Monday, July 20, 2009

Masculinist men and Feminist women: truths about each

[the above image is from here]

The above image is titled "Henry VIIIs manhood is safe". What does this title and image tell us about how men understand "manhood"? And who, if choosing from the two most popular genders, do you suppose this suit of armor is designed to protect him from: women or men?

A collection of systems of belief, made real through practice and institutionalised policies, laws, and customs, that holds that men ought to have power over women, and ought to have unimpeded sexual access to women.

A collection of systems of belief, varying greatly, that generally agree that men ought not have power over women interpersonally or institutionally. Efforts on private and public fronts to hold men accountable to the abuses we perpetrate against women, because we are men who have come to believe we have the right to do so, are opposed by all of the feminists I have ever known.

Another truism: Masculinists are in charge of society. Feminists are not.

It is men themselves, masculinist men, who define and decide what sex and manhood are. This is not done primarily done in the abstract. It is done primarily in the course of men having sex with others and also engaging with others in their social world. But how heterosexual men treat women during sexual acts is one of the significant ways "sex" gets understood and registered in the bodies of men as such, by those men. How men treat images of women is part of this process. How men understand "womanness" while using pornography is one central factor, along with religious and secular dictates. That men, as procurers, as prostitutors, as bullies, as harassers, as batterers, as slave-holders, behave in those ways condones and reinforces social meanings, and behaviors, of men and women are, do, and can be.

So if a man uses heterosexual pornography, or exploits women directly in systems of prostitution as his primary or secondary means of obtaining sexual satisfaction, that use and abuse is then registered and reinforced in his body as "sex". It therefore comes to be commonly misperceived, if looking at this from a humanitarian/pro-woman point of view, that men see efforts to criminalise "johns" (prosititutors/procurers) or to take civil legal action against misogynistic, racist pornographers and the consumers of the materials they mass produce as "limiting men's right to have sex [with women]". Why aren't these feminist efforts seen as potentially liberating women and men from masculinst sexual paradigms?

As common practice, many straight men brag to one another homosocially about their conquests, their violations and intrusions into women's lives both sexually and otherwise. Clearly a significant population of men believe at least one of two things: women exist for men to use and abuse, and men exists to use and abuse women.

When men speak out against abusive actions by men towards women they are often and commonly considered to be "not manly". They are called misogynistic-homophobic names by masculinist heterosexual men who prefer to abuse their entitlements and privileges than examine and challenge them. It is men who reinforce other men's misogynist actions, through such put-downs and ridicule of anti-masculinist men.

Masculinist men, not feminist women, make the argument that men will always be rapists.

Masculinist men, not feminist women, hold out little to no hope of men becoming humane citizens in a patriarchal society, capable of radically transforming that society into one that is no longer patriarchal.

Masculinist men hate and show disdain for women in theory and in practice systematically, in part through imbuing whole instituions with anti-woman values. Feminist women in theory and in practice seek justice and social transformation such that men no longer find meaning, value, and pleasure in exploiting and otherwise harming women and girls.

The "opposition" to viewing men as "people capable of ending rape" is masculinist men, not feminist women. And masculinist men hold positions of power, structurally and institutionally, as well as culturally, that women do not hold.

That there are a handful of men who side with feminists and womanists, not masculinists and Men's Rights Activists, is not, for me, a source of great hope. It is a source of shame. Why aren't all men fighting against masculism? Why aren't all men fighting to support feminist and womanist agendas?

Just as any man who does significant and humane primary care for children, as a parent or guardian, should not be held up as "special", so too should men who fight for women's liberation from men's tyrannies over them be seen as "exceptional".

Being humane, when male, ought not be portrayed socially as "exceptional" to the rule of men behaving badly. We should be seen as simply doing what we should have been doing all along.


  1. Really good points.

    I do like your phrase 'Men's Wrongs' by the way. Such an accurate word for these self-righteous privileged idiots who have somehow conceptualized themselves as victims.

  2. Hi Jessica,

    I'm happy with that term as well. "Rights" indeed: As if white class-privileged het men as a group who comprise "MRAs" don't have enough already.