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.
A Black femme writer and sex worker by the name of suprihmbé writes: “we deserve your money and then some for birthing your babies, for putting up with your abuse, your violence, your terror. But most of all, we deserve to live.”
It might seem more than obvious that women deserve to live, but the often-violent actions of men proves this is not always the case. There is a sense of entitlement that many men feel we have over women, one that is quite frightening. suprihmbé highlights how we, as a society, expect constant emotional labor, sexual labor, and any form of labor we can squeeze out of women for little to no compensation. The expectations that suprihmbé explores are rooted in a system that we like to conveniently “forget” exists: “Mr. Scream”: Misogyny, Racism, Sexism, and Capitalism Rule Everything Around Me. Building on the phrase popularized many years ago, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” (C.R.E.A.M.), we have to examine how capitalism’s misogyny, racism, and sexism touch everything we do, even holiday shopping.
When a nonbinary trans woman named Lauren told her fellow audience members that she felt “like masculinity wasted so much of [her] life,” there was a definitive weight to her words. The conversation began as part of a post-show panel following director Eric Ting’s well-executed #LoveHateOthello at California Shakespeare Theatre. I was one of the panelists for “The Construction of Gender: The Impact of Toxic Masculinity in Society,” a free civic dialogue with folks in the community and theatre-goers. Sikander Iqbal (cis heterosexual man of color), Ariel Luckey (cis heterosexual white man), Michal “MJ” Jones (non-binary Black trans person) and I brought our very different, but complementary voices to discuss masculinities with a small audience after the Saturday matinée of this theatrical production of Othello. Eric Ting, Cal Shakes’ artistic director, moderated the conversation.
Ever since I started talking to women about street harassment, I’ve tried to be more conscious of my presence as a man in settings where women are often made to feel unsafe. I have become especially conscious of this dynamic when I’m walking around or behind women late at night. A friend of mine once suggested that he crosses the street in these types of situations to avoid making the woman feel uncomfortable (he was Latino). I’ve done this a handful of times since then and will continue to do so, provided I’m not thrown too far off my original route.
But I still have some mixed feelings about this suggestion. For a while now, moments like these have exposed a rift in my mind. On one side of this rift is my militant/anti-racist/black nationalist self. This is the side of me committed to racial justice for all people of color, and especially for black men. It’s the side of me that’s been cultivated since I sat and watched Spike Lee’s Malcolm X with my family when I was 6 or 7 years old. On the other side of the rift is an intersectional feminist attempting to use their position of (male) privilege as a megaphone to help spread the voices of women who are harmed by sexism and misogyny on a daily basis. These overlapping but distinct parts of my consciousness crash into one another whenever a woman reacts fearfully to my presence.
This post, authored by Tal Peretz- a regular contributor to Maculinities 101, is a revised take on the authorial appendix in Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women, co-authored with Michael Messner and Max Greenberg
Looking back on my entry into feminism while writing this book, it was very clear to me that I grew up during a period when feminism was less of a public discussion. I don’t remember ever hearing the word “feminism” until taking my first women’s studies class, in my second year of college in 2002. On the one hand, I’m glad I managed to avoid the stereotypes that circulate about feminism and feminists; on the other, I also had very little knowledge or awareness about gender inequality or gender-based violence. I had experienced more than my share of what James Messerschmidt calls “masculinity challenges,” including some male-on-male violence that was clearly about gender policing, but because I receive male, white, cisgendered, straight, and many other forms of privilege, I was effectively shielded from having personal knowledge about structural oppression. Continue reading
Originally posted at Feminist Reflections
By Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh
Following the recent mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th, 2015–a racially motivated act of domestic terrorism–President Barack Obama delivered a sobering address to the American people. With a heavy heart, President Obama spoke the day following the attack, stating:
At some point we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing that politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge. (here)
President Obama was primarily referring to gun control in the portion of his speech addressing the cause of attacks like this. Not all mass shootings are racially motivated, and not all qualify as “terrorist” attacks—though Charleston certainly qualifies. And the mass shooting that occurred a just a month later in Chattanooga, Tennessee by a Kuwati-born American citizen was quickly labeled an act of domestic terrorism. But, President Obama makes an important point here: mass shootings are a distinctly American problem. This type of rampage violence happens more in the United States of America than anywhere else (see here for a thorough analysis of international comparisons). And gun control is a significant part of the problem. But, gun control is only a partial explanation for mass shootings in the United States. Mass shootings are also almost universally committed by men. So, this is not just an American problem; it’s a problem related to American masculinity and to the ways American men use guns. But asking whether “guns” or “masculinity” is more of the problem misses the central point that separating the two might not be as simple as it sounds. And, as Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen, and Deanna Pan note in the Mother Jones Guide to Mass Shootings in America, the problem is getting worse. Continue reading
The nation is reeling in the wake of this most recent mass shooting, a racially-motivated terrorist attack on the black community of Charleston, SC. Nine lives taken, among them an elected political official, and countless others left devastated by the actions of a young, white man named Dylann Roof. They were family members, community members—four ministers, a librarian, a recent graduate, a grandmother, a bible study teacher, a retiree. And they are gone because of racism. Before I say more, here are their names, because in our rage against a killer, we are too often forgetful of those he has taken: Clementa Pinckney, Daniel Simmons Sr., Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, and Ethel Lance. Their lives add to a growing list of black lives taken and black bodies assaulted this year. Dylann Roof is yet another white man engaging in the kind of racist violence made possible (even permissible) in a system that devalues and denigrates blackness.While there are a few out there trying to distract from Roof’s obvious racial motives (like pundits at Fox News who are scrambling to describe this as a hate crime against Christians), most of us recognize that this was indeed a hate crime. Roof himself made it clear, both in word and action. He targeted a church that has suffered racist attacks throughout its nearly 200 year history in Charleston. He targeted a sacred space, a supposedly safe space, for Charleston’s African-American community. He was known for making racist jokes, hoping for a race war, and wearing racist garb. And, as if that wasn’t proof enough, he admitted to his victims that he was there to kill them because of their skin color, because blacks “rape our women and you’re taking over our country.”
I’m writing this on the flight back from the International Conference on Masculinities in New York, which was an inspiring and energizing experience. It’s been a while since I wrote for Masculinities101, and having a chance to really engage with other people who are deeply involved in engaging men to reduce gendered inequalities got me motivated to write more. At the same time, the conference was definitely geared towards people who are connected to major organizations or institutions, so I wanted to take the opportunity to bring some of the themes from the conference out to folks who were not able to attend or might do their work in a different way. These are, of course, just the themes that stuck out to me, and some of them interact and overlap in complex ways that I won’t detail, but I wanted to provide a space where folks who were not at the conference could think about and discuss them as well.
Accountability – The conference was opened with a panel discussion entitled “Accountability in Activism and Research,” and the theme came up in nearly every conversation I heard thereafterfire. Continue reading