Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Re-thinking 'Misandry'

I just finished writing two posts in which I talk about the important role of men in feminism. But I'm not Jezebel, so I know that very few people read it. But nonetheless, it seems I'm going there again, this time in relation to a book by Concordia Professor Dr. Synnott called "Re-Thinking Men".

I have not read the book. And I hate it when people tear down shit they didn't read/attend/listen to, etc. So I completely understand if you turn this car around. Totally. The biggest criticism with the Professor's book is that it's an unfair critique of feminism.

Although he has said that he doesn't consider the book a critique of feminism but a critique of misandric feminism. And this is where I take issue. I believe in feminisms, plural. So yes, there is certainly feminists who do not like men, who hate them, resent them, etc. As I've said, if I respect Sarah Palin's right to call herself a feminism, then I gotta respect the right of man-haters to do their thang, too.

My issue is with misandry in general. Mostly, because I don't really think it even exists. Yes, I think hatred of men exists but I don't think misandry does because hatred of men is not systemic. Now I realize I could be arguing semantics in the eyes of many and I accept that but misgony is called misogyny and not just chauvinism because it's a systemic hatred of womyn and rejection of anything feminine. Although I see individual cases of man-hating and full blown perpetual man-hating in certain contexts (that I will get to soon), I don't believe for a second that 'men' are systemically oppressed, hated or disadvantaged.

I am referring to the gender, here. I am willfully ignoring intersections and fully recognize that trans-men, men of colour, queer men, disAbled men, etc. are not living the high life of acceptance and praise. I'm just referring to the idea of 'men' as a gender, as the Professor does.

Where I see the hatred of men is in popular culture: a realm in which feminists have little to no say. (Think of what pop culture would look like under a critical feminist lens for a second, if you're skeptical). The fact that most men in sitcoms are complete neanderthals, that you can't see a cleaning product commercial without seeing a dude who can't change a roll of toilet paper, that every time I turn around, men are depicted as slaves to their sex drive and completely 'frat boy' like, rather than complex individuals with a wide range of emotions and characteristics. But this is not a result of feminism.

And so I take objection to the idea that feminism or specifically, 'misandric feminism' has a role to play in perpetuating shitty sketches of masculinity and men. Another reason I object to this book? The fact that the Professor describes the purpose of the book, which is "to praise men – to recognize their massive and heroic contributions to social life and to civilization.” Yes, to offer men praise because apparently years of sexist, racist, cisgendered, ableist, etc, etc, etc history books and stories have forgotten to mention how privileged dudes did nothing to bring us to where we are today. Because every time I look around , womyn, people of colour and indigenous folks are being thanked for bringing the world 'modernity', classic literature, paved roads, philosophy, etc. Oh wait...

If you need me to deconstruct how problematic that is, then I have no idea why you're reading this blog.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm a feminist, but...

This is a manifesto of sorts that I wrote a few months ago but I'm posting it here now because I seem to be having this conversation a lot lately.


I’m a feminist. (duh...)

But when I say ‘feminism’, I’m not talking about theorists or jargon (I’ll get back to those in a second…)

See, I never came to feminism through academia, readings or even activism. Although I only began to identify as such after being in University, feminism was part of how I was raised.

My family is made up of tough, working class people. I don’t remember hearing much about ‘feminism’ growing up but all the tenets were there.

As a womyn, I was told that I had to work twice as hard to make it anywhere because people were going to try and take me down. I was told that I never needed a man to be happy or complete and that I was always intelligent first and pretty second. I was told that people are going to tell you that being gay or being a boy who identifies as a girl is BAD, but that it’s not. People should be free to love whoever they want. I was also scolded harshly for being racist and learned through my Oma that people with disabilities are as competent as anyone else in the world. I was told that money doesn’t equal happiness or intelligence and that formal education was a ticket to a better life – that it’s a privilege.

I was taught that nobody gets anywhere in life without hard work but that everyone is doing the very best they can.

And I’m doing the best I can.

For me, that means attacking an issue through different methods. I don’t really identify as a radical and I’m okay with that. As I stated here around the G8/G20 stuff, my politics are about accessibility.

My first introduction to ‘volunteering’ or ‘activism’ was in my early 20s, when I realized that my life was centered around ME: I worked, went to school and hung out with my friends. I had copious amounts of privilege but wasn’t giving back.

Not being connected to any kind of community, I became a Big Sister. And I loved it. I loved (And still do!) the two amazing girls I worked with and saw the brilliance and power of girls.

But then I started working with more and more groups and as exciting, energizing and exhausting as it all is, I've realized what I am not.

I am not an anarchist. I don’t think that makes me delusional or ignorant.

I don’t believe in elitist feminism. So yes, that means I don’t identify with academic feminism. But it also means I don’t identify with many activist circles.

I don’t think the world is going to be a better place by dropping Judith Butler bombs or by claiming “I’m oppressed”, “No, I’M oppressed” or differing to theory rather than having anything concrete to say.

I am a feminist that lives in the real world.

I do not interact only with other feminists every day. I live in a world where the vast majority of people have no fucking clue what ‘marginalization’ means, but they can tell you what it feels like. They think ‘rape culture’ is a scary generalization and would never claim to live in one. Until, of course, you explain it to them and then womyn slowly start raising their hands.

My feminism means that accessibility isn’t just building a ramp and oppressive languages isn’t just saying “That’s so gay”.

I live in a world where the vast majority of people who assault are men and the vast majority of the people I see in that world are men.

I cannot isolate myself from men nor can I allow myself to be co-opted by them.

My feminism includes men. No. Scratch that. My feminism must include men.

The role of men in feminism is situational and must always come from the direction of womyn.

You are not my ally if you challenge the sentence “Womyn are sexually assaulted” with “Men are raped, too!”

My feminism is trans-inclusive. I do not feel threatened by your definition of gender and how you self-identify.

I also firmly believe in the need for womyn-identified-womyn ONLY spaces. I think anyone who disagrees fails to understand the systemic nature of sexism and has yet to observe the dynamics of 12 year old girls.

I do not believe in collectives as a structure or a political strategy. I have come to this conclusion through personal experience and chats with those who’ve been there – including the beloved ‘Jane Doe’.

My feminism respects the herstory of the movement and the history of humanity as a whole. I firmly believe that if we don’t learn from history, it will simply repeat itself. This means recognizing colonialism, systemic discrimination against categories of ‘disabled’, and the sacrifices of those who go to war.

I recognize November 11th as an important day to pause and reflect on the sacrifices of those who died on muddy beaches for my right to demonstrate.

I do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I recognize that Agnes Macphail, Katharine Mackinnon and Peter Singer are important AND terrible.

My feminism believes that sex is marvelous, dangerous and political all the time.

My feminism is not dogmatic. It strives on diversity and therefore inherently recognizes the right of bell hooks, Andrea Dworkin, Sarah Palin and Ginger Spice to call themselves feminist. Even if it makes me uncomfortable.

Oh yeah and my feminism spells women with a ‘y’ not because it hates men or even thinks that the spelling of a word will revolutionize the world. It’s spelled with a ‘y’ because it pisses you off. And your anger speaks volumes.

*My feminism also reserves the right to change any and all of this without notice. All sales are final.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dudes and Chicks: What Men Can Gain from Joining Feminism

As of late, it seems that other people’s blog posts spur me into writing. Like the rape culture post, I’d been contemplating the role of men and feminism in my head for a while now and then read a really interesting post by Andrea Doucet this morning and thought, I gotta do this. Men have much to gain from feminism and why they haven’t figure that out yet is a problem.

The role of men in feminism and the very obvious ways in which men benefit from it has always been apparent to me. Not because I grew up in a progressive, hippie household or that I went to some alternative school. Quite the opposite, in fact. I came to feminism not out of some deep hatred for the male species or a general chip on my shoulder, but by being curious about gender as a whole.

I’ve been challenged on this before but I do think gender is the foundation of society. Regardless of whether or not you’re conscious of your gender or your knee-deep in trans* politics, gender is everywhere, all the time. Most of us take it for granted until we date a trans* person who can’t use public washrooms or we compare our 72 cents on our male partner’s dollar. Most people require a serious dose of reality before we start unravelling how gender plays into our daily lives. Which brings me back to how frustrated I am that ‘good men’ don’t understand how feminism can benefit them.

I say ‘good men’ because I do believe there are some dudes who aren’t ever going to get it. These are the men who are well aware of gender dynamics and like them just the way they are, thank you very much. They like women to stay in their place and pray so deeply to the altar of misogyny that we shouldn’t waste on breathes trying to recruit them to the feminist team. But I think most men fall outside of that shitty box and are either clueless or confused. So if you’re that person, listen up brother because it’s about to get juicy!

Well actually.. not really. Because it’s all rather obvious. The primary function of feminism (or rather, feminisms like mine) is to challenge people about gender assumptions and in turn, to emancipate all genders. That means, as a an educated womyn, I want to make 1$ for every dollar my male partner makes. I want to walk down the street without being hollered at and want every man with a passion for fashion, beauty, nursing, homecare, women’s studies, etc. to be able to work in that field. I want all genders to stop competing against each other while vying for a mate. I want womyn to stop feeling like losing 10 pounds of weight and wearing 10 pounds of makeup will make them worthy and I want men to stop feeling like the only emotion they’re allowed is anger. I want trans* to stop being the butt of every fucking joke, too. I’m being simplistic here but hopefully you catch my drift.

See, you can’t emancipate womyn without emancipating men and trans* people. To say that womyn are equal to men and deserve equitable treatment gets people thinking “Well, why is that? Are womyn not that different from men? And if womyn and men aren’t that different, then trans* people can’t be scary, then can they? And if trans* people are legitimate people and womyn aren’t to be afraid of, then why am I so paranoid and worried about protecting my manliness?” And that’s what it all comes down to.

You can’t combat rape culture, without emancipating men from stiff definitions of masculinity that see men as necessarily aggressive, violent, homophobic and misogynist.

You can’t combat gender discrimination in the workplace without emancipating men from the definitions of masculinity that see men as competitive, unemotional and all-too-happy to give up time with their family over a pay check.

I could go on and on and on. Because as much as stereotypes of womyn see us as overly emotional, irrational, catty, motherly (and of course, white, straight, cis, able bodied, fertile, middle-class and ‘beautiful), stereotypes about masculinity aren’t healthy either.

I’m not a dude, but if I was, I’d want to live in a world where I could drink beer with my friends, watch UFC , work out at the gym AND attend social justice rallies, spend quality time with my grandmother and blog about gender issues. I’d want my desire for a challenging job AND a close-knit family to be accepted. I’d want to have no shame in discussing my plans to start a family. I’d want to drive a car that I like and not have it send a message about the size of my genitalia or feel like I can congratulate a male friend on a job well done without ending it with ‘no homo’.

Unfortunately, in today's world, the only people loudly advocating for TRUE male emancipation are frightening ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ or ‘Pick-up Artists’. Both are deeply, deeply entrenched in misogyny and paranoia about womyn and in turn, will do nothing to create a more equitable world.

So men, be brave and join us feminists who are sick of being raped, beaten and denied equal access AND who know you are, too. There’s no deadline and you’re never too young or too old. Plus, we have some pretty cool swag. Just sayin’.