Men and Feminism

21 09 2009

I just discovered a website, XY Online, which is:

a website focused on men, masculinities, and gender politics. XY is a space for the exploration of issues of gender and sexuality, the daily issues of men’s and women’s lives, and practical discussion of personal and social change.

…XY is a pro-feminist website. It is guided above all by a commitment to feminism. XY is intended to advance feminist goals of gender equality and gender justice. XY is intended therefore to encourage men to involve themselves in personal and social change towards gender equality. It inspires men to develop respectful, trusting, and egalitarian relations with women, to promote equitable and liberatory ways of living and being, and to join with women in projects of gender equality and social justice.

It’s run by pro-feminist men which is awesome because we can always use more men to help smash patriarchy! I find it interesting that the website describes itself as a “pro-feminist” website rather than a feminist one.

I’ve had several conversations with many different men who identify as pro-feminist rather than feminist, which brings up the discussion of whether men can be feminists or if they simply are allies to feminism or pro-feminist.

What are people’s thoughts on this? And definitely check out XY Online! I haven’t had much time to peruse it much yet, but my preliminary readings and first impressions have been positive.

Weekend Reads

22 08 2009

Dana Goldstein on the need for a public health insurance plan to provide reproductive health coverage.  Over at The Nation, Sharon Lerner has more on why women need health care reform.

An interesting photo essay that questions and explores what it means to be masculine.  It’s accompanied with an interview with the photographer, Chad States.  The subjects of some of the photos include trans men.

The children’s books industry is a very much white run industry and often children’s books are embedded, subtly and not-so-subtly, with racist undertones.  Read this post on Racism Review about children’s books are very much white-framed and whitewashed.

Here are some thoughts on 18-year old South African runner Caster Semenya whose female-ness was being questioned because she doesn’t conform to traditional western standards of femininity.  Bird of Paradox has more.

Michelle Obama should be allowed to wear shorts without coming under such scrutiny by the media and the public, especially while vacationing at the Grand Canyon.

Being careful with language is very important, especially since language is used to normalize.  There has been much discussion online about language and privilege.  Deeply Problematic takes on being blinded by privilege in these two posts: “Blinded by Privilege”: ableist language in critical discourse and For the Uninformed: Privilege, Perspective and The Little Things That Jab.  Hoyden About Town also has a post on unexamined privileges and unconscious behaviors.

Here is a long but interesting article that contextualizes the use of rape as a weapon of war.  Author Crystal Feimster, a historian at the University of North Carolina, claims that rape was used as a weapon of war way back in the Civil War, which is a new contention.

This one’s more of an uplifting story about a woman in a small West Virginian town, Maria Gunnoe, who took on the coal industry and was victorious.  She was a great community organizer who took action against the coal tycoons and despite threats, harassment and violence, she is not giving up the fight.

Eating meat = Being a man

21 06 2009

Via Sociological Images:


Unsurprisingly, here is another ad that suggests that meat is oh-so-manly! And this is why there are these great Father’s Day discounts in place – so dads can have all the meat he wants to affirm his masculinity.

What we missed this weekend

15 06 2009

Violence against the trans community remains largely prevalent but ignored – Group of Teenagers Attack Trans Woman in Seattle

Up in Canada, Sharon McIvor celebrates her victory over sex discrimination in the Indian Act – Justice for Sharon McIvor and all First Nations women – at last!

The Great Wall of Mainstream Feminism

A sick family business: a father and a son collaboratively ran a rape trade business, WTF?! – Police Arrest Rape Traffickers, Then Book Trafficked Women on Drug Charges

How does the US measure up when it comes to Paid Parental Leave?

And how does the US compare to other countries when it comes to military spending?

Meet D.C.’s Anti-Gay Marriage Crusaders

GLBT Peeps, If You Want Your Rights, Fly This Flag!

Spain – convicted trans woman transferred to women’s prison after 11 years

The Chrysler/Fiat Merger will emasculate the dudes?! Just for clarification – A Car is Not a Penis

Another great post from Renee – Privilege and Ignorance Speak Volumes

Check out Food, Inc.‘s blog, Hungry for Change. See the movie if you haven’t already.

When A Man Stays Home and Takes Care of the Kids…

14 06 2009

The July 2009 issue of Bazaar shows us the catastrophic results of gender role reversal in this photoshoot.

via Sociological Images:

To me, it seems that the shoot is telling us that “Mr. Mom” is incompetant and cheats on his selfish, cold-hearted career-obsessed wife.  It is also interesting to note the way that the homemaker is unappreciated by the breadwinner for his work taking care of the kids.

Check out the captions on the images.  They are quite interesting.

Sociological Images notes two of the commenters’ reactions to the images.  They both made good points, so here are the two comments.

Amber Y. said:

I don’t think that this photoshoot mocks a man’s ability to take care of his kids. Raising (three) children is a lot of work, especially if your partner is not an active participant. Switch roles and what images do we get? An overworked stay-at-home mother and a distant negligent working father – a very common image thrown at us from all angles. What this photoshoot shows me is the dynamic between the hard-working breadwinner and the hard-working family caretaker, and the *lack of appreciation* for the one who watches the kids. “Mr Big gets downsized.” The breadwinner ignores the caretaker in every photo. The message here isn’t that men can’t take care of kids; it is that people who take care of kids aren’t as important.

EKSwitaj replied:

Amber, I definitely see what you’re saying, but if we say that’s the point of the photoshoot then why are the usual gender roles reversed?

I see a few possibilities:

1) Because men aren’t typically expected to take the primary responsibility, it’s easier to imagine a man having difficulties with children and/or considered to be less of an insult.

2) If a woman were shown as having trouble with children it would be seen more as “female incompetence” than as a sign of general difficulty. This is in part because of our typical gender roles and in part because of women being the marked gender.

3) Because of the expectation that women be more nurturing, it is more upsetting to see a woman ignore children than to see a man doing the same. (Women being the marked gender, however, means that it’s more difficult to transfer this into a general statement about breadwinners.)

What do you think?

Monday Blogaround

8 06 2009

Here’s what my feminist radar picked up today:

Harvard to Endow Chair in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies

Republicans Regain Control of New York State Senate

Back to the Future in Torture Policy

15-Year-Old Victim Will Not See Her Rapists Prosecuted

Can a Speech Change the World?

More Bellyachin’ about Sluts!

Pink Sheep Of The Family

To Whom You Are Accountable

Model Choi Jin-Sil sued – for being beaten

Frat Boy Culture, Gender Identity, and Rape

Systemic Racism in Banking: The Wells-Fargo Case

Radio hosts’ hateful rant condones violence against trans children

5 06 2009

Via Alas, A Blog, Womanist Musings, The Huffington Post

On May 28th, 2009, Arnie and Rob from KRXQ FM viciously attacked trans children on their “Rob, Arnie, and Dawn in the Morning” show in in Sacramento, California and also KDOT in Reno.  The attack was in response to the recent story of 8-year-old Kate in Omaha, NE and her parents’ decision to support her transition.  Among the approximately 30-minute long rant were the following comments:

ROB WILLIAMS [11:12]: This is a weird person who is demanding attention. And when it’s a child, all it takes is a hug, maybe some tough love or anything in between. When your little boy said, ‘Mommy, I want to walk around in a dress.’ You tell them no cause that’s not what boys do. But that’s not what we’re doing in this culture.

ARNIE STATES [13:27]: If my son, God forbid, if my son put on a pair of high heels, I would probably hit him with one of my shoes. I would throw a shoe at him. Because you know what? Boys don’t wear high heels. And in my house, they definitely don’t wear high heels.

ROB WILLIAMS [17:45]: Dawn, they are freaks. They are abnormal. Not because they’re girls trapped in boys bodies but because they have a mental disorder that needs to be somehow gotten out of them. That’s where therapy could help them.

ROB WILLIAMS [18:15]: Or because they were molested. You know a lot of times these transgenders were molested. And you need to work with them on that. The point is you don’t allow the behaviour. You cure the cause!

ARNIE STATES [21:30]: You got a boy saying, ‘I wanna wear dresses.’ I’m going to look at him and go, ‘You know what? You’re a little idiot! You little dumbass! Look, you are a boy! Boys don’t wear dresses.’

ARNIE STATES [29:22]: You know, my favourite part about hearing these stories about the kids in high school, who the entire high school caters around, lets the boy wear the dress. I look forward to when they go out into society and society beats them down. And they end up in therapy.

“Allowing transgenders to exist, pretty soon it becomes normal to fall in love with the animals,” they said.

Disgusting.  Absolutely disgusting.  Whether Arnie and Rob are “shock-jocks” or not, this is no excuse for their appalling  behavior.  Trans people face hatred, abuse, and violence daily, and programs such as these serve to condone this violence and bigotry.   This is an obvious display of sheer hatred, cis-privilege, and ignorance.  Arnie and Rob’s tirade condones hate crimes, transphobia, and child abuse.  Their statements spread fake psychological bullshit about mental disorders with no expertise, and attempt to enforce rigid definitions of acceptable gendered behavior through violence and bigotry.

Read the rest of this entry »

Take The Plunge!

3 06 2009

There’s a recent post on Sociological Images about The Plunge, a wedding planning website for men.  The site reinforces heteronormativity and patriarchal gender stereotypes (women are the wedding planners and will turn into bridezillas who will drive you menz crazy!).  The general tone of the site is a guy commiserating with a husband-to-be being all, I feel ya buddy, wedding planning is so annoying but you just gotta pretend you’re into it.

If you click on Why You Need Us, it says:

Here’s the thing about wedding planning: it kinda sucks. It’s frivolous. It’s stressful and wasteful. It makes you play along with a fake smile, bored and bitter, creating the illusion that you give a damn.

Adding to the stress, your girlfriend is wonderful and lovely and all those syrupy clichés, but she’s about to become a bride…who is none of those things. You will soon be confused. You will soon be frustrated. You will soon feel that no one is on your side.

That’s where we come in.

The junk that matters…and nothing more

Instead of giving you the Dos and Don’ts of choosing stationery, we’ll tackle the (often controversial) stuff that matters, like what to do if her father’s a real prick, how to dis-invite your co-workers, how to handle cold feet, how to finesse the murky world of ex-girlfriends, how to save cash, and what counts as cheating at the bachelor party.

You need to know “what counts as cheating at the bachelor party” because after the wedding, (gasp!) you’re supposed to be completely monogamous!  So you better have a swinging bachelor’s party to celebrate (or rather, mourn) your last night as a free, single man.

And then it later says:

We get it. Your fiancée is devouring 87 wedding planning books, magazines, and blogs that all have the chipper tone of “Yaaaayyyy, Wedding!!!” It amounts to wedding-porn. And it makes you sick. So you can just ignore it and check out, right?

Yes and no. True, she’ll do the heavy lifting. But for better or worse, you also have a starring role in this sucker. So even though “real men don’t plan weddings” and “real men don’t need advice,” in this case, you need advice. Think about it like this: if you believe that you don’t need any help, then you’re implying, by logical extension, that you were born with some innate, feminine, inner-gift for wedding planning.

Real men don’t plan weddingsReal men don’t need advice?  Hmm.  So tell me, what does a real man do?  And by telling male readers that if they don’t think that they need help then they are logically implying that they were born with “some innate, feminine, inner-gift for wedding planning”?!  This is utter bullshit!  Cisgender, heterosexual men hate having their masculinity disputed or challenged.  Which is why this website tells them that unless they read it and use it for help, they are feminine.  To reassure them that they aren’t emasculating themselves by referring to the website.

Read the rest of this entry »

We need a Men In Power Club, because those menz don’t already have power

28 05 2009

saltarelliMale privilege is all around us.  By simple birthright, men are automatically more powerful and privileged than women are in society.  But of course those menfolks snatch every opportunity they get to further flaunt their privilege and to snatch onto every last piece of it so that they can maintain it and keep it all to themselves.  How dare anyone, especially those darn feminists, try to call them out on it or snatch it away from them?!

A third year student at The University of Chicago, Steve Saltarelli, just founded a new (misogynist, sexist, Oh no! But what about the men?!!) group on campus called Men In Power.  It’s supposed to “help more men get ahead while raising awareness of the male experience.”  Uh-huh.  Because of course in a patriarchal society, every dude wonders, But what about the menz?!!

In March, Saltarelli wrote a satirical article about the need for a group on campus that would:

spread awareness and promote understanding of issues and challenges facing men today…We would simply advocate for men in the same manner that female groups advocate for women.  Anyone with an interest in both studying and learning from men in powerful positions, as well as issues involved with reverse sexism, may become a member of MiP.

In addition, the Men In Power club would host weekly study breaks/screenings of “movement-oriented films” like 12 Angry Men, Men of Honor and X-Men;  an open-mic night on issues about body image; a barbecuing tutorial; a “Protecting What’s Yours: Drafting a Prenuptial Agreement” workshop; as well as various fishing, hunting and flag-football retreats.

After the article was published, Saltarelli received emails from students who were legitimately interested in joining such a group and so he decided to start a Men In Power club.  (But if the article was written as satire, then Saltarelli wouldn’t have actually been serious about being directly involved in forming it and supporting its formation.)  The mere name of the group reiterates male dominance, a fact of our patriarchal society, and reproduces sexist, oppressive structures that maintain male privilege.  It also suggests that power is something that men lack.

Other feminist blogs have covered this already (see here and here), so I don’t want to repeat what’s already been said but I’ll close with this: Saltarelli, grow up and get over yourself and your male privilege!  Do your homework.

Thoughts on masculinity…

27 05 2009

When I was a senior in high school, I took a Feminist Theory class and we watched Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity, an excellent film by Jackson Katz.  It was the first time I had really thought critically about social constructions masculinity and the normalization of violent masculinity.  Early in the film, Katz says:

The front that many men put up that’s based on an extreme notion of masculinity that emphasizes toughness and physical strength and gaining the respect and admiration of others through violence or the implicit threat of it.  Boys and young men learn early on that being a so-called “real man” means you have to take on the “tough guise,” in other words you have to show the world only certain parts of yourself that the dominant culture has defined as manly.

Masculinity is a topic that really interests and fascinates me.  People generally do not think or talk about masculinity, especially not cissexual, heterosexual men.  Cissexual, heterosexual men are taught from early on that they need to defend their masculinity so that it is never contested.  The greatest insult you can hurl at a man is that he isn’t man enough, that he’s a wuss, a pussy, a sissy, a fag, etc.  These insults are used as a mechanism of social control to maintain patriarchal gender norms.  Meanwhile, the masculinity of LGBTQ men have been, and still are, consistently attacked.

Masculinity is defined and constructed in such a narrow way and today on Yes Means Yes, Thomas writes about the need for cissexual, heterosexual men to start thinking and talking more about masculinity and male sexuality:

To refuse to talk about it, though, is to be a prisoner of the privilege. The common understanding of male sexuality is a stereotype, an ultra-narrow group of desires and activities oriented around PIV [penis in vagina], anal intercourse and blowjobs; oriented around cissexual women partners having certain very narrow groups of physical characteristics.

The dominant idea and representation of masculinity and male sexuality is that of cissexual, heterosexual, white, upper-middle/upper class masculinity – this also describes the main power holders in our patriarchal society.  And Thomas is absolutely right, refusing to examine these narrow, oppressive ideas of masculinity is to be imprisoned by privilege.  Masculinity is not natural – it is a sociocultural bind where boys and men feel like they need to posture as bad boys, as tough guys.

“What’s Good for the Bitch is Good for the Bastard”?

26 05 2009

While I was wandering around in a bookstore the other day, I saw this:


It’s by the two women who brought us the Skinny Bitch books (Skinny Bitch, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven and Skinny Bitchin’), which proclaims “sugar is the Devil” and “soda is like liquid Satan” (Yes, it’s probably not a bad idea to consume less sugar and soda, but is shaming women the best way to go about doing that?).  Skinny Bitch has been a best seller on The New York Times Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous Paperback Best-Seller list for 92 weeks, and has sold  a whopping 1.1 million copies nationwide, according to Nielsen BookScan.  It’s shameful that a book that tells women to “Stop being a moron and start getting skinny” would be successful…It goes to show how much society idolizes and values thinness.

When Skinny Bitch first came out, a lot of my female friends raved about it.  I wasn’t too excited about it, and reading the first few pages was enough to make me put the book down.  It begins with “Healthy = skinny. Unhealthy = fat”.  Not only is that incorrect (healthy can come in different shapes and sizes.  Weight (and BMI) is a misguiding measure of one’s health.)  Being skinny is the desired beauty/body norm, but it does not always mean healthy.  “Fat” is also a subjective term and a social construct.) but it is also very fat shaming.

Skinny Bitch is a vegan manifesto that is very misogynist, fat-shaming, condescending to women, and just terribly misguided in their approach to promoting veganism.  Why can’t women want to try veganism or vegetarianism because they wanted to do so for personal beliefs, their health, the environment, etc. instead of because they were shamed into it?  Why can’t women just feel good about themselves and want to be healthier instead of being shamed by a stupid, condescending book?  But of course, the self-help industry (as does capitalism) thrives on people feeling badly about themselves and the way they look, so the idea of telling someone that they look good, that they are already good enough is simply unfathomable!

And now we have Skinny Bastard which hit bookstores at the end of April.  It is geared towards men and tells them, “Eating well isn’t some ‘girlie’ thing—these Bitches will whip your ass into shape with their straight talk, sound guidance, and locker room language…if you’re man enough to take it.”  This plays right into gender stereotypes – that men are completely independent and individualistic and can’t take/don’t need advice from anyone, especially women.  And it implies that men who can’t get through Skinny Bastard are not man enough.  Here we go with the shaming again – now men are being shamed and their masculinity is being challenged.

Read the rest of this entry »

Women and Weightlifting?

12 05 2009

A friend and ally sent us a link to a post he recently put up on his blog about women and weightlifting that asks “Are Women Oppressed in the Weight Room?” This is a topic that I have honestly not given much thought before, so I’m grateful that he brought this to my attention.

He writes:

But when we think of “strong women” and “iron ladies”, it is all about strength of character, willpower, and spirit. It’s Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir and Angela Merkel. But why is it not women like Aneta Florczyk?

It’s interesting… physical strength is an attribute that women are not supposed to have. The ideal female physique is socially constructed as thin and delicate. In “feminine” sports, female athletes tend to be small and thin even if they do have muscles – look at figure skaters, swimmers/divers, gymnasts, and dancers. Physical strength, and having big, strong muscles, just isn’t feminine.

The fact is, women are oppressed in the weight room. To even get there, a woman has to overcome the discouragement of her peers and family members, the insecurities about her femininity, the intimidation of stepping away from the elliptical machines to a part of the gym where there are a lot of big, sweaty men. When she gets there, she have to deal with the jeering and mocking of guys who hit on and patronize her, treating her like she don’t know what she’s doing, offering to “spot” her when she’d rather just be left alone. There’s a system here that keeps women weak, and by definition less “useful” than men, whether or not it was designed with that intention in the first place. What else are you going to call a society that makes it acceptable for men to be physically strong, and not women?

I hesitate to use the word “oppressed”, though… According to feminist scholar Marilyn Frye:

The root of the word “oppression” is the element “press.” The press of the crowd; pressed into military service; to press a pair of pants; printing press; press the button. Presses are used to mold things or flatten them or reduce them in bulk, sometimes to reduce them by squeezing out the gases or liquids in them. Something pressed is something caught between or among forces and barriers which are so related to each other that jointly they restrain, restrict or prevent the thing’s motion or mobility. Mold. Immobilize. Reduce.

The mundane experience of the oppressed provides another clue. One of the most characteristic and ubiquitous features of the world as experienced by oppressed people is the double bind – situations in which options are reduced to a very few and all of them expose one to penalty, censure or deprivation.

The experience of oppressed people is that the living of one’s life is confined and shaped by forces and barriers which are not accidental or occasional and hence avoidable, but are systematically related to each other in such a way as to catch one between and among them and restrict or penalize motion in any direction. It is the experience of being caged in: all avenues, in every direction, are blocked or booby trapped.

Read the rest of this entry »

Too masculine for diet cola? Here’s Pepsi Max!

12 05 2009

Oh dear god.  Via I Blame the Patriarchy:

pepsi max

These are advertisements for Pepsi Max.  The slogans say:

“The first diet cola for men.”

“0 calories. Great taste. Welded together.”

“No gut. All glory.”

“Save the calories for bacon.”

So the take aways from this cluster of Pepsi Max ads are:

1. Men are too manly to drink diet soda, unless it’s Pepsi Max.

2. Manly men eat lots of bacon. (Gross…but that could just be me…I’m a vegetarian.)

3. Being health-conscious and worrying about one’s weight or appearance is a strictly feminine thing, which is why Pepsi Max exists – so that men can actually care about their health and appearance without being embarrassed and seeming too girly.

Twisty also makes a good point:

What’s the big whoop? Well, you can’t have a “soda for men” unless “men” are considered a class unto themselves, defined in terms of the bacon-eating, welding, glorious nukular submarine-squashing aspirations that separate them from dainty vulnerable “women.” These ads are jokey, depicting average-looking dudes, but they tacitly allude to the noxious he-man/fragile damsel dichotomy that’s been chapping actual women’s hides lo these many millennia.

True that.

Steven Green Trial Update

11 05 2009

So the spotlight is on former soldier Steven Green who was convicted last Thursday of planning and leading the gang rape of 14-year-old Iraqi girl Abeer al-Janabi and later murdering her along with her family. The four other soldiers involved in this heinous crime, Pvt. James Barker, Sgt. Paul Cortez, Pvt. Jesse Spielman and Pvt. Bryan Howard, have been convicted as well and have been given long sentences. Pvt. Jesse Speilman was sentenced to 110 years, Sgt. Paul Cortez was sentenced to 100 years and Pvt. James Barker was sentenced to 90 years. In his closing arguments, Green’s defense attorney mentioned that the prosecutor offered the four other soldiers involved help getting out on parole in seven years if they testified against Green. As Gail McGowan Mellor writes in the Huffington Post:

In prosecuting the hate-crime slaughter by U.S. soldiers of the al-Janabi family in Iraq, and the gang rape of the teenage daughter, the five men are in federal custody; by the evidence, there is no question that the crimes occurred nor that it was these men who perpetrated them. Should any of the four men already sentenced be so quickly freed in order to nail the fifth, Green — especially if he has already confessed?

Something is clearly not right here… Yes, Green is the ringleader of the gang but the other men involved should be held accountable as well, not let off the hook for simply testifying against Green.  Green being the ringleader does not negate their involvement and participation in the violence that occurred, and since they conspired with him they were active enablers who are just as guilty.  Soldiers should get more than just a slap on the wrist for participating in heinous, violent war crimes.   Gang rape and murder should not be more acceptable and less punishable just because men in uniforms commit them.  They are still despicable crimes and should be treated as such.

The military is a boys’ club and it does much to legitimize and normalize violence and violent masculinity. Green bragged about the violent crimes immediately afterwards to his cohorts, including Sgt. Anthony Yribe who helped the five men cover up their crimes. Yribe not only conspired with these men in helping them hide the evidence of their crimes, but he also chose not to turn Green in or making any official note or report of Green’s confession to gang raping al-Janabi and murdering her family. Instead he simply gave Green an honorable discharge sending him back into civilian life in the US , noting that Green had an “antisocial personality disorder.” When Yribe’s role in this was revealed, Yribe was just dishonorably discharged.  Utterly disgusting.

It is important to constantly examine and re-examine the military and militarization.  When doing so, we need to focus more on just the military-industrial complex – we also need to factor in the politics of femininity and masculinity, dominant American ideology and the myth of rugged individualism, and the scripts of patriotism and citizenship that militarism inscribes in all of us.

Racism and sexism in Runescape?

11 05 2009

I am not much of a video or online gamer but I saw this post up on Sociological Images that presents designs for new characters for the online game Runescape.  These new characters are all supposed to be musicians.

reproducing gender and race stereotypes

It’s interesting to note that the two people of color on the right side are barefoot and their attire seem to suggest tribalism or some sort of primitivism.  This plays into racist stereotypes of people of color being exotic others who are not as advanced or cosmopolitan as westerners are.

Furthermore, to look at gender stereotypes, the women appear sexy and seductive.  This is implied in their stance, smiles as well as their arm gestures (with one hand on their hip and the other held out).  Meanwhile the men appear to be more aggressive with wider stances and their hands in fists.

It’s interesting to read the thread on the Runescape forum as well as the comments on the Sociological Images post.  What are people’s thoughts and reactions?