Tag Archives: Labels

Gender Relations Bender

14 Mar

Guys, I haven’t written anything even vaguely political on here in a while, and well, I can’t hold off any longer. So without any further delay, it’s time to piss people off.

There are some self-descriptors which I react to in a sort of visceral way, labels that don’t really deserve the reaction. In general, if you can describe yourself in one word that is not extremely vague, I don’t have time for you. If, when asked “who you are” you say “white” or “Methodist” or “American” or “straight”… I’m not going to waste my time getting to know you, since you’re a word and I can look those up. If you were to say all of them, well now you sound like a complete and interesting person. But any given one of those things is so narrow and pre-defined that I can assume you will spend your life struggling to make yourself fit into the ludicrous label you’ve affixed to your self-identity.

Other terms I dislike because they offend me: rapists and White Supremacists believe and do things so radically different from what I can accept that describing yourself as one puts us on rocky footing. A man who introduces himself as a misanthrope shouldn’t expect to make friends. It’s pretty simple. I don’t know anyone who really wants to be buddies with a self-described Fascist. That’s just not what people are into.

But not every term I react viscerally too is universally reviled. Nor are they universally mono-dimensional ways to demarcate one’s self. Generally, these are terms that are tied to some person or persons who have soured this word for me in the past. A perfect example, a word that causes this a visceral (and inappropriate) reaction, is feminist.

Huh?

Now let me do some QUICK explaining here, before someone comes over and screams at me for being a chauvinist pig. I am absolutely, 100%, a fan of equal rights. I am crazy about equal rights. I think the government should treat everyone equally regardless of creed, language, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or preference in music. All human beings should be given equal opportunity to do all that they are able to do (that doesn’t hurt others).

Specifically, I think women should be paid every bit as much as a man doing the same job with the same ability. I think women deserve equal access to divorce, custody, income, voting, education, employment, property, and seating at professional racquetball tournaments. I think women are full human beings who deserve every single protection, privilege, and right afforded their male counter-parts, without any caveats.

What I’m not a fan of is blaming every single thing wrong in the world on men. I’m not a supporter of making a 100 pound woman who can’t lift 160 pounds a fire-fighter for the sake of gender equality in that particular work-force. I’m not a fan of painting men (and me with them) as violent brutes who are seconds away from their next murder-rape. Or even of saying that I try to keep women down so that I can have more power.

Obviously, I’ve been on the receiving end of some vitriol from some feminists in the past who have soured that term for me. I am not a student of feminism, and so I will not pretend to know whether this is reflective of feminism at large or if I’ve just run into some serious bad-apples from the Second Wave (okay, I’m student enough to know there are believed to be three waves of feminism). If true feminism is just the seeking of equal rights for women, then by God, I support feminism. If it really does involve these attacks on everything with a penis, sorry, I’m not really buying it.

I bring this up because a very good site/publication, the Good Men Project, has been running a series of articles on something I had never heard of: the Men’s Rights Movement. It’s pretty much the male equivalent of feminism, because being a masculist sounds too much like masochist. Now I say male equivalent of feminism because A) the community has a similar make up from what I can tell, and B) its opponents paint it in the same strokes that the opponents of feminism do.

On the first part here, from what has been depicted by La Intertrones (that’s fake French for “the internet”) the MRM is comprised by 10% people with reasonable demands and concerns, 10% raging misogynists, and 80% guys who agree with the first 10% and put up with the second. From what reasonable people who identify themselves as feminists have told me, that’s about the break down for that movement too: 10% people with legitimate complaints and demands, 10% bitter man haters, and 80% people who agree with the former group and put up with the latter. Which is to say, they are rational groups with legitimate concerns, led by some charismatic thinkers with strong points, that also contain some grade-A assholes (because this humanity and avoiding jerks is impossible).

Both groups also get depicted in much the same way. People arguing with the MRM go immediately off topic to counter a given point. For instance, when men want to make sure that males are given an equal and fair shake during child custody hearings, they are countered with “how can you bother complaining about that when women still make 80% of what men do!?” Or even “Men are worse parents than women!” One is an illogical response to the issue in hand and the other is openly sexist. Much like when feminists point out that women are under-represented in many fields they are met with “there are more women in college now than men!” or “Women shouldn’t be fire-fighters.” Again, one has nothing to do with the problem, and the other is baseless sexism.

Are dead beat dads a serious problem? Of course. Should women who wish to be fire-fighters need to meet the physical and mental requirements of such a strenuous job? Absolutely. Do either of these conclusions mean either gender is fundamentally deficient? Certainly not.

We have quite a ways to go in women’s equality. What we need to understand is that this is causing an absolutely massive shift in gender roles. As women change, men are undergoing a similar shift as well. As women move into male dominated sectors, it is only reasonable that men will move into previously female dominated areas. Shifts in power at work and at home are changing things in a dramatic way, one of more equality on all fronts.

Men are doing much, MUCH more housework than they used to (though, yes , it’s still quite uneven). There are good things and bad things. With the decreased risk of pregnancy and a constantly diminishing stigma, women are trending strongly towards a traditionally “male” level of sexual promiscuity. (I will come out and say that sleeping around is something I dislike for either gender, not sexism, just good old fashion Judeo-Christian morals). In short, almost everything we used to know about gender stereo-types is changing (women still menstruate at least periodically and have larger communication structures in their brains).

From what I can tell, the MRM movement isn’t about fighting this change. It isn’t about keeping men in a position of greater power. It’s about making sure the pendulum doesn’t swing the other direction (at least not too far). Women should not oppress men, just as men should not oppress women. There are, believe it or not, a number of biases that directly favor women for no reason other than their gender. These are every bit as wrong as those that support men for no reason other than their testicles.

I don’t really know all that much about the MRM or feminism. But I do understand the desire for equal treatment. I support it whole heartedly. If both of these movements really want that, just equal treatment regardless of gender, than I am receptive to them and back them up. If they are opposing shades of sexism, I don’t really have time for that crap.

And now I wait to get schooled on my ignorance.

 

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