Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Recently on feministing...

It is always interesting when something that goes in the direction of men´s rights comes up on feministing:

The bumbling man and/or dad---if you've watched a sitcom chances are you know him. He almost always does something wrong during any given episode; his most common offenses include lying, forgetting, breaking, ruining dinner, or saying the wrong thing. The wife or woman is often smart as a tack, well-balanced and all-knowing. She comes through the door with kids in tow and groceries in hand to find that "dad" couldn't even handle the simple task of putting the lasagna in the oven to heat up (the stupid male let it sit out on the counter, fed it to the dog, used it as a chair cushion---the more absurdly moronic the better). He is chided, belittled, and given a kiss---she still loves her husband even if he is a stupid man.

Now of course, I'm generalizing. There are sitcoms out there where the man isn't a complete moron, or the wife is a bit dumb as well. But I see a disturbing proclivity of men who simply cannot handle a task if it doesn't involve sports or drinking. This is a direct reciprocal of the stereotype that women can't handle anything that is outside of fashion or caring for the home. The airhead wife has been replaced by the bumbling dad. And the problem isn't restricted to the realm of sitcoms.

Through my own personal experiences, I have seen women echoing the male stereotype message conveyed on tv---men are dumb, shallow slobby simpletons who can't be relied upon to do something right. At best, men are just a little more dull-minded, possessing a mind that is permanently stuck to one of four channels: sports, sex, cars or video games.

Many women would likely agree to the bumbling man stereotype with a laugh and a nod of the head. I sense an air of righteous retribution in the smirking agreement that follows around the stereotype, and it is disheartening to think that a turn-of-the-table has been packaged and accepted as a step forward.

Ultimately, that the bumbling man stereotype is not sternly denounced by the feminist movement only feeds into the problems they aim to fight. For if the feminist movement and women in general are seen as belittling and divested of the positive male, there is little incentive to meet in the middle.


Maybe I'm naive, but I believe that if the feminist movement was seen more as an safe-haven for progressive males as much as it was for women---that they had the same support-system---that we would see improvement in greater numbers. Males need to bring about the change themselves as well, of course, but when other males celebrate the stereotype and women are seen to validate and reinforce it, the room can feel pretty empty.
From here

What I found more interesting (or revealing) are the comments. It is often said feminism is for everyone and one of the comments give us a similar description:

feminism is about gender equality and ending harmful gender stereotypes of both men and women.

bell hooks definition of feminism: "Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression."

Honestly after reading a whole lot of feminist blog entries I can tell you, this is not the case. But I´ll let the feminism101 clarify this for me:

No one is saying that discussions on men and masculinities shouldn’t go on. It is absolutely important to have dialogue on men’s issues, including discussions on violence done towards men. The thing is, a feminist space — unless the topic is specifically men’s issues — is not the place to have that discussion and neither are spaces (feminist or otherwise) in which the topic is specifically focused on women’s issues.


What it boils down to is this: Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues.

Many men are entirely comfortable with calling themselves feminists, and many feminist women are very happy to accept them as fellow feminists working for the end of sexist oppression.


However, there are also men and women who are ideologically uncomfortable with men calling themselves feminists, because it seems to be a co-option of movements built by and for women.

From my own understanding and from reading more feministing in the last few days, the tenor of feminists is usually "empowering women" and discussing men´s issues usually doesn´t empower women much.

If you are interested in a discussion about men´s issues or MRAs with feminists, the feministing post is open for comments.

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