Saturday, April 10, 2010

Men's Antifeminism and the Woe-Is-Me(n) EMBARASSMENT of "Male Studies"!

 [image of "Male Studies" is from here]

Okay, so "Male Studies" now no longer means what you see above. Oh, no. 

Hey, I'm no prude. I'm all for the  artistic representation of the adult nude human form: male, female, trans, or intersex. Actually, given how the female form is so exploited and overdrawn already--disproportionately by white het men, let's make it policy that white het male artists can ONLY draw the adult male form from now on! 

I'm sorry to say, THAT sort of sketching is not the "male studies" that's NEW on the academic or social scene. The NEW "Male Studies" is far more sketchy indeed.

What follows next is from *here*.

Thank you, Molly. For just saying it like it is: "Male Studies" is a pathetic woe-is-me(n) embarassment! What, do they sit around and stare at their dicks? What is it about "males" that needs such study? Enough with the studying. How's about men start STOPPING MEN'S atrocities against WOMEN!! Read on people, if you wish. It's just too absurd to believe what "males" are up to now. If this doesn't demonstrate that privileged white het men have WAAAAY too much time on their hands, when their hands aren't occupied either punching out their wives and/or girlfriends, strangling women in prostitution, holding down the girls they assault inside and outside their own families, taking photographs illegally of women and girls they are violating visually, or just wanking off to internet pornography for the 100th hour that week, then I don't know what!

The misguided, embarrassing war against feminism rages on

[via Broadsheet*]

There’s something that makes me really uncomfortable about people who get nervous and defensive about feminism.  It’s embarrassing in its unwarrantedness, the same way its embarrassing when people are violently homophobic.  To disagree is one thing, but to wage a war against something as tolerant as feminism with such vehemence just screams insecurity.  The same way that people who wage wars against homosexuals are often insecure about their own sexuality.

That’s how I felt when I learned about the group of intellectuals (?) who came together to finally fight back against the faceless, all-powerful monster known as feminism– which, I guess, was getting too big for its lady-britches and needed to be taken down a peg.  As described in an article in Inside HigherEd, these “scholars of boys and men” decided to fight back by creating a discipline called Male Studies.  Tracy Clark-Flory provides an excellent explanation of men’s studies, which already exists, which is I guess too pansy and feminism-loving for the “scholars of boys and men.”  So they created male studies, with the explicit purpose of excluding existing feminist and gender theory.  Feminism, as described by ManBoy scholar Lionel Tiger (roar!), is:
“a well-meaning, highly successful, very colorful denigration of maleness as a force, as a phenomenon.”
I am so tired of people’s willful misunderstanding of feminism as a war against men.  I’ve written about this before, and Chloe Angyal has a wonderful piece in the Guardian that talks about the systematic misrepresentation of feminist ideals and the resulting reluctance of young women to identify as an f-word.  And while, thankfully, gender equality has improved over the years, to call the feminist movement “highly successful” is a misrepresentation, given the powerful stigma against it that still remains strong.  And to call it a “denigration of maleness” is just willfully and demonstrably false.

In addition to seeing women’s studies as an “institutionalization of misandry,” the Motherboy scholars also believe that the whole power thing long associated with maleness and masculinity isn’t fair.
“today’s discourse on individual men is not a discourse of power — men do not feel powerful in today’s society.”
Fair enough.  But how is it logical to then, in turn, attack a movement whose aim is to empower all individuals, regardless of gender, race, class, sexuality, or ability?  Again, there seems to be a lot of willful misunderstanding here:
Primary and secondary schools, as well as higher education, have been so heavily influenced by feminism, Tiger said, “that the academic lives of males are systematically discriminated against.”
I don’t know what primary and secondary schools these Boyz II Men went to, but I wish I had known about them when I was a child.  I cannot recall hearing the word “feminism” used in a non-derogatory way ONCE until I went to college.  And again, I can’t emphasize this enough: feminism is not about disempowering males.

To talk about the changing roles and representations of maleness in society is an important discussion to have.  But these BoyMan scholars are so obviously threatened by women that they feel the need to create their own discipline, rather than to operate in the tolerant, already existant institution of men’s studies, just because those men’s studies pussies don’t exist in an exclusive dichotomy against women’s studies.
The final paragraph of the Inside HigherEd article is hilarious:
Edward Stevens, chair of the On Step Institute for Mental Health Research, said he wants to see male studies search for ways to improve male academic performance. “What are the ethical concerns of devoting 90 percent of resources to one gender?” he asked (though without explaining exactly what he meant).  “What are the unintended consequences of the failure of our academic institutions to consider the 21st century needs of males?” (emphasis added)
I’m not even going to go into an explanation of how, historically, the “needs of males” have been the default needs of everyone, and that much of education is already male studies due to the, you know, historic and institutionalized marginalization of women. I don’t want to be a ball buster or anything.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about the “scholars of boys and men” has left me with a powerful urge to watch the Arrested Development episode “Motherboy XXX,” or listen to some Boys II Men songs, or maybe that Beyonce song “If I were a boy.”  And if I were a boy, I hope I would be happy to have women’s studies and men’s studies and a tolerant, interdisciplinary system of talking about gender and difference, without feeling the need to wave my dick around and make my own No-Girls-Allowed club.

*          *          *

What follows is the original piece from Broadsheet @, linked to at the beginning of the last article.

Watch out women's studies, here comes male studies

Not to be confused with men's studies, this new academic discipline is determined to take down feminism

This week, a group of scholars gathered at a conference to plan for a new academic discipline: male studies. Women have women's studies, and now men will have men's studies -- fair enough, right? Only, men's studies already exists; it has for some 30 years. This male studies movement is an entirely different beast, and one that is not particularly fond of feminist theory.

Inside Higher Ed reports that the discipline will be dedicated to "exploring the triumphs and struggles of the XY-chromosomed of the human race -- without needing to contextualize their ideas as being one half of a male-female binary or an offshoot of feminist theory." Paul Nathanson, a religious studies researcher at McGill University, tells Higher Ed that "the institutionalization of misandry" is "being generated by feminists," although he generously adds, "not all feminists." Lionel Tiger, an anthropology professor at Rutgers University and the chair of the men's studies symposium, calls feminism "a well-meaning, highly successful, very colorful denigration of maleness as a force, as a phenomenon."

From this perspective, feminism is the mortal enemy of maleness; like Tom and Jerry, these things are driven by a desire for the other's destruction. Here the difference between male studies and men's studies becomes clear: Men's studies, like women's studies, is an offshoot of gender studies. It's influenced by feminism but is grounded in a critical exploration of the social and biological differences between men and women. Male studies claims to do the same thing, only its proponents have a stated vendetta against feminism.

Inevitably, men's studies will be confused with its new confrontational and divisive counterpart, which is awfully sad. I remember wishing my college women's studies courses would talk more about men, which is to say that I wished for the broader perspective that men's studies embraces. Now male studies has arrived on the scene to turn this into yet another battle between the sexes. Grab your armor, because this one's gonna be bloody.

How do we know if women, globally, are really more free and less discriminated against: AWID analyses this terribly important issue

[image for International Women's Day, which is EVERY DAY on this blog, is from here]

I welcome readers to subscribe to AWID's weekly Friday File newsletter, which can be done easily by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post. Once there, you can decide if you want general information from AWID and/or information about AWID’s strategic initiative, Where is the Money for Women’s Rights?  About the latter initiative:
(WITM) undertakes research and advocacy to increase the amount and quality of funding to support women’s rights organizations and work.

What follows is from *here*.

Gender Equality Indices: Numbers Don’t Lie, and They Also Don’t Tell the Whole Story

Gender Equality Indices: Numbers Don’t 
Lie, and They Also Don’t Tell the Whole Story
Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt

FRIDAY FILE: Each year various statistical indicators assess whether gender equality is indeed progressing. These numbers remind us of some powerful circumstances women face, but they also raise questions at the heart of why rights differ on paper and in reality.
by Masum Momaya

A world of statistics
If rights’ advocates – or even the general public – were polled as to which countries came closest to achieving gender equality, the usual suspects would emerge: Nordic countries (Iceland, Norway and Sweden), some of their neighbors (the Netherlands and Switzerland) and other Northern nations (Australia and Canada). But what about countries such as Lesotho, the Philippines, Rwanda and South Africa – all nations that featured highly on several gender equality measures this year? What bolstered these countries’ rankings?

Progress towards gender equality is measured annually through various statistical indices, including the gender-related development index (GDI), produced by the United Nations, the Global Gender Gap Index (GGI) put forth by the World Economic Forum and the Gender Equity Index (GEI), compiled by Social Watch, an international network of citizens’ organizations. These indices are composite calculations of consistently collected and widely available statistics, including those related to life expectancy, school enrollment, labor force participation and political representation. Gathered since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, these statistics serve as both indicators and proxies for a wide range of markers of equality. They are calculated for both women and men at the country level, and countries are ranked as to how well they are doing in comparison to each other and over time.

Latest gender equality measures grim but prescriptive
Unsurprisingly, all indices in 2009, including the GDI, GGI and GEI show that gender inequality is pervasive and that the gap is closing slowly or not at all in many places. In fact, it is even widening in some countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to Social Watch’s GEI. Moreover, several of the indices point out that the economic gains made by women in 2008 – mainly through paying jobs in formal economic sectors – were reversed in 2009 in the wake of the systemic crisis – and likely well before it climbed to its current heights.

Alongside these grim conclusions, though, comes another finding bolstered by the appearance of countries such as South Africa in the GGI’s “top ten” and Rwanda’s #3 ranking on the GEI: namely, that public policies have a significant impact on gender equality, regardless of the level of overall economic development. For example, Rwanda ranks highly despite still recovering from brutal genocide and having meager economic resources compared to most countries in the Global North. Its ranking was elevated due to its high level of women’s representation in parliament and marked efforts to create income generating opportunities for women. Policymakers use the example of Rwanda to argue that poor countries have no excuse for leaving girls out of schools and women out of jobs and opportunities for political participation.

Conversely, this conclusion also means that gender equality is not guaranteed in rich countries. Even though many have strong foundations – dedicated allocation of resources and gender-sensitive public policies – upon which to build, they need to continue to take active steps in bringing about equality and need to ensure that all women are included in their efforts. The overall message: financial resources are necessary but not sufficient to bring about gender equality; political will and proactive public policies can make a significant difference.

Statistics make irrevocable points
Findings like this ring loud and clear in mainstream media and among global audiences. On March 8th, International Women’s Day, newspaper columnists and broadcast reporters annually revisit the subject, highlighting for the general public what women’s rights advocates already know: that there is not enough progress.

The GGI is now discussed every year at the World Economic Forum in Davos. This year, the report’s co-author, Saadia Zahidi, used the findings to rally support for the Investing in Women campaigns put forth by Nike Foundation’s The Girl Effect and other gender-focused private sector initiatives.

Also, because the statistics used in gender equality indices are widely accepted and internationally recognized, advocates can also use them to hold governments accountable for promises they have not kept or praise them for policies that are working.

For example, Natalia Cardona, Advocacy Director at Social Watch, took the GEI findings to the UN Commission of the Status of Women meetings in New York in March 2010, where government representatives and members of civil society organizations had gathered to discuss progress made since the creation of the Beijing Platform for Action 15 years ago. Cardona explained that because statistics used in the GEI are collected and accepted by governments, there is no way they can turn their back on such evidence or deny that gender inequality still exists. She argues that, based on the GEI, governments are not doing enough to promote gender equality. Overall, the GEI serves as a powerful tool to demand accountability in a historical moment where governments are reneging on their commitments to gender equality more than ever over the last few decades.

Also, because the GEI is the only index produced by a civil society organization (CSO), clearly delineates inequities and uses statistics consistent with the demands and concerns of CSOs, women’s rights NGOs often take it to their governments, arguing for evaluation and reform of ineffective programs and projects and making the case for new ones.

More of the story to tell
In deeper, day-to-day advocacy circles, though, the limitations of such indicators start to emerge on a number of levels.

First, because these statistics measure differences between men and women, they speak to relative disparities rather than overall well-being. This can be deceptive. For example, countries that have equal but abysmally low rates of school enrollment for boys and girls can still do relatively well on an index because they have closed a gap using a relatively low bar. Also, certain non-democratic countries, such as those in the Gulf region, can have nearly equal but very low rates of overall political participation, masking the need for widespread political reform. Conversely, countries such as India where people have markedly high rates of political participation for women and men through voting and political organizing may not do so well because the indicators only measure the success of candidates for the highest political office.

Also, because these statistics aggregate numbers for all women, they obscure the reality that some women in each country may be doing well while others are much worse off. For instance, in most contexts, able-bodied, heterosexual, urban, middle-class women and girls who are part of ethnic and language majority communities are likely to have more opportunities to go to school, get decent, adequately-paying jobs and participate politically than their counterparts from rural, disabled, queer, indigenous, migrant and poor communities.

Additionally, even statistics that look ‘good’ cannot capture the full picture and may even disguise trends that run counter to women’s rights. For example, social Watch argues that even though the education gap is closing in many countries, it is important to understand how. So although more girls may go to school in a particularly country, are more of them stuffed into small classrooms? What is the condition of the schools? Is it dangerous for them to travel there? Are the conditions safe and sanitary? Do they have adequate nutrition and health to learn? Are their textbooks gender-biased? Are their teachers untrained? And do these girls face resistance to asserting their knowledge in the private sphere as they learn more outside the home?

Similar inquiries relate to labor force and political participation statistics. For example, in the GEI, Spain and the Philippines have comparable rankings. Both are doing well at closing gaps in education, with nearly 99 girls attending school for every 100 boys. The Philippines, though has much higher rates of economic participation and Spain boasts many more women as political representatives. In both countries, though, it’s the qualitative nature of participation that counts. Specifically, many Filipina women work in the informal sector at home and abroad under exploitative working conditions. Most have few protections and benefits and bear tremendous personal costs and sacrifices to do these jobs. Thus, high percentages of labor force participation don’t necessarily translate into women’s well being.

Meanwhile, efforts made within Spain’s political system have enabled more progressive women to seek political positions and this has translated into progressive public policy gains for women; thus its not clear that Spain’s and the Phillipines’ numeric equivalencies on the GEI mean that gender gaps are closing in similar or beneficial ways.

In many other countries, conservative women fill political ranks, threatening and even reversing gains in terms of women’s rights. Moreover, in some countries such as India, which features amongst the bottom in the GEI, women have made deep inroads into local politics, where they have exerted significant influence in community policy setting related to health, education, sanitation, infrastructure and the environment. Yet none of this is reflected in political participation statistics that capture participation solely at the national level.

Finally, to the extent that educational, economic and political indicators tell one set of stories, they are silent on major issues that impact women’s well being, including unpaid care work, violence against women and sexual and reproductive rights. For example, Ireland features among the top ten in the 2009 GGI, but abortion is banned there. Similarly, South Africa ranks sixth due in large part to the high number of women brought in by the new government but struggles with widespread poverty, an ongoing AIDS pandemic and the world’s highest rate of reported rape. The Bahamas ranks at #5 of the GEI but does not recognize same-sex unions and has no anti-discrimination laws related to sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Lack of sexual and reproductive rights and endemic violence against women can often mitigate or even nullify the real gains reflected by ‘good’ statistical indicators in education, employment and political participation.
Moreover, the fact that none of the indexes account for unpaid care work may inadvertently contribute to its ongoing invisibility and increasing use as a way to compensate for cuts in social spending and the increasing burdens families face due to the worldwide systemic crisis. It does little good that women can have access to more paid jobs and seats in representative bodies if their burdens also increase in the home as a result and they are not safe and healthy overall.

Ultimately, rights are inter-related and statistics that seek to measure them – as a means for further analysis and advocacy – have a ways to go in being able to accurately reflect this. In the meantime, they continue to send powerful messages to a variety of stakeholders that there is much work to be done. As BRIDGE, a knowledge service from the Institute of Development Studies puts it, because what is measured is likely to be prioritized and tracked, indicators make the case that gender equality needs to be taken seriously.

Note: This article is part of the AWID’s weekly Friday File series, exploring important issues and events from a women’s rights perspective. To subscribe to the weekly Friday File newsletter, click here.

Article License: Creative Commons - Article License Holder: AWID