Allies, Critics, and Antis, Oh My!

So, I’ve stumbled upon the wild, wooly world of male-authored blogs that are critical of feminism. It was kind of intriguing at first. I figured it might be interesting to see a guy’s critique of feminism. So, I spent a few hours perusing two blogs:

Feminist Critics (http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/)
Toy Soldiers (http://toysoldier.wordpress.com/)

I started with the intention of wanting to hear folks out. I really wanted to like these blogs. Really I did. However, it became obvious that I have as many traits in common with these folks as an apple has in common with a kumquat. Yes, they are both fruit, but outside of the shallow trappings of language, the resemblance simply falls flat. I may be critical of some aspects of feminism, but I have very little in common with the folks who post at these blogs… and quite honestly, I prefer to keep it that way.

Nevertheless, it was instructive to read these two blogs. I’ve discovered that in spite of some of my critical feelings toward feminism, I wholeheartedly embrace most of its ideas. After encountering some of the… um… flawed perceptions of sexism and gender that are manifested in those two venues, I’m reminded of why I’m quite grateful that feminism is around. So, it was a positive experience overall, but probably not the way the blog authors intended, I’m sure.

My primary issue with feminism is that it’s not nearly as inclusive as it claims to be. The packaging is nice (New and Improved! Now more inclusive than ever!), but the contents are lacking. When it comes to women who stray too far from a white, middle class, cissexual norm, feminism is still rough around the edges. There’s room for a lot of work, folks… a lot.

In the spirit of inclusiveness, I also think there should be a greater focus on exploring how gender effects men. In the long run, I’m not sure how sexist oppression can be effectively challenged without including men’s experience with gender. Men are half the human race and the dance of power that occurs in gender often involves women and men interacting with each other. And of course, the old adage, “patriarchy hurts men, too” is also important. I’d like to think that feminism could include the broader objective of easing the gender-related crap that all people have to endure from a system that is far too restrictive for everyone.

Unfortunately, the attitudes and ideas I witnessed at Feminist Critics and Toy Soldiers are so misguided that I’m left feeling pessimistic about the viability of including men’s voices. After sifting through some of the verbal melees there, I am reminded of why feminists are hesitant to devote much effort to including men’s voices. However, blogs like Alas, A Blog and Feministe give me hope because there are many guys in those venues who do get it. I think it would be beneficial to initiate a continuing dialog about men and gender with guys who see themselves as feminists or allies of feminism.

In spite of my brush with the anti-feminism of Toy Soldiers and Feminist Critics, I still have little desire to embrace the title of feminist. I’m certainly an ally of feminism and I love many of its ideas, but I remain too critical of its real life practices to fully embrace the label. It makes me sad to say this, but there you have it.

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~ by timberwraith on April 5, 2009.

11 Responses to “Allies, Critics, and Antis, Oh My!”

  1. You might have noticed I post on FC regularly, and on TS’s blog sparingly (very rarely).

    I’ll have a guest post soon (on FC), which, if its posted as is, would be about the exclusion from feminism of three important factions/viewpoints. Womanism, trans-feminism, and the issues concerning men.

    I’m certain its not the whole thing, but those have been having big enough head-butting with the mainstream movement to create their own. And it’s also those I know about.

    When I say male issues, I don’t mean false accusations or such. I mean how male issues are said to not exist, or not be important at all, or its even a zero-sum game, like for DV shelter funding. I mean issues that could be fixed by being incorporated within the main movement. False accusations, if they occur, are an artefact of the flawed justice system, not of feminism itself.

    Feminism has not been the sole wrong party in saying men have no issues. Society itself says it. Feminism is flawed in perpetuating it though. Feminism in general also says race issues aren’t as important, and sometimes think it is outrageous for trans people to want their issues addressed. You’ve probably heard the radfem uproar over the term cissexual some months back?

    As has been said to men before, that feminism will fix their problems. The reverse is also true, fixing men’s problem will also fix women’s. Those problems are interrelated. If men don’t get any kind of support for being abused, well it needs to get out somewhere, and that’s unfortunate that others would have to suffer because men don’t have a way to ‘get it out’.

    The problem as I see it, and why the dialog often doesn’t seem constructive, is men feel helpless to do anything about it. Helplessness can lead to desperation, then acting out and anger outbursts, and dialog in those conditions is hard to conduct. I’m pretty sure Eagle31 is an example of this.

    Being outside this dynamic, where at least my needs as a woman are addressed by feminism (if not those as a trans woman), I can be the seeming ‘voice of reason’. I don’t feel helpless or desperate, or angry.

    I think fixing men’s problem in being forced to compete to inane levels and thus, being extremely tempted to use belittling and “put people in their place” etc as a valid tactic to “gain a lead” in the rat race, would also help trans women and gender variance in general to become more accepted. If the dude over there who likes to have his hair long and who prefers arts to sports isn’t threatening to you, then what reason would you have to belittle him? If men do not see their masculinity defined by their lack of feminity anymore, they might be more secure in who they are, less likely to do what insecure people can do.

    This is something feminism can do for men, and for women. But it needs to address and examine both constructs of masculinity and feminity at once, if they are so interlinked that they are seen as mutually exclusive. This isn’t the only thing that affects men where they need the cooperation of women, and I’m sure some women’s problems also need the cooperation of men to solve.

    I’m an idealist, but I believe this can be done.

    PS: While I agree the commentariat seems sometimes out of control on FC, what do you think of Daran and ballgame, two of the bloggers?

  2. Hey Schala! Thanks for stopping by.

    I should grab some sleep right now, but I’ll answer your comment tomorrow. The short version: I like what you’ve said.

    Bye for now.

  3. Done sleeping. Back in the saddle again.

    I look forward to reading your post at FC. You’ve had a lot of interesting things to say at Questioning Transphobia and the comment threads that I perused at FC.

    I liked many of your critiques at QT. I wish QT would tighten up its moderation a bit. Like so many blogs—doesn’t matter if it’s a lefty blog or a conservative blog—if a commenter supports the general ideas of the blog, they are allowed to say some pretty abusive things to others. I used to love QT, but now I’m beginning to feel a bit more reserved in doling out praise. I’ll still lurk there, but I’m not so sure about participating in the discussions. And that’s just the thing, blog authors probably don’t get much feedback when things go awry because most of the people who are offended just disengage and look for greener pastures… and the melee continues.

    OK. Sorry for the rant. Back to your letter.

    Feminism has not been the sole wrong party in saying men have no issues. Society itself says it. Feminism is flawed in perpetuating it though.

    As for feminism saying that men don’t have issues. I don’t think that’s entirely true. What I see feminism saying is:

    “OK, guys have problems too. It’s all part and parcel of the horribly restrictive gender system we live in. Nevertheless, we need to focus on women’s problems because that’s where the biggest problems are and society tends to be structured around men’s interests far more than it is around women’s interests. Our primary goal is to shift the shape and form of society so that women’s interests are also included in its structures.”

    I agree with this to a large extent but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. Society does structure itself in ways that pay greater attention to men’s needs, but it does so on the assumption that men will conform to certain gender expectations. There’s a lot of fine print in the contract, so to speak. So, when a man stumbles head on into a problem that violates the typical assumptions of gender, there’s not much help available for him. You just buck up and deal… or not.

    Also, while men’s interests are more strongly represented by society’s structures, those interests are represented in a way that totally embraces a “power-over” model. That is, if you can compete, if you are adept at playing the games of masculinity and amassing power, you’ll go far. The cards are stacked in your favor (at least relative to women). However, if you can’t play the game or if you simply fall behind, then the hell with you. You’re a loser and you deserve what you get.

    So, as for the guys who can’t compete? They are treated like dirt and are expected to internalize the notion that they are worthless losers. You’re supposed to be able to compete. You’re supposed be strong. You’re supposed to be a fighter. That’s what being a man is. I suspect that men are pretty adept at beating themselves up over their failures because they are socialized to do so in the first place. I imagine that the experience is quite suffocating.

    On a side note, you can partially place trans women’s experiences in that model, too. Yes, we are women. You know that. I know that. Society at large, though, they see us as some of the worst specimens of “failed men” available. So, we are treated like dirt and we are expected to internalize all of those self-hating notions that surround being a “failed man.” Many of us do, at least for a while. I internalized the notion of being a failed boy throughout most of my childhood. Luckily, I wised up and stopped that kind of thinking when I was 17.

    All in all, mainstream feminism is seeking to shift the structures of a cultural system that’s horribly broken in the first place—even for men. So, in many respects, it’s kind of like putting new siding on a house that’s being eaten by termites. It looks nice for a while, but whoops, the roof just caved in. How’d that happen?

    Feminism in general also says race issues aren’t as important, and sometimes think it is outrageous for trans people to want their issues addressed. You’ve probably heard the radfem uproar over the term cissexual some months back?

    I’d include issues of class, as well, Schala.

    Well, the academic part of feminism has certainly spent a lot of time discussing why race and class issues are important, but since the feminist movement is largely peopled by middle class white women, there’s not a lot of follow through. A lot of talk. Not much action.

    Since I’m a white woman who isn’t poor and I was a feminist for 22 years, I’m part of the problem too. I admit that.

    This pattern’s going to play out with trans issues too, you realize. Meaning that, feminism will eventually devote a lot of talk to why trans issues are important, but by and by, there won’t be much follow through. Trans people are a tiny, tiny minority among feminists, so, the real effort will be devoted to the faction with the most bodies.

    Really, feminism’s blind spots around class and race are one of the big reason’s that so many feminists don’t truly embrace the notion that it’s mostly middle-class and upper-class white men who receive the bulk of the favoritism. The power-over nature of society is still in effect and is brutal to those who fall behind the curve.

    A lot of feminists might chime in at this point and say that women who are poor and/or a minority are still disadvantaged relative to men who are poor and/or a minority. While that’s true, if you’re a poor man of color listening to a white middle class feminist—the average face of feminism—saying these kinds of things and asserting that women’s issues have primacy over all others, the general response is going to be understandably negative.

    Disadvantage and privilege form complex interactions that often fail to be represented by theoretical models which are largely designed by privileged people. Then, when the privileged folk wave around those theoretical models, people get a little pissed. Clearly, that approach doesn’t work well because at the end of the day, it’s still all about white people of relative comfort.

    The funny thing is, I learned much of this critique in Women’s Studies. Ironic, huh?

    As for the radfem uproar: oh, that uproar started long before a few months ago. My, they’ve been upset over the term cissexual for several years now. Oh well. Let them be upset. Lots of trans folk have tried to settle that particular dispute. It didn’t work. Radical feminism is a lost cause when it comes to our issues. You know how I feel about it. You read my essay.

    The problem as I see it, and why the dialog often doesn’t seem constructive, is men feel helpless to do anything about it. Helplessness can lead to desperation, then acting out and anger outbursts, and dialog in those conditions is hard to conduct. I’m pretty sure Eagle31 is an example of this.

    Being outside this dynamic, where at least my needs as a woman are addressed by feminism (if not those as a trans woman), I can be the seeming ‘voice of reason’. I don’t feel helpless or desperate, or angry.

    That’s a really insightful observation and yeah, I’m pretty sure Eagle31 is an example of what you describe.

    More power to you, Schala. I honestly don’t know how you do it. The tone of the comment threads of FC is more than I can endure. It triggers feelings from the abuse of my childhood that I’d rather not revisit. I’m guessing that many women who suffered through abuse from boys/men are going to give FC a wide berth, too.

    From my off-line experiences, I can attest to the fact that there’s a sizeable subgroup of women who are drawn to feminism because at some time during their lives, they experienced abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, etc.) from men or boys. Because of the nature of the comment threads, FC is not going to draw those women into the discussion. It’s a problem because those women are also among feminism’s staunchest supporters.

    I’m looking forward to your essay at FC, but I’m probably going to limit my participation in the comment thread. Because of the whole “triggering issue,” I don’t feel terribly safe at FC.

    I think fixing men’s problem in being forced to compete to inane levels and thus, being extremely tempted to use belittling and “put people in their place” etc as a valid tactic to “gain a lead” in the rat race, would also help trans women and gender variance in general to become more accepted.

    I totally agree.

    The whole competition issue is a key component in the problem. I was sent a clear message when I was a boy: to be acceptable in the eyes of other males and the eyes of society, you have to be a competitor and you have to compete well. If you aren’t a powerful competitor, you don’t really qualify for being male… or even human for that matter.

    If you are feeling insecure about your own gender expression, you probably aren’t going to feel all that comfortable with someone else’s gender expression—especially when they aren’t even bothering to color inside the lines.

    I think many men would enjoy life more if they could relinquish the notion that they have to be in charge at all times. No one can be the person with the power in all situations. It’s crazy making and unhealthy. Plus, it really pisses a lot of women off and makes for strained, emotionally charged male-female relationships.

    When I was 17 and decided that I was done with being male, it was like my whole system relaxed. Yes, part of that was certainly being able to acknowledge my own femaleness. However, I really did see myself as a boy up until that point. So, I bought into all the beliefs about masculinity and tried to live up to them. I felt like I always had to be the one on top. It was an impossible goal, but I tried. It was terrible. I hated myself. When I finally let go of the assumptions behind masculinity and said, “OK, I don’t have to be the one in charge. Whatever. It doesn’t matter,” it was a godsend. What a relief!

    It all comes back to the way boys and men are socialized. It’s incredibly unhealthy. It hurts men and creates a lot of pain and strife for the women in their lives. We’re all effected.

    This is something feminism can do for men, and for women. But it needs to address and examine both constructs of masculinity and feminity at once, if they are so interlinked that they are seen as mutually exclusive. This isn’t the only thing that affects men where they need the cooperation of women, and I’m sure some women’s problems also need the cooperation of men to solve.

    Yup. I agree. It’s impossible to examine mainstream notions of femininity and masculinity independently of each other because they were originally constructed with the assumption that they would serve as mutually compatible identities functioning within the boundaries of a heterosexual relationship. It’s all intertwined in eons of human history. So, they play off of each other, whether we like it or not.

    However, there are non-mainstream notions of masculinity and femininity that play out in non-heteronormative contexts. Those are a somewhat different pot of tea. Nevertheless, I still agree with your statement.

    My question for you is this: how do men and women work past the mistrust between them? There’s great heaping piles of mistrust and it makes it difficult to communicate. Plus, factor in the fact that men and women often communicate in different ways, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to work past this, but it’s certainly something that needs be considered.

    Even as a trans woman, I experience that mistrust. I can’t count the number of times cis women have given me the hairy eyeball once I come out to them. The distrust between men and women is one of the factors that leads to the hairy eyeball treatment (well, that, and transphobic assumptions about my “true” identity). When I come out as trans and a cis woman re-evaluates my gender as “kind of male,” suddenly the distrust starts flowing. Ugh. Not a comfortable situation.

    While I agree the commentariat seems sometimes out of control on FC, what do you think of Daran and ballgame, two of the bloggers?

    I don’t have much to say about ballgame. I used to read his comments at Feministe years ago and I remember a general sense of both agreement and annoyance. I don’t remember much in the way of details. That was quite a while ago, so I don’t think that evaluation is necessarily valid.

    As for Daran. Hmmm. Well, he lost me on this comment:

    The idea that men as a class have power is pretty much the fundamental fallacy of feminism.

    1. It’s true that most people in positions of significant institutional power are men. But most men do not have supplicant institutional power. Power does not extend from the small number of men who have it to the class as a whole.

    I think that’s really off-base and makes it impossible to have a constructive conversation about gender with him. While it’s true that many men are not the holders of power in society, you’ve got the whole glass ceiling and the wage gap as clear evidence that men still hold relative power over women. Even in the tiny progressive co-op I worked at in Maryland, there was a visible glass ceiling. The power imbalance has gotten way better since the women’s movement of the 70s, but it ain’t gone yet.

    Masculinity is constructed with the notion that a man is only doing what is natural when he moves into a situation and takes charge. Femininity is constructed with the notion that taking a back seat to power is acceptable but not required. Since the feminist movement came along, compulsory submission to men is no longer a requirement of being properly feminine. Nevertheless, it’s still widely assumed that opting out of power is perfectly normal for women.

    Given the way men and women’s genders are constructed relative to each other, you have a recipe for power imbalance. It’s constructed right into the ways we think of ourselves as men and women. While I deeply value the fact that I’m not always expected to be the one in charge, I’m annoyed as hell when I find myself surrounded by guys who behave as though I automatically should be the subordinate. After I transitioned, I found that men often treated me like a child. I’m not the only trans woman with that experience. It was pretty darned eye opening in a visceral way. It’s not even something men are necessarily conscious of. It’s simply part and parcel in their assumptions and behavior. So, yeah, we still have a ways to go on the whole power differential issue.

    At the same time, in certain contexts, women do have benefits that men do not. The thing is, even the benefits that women receive still occur in the larger context of men generally having more power.

    Really, when you get down to it, the issue of a power differential between men and women is the third rail of topics at FC. At FC, if you assert that men, as a class, have more power than women, there’s going to be a pile-on. Most feminists won’t even bother interacting in venues like that because they simply see it as not being worth the hassle. There are already men participating at feminist blogs who accept the power differential as real. *shrug* It’s a matter of picking your battles.

    I want to emphasize that I’m not denying that men are hurt terribly by our current system of gender. That’s true and there’s no argument against it. Just look at the maimed, emotionally disturbed guys who are coming back from Iraq. Masculinity is accompanied by a horrible price. Quite frankly, I’m glad I no longer have to pay that price. Even so, if we are to unpack masculinity and figure out it’s inner workings, we can’t ignore how it intertwines with notions of power. That’s key and we’d be doing an injustice to men if we didn’t.

    Ugh. This is really long. I’ve hit the five page mark in Word.

  4. “I look forward to reading your post at FC. You’ve had a lot of interesting things to say at Questioning Transphobia and the comment threads that I perused at FC.”

    Thank you, and I think it will be a while before its posted. My lack of citations for much of my claims (ie, all of them, I had no cites) makes for a good essay, but apparently not a good enough blog post by their standards (which I respect, it’s their blog), so I’ll try and find citations that are relevant.

    My post was already 1700 words before that, I’m afraid it might pass the 2500 or 3000 words mark soon. They have no policy on length, I just hope the readers of the post will be able to bear with me.

    “I liked many of your critiques at QT. I wish QT would tighten up its moderation a bit. Like so many blogs—doesn’t matter if it’s a lefty blog or a conservative blog—if a commenter supports the general ideas of the blog, they are allowed to say some pretty abusive things to others. I used to love QT, but now I’m beginning to feel a bit more reserved in doling out praise. I’ll still lurk there, but I’m not so sure about participating in the discussions. And that’s just the thing, blog authors probably don’t get much feedback when things go awry because most of the people who are offended just disengage and look for greener pastures… and the melee continues.”

    Well, people like voz, who assume they’re right because of their oppressed status (trans woman of color) is part and parcel of what I saw on MWMF forums, people assuming that my arguments were all null and void because I had been born with a penis.

    This is why I don’t let this shit pass by, and why her comments don’t affect me much. I’ve been dulled to this tactic. I’m only afraid of pile-ons.

    “As for feminism saying that men don’t have issues. I don’t think that’s entirely true.”

    I didn’t mean all of feminism, but I can dig back and find many examples of say, discussions about male issues on Alas were posters and bloggers said that male issues didn’t exist (male rape outside of prison – see male privilege list post – male victims of DV also, very prevalent over there that it is denied to be any problem of significance at all, or men are accused of leeching off women’s work).

    “So, as for the guys who can’t compete? They are treated like dirt and are expected to internalize the notion that they are worthless losers.”

    Even those who can compete, if they’re victim of anything at the hands of anyone except maybe an armed robber, its their own fault and they should be laughed off about it, if they even mention it to any living soul. Assault is under-reported, but DV assault is practically never reported, rape even less. No matter how strong or how competitive the man was, he “had it coming” somehow. And he should just suck it up. Feminism could help there, and not just by talking about it. They are organized, the government listens to them, it doesn’t listen to random unorganized victimized men though.

    “Really, feminism’s blind spots around class and race are one of the big reason’s that so many feminists don’t truly embrace the notion that it’s mostly middle-class and upper-class white men who receive the bulk of the favoritism. The power-over nature of society is still in effect and is brutal to those who fall behind the curve.”

    A feminist once mentioned that even a poor homeless man had power over Paris Hilton. And she had none over him. This, I hope, is not the main idea, but that people agree with this extreme tells me they’re not really thinking about it rationally sometimes.

    “More power to you, Schala. I honestly don’t know how you do it. The tone of the comment threads of FC is more than I can endure. It triggers feelings from the abuse of my childhood that I’d rather not revisit. I’m guessing that many women who suffered through abuse from boys/men are going to give FC a wide berth, too.”

    I was abused mainly by boys and men too. I learned to forgive and forget. And if some comment is too abusive, I just don’t listen, they’re losing audience from me. But I keep reading other commenters.

    “When I was 17 and decided that I was done with being male, it was like my whole system relaxed. Yes, part of that was certainly being able to acknowledge my own femaleness. However, I really did see myself as a boy up until that point. So, I bought into all the beliefs about masculinity and tried to live up to them. I felt like I always had to be the one on top. It was an impossible goal, but I tried. It was terrible. I hated myself. When I finally let go of the assumptions behind masculinity and said, “OK, I don’t have to be the one in charge. Whatever. It doesn’t matter,” it was a godsend. What a relief!”

    I wasn’t able to be on top. I’ve always been somewhat docile and submissive, if very stubborn as well. I never saw such a stark distinction between boys and men, to me it was mostly artificial, to them it was tangible. I didn’t understand that concept until years later. Now I can understand it somewhat, and some of it comes down to essentialism.

    “My question for you is this: how do men and women work past the mistrust between them? There’s great heaping piles of mistrust and it makes it difficult to communicate. Plus, factor in the fact that men and women often communicate in different ways, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to work past this, but it’s certainly something that needs be considered.”

    This, I couldn’t say. Having Asperger Syndrome, I never felt quite like a man or a woman. I’m sort of neither in mind. Or, as I like to say, I’m a cute naive little girl, and I prefer my own world.So communication styles seem both foreign to me, though I can sometimes translate, I’m sometimes completely off-base.

    “I think that’s really off-base and makes it impossible to have a constructive conversation about gender with him. While it’s true that many men are not the holders of power in society, you’ve got the whole glass ceiling and the wage gap as clear evidence that men still hold relative power over women. Even in the tiny progressive co-op I worked at in Maryland, there was a visible glass ceiling. The power imbalance has gotten way better since the women’s movement of the 70s, but it ain’t gone yet.”

    I’m not sure that’s evidence of all men holding power. The glass ceiling and the wage gap. They do exist (at least I have convincing evidence the glass ceiling does, not so much for the wage gap – there is evidence on both sides there), but they’re not evidence that all men have power. It’s not like I, pre-transition, decided to institute or even approve those. It’s not like I had any effect, or that my three brothers do/did.

    They’re evidence of men having it easier economically, but if someone holds that power, its people at the top, people who make the company policies, people who decide what floats and what’s bigoted/stupid policy, those people who can fire you cause they just don’t like you. That’s not the average person or man though. Not a majority either.

    “While I deeply value the fact that I’m not always expected to be the one in charge, I’m annoyed as hell when I find myself surrounded by guys who behave as though I automatically should be the subordinate.”

    They don’t only do that to women though, they do that to anyone who is ‘less alpha’ than them. If you scare/intimidate them (and not just once) or impose respect on them, they’ll consider you more alpha.

    “After I transitioned, I found that men often treated me like a child.”

    Well, given my ties to ageplay and identifying as a Little Girl, this isn’t undesired for me. If I believe that person is not worthy of me, they will know it quite soon enough. I’m a rebel at heart.

    “At FC, if you assert that men, as a class, have more power than women, there’s going to be a pile-on.”

    Worldwide, I’d agree. Supposing privilege = power, then in the West its less easy to measure. Even in Japan, its pretty clear that men have more privilege and power. Here it is less so. We would need a way to measure the immesurable. I just declare it “We can’t know” and move on.

    I accept men have certain privileges and women have certain other privileges. How you see the balance depends on how you value them.

    For example, I have no ambition to work 30 years and get a long-standing career. I want to be a housewife, because it doesn’t have the stress work has, and I sort of like the kind of work. I find it more rewarding. So the glass-ceiling, the wage gap, they don’t affect me.

    If I hadn’t transitioned, I’d have privileges I didn’t want, and lacked those I wanted (for example, being able to find someone willing to support a stay-at-home).

    It’s too subjective to measure accurately. No one is objective enough to do so.

    I didn’t transition for the privileges, but let’s say, when the question came “transition or not”, this pushed the balance far lower on one side, enough to make it “transition or suicide”.

    Why would I want to be someone I don’t identify with, who is completely rejected by the peer group, who possesses privileges they probably never will use, and who has dozens of hindering disadvantages? It clearly made it “or suicide”, I had no reason to exist as an non-entity (never identified as male) who was also made to live in hell (not masculine), and as an outcast (no identification to males as a peer group).

    The one thing that made me pose the question though, was the body issue. Otherwise I would have lived in hell or suicide. Transition wouldn’t have been an option.

  5. I meant differences between boys and girls.
    in a line above

  6. Also, I have to say that I’m still kind of miffed at Daran for the derail at little light’s place. I know Daran is from the UK, so perhaps things are different there. Nevertheless, little light’s observations about the way masculinity is constructed are largely true in the US. I don’t think it’s going to help men in the US much if that gets overlooked. The link between masculinity and violence is a problem and bringing greater peace into men’s lives is going to require examining some rather hard and unfortunate truths.

  7. Well, the way Little Light framed it said that all boys/men did things this way, which isn’t true, as TS and Daran demonstrated. It’s true though, from personal experience, that it happens. And that it’s mainly boys. It’s not maleness though, and I appreciated a lot of what she said about helping the socialization (which, unfortunately, was lost on others, who thought she/we wanted to reinvent masculinity in a way that would no longer be male).

  8. Well, people like voz, who assume they’re right because of their oppressed status (trans woman of color) is part and parcel of what I saw on MWMF forums, people assuming that my arguments were all null and void because I had been born with a penis.

    This is why I don’t let this shit pass by, and why her comments don’t affect me much. I’ve been dulled to this tactic. I’m only afraid of pile-ons.

    I can discuss an issue, even if the person is automatically assuming they are right, as long as a certain degree of civility is maintained, but when the situation becomes abusive, geez it’s just a blog, you know? I’ve got better things to do, like eat lunch or pick lint from my sweater.

    I admire your persistence, though.

    I didn’t mean all of feminism, but I can dig back and find many examples of say, discussions about male issues on Alas were posters and bloggers said that male issues didn’t exist (male rape outside of prison – see male privilege list post – male victims of DV also, very prevalent over there that it is denied to be any problem of significance at all, or men are accused of leeching off women’s work).

    I didn’t mean all of feminism, either. My response was just a summary of my general perception of feminism from many, many blogs and textbooks. Certainly not all of feminism. Gosh no. There are problems, as you’ve observed.

    No matter how strong or how competitive the man was, he “had it coming” somehow. And he should just suck it up. Feminism could help there, and not just by talking about it. They are organized, the government listens to them, it doesn’t listen to random unorganized victimized men though.

    Yup. I’ve seen that attitude. The sad thing is, it’s often men saying this to other men. I remember talking with a guy friend over the notion of letting go of some of the more harmful aspects of masculinity and he said that he could never do that because he feared the reactions of other men. I’m not saying that to downplay the problem or blame the victim. I think it’s awful and needs to change. Men are often quite harsh when policing each other’s gender expression. And yes, I know, women can be harsh too. However, because homosocial interactions feature prominently among the respective sexes, I think men often fear other men’s reactions more often than women’s.

    Certainly feminism can help.

    A feminist once mentioned that even a poor homeless man had power over Paris Hilton. And she had none over him.

    Wow. That’s incredibly wrong. I actually laughed when I read this. Although, it’s really terrible when you think of the implications of someone making a statement like that.

    I’d like to chalk it up to an undergraduate student who doesn’t grasp the concept of intersectional oppression, but I swear I’ve seen statements like this among radfems who are long past college. Oy.

    I wasn’t able to be on top. I’ve always been somewhat docile and submissive, if very stubborn as well.

    Oh god, I wasn’t on top, believe me. I sure tried, though, because that what you had to do to be “cool.” It’s more in my nature to be quiet and easy going. I’m not much of a “top” as it were.

    I’m not sure that’s evidence of all men holding power.

    It’s not meant to be. My understanding is that when people speak of men as a class they are speaking of a general pattern and that many exceptions can exist: the homeless fella, for example. When I use that terminology, I am speaking on a macroscopic level. As for individual folks on the street, your mileage may vary.

    They’re evidence of men having it easier economically, but if someone holds that power, its people at the top, people who make the company policies, people who decide what floats and what’s bigoted/stupid policy, those people who can fire you cause they just don’t like you. That’s not the average person or man though. Not a majority either.

    If the people at the top make policy, or law, or what have you, and they are dominated by men, chances are the policies and laws are going to do a better job at representing men’s interests. It’s also going to have a class bias, as well. Nevertheless, the likelihood of men’s interests being better represented lower down the chain is still there. I mean, that’s the whole point of getting women and minorities to run for office. It’s not a guarantee that everything’s going to be rosy when those efforts bear fruit, but there will be change.

    The one thing that made me pose the question though, was the body issue. Otherwise I would have lived in hell or suicide. Transition wouldn’t have been an option.

    I think I know what you mean. In many respects, my personality—the dispositions that feel most natural to me—line up better with what folks expect of women. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t of had the option to fully explore those dispositions had I been comfortable with a male body. I would have been stuck as a feminine man, feeling quite miserable about life.

    Oh god, the radfems would have a field day with this. “You’re reinforcing the gender norms!” “You’re reinforcing the gender norms!”

    I’ve got to go feed myself. Please reply if you feel inspired to do so. I probably won’t get back to you until late tonight or tomorrow some time. I’m really tired. 😦

  9. “If the people at the top make policy, or law, or what have you, and they are dominated by men, chances are the policies and laws are going to do a better job at representing men’s interests.”

    You’d be surprised how many policies have been developed to protect women from DV and rape and how practically none have been to protect men. You’d think the majority politician men would have their own sex’s interest at heart, but seems like not.

    Heck, in many states and countries, a man can’t even be legally raped at all. For rape to occur, there needs to be a penis in a vagina, and the victim has to have the vagina (a woman forcing herself on a man is not a rapist, at least not under the law). I think it’s a bit too phallic-focused, but well, it certainly doesn’t have men’s interests at heart.

    “It’s not meant to be. My understanding is that when people speak of men as a class they are speaking of a general pattern and that many exceptions can exist: the homeless fella, for example. When I use that terminology, I am speaking on a macroscopic level. As for individual folks on the street, your mileage may vary.”

    I think the people who have the power *are* the exception though. Rich people represent what? Less than 5% of the population? Powerful men who actually have a say somewhere to make things move, they’re less than 5%. So its not just the homeless fella, or the minimum-wage worker. Even middle-class people are just slaves who get tossed bread and get to see games in the Roman coliseum, to keep them happy.

    “Bread and games”, and this is how the Roman Empire flourished for centuries, preventing massive rebellions, by keeping people above desperation, above “this is so fucked up, I gotta do something about it” levels. Just above that. And the people who are at those levels? They are powerless, they are poor, they can’t rally people the way middle-class people can/could. So you end up with the rich having the middle-class people as jailors to the poor, and the rich get away with it.

    Before my parents divorced, we looked as if we were sort of middle-class collectively (55,000 CAD rough wage before income tax for a household of 6) and now am poor (55,000 CAD rough wage before income tax for a household of 4). Ironic that we seem poorer now although I have disposable income, which I didn’t before, because I didn’t work at all.

    It might be that I was more naive or such. 19,000 before income tax isn’t all that much to live on, even with 3 ‘housemates’ (they’re my brothers and mother, and two of them doesn’t work yet).

    19k from me, 19k from my 18 years old brother and around 15-20k from my mother, mainly from child support and she’s paid to be available for the youngest who has had mental problems following an accident when he was 3, he’s not visibly disabled, and currently, not legally either.

    I have eccentric tastes, but I usually have to be content with whatever I have anyways. I got used to it. I buy an ‘eccentricity’ sometimes. My last one has been a Hello Kitty comforter set off ebay.

  10. You’d be surprised how many policies have been developed to protect women from DV and rape and how practically none have been to protect men. You’d think the majority politician men would have their own sex’s interest at heart, but seems like not.

    I’m not surprised, really. The notion of men being abused by women doesn’t really fit commonly held understandings of gender. So yes, men who are battered by their wives would be ignored. Same thing for men being raped.

    Since those things don’t fit the standard script of masculinity, I’m not surprised that people who make laws and devote resources to such things ignore them.

    I think the people who have the power *are* the exception though. Rich people represent what? Less than 5% of the population? Powerful men who actually have a say somewhere to make things move, they’re less than 5%. So its not just the homeless fella, or the minimum-wage worker. Even middle-class people are just slaves who get tossed bread and get to see games in the Roman coliseum, to keep them happy.

    Yes, but class oppression and sex oppression can exist side by side. One does not prevent the existence of the other. Within each level of the class strata, there can exist a power differential favoring men over women. The same goes with white people over people of color within the same part of the class strata or even cis people over trans. When one tries to make comparisons of people from different parts of the class strata, that’s when you run into difficulty. For example, whey you compare the net privilege of a rich woman to that of a homeless guy. In a capitalist society, access to wealth can trump many other forms of disadvantage, especially when you have a lot of wealth. Money is power and you can bend social rules given enough power. Nevertheless, that doesn’t disprove the existence of other forms of oppression that manifest within a given class stratum.

    I think we can probably discuss this for days and not convince the other person. Ah well. C’est la vie.

    I buy an ‘eccentricity’ sometimes. My last one has been a Hello Kitty comforter set off ebay.

    I have two friends who are very much into Hello Kitty. One of those friends is a total girly-girl and the other friend is an androgynous dyke. The second friend totally surprised me. Talk about gender assumptions getting people into trouble. Definitely my bad.

  11. Well, if we throw class off the mix, and consider say, only poor men and poor women, I don’t see a great power disparity there. There’s a lot more concern about single mothers than single fathers (and it shows with regards to available social programs for each).

    Poor men also tend to be in dangerous, dirty jobs and those jobs rarely pay more than the entry office jobs their comparatively situated female counterparts (class-wise) take.

    I’ll give an example from my past.

    I went to high school without working at all, until I turned 17ish. I started college in Fall 1999, but miserably failed it out of lack of motivation (I’m a top-of-the-class student, and I don’t need to study).

    Afterward, my father said I had two choices. Either I try again going to school next semester, or I start working. If I start working, he’ll never finance my studies again.

    I chose to start working. But wasn’t able to find work (I didn’t know where to look, cashier jobs were intimidating since I have social anxiety, and I figured I needed experience with a cash register to get even a basic job there), so my father found me a place, through a friend.

    This was winter-spring 2000. Minimum wage here was 7.00$ or so. The job he found me was in a furniture manufacture (cheap stuff, not heavily decorated or anything – mass-produced stuff they sell for 100-200$ or so). The job initially paid 8.00$, 25 cents more after 3 months.

    I was able to keep the job 9 months, then was laid off for lack of work, and never called back. The job demanded more physically than I was actually able to give. There were latina women on the job, none of them did as much of the “heavy-lifting”, and they probably weighed more than me (I’m 5’6″ and 110 lbs, and I was then, too). I was assumed of being capable because I was legally male. They were paid the same wage though.

    I was on unemployment for 7 months. I’ll admit I was a bit lazy, never been paid for “doing nothing” before. So I took it easy, until the payments were going to end. I applied in every retail place nearby. None called back, none. Some even explicitly told me they only hired women, that applying was not worth it since they’d never call me (I always applied in person).

    When I went desperate, a big chain grocery store called me. I had applied there too.

    They wanted me to do 10 pm to 6 am work filling up the shelves with palettes of stock they received in the evening, do some facing work. I was ‘on call’, but typically worked 4 days a week. This lasted about 3 weeks. Then, after a week without being called back, I went to see them, ask what was up. And a “Oh, you were fired, you didn’t know?” is what I was told. Apparently, I wasn’t strong enough for the kind of work there either (that’s the reason I was told – not productive enough, but had not been told/warned during my work). Funny, I’m sure they had less physically-demanding positions, but they only called me for that one, cause my CV said male, again. The pay was 8.00$/hour there too.

    So, still desperate, no more checks coming. That’s mid 2001 now. Canadian Tire, a store selling a variety of things, also called. I went there, they put me in heavy work, saw I didn’t do that good, put me in gardening, and when gardening closed off ~2-3 months later, fired me over performance, again. The pay was the same there as well.

    Now I’m still stuck without a job or any income. I try applying other places, find something in a job bank thingy. JE Mondou, a company about pet food, is asking for someone to work in the office for their main office. It’s a fair ways away, but a job is a job I guess. So they call me maybe a week later. They ask for me to work in their warehouse. How surprising I think, but I try to ask for the office job. They say that without experience they can’t take me. So I resign myself to the crap warehouse job (and believe me, it was crappy). Pay was lower than all previous jobs: 7.35$/hour.

    It was okay in the beginning, until they tried to make me quit on my own. That’s a tactic they prefer to avoid having to pay unemployment or something like that. If you quit a job, you’re not eligible for it, only if fired. One time they made me empty a 53 feet van full of grass seeds in 100 lbs nylon bag – not alone (we were 2), but still. It was 35 degrees in the warehouse, 45 degrees in the van, no AC. The bags? I could barely lift them, and only if they were at arm level (any lower and I was unable to stand up with it), and I had to throw myself with it to pile it on the palette. The guy I was with found it funny. I found it horrible for the wage. But I didn’t quit.

    They made me do other unrewarding work, like emptying a dust machine (industrial stuff, the dust is a few inches high all around, no false movement or you can’t breathe) or filling nylon bags with bird food (put a certain amount of plastic bags in the nylon bag, then use a handy sewing machine to sew it shut, the damn machine weights 10 lbs). I got a work accident off lifting a bag to pile it (bags were 50 lbs when full).

    Six weeks of physiotherapy later, they say they don’t need me anymore and fire me. Two months later, I come back with an organization for workers with work accidents, and force them to rehire me. They put me in lighter work then, animal accessories, toys etc, light stuff kept in a separate area of the warehouse. My wage never changed in over a year, and none of them liked me.

    My parents separated and at this point my father had found a girlfriend. She said she might have an opportunity of work, where she worked. This was 2002. So, I took my work vacations, and then applied to work there, at the other place she mentioned. I got hired (yes, another warehouse – she worked as receptionist there). The only difference with previous job was this one had a union. So I couldn’t be fired on a whim, and my wage was going to be much higher in a short time, due to a pay-equivalency (eliminating the difference for time at the company and having a single wage for everyone). I started at 7.50$/hour, but 3 months later it was 8.85$. 2 months after that (January 2003) it was 10.25$/hour. A year later it was 11.15$/hour, and again another year 11.94$/hour (that’s 24,000$ rough, pretty decent for warehouse work).

    The co-workers were mostly indifferent about me. One of them was nice. A few of them were assholes. One punched me in the gut, tried to hit me with a box of screws (and that’s 100 screws in it), another tried to strangle me and made me a serious death threat – all this happened at work. My Coke/Pepsi cans were often thrown in the garbage by those asshole co-workers. So was my coat in winter. Thankfully the garbage was mostly boxes, used-up tape rolls and such, not food.

    Initially, my boss didn’t like me, he was trying to find a reason to fire me when I passed the three months line and couldn’t be fired on a whim anymore. He would give me a written notice on file for being late by 5 minutes – even if I called to notice them, while other people went scot-free for missing days in a row every week (one boasted about how he did it).

    I avoided being fired though. And said boss revised his opinion of me when I proved to be nearly the most productive employee on the floor. I kept getting told to ‘slow down’ by other employees heh. Yeah, I hated the work, and it was heavy, and dusty. But small boxes were easy, and I’m fast if I can manage it. So I compensated the slow pace on heavy stuff with a fast pace on everything else, something that was impossible in my previous jobs (it was all heavy).

    I learned transition even existed while working there, but did not even contemplate transitioning while there. So I arranged to quit my job and move with my mom (who I thought, rightfully, wouldn’t pester me as much as my dad for not working).

    I wasn’t eligible for unemployment, because I quit my job, so I went on welfare. I stayed on it for three years.

    I got hired as a videogame tester last summer, and I still work there. I can be myself, no discrimination, no assholishness, and I’m appreciated for my quality as a tester. It took me a long time to be psychologically ready to work, once I transitioned. I was so fragile to start with.

    A blast from my past, but it also illustrates that men “or people perceived as men – ie me back then) can get the short end of the stick, and they’re not necessarily the exception either. For example, the not being hired for office and retail wasn’t only for small-sized people like me, it was all men who were not hired preferentially (if not having special qualifications, like a degree, of 5 years experience in x thing).

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