“Feminism will make it possible for the first time for men to be free.” – Michael Kimmel
I’ve written a few posts in the past calling for re-evaluation of the feminist movements action plan (posts here) because the way they are going about getting to their goals isn’t working. The feminist movement wants better lives for women and trans folk. We want equal pay and no-more harassment on the streets. We want to end rape culture, slut shaming and victim blaming and we want to move from the culturally accepted patriarchy to something more equal.
And we can’t do that without men.
Men are as much a victim of the patriarchy as women and trans folk are. Most offences that happen to women and trans folk because of the cultural patriarchy will live in, happen to men. Men just don’t see it. The reason why women and trans folk are getting so up in arms over the offences of the patriarchy is because we can see it happen. We are the visible victims of rape culture, slut shaming and gender policing. We can quantify the atrocities committed against us and express why it makes us angry.
Men haven’t been able to do that yet.
Similarly women and trans folk haven’t been able to see men’s inability to see the crimes of the patriarchy. Feminism has yelled at men, told them they are wrong and part of the problem but hasn’t explained why they are wrong, what the problem is, how it affects us or why it is important that change happens and most men have no idea why they are getting yelled at or why what they are doing is wrong. Most men don’t realise the culture that they live in is harming them as well. The patriarchy has placed men in a box of their own creation. Current feminist tactics hurts men and stunt the progression of change because all it does is blame men – it doesn’t tell them why change is necessary for them. People will only work for change when it directly benefits them.
Rape culture, victim blaming, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny – are all crimes invented and committed by patriarchal thinking and they are committed against men, women and trans people alike. We all know how these crimes are committed against women and trans people but lets look at how they are committed against men:
Rape culture: Our rape culture tells men that they cannot be raped by women or by other men. When they can. In fact according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, 1 in 33 men are victims of rape and considering the amount of shame and guilt attributed to being raped – the statistics are probably a lot higher than 1 in 33. Rape culture tells men they can’t be raped because they are meant to be stronger and smarter than women. They are meant to be able to get out of any situation. Rape culture tells men that they should like any attention and that no sexual attention is unwanted or can be unwanted. Rape culture tells men that an erection and orgasm means they secretly wanted it all a long when in fact an erection and orgasm is nothing more than a biological response to being stimulated.
Rape culture hurts men because it reduces them to nothing more than an uncontrollable animal. Rape culture tells men that they can’t control themselves around women at that the very sight of a women will lead them to rape them. Rape culture tells men that they should be devoid of all feelings and be mindless robots whose penis is in control of everything they do and they can’t think outside of sex.
Victim blaming: Victim blaming tells men that if they have gotten raped that they are to blame for it. They weren’t strong enough to get away or smart enough not to put themselves in the that situation. Victim blaming tells men there is something wrong with them because they were raped – which is typically seen as something that only happens to women, therefore the men that get raped as seen as “less than” because women in a patriarchal society are seen as “less than”.
Homophobia/transphobia: Homophobia and transphobia not only hurt gay people and trans folk but also cisgender men and straight men. All men regardless of gender identity or sexuality. Homophobia is rooted in misogynistic thinking – if you’re gay then you must be feminine and there is something wrong with that. Not all gay men are feminine of course but stereotypes perpetuate the myth. Being gay or being trans is threatening to the patriarchal order because of the misconceptions the patriarchal order believes about being gay. Being gay in the public eye means being a passive receptor in regards to sex, it means a man acting like a woman due to gender policing stating that all woman must be submissive and all men must dominate when it comes to sexual matters. It means a inversion of patriarchal accepted gender roles where women act like men and vice versa. Lesbians can be assertive and don’t want men. Misogynistic thinking states all women are objects for men – lesbians defy that thinking which is why we aren’t taken seriously. Lesbians can’t really exist because all women exist for men in a misogynists eyes.
Homophobia and transphobia hurts all men because it tells men that there is only one way to be in life. The patriarchy 101 clearly outlines how to be a considered “a man” and being gay or trans isn’t in the rulebook.
Misogyny: Misogynistic thinking hurts men because it tells men that they aren’t allowed to care for women. They aren’t allowed to have feelings for them but only see them as objects. Misogyny hurts men because it devalues their worth as thinking/feeling human beings by telling them that the only thing they should feel is aroused and that they have no ability to see women as people.
A misogynistic value system places women as objects to be controlled that stems from the hatred of women who won’t be controlled. As this author states:
This all made a lot of sense, but I still had not made the connection to the word “hate.” Eventually I made the connection when I found this website. The author summed up his reason for creating the site and his dislike of women in one simple sentence: “I hate women because I want their attention and they won’t give me any.” So what a misogynist truly loves is the shallow image of women that exists only in one’s mind and is illustrated in society in such things as pornography or mainstream media that espouses that ideal. The hatred is directed at real women, for not living up to a misogynist’s expectations of women being easy to control and for not providing adequate stimulation for men’s interest.
Once I figured this out, many things about misogyny became clear. A misogynistic value system would favor women who put out and are easy to control. Misogynists would talk about women in a dehumanized way, i.e., nice legs, great ass, etc, as if women were nothing more than a collection of body parts. Dating and relationships would become a game of manipulation fraught with various seedy techniques and ploys designed to get women to have sex. Something else I noticed as I browsed the web is that although misogynists try to control women, they are ironically dependent on women for validation in front of other men and society. This dependence is disempowering and only adds to the anger and resentment misogynists feel towards women.
Our misogynistic society tells men that they are dependent on women for validation and self esteem, if they can’t control women than they are weak and not “real” men. Our misogynistic society tells men that it is not okay to be a woman and that there is something wrong with that, so any man who is considered to be displaying “womanly behaviour” is shunned. Why else can women walk around in pants but men can’t walk around in dresses in public?
What many people don’t understand is that it’s the patriarchal culture will live that is powerful, not men themselves. Men as individuals believe they are powerless. As I mentioned previously, men, unlike women and trans folk cannot see how the patriarchy is harmful to them.
Michael Kimmel in his book “The Gendered Society” explains it like this:
A discussion about power invariably makes men uncomfortable or defensive. How many times have we heard a man say, when confronted with women’s anger at gender-based inequality and discrimination, “Hey, don’t blame me! I never raped anyone!” When challenged by the idea that the gender order means that men have power over women, men often respond with “What do you men have all the power? What are you talking about? I have no power at all. I’m completely powerless. My wife bosses me around. My children boss me around, my boss bosses me around. I have no power at all!” Most men, it seems, do not feel powerful.
Here, in a sense, is where feminism has failed to resonate with most men. Women as a group, are not in power nor individually do women feel powerful. In fact, they felt constrained by gender inequality into stereotypical activities that prevented them from feeling comfortable, safe and competent. So women are neither in power nor feel powerful.
This breaks down when we try to apply it to men. Because although men may be in power everywhere once cares to look, individual men are not in power and they do not feel powerful. Men as a group are in power (when compared to women) but do not feel powerful.
This feeling of powerlessness that individual men feel could contribute to the sheer length of time it has taken feminism to achieve its goals. Men can’t see how they contribute to the problem as individuals so they can’t see the bigger picture, nor do feminist explain to them how.
Keeping all this in mind, a cultural shift is needed. Not just for women and trans folk but like all change – people only work for change when it directly affects them which is evident in the fact that feminism won’t include men and only works towards goals for women. Some feminists I know actively shun men and alienate them. Men won’t help women achieve equality without inclusion or knowing how it will help them. Feminism won’t change anything more for women and trans folk unless we have an entire cultural shift – which won’t happen unless men’s lives are changed for the better as well. The patriarchy will still continue to oppress women and transfolk unless men are freed from their constraints of gender policed “maniless”.
Women can get out of their constraints but men will still continue to oppress us if they continue to be in theirs.
Rayne is a constantly hungry, bruise-prone atheist goth bibliophile living with a black cat with a fetish for eating iPhone cords if she’s left alone for too long. Rayne blogs on a variety of issues including atheism, religion, being childfree, gay & lesbian issues, feminism and general queerness while drinking peppermint tea and listening to metal. Rayne is Australian who writes in British Standard English who gets confused for an American who makes a lot more typo’s than she actually does. Check out her blog Insufferable Intolerance.