Friday, December 26, 2008

Manliness & masculinity (by Suzie)

          Manning up does not necessarily yield a feminist ally. 
          A couple of people defended The Art of Manliness blog, which Anthony critiqued this week. He promised to delve into it further, but, damn, I can’t wait. 
         The man who started the blog says he married a feminist and thinks the feminist movement has done much for society. But he says it is largely to blame for men feeling irrelevant these days, now that they no longer have to be the provider and protector of women. Shouldn't blame fall on the patriarchs who set men up as providers and protectors, the overlords of women? The blog goes on:
The fact that men and women are equal doesn’t have to mean they are exactly the same. True manliness sees women as equals in every way, but at the same time recognizes and appreciates our differences.
          This could be the Promise Keepers, with its Manhood '08 conferences. When people talk in generalities about innate differences, I worry how they may translate that into prescriptives for behavior. I also find it odd that some men think that, if they can't dominate, then they're irrelevant, as if those are the only positions possible.
          The post "Be a Modern Knight: Protecting Your Lady in the 21st Century" says:
Although the gender lines in this modern age have become increasingly blurred, there is one male/female disparity that even the most ardent feminist cannot deny: men are physically stronger than women. As such, they have from the inception of the human race been called upon to be the community’s warriors, knights, and soldiers. Fending off would-be attackers and predators, these men took seriously the charge to protect and keep safe the women and children.
          1. Not all men are stronger than all women at all times in their lives. 2. Some men were both protectors and predators. A man may consider himself the protector of his family and still abuse his wife and/or children. 3. Who called upon men to be warriors? Was it some long-lost matriarchy? No, male leaders called on other men to fight battles with them. 4. Apparently, these warriors were not just protectors even though this writing disappears the gender of the "attackers and predators," and who called upon them to take on those roles? The author seems oblivious to the idea that many men have fought each other, with women as property or collateral damage.
          The post continues:
While men are no longer called to be warriors against physical attack, we now have the duty to protect our women from emotional harm, to keep safe the hearts and esteem of the ladies in our lives.
          An example is that women feel pressure to be thin even though a lot of men prefer “a more curvy lady.” Thus, it’s not men’s fault! The blog blames the media and “the catty expectations of a woman’s female peers.” But the media is not an amorphous, androgynous blob. Men have long dominated the top rungs of the media as well as the fashion and beauty industry.
         Some suggestions from the blog: “Try to steer your lady away from tabloidy rubbish” and “steer her away from negative friends.”
          In another post, the blog presents “The 100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library,” which is pretty much the Western canon, but with fewer female authors (only three). Apparently, the essential man doesn’t need to know anything about women that he can’t learn from other men.
            I had a similar reaction to the UU Men’s Network. In response to a post about the presidential campaign for the Unitarian Universalist Association, a reader said UU men were fighting sexism and working to reconcile with women. As evidence, he cited the UU Men's Network, whose "purpose is to build a mature, liberal religious masculinity: male-positive, pro-feminist / womanist, gay-affirming, culturally and racially inclusive and diverse."
            The dictionary defines masculinity as qualities appropriate to men, or associated with them. Many feminists wish people would not associate qualities, such as strength or empathy, with one gender or another. We want to tear down “masculinity” and “femininity,” not recreate them. Mike Leach has an interesting article on the politics of masculinity at XY.
             I’m glad there are men who are pro-feminist. Nevertheless, there is a difference between talk and action. That’s why it wasn’t deemed sufficient to ask the UUA candidates if they opposed racism. Instead, they were asked what they’ve done to fight racial oppression and promote multiculturalism.
             “Male-positive” also made me wonder until I went to the UU Men's links and forum. As I skimmed, I saw a few things related to feminism, and at least one feminist man, but most of it was the same old crap about Robert Bly, “men’s rights” and “refuting feminist lies.” One linked site announces: “Treat women with respect and you will be called a misogynist. Anyone who criticizes women is a misogynist.”
             With friends like these ...