Feminism

Published on January 30th, 2013 | by Rayne

14

Feminism needs to include men to obtain equality for all

“Feminism will make it possible for the first time for men to be free.” – Michael Kimmel
I’ve written a few posts in the past calling for re-evaluation of the feminist movements action plan (posts here) because the way they are going about getting to their goals isn’t working.

The feminist movement wants better lives for women and transfolk – all women and transfolk (well the feminism I subscribe to wants those things). We want equal pay and no-more harassment on the streets. We want to end rape culture, slut shaming and victim blaming and we want to move from the culturally accepted patriarchy to something more equal.

And we can’t do that without men.

Men are as much a victim of the patriarchy as women and transfolk are. Most offences that happen to women and transfolk because of the cultural patriarchy will live in, happen to men. Men just don’t see it. The reason why women and transfolk are getting so up in arms over the offences of the patriarchy is because we can see it happen. We are the visible victims of rape culture, slut shaming and gender policing. We can quantify the atrocities committed against us and express why it makes us angry.

Men haven’t been able to do that yet.

Similarly women and transfolk haven’t been able to see men’s inability to see the crimes of the patriarchy. Feminism has yelled at men, told them they are wrong and part of the problem but hasn’t explained why they are wrong, what the problem is, how it affects us or why it is important that change happens and most men have no idea why they are getting yelled at or why what they are doing is wrong. Most men don’t realise the culture that they live in is harming them as well. The patriarchy has placed men in a box of their own creation. Current feminist tactics hurts men and stunt the progression of change because all it does is blame men – it doesn’t tell them why change is necessary for them. People will only work for change when it directly benefits them.

Rape culture, victim blaming, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny – are all crimes invented and committed by patriarchal thinking and they are committed against men, women and transpeople alike. We all know how these crimes are committed against women and transpeople but lets look at how they are committed against men:

Rape culture: Our rape culture tells men that they cannot be raped by women or by other men. When they can. In fact according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, 1 in 33 men are victims of rape and considering the amount of shame and guilt attributed to being raped – the statistics are probably a lot higher than 1 in 33. Rape culture tells men they can’t be raped because they are meant to be stronger and smarter than women. They are meant to be able to get out of any situation. Rape culture tells men that they should like any attention and that no sexual attention is unwanted or can be unwanted. Rape culture tells men that an erection and orgasm means they secretly wanted it all a long when in fact an erection and orgasm is nothing more than a biological response to being stimulated.

Rape culture hurts men because it reduces them to nothing more than an uncontrollable animal. Rape culture tells men that they can’t control themselves around women at that the very sight of a woman will lead them to rape. Rape culture tells men that they should be devoid of all feelings and be mindless robots whose penis is in control of everything they do and they can’t think outside of sex.

Victim blaming: Victim blaming tells men that if they have gotten raped that they are to blame for it. They weren’t strong enough to get away or smart enough not to put themselves in the that situation. Victim blaming tells men there is something wrong with them because they were raped – which is typically seen as something that only happens to women, therefore the men that get raped as seen as “less than” because women in a patriarchal society are seen as “less than”.

Homophobia/transphobia: Homophobia and transphobia not only hurt gay people and transfolk but also cisgendered men and straight men. All men regardless of gender identity or sexuality. Homophobia is rooted in misogynistic thinking – if you’re gay then you must be feminine and there is something wrong with that. Not all gay men are feminine of course but stereotypes perpetuate the myth. Being gay or being trans is threatening to the patriarchal order because of the misconceptions the patriarchal order believes about being gay. Being gay in the public eye means being a passive receptor in regards to sex, it means a man acting like a woman due to gender policing stating that all woman must be submissive and all men must dominate when it comes to sexual matters. It means an inversion of patriarchal accepted gender roles where women act like men and vice versa. Lesbians can be assertive and don’t want men. Misogynistic thinking states all women are objects for men – lesbians defy that thinking which is why we aren’t taken seriously. Lesbians can’t really exist because all women exist for men in a misogynists eyes.

Homophobia and transphobia hurts all men because it tells men that there is only one way to be in life. The patriarchy 101 clearly outlines how to be a considered “a man” and being gay or trans isn’t in the rulebook.

Misogyny: Misogynistic thinking hurts men because it tells men that they aren’t allowed to care for women. They aren’t allowed to have feelings for them but only see them as objects. Misogyny hurts men because it devalues their worth as thinking/feeling human beings by telling them that the only thing they should feel is aroused and that they have no ability to see women as people.

A misogynistic value system places women as objects to be controlled that steams from the hatred of women who won’t be controlled. As this authour states:

          This all made a lot of sense, but I still had not made the connection to the word “hate.” Eventually I made the connection when I found this website. The author summed up his reason for creating the site and his dislike of women in one simple sentence: “I hate women because I want their attention and they won’t give me any.” So what a misogynist truly loves is the shallow image of women that exists only in one’s mind and is illustrated in society in such things as pornography or mainstream media that espouses that ideal. The hatred is directed at real women, for not living up to a misogynist’s expectations of women being easy to control and for not providing adequate stimulation for men’s interest.

          Once I figured this out, many things about misogyny became clear. A misogynistic value system would favor women who put out and are easy to control. Misogynists would talk about women in a dehumanized way, i.e., nice legs, great ass, etc, as if women were nothing more than a collection of body parts. Dating and relationships would become a game of manipulation fraught with various seedy techniques and ploys designed to get women to have sex. Something else I noticed as I browsed the web is that although misogynists try to control women, they are ironically dependent on women for validation in front of other men and society. This dependence is disempowering and only adds to the anger and resentment misogynists feel towards women.

Our misogynistic society tells men that they are dependent on women for validation and self esteem, if they can’t control women than they are weak and not “real” men. Our misogynistic society tells men that it is not okay to be a woman and that there is something wrong with that, so any man who is considered to be displaying “womanly behaviour” is shunned. Why else can women walk around in pants but men can’t walk around in dresses in public?

What many people don’t understand is that it’s the patriarchal culture we live in that is powerful, not men themselves. Men as individuals believe they are powerless. As I mentioned previously, men, unlike women and transfolk cannot see how the patriarchy is harmful to them.

Michael Kimmel in his book “The Gendered Society” explains it like this:

           A discussion about power invariably makes men uncomfortable or defensive. How many times have we heard a man say, when confronted with women’s anger at gender-based inequality and discrimination, “Hey, don’t blame me! I never raped anyone!” When challenged by the idea that the gender order means that men have power over women, men often respond with “What do you men have all the power? What are you talking about? I have no power at all. I’m completely powerless. My wife bosses me around. My children boss me around, my boss bosses me around. I have no power at all!” Most men, it seems, do not feel powerful.

          Here, in a sense, is where feminism has failed to resonate with most men. Women as a group, are not in power nor individually do women feel powerful. In fact, they felt constrained by gender inequality into stereotypical activities that prevented them from feeling comfortable, safe and competent. So women are neither in power nor feel powerful.

         This breaks down when we try to apply it to men. Because although men may be in power everywhere once cares to look, individual men are not in power and they do not feel powerful. Men as a group are in power (when compared to women) but do not feel powerful.

This feeling of powerlessness that individual men feel could contribute to the sheer length of time it has taken feminism to achieve its goals. Men can’t see how they contribute to the problem as individuals so they can’t see the bigger picture, nor do feminists explain to them how.

Keeping all this in mind, a cultural shift is needed. Not just for women and transfolk but like all change – people only work for change when it directly affects them which is evident in the fact that feminism won’t include men and only works towards goals for cisgendered women. Some feminists I know actively shun men and alienate them. Men won’t help women achieve equality without inclusion or knowing how it will help them. Feminism won’t change anything more for women and transfolk unless we have an entire cultural shift – which won’t happen unless men’s lives are changed for the better as well. The patriarchy will still continue to oppress women and transfolk unless men are freed from their constraints of gender policed “maniless”.

If you like some of the things I say – feel free to add me to your RSS feed, comment or email me: rayne@insufferableintolerance.com. I now have a facebook page! Feel free to like my page by clicking here!

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14 Responses to Feminism needs to include men to obtain equality for all

  1. Lauren says:

    This is so very true. Luckily, I do know some men (gay and straight) who consider themselves to be feminists that understand this. I just hope more people can grasp this.

    • Rayne says:

      So do I. I know a few men who not only understand feminism but how rape culture works and why it’s wrong. They know more about provilege, queer and feminist theory than most women I know.

  2. Sig says:

    Your source on rape stats. uses a very patriarchal definition of rape, one that excludes envelopment. Once we include envelopment and so include women forcing others to penetrate them, as a definition of rape and look at modern data, men and women are raped at equal rights. This ironically enough, is a fact that feminists do not like at all.

    • Rayne says:

      Very true. The definition of rape depends on the area and law of the area as both can vary and also whether the victim can recognise they’ve been raped.

  3. Sig says:

    edit – *equal rates

  4. Mostly says:

    Lots of food for thought in the article there.
    Most of human history seems to have led towards struggles and entreaties to obtain more (not less) freedom and equality. Making people free, and keeping people free (by consensus, and force of reason, not force of arms) is what democracies  aspire to do, and feminism is an offshoot of democracy. Whether people at large agree or disagree with the offshoot, they (generally speaking) already agree with the root premise of equality that it is based in. 

    Whether I agree or disagree with the structure of any given ideology, and the inherent presumptions (about society, psychology, social dynamics, the primacy of gender in shifting power relations, ect) upon which an ideology is based, as well as the matrix and the means for change; all this does not necessarily mean I disapprove of the overall goal and effects.

    Commonality of goals and values transcends differences (even fundamental differences) in ideological structuralism. Feminism may (or may not) win many converts to its dichotomy, but I might argue that the end goal is far more important, universal, and appealing than the rhetoric, or the architecture of the ideology itself. Ideology (feminist or otherwise) is not the end, but a means to an end.   

    So, proceeding with that in mind, I might offer this as a somewhat radical notion: 

    To achieve its broader goals, feminism is in less need of doctrinaire adherents, focused on purity of rhetoric, and more need of fellow travelers – those who, though they may reject some of the structural ideological underpinnings, actively approve of, and will act for the overall goals and values.    
         
    Because of this, I would argue, one can still reject an ideological presumption that sees gender, and only gender, as the alpha and omega of power relations, dismissing or marginalizing the influences of race, class, economics, nationality, ideology, spirituality, and most of all, individuality, in causality. Indeed, the goal is not the ideology or the rhetoric; the goal is a society with more equality, freedom, tolerance, social justice, that is apportioned without bias or malice, and one that is free of violence and coercion against all. 

    If the goal is to make people freer, more equal, and to protect them from the vagaries of bias and discrimination (whether that bias is rooted in gender or anything else) feminism can and will succeed (or, if you will, succeed even more than it has). Always remember- If someone else’s freedom or equality is threatened or curtailed based on their gender (or, for that matter, on any other arbitrary characteristic) then it is also a threat to my own freedom and equality (directly or indirectly, in the present or in the future) because it accepts the notion that arbitrary discrimination is desirable, permissible and/or inevitable.     
      
    But If the goal is just to achieve unanimous, universal acceptance of its ideological precepts, terminology, or its dichotomy, then feminism will fail (or if you will, fail even worse than it has), no matter how good people get at bleating the rhetoric, because the rhetoric is not the goal. And that is a flaw inherent in most ideologies, and by no means unique to feminism.

    If all of this has not been provocative enough, I would add a link to an article by Stephen Buckle. Disagree with it or agree with it, it makes a compelling case for the reexamination of feminist social structure, and, in general, how social structures relate to power. A long read here, but an interesting one:

    http://www.quadrant.org.au/magazine/issue/2013/1-2/the-myth-of-misogyny

    Thanks.

  5. Ian says:

    Thank you for writing this. I have two older sisters, and was the first male on my mom’s side of the family in 83 years. I primarily grew up around women which I think allowed me to be more aware of my male privilege. Even though neither of my sisters (or my mother) care to identify themselves as feminists.

    As a result of this, from a young age I was also quick to recognize how how inequality also negatively impacted me. This has been a large source of frustration for me, because an unfortunately small amount of people (male and female) seemed to understand this. I unfortunately grew to strongly dislike “feminism” as the movement exists in modern times.

    It’s extremely aggravating to help feminist campaigns only to have sexism directed at me. I understand when it comes to discrimination tempers are high, but I do hate the consistent hypocrisy among many “feminists”. I refuse to associate myself with any of the MRA bullshit for the same reason, despite agreeing with most of the primary issues. I just hate the fact that so many of them disregard women’s issues because of men’s issues, or at the very least don’t give them the importance they deserve. Same issue with a lot of the active feminist movement.

    Unfortunately I think pseudo-feminists have given feminism has a serious name problem, which has not only isolated men but also a large amount of women from wanting to identify as one. It has developed a negative connotation due to the vocal minority of angry misandrists falsely flying the feminist flag. Also the word itself having a prefix strongly associated with gender doesn’t help much either. There’s those who describe themselves as egalitarian in place of feminists or MRA’s, and I find them the most tolerable as a group, but I also don’t refer to myself as one because I don’t want to explain that to people. So I’ve finally settled on just stating outright “I support gender equality” and not mingling with gender equality groups due to all the hateful people. I will support and promote any campaign though that helps with equality though.

    Also I think the groups create more hate than anything. I’ve seen several women like you, who identify as feminists, make comments supporting men and the social injustices they also face. Only to see those women verbally bombarded by angry men making assumptions about their character simply based on stating they were a feminist. It’s infuriating.

    Sorry for the rambling, I just kind of needed get that off my chest. I also haven’t slept for over 78 hours, so if some of that doesn’t make sense or there’s grammatical errors I apologize. Mentally can’t proof read right now until I sleep.

    So, in short, thank you for this post. It’s always nice to see someone who is able to recognize that everyone gets hurt by a sexist society, and wants to stop it. Meant a lot to me to read.

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  7. Chris Woodford says:

    Well done for helping your cause turn a corner many involved cannot see.

  8. Lyn Venables says:

    This is where feminism gets confusing to me. My first response was “Where on earth does this writer get the idea that “feminism won’t include men” and that “Current feminist tactics hurts men and stunt the progression of change because all it does is blame men”

    Really? Is feminism so bad that I should begin to protest vehemently about being viewed as a feminist? I already complain that the label bothers me. If you think about the patriarchy and inequality and write about it, people say “Oh you’re a feminist! It’s always a surprise to me, but I assume that’s becuse they generally believe the things that I do.

    If One Billion Rise against violence against women across the world, are they all feminists too? And are they all going about it the wrong way? Are all the people who draw attention to victim blaming on Slutwalks feminsts? Are they going about it in the wrong way? Or is one group right and the other wrong? Is one group feminists and one not? If people who don’t affiliate themselves with a group who call themselves feminists, are they still feminists because they believe in equaity? Are half of the people on One Billion Rising feminists and the other half not?

    I don’t get it. What is a feminist? Is a feminist by your definition a people who need to be educated about the influence of patriarchy on men? Where is this group that needs addressing? Are you a feminist because you care about gender equality and the influences of patriarchy? Are others not true feminists even though they believe in the same things as you do, but call themselves feminists? Or are you definitely NOT a feminist but happen to be aware of the patriarchal influences and have a notion about what could be done about it?

    I’m very confused as you can tell! I need to know who the feminists are from your viewpoint before I can offer up a better response.

    • Rayne says:

      Feminism is simply an ideology that women should be treated equally to men in all aspects of life. Feminism aims to give women more of an equal standing with men and hopefully change our culture from the patriarchal culture we live in (that favours men) to something more equal. However in order to change our culture from the uneven patriarchal culture – the feminist ideology needs to include men. It needs to include men in the sense that men are affected by the patriarchal culture we live in and are treated unequally in some aspects of their lives.

      In order for everyone to live in an equal society, we need to educate everyone on all the unequal issues that affects everyone. Thus the feminism ideology of “equal for women” will need to change to “equal for everyone” (including transgender people) because women have privileges that men do not have. Women can walk down the street in a dress or skirt, it is socially acceptable for women to show emotion or cry and anything considered “feminine” or “womanly” is off limits to men. This is unfair and traps men. It is also the root of a lot of misogynistic thinking – men aren’t allowed to be feminine or “womanly” because women are seen as less than. For women to gain equal standing in society – we must tell men it is okay to be feminine.

      Expanding on that< I would like to see a society where there is no gender binaries or defined gender roles. Where the term “men” and “women” can be applied to whoever wants to define themselves as such.

      Anyone can be a feminist but the term “feminist” gets thrown around a lot without a person really knowing what it means. It doesn’t mean “I’m a woman who wants equal pay to men”, it should mean “I want everyone to live in an equal society”.

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