men, masculinities and gender politics

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“Feminists just need to be ‘nicer.’” Oh yeah? I call “Bullshit!”

 
I keep hearing the same assertion:

More men would support feminism if only...

... if only feminists were nicer to us and didn’t make us feel so defensive all of the time!

... if only feminists were more welcoming!

... if only feminists reassured us over and over and over again that they don’t hate all men!

... if only feminists do not emasculate us!

I call “Bullshit!”

To all of that.

And here’s why:

“Nice”:  Most feminists are already nice.  Incredibly, wonderfully, unbelievably nice.  Even to us men.  Even though we men try to exert control over women’s sexuality.  Over their political participation.  Over their very bodies.  Over how and even whether they give birth.  Over whether they can even access birth control  -- a need that too often falls solely to women because far too many of us men never give even a second thought about the possible consequences of that last (or our next) ejaculation.

Hey!  It felt good in the moment!

(Oh, by the way, was it good for you?)

So why do so many men want feminists to be “nicer”?  Because “nice” women make no demands.  “Nice” women don’t make a fuss.  “Nice” women don’t say: “Go get your own damn beer.”  And “nice” women do as they’re told.  Domestically.  Politically.  Sexually.  And that’s the way all too many of us men still like it.

“Nice” never won any struggles for freedom.  And we men know that.

And as for feeling defensive, if we as individual men aren’t doing anything wrong, we have nothing to feel defensive about.  As the old saying goes: “If you feel attacked by feminism, it’s probably a counterattack!”

On the other hand, if you are doing something wrong -- something that hurts or ensnares women -- stop it.  Now.

“Be more welcoming”:  Guys, just how much more welcoming do feminists have to be?  For years and years feminists in the anti sexual and domestic violence movement have been asking, pleading, demanding, begging, screaming that we men get involved.  The doors are wide wide wide open.  Feminists have places empty seats at the table that are just waiting for our arrival. 

The women are welcoming us, guys.  Wholeheartedly. 

What is it that they do not welcome?  When we men take over the meeting.  When we take over the event or the program.  When we interrupt them.  When we ignore them.  When we do not consult them.  When we fail to check our patriarchal baggage at the door.  They want us to be there in our full humanity, dammit!  Not wearing our patriarchal masks.  They want us.  Not some masculine robots.  We are welcome.  But our bullshit isn’t.

“Reassure us that you don’t hate men”:  Over the years I have interacted with hundreds -- probably thousands -- of feminists.  And I have never met a feminist who hated men.  Okay, honestly, maybe I’ve met one or two.  (And those women had damn good reasons to hate men!)  But those women were outliers.  Extreme exceptions.  In my experience feminists are almost unbelievably forgiving of men.  (A lot more forgiving than we men tend to be!) 

And we men need to be clear on this: Hating the fact that men far too often use our penises as weapons with which to brutalize women is not the same thing as hating all people who happen to have a penis!  And we need to stop believing the words of the rapist who told us that lie -- the lie that feminists hate men.  No.  Not at all. 

And a lot of feminists -- unlike me -- don’t even hate rapists!   They just hate rape.   

(Me, I hate rapists.)

And if you have encountered the extremely rare feminist who doesn’t like men, let me ask you this:  Since when did you start letting one person’s hurtful comments or hostility toward you determine your life choices? The coach who said you were too uncoordinated to play?  The teacher who said you were too stupid to learn?  The girlfriend who said you were no good in bed?  None of those things are pleasant to hear.  They hurt a lot.  But after hearing them, did you stop playing sports?  Stop going to school?  Stop having sex?  No?  Then why are you letting one feminist’s (presumed) hostility determine how you choose to walk through the world?  Why are you letting one person’s comments determine whether or not you become an ally in the struggle for justice for women?  Are you really going to give away that much power to someone else? 

“Do not emasculate us.”  Can I ask you something?  What the fuck does that even mean? 

Because according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to emasculate is “to deprive of strength, vigor, or spirit: weaken” or “to deprive of virility or procreative power: castrate.” 

Never in my life have I seen a feminist try to deprive a man of strength, vigor, or spirit.  Never have I seen a feminist try to deprive a man of virility or procreative power.  In fact, the heterosexual feminists I know all very much like their guys having strength, vigor, spirit, virility, and (very often) procreative power.  They like their men strong....  strong enough to keep up with them!

What feminists do not like is men who attempt to use our strength to dominate women.  To control.  To oppress.  To fence them in.  To hold them back.  To clip their wings.  They want to fly.  And they are asking us men to fly alongside them.  Let us soar together!

But if your sense of being a man -- of being “masculine” -- is based on dominating and controlling women, well then your masculine identity is built on shifting sands.  And guess what?  Those sands are shifting!  Fast!

So the choice is clear:  are we as men going to continue to cling to our increasingly-eroding position of social, political, and economic supremacy over women, fighting a losing battle to keep them down -- a war of attrition that will exhaust us all but from which women are ultimately going to emerge victorious?  Or are we ready to drop our antiquated masculine supremacist ideologies and join women as full partners in their struggle for liberation?

Do feminists need to be “nicer”?  No.  They are plenty nice already.

But what we men need to do is to stop making excuses for not getting involved in fighting for justice for women.

The equality train is leaving the station. 

So get on board or prepare to get run over!

Seeking permission to quote

Bill: would you mind if I quoted some of this article on facebook?

If so, how would be the preferred way to quote your article. There is no link to draw clicks back here, so I don't know if perhaps you don't want general internet traffic coming back here, to avoid trolls. If that's the case, I could quote you by name without mentioning the site.

You make such an obvious point, that is very relevant to some conversations I've had recently, that I would love to be able to post part of your article to see if I can start a discussion.

Thom Kulesa