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November 9, 2009 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Video discussion on being a man with, and The Seven P's of Men's Violence by, Michael Kaufman, International Director of the White Ribbon Campaign.

Feminism Brings Benefits to All -- Men Included.
Rethinking privilege?
posted by catchingsignals (106 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
This bit resonated with me:

On the sports field we teach boys to ignore pain. At home we tell boys not to cry and act like men. Some cultures celebrate a stoic manhood. (And, I should stress, boys learn such things for survival: hence it is important we don't blame the individual boy or man for the origins of his current behaviours, even if, at the same time, we hold him responsible for his actions.)

This is why there is so often a tension between the well-meant advice about ending violence, and the world a lot of young men live in. I mean, I grew up in ok places -- not rich and sheltered, but not violent hell-holes, either. And even so, as a young man my days were thoroughly structured around violence -- threats of violence, jokes about violence, actual violence, play-acted violence, etc.

The strategies that got me through each day aren't the same strategies that make me an ok spouse and friend -- that was maybe the hardest transition for me, when I crossed out of adolescent into adulthood. Since then I've worked in some really violent places, and my heart breaks for the young guys I'd work with. They have to make choices and take actions that destroy them as a person, in order to not be destroyed by others. It's a terrible cycle, and really hard to break.
posted by Forktine at 7:41 AM on November 9, 2009 [18 favorites]


(The beginning and end of the Men's Room video is kinda awful, but I hope it doesn't distract too much from what was a good conversation in between.)
posted by catchingsignals at 7:43 AM on November 9, 2009


I suppose if all negotiation and trade took place over the internet (or through surrogate androids!), then violence could be neatly removed from all human relationships.

But as long as you're standing in front of someone, male of female, they've got the ability to slap you in the face for saying something they don't like.

I'm interested in ending violence among all people, but I'm afraid making the world entirely "safe from violence" would require, I dunno, ending embodiment itself.

Otherwise you're stuck trying to (verbally!) convince human beings to be nice to each other and ignore any advantages they might have by resorting to coercion. Unfortunately, the violent people who ruin it for everyone are generally less practiced at settling their disputes conversationally.

We live in an age where every adult could carry a pistol. This would give every self-interested individual (regardless of how morally bankrupt) an incentive not to commit violence, so why aren't we all packing?

Because then we wouldn't be doing away with the hierarchy of violence, but just.. uh, instituting an "affirmative action of violence." And God knows the libertarians would never stand for any kind of socially-imposed leveling mechanism.

wait what?
posted by edguardo at 7:57 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Awesome. And very timely, too.
posted by jokeefe at 7:59 AM on November 9, 2009


Men Can Stop Rape has a great list of resources on this topic.
posted by muddgirl at 7:59 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really like how MCSR frames the issue, not in the usual paternalistic terms like "how would you like it if your sister was attacked/raped?" but rather by placing women and men as allies and equal partners.
posted by muddgirl at 8:01 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


We live in an age where every adult could carry a pistol. This would give every self-interested individual (regardless of how morally bankrupt) an incentive not to commit violence, so why aren't we all packing?


I'll note in passing that not every adult can legally carry a pistol, skip around the debate as to whether or not humans are motivated purely by self-interest, and move on to the more pressing issue of "Did you read the article?"

from the second link: Indeed male-dominated societies are not only based on a hierarchy of men over women but some men over other men. Violence or the threat of violence among men is a mechanism used from childhood to establish that pecking order.


Your suggestion - making decisions based on whether or not you'll be shot by other armed citizens - is exactly the kind of naturalized ideology of violence that is pointed out in the second link. So, yeah, ending violence is a difficult thing.
posted by dubold at 8:29 AM on November 9, 2009


I guess nobody noticed when Marilyn French wrote pretty much the same thing since, I dunno, she's a woman and all.
posted by localroger at 8:41 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I read the "Seven P's" and "Rethinking Privilege," and the latter was very good. The former seemed awfully woo-woo to me, and I'm suspicious of anyone saying anything insightful with seven points all ostensibly beginning with the same letters.

Maybe the ideology of violence is naturalized for good reason: because violence is an option everyone almost always has recourse to, and it is an option the great majority of people are prepared to take under certain, extreme circumstances.

Saying "violence bad" is not nearly as helpful as acknowledging that, barring extreme changes in the conditions of human life, violence is here to stay.

My suggestion that everyone carry a pistol is extreme, but I meant to highlight the fact that violence has little to do with physical advantages anymore and everything to do with peoples' behavioral inclinations. Those, likewise, are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

You and I might be good, reasonable citizens appalled by doing violence to others and willing to read and internalize someone's concerns about violence against women and men, but how do you deal with the unethical, unreasonable citizens who can't be bothered to read about feminism?

Not everyone can be reasoned with, and as reactionary as it sounds, the most likely candidates for committing rape will probably be more discouraged by the sight of a .22 in a purse than by a stern admonishment for being naughty.
posted by edguardo at 8:41 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great list of links -- I keep saying that for feminism to gain popular traction, it has to focus more closely on building a more equitable society overall, rather than simply pointing out sexism and trying to save women from the horrors of patriarchy. Framing the debate in this way helps men to realize that patriarchy makes their lives difficult too, and helps cast women as contributors rather than victims.

I keep saying this, but I must not be saying it very well, because I feel like it gets me a lot of shrugged shoulders and dirty looks.

Can't wait to sit down and read these. Thanks.
posted by hifiparasol at 8:44 AM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Not everyone can be reasoned with, and as reactionary as it sounds, the most likely candidates for committing rape will probably be more discouraged by the sight of a .22 in a purse than by a stern admonishment for being naughty.

You will be very surprised when you find out who "the most likely candidates for committing rape" are.
posted by muddgirl at 8:47 AM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Not everyone can be reasoned with, and as reactionary as it sounds, the most likely candidates for committing rape will probably be more discouraged by the sight of a .22 in a purse than by a stern admonishment for being naughty.

Please just stop.
posted by hifiparasol at 8:48 AM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'd like to think that not every potentially violent situation could be boiled down to a life-or-death question of packing heat. Yeah, I know you're bringing it up for the sake of argument, but think about how many people who have guns for self-defense end up victims of their own weapons, either because they don't know how to use them or because the weapons are used against them by their attackers.

Whether a weapon is present or not, however, the mindset and knowledge makes it possible to use it "for good or evil," and in fact certain mindsets and knowledge can also be used as weapons. Think of emotional abuse, or the way that crisis negotiators can talk someone down. See, violence isn't just about touching people, or threatening to touch people. It affects people (men and women) who think they'd never be subject to "this sort of thing."

A stern admonishment for being "naughty" is not at all what's needed here. As mentioned above, a lot of the existing literature asks how men would feel if violence affected their mothers, daughters or sisters. That's not an admonishment; that's reality.

We need to show how this reality affects us through people we don't even know. It does, a lot, and it sucks.
posted by Madamina at 8:54 AM on November 9, 2009


muddgirl: "Not everyone can be reasoned with, and as reactionary as it sounds, the most likely candidates for committing rape will probably be more discouraged by the sight of a .22 in a purse than by a stern admonishment for being naughty.

You will be very surprised when you find out who "the most likely candidates for committing rape" are.
"

I fixed the link, since it is worth seeing.
posted by idiopath at 9:04 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This quote (from the 'Third P' in the 2nd link above) really struck me:
Whatever the complex social and psychological causes of men's violence, it wouldn't continue if there weren't explicit or tacit permission in social customs, legal codes, law enforcement, and certain religious teachings. In many countries, laws against wife assault or sexual assault are lax or non-existent; in many others laws are barely enforced; in still others they are absurd, such as those countries where a charge of rape can only be prosecuted if there are several male witnesses and where the testimony of the woman isn't taken into account.

It reminded me of this recent event, where 30 members of our US Government actively voiced corporation over humanity, and further perpetuating the legacy of violence. (Fortunately, the anti-rape amendment passed. 68/30 is absolutely unacceptable however.)
----
Excellent post, and timely. Thanks!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:08 AM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Whether a weapon is present or not, however, the mindset and knowledge makes it possible to use it "for good or evil," and in fact certain mindsets and knowledge can also be used as weapons. Think of emotional abuse, or the way that crisis negotiators can talk someone down. See, violence isn't just about touching people, or threatening to touch people. It affects people (men and women) who think they'd never be subject to "this sort of thing."

Emotional abuse seems violent to me, but if "talking someone down" is also violence, then the lines between violence and non-violence seem to become blurred. I'd say a crisis negotiator is a master professional of non-violent conflict resolution.

I know that many men would be given pause by considering violence to their mothers, daughters, or sisters, but I suppose it's not most men I'm concerned about.

You will be very surprised when you find out who "the most likely candidates for committing rape" are.

I am not terribly surprised that rapes are committed by people intelligent enough not to kidnap and beat their victims. I'm not saying you should shoot your boss for threatening to fire you unless you have sex with him. I'm not even saying that's an option.

So, what's a good social leveling mechanism that would create a more equitable social environment, and would help in such a situation?

The article says women don't go to the police as often for cases such as these, so the provided intermediaries don't seem to be functioning ideally.
posted by edguardo at 9:08 AM on November 9, 2009


We also live in a time when everyone could carry pepper spray, or some other debilitating (but not deadly, in most cases) agent. Carrying a gun means you should be prepared to use it, or at least be trained in safety and operations. And in the end, it could be taken from you, or if a struggle ensues, it could injure anyone. And if you do kill your attacker, justified or not, that's with you forever.

Guns as self defense are dumb. It's the brute force response to the terrifying knowns and unknowns of the world, without thought of what will actually happen. And tossing that in as an answer to prevent sexual violence takes away from the larger discussion.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:10 AM on November 9, 2009


Just kinda skimmed through the article so can't really comment on the content. But my next band is totally going to be called The Psychic Armour of Manhood. Might pass that term onto my role playing friends as well.
posted by Jawn at 9:12 AM on November 9, 2009


I guess nobody noticed when Marilyn French wrote pretty much the same thing since, I dunno, she's a woman and all.

Women writing about men's issues (violence) is an appropriation of voice.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:13 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


If the feminist movement is determined to escape "popular traction" and maintain its integrity, it must continue to hold all men, as a class, collectively responsible for and equally suspect of that laundry list of crimes whose perpetrators belonged so often to the male sex.
posted by knoyers at 9:14 AM on November 9, 2009


The article says women don't go to the police as often for cases such as these, so the provided intermediaries don't seem to be functioning ideally.

I don't believe that reporting a rape or attempted rape is as simple as reporting a burglary or attempted theft. The latter can be proven with ease - you're missing all the fine silver in your house, your TV set is gone, or there is a broken window. The former requires proof that something negative happened and there was no consent. People might ask "why didn't you struggle more, why didn't you call for help?" when it comes to rape, while a burglary is just your bad luck. No one asks, "why didn't you tell the robber to go away?"
posted by filthy light thief at 9:15 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I still think its disingenuous to lay the wreath of violence squarely on men. Yes, you are bigger and stronger on average physically than I, a chubby little white girl, but there are plenty of violent acts committed by women.

When people begin talking about fights in school, and how brutal boys are, I always tell the following story. When I was in middle school, I was a nerd. And for some reason, a trio of girls decided they did not like me, and to make my life hell. I did all I could to ignore them, to stay away from them, make the teachers aware of them, etc. All the things you are supposed to do. None worked.

Until one day, the trio decided to torment me, again, in the locker room after gym. They came up behind me, hands raised to either snatch my clothing, shove me over into the lockers, or grab my hair (all of which they had done before) or something else. I didn't even hesitate. I took the foot I had just tied my boot onto, and kicked backwards. No pulled punch. I squarely caught the leader in the chest, and broke a rib.

She was expelled, I was given a day of ISS, and the other two suspended for two weeks. But I will never forget the fact that the act, even though in self defense, is probably the most violent thing I have ever done to another human being without their consent. That this is a world were a middle school girl has to do this to defend herself from another girl is not right.
posted by strixus at 9:17 AM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


I guess nobody noticed when Marilyn French wrote pretty much the same thing since, I dunno, she's a woman and all.

Maybe it was that, or maybe it was that a book published in 1986 wouldn't have made a very good front page post.
posted by afu at 9:18 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't believe that reporting a rape or attempted rape is as simple as reporting a burglary or attempted theft. The latter can be proven with ease - you're missing all the fine silver in your house, your TV set is gone, or there is a broken window. The former requires proof that something negative happened and there was no consent. People might ask "why didn't you struggle more, why didn't you call for help?" when it comes to rape, while a burglary is just your bad luck. No one asks, "why didn't you tell the robber to go away?"

The sounds right on. I find it very telling that the people in power are more ready to punish violations of property law than to punish violations of human dignity. :(

So, all owners are created equal, but not all people?
posted by edguardo at 9:19 AM on November 9, 2009


I keep saying that for feminism to gain popular traction, it has to focus more closely on building a more equitable society overall, rather than simply pointing out sexism and trying to save women from the horrors of patriarchy. Framing the debate in this way helps men to realize that patriarchy makes their lives difficult too, and helps cast women as contributors rather than victims.

I keep saying this, but I must not be saying it very well, because I feel like it gets me a lot of shrugged shoulders and dirty looks.


You get shrugged shoulders because you are preaching to the damned choir. There are feminist organizations out there which attempt the exact same framing you describe. Perhaps you can take this opportunity to find some other internal thing to blame their failure on, rather than, you know, society's desire to maintain a status quo that solely benefits the people on top of the pyramid and can both hurt and benefit the people underneath to various degrees.
posted by muddgirl at 9:19 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The problem with the suggestion of pistols as a deterrent against violence is that we're talking about more than random violence from street thugs. There is a lot of violence that goes on in every day life where, for better or worse, the victim doesn't believe it's appropriate to retaliate or threaten with a gunshot.

There is also a hell of a lot of casual violence against men that would horrify people if committed against a woman. You can punch a guy in the arm, and the expectation is that he doesn't complain. I mean, he's not a wuss, is he? Doubly so if a woman hits him. Imagine if a guy says something casually sexist and his girlfriend hits him for that. It certainly wasn't smart to say it, but the strike is acceptable as you'd never, ever see someone condone the reverse situation.

Even outside of that sort of casual violence, there's a hierarchy of violence and what is tolerated. A fistfight over an argument (a girl, whatever) is one thing, and it'd be great if we could get society to a point where this wouldn't happen, but the notion that someone might pull a gun instead is almost strictly worse. For every fight prevented because "he's got a gun," there's another where they either ignore it, or just figure (wrongly) that guns won't be pulled.
posted by explosion at 9:24 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Okay, guns are a bad idea. How soon can we have phasers with a stun setting?
posted by edguardo at 9:28 AM on November 9, 2009


The evidence of rape is ambiguous and transitory in comparison with property crimes, and yet the justice system must not require a lower standard of proof for rape, for that, besides being abhorrent and unjust, would doom a substantial unknown number of innocent men.
posted by knoyers at 9:29 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the contrary, we require a higher standard of proof in rape cases than in any other form of assault case.

If I get punched, I am not required to prove that I didn't ask to be punched.
posted by muddgirl at 9:35 AM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


If the feminist movement is determined to escape "popular traction" and maintain its integrity, it must continue to hold all men, as a class, collectively responsible for and equally suspect of that laundry list of crimes whose perpetrators belonged so often to the male sex.

Good luck with that.
posted by Scoo at 9:35 AM on November 9, 2009


Actually if you are punched it must be shown that your assailant instigated the fight. Not that different really.
posted by knoyers at 9:49 AM on November 9, 2009


...would doom a substantial unknown number of innocent men.

Funny how the number is unknown, but it's definitely substantial.
posted by audacity at 10:02 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I get punched, I am not required to prove that I didn't ask to be punched......

Actually if you are punched it must be shown that your assailant instigated the fight. Not that different really.


No, the puncher can raise the defense that you instigated it, but the burden of proof is on them. It should work that way in rape cases, but theory and practice seem to diverge there.
posted by caddis at 10:06 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the contrary, we require a higher standard of proof in rape cases than in any other form of assault case.

If I get punched, I am not required to prove that I didn't ask to be punched.


Legally, this is only sort of true. In some states consent is a defense to a charge of simple assault. So, if you got punched, and there was any evidence that the punching was consensual, the prosecution would have to show that you didn't consent to being punched. If there wasn't any evidence that it was consensual, you'd take the stand and say "I never told him he could hit me" and that would be the end of it. The same is more or less true in most rape statutes.

Rape is, by definition, a crime that cannot occur if there was consent, so proving the absence of consent is an element of that crime. I'm not sure I see a way out of that, though. The options I see are:
1)Remove the absence of consent as an element of rape, which would criminalize all sexual activity OR
2)Accept the person claiming to be a rape victim's word and not allow the defendant to challenge it.

While, obviously, a great deal of weight should be given to the victim's testimony, I'm not sure why we should make it legally conclusive. There's always a chance a woman is lying about being raped, just like there's always a chance any witness is lying. If we don't allow the other side to present evidence that her testimony is incorrect, then we don't have a fair justice system. This is not to diminish the very real problem of juries disbelieving the testimony of rape victims. This happens, and it needs to be addressed. Thinking off the top of my head, I think we could address it with better jury instructions, better public education on issues related to consent, and a tighter lease on what is allowed as evidence of consent. That said, the issue you're raising is not an issue with the legal system's burden of proof.

Also, as a general rule we do require higher levels of proof regarding things like intent in crimes against the person than we do in crimes against property. The reason isn't because we value property more, it's because we send people to jail for longer times for crimes against the person. So, for instance, you don't need any intent whatsoever to commit the "crime" of illegal parking. You need to intend to kill someone to commit murder. It has to do with the penalty(a small fine versus life in prison) not how much we value either activity.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:08 AM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


An approximate 8-10% of all rape accusations turning out to be demonstrably false seems substantial to me.

In rape cases as with assault and all other criminal prosecutions, the accused must be presumed innocent, and the if the prosecution cannot prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the suspect should be acquitted. If the alleged victim's word does not suffice to send someone to jail for assault or drugs or theft, then that is not good enough to convict on rape either.
posted by knoyers at 10:18 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is getting rather off-topic, but would you say the failure in modern rape cases is not with the definition of the law, but rather with the application of the proof of consent asked for by judges and juries? For example, in this Australian case in which the judge "determined" that a 10-year-old victim consented to sexual contact with multiple perpetrators. Or this case where the judged determined that whether or not a 10-year-old "dressed provocatively" should be a factor in determining sentencing?

knoyers - what is the rate of false allegations for other crimes? Or is that number unreported? I think we also need to compare that 8% number to the percentage of rapes that go unreported or unprosecuted.
posted by muddgirl at 10:21 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And what percentage of rape accusations that were not "demonstrably" false (in an era with little DNA testing) were in fact false?

If rape accusations were approximately as common as false accusations for any other crime, all the more reason to apply the same standards.
posted by knoyers at 10:33 AM on November 9, 2009


I can't really speak to Australian or English cases because I know little to nothing about their legal systems. Those two news stories look like cases where moronic judges applied very bad reasoning to sentencing decisions. In both those cases, the individuals were convicted. Those are horrible examples, but they come with the territory of allowing discretion in sentencing. I know in a lot of US jurisdictions, mandatory minimum sentences would keep those results from happening, and that makes sense to me.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:36 AM on November 9, 2009


By the way, this thread is a perfect example of why feminists are often accused of "simply pointing out sexism and trying to save women from the horrors of patriarchy". We have been trying for years and years and years to re-frame the debate at an intermediate level, but must continually return to the same 101 topics over and over again. This thread has some pretty heavy content, and yet for some reason here we are debating a very very specific point in the larger context of "what can we do about the harmful effects of modern masculinity?"
posted by muddgirl at 10:40 AM on November 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


muddgirl: The problem, from my perspective, is that the current system benefits and victimizes both men and women in different ways,* and I think overall we tend to (rightly) demonize men for making unethical decisions, but (not always rightly) lionize women for making very similar decisions, under the guise of "empowerment." The male fashion designers get blasted for the current state of women's body images in the media, but the models themselves are often cast as waifish victims of an unethical system, as though they can't simply choose to leave that system.

The problem I often face is not that I'm preaching to the choir, it's that people tend not to want to hear about a solution that involves men and women working together to subvert the patriarchy for everyone's benefit, as opposed to a solution that simply equates the patriarchy with men behaving badly.

*This is usually where I lose people. Nobody wants to hear that women can gain short-term benefits from the patriarchy, or that men can ever be victims in any way. Men oppress women and that's that, and suggesting otherwise has gotten me in trouble before, even on Metafilter.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:44 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


And for what it's worth, I really feel as though several of the more popular feminist blogs -- Shakesville, Pandagon, even some writers at Feministing (not Jessica Valenti, who's awesome) -- tend to continue to frame the issue as simply one of Patriarchy vs. The Underdog Sisterhood.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:46 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nobody wants to hear that women can gain short-term benefits from the patriarchy, or that men can ever be victims in any way.

Who is this "nobody"? The feminist-centric forums and academic discussions I participate in discuss this exact thing all the time. Again, everything you're saying is absolutely a part of feminist discourse.

On the other hand, how can we discuss how patriarchy hurts men when lots of people won't recognize that patriarchy hurts anybody at all?
posted by muddgirl at 11:05 AM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


The reason that people at Shakesville and Pandagon will roll their eyes at you is not because of your rather basic statement that some women are colluders, but rather because of your rather silly example: "but the models themselves are often cast as waifish victims of an unethical system, as though they can't simply choose to leave that system."

We can make this same argument about so many different systems. Why do some black Americans or gay Americans still support the Republican party? Why do some women protest at reproductive clinics? Why do mothers in fundamentalist colonies allow their barely-pubescent daughters to get married and bear children? Individual choices are never made in a vacuum.
posted by muddgirl at 11:10 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


It starts very young, this thing where it's more OK for men to be hit than women. Somewhere along the way, my 2-year-old son has learned that it's not OK to hit - we don't hit people, we don't hit things, don't hit - except Dad (me). Dad is apparently the exception to the rule. I do the same things that Mom does when my son hits her -- ignore it if it was accidental, point it out the first time, Time Out the second -- but it hasn't worked yet.

I don't like being hit. Especially by someone I really love. I wish I knew how to give my son a better way to express his frustration than violence. I'm trying, but I almost never have the words to make it right.
posted by Fraxas at 11:18 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Forktine: This is why there is so often a tension between the well-meant advice about ending violence, and the world a lot of young men live in... as a young man my days were thoroughly structured around violence -- threats of violence, jokes about violence, actual violence, play-acted violence, etc.

Students set up 'pro-rape' page on Facebook
The students, mostly from an elite, all-male college, initially ensured the ''Define Statutory'' group had an open and public profile, and proudly displayed their membership on their personal Facebook pages.
Facebook Allows "Pro-Rape, Anti-Consent" Group To Stay On The Site For Months
Reverend David Russell, an outgoing master at Wesley College, tells the Sydney Morning Herald that the Facebook page is simply an encapsulation of the rape culture that has pervaded the campus for some time... "there is no question in my mind, women are seen as meat. That is the awful, ugly truth of it.''
And semi-off-topic, but from that same post:
The question that remains, however, is why Facebook allowed a pro-rape group to exist on the service to begin with. This is a social networking site that refuses to let women post pictures of themselves breastfeeding, mind you, but it's okay to make a "hilarious" pro-rape group in the "Sports and Recreation" category? The group was public, by the way, accessible to anyone and visible to all. Interesting, isn't it, that in the eyes of Facebook, a woman shouldn't be allowed to show her breasts while feeding her child, but it's perfectly acceptable for men to make a highly public "sport" out of rape.
So yes, the culture of male violence is pervasive, and comes directly from the patriarchal society that allows these unequal situations to exist. Check and see if your health care insurer (if you have one) covers Viagra. Then check and see if it covers birth control. Some cover both; most only cover one (guess which one).
posted by tzikeh at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, muddgirl, this is sort of exactly what I'm talking about. I'm trying to tell you that I agree with you, and we seem to be on the same page regarding the PR hurdles modern feminism has to overcome, and you really seem to be bristling. Fine, my example was silly. Sorry I spoke up.

Check and see if your health care insurer (if you have one) covers Viagra. Then check and see if it covers birth control. Some cover both; most only cover one (guess which one).

Yeah, people who claim have problems with birth control don't have problems simply with family planning so much as with women using birth control. I've bought condoms in a wide variety of drugstores -- rural and urban, corporate and mom-and-pop -- and I've never, ever felt anything other than the most mundane retail experience. Yet somehow we have to have a debate over whether pharmacists can refuse to fill orders for things like Plan B? Give me a fucking break.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:46 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


hifiparasol - exactly. Gotta make sure men get whatever they need for sexual enjoyment/freedom, and make sure they can get it quickly and cheaply. Need to keep it up? No problem. Don't know how is babby formed? There's an app for that. Just remember: it's All About You.

Sometimes I think my head will explode.
posted by tzikeh at 12:03 PM on November 9, 2009


Check and see if your health care insurer (if you have one) covers Viagra. Then check and see if it covers birth control. Some cover both; most only cover one (guess which one).

Apples and oranges.
posted by rocket88 at 12:19 PM on November 9, 2009


Yes, in that apples and oranges are both roundish fruits of about the same size, which are both grown on trees and have similar health benefits and calorie content.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:30 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fine, my example was silly. Sorry I spoke up.

I have been told many times that Metafilter values a well-crafted argument. Craft a better argument.
posted by muddgirl at 12:37 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


rocket88 - you seem to be missing the part where Viagra keeps men bringin' on the sperm, and birth control keeps women free from bringin' on the results. In other words, they'll cover men who want to keep impregnating women, but not women who don't want to keep being impregnated. Women have to *pay* (literally and figuratively) for that.
posted by tzikeh at 12:38 PM on November 9, 2009


If I really need to explain...one is a drug that counters the effects of a physical medical condition...a situation in which one of the normal functions of the human body is broken.
Just because they both fall under the umbrella of "fucking" doesn't make them comparable
posted by rocket88 at 12:38 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I don't think we're saying the same thing at all. You are arguing that, since men are hurt by patriarchy say 10% of the time, we should focus on how much it sucks to be a man in American. And yet, the people who are perpetuating the kyriarchal system can not even see that women are hurting hurting hurting 95% of the time? Why will they be convinced when they can look at their own cost-benefit analysis and see that they'll have to take a bigger share of the work and the pain?
posted by muddgirl at 12:41 PM on November 9, 2009


No, that's exactly not what I'm saying. I carefully did not ascribe quantification or qualification to any one gender's victimhood or culpability. I did this partially because I feel like it's pointless to get into a pissing contest over who has it worse, but mostly because it's a given that women are hurt more in a patriarchal system. I would think my belief in this fact would be evident from the fact that I'm even using the word "partiarchy." Please show me where I said we should focus on how much it sucks to be a man in America.

And now here I am, defending myself to you because you think I said feminism should focus on men's problems, even though I said no such thing. In a nutshell, this is one of modern feminism's biggest problems.

Illustrative personal anecdote: One time I got into a big argument with a self-professed feminist friend of mine over Hooters. I was asserting that, aside from the fact that the very concept of Hooters is degrading and insulting to women, it seems like a shitty business model, since you can't deny someone the opportunity to apply for a job based on having big boobs, and thus the whole place seems like a class action lawsuit waiting to happen. Whether I was right or wrong about this is irrelevant, because apparently I wasn't denouncing Hooters strongly enough. I merely started the conversation by saying that Hooters was insulting and degrading, rather than... well, I really don't know what I could have said. I felt like I did after 9/11, when you had to preface every political statement with "You know, I really hate the terrorists and love America, but..."

There's a strong vein in modern feminism of ignoring and marginalizing well-meaning allies because of relatively minor differences. I identify as a feminist -- or a pro-feminist if that makes you more comfortable. If Amanda Marcotte and Megan McEwan want to roll their eyes at me because I don't know the secret handshake, let 'em.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:22 PM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


There's a strong vein in modern feminism of ignoring and marginalizing well-meaning allies because of relatively minor differences.

This.
posted by Scoo at 1:30 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The privileging of male violence and the denial of the possibility of female-on-male domestic violence and false rape accusations seem to be of a piece to me.

I am a (female) former domestic violence worker and a former public defender, and this stuff drives me absolutely nuts. Yes, absolutely, a disproportionate quantity of sexual and intimate partner violence is male-on-female-- but that statistic in no way gives us permission to ignore injustice or abuse on the individual level, no matter who the parties involved are.

My (individual, unique-to-me) interactions with the men's rights movement have been uniformly terrible-- but there's a hellofalot that's wrong with the domestic violence movement too. I remember being taught (in government-funded trainings) that it was absolutely o.k. to think of domestic violence exclusively in terms of male perpetrators and female victims, because DV was, at heart, one of the badges-and-incidents of having a patriarchal society. The week after, we had a special session about female-on-female intimate partner violence. When I asked why female-on-female violence was cognizable but female-on-male violence was not, I did not get a satisfying answer. The most coherent response I got was the assertion that in order to become an abuser, a woman first had to be abused herself (presumably by a man), and that any female-on-male violence in society was actually just transferred violence-- the perpetrating women was simply a conduit, passing the violence she herself had endured on to someone else. The not-so-covert message that I received at every single training I attended was that Society Makes Men Hurt Women. Needless to say, precious few men attended these trainings.

False rape accusations are of particular concern to me: Often, DV perpetrators will attempt to exploit the legal system to punish or control their partners. Threatening to file (or actually filing) bogus reports with child protective services is a fairly common tactic; ditto for police reports about phoney assaults, thefts, etc. False rape accusations can be used the same way. It's certainly true that most women would never voluntarily go through the hell of being at the center of a rape investigation-- but most human beings, male or female, wouldn't sink to the depths where the more sophisticated DV abusers dwell. I have definitely seen female abusers exploit both the criminal justice system and local domestic violence prevention resources. I would hazard a guess that some percentage of the false rape reports are actually acts of intimate partner violence in and of themselves.

All of this, I think, is a long-winded way of saying that there is absolutely no substitute for critical thinking and fact-finding. We can't make assumptions about victims and perpetrators. We can't blithely sort people into those roles on the basis of gender. Not only does making facile distinctions of that sort result in miscarriages of justice-- it also (as the linked article shows) perpetuates a societal mindset that excuses, enshrines, and thereby perpetuates the commission of violent acts by men. By all means, let's dismantle the patriarchy-- but riding roughshod over one person's rights in order to restore another person's rights is not the way to do it.

It seems so odd to me that people think that the best way to combat gendered violence is with forms of practice based on heavily gendered theory. Why not work on neutralizing assumptions about gender and violence instead of laboring to shore them up? If I were going to make over the movement, I would start by adding a whole bunch of science to the basic curriculum. We are all primates. In response to stressors, including those that attend low social status, we make cortisol, and some of us make way too damn much of it. Cortisol overproduction is profoundly unpleasant for the individual experiencing it, and leads to a variety of health problems. In baboons, harassing or battering lower-rank conspecifics has been shown to cortisol levels.* ** We all, therefore, stand to gain physiologically through acts of violence-- but if we go this route, we damage each other, our families, our communities, and society as a whole. Though men are at higher risk for it, we are all capable of cutting capers with cortisol, and each and every one of us has a duty to cut it the hell out. As a corollary, each of us had a duty to self-examine and self-monitor to make sure that we are doing this neither overtly nor covertly. We are all potential abusers, just as we are all potential victims.

God, sorry that was so long, guys. I guess that rant's been building for a while. .

* See the work of Robert Sapolsky and others. I'd link, but everthing I'd want to link to is either in book form or behind a pay wall. Amazon and PubMed are your friends.

** Additional physiological factors are at play, of course, but this is a MeFi comment and not a review article. Again, PubMed is your friend.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:57 PM on November 9, 2009 [23 favorites]


rocket88 -- I worked for a very, very long time in another thread recently to lay out and clarify many points about the inequities of our society when it comes to male privilege and the hurdles women face because of it, piece by piece, and it took too much out of me for me to try again here. So I'm going to resort to my ol' standby, even though it gets me "HURF DURF FEMINISM" responses. I just don't have it in me to start at square one yet again.

If you don't see the problem with health insurance covering men's ability to impregnant women, but not covering women's need to determine whether or not to become pregnant, *then you are part of the problem.*
posted by tzikeh at 2:06 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


It seems so odd to me that people think that the best way to combat gendered violence is with forms of practice based on heavily gendered theory. Why not work on neutralizing assumptions about gender and violence instead of laboring to shore them up?

Here's the problem, and it's a very practical one: allocation of limited resources.

If you go around pretending there is no gender imbalance in the perpetration of domestic violence, you will then start asking, for instance, "Why are so many of these shelters taken up by women and not by men?" And because you have no rational response to that, because you refuse to see the gender imbalance in the effects of DV, you will then follow up with, "We should allocate equal resources to men and to women when it comes to shelters."

Resources are, as always limited, so if you insist on dividing them evenly between men and women, you end up with: fewer resources for women. Who are by far the more severely victimized by domestic violence.

Yes, men or women can be perpetrators of domestic violence. But anyone who tries to claim any gender "neutrality" is fudging the numbers: leaving out post-breakup violence, which is heavily male-perpetrated and generally the most severely violent; equating pushing an attacker away with pushing a defender down the stairs; failing to recognize that a beating that puts you in the hospital is worse than a slap on the face.
posted by palliser at 2:12 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


In the recent metatalk thread, velvet winter mentioned Jackson Katz, who has a video titled Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity: preview and full video in nine parts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
posted by anonymuk at 2:17 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you don't see the problem with health insurance covering men's ability to impregnant women, but not covering women's need to determine whether or not to become pregnant, *then you are part of the problem.*

Oh, fuck that noise. My argument had nothing whatsoever to do with feminism or male privilege, it was about the different nature of the two medications in question. It's only your "impregnation" spin on the issue that has made this a male/female thing. And I am very much offended by your assertions about me and "the problem".
I would love it if birth control was covered by health insurance. As a partner in *a couple* who have used it, it would have saved me *and my wife* money. But unfortunately that's up to the insurers, and not me.
Also, although I don't need it now, if I ever have ED problems in my old age I'm damn thankful there's a drug that can counteract this prevalent and quality-of-life-debilitating *disease*. (Incidentally, do you think the wives of Viagra users would consider themselves well served if it was no longer covered by insurance?)
Male privilege absolutely exists and is a serious problem worth addressing. The fact that Viagra is insured has nothing to do with it. What a strange thing to use as an example of a real social problem.
posted by rocket88 at 2:30 PM on November 9, 2009


Oh yes! This is a great post. Apart from the 7 Ps - that was a bit forced.

The stuff they said about redefining masculinity - that needs to happen. The current order of things, in the countries I've been in, creates broken, angry guys, and broken, angry guys create very bad things. It's getting better all the time but suicide is still the leading cause of death for men my age in Scotland. So yeah, man-on-man, man-on-women, and man-on-self violence, and I think it's 3 sides of a rather-unusually-shaped coin.

I think on one hand it's about getting away from the whole idea of gender roles, but I suspect it's at least partly about reclaiming what "manliness" means. How often do the phrases "be a man!" or "act like a man!" connote something constructive and healthy? As opposed to meaning "bury your emotions", "keep quiet and put up with it", "beat someone up", "commit a crime", "stop listening to your partner", "don't take no for an answer", "solve your problems through physical and verbal aggression", "abuse alcohol or other substances", "do what your peers are doing". Not all the time, but enough of the time.

I don't believe in traditional gender roles (in the sense that I realise they are mostly a rather artificial construction, and more power to your elbow if you don't want to conform to them), but I do think less-fucked gender roles would be a step forward. Weird contradiction that.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 2:36 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


since men are hurt by patriarchy say 10% of the time, we should focus on how much it sucks to be a man in American. And yet, the people who are perpetuating the kyriarchal system can not even see that women are hurting hurting hurting 95% of the time? Why will they be convinced when they can look at their own cost-benefit analysis and see that they'll have to take a bigger share of the work and the pain?

I don't quite know what is being referenced by the 10% number but it seems to be regarding the 8-10% of men harmed by actions against the patriarchy (the false rape accusations since that's the only other time the number falls in the thread?)

But I think that number is way off. I cannot think of a male I know that has not had his ass handed to him for nothing other than pecking order establishment (meaning didn't start it or do anything to invoke violence as a response). Many that have had periods in their life where it regularly happens. Further most are entwined in a system where they must regularly prove themselves a 'real man' (hopefully what this expectation entails is obvious) without any outlet to escape the system. So it would seem to me that close to 100% of men are hurt by the patriarchy and have learned to simply deal with it just as most women learn to simply deal with the fact that at some points they are probably going to be treated like a sexual object (I would actually suggest that almost all men are treated as sexual objects by women as well, just that it's been moralized by our culture).
posted by kigpig at 2:55 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, this again.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 3:02 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK, so palmcorder's comments resonated with me in a big way. I was in a relationship with an abusive woman for five years. I was mocked and disparaged every day, often in front of friends. I was told, often, to "drop dead" or "go die." I dealt with threats of suicide every day, and threats to tell all my friends who loved me so much and who thought I was so perfect exactly what kind of horrible person I really was. I was scratched and pinched (I was a lot bigger than her, so she couldn't do much physically, so she rarely tried; when she did I would hold her off until she stopped). I was dared, after three-hour-long fights I couldn't escape (see again: threats of suicide) to come on and hit me, hit me, hit me, I know you want to, I know it's there in your heart, just hit me like the abusive fucker you are. Once she ran screaming from a restaurant and hid from me because I allegedly flirted with the waitress. Maybe I did, I don't know. At that point nobody could have blamed me.

One night she ran off in her pajamas, and it got so bad that I called 911. They sent campus security (this was in college), a police car, and an ambulance. The cop took her aside and told me to stand away. The EMTs sat there staring daggers at me. Nobody ever asked me anything, and at the end of the night everybody went away, and we went to bed together, and I didn't sleep a wink. Not because of what had happened, but because I had to lay holding her in a cramped position, because the most important thing in the world for me had to be holding her, but she had to be comfortable, and if I didn't want to hold her and I didn't want her to be comfortable it meant I didn't care for her, and if I didn't care for her enough to hold her at night I was a terrible terrible boyfriend, but what could she expect from a jerk like me?

This was every day for five years, and I didn't leave because The Man's Job is to Fix It, and I really believed I could. Also, she threatened to kill herself if I left, and one time she actually swallowed a bunch of sleeping pills and I had to drag her into the bathroom and stick my finger down her throat to make her vomit.

The worst part of this -- the absolute worst part -- was that I felt like less of a man, because men, apparently, are supposed to be in control. Men are supposed to be dominant. Men are supposed to be able to deal with situations like this. And if I couldn't get her to stop tormenting her, well, then, I wasn't much of a man, then, was I?

We laugh at this stuff when it's on TV and in movies, because really, it's funny. Susie Essman screeches at Jeff Garlin and we all have a laugh, because Susie Essman is really fucking funny. And those times when we discuss it seriously, we talk about how her character is a negative portrayal of women, playing into the stereotype of the frigid bitch, and we shake our heads solemnly because people like Susie Essman's character on Curb don't exist in real life. But really, they sort of do, and they're a heck of a lot less funny.

I'm only telling this story because I don't think it's easy for a lot of people to put a face on the kind of domestic violence that's perpetrated against men. Hopefully it helps a little.

Today I'm with an awesome lady who could give lessons in being awesome, and we sleep together every night in whatever position is most comfortable for both of us.
posted by hifiparasol at 3:05 PM on November 9, 2009 [24 favorites]


This article describes the difficulties for feminist men who are looking for role models, which are still few and far between. Hard to only define yourself as "anti-patriarchy".

I suspect that in the long run, "what it means to be a man/woman" will become meaningless questions because they're too broad, and too binary. Becoming a decent person involves courage, compassion, using whatever intelligence you have, discipline, etc. etc. None of these are gender-specific, or need to be.

Violence is also not a male or female attribute; we have a society that values male dominance via violence for many converging reasons, some accidents of biology (what if human females were markedly bigger than males, as in many other species?) or history, others part of deliberate efforts to maintain social control. Regardless of the genders involved, condoning the use of violence by one person to dominate and control another is destructive and disruptive to a free society.

None of which dismisses feminism, because it is oppressed groups have the most to teach the rest of society about the injustice and pervasiveness of oppression.

Anyway, all that to say, that I think the only way for men to remake "manhood" is to a) recognize it as a not terribly meaningful term and b) try to live as decent human beings and equals with women. All the manhood-baggage is painful (just like, believe me, the womanhood-baggage is) but we can get beyond it.

I have a lot of hope for my son, who will not be told he can't cry, express emotion, or have female friends, or that he needs to be "a man" or any of that crap by us, and by our friends. He'll run into a school culture where that crap happens, and he'll have some battles. He may be threatened, though I hope not, but if so, we will take it seriously and not allow it to continue. We will have his back. And seeing articles like these gives me hope, because that means other parents out there are doing the same thing.
posted by emjaybee at 3:18 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


hifiparasol, did not see your post previously. I'm really sorry that happened to you, and yes, women can be aggressive and violent, absolutely.

And if my son (or a male friend) were in a relationship like that, believe me, I would want him to know that it was not ok, he was not at fault, and I would help him get out. Abuse is abuse.
posted by emjaybee at 3:21 PM on November 9, 2009


Oh thanks for linking to that great article emjaybee - wish I could add it to the post.
posted by catchingsignals at 3:52 PM on November 9, 2009


hifiparasol, that sounds horrible, abusive, and emotionally scarring. I'm sorry you went through it.

I think an important distinction should be made in whether the authorities had a potential useful role in interfering in the relationship. Because her abuse of you was emotional, and she was not habitually physically harming you, at least not in a way you found threatening to your safety, what it took for that relationship to end was ... for you to decide it should end. For you to decide you weren't going to take that shit any more, and to walk out the door.

I'm not sure I see the role of any state intervention in your relationship.

If, on the other hand, the physical power imbalance went the other way, and/or she had the access and inclination to use a gun should you leave her, you would need serious help from the authorities to have gotten out safely.

That's the difference in the male-on-female abusive relationship, and that's the distinction I was drawing above. Women aren't nicer than men; they're just much less likely to endanger another's life with physical violence. We all -- men and women -- know this instinctively, when we walk on the street; and it's true at home, too.
posted by palliser at 5:03 PM on November 9, 2009


Becoming a decent person involves courage, compassion, using whatever intelligence you have, discipline, etc. etc. None of these are gender-specific, or need to be.

Isn't this part of humanitarianism?

This article describes the difficulties for feminist men who are looking for role models, which are still few and far between. Hard to only define yourself as "anti-patriarchy".

And to which I would say, maybe they should try to be humanitarians instead of feminists or even better come up with a new name for it. Having 'feminine' at it's root, will always suggest to many men that being a woman is better than being a man or that female values are better than male ones. And it seems implicit in many feminists writings that they still do in fact believe this. Why is it better to change the philosophies of this fairly loaded word rather than start anew?
posted by kigpig at 5:15 PM on November 9, 2009


Yeah, palliser, I see where you're coming from, and for the most part I agree -- and I certainly didn't mean for my own anecdote to come across as any kind of argumentative response to what you were saying (as in, "well, this happened to me, so there!"). Sorry to all if it came off that way.

The problem with state intervention, at least in my case, is that I think most people have the expectation that, in any hetero conflict, the man is an aggressor. In my case, I called 911 because my girlfriend had disappeared and I was afraid she would hurt herself, and the first responders sort of automatically treated the situation as one of domestic male-on-female abuse.

(I suspect another demographic that gets left out is male-male domestic violence, since people just assume it's men fighting because men are fighty. But that's a pure guess.)

Mostly, though, as I said, I told the story as an illustrative example, since there aren't a whole lot to go around.
posted by hifiparasol at 5:19 PM on November 9, 2009


Mostly, though, as I said, I told the story as an illustrative example, since there aren't a whole lot to go around.

Interesting, hifiparasol, I hadn't thought of it in a long time, but at least three of my male friends growing up would get the living shit beat out of them by their mothers on a regular basis. No holds barred, pots and pans, shoes and extension cord affairs well into their teens. These were mostly sort of accepted as being the price you paid for sneaking out at night or fucking up in school, but I definitely remember a couple incidents where one of my friends stayed for a few long weekends at my house until his mom cooled off. I vaguely recall there being some an intervention by a social worker, but I got the sense that some of the adults thought she was just doing what needed to be done to control a teenage boy. Seems like a pretty bizarre notion in retrospect.
posted by electroboy at 6:34 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


rocket88: Oh, fuck that noise. My argument had nothing whatsoever to do with feminism or male privilege, it was about the different nature of the two medications in question. It's only your "impregnation" spin on the issue that has made this a male/female thing.

Yes, I'm the one who put an "impregnation" spin on the idea of a pill that allows a man to keep impregnating women, and a pill that allows a woman to keep from getting pregnant. I have enormous power.

At least "fuck that noise" is a new version of "HURF DURF FEMINISM." Sure do get tired of that one.
posted by tzikeh at 11:15 PM on November 9, 2009


I have survived a very abusive relationship that became life-threatening more than once and also included marital rape, and it has taken a lot of work to not be reactive to other men in general. PTSD is a stone cold bitch to deal with. Adrenaline is not always your friend. Please understand that for anyone living in constant, and I do mean constant, real fear for your person and your life, in their own home, it's terrifying. Your glands pump out chemicals whether you ask them to or not, and sometimes those chemicals are addictive, even if you don't want them.

In some ways, hifiparasol's anecdote resonated with me, embarrassingly, because I found myself being needlessly mean to my now husband out of defensiveness and a kind of test to see if he could stand being with me for the long term, since I was broken and all. It never got as bad as what hifiparasol described, but wasn't right, and my guy is a lovely, and stubbornly loving, patient human being who saw what was going on and helped me get better by being rational when I wasn't. My boss of the past 6 years, who is also one of the most kind and patient people I've ever met, was better for my mental wellness than any therapist I've ever talked to. They both understood where my anger came from, but made it clear that they didn't deserve to receive any of that rage. They were both right. Thankfully, I see more clearly now.

I didn't deserve any of the rage that was inflicted on me, either, but their example helped me see my way to a sort of forgiveness. I treat it more like a learning experience these days.

I used to see myself as a victim. I used to wonder what I did to deserve that treatment. I used to wonder why I didn't see it in advance. It's hard to see a sociopath, and I'm not stupid. I know that now.

And now, my son and daughter are both about to be teenagers. They've seen me when I was shaky and scared and fragile. They've seen me almost, on the very edge of, broken. The best thing I can do for both of them is to be well. Even if I'm scared and the PTSD demon is creeping up, they know there won't be any hitting involved. I'll explain to them why I was worried or how they misbehaved, and that's enough. We all get to cry and it's ok. We all get to be frustrated or annoyed or angry about events that happen. It's how we handle it that is the important part.

Sometimes, this mom just needs to take 10 minutes alone in her room to get her shit together after a hard day at work. It's fair enough to give that to anyone else in the house, too.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:26 AM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


One other thing.

When my "brothers" (I'm an only child, so my wonderful male friends) found out about the abuse, their first response was to want to kick some ass and I referred to them for a while as my "baseball bat brigade." I'd hidden the abuse, so they found out mostly by surprise, because it's hard to admit abuse when it happens, no matter what your gender. A lot of my male friends have been in the military, mostly for later college options.

I told them that, in no particular order:
1. I'd heal
2. they shouldn't get in trouble for battery/assault
3. my kids didn't need to see that example
4. we all needed to have them in our lives as kind, healthy, good, (etc, etc.) adult guys in our lives, rather than some vindictive mob

Knowing they were around and watchful helped a lot more than if it had ever come to a fight or beat-down. I also got to learn a lot more about protecting my home, my kids, and myself, than if there had been some general ass-kicking. This has set a good example, too.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:40 AM on November 10, 2009


...since men are hurt by patriarchy say 10% of the time, we should focus on how much it sucks to be a man in American. And yet, the people who are perpetuating the kyriarchal system can not even see that women are hurting hurting hurting 95% of the time?...

10 percent of a patriarchy? 95 percent kyriarchy? And seven P's to constellate the male experience of violence, and not one for Prison? I feel like I'm beating an old drum into a dead horse, but:

In 2001 Human Rights Watch estimated that at least 140,000 inmates in the US had been raped while incarcerated, and there is a significant variation in the rates of prison rape by race. Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc. statistics indicate that there are more men raped in U.S. prisons than non-incarcerated women similarly assaulted.

And yet it does look like ten percent, for reasons that are quite plain: these people don't blog. They don't have Metafilter accounts. They don't publish American Studies papers, tabulate privilege lists, fulcrum our academic debates, toast our TED talks. They can't seek legal redress in our courts. They can't vote in our elections. They remain an ineligible yet immense number, suspended - for whose sake, I cannot imagine - in a blanket legal and cultural invisibility.

The point should not be to invoke men's issues or women's issues only as mere stepping stones by which one returns to one's original viewpoint, in a frame on the wall, unaltered and unmoved. Sexual violence is not either side's half-crescent, but a dark held in common. No need for the shrugs of theory and automatic blame (and I feel that calling a raped or beaten man the artifact of "patriarchy" rather than gender norms does constitute blaming the victim). Nobody gets to own this thing.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:57 AM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Thank you for your comment kid ichorous - would you link to the source of the statistic as well? I am just as angry about prison rape as you are - but to me it is the "patriarchy", at least if you take patriarchy to mean a system "organized around an obsession with control, with men elevated in the social structure because of their presumed ability to exert control (whether rationally or through violence or the threat of violence)" - which I do. Though I guess that is why it has been suggested we use "kyriarchy" instead, as mentioned in the last link of the post and as muddgirl mentioned herself. I don't think all this theory is at all a shrug or about automatic blame - the major theme that runs through the links in the post is that men suffer desperately from this system, despite all the power and privilege they have. And that feminism, at least the best kind of feminism, cares just as much about them, and wants to release them from oppression just as it wants to do for women.

I am just as disheartened by the 10% comment. To me, men and women both suffer all the time from the system - it is just as pervasive for men as it is for women, if much less overt and recognized. This does not in any way diminish the recognition of the power and privilege that men do have, or how they have used and reinforced the system for their own gains. (But they are not aware how they are at the same time hurting themselves and other men with it.) Perhaps I did not frame this post well, but it was not intended to be about violence against women - it was intended to link from the violence against women that we've been talking about on this site recently to address the interconnected male half of the problem.

To be honest, I am discouraged by how most of this thread has gone. How a post about how men are socialized into lives of violence almost straight away turned into a discussion about guns as a solution (you gotta laugh - if bitterly). And with full respect to the women who have spoken about that "95%" here - do you notice the difference between this thread and the threads on violence women face? Not just all the women who feel able to talk about their experience, but also the men who care about what women have to face, and asking what they can do. I didn't understand muddgirl, why you had such a strong reaction to what hifiparasol said - but then I had assumed hifiparasol was a woman, at least until much later when I checked his profile. All along, he was on your side. He wasn't attacking feminism - but do you really think all feminists think the same thing, and that they all recognize the complexity of the kyriarchy? (And wtf was your point, localroger? Do you think I was trying to say that Michael Kaufman was the first one to come up with the theory? Or is it so unimaginable that perhaps men might feel more understood by another man talking about these issues... concerning the lives and experiences of men?)

It has been a problem in many threads about women's issues, how some men derail the discussion and don't give women the space to talk by always derailing to how men suffer too. I hate it - but I thought I'd actually create that space for men this time. I don't know what it is - maybe I didn't frame the post well enough? Or this is just showing how men struggle to talk about this stuff? But I would've thought that if you read any of the links, it's clear that this post was about men - about what the system we have does to them. If you really feel that the system only hurts men "10%", may I suggest that there is a great deal of more subtle effects you are not seeing? (Not to mention the entirely unsubtle prison rape that kid ichorous was talking about.) This in no way diminishes what it also does to women. Nor do I disagree that men do absolutely have a great deal of privilege - but it is a major issue, every time these conversations come up and privilege is mentioned, some men talk about how their lives are shitty and they struggle and feel powerless and what the fuck are you talking about saying I'm "privileged"? (Hence the "rethinking privilege" link.)

But why am I even feeling like I have to defend this, as if it's some kind of competition as to who suffer the most? What men go through directly feeds into the oppression of women. When men grow up violent and empathy-impaired and feelng like they have to live up to the traditional idea of masculinity, women suffer. If you want to care about women, you want to care about men too. (and vice versa) We are all in this together. That's what this post was trying to say. I was trying to reach men - partly for women, but also for men's own sake. To let them know that all this feminism theory is not just about women - that it cares about them too.
posted by catchingsignals at 7:19 AM on November 10, 2009 [11 favorites]


The worst part of this -- the absolute worst part -- was that I felt like less of a man, because men, apparently, are supposed to be in control. Men are supposed to be dominant. Men are supposed to be able to deal with situations like this. And if I couldn't get her to stop tormenting her, well, then, I wasn't much of a man, then, was I?

hifiparasol, thanks a lot for this. It sounds like you were strong enough to take the high road, but I know there are people (men) who have been told they're abusers and to blame because, hey, they tried to hold someone and calm them down when the said lady was threatening self-harm and screaming insults. It can be very hard for men not to feel like abusers, when the default view for society is to see any response that is "physical" (even if it's to stop someone from thrashing around and hitting you) as a male power thing.

Even wording like that, I still feel like I'm some sort of nasty advocate of male violence.
posted by mikeh at 7:58 AM on November 10, 2009


I've been reading this thread with interest, and a bit of frustration, and finally got to the point where I felt that I needed to comment.

I should start by saying that I'm pretty much a non-violent male. I've been ridiculed for most of my life for not scrapping when I was a kid, or for taking stances against boxing / MMA / Pro Wrestling / firearms at various points in my life... Maybe it was the endless years of Sesame Street and Mister Rogers influencing me. I don't admire the struggle of the protagonists in Raging Bull or Rocky (although I do admire Jackie Chan, but that's more because he reminds me of Fred Astaire than because he's "fighting")... Even as an adult, I've had more violence enacted upon me than I have ever imagined enacting on someone else. Glass bottles thrown at me from moving vehicles, men chasing me through a neighborhood with baseball bats, I've had friends whose houses were broken into and they were beaten with sticks while they lay in bed...

And this brings me to the point of my post. "Why and how are men hurt by the patriarchy?"

Because they're afraid of being perceived as faggots.

Michael Kaufman only just barely touches on this during his ~20 minutes. But most of the fear of men when it comes to being vulnerable or kind or artistic or non-dominant in a situation stems from a deep seated culturally-induced terror about being perceived as queer. (And to bring this into a more feminist stance, this is also a fear of being perceived as somehow feminized, because the stereotypes in our culture are all about how gay men want to be women -- want to wear women's clothing, want to do hair and nails for a living, want to do interior decorating instead of construction, etc. Most of which aren't true, BTW, despite what Will & Grace may have led you to believe.)

It's shocking and awful to me how much of a typical man's mental life seems to be taken up with continual effort not to be mistaken for being gay. I have lost very good, close friends, heterosexuals, who suddenly hear that because they were seen attending a movie with me or having lunch with me that they might be a faggot. I have had men that I've known for YEARS, since we were teenagers and I wasn't even out to myself let alone anyone else, suddenly refuse to attend a weekend campout with me for fear of "what people might think we were up to in the woods" (when we grew up on Boy Scouts together and used to camp out all the time). When I've been out with a group of friends, men and women, and I notice that one of the women has, say, a smudge of lipstick on her teeth, then she always thanks me for subtly bringing it to her attention. But heaven forfend, if I were to point out to one of the guys that his collar is all fucked up in the back and needs fixing! You'd think I'd unzipped his fly and started fellating him right in the middle of the restaurant.

Now, I know that this hatred of the faggots and the fear of being mistaken for one is deeply rooted in the patriarchy, or the kyriarchy if you want to use power rather than gender as the frame for the discussion. Because gay men are seen as being submissive, as bending the "natural order" of things, as "assuming a woman's role"... Whatever bullshit you want to attach to it, the fact of the faggot completely undermines the cultural expectations placed upon men, whether those are realistic or healthy expectations or not.

Frankly, this line of reasoning fails to take into account one of the biggest factors about being a queer man in America, and that is that the act of coming out requires FAR more courage under current circumstances than pretending to want sex with a woman and go with the status quo. The violence against me and my friends I mentioned earlier -- that wasn't just some kind of Fight Club Gone Awry -- those were deliberate acts against me and my cohorts as homosexuals within our culture. The act of coming out often creates rifts in family relationships, work settings, alienates one from religious institutions and life-long friends. To make that choice, to decide that one's inner nature is more important and worth the risk to physical and emotional well being that continues to result from Coming Out Of The Closet... That is a much stronger act than most heterosexual men in the US can possibly imagine.

And yes, doing that, making those choices (which one must make daily -- it isn't like you send out a mailer and suddenly everyone knows you're gay), allowed me AS A MALE to understand more deeply what it means to be male, which is that I have a penis, and nothing more. My own journey also has involved a large amount of rejection of how "gay" is defined in America, because I have never wanted to wear women's clothing, or arrange flowers, or become a fashion designer. I just haven't. I like backpacking and camping, and listen to pretty heavy rock-n-roll (instead of Madonna and Brittney), and don't find the metrosexual look or lifestyle appealing but would rather hang out with blue-collar types or roadhouse regulars.

I truly feel that if men in our society could disengage from the constant fear that they might be viewed as being a faggot... If they could somehow disentangle that "not being totally masculine" (whatever the fuck that means) = "being weak" = "being a woman" = "a guy being a woman is a faggot"... then we would find a lot of the power issues and violence would fade out of life. Because that constantly held-up mask of "I must be a real man all the time or I will be considered a faggot" causes the muscles to fatigue from keeping it against one's face, and after a while, being tired leads to a short temper which leads to violence either emotion or physical or both, and everyone comes out the loser in the end.
posted by hippybear at 9:47 AM on November 10, 2009 [43 favorites]


Great comment, hippybear.

I've been reading a lot of handwringing lately, like "oooooh.... but if men aren't allowed to be MACHO and MASCULINE anymore, what WILL they be????" Like men didn't exist before the archetypal cowboys and gauchos were discovered by Hollywood producers. (and I don't mean "macho" like "buff", I mean it like "machismo".)

And it's like, look around you! This whole crazy world is filled with men who are just trying to be to themselves. But it's exactly like you say, hippybear - if you're not Macho then you're not A Man and that means you're either a pussy or you're gay.
posted by muddgirl at 3:11 PM on November 10, 2009


Good post, hifiparasol. I think there's always going to be difficulty when you try to frame mens issues in the context of feminism. Male violence seems to be almost always discussed in the context of domestic violence and sexual assault, which are certainly important issues, but aren't necessarily representative of the spectrum of violence that most men have experienced.
posted by electroboy at 4:46 PM on November 10, 2009


Hippybear: yes. I am reading Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (C.J. Pascoe, 2007) for an Adolescent Development class, and it is centered in large part, around this exact idea. The idea of the faggot as the abject, as a slur that removes any inherent worth that a human has by rendering them feminine. If you ask the teens, they will say that "fag" has nothing to do with sex, but this is a sort of rationalization, a lack of self-awareness that serves to hide the fear these boys experience. It's terrible, and pervasive, and has to stop.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:06 PM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Because they're afraid of being perceived as faggots.

That was a great post, Hippybear.

I'd like to complicate it, just a bit, though, in terms of how gender and sexuality and violence play off each other. I was at a local bar a few nights ago. It's a pretty conservative place, a regular local watering hole. And, unusually for that bar, there was a super out-there, ultra-flamboyant and in-your-face gay couple kissing and grab-assing, right up front and center.

Sure, some people stared, but the only people who had anything to say were some women in their forties at a table near me. They were all telling the guys with them "That's disgusting! You should do something about that!" Now, the gay guys were in no danger at all -- it's just not the kind of place where that kind of violence would be tolerated, and the gay guys were with a table-full of tough looking guys and their dates, anyway. The women's boyfriends, who were kind of older and pudgy, were all "Fuck no, we'd get our asses kicked! And who cares, anyway?"

I could tell a hundred stories like this -- where violence between men, often involving accusations of faggotness, happened with the passive or active help of women. It's way more complicated than just dudes being afraid of being called queer -- there's often a (real or imagined) female audience for the theatricality of violence, and certain kinds of violence can only happen when women are involved.
posted by Forktine at 8:43 PM on November 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


would you link to the source of the statistic as well?

Sorry, that was a straight text grab from the Wikipedia article. I can only assume they're comparing the 140 000 from UN Human Rights Watch to the FBI statistics (PDF) on the number of reported forcible, non-statutory rapes for 2001, 90491.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:34 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


catchingsignals, I understand and greatly appreciate what you were trying to do here. I think it is sorely needed, and I've been following this thread with high hopes and keen interest. I think you did a fine job with a challenging topic, and as a feminist who cares deeply about the ways patriarchy harms men, I applaud the effort. It's very rare to find thoughtful, in-depth, feminist-friendly discussion about the way maleness is lived and experienced in our culture, and rarer still that such discussions are approached in a nuanced way that helps shed light on the connections between male socialization and violence against women.

I was glad to see Forktine's opening comment, as I had been hoping this thread would involve the kind of collective introspection for which we bean-plating MeFites are so justifiably well known. I was hoping many more men would speak candidly about their experiences and tell personal stories, much like so many brave women did in the recent feminism threads, and like hippybear did above. (Thank you so much for that comment, hippybear. I found it insightful, lucid, and right on target). But as you mentioned, catchingsignals, there may also be a very fruitful and interesting meta-discussion to be had about why this thread has proceeded as it has.

Forktine: They have to make choices and take actions that destroy them as a person, in order to not be destroyed by others. It's a terrible cycle, and really hard to break.

Yes. It just breaks my heart to see this process and what it does to men. I'm very close to my brother - my only sibling - and he has told me a few stories about what he endured growing up. Knowing a bit about what he went through (and no doubt what he told me is only the tip of the iceberg), I'm even more grateful for the fact that he made it to adulthood with so much of his capacity for empathy and emotional awareness intact. (Love you, bro.)
posted by velvet winter at 12:28 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for some great comments everyone (particularly yours, velvet winter - your understanding and love for your brother warms my heart. And you explained some of my thoughts much better than I could've - thanks.) I wish I had more time tonight to write more and address some of the issues you've all raised, but will have to save it for tomorrow, and for now just raise another issue I just saw brought up in another thread that I thought might be relevant here.

In this AskMe thread, something in one of the comments struck me:
"Women are the deciders when it comes to sex. Guys, except for those of us who have made prior commitments, will pretty much have sex anywhere, anytime and with anyone. Maybe that's not 100% true, but it's close enough. It's true in a lot of the animal kingdom, too. Guys don't have power, and so the really undesirable guys are shut out. It's kinda a vicious circle, too...failure with women leads to never spending enough time around them to learn how to succeed. The odd success with a woman susceptible to creepy tactics won't help with that.

Men get incredibly fucked up by being unable to have intimate relationships with women. I'm thinking of middle school here. Imagine being trapped in that state your whole life because you never learned the right way to deal with women. All that rejection for year after year after year...you wonder why men get so angry? I hear women say that men can't understand what it's like to be constantly on guard around men. What I don't hear, but which is probably also true, is that most women can't understand how powerless men feel around women. Or the sense that, even though things are fine now, you might find yourself horribly isolated at some point in the future."

This is something I've heard so often from men - particularly this idea that women have the power. What do you all think? Does it feel like that sometimes? And what do the women here think of this perception of men, despite the power and privilege they supposedly have, that when it comes to love, sex and intimacy it's women that hold all the power?
posted by catchingsignals at 4:27 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I could tell a hundred stories like this -- where violence between men, often involving accusations of faggotness, happened with the passive or active help of women.

But that's not really what happened in the situation you described. In this situation, it reads more like the women were uncomfortable for whatever reason, but did not feel either strong enough or empowered enough to do anything about it, whether that meant confronting the offenders or leaving.

This is something I've heard so often from men - particularly this idea that women have the power.

Well, my perspective is a little skewed because I'm a fat, rather plain-looking woman who, for most of my life, was very awkward and shy. So I guess I'd fall in that "less than 100% true" category.

For the majority of Western civilization, the punishment for unsanctioned sex has been much, much worse for women than for men. Women have a pretty clear, although not 100%, indicator of virginity, and in some cultures still get stoned to death for any perceived transgression. On top of that is the very likely possibility that any sexual encounter could end in pregnancy. From this angle, is it really all that surprising that women, who historically face the majority of the consequences from a sexual encounter, would be the ones most likely to look cautiously upon invitations to do so? Coupled with the fact that, for many women, a fulfilling sexual experience is more than just "rubbing in any hole until completion", meaning that more value might be placed on quality rather than quantity. As time passes, the burden of the consequences, at least in Western countries, is starting to equalize, and I think we are seeing a commensurate shift in that women are becoming more assertive about their sexuality.

But all this is beside the real point, which to me would be, "Is sexual selection a good indicator of who holds the power in an advanced society?" I could argue that the opposite is the case, especially in human societies where powerful people can affect much much more than just access to breeding females and how many bananas a specific individual gets to eat.
posted by muddgirl at 4:58 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I could tell a hundred stories like this -- where violence between men, often involving accusations of faggotness, happened with the passive or active help of women.

But that's not really what happened in the situation you described. In this situation, it reads more like the women were uncomfortable for whatever reason, but did not feel either strong enough or empowered enough to do anything about it, whether that meant confronting the offenders or leaving.


Actually, I've been in bars and have watched women provoke men into fighting. I don't understand the dynamic, but I've seen it happen. The examples I've seen have involved a female telling her boyfriend / husband to to kick some other guy's ass because he a) "looked at her wrong", b) didn't move his pool cue as he made a shot and she wanted past, or c) accidentally bumped into her on the dance floor. It seemed to be some kind of primal thing, with the women wanting to watch "her man" defend her honor. I don't think it's an unknown cultural meme that it turns some women on to watch things like that. (Which, in and of itself, is a pretty fucked up part of the whole patriarchy establishment, if you ask me.)

I do wish you hadn't used "offenders" when talking about gay men acting in a bar in a manner which would not be described as offensive if it were a heterosexual couple. I'm sure you didn't mean it with the layer of meaning I read into it, but a better word choice could have been found.
posted by hippybear at 7:59 PM on November 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


The idea of the faggot as the abject, as a slur that removes any inherent worth that a human has by rendering them feminine.

Still, I would hold back from the suggestion that violence against men is somehow also violence against women. It is almost always not. There are enduring taboos against making woman the object of the rough 'play' engineered into the lowest levels of male interaction. What is crucial is that a victimized man is not protected by these taboos. If some dint of the feminine were enough to make him fair game, if "bitch" and "queer" and "faggot" are wide enough to admit the Alpha elbows and rocks, they are still insufficient for him to take cover under. He will get the least of both worlds, because whatever fluke of sexual code wrote never hit a woman failed to give the corollary never hit a "faggot." Quite the opposite. Rough up a punk, and you've taken his balls. Rough up a woman, and you've lost your own.

Part of my school&subway upbringing was to witness and undergo, at various distances, the sort of hazing that ends in broken heads. And of all that I remember only one episode of gang violence directed at a girl, and it was planned, executed, and subsequently bragged about by other girls.

Of my issues with the word "patriarchy," I can only say that the thing, to me, carries in it an implicit accusation, trial, and verdict. It is a word stacked in only one direction: Father-Rule, and this becomes our public name for three hundred million private experiences. Is this the best word? Or does it insist somewhat upon having a second-wave framework, and ultimately a second-wave conversation, about the problems of 21st-century men? Saying patriarchy hurts men too might seem revelatory in certain contexts, but note the too that hangs there, unavoidable, increasingly at a mismatch with the bodies we are burying under this word. If we're still interested in coaxing out the interiors of this story, well, Dworkin writing on Joan of Arc is illuminating, but it isn't the all. Is it that important that we proceed by calling one side heads and the other tails?
posted by kid ichorous at 8:01 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


catchingsignals: "will pretty much have sex anywhere, anytime and with anyone"
muddgirl: "for many women, a fulfilling sexual experience is more than just "rubbing in any hole until completion", meaning that more value might be placed on quality rather than quantity."

Oh for crying out loud, it's very frustrating to see this touted in a thread about our outdated definition of masculinity. The myth in popular culture is that 1) men are always looking for a quick fuck, and 2) the suavest man can fuck any woman, anytime, anyplace. We've already pretty much refuted 2), so why do people continue to bring up 1)?

catchingsignals: "I hear women say that men can't understand what it's like to be constantly on guard around men. What I don't hear, but which is probably also true, is that most women can't understand how powerless men feel around women."

Women are on guard because they believe they have to protect their sexuality from creepy men. Men are creeps because they're told to prove their masculinity by scoring sex from women. When the man is rejected, it reaffirms the possessor-taker dynamic and everyone loses. The key point being— it's all related.
posted by anonymuk at 8:13 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I understand your concern, anonymuk, and I had it to. I'm not the one who postulated that all men are just looking for a quick fuck. From the post that catchingsignals quoted:
Guys, except for those of us who have made prior commitments, will pretty much have sex anywhere, anytime and with anyone.
Personally, I think this is full of shit, and entirely out of line with my experiences, but it is a commonly-held opinion amongst some men on Metafilter and on the internet as a whole. My post was an attempt to explain why this is a commonly-held theory, not an agreement with that theory.
posted by muddgirl at 7:36 AM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


But that's not really what happened in the situation you described. In this situation, it reads more like the women were uncomfortable for whatever reason, but did not feel either strong enough or empowered enough to do anything about it, whether that meant confronting the offenders or leaving.

I've seen the sort of thing Forktine mentions as well, and where you see women not being strong or empowered enough to "do something" -- even if that something is incredibly distasteful -- I see women taking comfort in the fact that it's the men who are expected to do the heavy lifting of (doing whatever it is the women wanted them to do).

What you say is true -- that men are in a more socially-protected position to address transgressions of good manners in public* -- but we can't really speak as to why individual women might choose to remain silent, and it does no one any favors to always assume one way or the other. I've known women in my time who didn't speak up when they wanted to because they were afraid, and I've known women who didn't speak up when they wanted to because they were waiting for a man to do it for them. This is what I mean when I say that patriarchy grants women short-term benefits in exchange for agreement to the social code.

You also seem to ignore the fact that the women in Forktine's story were actively pressing the men to "do something," which in my book counts as passive or active help.

*I do not think gay men canoodling in public is a transgression of good manners, but it's clear that the women in the story did.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:38 AM on November 12, 2009


I guess my problem with the example as described is that, well, there was no aggressive behavior on the part of the men in the story. It's an example, not of man's aggression against man that is egged on by a woman, but rather a person's aggression against another person, in which she tries to take advantage of traditional gender roles to her advantage but fails to do so.

It really isn't that uncommon to meet women who are uncritical of the gender norms they learned as children. It's also not uncommon to meet women who consciously or unconsciously manipulate these norms to their advantage - in the same way that some men will prey on a woman's instinct to be obliging to strangers.

So how is the original example applicable to the topic of this post? It does not disprove the notion that traditional masculinity teaches and values violence/aggression. Is the example intended to argue that most instances of masculine aggression are actually instigated by women? Because I think that's going to need to be backed up by more than just "I see this sort of thing happening all the time!"
posted by muddgirl at 12:25 PM on November 12, 2009


Is the example intended to argue that most instances of masculine aggression are actually instigated by women?

I don't believe anyone said that anywhere in this thread.
posted by hippybear at 12:39 PM on November 12, 2009


That's why I asked.
posted by muddgirl at 12:50 PM on November 12, 2009


It's an example, not of man's aggression against man that is egged on by a woman, but rather a person's aggression against another person, in which she tries to take advantage of traditional gender roles to her advantage but fails to do so.

It certainly is an example of a woman egging a man on toward aggression; the fact that the man refuses to take the bait is irrelevant. Forktine was citing an example in which our expectations of gender roles are blurred, and the typical notion of man-as-aggressor is useless. I feel as though you're reacting as though we're saying that all feminist thought is flawed because sometimes women do bad things too. Which is not the case. Nobody here is saying or implying that "women are just as sexist as men," or that a single example implies that. All we're saying is that gender roles are complicated. Don't worry, this isn't Reddit.

And seriously -- it almost sounds as though you're implying that gender roles only matter when a man is instigating the aggression. When a woman attempts to take advantage of traditional gender roles to initiate aggression or violence against another man, it's somehow simply people at work, without any gender at play. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume there's some piece of information I'm missing.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:27 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm speaking from a place of ignorance , not authority. I guess I am still missing the point or relevance. In my experience, both men and women experience feelings of aggression, but are trained to act on those feelings in different ways. This post is, specifically, about aggressive masculinity? A post about feminine aggression might reference the Girl Wars or the wonderful Mean Girls Grown Up.

In my mind, the sort of aggression described in the example we're discussing is a very typical tactic that many women learn at an early age, and some don't grow out of. Like claiming, "my brother is going to beat you up", women will defer physical violence to the "proper authority" - men. So I am not at all surprised that some women will goad men into "manning up" as their proxy in a situation that may include physical violence, but I don't understand what the relevance is specifically to a discussion of masculine aggression. We are all steeped in a culture with strict but changing norms. Women are as aware of masculine norms as men are of feminine norms.
posted by muddgirl at 1:42 PM on November 12, 2009


I think its relevance is that it speaks to masculine aggression is a lot more complex than Kaufman or I or anyone in this thread has really considered. Sure, men are aggressive because they don't want to be seen as weak, or seen as a faggot, or any other number of reasons, INCLUDING that sometimes women goad men into violent behavior which they would not otherwise engage in. Forktine did say, specifically, that the issue he was introducing was going to complicate the discussion. And it did, although it was not an example which came out of left field or is an outlier, but rather is one which is not at all unfamiliar, at least not to anyone who has spent more than a little time a reasonably rowdy bar. I know I've seen the same concept used as a plot element in movies and television shows. If something is that common, then I fail to understand why it should NOT be part of a discussion of masculine aggression.
posted by hippybear at 2:13 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


anonymuk: I hope you either didn't mean to quote me like that, or just misread, because those were not my views - I quoted them here because I felt they were relevant to this thread, and I was hoping we can have a conversation about where that view comes from, why that is how it seems like to so many people. I saw many women in that AskMe thread getting frustrated, feeling like all the work in the recent big threads about women's experiences didn't take. So I brought it here.

You can say we have refuted them (not sure where), and yet that thread I took the quote from was to me full of that view of gender roles and gender relations - it's a view I have always been seeing here, particularly on Askmefi. And of course all around me in wider society. That is why I brought it up. In particular, the "men are always looking for a quick fuck" view is everywhere, from men and women - if we asked the population, don't you think a majority would agree? I do agree on the it's all related - but it seems it is a whole lot more complex than the relatively simple cause-and-consequence dynamic you laid out. So I thought we could talk about some of it here.
posted by catchingsignals at 2:15 PM on November 12, 2009


This post is, specifically, about aggressive masculinity?

I understand the confusion and wish I could have framed the post differently somehow, but this post was not about aggressive masculinity - at least not just about that. The very first link, the video conversation with Kaufman, was about the whole experience of being a man - the issue of male violence, whether on women or on other men, was if I remember correctly barely if ever mentioned. A significant part of the conversation was about relationships. About why men "perform" for each other. About why men never feel able to talk about so many of these issues. The third link was also largely about relationships, and about fatherhood, and some of the things feminism has achieved for men in releasing them from some of the restraints inflicted on them by patriarchy. Even the second link I feel comes from a place that was concerned with more than just aggressive masculinity - but the patriarchy and the "psychic armour of manhood", and the damage they do to men's lives. I wanted to show that feminism sees men as people, as human beings, not just a source of oppression and violence.

But all this is beside the real point, which to me would be, "Is sexual selection a good indicator of who holds the power in an advanced society?"

See, "who holds the power" suggests that one party or group or gender holds the overall power, and that you are only interested in who can be said to hold the most power, and if we add the power that men have and subtract the power women have than a-ha! There we are, men hold the power. But power travels in so many different directions - and they are all important. Forktine's story was very relevant, and I have quite a bit to say about it, though I can't devote as much time to this thread as I want to right now - I'll try to drop back in later to explain further what I mean.
posted by catchingsignals at 2:48 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would never argue what you seem to be thinking that I'm arguing. I'm responding very specifically to the comment you quoted, catchingsignals, which implies that women "have power" because men want to fuck them all the time and therefore, I presume, will do whatever a woman wants. I'm trying to say that, not only is the premise of the comment completely untrue (that men will do anything to sleep with a woman, 95% of the time), it speaks very specifically to a notion of "power" that I don't understand at all and that no one has explained to me.

I guess this thread is way over my head and I should just unsubscribe.
posted by muddgirl at 3:23 PM on November 12, 2009


catchingsignals: "anonymuk: I hope you either didn't mean to quote me like that, or just misread, because those were not my views"

Whoops sorry, I didn't mean to quote you like that and I know you didn't write it. My browser has the mefi quote script, so I just clicked "quote" without thinking twice.
posted by anonymuk at 3:33 PM on November 12, 2009


For me, the difficulty with the term "Patriarchy" is the way it frames the discourse: The problem is male and the solution is female (feminism), idealised almost to the level of Greek gods. I'm certain that this is the way that a number of people passionately feel, and far be it for me to tell them they are wrong. But I'd like to suggest that this dichotomy is simply one frame, and if we limit the way we see the world by relying on one frame (especially one that colours the discourse so fundamentally), we are giving up the possibility of seeing the way the world might actually be in exchange for a familiar and reliable vista.

I don't have any spectacular stories of violence and oppression that result from growing up male, just an innumerable quantity of papercuts. But considering these, that responsibility for these could be put solidly in the hands of men, or maleness or The Male rings false. Everybody is involved, everybody is responsible, no one is innocent.

When I consider all the different ways I've seen of being male, I'm amazed at how many of those men are rendered invisible in the culture I'm living in.

Bah. I should go to bed.
posted by Grangousier at 4:30 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is the example intended to argue that most instances of masculine aggression are actually instigated by women?

No, of course not. I'm plenty ignorant, but that would be a step too far even for myself.

What I was trying to illustrate, however, is that male on male violence, and particularly the type of male on male violence that Hippybear discussed (the kind where there are fears of, accusations about, or otherwise overlaps with queerness), women sometimes are involved as enablers and inciters.

It's not an attack on feminism, and it's not an attempt to take any blame off of the men involved. My point is simply that in real life, some forms of violence are really complicated.

Just that: that it's complicated, and a good discussion needs to allow for that complexity. I think that feminist writers have given us a really nuanced language for discussing issues faced by women in society, just as queer theorists have for LGBT issues. That nuanced language hasn't really arrived for discussing men and violence, or if it has I haven't learned it yet.
posted by Forktine at 4:56 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I use the word "patriarchy" a lot, but Grangousier makes a lot of sense. There are a lot of MRA-type jerks out there, but there are also a lot of men who sincerely want to be part of the solution while maintaining a discourse that recognizes the complexity of the situation, and right now it's really hard to find (a) a place for those men to gather and have a space of their own, in which they can express themselves without fear of being targeted for poor choices of words, and (b) a better selection of words to choose from.
posted by hifiparasol at 7:02 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not an attack on feminism, and it's not an attempt to take any blame off of the men involved. My point is simply that in real life, some forms of violence are really complicated.

I think part of the problem here is that the irrational backlash against feminism is so strong, and so pervasive, that many feminists have become sort of defensive about things like this. What's more, self-described feminists who are sex-positive and inclusive and who understand nuance and complexity don't seem to be heard or spotlighted as often as self-described feminists who do shit like organize PUMA rallies during the '08 primaries. So consequently a lot of well-meaning men (probably, myself included) get defensive and mistrustful as well.
posted by hifiparasol at 7:11 PM on November 12, 2009


I think that part of the problem is the "nuanced language". If the discussion is going to reach the majority of men, covering it in jargon is a great way to hide it. Most people aren't college-educated, most people don't read, most people don't read things with any kind of jargon, most people that read something with jargon are reading about a hobby that interests them. And yet, they also deserve to be part of the discussion and need to be part of the solution.

The whole thing needs to reach the traditionally toxic male environments - the army, the police, the locker room, the prison. It needs to find its way into Maxim and Men's Health, not just as an article, but as an editorial policy. And it needs to be embraced, not just accepted. Has anyone NOT seen someone roll their eyes while saying the word "diversity seminar"? Or NOT heard someone say "Oh, we're not allowed to say ________ anymore"? That means the message is not getting across.

How to do that beats me, but getting the message across to a bunch of nice kids in liberal colleges -- "dragged along by their girlfriends" as he said in the video -- strikes me as not quite right.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 7:39 AM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


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