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What About Men? – Powerful Woman Monologue #11

March 26, 2012

About the Author: My name is Dee and I blog at New Adventures of a Redhead. I started my blog to stay connected with my family and friends when I took off for university in September 2009. I tend to blog about my interests, thoughts and current feelings. I am a third year student and although I do not study Political Science, Sociology, Women’s Studies or even English, I try to keep updated in current ongoings and events in the media. I just wanted to shine a different light on this topic and hope it is taken well.

It’s funny that I would stumble across this blog but also quite fitting since this topic seems to be circulating all over lately. I first watched the Miss Representation 7-9 minute preview in one of my classes last semester. And just a few weeks ago, my roommates and I sat down to watch the entire documentary.

After watching the entirety of the film I felt very differently than I thought I would. I was not empowered like my roommates did, I was actually feeling quite confused and upset. As I consider myself a female leader throughout my life whether that be in sports, academics, leadership, anything I found myself questioning my actions. Is it wrong that I wrote a post on my own blog telling girls how to love hockey? I felt so guilty. But I quickly realized that I’m not sure if I entirely agreed with the entire feminist mind set.

Let me clarify that for you. I am immensely grateful for the women’s movement and without it, many of our rights and freedoms would be absent from our lives or come at a much, much later date if at all. The problem I have with this movement is its unconditional focus on women and not men. How contradictory is it that some people want “equal rights” while largely ignoring men’s issues. Somehow we’ve developed a society where we need a focus on what is wrong in the women’s realm, but why not in the men’s?

Last night I watched a show entitle, Doc Zone, which focused on sexting and the sexualization of children in our society lately. It made very uncomfortable, I even had to cover my eyes with my blanket a few times. Miss Representation also touches on this subject. How women and now girls as young as 8! are told by the media to please men, whether that’s by wearing super sexualized clothing or performing sexual acts at a very early age. But now boys are being taught that this is okay. So many places in the media and porn industry people are being exposed to aggressive acts of violence that seen as “okay” or even “fun”. Boys look at naked women like it’s normal and expected.

It’s time we put a larger focus on the men’s issues and how to promote acceptable behaviour. How we can do that, I’m not exactly sure but if we really want an “equal” world it only seems fair.

A note from Renee: I strongly believe that the feminist movement is just as much about men as it is about women.  I believe patriarchy is harmful to all genders and sexes.  But Dee brings up some great points.  How is the so-called women’s movement supposed to address men?  What is equality?  Let’s discuss these issues in the comments and I’ll find some time to craft a post on men’s involvement in the feminist movement later this week!

About the series: Powerful Woman Monologues are compiled in response to the media’s representation of women as inspired by the film Miss Representation. If you would like to participate, email me. Any kind of creative contribution is welcome from anyone.

Special thanks to Ashley of Little Leaf Photography & Design for graciously creating the badge for our series!

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2012 12:53 pm

    I appreciated hearing this! It actually reminded me a lot of what Ainsley Hayes says on The West Wing when she explains how she doesn’t need The Equal Rights Amendment: “A new amendment we vote on declaring that I am equal under the law to a man, I am mortified to discover there’s reason to believe I wasn’t before. I am a citizen of this country, I am not a special subset in need of your protection. I do not have to have my rights handed down to me by a bunch of old, white, men. The same Article 14 that protects you, protects me, and I went to law school just to make sure.” – I remember really stopping after that quote and letting it sink in.

    I DO think that this is an issue that really will take everyone- men and women to work together to make the kind of changes we need to see. I think what stuck with me the most after watching Miss Representation is the idea that just as society needs to be cognizant of how we treat females, we need to make sure we are treating young boys with the respect they deserve as well.

  2. March 26, 2012 1:00 pm

    Brandy! Your point about Ainsley is EXACTLY what goes through my mind when this kind of issue comes up, too funny you would bring that up!

  3. March 26, 2012 7:51 pm

    Men are such a big part of what needs to change. We cannot just stop misrepresenting women by only having the women on our side. I see it in my teenage male students all the time. They have been taught to objectify women and expect them to behave a certain way. Our society has stopped raising gentlemen (I’m making generalizations of course) and started raising men who see women as objects, a means to an end. They have a heightened awareness of how they think women should behave and act, what they should and shouldn’t do. Women’s rights is also human rights… rights for everyone, no matter their gender, race, religion, or beliefs.

  4. postmoderngirls; permalink
    March 28, 2012 3:11 am

    It’s interesting that this is such a pervasive thought- that feminism is for women alone, that feminism (and by extension/implication the women’s movement*) doesn’t engage with men. I won’t go so far as to say it’s flat out untrue, but a lot (in my opinion) has to do with how feminism and the women’s movement itself is portrayed.

    In my experience in the feminist and women’s movement- everybody acknowledges that we won’t get anywhere without engaging with men**, that we won’t change these structures if we only focus on ourselves. We’re talking about sustainable behavioural change, and none of that works in a vacuum.

    However, I’d caution against confusing and conflating issues here. A lot of the work in the feminist/women’s movements has to be seen in context, and understood for its purpose. Sometimes the empowerment of women does have to take place in male-free spaces, because those are safe spaces. Sometimes, how ever well meaning a man; how ever supportive of women’s rights- he takes over, and then we have issues of representation, of power, of hierarchies, of spaces that have been co-opted. When talking about male engagement and involvement, it has to be asked: how and why. What is the role that a man plays here, in these spaces that women have fought so hard for? What is going to shift?

    I was in an interesting space a few months ago where this question came up. One of the male members of the group said something I’ve been thinking about ever since. He said that the purpose of men in these spaces is about solidarity, it’s about support. It’s not to co-opt, it’s to say, ‘I stand with you, as an equal. It’s to acknowledge that these issues that you face are also my issues, are also detrimental to my world as a man’.

    That’s not to say that we don’t target or challenge what men and boys are being told, are being taught. That’s not to say that we don’t look at how dangerous gender normativity is for men, or the specific roles they’re forced into. It’s imperative that this happens, and that this takes place. I would question anybody who says that the feminist/women’s movement has not done this.I would also question, however, if this needs to occur in spaces that women have had to fight for to secure as a safe space for women. I’m not sure it does. I would argue that these discussions need alternate spaces because while they might have a larger agenda that is similar; they have very different power structures, concepts, ways of working, and spaces.

    I’m aware that my feminism is informed by a completely different space, that the issues of feminism/women’s movement in the Global South is different to that in the North. So in terms of ‘male engagement’ we might be on different planes completely.

    *distinguishing between the feminist and women’s movements as a deliberate, political point. They are two different spaces with many, many divisive points. Male engagement is one of them.

    ** Historically, the feminist/women’s movement was one of the first to support the gay rights movement and stand in solidarity. Even now, a lot of the feminists from the 70s and 80s claim to be burnt by the ‘co-option’ of our spaces then, and are deeply suspicious of how men are involved in women’s spaces.

    • Alexander Goldberg permalink
      March 29, 2012 2:45 pm

      I think that a lot of good, valid points were made in this post and I agree with ALMOST everything you have said. However, I do object to your comment:

      “Sometimes the empowerment of women does have to take place in male-free spaces, because those are safe spaces. Sometimes, how ever well meaning a man; how ever supportive of women’s rights- he takes over”

      To me, this has some implications that I cannot support. Saying regardless of how well meaning or supportive of women’s rights a man is he will still take over is a bold statement. This implies there is something innate in men that makes them take over (even if it’s not all the time). I believe that if a man is educated enough to recognize female oppression in all of its forms AND if he is conscious enough of the culture of the safe place, then he can absolutely participate and aid in the empowerment of women without ‘taking over’ anything.

      • postmoderngirls; permalink
        March 29, 2012 9:14 pm

        Hi! 🙂

        Perhaps I should’ve picked my words more carefully to emphasise what I meant.

        I don’t mean that he will take over, I meant that there are times when (‘sometimes’) he does- in my experience anyway- even if it is in very subtle ways. No matter how much we try to move past hierarchical, traditional, power dynamics; it plays out in how we react to authority and concepts of authority too; unless we’re supremely careful and aware of it.

        I don’t think it’s ‘innate’, I do think that our relationships with authority and power influence how our spaces function and in the contexts that I live and work in (I’ll underscore my last paragraph in my original response here), it’s usually male-dominated and patriarchal. And so sometimes, a space is most definitely a space free of men/the male-bodied. Interestingly,

        Again, my next point (perhaps not very well articulated) links to asking ourselves the whys, the hows, the whos- and that’s more suited to what you are getting at about educated, conscious men not being a ‘threat’ in some spaces. I don’t disagree, I just think that we have to choose our spaces carefully and understand how this plays out and shifts a space.

        TL;DR: power matters, ideas of power matter; and that influences how spaces function.

      • postmoderngirls; permalink
        March 29, 2012 9:27 pm

        Ugh. Goddamn typing skills at 7 am.

        And so sometimes, a safespace is most definitely a space free of men/the male-bodied.*

        There was a really long, convoluted story.. but I realised it wasn’t very interesting. Never mind that.

  5. March 28, 2012 9:21 am

    Dee,
    I agree with what Postmoderngirls said. She put it much more eloquently than I will, but here it goes.

    I think your argument about the women’s movement unconditional focus on women and equal rights while ignoring men’s issues is a bit flawed.
    Do you know what’s wrong in the men’s realm? It’s been highly unaffected by the women’s movement.
    Yes, we need to teach our boys differently. We need to teach them to respect women, to respect themselves. We need to change our gender normative view of masculinity, we need to stop the perpetuation of this thinking that a man doing anything stereotypically female is wrong.
    (I swear if I hear one more little league dad tell his son he “throws like a girl” I will lose my shit)

    However, I don’t think the way to accomplish this is by focusing on men or lessening our focus on women’s rights.

    In truth, I think a stronger focus on women and equal rights would accomplish this.
    Think about the media, the government, the business owners. Think about the people in charge of what we read, see, and buy. Think about who holds the majority of the power in our country alone? It’s not women.
    Only by changing our cultural landscape to include women equally in every sector can we see these changes start to take place.

    Also, to reflect on Brandy’s comment, I think in light of the recent abominations of our reproductive rights the ERA is more necessary than ever.

  6. March 28, 2012 9:34 am

    Shaba- Agree 100%. I read this http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/womens-reproductive-rights_b_1345214.html last night and actually felt sick to my stomach. While I don’t agree with Ainsley, I remember thinking that it was a way to put the other perspective out there that I hadn’t thought of before.

    • March 28, 2012 2:53 pm

      That was exactly the idea of my post – just food for thought, a different spin on the issue. I know the argument isn’t strong, I didn’t make it to be, I just wrote some thoughts and things I had been feeling and experiencing in regards to this surge of women movements in the media. I hope someone decides to write a post regarding the Hunger Games and it’s strong female lead!

      • March 28, 2012 2:57 pm

        I think what’s most interesting about The Hunger Games is the fact that boys like it, too! So often girls are expected to try to identify with male protagonists (Harry Potter), so it’s great that boys are enjoying Katniss as a character.

        The academic community is taking on The Hunger games this week at In Media Res, if you’re interested!

  7. March 28, 2012 3:47 pm

    Sounds great! My friend also found this article: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/3/26/Hunger-Games-Gender/

    • March 29, 2012 11:33 am

      I love the fact that the Hunger Games is appealing to men as well as women. After I read the trilogy I gifted them to my 19 year-old brother for his birthday. He loved them as much as I did (he’s also Team Gale, but I don’t hold that against him).

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