Saturday, December 5, 2009

We Need Male Feminists!

Allow me to clarify a premise. A feminist in this situation is not a man-hating bulldyke who was once chastised for poor personal hygiene and has carried a grudge since. Instead, a feminist is someone dedicated to questioning and reshaping gender norms and the inequality which they have brought to society.

The role of feminists at present is flawed. In seeking to redefine the role of women the movement has a whole has failed to do a similar thing for the role of men. There is no equivalent movement to shift the archetypal male away from the same position it has held for centuries. The drastic flaw in this is that without doing so, the feminist movement as a whole is crippled because we come to be seen as power-grabbers, greedy, selfish. There's no point in saying "A woman/transsexual/androgynous person/whatever can do anything" when the same is not true of men. How many home-dads do you see for example (though much of that is in the economic sense).

This is a matter of equal opportunity in the work place as much as it is of social expectations. A lot of people say we need more sensitive men without being willing to back that up by offering support and acceptance. To expect that anyone would show emotion which could cripple their masculinity is a flawed premise. Change that masculinity and the rest will follow. The aforementioned support for this needs to come from everyone to everyone else.

As such we need more male feminist, and we need strong male feminist role models. They help to communicate with those men who won't listen to silly, shrill lesbian feminists.

The people who would stand to benefit the most from this shift are gay men. Next up, in my opinion, are male prisoners. From there on it moves to the rest of the population as well. Gay men would be removed from the feminine stigma which plagues them, the idea that they are less male for liking other men. It takes a man to take a man after all.

Prisoners are another interesting topic. The kind of rape culture which was investigated in US prisons (and I don't doubt has been present elsewhere too) I see to be based on power discrepancies and perceived loss of masculinity in the same vein as the loss of power. Redefining said masculinity would greatly help with not only the issue within the prison, but also the reception that taking abuse cases to prison authorities receives.

The benefit would not be exclusive. The entire culture would be stronger and men as a whole would see a lot of positive shift in the direction of a less iron-clad and power-dominated patriarchal structure. The alpha-males wouldn't be so alpha and the definition of male would be different. I imagine it'd help gender relations and self esteem for a lot of people.

One of the major challenges facing a masculinity redefinition is finding a way to state what it is rather than frame it by what it is not. It is not, for example, defining a man because of his ability to cause damage and pain, or to exert power. Is it then maturity and control? Is it language ability? Charisma? If it is not sorting people based on their parts is it sorting them based on something else?

These kind of questions will be argued over by feminist and non-feminists of all genders. And so they should. Any kind of shift like I think is necessary needs to be debated to hell and back first. The change itself will be slow regardless. Generations of feminists have yet to produce a concise answer to the definition of 'female' or get the kind of equality which it strives towards. The kind of forced androgyny we see at the moment I consider almost as inflexible as some of the rigid definitions of the past.

Overriding the whole lot is a question of equality. Contrary to popular belief it is possible for genders to be equal without being the same. The two concepts are not synonymous, it's just that a great deal of care needs to be taken in both legislation and society to separate them. If we must define masculinity it needs to be a flexible definition and will probably be an ambiguous one too. Other people argue for the complete scrapping of any kind of gender structure and archetype because of the problems it causes. That goes for both femininity and masculinity.

For that, we need male feminists to help, and more feminists in general. Stand up guys and be counted.

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