Being a Man: When The Political Is Personal

Originally posted on May 14, 2009

I have been commenting on a thread concerning men ranking other men’s attractiveness. The thread is on a feminist blog, so while there was some acknowledgment of men’s insecurities, there was a quick effort to backtrack from that acknowledgment and ensure that no fault or responsibility was placed on women.

What prompted me to comment were some of the responses to the post that struck me as unsympathetic to men’s experiences and feelings. I found one particular comment ironic given how feminists tend to assume that men should find all women attractive and think that female insecurity is a crisis men should feel compelled to address.

As has occurred far too many times in conversations with feminists, when I tried to present the male perspective as valid I was shot down. As varied as feminists might be, they appear to employ the same tactics when dismissing an unwanted perspective. The conversation quickly devolved into how men rape and abuse women, how women are oppressed and powerless, and how men resort to violence when faced with rejection. When I presented my own experiences with women as anecdotal evidence of some of the ways women behave, it led to attacking those experiences, my opinion of women and finally resulted in completely ignoring the topic at hand.

This is was not unexpected, however, it seems like a odd tactic to use in context to the discussion. One would think that it would be better to listen to men’s experiences rather than brush them aside considering the thread was about how men feel about themselves and how they rank themselves and other men based on the signals women give. The only way to understand what drives men’s insecurities is to hear men describe it themselves, so it would make more sense to acknowledge their feelings and perspectives.

While part of the reason for the unwillingness to do so may lie with its the incompatibility within the feminist framework, a large part of it most likely lies with feminists’, and perhaps women in general, unwillingness to view themselves as part of the problem. As I noted on that thread, people find it easier to fault others, and it is much easier to say that men’s problems lie solely with men themselves and that women play little to no role in creating, perpetuating or exacerbating the problems.

It is a curious position to hold because relationships involve at least two people, so it is not very likely that only one can affect the other. The same is true in social engagements. It is not very likely that only one person can affect the other. It is not very likely that all women or most women are clear in their messages and intent while men bumble along. At some point one would have to acknowledge that women miscommunicate frequently enough for it to constitute a problem, or least justify the plethora of relationship gurus and literature, most of which is geared towards helping women learn — ironically — how to communicate their wants and needs.

Given that, it is all the odder that anyone would push aside the feelings, needs and experiences of men, whether in regards to their insecurities or in regards to how women respond to and treat men. That would seem to be an important thing to acknowledge as people often view their own actions in only a favorable light. Few people are willing to admit that they react badly to rejection or respond badly when approached. From their perspective their behavior is reasonable, if not warranted. Of course, those on the receiving end might disagree. Better still, even when such negative behavior is acknowledged, it is often downplayed. It is an attempt at justification driven by entitlement, and it sounds just as hollow coming from women and feminists as it does coming from men and “nice guys.”

In the end, one could always avoid such conversations, especially if one can predict where they will go and how they will end. However, part of the reason these issues exist is because people do not talk about them and part of the reason why they continue is because people do not validate the other side’s point of view. There is always more than one way of looking at things, and sharing experiences helps demonstrate that. Yet, one cannot force others to see one’s perspective, so in some instances it is more like one is talking to a brick wall than another person.

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8 thoughts on “Being a Man: When The Political Is Personal

  1. Well, at least she managed to remain decently civil, and thet represents growth. You might as well have been discussing paleontogy with a fundametalist.

  2. While part of the reason for the unwillingness to do so may lie with its the incompatibility within the feminist framework, a large part of it most likely lies with feminists’, and perhaps women in general, unwillingness to view themselves as part of the problem.
    That’s because as far as feminists are concerned when it comes to men who are abused, hurt, offended, etc… the last thing they want to hear is the idea that women, as a class not a specific woman or group of women, my be responsible.

    As I noted on that thread, people find it easier to fault others, and it is much easier to say that men’s problems lie solely with men themselves and that women play little to no role in creating, perpetuating or exacerbating the problems.
    And I’ll bet those same people wont think twice about blaming men as a class for the problems of women.

    In the end, one could always avoid such conversations, especially if one can predict where they will go and how they will end.
    Which is what some feminists try to do to men. They have deluded themselves in to thinking that after being oppressed by men for so long they already know everything there is to know about all men who aren’t feminists. And the only reason they listen to feminist men is because no matter how badly they want to address men’s issues they will always bring them up in a manner in which they will blame men for men’s problems no matter how untrue it is. (I guess you can call that self loathing?)

    Over the last week or so at feministing they have been doing a series of posts about men and feminism. It’s almost funny to see them seesaw between saying men need to interact with feminism and making sure everyone knows that men’s issues are on the back burner. And there are quite a few comments of people grandstanding by trying to “call men on their privilege”. It seems to me that feminists want men to only interact with them just enough to get their support and nothing else. I’ve been reading comic books for a long time and I’m pretty sure that ally status is a two way street.

  3. “It seems to me that feminists want men to only interact with them just enough to get their support and nothing else.”

    That’s pretty much the truth, right here. Which is funny, when you think of how often they portray themselves as an oppressed group, yet they seem more than willing to do plenty of oppression of their own.

    In many of my dealings with online femeists, they have shown themselves to be just as callous, dismissive, ignorant and abusive, as anyone they would brand a “misogynist” could be. Of course, they will never see it that way. They strike “blows for justice.” What a load of horse-pucky. Is it any wonder stupid windbags like Rush have such an easy time demonizing them? I mean, when you give your opponent a pre-loaded gun to point at you….

  4. In many of my dealings with online femeists, they have shown themselves to be just as callous, dismissive, ignorant and abusive, as anyone they would brand a “misogynist” could be.
    You forgot hypocritical and arrogant. I personally haven’t come across many feminists offline but I really hope that they don’t all act like a lot the online ones I’ve met. People can say what they want about the difference between online and offline but some of that intent had to be there before they got online in the first place.

    Of course, they will never see it that way.
    You can thank one of their loopholes for that. As far as they’re concerned the things they do aren’t the same as the bad things “privileged” groups do. Oh they will shout from the mountain that they are just as bad but for some reason they do their damndest to make sure their bad things aren’t labeled the same as the bad things that “privileged” groups do. Since they love linking to Finally Feminism 101 so much go there and look up how institutional power fits into the definition of an -ism. In short it absolves them of the label of being -ist while still holding other groups to it.

  5. I personally haven’t come across many feminists offline but I really hope that they don’t all act like a lot the online ones I’ve met. People can say what they want about the difference between online and offline but some of that intent had to be there before they got online in the first place.

    This topic came up frequently on Feminist Critics when the site first started. Many feminists made a distinction between “online” feminists and “offline” feminists, essentially claiming that the former was in no way representative of the other. However, until 2003 my experience with feminists was offline, and they behaved in much the same way. Perhaps not as overtly hostile, but still quite antagonistic, dismissive, callous, hypocritical, abusive and arrogant. Of course, every feminist was not like that. However, I did encounter quite a few who were, thought usually not all those things at once.

    That reminds me of Glenn Sacks’ radio show. He once had Amanda Marcotte on there. She came across exactly as she looks: kind of mousy and quiet. She was certainly hypocritical, antagonistic and dismissive towards Glenn and men’s issues on the show, but she did not behave anywhere near the juvenile way she does online (this does not seem to apply to male feminists; they appear to remain exactly the same regardless of their online/offline status). I think being online and having anonymity changes the way people behave, namely that once there are no social restraints or expectations people will say and do what it is they actually think. Because of that, I am not inclined to believe there is really that much of a difference per se in online/offline feminists and feminism.

  6. “I think being online and having anonymity changes the way people behave, namely that once there are no social restraints or expectations people will say and do what it is they actually think. Because of that, I am not inclined to believe there is really that much of a difference per se in online/offline feminists and feminism.”

    Well, I guess there would actually be two differences:

    1) Online femeists are more openly hostile and antagonistic.

    2) Online femeists are more honest, insomuch as telling you what they really feel (even if they need a user name to hide behind to tell you).

    I have felt, for quite some time, that online has allowed a darkness of the soul, which most people try to keep in check, to run wild and give people an overinflated sense of what they can get away with and a decreased sense in the expectation of the consequences of their actions (i.e. specifically, how they treat other people).

    I also am starting to feel that this is partly why you see so much more violence and lack of simple human decency in the real world. Folks have become so use to saying what they want and treating others however they desire, in their online lives, that it is now spilling over into the world outside the Internet. I mean, from middle-class moms who verbally abuse people on their blogs, to teens who video-record their friends physically beating someone to put up on an internet video site, there is no denying, in my mind, that within the last 20 years, in which Internet use by the general public has gone from almost non-existent to everyday common, there is less sympathy, consideration and mercy in our real world. While I don’t have any hard data to back me up, I certainly feel the connection between how folks act on the Internet and how they interact with people in the “real world” is more than just some random bit of happenstance. Online femeists and how they express themselves are just another byproduct of this ever-growing trend.

    Oh, and just for clarification, my use of “femeist” is not a typo. It is my own little word invention. Pronounced “Fe-ME-Ists,” it is, I feel, a more apt description of the attitudes of many feminists I’ve seen online. Simply put, a “femeist” is a female political idealogue, who cares only about issues that directly affect themselves (and I don’t mean their group, but them as an individual). Femsists do not have friends or even allies. They have supports they can use and enemies. Nothing more. They are resolute in their faith that their ideals and beliefs are the correct ones and anything else is just a form of oppression on women (although, they are the only woman that matters).

    I created this little term, after I saw a big blow-up between feminist who are also women of color and their white counterparts. Their complaint that white feminists only care about feminist issues, as it relates to white women, while ignoring the unique plights and issues of minority feminists, made me to see that, not only is feminism hardly the united front they often want us to believe it is, but that at their core, they are probably among the most selfish-minded people you will ever encounter. Thus, the term “femeist” was born. Just thought you might appreciate the clarification.

  7. “Except for the fact that men aren’t at all dependent upon women’s attention in our society. Men’s power is not dependent on finding a woman in order to survive, or even to have status. Men already have status by virtue of being male (even if they are poor or a POC, they still have status that women do not). Men also still control the majority of the wealth and it’s necessary to have wealth to survive in a capitalist society.

    Women are struggling to be able to live independent of men’s attention while men often feel entitled to women’s attention. It is two different phenomenons.”

    Completely disagree with that. A bit below your comment in that thread, Jacob.

    Men feeling lonely could rob them of motivation, and definitely of status. This is power. See, they lose power by not having a woman, at least if they give it any value (society will anyways, but if they don’t, they’ll be less personally affected).

  8. I am a woman, and have been a shadow reader of your blog for a while, Toy Soldier, and I feel so much more educated on men’s experiences and viewpoints. I do not mean this sarcastically at all. I once identified as feminist, but noticed straight on that so many feminists are quick to dismiss male perspectives and condemn men who do not fit into their own constructed scripts of masculinity. I now say I am egalitarian, because I truly believe all people are equal.

    That said, I personally enjoy reading men’s experiences as men. I am fascinated by gender construction in society, how people react to – reject, dismiss, navigate – the social scripts presented to us based on our physical sex. Just wanted to pop in and say that yes, women contribute to men’s problems as equally as men contribute to women’s problems, but that there are women out there who aren’t female chauvinist apologists. 🙂 Keep on posting great, thought-provoking blogs. 🙂

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