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The Man Box
August 15, 2012 8:36 PM   Subscribe

They avoid the treacherous edges, they navigate the contradictions as best they can, they do everything they’re supposed to to stay inside the box. And what’s the prize? Noah Brand and Ozy Frantz on the "man box".
posted by Evernix (62 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ten shining golden stars for "bromanteaus". Will possibly return once I've finished reading it, although (especially as it's meant to be an introduction for a pop book) I doubt there's much new here.
posted by kavasa at 9:08 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read the whole thing. It's not short -- they say it is a draft first chapter of a book, and it has footnotes and everything. I thought they made some good points; it's an interesting counter-piece to an article about "artisanal fatherhood" that I read the other day, about the guys who are doing the stay-at-home parenting routine and, supposedly, reframing masculinity in the process.
posted by Forktine at 9:11 PM on August 15, 2012


On the one hand, this is basic stuff that pretty much any marginally gender-conscious woman has tried to explain hundreds of times.

On the other, maybe now that it's two men saying it, other men will actually listen.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:13 PM on August 15, 2012 [27 favorites]


This is fantastic. For those peeking in the comments without reading the article first (and it's quite long) it is basically a very well-written case for how feminist theory relates to breaking men out of gender roles, and a case for men to join in the movement from their own self-interest. It is sensitive to just about all gender issues one could present (referring, for instance, to male and female as the two primary genders) and knowledgable about all of the research and literature which has gone into the feminist scholarship, as well as some historical missteps involving inclusion in the past, and how that scholarship is the key to moving forward in gender equality, and so acts as a call-to-arms for men to take up not the "other side," but rather the other half required for the movement to be universal.

The money quote, for me:

"The authors of this book spent quite some time attempting to find MRAs who could be engaged in a constructive manner, but eventually gave up. If men’s rights are to be addressed on any kind of serious level, it will have to be by feminism."
posted by Navelgazer at 9:20 PM on August 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


If they're actually seriously trying to write a Real Book to get printed on Real Paper, I'm not loving the SJ blog jargon. I like that jargon on the blogs that gave birth to it, for sure, but I'd have a hard time taking it seriously as a book.

But basically what oinopaponton said.
posted by kavasa at 9:24 PM on August 15, 2012


I think there's room for this discussion to be had now. No, it's not new -- but sometimes there's a zeitgeist-ey thing going on, and some balance is starting to tip, and some nicely timed and clearly stated arguments can make some serious cultural headway. I'd like that, because now that I'm a parent, the man-baggage is really starting to piss me off in a way that it hasn't since high school.

Now, I better get back to the dishes.
posted by feckless at 9:26 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think you mean the dudeshes.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:31 PM on August 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


I will say that I consider Ozzy Fratz's Man Box to be the King of Kings. Look on his work, you mighty, and dishware.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:33 PM on August 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Whenever I get bothered by the man box I retreat to my man cave.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:37 PM on August 15, 2012


Dude. Dude. Duuuude.
posted by feckless at 9:38 PM on August 15, 2012


I appreciate the idea that men have a place in feminism (I love you, feminist men, seriously I do) and I absolutely agree that feminism and anti-kyriarchy thinking benefit a lot of men, including the straight white (etc.) dudes that come with the advantages/life on the easy setting/etc. But when I got to the bit about how feminist spaces are hostile to men and lamenting that women aren't nice enough to convince men to participate in their own liberation from the stranglehold of gender essentialism, I did have to click to another tab.
posted by immlass at 10:08 PM on August 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


That was... very different, and kind of interesting. Not sure I'd read an entire book on the subject, but it brings up some issues that are worth considering. Maybe it's just me, but sometimes it does feel like the whole concept of "masculinity" has been narrowing over the last thirty years. Women write and read most of the books. They're becoming more and more predominant in education and the helping professions, they have an increasing amount of economic clout, and so on. It's not that women are oppressing men - far from it, they're just taking advantage of greater freedoms to contribute to society. It's men that are abandoning these things, and the result is a narrower, more rigid definition of what masculinity can be.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:10 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hoo boy.

Something positive to say: they present a lot of real information about real issues, information that educated, socially-conscious people should be aware of but have traditionally ignored. That's a good thing, if for no other reason than that some people who'd have automatically tuned out otherwise might read it and learn something.

But... I'm more than a little bit skeptical of this, and of the reaction it's going to get, because I already see comments like Navelgazer's showing up. So I'm going to let y'all in on a dirty little secret:

Yeah. There are some very, very angry people out there. Quite a lot of them, in fact. And a lot of those angry people? They're angry because they, or someone they know, has been hurt. And not mildly; hurt. Gut-wrenchingly, horrifically, life-fuckingly hurt. Those people are going to say things out of that anger. Those people do say things out of that anger. And when they do, we exclaim "Heavens! Such language!" and retreat to our fainting couches, appalled at how mean and hateful those awful, awful people were.

In other words: framing this as "feminism has to step up because these men's rights guys are too angry and knee-jerkingly anti-feminism to be constructive" makes about as much sense as would telling feminists that "men will just have to take care of these issues, because these feminists are too angry and knee-jerkingly anti-patriarchy to be constructive".

It's also somewhat saddening to see the authors get so close to a source of the dynamic and fail to realize it. Nobody bats an eye at the existence of black women's groups who maintain careful separation between themselves and the monolithic perception of "feminism". People get very, very angry at the existence of men's groups which do that. But there are very similar reasons for both types of groups to exist: one group learned just what happens when you believe "feminism cares about people of color, too, so join us". The other learned just what happens when you believe "feminism cares about men, too, so join us". What's needed is not the Men's Auxiliary of Feminism; what's needed is people who genuinely, really care about issues because they've been personally affected and are willing to devote their time and their energy to activism, and feminism simply cannot and has demonstrated repeeatedly that it will not do that.

Similarly, placation and appeasement do not historically succeed in overcoming things like deep-seated societal prejudices, which means real change is going to have to involve some angry people. As the saying goes, well-behaved persons rarely make history. And like it or not, there is some history in need of making.
posted by ubernostrum at 10:26 PM on August 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


I thought that was well-written and reasoned. immlass, my take is they acknowledge it really isn't the job of (current) feminists or feminist resources to hold the hands of men interested in trying to escape the "man box," but it would behoove those interested in helping to form such spaces to help. I didn't get the impression they were asking women specifically to do that, but for interested feminists, whether men or women, to offer a safe landing space. Maybe I read that incorrectly.

Maybe it's a bit like 100 vs. 200 vs. 300 vs. 400-level college courses? I haven't investigated, but it seems like the authors are saying that right now there aren't really any good 100-level communities for men just stumbling into the idea that they have more in common with feminism than they thought they did to learn more in a friendly environment. When they go stumbling into a "300-level" group, it's understandable that both sides will be frustrated by the experience. Is my reading comprehension enormously off by having this as a take-away?
posted by maxwelton at 10:29 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


They've got the man box pegged.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:30 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


when I got to the bit about how feminist spaces are hostile to men and lamenting that women aren't nice enough to convince men to participate in their own liberation from the stranglehold of gender essentialism, I did have to click to another tab.

I thought they took some pains to say that it wasn't supposed to be feminism's job to provide a comfortable space for men to discuss this sort of thing, and that's why a male counterpart to feminism was necessary—so men could start contributing more meaningfully to the discussion women have been having for decades about gender and sexual identities, without having to burden the feminist movement with painfully catching every well-meaning man up on the basics over and over again.

I don't know whether I agree with that, but regardless I don't think the article was trying to put the blame on women for feminism appearing hostile to some men.
posted by chrominance at 10:31 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


They weren't talking about becoming "Men's Auxiliary of Feminism," ubernostrum. The idea (and whether or not they follow through with it in the book is still in question) is to use techniques developed by the feminist movement to examine the assumptions and obligations and privilege and so on that man have in society. Develop a "masculinism" that fits with feminism and helps both become a greater whole.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:34 PM on August 15, 2012


Kevin Street, I was mostly responding to the types of derailing that were already appearing in this thread. Though on a re-read, I still stand by my entire comment; there's simply too much focus on "let's help feminism" and "let's show feminists why they need us", which is still the why-don't-we-just-ask-really-nicely approach that has basically never worked for any group trying to deal with systemic social issues, ever.
posted by ubernostrum at 10:42 PM on August 15, 2012


I hope it's not confirmation bias, but I've noticed more and more men becoming interested in feminism. I'd like to think that this means in time we'll come to the point where it's openly discussed in public, and then to the point where the discussion itself is passe because, really, what's the issue anymore?
posted by twirlypen at 11:39 PM on August 15, 2012


In other words: framing this as "feminism has to step up because these men's rights guys are too angry and knee-jerkingly anti-feminism to be constructive" makes about as much sense as would telling feminists that "men will just have to take care of these issues, because these feminists are too angry and knee-jerkingly anti-patriarchy to be constructive".

You know a lot of these groups are straight-up, women hating sexists, yes? The cure to the way patriarchy hurts men isn't to let them be sexist.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:01 AM on August 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod, the simplest way I can put it is to imagine you've been dropped into a parallel world where progressive, sensible, reasonable people cannot listen to you mention the word "feminism" without holding up Valerie Solanas as the typical example of the movement.

She was a violent, hateful extremist, on par with the very worst of what you can find on the internet right now. She was someone whose anger and hate came, in large part, from having been hurt. The ability to recognize both of these aspects has, I think, played a large part in the rehabilitation of her image, and understanding, if not acceptance, of the idea that these levels of hate and anger can easily happen when people wrong each other.

So it might be worth considering what the perspective of a hypothetical forty-years-from-now society would be when considering the way we now routinely vilify and cut off people whose anger comes from that same source of deep hurt.
posted by ubernostrum at 12:27 AM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


You know that's a preposterous parallel. Valerie Solanis represented a movement of one. The Men's Rights Movement is typically spokespersoned by sexists. And I don't have to value or respect their response to pain, because they are not blaming patriarchy for it, or seeking to address patriarchy, but are blaming women for it, and demonizing them.

I need respect sexists no more than I need respect racists, whatever pain might have encouraged their racism.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:30 AM on August 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


I thought this was by and large a well-reasoned and well-put introduction and I'm very interested in how the rest of the book shapes up. I really like the idea of masculism as a "safe landing spot" for men just starting to question sexist ways of thinking, as feminism can be for women.

I did find myself thinking a few times, "But of course that stereotype hurts men as well as women! Everybody knows that," or, "Of course men suffer from (X) too! Who says they don't?" Then I realised that I was just falling into the typical mind fallacy they mentioned in the chapter. I've been a feminist from the cradle and have been reading social justice blogs and watching my beliefs collide with the real world since I started uni ten years ago. I've got used to thinking about the effects of kyriarchy in everyday life (although the word is still fairly new to me). Actually, everybody doesn't know this stuff. I'm more than happy for there to be lots of ways to get people thinking about it.
posted by daisyk at 2:32 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


At one point in college our fledgling someday-we'll-be-a-real-SWE-chapter group hosted a discussion for which we made an active effort to get our male classmates to attend so we could discuss "gender issues in engineering", not just "women's issues in engineering". We still only ended up with three or four, but we were very excited that they came and we students running it worked really hard to engage them in the discussion and it was getting productive.

Then a professor, a second-wave feminist in her 50s or 60s who still had a chip on her shoulder the size of Rhode Island, jumped on the most vocal guy -- about 18 -- about how he was responsible for all the difficulty she had getting a job when she finished her PhD and that he didn't understand what harm men did and he should feel guilty. (Seriously. That was the gist of her rant.) He was completely taken aback and those of us running it were horrified, since we had explicitly advertised this as a safe discussion space for everyone.

Since that point I stopped my involvement with SWE (and worked in other ways to advocate for women in engineering) but I'm pretty sure I can't think of another single gender and engineering event my college held where there was any significant male presence, despite outreach efforts.

So yeah. Feminism is hurting itself when we attack those men who want to be our allies and we fail to welcome them. Yes, I think there are times and places where it is useful to get your bitch on in a group of women only, and there are some situations where it's impossible to immediately solve society's problems as a whole (domestic violence) but a focus on one group (battered women) can make an immediate difference and doesn't mean feminists don't recognize the need to help men. (Similarly, I don't think groups that try to act against prison rape -- which disproportionately affect men -- are uninterested in/hostile to efforts to combat, say rape of women on college campuses) But it is a failing of many feminist groups to dismiss or ignore men who want to be a part of the movement, or who want to redirect attention to a more generalized goal of gender equality. I'll agree with the author and say it's not feminists' job per se to get men involved and lead a new campaign for gender equality, but we sure are shooting ourselves in our sensibly-shoed feet if we don't try.

Also, I'm glad it mentioned that "freedom is not a zero-sum game." That line needs to be trumpeted loud and clear in every discussion of privilege or -ism. No one "loses" at equality.
posted by olinerd at 2:37 AM on August 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


While I found the article interesting, I have to say I disagree with in a number of areas. Advance warning; it's kinda a long one (time pressure means one great dump alas), and I hope I don't make too many women's eyes roll by stating the obvious at times - I can only talk from my own (white, male, middle class) perspective and what I've learned in the last few years, and hope that that might be of some value to other men.

Firstly, and mostly importantly, I simply don't agree that men suffer anywhere near as badly from the patriarchy as women do. There are issues of misandry; male prison rape, that male primary school teachers have to live with the assumption of being a pedophile, much higher rates of suicidal depression amongst young men, and things that are more general labour rights such as time off for child rearing, the right to a workplace that is physically safe and free from workplace bullying that can impact men to a greater degree; to pick just some examples. That all said, I simply don't think that the average man suffers from the patriarchy to anything like the same degree that women do.

To illustrate the point, I'm going to use elodieunderglass' Question, highlighted in the recent creeper thread. If you've still not read it, now would be a great time - it's definitely worth it. Done that? Great. Now, I consider myself a feminist ally. The Question made me realise just how different my middle class, middle 30's male life is. How different it's always been. I can know the statistics, I can try and support feminism as much as I like, I can think I'm starting to Get It. Yet I still got sandbagged by the Question - completely. Upon further reflection of what I said before it's not just that I live a life free of the fear of rape; that I can walk down a dark hallway and not be afraid to find another man at the end of it. It's that I automatically extend my motivations and thinking to other men - I give them the benefit of the doubt. I automatically assume that even if they've demonstrated they're an asshole creeper, the worst I think of them is that they're an asshole and should learn to back off. I don't see them as a potential rapist, not only because I don't have to think about rapists except in threads like this, but because I automatically extend to them a belief that they're just clueless and annoying, not dangerous. My wife tells me that's because I'm a Good Guy; while I'd be flattered to agree with her, I think it's more than that. "Bro's before Ho's" is an extreme manifestation of it, but there is an unquestioning amount of male privilege about, and men, myself included, defacto extend a benefit of the doubt to other men that don't deserve it and shouldn't have it.

I can open my mouth pretty much anywhere, on any topic, and expect to be listened to. I can spew utter bullshit, and people will assume I'm talking in good faith - I certainly won't be called on it just because I'm a man. I really don't have to consider the ramifications of my opinions very much unless they're radically different from the group I'm with. Hell, I could prove myself a raging asshole and many fellow men would back me up on principle. If anything, being a raging asshole seems to be a valid onramp to be promoted to middle management. I can certainly wait at any bus-stop I please without having to think about who else is standing there, are they going to get on the same bus as me, and what do they want, to pick just one example.

So yes, the Box of acceptable male behaviour absolutely exists, and stepping outside that box can be detrimental to your health and welfare. But it's a pretty big box, and it encompasses a lot of privilege. A lot of men are very happy inside the box, and will fight any attempt to change it. More on that in a bit.

My second disagreement is that feminism is in any way responsible for considering 'what about the men'. He's right that feminist groups are generally not going to be 'safe landing zone' for men first opening their eyes. It's gotta be incredibly exasperating to have to deal with yet another clueless guy taking his first steps into a different way of thinking who immediately starts mansplaining how the feminists are doing it wrong. Or brings up say, how male rape is getting ignored. I certainly find it exasperating in metafilter threads - the whole 'friendzone' *always* comes up, and we always end up discussing men's feelings, and how best to make male allies and not alienate potential allies, and how to get across to men they're being a creeper without alienating them... i.e. we end up with men talking AT women about men and their feelings, and end up largely over-riding the original discussion which was about women's feelings, how women feel unsafe, and indeed ARE unsafe because men tolerate or even encourage socially inept behaviour which is just a cover for a smaller number of dangerous predators to size up and isolate women they will then later attempt to harm - or indeed harm right off the bat in public. And if women point that simple thing out, now they're the bad guys for hurting some poor geeks feelings who meant no harm by offering every women he meets a neck rub and a massage; or they should be the ones taking all the flak and responsibility, as if men aren't responsible for tolerating or even encouraging that behaviour in the first place and should in fact, help stamp that shit out every time they encounter it amongst their fellow men, not support it.

More than that, feminist groups are often safe spaces for women to share and deal with some of the, often horrific, experiences they've had - from men. When clueless men barge in and start waffling, it ceases to be a safe space, and I wouldn't condemn them getting chased off with their tails between their legs in the slightest. If men truly want to be allies, they need to learn that it's not about them, their feelings, or getting butthurt if their 'helpful' suggestions get shot down in short order. If they stomp off in a huf - as opposed to apologising, then actually trying listening more instead, I'm not thinking they were likely to be much of an ally in the first place. Lurk Moar is a surprisingly astute approach to joining any community, not just a feminist one.

Men can be feminists. But they will rarely be able to truly experience just how different women have to live, how much their roles, expectations of them and peer pressure differs from that of men, in the whole. I never have, and despite the odd glimpses - the so called Matrix Goggles, which are very helpful - I think it's very hard for the average guy to truly grok what it's like. So we can sympathise, be feminists in training, be part of the men's auxilliary to feminism, but ultimately, it's a struggle we can never truly experience.

The flip side of that, of course, is that means white middle class feminists are not necessarily going to be in a great place to truly grok the struggle of someone black in a racist society. Or what it's like for men when they step outside their Box. (though of course, they have their very own box). You can emphathise, and there are certain similarities of privilege that different groups can learn from, but I think ultimately you can only effectively fight the limits of your own Box; allies are obviously welcome, and there's a lot such a nascent masculinity group could learn from the civil rights struggles that have come before, but if men want to fight their own battle against the limitations of maleness, it's something they ultimately have to do themselves.

My last point then is about the existing Mens Rights groups. All the ones I've encountered are universally misogynists. They see feminism as a zero sum event - for women to gain anything, they have to take it away from men. They don't see the patriarchy as harmful to women - they see it as their rights being taking away by rabid man-hating feminist caricatures. It's all 'Political Correctness, more like Political Kick Men In The Nuts, amirite?'. They see very little if anything wrong with the patriarchy; they blame their problems on women getting above themselves, and point to stupid things like opening doors and paying for dinner as if that was in any way comparable to the systemic sexual oppression of women by men. They happily blame the victim; if a woman is raped, it's because she's a slut, a man hater, her own fault for getting drunk, wearing the wrong clothes, going to the wrong place, 'lead him on' in some way, as if men were walking penises and not fucking adults responsible for their own behaviour. (Yes, I have had that conversation with a pair of Mens Rights Activists. It did not Go Well.) So from their point of view tackling rape, sexual assault, creepiness etc is just attacking men for their 'natural urges'. Which is bullshit.

They're not misguided men groping for the limits of their own Box, and just need guiding in the right direction - every MRA man I've encountered has basically been a raging sexist who is more than happy in their Box, and think women should get back into theirs, by force if necessary. Otherwise men will carry on 'losing out' to feminism. I have no sympathy for them in the slightest. They are not potential allies of feminists, or even masculinity groups - they are amongst those are most entrenched in the system of male privilege and some of its most ardent defenders.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:43 AM on August 16, 2012 [26 favorites]


Two points:

A- Feminism has been talking for a long time about how 'the patriarchy' (not men, but the patriarchy) harms both men and women through narrow gender roles and expectations.

B- The reason that male gender roles are narrow isn't an accident; it comes out of misogyny. Why is it bad for men to do anything that might be associated with femininity? Because (on the gender spectrum) being a woman is assumed to be worse than being a man. This is the reason that women have had an easier time breaking down gender barriers than men. A woman doing something stereotypically male? Of course, those things are awesome. A man doing something stereotypically female? Why would you do that? That's girly/boring/dumb.

I know this is an excerpt, and not the whole book, but I do hope the book goes into those issues... I agree that narrow gender roles hurt men as well as women, but it seems to me that only women have to deal with the catch-22 of the combination of narrow gender roles and misogyny. If a woman is stereotypically feminine, that's bad because girly things are dumb. If a woman is more masculine... Well, that's bad too because women should be feminine.

On the whole I am glad these issues are being talked about. I hope that there are some guys who listen who wouldn't read a book about gender aimed at women, but there's a chance they might read one aimed at men. I just think these guys are kind of (at least in this excerpt) missing the elephant in the room.
posted by matcha action at 3:46 AM on August 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I've said this before, but: something many men, who are rightfully frustrated in their lives, don't get is the Pariarchy is not their friend. "Patriarchy" is not rule by men; it's rule by patriarchs, the heads of (important) families. Yeah, they are male, so men can fool themselves into thinking they will be patriarchs some day (more than women can, certainly), but the qualifications are much longer -- you have to have money, status, the right ancestry, etc.

Most men lose out on at least one of those qualifications, but, as long as they think if they play the game, they have a shot, they keep going, because not playing means you are out with the women.

Now, since the number of patriarchs has to be kept low, to preserve the value of the position, you have a problem with surplus men. The patriarchy needs wars, it needs men dying in dangerous professions, because otherwise you end up with a lot of men who realize that they've been had at some point. A moe fine-grained hierarchy helps, so men can feel some accomplishment, and it makes it likely that discontented men will direct themselves at women, immigrants, other racial groups, etc rather than the patriarchs.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:08 AM on August 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


In academic circles, interest in masculinity is a small but not particularly new undercurrent within gender studies. I wrote my PhD dissertation in anthropology on the subject of gender models among working-class Bolivians and spent more than half of the text talking about models of masculinity. In fact, that was the starting point for my whole analysis--the powerful realization that this sexist, patriarchal gender system took its toll on the minds and lives of men--especially younger men, and especially in a segment of society where whatever scraps male privilege may have brought to the table were counterbalanced against the "underprivilege" of life near the bottom of the social hierarchy in 3rd world country with a crumbling economy.

For time perspective, I went to the field in 1997 and there was only scattered bits and pieces in the literature that I found (retrospectively) addressing "masculinity" per se. Part of that may be the "white history month" problem in that earlier anthropologists and other social scientists wrote at great lengths about "what it means to be a man" in setting X, but defined that as simply doing anthropology and not studying gender. But shortly thereafter we start to see research on masculinity emerging within a specifically gender studies framework. Mathew Gutmann's excellent Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City came out in 1996, and around this time a circle of interest was gathering around the work of sociologists Michael Kimmel (who founded the first gender studies journal focused on men and masculinity) and R.W. Connell (who coined the term "hegemonic masculinity" used here by the article authors).

There was a vignette I used to open the chapter of my dissertation where I laid out the fundamental contradictions between two conflicting models of manhood in the community I was studying--two "man boxes", to use Brand and Frantz's terminology. These two boxes I labeled "the macho" vs. the "family man", and working-class Bolivian men in their 20s found themselves torn and unable to meet the expectations and pressures put on them from different sides to fit into these boxes.

We were renting 2 rooms from a young family not that much unlike mine. Hugo was exactly my age, and his wife a few years younger. They had 3 kids, ages 6, 4, and a newborn. I had a 3-yo and a newborn only 6 weeks younger than theirs. Hugo worked as a locksmith, and he wasn't doing too badly compared to some other neighbors in his position, but he would also never earn enough to be anything other than working class and to own a 4-room adobe house on a tiny dirt lot on the outskirts of the city.

One Saturday afternoon I heard Hugo crying in the patio, so I went to the door to see what was up. He had been drinking, a lot, as is utterly typical and--by his young male compatriots--absolutely expected. But had dragged himself away from the cantina out of guilt and a sense of family duty, only to find that his wife had gone out with the kids for the afternoon. He stood there in the patio, crying. He would take a few steps down the path to the house, then stop, then turn around and stagger back toward the gate to the street. "Doña Katarina, she's going to hit me. She calls me names, she tells me I'm ugly, she tells me I'm the worst piece of shit in the world. But I earn money. I earn money like crazy. Gano, gano, gano! I don't know what to do."

I tried to console him, to tell him that if he just went into the house and went to sleep, she'd be home later on and he'd be more sober and everything would be fine. But then one of his friends came walking down the street and called out to him from beyond the wall of the little compound: "Hugo. Come on, let's go. Aren't you a man? Don't be a mandilón" (a man who is bossed around by his wife).

Hugo followed him back out to the street and off toward the cantina.
posted by drlith at 4:58 AM on August 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


Why is it bad for men to do anything that might be associated with femininity? Because (on the gender spectrum) being a woman is assumed to be worse than being a man. ... A woman doing something stereotypically male? Of course, those things are awesome.

A guy a few levels above me in work, whom I usually respect (very smart, proud of his high-achieving wife, and teaching his young daughter to code), once commented that a female engineer he was working with was brilliant and how great it is that feminism is getting to a point where talents like hers needn't be stifled. Not five minutes later, he was mocking me (male) for being able to bake and not liking football. To be clear, this was strictly good-natured banter and he meant no real offence by it, it was not a big deal in itself. But yeah, my experience is certainly that the effect of feminism on most of the men and at least a few of the women I know has been to make it OK for women to do traditionally male activities, but still left it taboo for men to do traditionally female activities.

Female feminists, it is probably fair to say, already have enough shit on their plates to be getting on with. And I'm not going to claim that the problems that men have, while real, are as bad as the problems that women have (although I do believe that hegemonic masculinity is a huge contributor to homophobia, so there's at least an argument that openly gay/bi guys have at least as much trouble as women from this, albeit differently focused). But someone has to do something about it, and I sure as hell don't want the people I see active on MRA boards speaking for me. So maybe this "masculism" is a decent idea? However, I'm very much a fan of the "feminism is good for everyone!" idea, and I'm enough of an idealist that I wish we didn't have to contemplate a sort of "women will fight inequality over here, and men will fight inequality over there" solution, but I guess the cultural gap between the genders is still too big for anything else to be realistic.

Following GenjiandProust's comment, does anyone have a link to an excellent, heavily-favourited (sidebarred?) comment from a few months back with the key theme that "society isn't biased towards men, it's biased towards some men"? Tricky to google, but IIRC it expressed very clearly some ideas about the patriarchy having a net negative benefit for all but the highest status men.
posted by metaBugs at 5:13 AM on August 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


My way out of the man box was to declare myself non-binary gendered. That's only half tongue in cheek; my identity is indeed not-male-not-female-sort-of-both-sort-of-neither, but what I reject most about being male is the expectations of masculinity.

I am a geek, dammit. I don't dig sports, I am not aggressive and competitive, I like pretty things, I am compassionate, I think it's really stupid that everything from deodorant to LEGO to power tools to education comes packaged separately for males and females, and it is just crushingly unfair that some people make less money than other people doing the same job with the same level of competence, all over a few small differences in the body that should be completely irrelevant to all the rest of it.

I don't think you have to have a gender identity like mine to see the combination of absurdity and tragedy this is.

I do consider myself a feminist, but we probably need a bigger name for feminism. (Too bad "humanism" is already taken...) Gender and sexuality and the expectations around them are broken. Most of the issues LGBT people face -- as well as many of the stresses cis men face -- have their roots in sexism and the basic perception that "women" aren't the same thing as "people" and men are simultaneously the default human form and legendary figures who feel no pain and have no emotions.
posted by Foosnark at 5:41 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


some ideas about the patriarchy having a net negative benefit for all but the highest status men.

It can be a net negative for men -- but even more of a net negative for women, gays, minorities, etc. Even though your boat is taking on water and listing badly, someone else is already underwater. A man (like in the Bolivian example above) can have privilege relative to a woman, say, while also being almost totally disenfranchised and disempowered. It is important to acknowledge and deal with both the overall situation and the individual situation.

I'm reminded of the men in that book Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, who found that their male privilege was incredibly fragile -- in the terms of this article, their "man boxes" (ugh, what a terrible term) were places of vulnerability, not fortresses of strength.
posted by Forktine at 5:43 AM on August 16, 2012


> Though on a re-read, I still stand by my entire comment; there's simply too much focus on "let's help feminism" and "let's show feminists why they need us", which is still the why-don't-we-just-ask-really-nicely approach that has basically never worked for any group trying to deal with systemic social issues, ever.

This again? Look, feminism is not just about women. Feminism is not "women have been on the bottom so we're gonna put us women on the top and stick men on the bottom where they belong, hahaha!" Feminism is about creating a world where the sick gender and power relations we've inherited are done away with and everybody (a group that includes men, women, and everyone in between or other) can live their lives without having to deal with "stay in your place" bullshit or "don't do that or you might get raped" bullshit or "don't do that or you're a sissy" bullshit. It's about creating a world where we can all live decently. Any man who has a problem with that is part of the bullshit.
posted by languagehat at 6:22 AM on August 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


I thought they took some pains to say that it wasn't supposed to be feminism's job to provide a comfortable space for men to discuss this sort of thing

First they had to establish that the spaces were uncomfortable (which is, for reasons ArkhanJG alludes to, to be expected). Their way of doing that provoked the "click off this tab" reflex. But as a woman, I'm not the target, so the fact that it annoyed me is okay. I just wish the essay/chapter had established what it needed to establish without saying something about current feminism that reminds me on a gut level of anti-feminist whinging.
posted by immlass at 6:26 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Last week, I was nosing about some of the discussion surrounding Hugo Schwyzer, and the serious anger that surrounds his commentary. This got me reading a few articles around the internet, and for the first time I found myself in a situation where I, as a male, was specifically not welcome and told to not self-identify as a feminist. Specifically, this (and the ensuing comment thread), this, and the comment thread here.

I've identified as feminist from a pretty young age, and this is the first time I've explicitly seen attitudes like this, which seems at odds to the view I've always had of feminism as being about all genders.

But at the same time, even writing about this I'm doing exactly what those links complain about — recasting the discussion to focus on me, rather than women. Which I feel is similar to what the Brand/Frantz article is facing.

Is the view that men can't/shouldn't identify as feminist, but rather as "pro-feminist" a widespread one?
posted by themadthinker at 6:39 AM on August 16, 2012


Hugo Schwyzer is an interesting case -- he wasn't just identifying as a feminist (who had tried to murder his girlfriend), he was teaching young women feminism (although his degree was not in a related field), running a Slutwalk (with weird, sexist twitter commentary) and in general being a Big Name. Can men be feminists? This is argued, though I tend to the side of yes. Should men be major leaders in feminism, especially when talking to teenage girls or very young adults? Probably not so much.

Although a lot of the outcry about Hugo was the attempted murder, it also was built on a history of his writing being not really all that feminist.
posted by jeather at 6:51 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have the time to read this right now, but thanks for the post.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:59 AM on August 16, 2012


I'm a dude. A dude who apparently missed the memo that feminism is inaccessible and hostile to fellow dudes. I just thought it was guys being assholes and not a real thing. Seriously, where is this coming from? Is it just that the (unrecognized) privilege is so strong that anytime someone changes the conversation from how men feel to how women feel that they, the men-folk, feel threatened?

Excuse me if this is a stupid question, I've only recently developed the vocabulary to talk about this stuff.
posted by Loto at 7:03 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is the view that men can't/shouldn't identify as feminist, but rather as "pro-feminist" a widespread one?

Well, you've never heard it before now, so what do you think? I'm not being a smart-ass, I'm being serious. Do you think it's widespread, based on your experience of feminism?
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:15 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is it just that the (unrecognized) privilege is so strong that anytime someone changes the conversation from how men feel to how women feel that they, the men-folk, feel threatened?

I believe that's missing the point completely and is dismissive.
posted by Evernix at 7:23 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Is it just that the (unrecognized) privilege is so strong that anytime someone changes the conversation from how men feel to how women feel that they, the men-folk, feel threatened?

Bingo! Not a stupid question at all, and congratulations on figuring things out so quickly (I gather); many men seem to find it impossible to grasp in any amount of time.

> I'm not being a smart-ass

Yeah, actually you are.
posted by languagehat at 7:30 AM on August 16, 2012


It can be a net negative for men -- but even more of a net negative for women, gays, minorities, etc. Even though your boat is taking on water and listing badly, someone else is already underwater. A man (like in the Bolivian example above) can have privilege relative to a woman, say, while also being almost totally disenfranchised and disempowered. It is important to acknowledge and deal with both the overall situation and the individual situation.

I agree with this, but it's important to consider who is the intended audience for the original article. I took it as a way to say, in a slightly stumbling way, "Hey, Men, the system is hurting you more that it helps you, and that pain is not the fault of women. Direct your attention and action to the root of your problems."

While "making it about the men" is a real problem, when men are talking to men about these issues, it's got to be OK to focus on men, as long as that discussion doesn't veer into blaming women (or immigrants or whatever) instead of the real problems. Yeah, I hope men realize their relative privilege, but it's not necessarily the place to start "Feminism for Men 101," which we need pretty badly.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:31 AM on August 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Is it just that the (unrecognized) privilege is so strong that anytime someone changes the conversation from how men feel to how women feel that they, the men-folk, feel threatened?

I don't think that's missing the point at all. It's the same discomfort that we white people feel when talking about racism. It's an ugly thing that we benefit from and it's difficult not to get terribly squeamish and defensive about that. We have to push through that discomfort in order to have a real conversation about it.

Plus we're afraid to lose that privilege. It is threatening, that is the point of these conversations.

--

It wasn't until I worked in an office where all the men were gay that I realised how much patriarchy/heterosexism limits straight men. There was so much variation in these men! Such unabashed love of things that my other male friends also liked, but my straight male friends liked them very quietly. It made me realise how much my straight-dude friends were muting themselves.

This system brings privilege to men, but only by limiting everyone's options. It turns Being A Man into being Not Like Those Less-Valuable People (see also: racism which turns White into Not Ethnic).

For men, it's being Not a Pussy, Not Gay, Not Soft, Not Emotional, Not Hurt, Not Obsessed With Your Kids, Not Hormonal, Not Upset, Not Excited About Your Wedding, Not An Opera Fan, Not A Bookworm, Not Delicate, Not Caring About Colours and Textures, Not A Clean Freak.

This is incredibly important to me as a feminist woman because it is an effort to limit my partner's ability to be an equal partner. I want him to be free to be sensitive to children, to share his feelings with me, to cry in front of me, to share his delight in delicate and lovely things, to be able to compromise without feeling like he's losing authority in our house.
posted by heatherann at 7:32 AM on August 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


> Well, you've never heard it before now, so what do you think? I'm not being a smart-ass, I'm being serious. Do you think it's widespread, based on your experience of feminism?

My self-identification as feminist comes heavily from my upbringing, and, as such, I've spent almost no time dealing with it in academic, intellectual, or activist settings. It's always — in my mind at least — just been a more sensible way to view the world. Since I've not really dealt with people who have actually battled over these issues, and still are, I have no idea how widespread these views are.

Which is why I ask.
posted by themadthinker at 7:38 AM on August 16, 2012


The "can men be feminists!???" thing is honestly not really that important (and no, it's not very widespread). Some women are uncomfortable with men describing themselves as feminists. Ok, when talking to those women I can be a feminist ally. Other women think men can and should describe ourselves as feminists. Ok, I can do that too. Done.

Regarding Angry Men vs. Angry Women, I think they're generally different angers from different sources. Most of the MRAnger I've seen falls into a couple categories. There are men that are used to having all the advantages, and to them equality feels unfair so they get mad about it. You could see this in the research where teachers that enforced gender parity in classroom discussion time had students and parents getting super angry because the boys felt like they were being silenced, when in reality they still tended to have the majority of the discussion time and instructor's attention*.

I also see men that are lonely or sexually frustrated or both, and they ascribe malicious motives to the women that don't want to sleep or be with them. This is where you see a lot of the "women can't know what it's like to super a lot want to have sex with someone but you can't" sort of statements. Or I was browsing through letters of note a while back and there was a letter written by a well known American author - to be honest I forget who - who literally said he hated women (those are the words he used) because they gave him erections and didn't necessarily satisfy them.

So yeah, although the patriarchy hurts men, those injuries tend not to be the things that angry men are angry about, which is a lot of the difficulty.

---

I get immlass's frustration. I don't think the writers should have said "feminism 101 spaces are hostile to men" because largely they're not. They are hostile to MRA types though, and I think the idea of the writers is specifically targeting MRA adherents and people that are turning to those groups.

*This happens with race too. Straight white men are still definitely the highest earning group, but lots of especially working class SWMs have adopted the belief that you "can't get promoted unless you're a minority". What they don't realize is that they personally almost certainly weren't going to be getting promoted whether or not affirmative action existed, but it's so tempting to blame that on AA. I actually had a well-paid, SWM corporate trainer say this during EO training once, it was pretty WTF.
posted by kavasa at 7:42 AM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, actually you are.

My major interests in feminism are pretty niche and have been for a long time. From my perspective, saying that men can't be feminists but can be allies is very common. I don't think my experience is nearly as mainstream as the experience of the person asking the question.

We can fight about my intentions if you want, though. It sounds totally important and not like a derail at all. (That is me being a smart-ass, for your reference.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:51 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


My self-identification as feminist comes heavily from my upbringing, and, as such, I've spent almost no time dealing with it in academic, intellectual, or activist settings. It's always — in my mind at least — just been a more sensible way to view the world. Since I've not really dealt with people who have actually battled over these issues, and still are, I have no idea how widespread these views are.

Ah, okay, thanks for clarifying. It's hard to put a number onto it but I would say that in real-life activist settings (like people getting together to make phone calls or protest or whatever) the issue rarely comes up, people are more concerned with asses in seats, so to speak. On the internet, it's somewhat common. Among radical feminists on the internet, it is very common to refer to men as the enemy. In what I perceive as mainstream feminism, it's not likely to come up or it's not very common.

I think your experience of feminism is probably what I would consider "mainstream" feminism, though--people who identify as feminists but don't necessarily immerse themselves in the relatively rarefied (and full of privileged people, honestly) worlds of academic, intellectual, and activist feminism.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:56 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I applaud any movement toward making arbitrary gender norms the enemy and recognize that they limit every member of society in various obvious and subtle ways.
posted by prefpara at 9:16 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ozy’s Law suggests that misandry and misogyny are inherently linked: if you eliminate one without the other, it will only mutate into a new sexist form. For instance, “the second shift” is when women who work outside the home come home and still do a disproportionate amount of the chores. It’s the classic consequence of liberating women so they can work outside the home without having their femininity questioned, but not liberating men so they can lift up a dishrag without having their masculinity questioned. By not liberating men, feminism traps women in a sexist situation that is little, if any, improvement.

I think that's well argued.
posted by jsturgill at 9:26 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"It's a Man thing - you wouldn't understand."

Perhaps all people who hit the wall of inequity have to go through a culture-challenging, identity-defining, cohort-bonding phase. Men who ask someone else ('feminists'/mommy) to do the work for them are just lazy - and exploitative.

And, there is no way to begin the real work of a whole society examining inequities if too many members of the discussion are stuck in a 'victim phase'. It behooves us all to listen patiently and redirect discussion - but only if people are open to self-reflection.

... and, it behooves us all to remember that we ALL contribute to inequities, willingly or unknowingly. The discussion is important.
posted by Surfurrus at 10:36 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bingo! Not a stupid question at all, and congratulations on figuring things out so quickly (I gather); many men seem to find it impossible to grasp in any amount of time.


You'll have to congratulate my ex instead; falling for a sociologist does wonders for a person's view of the world.
posted by Loto at 11:08 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I loved this article/essay/exploratory chapter, and wished I'd written it myself. It says all the things I've been wanting to say.

I also found a bug in the Metafilter codebase, as the "Favorites" option seems to be improperly idempotent; I kept trying to favorite olinerd's comment, but it never incremented beyond the one time.
posted by hincandenza at 12:37 PM on August 16, 2012


metaBugs: Following GenjiandProust's comment, does anyone have a link to an excellent, heavily-favourited (sidebarred?) comment from a few months back with the key theme that "society isn't biased towards men, it's biased towards some men"? Tricky to google, but IIRC it expressed very clearly some ideas about the patriarchy having a net negative benefit for all but the highest status men.
Ooh, I know, I know! It's one of my all-time favorite comments, and it belongs to grobstein. And that compassion is I think what resonates so much to me about the OP link.
posted by hincandenza at 12:43 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting. I definitely like some of what I've read over at goodmenproject.com. Except I keep wanting the url to be something about "whatabouthemenz", mostly because they have a category called noseriouslywhataboutthemenz.

There's also a guy who points out (and mocks) misogyny - often from MRA folks, particularly folks over on reddit - on the site manboobz.com.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:06 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look, feminism is not just about women...Feminism is about creating a world where the sick gender and power relations we've inherited are done away with and everybody (a group that includes men, women, and everyone in between or other) can live their lives without having to deal with "stay in your place" bullshit or "don't do that or you might get raped" bullshit or "don't do that or you're a sissy" bullshit. It's about creating a world where we can all live decently.

Then why isn't it called humanism? Seriously, feminism is not simply a general belief in liberation and equal respect for human dignity. In my experience it starts from a belief that women are in some sense more oppressed and victimized by our current structure of power relations than men are, and also that gender is one of the single most important social divisions determining oppression. I simply don't think that's true at all -- it's not true to my experience and it's not accurate to a whole bunch of easily available statistics. I just don't think the burden of oppression is aligned along gender lines in the way feminism posits it is. Which doesn't mean it works along opposite gender lines either (that men are more oppressed than women). I just think that 1) both men and women suffer unique burdens and gain unique privileges due to their gender, and 2) the purely gender-linked burdens and gains are pretty small in comparison to the forms of oppression and privilege that come from social class (especially), nationality, race, etc. That's a view that at least does not accord with feminism particularly well and may actively conflict with it at times.
posted by zipadee at 2:27 PM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Actually, the linked article is pretty good. A couple of thoughts:

--I think you have to face up to biological differences between men and women at some point, and how that intersects with the social. Is the fact that 95 percent of the people in jail are men solely due to gender roles (in which case you'd have to say that men suffer far greater oppression than women due to their gender), or does it have something to do with a testosterone/violence link? Same for life expectancies, there testosterone exposure may be linked to heart disease as well as violence/accidents.

--I don't like how they dump on men's rights activists. It's a wildly broad overgeneralization and shows an aggressive hostility to other men trying to think about some of these same issues. Some might be angry or misled -- fine, say so, just identify the specific arguments you disagree with rather than dumping on a whole group of people in order to put yourself on the 'virtuous' side in some ongoing internet flamewar.
posted by zipadee at 2:38 PM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, but you seem to be redefining feminism in a way that is useful for you to dismiss it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:41 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm 100% ok with dumping on MRA folks. If it was a "some of them are misled" situation, that might be one thing, but any self-described MRA environment I've even seen has been a toxic stew of misogyny and hatred of women. And I loathe them for it, as they've poisoned the well pretty effectively for any substantive discussion of the ill effects of the patriarchy on men. Which sucks.

As for your sense & statistics that women are *not* more oppressed and victimized by our current power structure -- it sounds like an interesting parallel world you live in. Who was the first person on the moon in your timeline? (I believe that's the traditional method.)
posted by feckless at 3:05 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm talking the US only, not globally. Here at least, men have shorter life expectancies than women, commit suicide more often, are more likely to die by violence (and I believe are more likely to be seriously victimized by violence), are more likely to be imprisoned, more likely to be homeless, less likely to graduate college, etc. These are not small differences, they're large ones. Almost every severely negative life outcome, from early death to imprisonment, is much more likely to happen to a man than a woman. Then there are a host of smaller constraints on men involving living up to a particular vision of masculinity. If there was a similar gap between these outcomes for one race relative to another no one would have any problem assigning it to oppression of some sort. Really the only way to discount this mountain of evidence is to assume that men more or less deserve it (perhaps biological susceptibility to violence, etc.). Which I don't think is impossible.

There's a set of particular disadvantages women suffer as well but I think it is very hard to say that objectively they are as bad or worse than what men suffer.

And most of the male-female differences are pretty small compared to differences correlated with social class.
posted by zipadee at 3:23 PM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


And most of the male-female differences are pretty small compared to differences correlated with social class.

You keep saying class as though it is separated from gender. It's a pretty classic trick in old leftist circles, and has been used to minimize almost every single oppression, including disregarding racism, but it doesn't wash. The experience of class is considerably different for women. Even if women are in a higher class than a man, they manage, in that class, to be oppressed for their gender. Even wealthy women were functionally chattel for thousands of years.

Men live shorter lives in part because of a mitochondrial difference, and it sucks, but nobody is to blame for genetics. As to suicide, homicide, and incarceration rates, I would agree with you that these are ways that patriarchy hurts men. Or, I would agree with you, if that was the case you were making. Instead, you seem to be making the case that these are examples of men uniquely being oppressed in ways women aren't, and make feminism somehow valueless in this discussion, as women really aren't as oppressed as they claim.

And I'm sorry, but that's just horseshit.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:34 PM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


In my experience it starts from a belief that women are in some sense more oppressed and victimized by our current structure of power relations than men are, and also that gender is one of the single most important social divisions determining oppression.

I'd actually argue that sex is the main driver of oppression as opposed to gender, as the way that females are socialized into their gender roles is, in and of itself, a form of oppression. Not super relevant to this post, but it's probably important to note that feminism itself contains an enormous multitude of beliefs, some of which conflict with each other. It is by no means a monolith.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:40 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found that my ability to envision the liberation of all people increased significantly when I let go of the need to rank different forms of oppression.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:53 PM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


And most of the male-female differences are pretty small compared to differences correlated with social class.

i'm sure they would seem that way to someone who had the luxury of being unaware of what most of them are, yes
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:20 PM on August 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


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