Friday, 8 July 2016

Thoughts on Men Who "Get It"

Leena (/justkissmyfrog on YouTube) posted a video a few hours ago titled 'What it's like to be a MALE FEMINIST' on her #StupidQuestionsWithLeena series (watch below) in which she chats with Jack Urwin - author of 'Man Up: Surviving Modern Masculinity' - and it got me thinking. 

Surprise, surprise.

The premise of the conversation was insightful, as Leena's videos usually are, however I found myself a little uncomfortable with the way Jack talked about being a man. To me, it seemed like he had great insight into the topic (and...well...experience as a man that I don't have) which is of course something to learn from but it felt like he was putting across the vibe of "I am not proud to be a man because we as a collective are bad and women have been putting up with us for too long". And I just didn't like that.

As an intersectional feminist with so much to learn and many thoughts and beliefs and ideas yet to challenge I think it is important that this is not a woman-only conversation. As Jack pointed out, it is necessary to consider men's role in all this as they hold all the power to change what we want changed. However this reminded of something a good friend of mine pointed out to me in the way that I - and many other women - approach the conversation of feminism by focusing on the issue of sexism. And forgetting about the issue of power. The thing is, women have plenty more rights at this point in time than they ever have (and yes, primarily middle-class white women in first world countries...but we have all still come a long way) and now the issue is less about fighting the perception of women as second-class citizens and more about the power imbalance behind it all. That made me realize how much we were looking at the by-product of the issue rather than the source of the issue itself.

And when you think about it, why would anybody in a position of power give up their power? Exactly. That's why we still have an issue because it seems like power cannot truly be equal. And maybe that's why we're focused on the by-product of the issue? Because at least it's more "changeable"? I don't know. And I guess no one knows.

However, the point I'm trying to make is, it felt like Jack was talking about the conversation from the female perspective more-so than the male perspective which does very little to enrich the conversation and inform us about every negative aspect we don't know about the male experience that is primarily caused by the patriarchy and ultimately makes it almost wasteful that a man has written a book with the very important aim of addressing men's issues and including them in the conversation that concerns us all, yet talked about it or conveyed his idea in a way that made it seem a little counterproductive. I suppose I'm also very uncomfortable with the depiction of this pseudo-myth of men "who get it" as if they're some form of rare species. Men are not stupid and as long as they are portrayed in that light we will get no honest, mindset-changing conversation because they will feel personally victimized and persecuted, and we will be angry because they refuse to listen to us. Men who "get it" are just men.

All in all, I do commend Jack on making a move to discuss the effects of masculinity "from grandfathers' inability to deal with the horrors of war, to the mob mentality of football terraces or Fight Club, and the disturbing rise of mental health problems among men today". The "movement" or discussion or conversation about feminism or equality or male/female/human rights needs new voices from all backgrounds, communities, experiences, dispositions in order to be inclusive and challenging and, well, actually do anything. And as always, I commend anybody sharing their experiences that help myself and anybody who is there to listen and encourage the inclusion of people who remain eclipsed in these conversations about issues that they may be suffering from the most.

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