Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why Dudes Should Support Feminists

Stephen Hay (who is a friend of mine) wrote an column in the local university magazine called Why Dudes Should Support Feminists:

This is an article for all the guys who don’t want to be as stupid as Pat Robertson and want to have a look at what Feminism really is. Feminism is a liberation movement. Much like how the people of Vietnam struggle against US imperialism to free their country and have control over there own lives, that’s just what feminists are doing against sexism. So just like the ordinary Americans that had no say on their Government’s foreign policy, but felt they would be complicit if they didn’t stand up and fight, its time (in fact long overdue) for guys to take a look at the sexist world we live in and do something.
I wish it was less rare for men to stand up and defend feminism.But what I've been toying up ever since I've read it was the end of the article:
While men may get some small benefit from the sexist society we live in, it is only a fraction of what the people at the top of the system get out of it and an even smaller fraction of what we all could have, if we get rid of that system.
I'm really not sure if I agree.

I want to agree, I want to believe (in the words of my once and future boyfriend Joss Whedon) "that misogyny is sucking something from the soul of every man woman and child on this planet". I can certainly see the argument that Stephen is making - which is that sexism divides us up so we're less able to fight capitalism. If men were able to fight sexism so that the working class were no longer . Of course he believes that, he's a Marxist. Even if you're not a Marxist I think there's still a lot in the argument that by dividing men and women sexism and misogyny does harm to everyone.

But I keep wondering if the compensation of a free and equal society would be enough, even if it was a free and equal post revolutionary society.

I don't know, you see. I don't know what it's like to have a 'wife' - someone who (to a greater and lesser degree) facilitates your relationships and emotional needs and does the housework. I'd love to not have to do housework, and relationships and figuring out my emotional needs - that's pretty hard work. Maybe I'd like it quite a lot if I had someone play that role for me.

I don't know what it's like to have walking, talking sexual objects, that are used to the idea that their sexuality, and their bodies, should all be about pleasing you. The idea of walking talking sex objects doesn't really do it for me, but maybe if that was the only way I'd experienced my sexuality I wouldn't want to give it up. Who knows maybe it's great.


  1. Anonymous3:23 am

    I'm a man and what has sexism ever done for me ?
    - told me it wasn't right to watch certain cartoons when I was a kid, the ones about relationships and poneys. But I really liked those ! Wasn't supposed to skip rope either or dance or wear make up or spend too much time thinking what I should wear, etc. I could have looked much better !
    - told me I had to do the first step if I wanted a girlfriend. But I was shy ! I wished some gung-ho feminist amazon just grabbed hold of me ! Well, one eventually did, but I had to wait a while...
    - it drives my wages down, by denying equal pay to all. ( that one gets people confused but here goes: it's not like bosses say "we don't pay women as much, so we're going to give the money we saved to the men", more "why pay him that amount, if we can pay her less ? And then we keep all the money we saved.")
    - actually, in the first instance, it drives my girlfriend's wages down, and that's no help for us, and so no help for me.
    - many other things : the pain of discovering a partner was raped, and the troubles this leads to in relationships, the general shittiness that is media sexism, and so on and so forth

  2. Also Patriarchy promotes a lowgrade society on a social and moral level. I have found that if you are unlucky enough to find yourself in the same organisation/family etc. as an emotionally disturbed male, then nobody will believe you, as a female, that you are not really the cause of any losses resulting from the male being dysfunctional or out of sorts. The male can always pass the blame down the line to you -- and it sticks there, because nobody wants to believe that a male is "hysterical" or "irrational". They will believe that nine times out of ten about any female, however, no matter how well she conducts herself in other respects. So, as a female you are always vulnerable for the mistakes/intemperance/outright emotonal dysfunction of any male within your circle who wants to pass along the blame to you. You can be popped off at any time, your character assassinated on the basis of male need and whim. This kind of an arrangement produces a society which nobody should want to live in.

  3. ilestre - I'm not saying that sexism does beneift you. I will absolutely believe men when they talk about the ways it has harmed them (as long as they don't make them women's problem). But I'm just not sure that's the case for every men, and I'm not sure that the benefits men are given in this society are small (they just, often, come with a high price of conformity).

    I guess I see whether or not sexism benefits an individual man, more than the way the rest of society harms him (or benefits an individual man at all) is a question of fact, and can change from person to person depending on their situation.

    Unsane - I like to think that - I like to think no-one would choose this society over equality, I'm just sometimes afraid I'm wrong

  4. Anonymous4:57 am

    Sexism benefits men in some ways. They can have a lot of say in politics and make a lot of money. They can take no responsability for domestic duties and maintain respect.
    However, men are hurt by sexism. They have to spend the first several weeks of a relationsip trying to prove their not a jerk. Their female friends/acquaintances might be scared of them or not trust them. If they are soft people they'll get beaten up by other sexist guys. If they like kids, people will think they're a pedophile. If a friend they really care about is leaving, they can't hug them. If they want to be submissive in bed they can't. They cant' touch people- no putting an arm around a friend or playing with people's hair, or else it will be a sexual advancement. They can't play the flute, dance or sing in a choir. This list could probably go on for a while but I'm a girl, so I'm going by outside observations. Sexism hurts EVERYONE.

  5. I agree with ilestre that if my partner makes less money it hurts me... I guess that doesn't apply to gay people.

    > They can take no responsability for domestic duties

    I thinkthere is an intrinsic problem that many people care a different amount abut partnership duties than others. For example often one partner will care more about saving money - in that case they will probably save more and the other person will get the benefit. Similarly one partmner might not care so much about things being clean. they might clean the house and then the other partner re-cleans the house. or it might never get dirty enough for them to want to clean.
    Same thing in almost any part of a relationship.

  6. Anonymous9:27 pm

    Carebear : "Sexism benefits men in some ways. They can have a lot of say in politics and make a lot of money."

    I agree with what you go on to say, but just on this particular point : It seems to me you forget to take class into consideration.
    It is just not the case that most men have a lot of say in what action the government takes, and it is certainly not the case that most men make a lot of money.

    There is indeed a category of men who benefit from sexism : ruling class men. They benefit from the division within the working-class, from the conservative ideology that goes with strict gender roles, and they benefit from the free domestic labour of women in raising the next generation of workers.

    But working-class men don't benefit from sexism. Of course they may think they do, and even if they don't they may still hold many sexist views. For that matter, so do many women.

    People in general hold lots of views which are in fact contrary to their interests, starting with respect for the established order. This shouldn't be confused with their actually drawing benefit from the established order.