Manliness and Feminism: the followup

[Note: The comments to this post are “feminist only.” If you do not think this blog’s moderators would consider you a feminist, then don’t post a comment here. However, the comments at the identical post on Clarisse’s blog are open to all.]

In late October I posted a three-part series under the title “Questions I’d Like To Ask Entitled Cis Het Men” (Part 1: Who Cares?; Part 2: Men’s Rights; Part 3: Space For Men). These posts kicked up more of a furor than I anticipated, with a bunch of cross-postings and responses on other blogs.1 It all gave me a huge number of new perspectives to synthesize, which is part of why it took me so long to post this followup … but here I am!

I really want this followup to be readable to people who didn’t bother with the initial three posts, so please let me know if I fail!

Introducing myself, and One Correction

Please allow me to introduce myself. I think those posts probably make more sense (as will large swaths of this one) if you know who I am, and they got linked around to so many non-regular readers that most of the audience now doesn’t.

I go by Clarisse. It is not my real name, because I am a sex-positive and, in particular, pro-BDSM2 activist, and being all-the-way-out-of-the-closet about kink can have serious, long-term repercussions for someone’s life (the most pressing for me, right now, being employability: my immediate superiors here in Africa know about my BDSM identity, but the larger rather conservative organization sure as hell doesn’t). Identifying as feminist and pro-BDSM can be really fraught territory — many avowed feminists regard BDSM with suspicion and some, on the more extreme end, with outright hatred. (Famous German feminist Alice Schwarzer once said, “Female masochism is collaboration.” Many feminist spaces have a long tradition of excluding or marginalizing BDSM, like the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, which incidentally did the same thing with trans people. Nine Deuce, a popular radical feminist blogger, has been known to assert that sadists are morally obligated to either repress their sadistic desires or kill themselves. For example.) In her post “Healing My Broken Feminist Heart”, Audacia Ray talks about how much it hurts to identify as a feminist and yet be told, often, that the way you realize your personal sexuality is unfeminist; I’ve been meaning to write a response to that post for ages, because boy do I know how that feels. (I swear, I have the biggest crush on Audacia Ray. I want to be her when I grow up.)

I am Chicago-based in that I lived there for years before I moved here to Africa in order to work in HIV/AIDS mitigation, and I suspect I’ll move back there when my contract ends. In Chicago, I lectured on BDSM and sexual communication, and I created and curated a fabulous sex-positive film series and discussion group that it broke my heart to leave. (The film series was so successful that a group of loyalists gathered, formed a committee, and have continued it without me! Yes!)

My feminist history isn’t very “official”, though I was raised by two very feminist people. For instance, I haven’t read most of the classic feminist authors. My degree is in Philosophy, Religious Studies and Studio Art, not anything gender-related — and when I was in college I remember that I often viewed hard-line feminist assertions with suspicion. I would irritably characterize them as “conspiracy theories”: these people seemed to think there was some secret society of evil men sitting around and plotting to ruin their lives, which clearly was not the case! Ah, youth … :grin: The problem is, of course, exacerbated by the fact that definitions of feminism have become so varied and so many different issues have been attached to feminism by different people.3

In other words, almost my entire gender/sex background is idiosyncratic and self-trained. I certainly can’t hope to match the massive theoretical background that many Internet gender commentators have. And I am very familiar with having my experience discounted and dismissed in a feminist context (“Sorry, BDSM is abuse. Period. If you enjoy BDSM, you’re mentally ill or you have Patriarchy Stockholm Syndrome”). These are some of the reasons I tried to spend my entire Entitled Cis Het Men post series asking questions, rather than making assertions.

The posts weren’t intended to be prescriptive — I don’t have much of an agenda beyond “create more conversations around sex and gender”. There is of course my agenda (shared by almost every human alive) of “convincing people to agree with me” and “getting people to join my cool club or at least admire it from afar”, but I don’t personally have any pressing Grand Policy Goals. One commenter who went by Sailorman over at Alas said, on the third post: I read this thread with interest, but it is of course basically a very extended and well written TPHMT argument? I don’t know what the acronym means, but I’m honestly sort of annoyed by any attempt to boil those three posts down to a single argument, because I tried so hard to make it clear that a single argument was not my intent, with that series. I really am just interested in exploring various and often very discrete masculinity-related questions. No, really, I am. No, really, I am.

There’s just one correction I want to make to my own posts before I continue. In the third one, I failed to make a point that really needed to be made, which is: for women — and for men — any “privileges” they experience are also the flip side of unfortunate stereotypes. But what’s especially pernicious about male privilege is that every aspect of female privilege can be trumped by male privilege. The classic example of this is that yes, I can gain “privilege” by dressing to look hot, but that “power” can instantly be taken away by a man who decides to call me a slut.

So what comes clear from that correction is that, yeah — if we want to boil this down to the Oppression Olympics, I do think women have it worse than men and that America is still more centered around and gives more aggregate power to men. But the whole point of those posts was to evade the Oppression Olympics!

Criticisms!

I’m not going to address all the criticisms raised about my posts (and me), especially not the ones that are:

(a) fairly obvious misreadings (or extremely uncharitable readings) of what I said or even outright misquotes, or

(b) questions that I answered at another point over the course of the 3-post essay, or

(c) statements that “argh women derive some unfair benefits from the gender binary too!”

Here are some assertions/ideas/tendencies I thought were interesting, though:

Toy Soldier made the point that To answer [Clarisse's] question about how to broker discussions about masculinity with men, the best suggestion would be to lose the tone that turns men off. He was referring to the third post in particular, I think, in which I talk about how many feminist spaces are arguably hostile to men, and it might be in the interest of feminists to make them less hostile. In that segment, my language became especially strong: I did things like refer to men as The Oppressive Class, for instance. In part this was meant as mild irony on my part, but in part it was also because my intended audience was feminists4 and I knew that feminists might take some of the things I was saying badly. “You’re a collaborator!” Et cetera. And so I strengthened my “nearly-militant, obviously feminist” tone, in an effort to make up for that: to make it clear that I’m still part of the fold — a feminist arguing in feminists’ interests. Oh, my broken feminist heart.

I agree with Toy Soldier that this may not have been the best tactic. In general, I try to support debating as charitably and with as reasonable a tone as possible, which is something I did not succeed at in Part 3. And yet I think that I did succeed at the goal of “sounding feminist”: even though one commenter at Alas said, I honestly feel this post should not be in a feminist space at all. You can’t say you don’t want to be an “MRA asshole” and then just dole out their erroneous, misogynist talking-points, it’s worth noting that Ampersand — who runs Alas and made the decision to cross-post my stuff — stated: Part of the reason I wanted to guest-post this series is because Clarisse entirely lacks that anti-feminist vibe — not just because she’s a woman (there are female MRAs and anti-feminists), but because her tone rings as genuinely feminist, at least to this reader.

Another comment Toy Soldier posted: While Clarisse may be genuinely concerned with discussing masculinity, it is clear that she is not particularly open to actually doing that because it would require her to dial back her political views and the issues on men’s terms. It seems more that, like many feminists, she wants to define the problem, define the terms, define the rules of discussion and define the solution.

This is partly a reasonable point. I mean, I didn’t propose a solution — I did pretty much the opposite of proposing a solution, in fact: I asked a bunch of interrelated but differently-focused questions. Still, it’s true that I defined some problems, and the terms, in heavily feminist ways. And it may be that if we want to get the ball rolling on widespread discussion of masculinity, we aren’t going to be able to do that without softening feminist edges and feminist slants on the discussion spaces. The issue of who’s to blame — that is, whether this is because feminists have done legitimately alienating things to men, or because men are unreasonably biased against feminism — is ultimately almost beside that point. (The classes “feminist” and “men” really are too broad to reasonably settle the “who’s to blame!” problem, anyway.)

And yet there were plenty of men who answered the posts, emailed me, etc. in the belief that I was writing in good faith and without saying that existing spaces alienate them. Here’s a comment from Richard Jeffrey Newman at Alas:

I confess that, as a man whom I imagine most people would probably define as normative — at least according to the criteria Clarisse has been using in her series — I have trouble with the premise of this question. I have never found feminist discourses around gender and sexuality closed to me. Sometimes difficult? Sure. Does it sometimes make me uncomfortable? Sure. Are there contexts in which it is inappropriate for me as a man to enter into feminist discourse as a “speaking subject?” Sure, but that doesn’t mean I cannot listen and find myself somewhere within the discourse. Do I think feminist discourse is always accurate in the way it speaks about men? No, but that is not the same thing as saying it is closed to me.

So, what spaces do we create?

Daran at Feminist Critics accused me of hypocrisy, saying that some of my statements show that I’m not “really” interested in finding new perspectives or making space for them in feminism. For instance, in one comment I said that I suppose it’s true that men who disagree that men have it better than women are never going to ally themselves [with feminism]. Those aren’t really men that it’s ever going to be easy to communicate about these issues with, though … at least I don’t think so. I’m more interested in how to reach men who agree that men are generally in a more powerful position, and who are interested in describing, but have trouble expressing that agreement because they feel blocked from the discussion by feminists or because they’re afraid of suffering social consequences. To which Daran responded, How much is Clarisse’s demand that the men she addresses agree that men have it better than women a real requirement for finding common ground, and how much is it a shibboleth she’s using to distinguish between those she might be able to find common ground and those she thinks she’s likely to view as assholes?

The accusation of hypocrisy (and the idea that I’m “demanding” anything) pisses me off. So let me be really, painfully, slowly clear over the course of many paragraphs.

I can start by saying that get safe spaces; they are, in fact, extremely relevant for BDSMers. There are a limited number of places where expressing my sexuality is totally acceptable and introducing BDSM into the discussion isn’t taken as a signal that I’m sick, deranged, seeking attention, or attempting to shock. Take BDSM dungeons: different dungeons have different vibes, but they are almost always a cross between a safe space for kinky sex and an alternative sexuality community center. So, for example — given the history of radical feminism and BDSM — I am extremely unlikely to invite a radical feminist into my local dungeon or suggest that she attend a meetup for kinksters.

Yet at the same time, I know how exclusion feels, too. And I want radical feminists to learn more about BDSM. I don’t want to exclude them from opportunities to learn about common BDSM insights into sexuality, consent, etc. However, I sure as hell don’t want them around when I’m trying to pick up kinky dudes, nor do I want them in my dungeon watching me and my partners do our thang. Oh noes! What to do?

Actually, the compromise was easy. My aforementioned sex-positive film series makes a pretty good case study for this, I think (yes! it was actually worth it for you to read my narcissistic and self-serving introduction to this post!). When I started the film series and a related meetup called Pleasure Salon, I characterized both of them as open sexuality discussion spaces for everyone. I promoted them heavily in radical sex communities, and I specifically invited every radical feminist I could think of — not just by listing radical feminists among the target audiences in the invitations, but also by personally calling any number of traditionally second-wave spaces around Chicago. Not as many radical feminists attended as I would have liked, but some did, and I received feedback (in person, by email, etc.) telling me how much I’d changed some perspectives. (The events also drew a healthy population of men, by the way. And they sneakily allowed me to open some folks’ minds on the question of “This is what a feminist looks like …”)

If we’re going to try and make spaces where more male perspectives are gathered and even where more men are “recruited”, I think that’s the way to go about it. Not by trying to repurpose feminist safe spaces (at least not without the consent of the feminists within those spaces), but by finding other ideas — e.g. sexuality — that can serve as a focus for creating a space open to everyone. Those ideas would have to be carefully chosen — it would be very easy to choose a central issue that seems so biased in itself, it turns off the majority of potential attendees. (Of course, to a certain extent this is unavoidable; perhaps because of my BDSM bias, an enormous percentage of Sex+++ attendees have been kinksters. And despite my efforts to reach out to, for example, various liberal churches, Sex+++ attendance from churchgoers was regrettably low.)

As Richard Jeffrey Newman at Alas said: arguments about degree of privilege, etc., definitions of feminism, etc., are red herrings or straw men or whatever the purpose of which — conscious or not — is to distract from discussing the real issues at hand: sexism, patriarchy, whatever. And as a commenter here, sylphhead, said: it looks like we’ll just have to co-exist, and draw on our points of agreement where they exist, and there are plenty, without a wholesale joining hands in a circle. … I can’t speak for all of us “liberal but non-feminist-identifying men” that seem to be your target audience here, but for myself what would help is a light-hearted environment that best simulates a non-anonymous setting.

In other words, I think we can make spaces to discuss these things that are open to everybody, and we can still make feminism only available to people who agree with the basic tenets of feminism. I do not think these things are mutually exclusive. Sure, there are issues that I want people to agree with me about before I invite them to feminist events or define them as a feminist ally, but that doesn’t mean I consider it impossible to have any conversations about sex and gender with them. We just create the open-discussion spaces focused around issues that aren’t “automatically” feminist, and we keep them light-hearted, allowing feminist input and perspectives but other perspectives as well. As long as we are eloquent and open-hearted (and we are, right?), we’ll surely recruit people to our agendas in the process. We feminists may need to prepare ourselves for some tough messages and some disappointment, though, because ….

What will those spaces look like?

Commenter Sam linked to an interesting and relevant comment some dude left on another blog: I’m not sure I think [the problem of how most men can express heterosexual sexuality] is a problem feminists are responsible for fixing. I don’t want to minimize it but it seems that feminism is only the proximate cause of the problem because there isn’t any positive script for male heterosexual sexuality. The fact that the old script is gone can be laid on feminism. But the old script sucked and I’m not sure any movement that challenges a norm or institution should be expected to have a replacement. As a feminist I think it would be a good strategy to have a replacement, in this case. But this isn’t something I would demand of other feminists. And if anyone hear cares about this issue a lot they should spend time coming up with ways to teach boys how to develop romantic relationships that both work and don’t involve misogyny. I’d help.

Recently, Sinclair Sexsmith was writing about masculinity over at CarnalNation and said that, Though I feel very strongly that there is a place in feminism for these experiences and for all of us to be included, I understand the qualms and hesitations. I’ve fought with feminists about the inclusion of queers, trans folks, butches like me who like masculinity, or men themselves. And I firmly stand my ground: I don’t care if you say you won’t let me in. I understand what this movement is trying to do: examine gender and the ways it hurts. I want to be involved in that. We may disagree on the means by which we achieve that goal, but there is room for me in this revolution, in this re-visioning of what gender means. There must be.

Both of these paragraphs — and lots of other evidence I’ve seen or heard of — make it clear that as people come more and more to the conclusion that masculinity needs examining and discussion, people are going to be having those discussions whether feminists are involved or not. And sure, it’s hard to say right now what that’s going to look like. (In my three-post series I said that although I think dealing with abuse issues is an incredibly important potential facet of any masculinity movement, since most abuse is after all perpetrated by men, I don’t think it’s good for a masculinity movement to be centered around abuse. Commenter Sam responded, I have a feeling it will be in one way or another, simply because that’s the way masculinity has been framed by mainstream feminism, particularly radical feminism in the last 30 years. Whether you believe it or not, this is the issue that will be front and center when you’re trying to redefine masculinity.) — But though it’s hard to predict that movement’s shape, the movement itself is certainly gonna happen, it’s already happening, nonetheless.

Yet since overtly feminist spaces are either not going to be welcoming to everyone, or aren’t going to be seen as welcoming by everyone, feminists aren’t going to be able to define the terms of the masculinity discourse. We’re just going to have to create, influence, or attend the discourses held in other places. And if we’re invested in honestly trying to get men’s viewpoints on what manliness means and how to be a man, then we have to prepare ourselves to get some answers that will unsettle us or even come off as unfeminist.

I’m still not sure how to attract lots of men to feminism, to convince them to identify as feminists — or even if we can. But the question of creating conversations about masculinity is separate from the question of attracting men to feminism. And I am sure that if feminists want to influence the masculinity discourse, we have to be open to it. Telling men who disagree with us to go elsewhere and stay away from us is all well and good — but then they’ll go elsewhere. And they may or may not incorporate feminist ideas when they do.

  1. Ampersand over at Alas, a Blog asked to cross-post them: here’s Part 1 at Alas, Part 2 at Alas, and Part 3 at Alas. There are a ton of comments on those three posts, many of them interesting. Also, Toy Soldier wrote a single response, and Daran over at Feminist Critics wrote a response to each segment (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Although there are a lot of aspects to these responses that irritate me, particularly the failure to — you know — even try to answer the vast majority of my questions, I think there were some fair and decent points made as well. The comments are an often-offensive minefield, however, as Daran himself later acknowledged. []
  2. BDSM is a 6-for-4 deal of an acronym: Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism. There’s a lot of stigma, stereotypes and misunderstandings around BDSM; thus there naturally arise BDSM activists who seek to correct those things. []
  3. If you feel that you need evidence for this assertion, I read an interesting paper recently called “Who Are Feminists And What Do They Believe?: The Role of Generations”. American Sociological Review, 2003, Volume 68 (August), pages 607-622. The paper notes that there are three separate papers with the exact title of, “I’m Not a Feminist, But …” and others that work along the same theme. []
  4. The three-post series was originally meant as a contribution to a feminist/radical sexuality anthology. []
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47 Responses to Manliness and Feminism: the followup

  1. 1
    thebritkid says:

    I’d be willing to bet that “TPHMT” stands for “The Patriarchy Hurts Males Too”.

  2. 2
    A.W. says:

    “Many feminist spaces have a long tradition of excluding or marginalizing BDSM, like the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, which incidentally did the same thing with trans.”

    MWMF allows some trans men (which I don’t consider affirming at all) and female-assigned gq people, not trans women. Further, trans is not a noun, it’s an adjective. It’s incredibly, incredibly rude to use it as a noun, at least stick ‘people’ after it.

  3. 3
    Politicalguineapig says:

    The problem is that when you ask men to take an interest in feminism, you run right up against the market theory of rights. And again, there’s the self-interest factor. What benefit does a man get from being a feminist? (Okay, other than the possibility of sex.)

  4. 4
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    @A.W. — Sorry. I’d edit this post, but I can’t, so I edited the original at my blog. [Got it! --Amp]

    I don’t know the details on MWMF’s current policy, but I’ve heard an enormous amount about the history. I know more about past attempts to restrict BDSM than I do about past attempts to restrict trans people; in that respect, I just know that the latter have happened and some activists I know (such as Simon Strikeback) have done stuff around it. My intent was not to say that the trans issues and BDSM issues were the same, just to note that the “interests” are somewhat aligned in this instance.

  5. 5
    sylphhead says:

    I’m honestly sort of annoyed by any attempt to boil those three posts down to a single argument, because I tried so hard to make it clear that a single argument was not my intent, with that series. I really am just interested in exploring various and often very discrete masculinity-related questions. No, really, I am. No, really, I am.

    For the record, I believe you. Again, I really appreciate what you’re trying to do.

    As for the problem of constructing a positive masculinity that’s compatible with your feminist beliefs… I’d say one large barrier that many people understandably can’t get past is that defining masculinity can seem to come very close to defining femininity by proxy, as gender is much closer to a binary than other classifications. (It’s not strictly a binary, of course, what with trans folk and people born with chromosomal anomalies and what not, but it’s still quite close. If not 50/50, it’s 49/49.) We can “define” nationalities, for instance, even if just in a whimsical sense; we’ve all heard people talk about French romanticism or the independent American spirit or, in my case, the Korean dutifulness to family. And even if we find it annoying, I don’t think anyone seriously takes this as saying no non-Americans have independent spirits, all non-Koreans throw their elders into a ditch and all non-French give their significant others gas station roses for their anniversary and pawn their wedding albums. Because there are so many nationalities, to think that one out of hundreds can have the market cornered on such basic human virtues seems silly. But with masculinity/femininity, well… saying something good about one can be taken to imply that the converse negative is true of the other.

    I don’t think that it necessarily has to be this way, though, but I don’t know how to properly communicate that to those insist that it does.

    Anyway, you seem genuinely interested, so I’ll ask, as a jumping off point, what’s one example of what you’d consider a uniquely male experience? Actually, it doesn’t have to “unique” at all, just something males of our species experience more on average, and notice I said “experience”, not necessarily a “problem”. It doesn’t have to be all that meaningful – in fact, I’d prefer that, to something heavy-handed and potentially incendiary.

  6. 6
    Silenced is Foo says:

    BSDM only demonstrates an extreme case of a problem that will always be an obstacle for feminism – people have desires that may run counter to equality. Many women are sexually attracted to a “big strong protector”, and many men find a submissive wife attractive. For a lot of these people, expecting them to change their sexual predilections is as impractical as expecting you to do the same… and believing that these desires will be exclusive to the bedroom is unrealistic – it will intrude.

    We don’t get to choose what we find sexually exciting… and in the cases where that excitement comes from a power imbalance, it will always be a stumbling block for equality.

    I’m not saying that BSDM is wrong, or that feminism is. Both of them deserve support. I’m just saying that they will get in each-other’s way, just as the milder but more prevalent forms of power-based sexuality will.

  7. 7
    Hazel Stone says:

    BDSM is a pernicious side effect of the Patriarchy. It will go away when the Patriarchy goes away. However, there are a lot of things we deal with everyday that are caused by the P and we don’t run around calling people collaborators for doing them. But we don’t have to call them feminist either.

    I agree with Silenced is Foo. How can you say that masculinity is good and should be preserved? It is just a stereotype that norms and limits people, just like femininity.

  8. 8
    Hattie says:

    Well, what do people want? Approval for everything they do? I frankly do not get it.
    Just keep it behind closed doors, please, and don’t write about it. That would be a good start.

  9. 9
    Hazel Stone says:

    Sorry to double post.

    And another thing, calling yourself sex-positive reads as a backhanded dig against radfems since we are so often name-called for being “against sex.” Which is BS. It is like people calling themselves pro-life. Not cool.

    Good point Hattie!

    Who cares if you are into BDSM? Why would that even matter at a music festival? What, are you whipping people at a public flogging post?

  10. 10
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    Daran is banned for a while and can’t post here (and may not consider himself a feminist anyway), but he seems to feel that I really misrepresented him, so I felt that I ought to do the honorable thing and post this defense from him:

    I really must protest. I have never accused you of hypocrisy. I have never said that your statements show this. Such views are a 180 degree reversal of what my blog stands for, and so problematic that they would be among those relegated from the “No Hostility” threads (or whatever will replace them) if we had a proper grip on moderation.
    It is outrageous that such views be attributed to me on a blog where I am currently banned, and cannot correct the record. Please arrange for this to be retracted over there. The other errors concerning what my three posts were in response to, I can live with, but not this.

    For any other comments from him you’re going to have to look at the original post on my blog, though.

    @sylphhead — I’ll ask, as a jumping off point, what’s one example of what you’d consider a uniquely male experience? Actually, it doesn’t have to “unique” at all, just something males of our species experience more on average, and notice I said “experience”, not necessarily a “problem”. It doesn’t have to be all that meaningful – in fact, I’d prefer that, to something heavy-handed and potentially incendiary.

    Well, sexuality is my bag, so … as hinted at in the original posts, I think males of our species tend to experience a fairly easy time getting a grip on what turns them on. Not all men do, of course — and some women do — but in general I think men have more “automatic access” to their sexuality. Some people argue that this is biological or otherwise inherent in the genders, but I’m not so sure. A common argument (that I agree with) is that it’s because our conceptions of the sexual encounter are centered around what’s ideal for the stereotypical male: e.g. penetrative sex is considered “real” sex; heterosexual sexual encounters are usually pictured as centered around the male orgasm and ending with the male orgasm, with the female orgasm hopefully achieved somewhere along the way (if it even enters the picture at all).

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Hazel and Hattie; the tone of sneering contempt you’re both using in posts #8 and #9 doesn’t fit the intended tone of discussions on this blog. Please keep the tone respectful, especially when dealing with a subject as sensitive as people’s sexuality. Thanks.

  12. 12
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    Great. And now the anti-BDSM feminists come out of the woodwork to try and derail the discussion. I won’t ask that their comments be moderated immediately, but if they start taking over the thread I will.

  13. 13
    Hattie says:

    OK. It’s your can of worms to deal with.

  14. 14
    Jay says:

    Sorry, didn’t mean to derail or go off topic.

  15. 15
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    @Jay — I really don’t want this thread to get derailed into a discussion about BDSM and feminism. If you want to read more about BDSM and feminism, here are some resources:

    The excellent blog SM-Feminist (aka “Let Them Eat Pro-SM Feminist Safe Spaces”) — just read all the archives, they’re worth it.

    Stacey May Fowles’s awesome essay, “The Fantasy of Acceptable Non-Consent: Why the Female Submissive Scares Us, and Why She Shouldn’t”.

    The above was originally published in the absolutely incredible book Yes Means Yes, which I want everyone in the world to read, and which inspired a blog whose main writer is also a male feminist BDSMer and whose most recent post was about a rapist who’s attempting to use BDSM as an “excuse” (which makes him scum) (okay, he was already scum because he’s a rapist).

    My blog’s archives aren’t the best of resources, because I post rarely and I haven’t had time to address all the BDSM & feminist topics I’ve wanted to … but you can always go through my blogroll. In particular …. Bitchy Jones is good. Kink Research is okay. Male Submission Art is brilliant, and totally NSFW.

  16. Clarisse wrote:

    In my three-post series I said that although I think dealing with abuse issues is an incredibly important potential facet of any masculinity movement, since most abuse is after all perpetrated by men, I don’t think it’s good for a masculinity movement to be centered around abuse.

    Depends on what you mean by “centered around abuse.” If that means centered around discussion and analysis of the ways in which men are abusive, you’re right. That probably is not constructive. On the other hand, if you start to think about just how much masculinity/manhood training is abusive, that’s something else, and it’s something that I think men don’t talk about enough in the context of a good, strong (feminist–there’s my bias) analytical framework. Robert Bly and the mythopoetic men’s movement tried to poeticize/romanticize/metaphorize that violence, make it necessary, make it part of the wound that all men need to carry around in order to be men, but the fact is that every man that I know who has been willing to talk about it can point to violence and some form of abuse as the core of how they were trained/conditioned to be men. Rosalind Miles, in her book Love, Sex, Death and the Making of the Male, made a great point: The expression boys will be boys is not simply an observation; it is also an imperative “boys will be boys.” And we forget just how strong that imperative is. Talking about masculinity, any movement to rethink what it means to live with a penis between your legs, needs to take that into account.

  17. 17
    Jake Squid says:

    On the other hand, if you start to think about just how much masculinity/manhood training is abusive, that’s something else, and it’s something that I think men don’t talk about enough in the context of a good, strong (feminist–there’s my bias) analytical framework.

    I’ve been thinking along those lines, Richard, since this post went up. It seems to me, however, that masculinity – not just the training – is centered on the idea of abuse and violence. Most of what is commonly understand to be masculine is either violence or a result of violence.

    How do you discuss masculinity without that being central to the discussion?

  18. 18
    Mandolin says:

    “BDSM is a pernicious side effect of the Patriarchy. It will go away when the Patriarchy goes away.”

    Erm, no. But the explicit ties between gender and BDSM may.

  19. 19
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @Jake

    I don’t think masculinity is about violence and abuse. It’s about power. Violence and abuse are simply the most naked displays of power.

  20. 20
    Jake Squid says:

    SiF,

    Masculinity is about power, I won’t dispute that. But I don’t see how it’s about power not achieved through violence or the threat of violence. Can you give me an example of what you’re thinking of?

  21. Jake wrote:

    How do you discuss masculinity without [the abusive nature of masculinity] being central to the discussion?

    Central to the discussion, yes; the a movement no. Maybe I am splitting semantic hairs here, but I think that a movement the goal of which is to change what it means to be a man–which means implicitly that you are hanging onto some form of the idea that there is a way of being called “masculinity” or “manhood” (otherwise, you are about eliminating gender; i.e., there should be no such thing as “men”)–would do itself a disservice if it took as its central organizing principle a constant referral to the abusive nature of patriarchal masculinity. Surely such a movement ought to have some kind of transformation, something forward looking, as its organizing principle; and so the question of how men are “made” seems to me, in this sense, to be more central.

    I also think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that some of the values embedded in patriarchal masculinity–being a good provider, being the protector of one’s family and society, for example–are not, in and of themselves abusive (and nor are they essentially male), though it is certainly true that they are often expressed abusively, and are often corrupted in ways that lead to abuse, by men and the institutions of patriarchy. There were and are many men who live those values in good faith without being abusive, who are–who have earned the right to be called–good, decent men, even though you and I might recognize the masculinity/manhood at the core of their identity as part of the patriarchy and therefore as part of a system that is ultimately far more destructive than it is good and decent. Those men also ought to have a place in such a movement, and those men, surely, within such a movement, deserve to have their goodness and decency acknowledged for what it is, and I think that putting the abusive nature of patriarchal masculinity at the center of such a movement renders those men invisible in ways that are not helpful from a strategic point of view, even if I might agree the analysis of patriarchal masculinity.

  22. 22
    Politicalguineapig says:

    Jake: I can think of two examples of power that don’t involve violence. One is purely physical: showing off the power of your body in sports and training yourself to get to a higher level. Another is gaining political power, which usually doesn’t involve violence.

  23. 23
    Bond says:

    A commenter at my blog recently pointed out that female masculinity is always absent from these conversations, which is interesting among a group of people who found their politics on a purported understanding of the difference between sex and gender. Not to say there shouldn’t be specific discussions about male masculinity and feminism — there absolutely should. But butches et al have a lot to say about how to be masculine, including highly & traditionally masculine, and non-misogynist. People interested in the issue might do well to listen.

  24. 24
    Mandolin says:

    Bond — I think the reason for that is the impression that there’s already a lot of discussion about female masculinities, relative to the discussion about male masculinities. But you raise a good point, and that would be a good conversation.

    I’m dubious about this project in some ways because I don’t think a productive conversation about masculinity can happen without the acceptance of feminist principles. I mean, sans an acceptance of patriarchy, a conversation about male masculinity feels like conversation about whiteness without white supremacy, or conversation about, hell, how to create flu vaccines without an acceptance of evolution. The whole picture is skewed beyond usefulness.

    Patriarchy is part of the defining condition of male masculinity, just as it is part of the defining condition of female femininity. And also female masculinity and male femininity. In the western world, at least.

  25. 25
    sylphhead says:

    Well, sexuality is my bag, so … as hinted at in the original posts, I think males of our species tend to experience a fairly easy time getting a grip on what turns them on. Not all men do, of course — and some women do — but in general I think men have more “automatic access” to their sexuality. Some people argue that this is biological or otherwise inherent in the genders, but I’m not so sure.

    I know what you’re talking about. Women need more foreplay, etc. Not sure what biological basis, if any, there is for that, as this strikes me as one of the more dubious candidates for that, but let’s ignore that for now. Taking this to be the case for now, how do this would affect an average man’s sexual identity vs. an average woman’s? For instance, a discussion about “discovering your sexuality” might fall on deaf (male) ears if it’s centered on helping people find what truly turns them on, because most men may have figured that by themselves behind locked doors during middle school. On the other hand, men may need to “discover our sexuality” in other ways.

    Basically, what I’m getting at, is that I’m taking “masculinity” to mean the “experience of living life/growing up as a man”. Men will have certain unique experiences, and miss out on some others, simply by virtue of having being born men. And a positive masculinity would have to be centered on talking about such experiences and how to emerge through them a better, happier, more ethical, and more successful person. The approach should be experience-centered, rather than idea-centered, the latter of which I take as a euphemism for “ideology-centered”.

    It seems we talk about “building a movement” a whole lot, without ever getting around actually building one. For my part, part of that is because I’m not sure “building a movement” is exactly what I want. I’d much rather it be experience-centered, with a bunch of guys shooting the shit on stuff they’ve never really talked about before, rather than it being expressly political. In fact, apolitical is good, insofar as anything to do with this highly charged topic can actually be apolitical. Hmm… we might be at this for a while, because of your work in Africa and my not being entirely sure of where I’m going with this myself yet, and if anti-BDSMer’s come back and derail the discussion again, I’ll take it over to your blog.

  26. 26
    sylphhead says:

    BDSM is a pernicious side effect of the Patriarchy. It will go away when the Patriarchy goes away.

    Not really a BDSM-er myself, though I’ve very lightly dabbled here and there. But everyone I’ve talked to who’ve described themselves as “kinky” has talked about it as something they’ve grown up with – often years before the rest of their sexuality. It’s rather like homosexuality, in a sense, or asexuality/hypersexuality – something that seems to be in the bone. I doubt kinkiness will ever go away. Those pesky humans, right? But how it manifests may change with the times.

  27. 27
    AndiF says:

    “BDSM is a pernicious side effect of the Patriarchy. It will go away when the Patriarchy goes away.”

    Erm, no. But the explicit ties between gender and BDSM may.

    What I think might go away is the explicit ties between BDSM and hierarchial dichotomies (top/bottom, dominant/submissive, master/slave). It will be accepted that desires aren’t necessarily some cleanly separated, authoritarian state but are often somewhere on a continuum or even all over the continuum all at once. People won’t have to “switch” from one state to another but will able to integrate their desires and regardless of the scene, everyone will simply be identified as a mutually giving partner.

  28. 28
    Silenced is Foo says:

    because most men may have figured that by themselves behind locked doors during middle school

    Ohh, how I would have killed for a lock…

  29. 29
    makomk says:

    “Many feminist spaces have a long tradition of excluding or marginalizing BDSM, like the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, which incidentally did the same thing with trans people.”

    Not incidentally. The two things – marginalizing BDSM, and marginalizing trans people – generally go hand-in-hand within feminism. If you find an individual feminist or an organization that’s doing one, the odds are very high indeed that they’re doing the other too.

    Hazel Stone: oh dear, not the “BDSM comes from the patriarchy” argument. The trouble with that one is that – like a lot of the radfem arguments – it’s fundamentally non-refutable. There’s no way of proving that something didn’t originate in the patriarchy within radical feminism.

    In practice, this argument is a method of ideological control, used to reject other viewpoints. Radical feminism was created by groups of women getting together to discuss their lives, what issues affected them, and what they wanted. From this, a supposedly universal understanding of womanhood sprung forth. Except there was the small issue of some women being into things like BDSM, which didn’t fit into radfems’ vision. The obvious answer to this – they were influenced by the patriarchy, and therefore could be ignored. Likewise, trans women had very different life experiences and issues, and therefore must be “fake” women.

    (This was, of course, all entirely inevitable given the origins of radical feminism. The group discussions necessarily ended up focused on majority views, and skipping things that were niche. After all, would the women present really want to bring up BDSM if they each thought they were the only one into it, and they expected to be judged for doing so? I sometimes wonder if the patriarchy formed in a similar way…)

  30. 30
    Mandolin says:

    I don’t think it’s possible to erase hierarchy from the human mind. We can try to erode some of its more socially damaging forms like racism and sexism, but I doubt we’ll ever be egalitarian. I’d like to see master/slave not be gendered terms where power comes from either enforcement of the gender roles, or reversal of them. But I find it hard to believe that the essence of the terms will ever disappear.

    (FTR, absent technological intervention making sex meaningless, I doubt sexism will ever disappear either. Patriarchy may be ameliorated, but IMO, it’s probably a permanent condition.)

  31. 31
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @makomk

    Okay, since I had a part in starting the threadjack, I’m going to ask we stop it – it is practically impossible to discuss the conflicts between BSDM and radical feminism without skirting close to the moderation-rule-checkbox for this thread.

    @jake squid

    It’s always going to be a fuzzy line. It’s really hard to say if the male competitiveness and posturing is a sociological extension of a violent culture into non-violent fields, or the reverse – that violence and abuse are simply a translation of masculine power-games, posturing, and dominance into their most naked form.

  32. 32
    Colette says:

    (I also posted this at Clairisse’s blog)

    On one hand, the sexism men face tends to be indirect to incidental and often don’t have a long-term negative impact. Conversely, the benefits women receive tend to be indirect to incidental and often don’t have a long-term positive impact. Additionally, the most detrimental issues faced by men (save gender-identity, race, ability, class, and sexual orientation) stem from power structures among men; it is intra-gendered, something of which women are kept out. These power structures function to keep men in power and in the process, men step on each other to reach “the top.” The benefits women receive function as a reward for “knowing your place.” Don’t get me wrong – women will step all over each other too and men also get rewarded for being a “real man”. But when all is said and done, it functions to maintain a playing field that isn’t level with women at the disadvantage.

    The reason I say this is because one thing I noticed is just how often feminists receive flak for not acknowledging women receive benefits or that men suffer too, or for not doing it “enough.” I was posting on Feminist Critics the other couple of days. I’d gone through the archives first and noticed just how often they a) fight straw-arguments, b) complain about feminists not acknowledging how men suffer too in discussions that over-whelmingly affect women, c) accuse feminists of claiming men don’t suffer at all because we acknowledge Male Privilege. Of course they also will pick apart statistics, etc., and claim feminists are deliberately being deceitful but then demonstrate the exact behavior themselves, but this is typical in any types of sociological discussions.* Before that, I was at another blog with an entry titled “What is wrong with MRAs?” that discussed the issue with MRAs and the issue with feminists. The issue with MRAs was their tendency to uncritically blame ills they face on feminism and their overwhelming lack of effort towards actually making things better for men. The issue with feminism was that they don’t acknowledge bad things happen to men; or they don’t do it all the time; or they don’t do it enough.

    Does anybody think something is wrong with that picture?

    Feminism exists as a reaction to Patriarchy; the male experience is default, albeit unexamined. MRA exists as a reaction to feminism; there hadn’t been a movement critically examining gender until feminism but now we also have men who will theoretically do the same. With that in mind, why are we uncritically accepting the concept of feminism being obligated to “take care” of men, especially when they not only have “the floor” but they have a movement that can do so? In context, why do we uncritically accept the idea that somebody else will decide if feminism is doing enough for men? Why is how men may or may not feel at every turn such an issue for a movement that addresses the fact that women are treated as a second class?

    * I stopped when I grew tired and annoyed at having to respond to straw-arguments.

  33. 33
    Jake Squid says:

    SiF,

    I don’t disagree with you. I’m not concerned with the original directionality of violence, though. I am concerned that masculinity is pretty well defined by violence or the threat of violence – even for aspects of masculinity that are not violent in and of themselves. Even if I wasn’t opposed to rigidly defined gender roles I would still be opposed to one that had violence at it’s core.

    Politicalguineapig,

    I was asking for examples of traditionally masculine power. I can think of plenty of examples of power that don’t involve violence, but they wouldn’t really be considered masculine.

    As to your examples… Sports, with some notable exceptions, almost all contain violence limited only by the rules of that sport. Powerful politicians almost always must show their toughness (willingness & ability to use violence – even if shown only through their words). Look at the last bunch of POTUS campaigns for obvious examples. Lower levels of political power, such as being part of a legislative body or an executive position such as mayor, don’t have those requirements. But they have no great power, either.

    Richard wrote:

    I also think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that some of the values embedded in patriarchal masculinity–being a good provider, being the protector of one’s family and society, for example–are not, in and of themselves abusive …

    I think that the idea of being a good provider, being the protector as part of masculinity is a consequence of the violence that is at the center of the idea of masculinity. You’re masculine if, for example, you hunt. You’re masculine if you fight.

    This is my problem with the idea that there can be a serious discussion about masculinity and changing masculinity without having the violence inherent in the label be a central issue.

    My thinking on this is far from well-formed and I’d be really glad to see examples of things called masculine that are not violent or do not come about as a consequence of violence. I’d also be thankful for ideas that help me clarify my thoughts on the subject.

  34. Jake wrote, in response to me:

    I think that the idea of being a good provider, being the protector as part of masculinity is a consequence of the violence that is at the center of the idea of masculinity. You’re masculine if, for example, you hunt. You’re masculine if you fight.

    This is my problem with the idea that there can be a serious discussion about masculinity and changing masculinity without having the violence inherent in the label be a central issue.

    He was responding to this, which I wrote (I have italicized the part that he left out when he quoted me in his response:

    I also think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that some of the values embedded in patriarchal masculinity–being a good provider, being the protector of one’s family and society, for example–are not, in and of themselves abusive (and nor are they essentially male), though it is certainly true that they are often expressed abusively, and are often corrupted in ways that lead to abuse, by men and the institutions of patriarchy.

    I just want first to clarify that I think there is a difference between having a discussion about masculinity, which cannot avoid the violence and abuse that is at the heart of it, and centering a movement to transform masculinity around discussion of that abusiveness.

  35. 35
    Doug S. says:

    Is Steve Urkel masculine?

  36. 36
    Clarisse Thorn says:

    This is the only thing I will say about the BDSM/feminism thing:

    Making the assertion that BDSM comes from the patriarchy — especially in an accusatory and/or limiting way, such as by saying “don’t write about it” — is not only impossible to prove; it serves to further shame the feminist members of a population that is already stigmatized and marginalized and which is not doing anything unconsensual. It also serves to drive members of that population away from feminism, sometimes people with really strong voices and great perspectives: hence, for example, the really smart bloggers Trinity and Renegade Evolution do not identify as feminist. So, even if it’s true — and again, there’s no way to demonstrate that it is — the argument causes more harm than good. I’m not for silencing people even on arguments that I disagree with, but it would be awesome if people who say things that tend to boil down to nothing more than bigotry would at least admit that real people who really aren’t hurting anyone experience real stigma and distress because of what they say.

    I’ve been planning to write a post on the ways BDSM has made my sex life more feminist. I’ll let you guys know when I do.

    Okay, onward.

    @Richard Jeffrey Newman — I also think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that some of the values embedded in patriarchal masculinity–being a good provider, being the protector of one’s family and society, for example–are not, in and of themselves abusive (and nor are they essentially male)

    This highlights an interesting point that’s also come up in my own blog’s comments …. How much of being masculine is “essentially male”? If we’re trying to define what masculinity is, then how much can we draw from maleness? Do all qualities of masculinity correlate with male experience? Is masculinity represented fully in the “stereotypical manly man”, or does that stereotype miss part of the picture?

    @Bond — A commenter at my blog recently pointed out that female masculinity is always absent from these conversations, which is interesting among a group of people who found their politics on a purported understanding of the difference between sex and gender.

    Not always. It came up on my blog’s comment thread. Also, Sinclair Sexsmith — currently the masculinity writer over at CarnalNation — is a butch.

    @sylphhead — It seems we talk about “building a movement” a whole lot, without ever getting around actually building one. … I’d much rather it be experience-centered, with a bunch of guys shooting the shit on stuff they’ve never really talked about before, rather than it being expressly political.

    Guilty as charged on the first one, but that’s a casualty of blogs and all academic discussions in general, I think. People who extend their blogging into real-life activism are maybe building a movement. But even though I used my film series as an example, all it’s arguably doing is getting a bunch of people to make friends and talk about sexuality a lot. It’s impossible to say whether that’s building a movement until some political goal comes along for us to test the group on, I guess.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that maybe it’s doing what you think these things should do, but not what I think these things should do. Heh.

    @Colette — With that in mind, why are we uncritically accepting the concept of feminism being obligated to “take care” of men, especially when they not only have “the floor” but they have a movement that can do so

    Who’s uncritically accepting that? And also, the entire point of this post was that discussions about masculinity may need to take place outside feminist spaces, and that therefore if feminists want to be involved we might need to go to it. This isn’t just in the interests of making space for men to talk, but also to make space for feminists not to participate.

  37. 37
    B. Adu says:

    I’ve not come to the conclusion that masculinity needs examination, I assumed it would be an inevitable consequence of female liberation.

    What has amazed me is the seeming reluctance on the part of men to address this directly.

    What feminism or feminists feel or don’t feel about it is by the by. I see myself as an interested observer and expect men to take the lead, I expect them to want to positively.

    I don’t care if I’m unsettled or stretched made to think, I’ve been waiting for it to happen for a long time.

    But I also reserve the right not to be impressed, such as the feminist critics who build nothing for men, but complain often misguidedly.

    I don’t accept this idea that all feminists see men in terms of abuse, I think we accord them plenty of respect, sometimes way too much.

  38. 38
    Politicalguineapig says:

    B. Adu: Why should women be responsible for building things for men, when the men can and should handle things themselves?
    Jake Squid: I have two words in response: martial arts. They are not founded on violence, rather, the ideal is the avoidance of violence. (Granted, you learn some pretty snazzy ways to kick ten kinds of snot out of your opponent, but ideally, it’s defensive rather than offensive.)

  39. 39
    makomk says:

    Silenced is Foo: yeah, perhaps.

    There’s a similar problem in mainstream feminism when it comes to men’s issues, though. Somehow, there’s this unfortunate idea that female feminists have figured out all the problems that affect men, that they can interpret men’s experiences and decide what is and isn’t a real issue better than men, etc. There’s also this curious meme that all male issues are really feminist issues, and feminism will make them magically go away.

    Like the “BDSM comes from the patriarchy” meme, it’s non-refutable, because the basis for figuring out what issues affect men is discussion between female feminists, with little or no place for male lived experiences except insofar as they fit within the existing narrative. However, since it’s about the group in power rather than an already-marginalized group, it doesn’t cause nearly as much damage.

    Of course, this does mean that any male group rethinking male gender roles and experiences will run into conflicts with feminism – because when issues go unexamined or are insufficiently examined, the default perspective isn’t a neutral one, it’s patriarchal. For example, the feminist anti-domestic violence campaigns use the old patriarchal idea that men are violent, whereas women are victims and pacifists*. The resulting laws that cause male victims of female domestic violence to be further victimized by being arrested are not only not criticized, but are encouraged by feminists because they make male abusers more likely to be arrested. Since the experiences of male victims don’t fit patriarchal gender roles, and since this issue doesn’t harm women (much), they are ignored or treated as one-off events.

    [There are probably more interesting examples, but I have no idea what they are because there just isn’t the culture of male introspection and discussion required for them to be discovered.]

    How this conflict will be resolved is an open question. I have a feeling this could potentially be the next big divisive issue within feminism. (Of course, this assumes men actually get together and do the work first.)

    * Yes, women can and do benefit from patriarchy. In fact, using the existing patriarchal structures and beliefs is a very effective way of getting things done.

  40. 40
    B. Adu says:

    @politicalguineapig,

    I think you’ve misread me I wrote;

    But I also reserve the right not to be impressed, such as the feminist critics who build nothing for men, but complain often misguidedly.

    I’m talking about those who take it upon themselves to critise feminism in order to avoid looking at what they themselves believe.

  41. 41
    Politicalguineapig says:

    Sorry. I did misread that comment.

  42. 42
    Doug S. says:

    I see that nobody tried to answer my question yet.

    Is Steve Urkel masculine?

    Perhaps I need to explain why I’m asking.

    [Purple Prose]
    The “aggressive jock” brand of masculinity has been somewhat devalued in popular culture recently, and the warrior archetype is also the domain of evil villains and “hot chicks with superpowers” (or sympathetic writers). Yet there is one archetype that still displays a measure of prowess while maintaining its exclusion of the female gender. I am speaking, of course, of the TV Nerd.
    [/Purple Prose]

    In other words, you don’t see too many female characters playing the Steve Urkel role. There seems to be something fundamentally male about characters like Urkel, Samuel “Screech” Powers (Saved by the Bell), Topher Brink (Dollhouse), nearly the entire male cast of The Big Bang Theory, Jason Fox (Foxtrot, the comic strip), McLovin (Superbad), Carlton Banks (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), and many others I can’t think of right now.

    Female characters fitting this mold tend to be much rarer. There’s Lisa Simpson, but because just about every female character ends up being played by a stunningly beautiful actress regardless of how they’re treated in-story, characters like Willow (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), who at least started out as an unpopular nerd, tend to be made into sex symbols by the fandom anyway.

    So, is it just me, or does Steve Urkel actually embody a weird kind of masculine ideal?

  43. 43
    Politicalguineapig says:

    Doubt it. One of the measuring points of masculinity is how many toys and girls you can amass. Steve Urkel strikes me as the first of the “nice guys”- the guys who can’t get dates and end up bitter because of it. That being said, I like Steve Carrel because every character he plays is adorably awkward. He’s kind of cute, too.

  44. 44
    Silenced is Foo says:

    Steve Urkel follows tropes that are stereotypically _male_ but not necessarily masculine… Masculine generally implies manliness, not just maleness. But maybe that’s just my perspective – everybody reads different words between the lines.

    The traditional nerd (pocket-protector, ugliness, social ineptitude, buffoonish, obsessive, and smart) is most definitely, at least in pop-culture, a male concept.

  45. 45
    B. Adu says:

    @ politicalguineapig,

    Cool.

    So, is it just me, or does Steve Urkel actually embody a weird kind of masculine ideal?

    I’m not familiar with that character although I know the Carlton character from Fresh Prince.

    I do think that the nerd/ geek, I’ve not grasped the difference- if any-between the two, is assumed to be somewhat of a male archetype, although I don’t know that it is as essentially male as it seems.

    Female nerdish/geekiness tends to take different routes that obscure it from view.

    I think there are masculinities, as opposed to masculinity. When I think of maschismo as at the forefront, I think of the male dominance in fields such as technology and science and then realise that these must be seen equally as intrinsically masculine.

    I suppose there’s a class element to it to that shapes the themes of the nerd/geek stereotype.

  46. 46
    JS Groves says:

    @politicalguineapig: All three of your examples of “non-violent” masculine activities/experiences are rife with violence.

    Sports are ritualized violence. Only in the very tamest and aristocratic – e.g. baseball, golf, track – could one argue otherwise. Football, hokey, soccer, rugby, boxing, even basketball: players are injured frequently, and were killed on a halfway regular basis prior to modern protective equipment, and are maimed on a fairly regular basis even with the best modern medicine money can buy. Think of the language we use to describe the game, victory and defeat in particular: crush, destroy, eliminate. In prior ages, losing teams were killed (or died incidentally): Aztec football, Roman gladatorial sport and charioteering, for the most notable examples.

    Martial arts are an even more concrete example or ritualized violence. Most of the martial arts practiced today are soft-pedaled adaptations of techniques originally developed to kill people. Karate, Kung Fu, Krav Magra(sp?), Judo … even Aikido. All derived from killing arts, and some of them even taught that way today. The one counter-example I am aware of is Tai Kwan Do, which was invented as a sport, but 2/3 of the people I know who took it did so so they could learn to kick someone’s ass. The “defensive warfare” argument is transparently disengenous: violence is violence is violence.

    Politics is more verbal, but hardly exclusively. Would you ague that the Senate’s attempts to roll back women’s health care are not, ultimately, a form of violence against women? Would you argue that advocating war is non-violent? The War on Drugs and the War on Terror, both largely political mechanisms and thumping-boxes whose consequences are inherently vi9lent. And to preempt the argument that politics is not exclusively masculine, I would like to remind everyone how much work a would-be woman politician must do in order to prove that she is “pure” and “strong” enough.

  47. 47
    Politicalguineapig says:

    You forgot tai chi, which is basically moving meditation. As for the rest of ‘em: Humans are an inherently violent species, so a certain amount of justified violence is basically a fact of life.
    As for politics: Gandhi and Martin Luther King both managed to change society without resorting to violent rhetoric.