Here is a thought: if you present the concept of “Ask the Feminist” and someone asks said feminist a question, it would make more sense to actually post the person’s question than leave it sitting in moderation.
I do understand that The Good Men Project is a feminist space only interested in non-critical, positive discussions about feminism and feminist theories about masculinity. That will naturally preclude non-feminists from the discussion. However, most men are not feminists. If one wishes to have an open discussion about men and masculinity, one needs to include non-feminist voices.
I do not follow GMP enough to know exactly what goes on there, so I had no idea that GMP started an “Ask the Feminist” thread in which people could pose questions to HeatherN and she would answer them. I happened upon the second set of answers through a Google Alert. I skimmed the original post, but read the comments. There was an exchange between Mike L and Heather that caught my attention:
Mike L: Why isn’t it a problem that women, often acting in “women only” spaces are trying to define masculinity? [...] Even if it’s noble for feminists to try and create “new masculinities,” shouldn’t they be ceding leadership in such discussions to men, and taking on the “supporting role” that they advocate for male allies in discussions of women’s roles? It seems like feminism is awfully interested in getting men out of discussions on the status of women, but then also very interested in discussing the status of men without a lot of concern about the level of male input.
HeatherN: So first, the question of whether feminists should “cede leadership in such discussions to men” kind of misses the part where I mentioned how a lot of men are feminists. You ask about male input: my Twitter friend I mentioned is male, that TEDx video is done by a man, Justin Cacsio is a man…a bunch of people I mentioned in the first set of answers are men. Hugo Schwartz just wrote a little blurb here about male feminists [...]. So, feminism definitely isn’t ignore men’s input. Feminism and men aren’t separate…well, I mean, they’re as separate as feminism and women. Feminism and gender studies are about examining gender…and “man” is also a gender.
Mike L: I don’t feel like my questions got answered. The base question was: “Why are feminists comfortable defining masculinity in spaces that often don’t include male voices?” The answer to this is not “There are some spaces where men speak about masculinity.” That answer doesn’t address those spaces where there aren’t male voices, which was the source of the question. In Law School we call that “fighting the hypothetical.”
HeatherN: Unsurprisingly, a lot of the discourse about masculinity within feminism is written by feminist men. [...] Everyone else who is coming to mind right now are men (Michel Foucault and William Pollack are the academics that come to mind, and Jamie Utt, Hugo Schwartz [sic], Justin Cacsio, Jackson Katz, and Ill Doctrine are the bloggers and activists that come to mind). [...] Generally from what I’ve found, feminists are always trying to find new ways to get men MORE involved in talking about masculinity. That’s kind of the key to it all anyway…men rethinking their gender.
I agree with Mike that Heather did not answer his question. In light of that, I posed a question of my own: Then perhaps the proper question to ask is why are feminists comfortable defining masculinity in spaces that often do not include non-feminist male voices? After all, the vast majority of men are not feminists. Defining masculinity based on the opinion of feminist men makes as much sense as defining homosexuality based on the opinion of gay people [who] participated in conversion therapy.
Currently that question is sitting in moderation. I do not expect it to be answered, however, I think my question is closer to Mike’s point: feminists seem fine discussing and defining masculinity without men’s input. The only input they are willing to accept either comes from a female feminist interpreting men’s experiences through a feminist lens, as bell hooks did, or via male feminists who express an open antipathy towards men and masculinity, like Jamie Utt, Hugo Schwyzer, and Jackson Katz.
Feminists do not appear to welcome non-feminist male voices. Even HeatherN and other feminists’ responses on GMP to these questions skirt around the non-feminist male voice.
That is rather odd considering that most men are not feminists. As I noted in my comment, many feminist men’s attitudes towards masculinity are akin to so-called “ex-gay” people’s attitudes towards homosexuality. They are far from positive, and often rely on a caricature of masculinity. Why should those voices take precedence over non-feminist voices?That question reminds me of the book Knights Without Armor.
In the book, Aaron Kipnis offered a positive reflection on masculinity, something I have never seen from any feminist. Kipnis does not dodge the flaws of masculinity, however, he does put them in perspective in the way that men relate to them, not through an ideological lens.That is the missing aspect of feminist analysis of masculinity. Kipnis did not start with the view that masculinity is an inherently oppressive system specifically designed to deny women their rights. Yet that tends to be the feminist view, which is why feminist analysis of masculinity typically offers no real insights for non-feminist men. It is akin to explaining that violence happens because of Original Sin. Catholics and Catholic-leaning people will find that very enlightening, but it will be useless to everyone else, particularly non-Judeo-Christians.
What I would have like to have seen, and what I will not see, was Heather actually addressing Mike’s point. Even if feminist men discuss masculinity, they still operate under an ideology designed around and focused specifically on women’s needs and concerns. In other words, they still approach and define masculinity from a female perspective. As Mike asked, should they not cede leadership in such discussions to men, taking on the “supporting role” that they advocate for male allies in discussions of women’s roles?