Thursday, August 21, 2008

Radical Feminism And Men

Yes I am going to go there.  I was reading through some rad fem blogs last night which I will not link to as I have decided that this kind of feminism is not inclusive and has the potential to be harmful to women.  Yes I understand that there have been some wonderful outcomes like DV shelters and eliminating a womens sexual past as a reason to question her rape however, its continual refusal to accept intersectionality and its demonization of men is problematic to say the least.

As you are all aware I live in a household of men.  I have been happily unmarried to the same man for over 18 years and am the mother of two wonderful sons.  What I can tell you with absolute certainty is that my unhusband is not a potential rapist, or batterer.  How is that possible, he is in possession of a penis? I will tell you how that is possible, he respects women.  He is also not some kind of freak anomaly. 

In much of radical feminist theory there is a tendency to demonize men.  Do males commit some of the worst atrocities on the planet, absolutely but that does not mean that all men are capable of these acts.  It should not even have to be said that generalization of this kind is harmful. When we look at a group and pronounce them all guilty it is an excuse to spread hatred.  Believe it or not when you spread such vicious hatred of men it is not only harmful, it is hurtful to a large group of women.

I did not choose the sex of my children but I would not change it.  Raising sons can be an extremely feminist act.  Not only am I raising my sons to respect women and treat women as equals, I am teaching them to own their unearned male privileges.  The women that they encounter in life will benefit because of the lessons that I have taught them.  The lessons that I am choosing to impart are not only supported by their father they are promoted.  Feminism is a lived theory in my household.  So when I hear that all men are ___ (insert whatever crime), it causes me to get angry because not all men have the desire to cause harm and furthermore daily there are many women dedicating our lives to making sure that future generations of men are even less likely to cause harm. 

I am a straight woman, but I am also a mother, a sister, friend, an aunt and a cousin. Men play many integral roles in my life.  They have been by dearest of friends, sources of extreme pride and filled my life with much joy.  To admit this does not lessen my commitment to seeking justice for women.  To admit this does not make me less of a feminist.  I love women and will always work to improve our lot in life, but uplift cannot come from treating another group as though they are all criminal and evil.  This is the same kind of generalization that whites use to demonize blacks, and straights use to create homosexuals as less than.  Asserting your humanity also means validating the humanity of others.  If we expect men to value us as people, we also need to value them, and their contributions to our lives.

Pointing out sexism and the ways in which patriarchy continues to be damaging to women is vitally important to changing our lives.  Just like every other social justice movement feminism needs allies.  The civil rights movement of the 60's would not have been as successful as it was, if blacks and whites had not marched together.  We must embrace the males in our lives that commit themselves to feminism as it is their help that we need to make real and lasting change to this society.  Understanding that feminism improves the lives of both men and women can and should be the basis for a foundation in which we come together to end the ways in which gender performativity forces us to adhere to behaviour that limits our personal aspirations and desires.  When I see a man, my first thought is not potential rapist, nor is it potential baterrer, however I am open to the possibility that in time man it will automatically come to mean ally and friend.


Danny said...

I don't do this often but let me say thank you for this post! I have grown so sick of "progressive" feminists that hide their demonization (and in some cases hatred) of men under the guise of "smashing the patriarchy".

That "all men are potential rapists" line is a bunch of nonsense. By their own logic "anyone is a potential rapist". But try telling them that.

When I see a man, my first thought is not potential rapist, nor is it potential baterrer, however I am open to the possibility that in time man it will automatically come to mean ally and friend.
Its good to know that there are still people out there that don't look at person and see a potential criminal at first glance.

One surefire way to piss off someone that makes gross generalizations like that is to give a taste of their own medicine.

Lisa Harney said...

Aside from demonizing men, my problem with "all men are rapists" or even potential rapists is that it absolves individual rapists from their responsibility, because it was in their nature to rape. This was the argument some radical feminists used as to why they didn't think talking about Kyle Payne was important when we knew he was going to court for sexual assault, when we knew he used his position to gain access to women, and described himself as a feminist to gain access to women...while engaging in activities that are a precursor to rape.

"All men are rapists" excuses that, and blames women for trusting him because "all men are rapists."

rachelcervantes said...

Oh, this post is great! I agree totally. And Lisa's comment is bang on.

daomadan said...

I agree. Your words about how raising your sons is a feminist act is a beautiful way of articulating your influence in their lives as their mother.

One thing that bothers me about the entire "all men are rapists" way of thinking is that, as Lisa puts it, it places responsibility on women once again. It also erases same-sex relationships and the fact that not all batterers are men, but can often be women abusing their same-sex partner, or also, abusing their male partner! I was at a panel of DV survivors, being one myself, and listened to a man struggle with being a survivior of DV at the hands of his wife and how many people did not believe him because he was a man and how can they be abused?

Gabe said...

Asserting your humanity also means validating the humanity of others.

Oh, this is just dead on! I'll be repeating this to myself and others for a while.

Guy Vestal said...

I think what kills me the most is when a woman commits a crime that is heinous, many folks seem to think there is a man behind it somewhere, or that there must be a reason why she would do that, so it can be excused.

Isn't it just possible that some gal just blew a fuse and went batty just like anyone else? Can't she be just as screwd up in the head as her male counterpart?

This whole... "All men are d*cks, and all women are b*tches" just doesn't seem to be advancing any sort of agenda, not even an evil one to boot!

I need to go, I feel another rant coming down the pike. :-)

feministblogproject said...

I love this post. You articulate so many of the problems I have with radical feminism.

One thing that has been a challenge for me is overcoming my fear of men. I don't know exactly how I developed this phobia, but men I do not know freak me out. I suppose there are a number of factors that taught me to fear men. One of my problems with radical feminism is that it only fuels my irrational fear. Other forms of feminist theory, the ones that treat all people as humans have been way more helpful to me. It's difficult to enjoy a particular theory or ideology when it only enhances your mistrust for other people. There's something wrong with that.

C. Steffan said...

One needs to remember that evil is not gender specific. Many women commit some of the most horrible acts. A women kills her four children in the bathtub. Another accuses three guys of a rape that never happened. Another........

The only problem is that when women commit evil it is considered not their fault but is due to some other problem that they could not control -- hormones (PMS syndrome (a legal defence for murder), post-partum depression (a legal defence for murder) etc.

Let us recognize that when anyone commits a horrible act it is probably due to some biological problem or some society issue. They are still guilty of a horrible act.

Lety us recognize that both men and WOMEN commit evil in this world.

rachelcervantes said...

Quite true, Benjamin, that women are capable of evil. Not so true that women always get a pass due to biology. When it happens, it gets played up in the media, sure, but I think we have to remember the media presents a distorted picture. Also, women as crazy due to hormones is pretty damned sexist in itself.

There was a wonderful book on sexism in the media published some 15 or so years ago. I'm going to see if I can find it on my bookshelf.

rachelcervantes said...

There it is! Backlash by Susan Faludi.

exholt said...

"One needs to remember that evil is not gender specific. Many women commit some of the most horrible acts."

Two women in history I can name off the top of my head who fit that description:

1. Aisin Gioro Xianyu/Yoshiko Kawashima:

Her actions working as a spy for Japanese intelligence caused the sufferings and deaths of countless Chinese people in Japanese occupied Northeast China during the 1930's and 40's.

2. Jiang Qing:

Third wife of Mao Zedong and other than himself was one of the key figures responsible for instigating and perpetuating many of the excesses and abuses during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Danny said...

"One needs to remember that evil is not gender specific. Many women commit some of the most horrible acts."
One thing that I hear historians comment on once in a while is that they suspect that a lot of unsolved crimes committed in the past went unsolved because of the assumption that women could do such horrible things.

alexandra said...

While it is of course true that both sexes have the capacity for evil, that still doesn't erase the fact that 99% of violent crimes are committed by men.

Danny said...

99% of violent crimes are committed by men.

I'd really like to know where you got that number from.

Anonymous said...

Spousal abuse against men is very prevalent, your comment that "the fact that 99% of violent crimes are committed by men" is absolutely unfounded and moreover typically once again full of hatred and ignorance by womyn against men. A very few men commit horrid acts. Period.
women are equally evil as evidience in spousal abuse against men, teacher-boy rape, the gender bias against men in divorce court, preferences towards womyn in educational systems, and all the enormous entitlement that is automatically handed over to females. Misandry only separates even further this poisonous indoctrination against all thqat is men. Grow up little girl or go back home and suck that sniveling little thumb.

Although we men walk through the valley of the princess syndrome, cheers to all the millions And millions of awesome, brilliant, beautiful, and spiritually advanced Men who forge onward in this ball-bashing world in the face of so much hatred.