Sexists, Skeptics, Symbols, and Sepsis

Archive for the ‘Sexism 101’ Category

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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Rather than introducing myself–because I hope that any potential readers will come to know me well enough over the course of my blogging that a formal introductory post will be unnecessary–I think it’s better to give my reasoning for the title of the blog itself.  So: “Sexists, Skeptics, Symbols, and Sepsis.”  Why are these four things my particular focus here and what do these things have to do with draining the wounds in the body politic?

Why sexists?

I have pulled my first bait-and-switch on you, and I apologize now. I’m most experienced arguing about sexism, but sexists themselves are not particularly interesting to me since we all, consciously or unconsciously, hold sexist views, which means that it is relatively meaningless to assign labels like “sexist” to people as opposed to positions. All of us have been spending our lives stewing in a society rife with unexamined ideologies, all of which inform our identities, and sexism is just the one of these things that I tend to know the most about. This blog will approach social issues from the perspective of intersectional feminism–that is, it not only holds the radical perspective that women are people, but also holds the apparently-even-more-radical perspective that women can have myriad identities, all of which have an impact upon their experiences of womanhood. They are not people in a uniform sense; they are people in the gloriously diverse sense that all people are people, and must be treated as individuals (albeit with some overlapping experiences) as a result. Equally importantly, this blog holds the radical perspective that men are people, with the capacity to experience a full range of emotions and to control themselves around women; to view men otherwise is demeaning and downright sexist. Of note is that it is not possible to hold these views without having room for the diversity of gender expression and biological sex that experiences in the real world, and there will be no question as to the right of nonbinary, trans*, and intersex bodies to define themselves however they wish in this space. Although a separate post on commenting policies is forthcoming, suffice to say that misgendering and refusal to abide by requested pronouns will result in swift and uncompromising bannination.

Some of the deepest wounds in our society are in relation to sexism. Essentialism marginalizes every body it touches, leaving no room for the uniqueness that is part and parcel of every human experience. It demands that every person be woman or man as they are assigned at birth, that every woman be nurturing and kind, that every man be unemotional and strong, that people behave simply as either divine or genetic chess pieces in pursuit of a society of boxed-in, easily-defined identities. We have to step out of these boxes where we feel inclined to do so and, in doing this, we’re going to step on toes. It’s worth facing head-on the fear of being unconventional, though, because doing so shines light on the uncounted bodies who live invisibly, in fear of speaking their deviance, knowing that to do so may be emotional or physical suicide. If we don’t heal society of toxic notions of gender and sex then many people will never have the opportunity to step into the light.

I should say, too, that I am relatively privileged. For disclosure’s sake, I am white, cisstraight-ish, middle-class (but with a brief period of poverty and homelessness), and have a newly-minted, shiny bachelor’s degree that I intend to expand into a doctorate when some of my ducks fall into the right row. Because of my privilege, I may not always recognize when I have firmly lodged my foot in my mouth, so please don’t hesitate to correct me if I screw up (particularly if you’re marginalized in a way that I just don’t have a lot of perspective about).

I look forward to sharing and learning from anyone kind enough to read.


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The Crommunist Manifesto

"The stubborn persistence of chauvinism in our life and letters is or ought to be the proper subject for critical study, not the occasion for displays of shock." - C. Hitchens

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Sexists, Skeptics, Symbols, and Sepsis

Let's leech the wound in the body politic.