“Advice” From Two Grizzled Old Feminists

I spotted this post on Feministe yesterday:

Recently, a friend and I were discussing ways to get men invested in ending gender oppression. We realized that we have some information that you (yes you!, dear reader of Feministe) might benefit from.

Clearly, while it isn’t what I would call easy, bringing women to this work is a bit easier, and probably more intuitive. Women and non-gender conforming people are the obvious “losers” in patriarchy, facing sexual violence, a lack of institutional power and personal agency, and a lot of generally crappy stuff that I assume most readers here are familiar with. But men are told they are benefiting from patriarchy. In fact, within that closed system, with no vision of what life might be like if no one had to be the loser, men do have a better quality of life than women in many ways. So it can seem like patriarchy helps them out.

It is a very rare individual who simply wants to give up their power because it’s “fair.”

My friend and I have both been organizing around feminist issues (and doing a lot of educational work specifically with men) for over a decade now. Through a rather torturous experience of trial and error, we’ve started to see a pattern of successful vs. unsuccessful approaches when it comes to involving men.

The Left has never been particularly good at mentorship and leadership development. I’m sure lots of activists knew this stuff before us, but no one ever shared it with us. We had to learn the hard way. That sucked. Perhaps you would like to avoid it?

The blogger goes on to give a two-step program to convince men that they unfairly benefit from “patriarchy” and only feminism can wash away that particular original sin. The tone of the post carries the typical air of infallibility, along with the usual rhetoric that appears in feminist writings. The post also contains the usual appeal to feminist authority, this time citing Anne Fausto-Sterling’s debunked writings on “feminist biology.”

The method suggested is exactly the same thing the religious right employs to combat any encroachment on traditional family values, specifically against homosexuality. Blaming and shaming people for their own pain is never a good tactic, nor is it very wise to attempt to deceive people whose trust one wishes to gain. Given the baggage feminism carries with men, particularly the misandry and androphobia that is commonly part of feminism, the best means of discussing the issues men face would be to actually address the issues from men’s perspectives. In this way, one is more likely going to find common ground, and that common ground is more likely going to make those men open to listening to one’s positions.

However, if the ultimate goal is to get men to focus solely on women’s issues by pretending to care about issues that affect to them, it will backfire incredibly fast and incredibly badly because few people are capable of sustaining such a deception  sufficiently enough for their ultimate goal not to seep through their rhetoric. To this point, if one were speaking of the issues men face and then suddenly jumped to men raping women, the average man would catch one’s intention and likely stop listening. The reason is because he is not a woman, so talking about female rape does not affect him unless one contends that all men are rapists. It would be more prudent to discuss male rape, particularly considering that 1 in 6 males will be victims of sexual abuse by 16 (40% of which is committed by women, which often has a far worse effect). In this way one could make a comparison for those experiences and make a broader point about society’s treatment of sexual violence. It would be wise, however, to avoid placing blame solely on men by resorting to untested, unproven and unquestioned feminist theories such as “patriarchy.”

In short, if one lost the attempted indoctrination, one might be able to have the conversation with men one wishes. If one does not, the effect will be the equivalent of the religious right trying to convince gay people adopt their faith.

17 thoughts on ““Advice” From Two Grizzled Old Feminists

  1. Hello Toy Soldier,

    It is clear that you are dealing with a lot of pain. I do wonder why you think feminism is responsible for that pain.

    As a feminist, I think that patriarchy hurts men quite a bit, and am very interested in helping men. For example, I’m sure you’ve faced a lot of pressure from both men and women to deny your emotions because that is supposedly how to “act like a man.” I’m sure you’ve had to deal with bullies, both male and female, who have bought into the idea that being uncaring, dominant, and even physically abusive is “strong” and “better” than being nurturing and caring. I’m sure you’ve had to deal with the way that men’s socialization to avoid intimacy often means that the men we love (fathers, friends, etc.) are distant, and don’t express that they love and appreciate us in the ways we wish they would. I’m sure you’ve had to deal with women who treat others badly because their parents never valued love.

    I’d encourage you to re-evaluate whether that stuff is caused by feminism.

    However, if the ultimate goal is to get men to focus solely on women’s issues by pretending to care about issues that affect to them, it will backfire incredibly fast and incredibly badly because few people are capable of sustaining such a deception sufficiently enough for their ultimate goal not to seep through their rhetoric.

    I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “women’s issue.” An issue that affects women affects everyone. Same with an issue that affects men.

    Feminism is about helping everyone. Men included. You included. I do feminist work because I love people, not because I’m trying to take something from you.

    I wish you all the happiness in the world.

  2. Ashley,
    47 years of misandric deeds by those who espouse feminism (for my crime of bearing a Y chromosome) speak so loudly, that I can no longer hear your words.

  3. “Feminism is about helping everyone. Men included. You included.”

    But first, you must acknowledge that you are unfairly privileged by Patriarchy– and your role in perpetuating it– and only then will feminists accept you.

    Provided that you put women first and yourself on the back burner, of course.

  4. Why, falkenberg, what EVER could you be talking about?

    Feminism is always good and always right. How can you possibly take issue with those who are always good and always right?

    You must hate women.

  5. I’m glad that you came over hear Ashley because frankly I don’t feel comfortable trying to speak up over at Feministe.

    The thing is I myself (perhaps TS and others feel this way but I’m not sure) have been burned by feminists when it comes to talking about issues and when we bring these things up feminists tend to go on the defensive proclaiming that they didn’t cause those things and that they don’t perpetuate them (think about how feminists point out how men get defensive when talking about the patriarchy).

    In some cases feminists are responsible for the things that TS talks about.

    First off feminists would make much more lead way with men if they would stop trying to make men accept that they have privileges and advantages that can’t even be proven (by virtue of claiming that it is a male privilege to deny the existence of male privilege). As someone pointed out in the Feministe post pointed out you can’t force someone to accept a reality that does not fit their own.

    When talking about false rape accusations the usual feminist stance is to quote that 2% of accusations are false (yet I’ve never seen a single one actually cite where that number comes from), claim that the real victims of false accusations are the victims (they usually say women) that will be too afraid of not being believed to come up which completely ignores the suffering that those men go through, then come back with female rape victim stats as if its a waste of resources to acknowledge false accusations.

    When it comes to male victims of DV the usual feminist stance is to claim that they are concerned with all victims of DV (while only talking about male vs female DV), state the most DV is male against female, and claim that MRAs pointing out who male DV victims are silenced is not doing any good (along with insulting the MRM at every chance they get while crying foul when MRAs do the same to them).

    And ultimately most feminists stand by the belief that women come first. That’s fine well and good but how can you on one hand expect men to believe that feminists are interested in helping them while on the other whenever an issue that comes up that affects men it is treated as an afterthought, if the affects on men are acknowledged at all.

    I personally think that if MRAs and feminists could join on a united front shit would start happening big time. However such a thing will likely not happen since there is so much finger pointing, ad hominen-ing, and bickering coming from both sides (while claiming only the other side is doing it while they are the ones trying to bring real equality).

  6. Ashley,

    Welcome to my blog. You wrote:

    As a feminist, I think that patriarchy hurts men quite a bit, and am very interested in helping men. For example, I’m sure you’ve faced a lot of pressure from both men and women to deny your emotions because that is supposedly how to “act like a man.” I’m sure you’ve had to deal with bullies, both male and female, who have bought into the idea that being uncaring, dominant, and even physically abusive is “strong” and “better” than being nurturing and caring. I’m sure you’ve had to deal with the way that men’s socialization to avoid intimacy often means that the men we love (fathers, friends, etc.) are distant, and don’t express that they love and appreciate us in the ways we wish they would. I’m sure you’ve had to deal with women who treat others badly because their parents never valued love.

    I’d encourage you to re-evaluate whether that stuff is caused by feminism.

    The notion that an ideology designed to change people and society cannot have any ill effects is not very truthful. Any ideology can cause negative results, intentionally or not. However, in regards to feminism, the issue is not just the causation and perpetuation of those ill effects, but also the denial that they even occur. For example, there is no feminist discussion of how women and feminists perpetuate the silencing of men and boy’s emotions. The common refrain from women is “act like a man” and the common refrain from feminists is “stop whining about teh menz.” There is no feminist discussion of female bullies, nor is there any discussion of female violence. Male homosociality, i.e. male bonding, is more typically vilified and often sexualized by feminists than it is heralded. Male-only clubs, organizations and groups are framed as inherently sexist, even when these clubs exist between male friends.

    All of this filters down because feminists have a largely unchallenged voice in our society. In some instances feminists are the source of the problem. In others they simply perpetuate it. However, at no point do feminists attempt to view the situation from men’s perspectives, not to find out what the issues actually are or specifically what it is that men and boys want. To the contrary, feminists seem to tell men what the issues are and cite feminism as the resolution without truly understanding the dynamics at play. Worse yet, feminists openly marginalize and vilify men’s organizations that try to address those problems as misogynistic. Ultimately, that only exacerbates the issues, not resolve them.

    Feminism is about helping everyone. Men included. You included. I do feminist work because I love people, not because I’m trying to take something from you.

    I mean no offense, but actions speak louder than words. There are many ideologies and political movements intended for “everyone.” Yet in practice, they tend only to help specific groups of people, usually at the expense of others. If feminism is about helping everyone, why do so feminists support equal parenting efforts? Why do so feminists support the creation of shelters and services for male victims and in the interim the extension of existing serves to male victims? Why do so few feminists support changes to school curriculum so that boys do not struggle to pass classes? Why do so few feminists support challenges against the misandry that exists in our society or acknowledge the privileges our society extends to women? Many more questions abound, all revealing that feminism is not actually about everyone. It is specifically about women.

    And that is fine. As a political movement, feminism has no obligation to address every social problem. However, when the ideology is framed as doing so, despite only addressing issues that relate to women (in some instance completely fabricating or grossly exaggerating problems).

  7. It seems that Ashley has used the “what about teh menz.” argument in the past.

    Mike, I recognize that your pain is legitimate, but I do hear what you are saying as “what about teh menz.” I understand that it is unintentional, but you are attempting to direct the conversation away from holding men accountable for violence, away from men’s violence against women, and toward men as victims. Focusing on men’s victimization is sometimes important, and sometimes a way to direct attention away from male privilege and male violence.

  8. @Ashley…

    I am connected to the sexual assault counselling network run by my state government.

    Those centres which operate according to the feminist belief sets you adhere to are also the centres which refuse to help male victims. Furthermore it is frequently noted by professionals within the broader service that all political strife in that network can be sourced back to the feminists within it.

    The continuing feminist influence in the field is a hindrance. It does a disservice to all victims. The insertion of class politics distorts treatment regimes for both genders. The continuing community ignorance regarding female perpetrators particularly is buttressed by feminist theorising and continually reinforced by their gender specific advocacy.

    Furthermore you are NOT qualified to speak to the issue of male victims to begin with and I will thank you to refrain from demonstrating your ignorance in future.

    On these issues, Ashley, your help and that of other feminists is no longer required nor is it welcome.

  9. You see, TS, Ashley’s comment here is a fabulous example of why I don’t trust feminists: they say different things to different audiences so as to put feminism in the best possible light.

    Ashley comes here and says some truly lovely things– then you go over there and the place is wall-to-wall snark and man-blaming.

    I don’t know what this is. I don’t know if this is schitzophrenia, conscious lying to promote the Party Line, or simply Ashley saying whatever in an attempt to feel good about what she beleives in. But, sorry, you can’t say “feminism is about helping everyone, men included” while elsewhere telling men to shut up. It’s as if she doesn’t even listen to herself.

    And, you will note- she has not returned to respond to anyone.

  10. You won’t believe some of the comments feminists have said to me over the years.

    You would be amazed that so many feminists have actually have agreed with me that family court system is unfair towards men*. Their solution is that men should do more child caring and then they wouldn’t be discriminated against in the family courts. When I point that the person who is the provider for their parther and kids shouldn’t be considered a lesser parent than the person who is doing most of the child rearing………..

    *It never has anthing to do with feminists… It’s always the patriarchy’s fault

  11. Beste: iniquities in the family court system are not feminists fault.

    Feminists, however, fight tooth and nail to protect the iniquities in the system. This is a complete reversal from NOW’s positions on the matter in the 1960s, btw.

    This literally isn’t an issue for the likes of Ashley, of course– the facts on the ground don’t matter. Facts on the ground can be pasted-over with Ashley’s unlimited supply of smiley-face stickers.

  12. For anyone interested, they can view Ashely’s full comment here. What I find most interesting about the response is that rather than addressing Mike’s point, she condescendingly treats him as a whiner and basically tells him that it is perfectly acceptable for him, as a man, to be treated like crap because “them’s the brakes. We’re allies because it’s the right thing to do, not because we want cookies.” It is an intriguing response, particularly given that when feminists do acknowledge men’s concerns as partially valid, they do not seem to do it because it is the right thing to do, but purely for the recognition.

  13. Perhaps she might return to reply, perhaps not. I do not think she is concerned about the issues Gwallan, Danny and I mentioned, so I do not accept a reply. To be honest, I only wrote the post because my comments were removed from Feministe.

    The double-speak is common among any group who considers their views infallible. I am not certain what Ashley’s intentions were, however, I do not think she actually addressed the flaws in her theory that I mentioned. Ultimately, that is the issue. Her concern, or lack there of, for men’s feelings, safety and issues is wholly inconsequential.

  14. “Them’s the brakes” iiiiinteresting response.

    So, essentially, GUILT is the enforcement mechanism to keep men in line. Or so she expects.

    That’s a mighty thin and untenable thread to rely upon.

    They really and truly expect men to do nothing but take orders all day, don’t they?

    There’s a word for that kind of job description SLAVES.

  15. Ashley, I just read your post.

    I’m sure you mean well and you sound like a very caring person. However, the reasonings you give for appeasement from male victims smacks too much of the same talking points many feminists are wont to give out whenever someone questions their ideology.

    I’ve given up on feminism and have seen it for what it truly is now: An ideology for women’s issues only and the advocacy of the feminine paradigm. The latter I can really get behind as championing different ways of thinking is my forte.

    But where feminism now loses me is it’s complete maliciousness in looking at male victims. To you, it’s not. To me, feminism nowadays is so ignorant of the issue it’s not even funny.

    Here’s where feminism lost me:

    1) Men are priveledged from the day they are born.

    2) Any priveledges men possess automatically negates whatever experiences they’ve been through. That goes for victims of female sexual abuse.

    3) Any man who has been through sexual abuse from a female should learn that his trauma is not equivilant to what a female goes through.

    Now, any REASONABLE person would look at those items on the list that your ideology still preaches and find zero inclusiveness of male victims. None of any feminists nowadays recognize this. Even when they do, they brush it off as not an issue and continue on their merry way.

    Not me. Also, Ashley, you’re probably going to say “They don’t speak for feminism”. Well, obviously they do for I don’t hear so much as a hint of protest from feminists. Nothing at all. No attempts to even eliminate this line of thinking from the ideology. Tells you something, doesn’t it?

    To me, the whole “Feminsm is for everyone. Men included” is nothing but a facade to disguise the fact that it’s really about women and women only. Bringing up men’s issues is frowned upon. Any feminist who brings up male issues is frowned upon (though that’s a really rare occurance, limited to maybe a paragraph or two of acknowledgement on a blog).

    If it were for everyone, Ashley, those three tenanments would be eliminated. They haven’t been for years and years.

    Sorry, I just don’t believe what you’re selling me, Ashley. No offense but I’ve heard all of it too many times to accept such an offer.

    Thank you.

  16. Slaves is too loaded a word. The more applicable words for what Ashley seems to want from men is passivity and submissiveness. The irony of what is requested is that it is exactly what feminists like Ashley do not want forced on women. That is one of the major reasons why feminists do not sway men to their movement.

  17. “That is one of the major reasons why feminists do not sway men to their movement.”

    I don’t know where you got that from, it seems that there is a surprisingly high amount of males in feminist circles to me. The reasons being:

    1) They are part of the minority of males who actually benefit from the current feminist society. (ie mating privileges)

    or

    2) They wish to “fit in” by upholding the status quo and not appearing as impolitic.

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