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Photo by Steve Baker

Radical Post-Masculinity and the role of men in feminism

Anne Thériault was discussing on Twitter today radical post-masculinity (RPM, not to be confused with the awesome Sugar Ray song that didn’t get enough play) and it was something where I wanted to say more but Twitter is a terrible platform for it. Of course, I have a blog I’ve been neglecting, so maybe I should talk about it there.

Clicking the link should give you the connected tweets. It’s a fine read.

Much of my response began about expressing my father’s generation. My father and much of his generation went through a lot of pains and struggles that they kept internally. Not to get into too much detail, but it created ticking time bombs of stress and anxiety for not solving their problems through discussion and expression. For my father, he didn’t come to women or men about it because he felt embarrassed. It’s stuff I’ve heard finally boil over at times when he’s too stressed, as he has a very quick temper. He didn’t have many women to talk to, let alone a man, especially since his father abandoned his family when he was young.

My father has made some terrible mistakes but he’s also a good man, and much of his mistakes I’ve always reflected were issues of our patriarchy. Growing up, I know I internalize a lot of my emotional issues but the times I’ve expressed them, I do lean more on women than men. I can’t say I only do because I’ve had good male friends who see an expression of emotions as valuable and not weak. Yet it does drive my struggles with my current situation with feminism.

I’ve struggled at times expressing what I feel feminism is for me because a lot of it sounds selfish. It also sounds a lot like I’m saying women can’t do something or shouldn’t do something.

To put it out in plain words, feminism addresses a problem that was made by men that I believe should be fixed by men. Not just men, but a far stronger contribution by men. Women have done a fantastic job outlining the issues they have faced (I mean, of course they have, it’s inflicted on them each day) and it’s now men who need to recognize it and put in their time in supporting feminism. I don’t know if women can destroy the patriarchal systems set up by men alone because men still control and perpetuate those systems. It should be the work of men in conjunction with women to eventually break this through.

Plain words it sound harsh, and it certainly reads as though I’m saying, “Good job girls, time for men to step up and do the job correctly!” which isn’t the intention. Of course it’s not the fucking intention. But allies, as much as I struggle with that word, (No man can decide if they are an ally to women just as no white person can proclaim themselves an ally to minorities. Only the oppressed can decide who is an ally, and it’s not some membership you keep for life) don’t do a good enough job stepping up themselves, and instead end up sideline cheerleaders. Less work is done combating the issues in the trenches and more is done pointing out what they support.

Too often I look at the problems brought up by women and want to do more about it but often I pause instead of act. This pause often comes when I, a man, discuss these issues with another man. When I see a woman in an argument with a man over feminism or gender issues, I struggle with whether to watch them take care of it or stepping in, because it shouldn’t be them fighting this. It should be me. I should be the one telling these guys what they are missing, how much damage our systematic failures create for women and men. I should be telling men how awful it is for us that women are not treated as equals, what it does to us. Yet I’m usually at the sidelines, cheering the ones that do. And whenever I catch myself not getting involved, I feel more like a part of the problem instead of a catalyst for solutions.

There are far too many men who support feminism and support systems of equity who are still standing to the side and allowing the women they respect to do the heavy lifting in gender issues. We don’t like to get our fingers dirty on something we’re not sure is truly about us. We see what gets done and we worry that we might make a mess of things. We don’t want to fuck up what these women we admire have done. We struggle to come up with solutions that are not just co-opting women (I won’t lie, most of what I talk about is co-opting Quinn Norton’s four part series on Women and the Internet since it changed much of what I felt feminism meant) and don’t do enough to express what part of this is up to us.

Too often I see men’s rights activism as a fight against feminism instead of what it claims to be, a support system for men. Much of the MRA movement is about lashing negatively against women trying to solve the unfair system they are born into created by men, since men in that system struggle with issues of their own. They see less visible support for male victims of domestic abuse and rape as an attack on men by women, instead of an attack on men by the system our fathers installed. Too often I’m not sure when I speak to them if I’m talking to a guy who understands this and chooses to ignore it for misogynistic means, or a guy who doesn’t see the bigger picture. When you’re a victim of abuse, often you see much of what comes towards you as another form of abuse. It’s difficult to recognize what is solutions to a greater situation than your own individual life.

The feminism I support tends to be the big feminism expressed by Norton, one about systems and a generational advancement beyond what was once considered natural. At the same time, I see it as a call of action for men to realize that the problems women face are our problems as well, and until we do more on a macro level, women will continue to struggle against it. So will we. Gender issues have individual examples for each gender, but there’s also The Gender Issue we need to all work against.

I just don’t know if men are doing enough, because as men in radical post-masculinity, we don’t know how to do more without hurting women. We don’t know how to talk to each other emotionally without resorting to old concepts of natural expression. We’re fucking lost, and the only flame leading us is a flame lit by women. Hopefully in my lifetime we’re not lost anymore, because we’re all using the same fire to break the darkness.

Photo originally by Steve Baker

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