, and female. So my answer to part be is that the focus should not necessarily be on women. Where would the feminist movement be now without men? Women and men interact on a daily basis so we have everything to do with the other. We need to include each other and hold ourselves accountable for the ways that we negatively affect others.

Richarddd said...

This is a thorough and difficult question. First of all, I think it's important when dealing with a topic that is often misunderstood to truthfully educate people, so that progress can occur, with everyone starting on the same page. Educating people on the necessity of feminism and the truths of feminism should help with retaining a central focus on women in feminism, as they are key to the issue. Further, educating the general public on feminism should make it clear the important role men play in the struggle for a more just society through feminism. Education will make room on both sides for men, informing men of the significance of feminism and their role in it and this also helps women to understand the important role men play. I think education answers all three of these points. Education is very broad though. What do I mean by this? I mean that as a society, we have a responsibility to start early with our children and teach them how to properly treat others in society and how to recognize patterns of oppression that have been built into society, especially the patterns subordinating women.

Jo said...

I think it is central to our purpose as a movement to include men - our purpose, at least in part, being to change our standing in the system. In order to achieve that change, we need to “change the minds” of the ones who currently have power. They need to understand our perspective and see the wisdom of our convictions, if that makes sense; if we ever hope to realize the changes we seek. It is critical of course to maintain the focus on women’s issues/rights. I think it is important to maintain connection with our roots as a movement.

In that respect, I don’t know if it is possible to avoid reinscribing the gender binaries that feminism-as-female invokes. I know that as a movement, feminism has come a long way. That is what makes it possible to include men at this point, whereas in the beginning I think it was necessary to exclude them. But I’m not sure that I believe we have come so far as to allow feminism to focus outside of women’s issues. I think it is a “slippery slope.”

(I thought the following info came from “Abandoning the Barricades”, MSO p171-181, but I am unable to find the page, so maybe someone can help me)
The author stated that he stopped calling himself a feminist and started using the term pro-feminist because he didn’t want it to become appropriated (by the white hetero male) and I think that was a really important thought process. I have always thought it a good thing when a male identified as feminist, but the author’s statement made me think twice. It’s along the lines of what I was saying before. There is a real possibility that men identifying as feminists will not help the movement, but will inadvertently hurt it if their use of the term causes it to lose its meaning over time. I think similarly of men in leadership roles in the movement where instead of furthering our cause and voices as women, the men’s voices begin to overshadow us just as it does in other arenas.

Merritt Johnson said...

I touched a lot on these topics in last weeks blog.. But, I think there is always room for men in feminism, but women should always be on top and in control in feminism. As our "comrades" I feel they will play a big part in feminism. Men should know that they will never be able to relate to everything a woman does, or fully understand us. But, they should be open to women and accept everything about women. Women and men are obviously differentand in that sense, we can work together and can tackle different roles within feminism. Women will always be the central power in feminism, thus the word "fem"="female", haha...I don't think the role will ever be handed over to a man, as women started feminism and as supportive as a man ants to be, they will never be a women or know what it feels like to be one.

In the article No Way My Boys Are Going To Dress Like That, it was cute for girls to wear boy clothes such as jerseys but it would never be socially acceptable for a boy to wear a pink dress. I do notice that a lot of parents dress their girls in football clothes for games and there is nothing wrong with a "tom-boy" but I'm sure people would gawk at a man/boy if he were dressed as a girl. It's ashame how the genders are veiwed and shaped.

As Kimmel writes in Boyhood, it shows how boys and girls are shaped into their sex. His first quote "one is not born, but rather becomes a women", pretty much sums it all up. He goes on to say that the most common statement in high school is "thats so gay", every boy is afraid of being called that, so they at tough and put on an act, whcih ends up being their whole personailty. Kimmel also staes, “we are afraid to relate to other men for fear that we might be secretly gay, or that they might be, or that things might just get out of control”. I enjoyed when last week, Ross told the class he was a queer, yet had a girlfriend. He came out and told everyone who he was and you could tell he was proud, I feel this is how all men should be. I am enjoying seeing how men play a role in feminism, but i can't wait to help Ross in Men Against Rape, and show there are men out there that are still sensitive, compassionate, and show who they really are. I'm sorry i missed class tonight, My stomach has been freaking out. I would ahve liked to touch base with everyone about the readings. Last weeks class was very inspiring and I can't wait for what the rest of the semester brings.

Sara N said...

Lisa!
I'm glad you noticed that subtle sexism in Crass' article too! The questions I had prepared for class dealt explicitly with those undertones. I'm going to copy and paste them here for anybody who cares.

1. 1. Page 282 Men Speak “Out How Can I be Sexist? I’m an Anarchist!” by Chris Cross
“There were numerous reasons why we started a FNB group, but one was to confront sexism. We were trying to address the critique that men held all the power in the group. FNB represented an opportunity for everyone to participate in a meaningful way” (282).

Q: The women in UAF confronted sexism in the hopes of changing the dynamics of the group. Although this was never fully realized due to many other intersecting problems, this did initially shift the discourse. Does this give us any insight into how power operates in relationships that might speak to theories of masculinities?

2.Page 283 Men Speak Out Chris Cross- “How Can I be Sexist? I’m an Anarchist!” I really enjoyed this essay. Chris does a good job of illustrating how this is a process of constant becoming.
He composes a list entitled “tools for guys (and others with privilege) who are working for social change.” The first tool he includes reads, “Practice noticing who’s in the room at social, professional, and political gatherings. How many are gender privileged (biological) men? How many are women, transgendered people, white people and people of color? Is the majority in the room heterosexual? Are there out queers? What are people’s class backgrounds? Don’t assume to know people, but also work at becoming more aware by listening to what people say and talking with people one on one.”

Q: Are there any theoretical problems with this tool/approach?