and originally published on Narratively on December 21, 2016
I once took a drive on the back roads from Brooklyn, New York to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Cruising 55mph from small town to small town, I couldn’t help but notice all the billboards advertising treatments for illnesses and ailments: back pain, fibromyalgia, asbestos exposure, cancer. This wasn’t the America I was used to. Bombed-out Main Streets, sad sack bars, Wal-Mart, and lots of pain pills. It was depressing.
I grew up privileged: private grade school, high school and college. I got a master’s degree from Columbia University. I have a trust fund. But I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with this other America. Somewhere deep inside, coal runs through my blood. When I think about where I come from, I don’t think of the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I think about my grandfather Angelo Rotondaro, an immigrant coalminer from Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Shock, surprise, handwringing, sadness, recrimination, and analysis by social commentators, academics, activists, and politicians themselves followed the 2016 presidential election. Certainly there have been no shortage of explanations as to how a rich white man with no political experience, multiple failed businesses and marriages, who is on trial for sexual assault, whose recent claim to fame involves starring on a reality television series, and whose supporters feature bumper stickers reading things like “Trump that Bitch” will become the 45th president of the United States. As many of these commentaries have pointed out, this election is the perfect storm of intersecting inequalities: inequalities of class, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nation among others. Indeed, the anger that fueled this election reflects the conservative and populist movements across the globe in recent years.
Sociological research and theory on masculinity and gender inequality explain, in part, the success of a man who uses “locker room talk,” regularly objectifies women, calls them “nasty,” and looms over them in a way that is recognized as dangerous by survivors of violent relationships or sexual harassment. The easy answer is that men are voting for the continuation of an unequal gender system that privileges them.
Dear White Men,
This is on us. And now it’s up to us to undo it. I keep hearing us say: “we’ll be fine.” We may be shocked, devastated, disappointed, outraged but we also keep telling ourselves “we’ll” be fine. Sure, “we” will. But not all will, and not all are. If you are saying “we will be fine”, think hard about who that “we” is. Because many are not part of the “we” that will be fine. Our friends of color, our Native American friends, our Muslim friends and Latino friends, our LGBTQ friends and the women in our lives are not fine. And they are more than devastated and shocked. They are afraid of what is to come. And they will be, and already are, under attack. If you’ve ever questioned the existence of the concept of privilege, being able to say “we’ll be fine” is painful proof of its existence: Continue reading
Two days ago I read an interesting post at Crip Confessions. The post was titled “But Won’t You be Ashamed? or Cripping Pasties”. A little background is needed. The author is going to the 2016 AVN Expo and Awards in Las Vegas. Essentially she is attending the “Oscars of Porn”. What struck me as thought provoking was the following paragraph:
Much talk of clothes and the like have provoked side conversations coming up, including one that included the title query. I have been very open about my plan to wear pasties and frolic. I explained this to an acquaintance, and one of their first questions to me was “Won’t you be ashamed?” They were baffled I would have the audacity to wear pasties generally, and especially among porn stars – who include those with medically sculpted bodies toward social beauty, rather than away like my medically enhanced body.
The following post was originally published on Men Advocating Real Change (MARC), an online community for men committed to achieving gender equality in the workplace. MARC is an initiative of Catalyst, the leading nonprofit organization expanding opportunities for women in business. Find out more and join the conversation at onthemarc.org.
By Cliff Leek.
The United Nations (UN) marked the launch of its new campaign for gender equality on Saturday, September 20th with a special event at the UN Headquarters in New York. This new HeForShe campaign, dubbed the “UN Women Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality,” specifically aims to engage men in feminist efforts for gender equality and is a part of a growing global movement to involve men in gender justice work. So far nearly 200,000 men from all over the world have pledged “to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls” as a part of the HeForShe campaign.
In addition to hundreds of thousands of men committing to do this work through HeForShe, the past month has felt like a parade male celebrities and other powerful men taking public stances on feminist issues (Aziz Ansari,President Obama, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and numerous others). As Slate writer Amanda Hess put it, “male allies are having a moment.”
In the midst of this “moment,” my social media feeds have been inundated by editorials and blog posts discussing every possible angle of men’s involvement in struggles for gender justice. Many writers have taken this moment to point to the various ways in which men can sometimes undermine our own good intentions and end up hindering the work we intend to support. Here are just a few:
So You Want to be a Male Feminist? Maybe Don’t. – Kat Stoeffel
Male Allies Are Important, Except When They’re The Worst – Amanda Hess
#HeForShe, Domestic Violence, and Privileging Male Allies – Kenneth Kolb
If we are truly invested in changing the status quo by standing alongside women we need to take these concerns seriously. We need not only to show up, but also to think critically about how we show up. A few writers in recent weeks have provided fuel for that critical thought:
So You Want to be a Male Feminist? Here Are 11 Simple Rules to Follow – Derrick Clifton
How to be a (Male) Feminist Ally – Elizabeth Pickett
After considering both the critiques of men’s involvement in feminism and the suggestions for how we can do/be better, I sat down to think about the lessons that I have learned in my efforts to support gender justice. What follows are the lessons that have been the most helpful in my own development as man involved in this work.
Do your homework.
What do I mean when I say “do your homework?” Well, I mean it quite literally.
As Elizabeth Pickett argued, “it’s your work, not the work of feminists, to educate yourself.” Too often we expect women to educate us on even the most basic feminist concepts when we could, just as easily, do our homework. We live in an era when trainings on-line and in-person are readily accessible for people who are inclined to educate themselves on issues of power and privilege. Seek out those trainings.
Learn on your own time. We should strive to make sure that our learning doesn’t come at the expense of the time and energy of women involved in other aspects of the work. Our education shouldn’t be a distraction from the movement.
See beyond self-interest.
Emma Watson, in her speech at the HeForShe launch event, argued that men should be involved in feminist work, at least in part, because gender norms are harmful to men too. In response, Mia McKenzie, of Black Girl Dangerous, wrote a scathing commentary arguing that “Telling men that they should care about gender inequality because of how much it hurts them, centralizes men and their well-being in a movement built by women for our survival in a world that degrades and dehumanizes us daily.” As she describes, not only does over-emphasizing men’s self-interest in feminist work displace women from a movement that is, at its core, about ensuring women’s well-being, but it also obscures the myriad ways in which men benefit from patriarchy.
Watson wasn’t wrong. Gender norms do have negative effects on men and feminist work to challenge those norms can go a long way in changing men’s lives for the better. That is one reason why men should strive to be feminists.
But, it shouldn’t be the sole reason. While it is important to recognize that feminism is good for men too, that doesn’t mean we should put men’s issues first as we join feminist work. Being in solidarity with feminist women does not mean we only show up when we stand to benefit from the conversation.
Don’t forget to look inward.
Finally, we have reached the toughest lesson of all.
Learning to examine and challenge patriarchy and gender inequality in the world around us is easy compared to seeing it and changing it in ourselves and in our own relationships.
Men who don’t turn their feminist analytical lens inward may miss the ways in which we can also be a part of the problem. Simply understanding feminism does not make us exempt from dominating conversations, taking charge when we shouldn’t, perpetrating microaggressions, or otherwise utilizing our privilege inappropriately. Failing to examine and address these issues and behaviors in ourselves can not only make us hypocrites, but also position us as roadblocks or hindrances to the work we care deeply about.
Looking inward can be difficult. Sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge, or simply don’t see the same things in ourselves that we so readily notice elsewhere. Because it can be so difficult, part of the process of looking inward can be setting up a system of mutual accountability with a friend or ally. It can help to develop a relationship with someone that you trust to be honest with you when they notice problematic behaviors.
Now, I don’t expect these lessons to be a panacea for men’s involvement in feminism. We will continue to struggle, we will continue to make mistakes, and we will continue to be less than perfect allies. But, perhaps by learning from the missteps of our brothers in this work we can learn to do/be better.
The great folks at Colorlines are currently running an extensive, brilliant and insightful series on Black Men: Life Cycles of Inequity. Today’s re-post features a video on the history of divestment in Black men, and an article that explains how black men have been cut out of economic opportunity initiatives for more than a century. They were first published at Colorlines on October 22nd 2014 by Imara Jones.
6 Ways the White House Can Help Truly Keep Our Brothers
After nearly six years of de facto silence on race, the White House this year swung into the harsh world that men of color inhabit with the unveiling of its “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.
When compared to their white peers, black men are nearly half as likely to graduate from high school; earn $6 an hour less in the labor market; are three times as likely to live in poverty and 10 times as likely to have been a victim of homicide—not to mention off-the-charts incarceration rates. This depressing data has been well documented for over a generation and is not in dispute. To describe the totality of what’s going on, Marian Wright-Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund drops the world “school” and simply dubs it “the cradle-to-prison pipeline.”
(This is Part 2 of an article series that explores a case of harassment in online gaming known as #GamerGate. Please read Part 1 of this post here. Part 2 argues that the sexist harassment campaign is rooted in resentment against current changes in the gaming industry.)
In the early days of the harassment campaign against Zoe Quinn – indie game developer, critic, and cyborg – before the campaign was given its name, a number of editorials were written on a curiously specific theme: the cultural category of “gamer,” and how those who play games relate to it. On Kotaku, Luke Plunkett wrote of the “Death of An Identity.” “Gaming is a hobby I’ve had (on and off) for most of my life,” wrote Emma M. Woolley in The Globe and Mail, “but I’ve never called myself a gamer. One reason is that while playing video games is something I enjoy, it doesn’t define who I am; another is that I don’t identify with many people who do call themselves gamers.” The “gamer” label has been a problem for games writers for some time; never literally describing everyone who plays any kind of games (which is to say, almost everyone), it’s traditionally been used to exclude casual games, mobile platforms, or certain genres. In its most nativist form, “gamer” (often appended by the modifier “real”) is a term used to denote a class of consumers that cares about gaming more than anyone else, competes more fiercely than anyone else, and is thus deserving of special attention from the industry and the press that covers it. In academic circles, there have been attempts to expand the category of “gamer” to better represent the variety of players out there. These editorials were taking the opposite tack: if this is what “real gamers” really want “gamer” to mean–young white men with disposable income who respond to academic criticism with death threats–then fuck ’em. Let them have it. “‘Gamer’ isn’t just a dated demographic label that most people increasingly prefer not to use,” wrote Leigh Alexander for Gamasutra. “Gamers are over. That’s why they’re so mad.”
In an earlier post on Masculinities 101, I detailed the emergence of a specific masculine identity emerging in and around videogame culture. This masculinist gamer contingent is reflexively hostile towards criticism, and in recent years has been making headlines detailing their attempts to harass and silence women in the wider videogame community. Somewhere in the middle of that list was Zoe Quinn, indie game developer, critic, and cyborg. Quinn, along with co-writer Patrick Lindsey and musician Isaac Shankler, is the developer of Depression Quest, an interactive fiction game exploring the experience of depression. After a year of availability on the web, Quinn was beset by an online harassment campaign when she brought the game to the Steam service, an online digital distribution platform for PC games. Recently, newfound attacks on Quinn have snowballed into a “scandal” known as GamerGate.