[This was a guest post I originally wrote for Sophia Hudson over at Please Excuse My Vagina while I was still running The Big Blog of All the S#!t I Know. I’m re-posting this both out of Monday laziness and because this is one of the few social topics that I feel very strongly about. The battle of the sexes is an unfortunately effective divide-and-conquer tactic that inhibits vast potentials for progress toward true equity. I would be more than happy to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below – actually, I’m requesting it, if you have the time. I want to actively sharpen and refine this line of thinking. All constructive feedback is infinitely welcome. Happy Monday.]
The following is a note that my colleague Moose wrote on the first page of a book he was reading at the time:
“There are certain women’s libbers (feminists) who have an attitude that is ironically disempowering of women in general. They think that everything is all the fault of men.”
No apologetics are necessary for this note, so I’m just going to launch into my thoughts on the topic of feminism. I post this note for two simple reasons: I both disagree and agree with his statement.
I myself am a female in body and mind – “cisgender” for those of you who like to get technical. I believe in a woman’s right to choose not only in the arena of pregnancy, but in all aspects of her life. I also believe in a man’s right to choose in all aspects of his life. And while there are so many other gender identities available to us humans, I am neither skilled nor interested enough at this time to delve into them all. My partner Moose is a man in body and mind. However, neither of us identify as a feminine female or masculine male, respectively. We often joke that I am the dude-Woman in the relationship and he is the chick-Man. And while it is true that as a woman, I am located on a rung lower than my partner in our culture’s hierarchy, I am not treated especially poorly as a human being. I do not feel defeminated or constantly oppressed for having tits and a vagina. I don’t suffer from abuse. I am socially awkward and a great deal of that awkwardness does stem from self-image struggles, a feature of our culture I despise, and in this my partner feels the same way about himself.
He is 6’4″, slender, blue-eyed, with high cheek bones and the ability to pull off the five o’clock shadow as well as the full grizzle. He’s far from perfect, but he is an attractive man – physically, mentally, and emotionally (no bias here, of course). But he is confused. He is confused more acutely than I am confused. In truth, we are all confused – and trapped. We are potential wolves stuck in the domesticated chihuahua phase of maturation. In order for our civilization to function, the people must be kept in this infantile state. This is only one of many tendrils at the root of our societal angst. We have no real rituals in our society that borne us into adulthood, no rites of passage that trigger the shift from girl to Woman, from boy to Man. Getting jobs, graduating schools, getting married, having 2.4 kids – these are the shallow imitations of progress of the natural human.
Men have felt this struggle for and against manhood for centuries and it has only been within the past few decades that it has risen so much as near the top of social consciousness. Most people laugh at a comment such as “Hey, if there’s a women’s movement, why isn’t there a men’s movement?” Such an inquiry would be answered by backhands across the face, vitriol at the ignorance still so obviously present in our society, the reason why feminism is so absolutely necessary. And it’s true: feminism is necessary. But so is the men’s movement. Feminism is the back swing of a cultural pendulum that has been rising and falling since the inception of culture. In all our supposed complexity and high intellectual capacity, we are still animals and as animals, when we come across something repulsive we do just that – repulse. We throw ourselves either far forward or far backward. Back and forth, back and forth. Just as Romanticism was a reaction to Rationalism was a reaction to religionism was a reaction to scientism (don’t quote my historical accuracy), the women’s movement is a reaction to patriarchy is a reaction to civilization is a reaction to agriculture… And thus we have the men’s movement.
It is as unfair to call all followers of the men’s movement women-haters as it is to call all women’s rights activists man-haters. Of course there are the douchebags, the male supremacist types, the assholes. But there are the people like Moose, the sensitive assholes, the husbands abused by wives, the boys without father figures, the people ashamed of being male in our society. As a virile feminine male, Moose wants nothing more than to be able to flaunt his peacock as a man, to stand his ground like a man, to get laid like a man, to make love like a man. He and so many men in our society want to stop feeling guilty for having dicks and testicles. They want to feel like natural, confident Men.
Several years ago, he was introduced to the ManKind Project (MKP), an organization started in the ’80s by an ex-Marine officer, a feminist therapist, and an academic, who sought life fulfillment through men’s work. Women are allowed to get together in circles and talk about their feelings, express their worries, fears, joys, and excitements. This is damn near taboo for men, which is where MKP comes in. In MKP groups, men are allowed to do emotional work with the support of fellow men. They are allowed a safe place to take down the facade of the “tough guise” and laugh and cry and listen and talk and not feel nearly as trapped as they did before.
Women are people. And men are people, too. Feminism is important, but it is only another link in the chain toward equality for all. Our work is far from over.
[Header image source: Pexels]