Sexists, Skeptics, Symbols, and Sepsis

What About the Men?

Posted on: 2013/06/05

Since I’m writing on a group blog now, and that group blog is part of a backlash against the misogyny of the skeptical movement, we’ve chosen to include male voices only once a week. It’s not that we have any problem with men as men, or with what men have to say simply because they are men, but we wish to make it clear that we believe women’s voices to have value in and of themselves without men having to approve of it. This is a tricky thing to do, since we actually care a great deal about men and their issues, but I believe that it is important to have a space for women to speak. There are many spaces in which only men speak, both online and off, so we feel valid in going about our business this way. (I’ll also take this opportunity to highlight our Token Dude’s post about toxic masculine scripts.)

That being said, although “What About the Menz Wednesdays” is a tongue-in-cheek concept–as is our tokenization of the men who will post on our site–I actually, personally, care very deeply about mens’ issues. As a feminist, I find that “gender studies” is a more apt term than “women’s studies” because it acknowledges that men have gender every bit as much as women and non-binary folk do. While it’s true that feminism, as an establishment, is more interested in the empowerment of women than the empowerment of men (who are already, in a lot of ways, more empowered than women), intersectional feminism has room for the discussion of men’s issues both as pertain to their gender and as pertain to other marginalized identities that they might inhabit.

I look at the men around me and I often see deeply wounded bodies who are denied even the ability to speak of or acknowledge the wounding that is part and parcel with becoming and remaining a man in our society. I see bodies shaped with violence that is meant to impart to them that their only value is as distributors of the same violence. I see psyches scarred by the socially-constructed notion that there are only a few emotions that “real men” have. I see people who are often so terrified of being thought effeminate that they will deny core aspects of their being so as to be permitted to remain in the man box.

I see my father, laid off at fifty and suddenly denied the only value he has been taught he has. Defeated. Failed. Unable to provide for his family, no longer a man.

I see men who return from combat with post traumatic stress disorder and are incapable of speaking the pain of what they have witnessed because real men thrive in combat; their wounds should be physical, not emotional. Sick. Hurting. No longer men.

I see the bodies of men, who comprise the largest demographic to successfully commit suicide, and I see the gun manufacturers who exploit their desire to be manly and thus put in the hands of many of these men the instrument of their own self-destruction. They may die, but at least they die as men, I suppose.

I see queer men and men whose gender expression is non-normative and the physical and psychological violence that they undergo, usually (but not always) at the hands of other men who are threatened by masculinities other than the Man Box. If you let men fuck you or you wear nail polish then you’re not a man.

I see the men who are victims of assault, both sexual and physical, at the hands of other men, and remain silent because it would be unmanly to speak.

I see my fellow Marines, men, who are beaten in boot camp for no pedagogical reason and do not speak out against their drill instructors because they desperately want to be men, to be Marines.

I see men who are taught that violence is the only way that they can achieve their goals and who are so emotionally stunted that they attempt to get their way through violence against others, and I even have some pity for them, however small.

I think that men deserve better than this. I think that men deserve better than to spend their time absorbed in a media that portrays them as too stupid to be self-sufficient, as raping machines without consciences, as incapable of forming emotional bonds with other people except over shared adherence to a certain form of masculinity. I think that men deserve better than to be told that they need a gun to be a man and then to find themselves with an easy way out when they, like everyone else, suffer from devastating depression. I think that men deserve better than to be taught that their only value is in how much money they make for their families.

And I do think that feminists should talk about this more. A lot of men, because of poverty or race or disability or sexuality, will ask the question that a lot of feminists deride: “But what about teh menz?!?!?!?!” And my answer is: it’s fair to ask that question. It may not be fair to ask that question in every space; for instance, a discussion of the income disparity between men and women is not a fair place to bring up that individual men may make less than individual women. It is, however, fair to ask this question on the broader scale. What about the men? Have people forgotten that they have gender, and that this gender is often formed through violence and abuse?

I haven’t. I care. I care if you feel as though you haven’t done anything wrong and you are being mistreated simply for being born with a particular type of body, although I hope to demonstrate to you the way in which that perspective lacks in understanding of the bigger picture. I care about the distress of the privileged. I may not care about it as much as I do about the cries of the marginalized, but I do care about it, and I think that you deserve an answer, sometimes, to “what about the men?”

It’s almost cliche by now, but the patriarchy hurts men, too, and my feminism is the kind that cares about men’s struggles. After all, if men are socialized to perpetuate violence against women, then women cannot be safe until we expect more of men and demand better for them. We cannot have safe women until men are safe. It all comes back to men; that, my friends, is “what about the men.”


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