THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

08: Conclusion cont’d

with 5 comments

Once we are routinely creating new thinking spaces we can begin to look outside of ourselves. Again, I’m not interested here in identifying specific solutions, rather making basic points that will enable those solutions to emerge within the experiences of you, the reader. On a number of occasions throughout this book I have stated that in the same way that there is a masculinity conspiracy, there is also a femininity conspiracy: As the flip-side of the conspiratorial coin, the masculinity conspiracy requires an equally prescriptive model of femininity to perpetuate its power grab. However, I firmly believe it is the masculinity conspiracy that is more problematic. While the femininity conspiracy asserts power in various ways (an example commonly perceived being the use of sex as a bargaining tool with men, and a shaming tool with other women), it does not have the power footprint of the masculinity conspiracy, which has mobilized patriarchy within our social and cultural systems, and which in turn has extended into a whopping ecological footprint on our planet.

As such, when looking outwards for solutions, the primary agents in overturning the conspiracy must be men. I’ll say it again: the solution lies mostly with men. Of course, this does not absolve women of responsibility, it simply suggests men need to do more work than women. This requires two distinct steps. First, men need to own their individual privilege within patriarchy, and also their part in the systemic privilege that patriarchy confers upon them. Again, this may seem counter-intuitive to some men whose experience echoes the shocking statistics of men and poor health, violence, isolation and so on. But them’s the breaks, and the conspiracy wants you to resist it as to do so continues its concealment. Second, once men have owned their role in patriarchy, they must do something about it: but, crucially, not be shamed by it.

There are a small number of men who, having discovered their complicity in patriarchy, become overwhelmingly shamed, and retreat into self-loathing. (This is the type of “mangina” perceived and bemoaned by hostile men’s rights advocates. As it happens, most of those labeled as such are not bound by shame and self-loathing, rather men healthily seeking to counter patriarchy, but nevertheless it can be an issue.) This type of shamed individual sometimes has a habit of assuming women (and queer people) have the moral high-ground when it comes to issues about gender. As such, the solutions tend to have a focus towards their agency, when as much attention needs to be given to “regular” men’s agency.

I have already mentioned this above in regard to the two commonly held positions in the gender debate, but I firmly believe the solution lies in getting men to understand that patriarchy paradoxically has little interest in them as individuals. There is a tremendous amount of energy within men’s rights communities, but it is too often hostile towards women and feminism. Many of the problems those communities rightly identify are often blamed on the too-far-swung pendulum of women’s gains in recent decades. But this is not the case. Women’s gains do not come at the expense of men’s; it is not a zero sum game. Women’s gains have been earned by claiming what is rightfully and justly theirs: they have extracted this from the conspiracy, not from men.

I believe that once it becomes clear to men that they have been co-opted by the conspiracy into patriarchy to further the domination myth, and that it is this and not women’s gains that is responsible for the problems men face in society, they will see the benefit of overturning both patriarchy and the conspiracy. And they will do so swiftly. All the energy that is currently wasted on finger-pointing from men’s rights advocates can then be usefully spent elsewhere. I also believe that such a realization will allow the kind of healing in men’s psyches that has been sought since the men’s movement flourished in the early 1990s, but which to date has been misdirected by the conspiracy into concerns about the feminization of society.

CONTINUE >>>

Written by Joseph Gelfer

August 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm

5 Responses

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  1. “There is a tremendous amount of energy within men’s rights communities, but it is too often hostile towards women and feminism.”

    A refreshing exception to the anti-feminism you see within the men’s movements (and which I see as a parallel to the anti-men attitudes that I have seen within feminist movements) can be found in the book ‘Manhood’ by Steve Biddulph. Although Biddulph has some mythopoetic influences (he approvingly quotes Robert Bly a number of times), he clearly and firmly states his solidarity with women’s liberation, and sees himself as part of a men’s movement that is complementary to feminism, not antagonistic to it.

    Danyl Strype

    October 3, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    • Hey Danyl: good to see you. I know a lot of people really like Biddulph, but he leaves me rather flat. I find a disconnect in his writing which alludes to one thing, but does another. He also seems inclined towards working within a more narrow understanding of “manhood” than I would.

      Joseph

      October 4, 2011 at 6:11 am

  2. “I also believe that such a realization will allow the kind of healing in men’s psyches that has been sought since the men’s movement flourished in the early 1990s, but which to date has been misdirected by the conspiracy into concerns about the feminization of society.”

    Ironically, as a feminist, I’m actually agreed with some of these concerns … as I’ve indicated above and privately to you in my e-mails, I do believe there is a “feminine conspiracy” that corresponds to the masculine conspiracy, or rather, is perhaps a tepid and misguided form of resistance to the masculine conspiracy (and thus, in a weird way, a *product* of it), that encourages false consciousness in women and promotes ridiculous behaviors like irrationality and sentimentalism in both women and men. That’s not good for either sex, and not good for society at large.

    But I agree that the mythopoetic men’s movements have a totally different spin on this topic than the feminist perspective, and are deeply committed to maintaining heteronormativity and androcentrism in the culture at large.

    ned

    September 4, 2011 at 3:47 am

  3. “(This is the type of “mangina” perceived and bemoaned by hostile men’s rights advocates. As it happens, most of those labeled as such are not bound by shame and self-loathing, rather men healthily seeking to counter patriarchy, but nevertheless it can be an issue.)”

    I want to mention that many of us feminists also get annoyed with men who co-opt feminism to speak about the importance of getting men the social permission to express hyperfeminine behaviors, often the same hyperfeminine behaviors that feminists complain have been keeping women in cages throughout centuries. More often than not, this worship of femininity does nothing but reinforce gender roles and stereotypes, and keeps intact practices of feminization that have been designed to strip women (and atypical men) of power.

    Just as a small example, I sometimes find feminine gay men wanting to call themselves “sl*ts” to feel “more like women” (the term “sl*t” here is a stand-in for “sexual availability to men”). How is this in line with the goals of feminism? It normalizes the indignity that is the common lot of women all over the world, and moreover erases the gender-based oppression that women experience. (Bear in mind that femininity often simply translates to absence of masculinity.)

    ned

    September 4, 2011 at 3:25 am

    • Yes. I never thought I’d say it, but I find myself moving away from feminism because of such issues: there is just too much assumed “feminine” within its critique (whether essentialist or “strategic” essentialist). Queer theory does a better job than feminism at furthering women’s aims, IMHO: it performs the same task of critiquing power constructs as feminism, but doesn’t construct any expectations about “woman” or “feminine” (and, of course, speaks to everyone, not just a particular constituency).

      Joseph

      September 4, 2011 at 8:11 am


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