This past weekend I convened an all-star panel to discuss a topic whose time has definitely come: masculinity and misogyny. Our discourse within the atheist community has hit a sticking point (for many) in the form of the role that feminism plays in understanding not only our own internal community dynamics, but the world around us in general. This ‘internal’ debate is happening alongside a similar discussion happening in our society at large, where the role that women play in our democracy and our day-to-day lives is under particular scrutiny.
The issue before the panel was the statement “Real men don’t talk about misogyny” – not a direct quotation, but certainly a paraphrase of a general dismissive attitude of feminism as something that only women can and should talk about or participate in. The discussion centred around 5 general questions:
- What is a “real man”?
- How can we define “misogyny”? How does misogyny manifest itself in online discussion?
- What role does religion play in gender roles?
- Is misogyny similar to or different from other forms of bigotry (racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.)? How?
- Do parents have a role to play in the discussion?
- What do/can/should men contribute to discussions of misogyny?
The discussion (which clocks in at just under 90 minutes), a description of the panelists, and some of my own thoughts are after the fold.
Appearing on the panel (in order from left to right)
- The Anti-Intellect: Commentary on race, atheism, gender, and sexuality. Twitter: @Anti_Intellect
- Edwin Hodge: blogger, sociologist specializing in masculinity studies. Twitter: @SkepFarm
- Me: Seriously? You don’t know who I am by now?
- Jamila Bey: Journalist, speaker, host of The Sex, Politics, and Religion Hour. Twitter: @jbey
- Natalie Reed: blogger, speaker, founder of Queereka. Twitter: @nataliereed84
- Paul Fidalgo: blogger, musician, Centre for Inquiry Member. Twitter: @PaulFidalgo
- Robert Reece: blogger, sociologist specializing in race, gender, and pop culture. Twitter: @PhuzzieSlippers
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been able to get such a diverse and expert panel together, let alone for a full 90 minutes. We were able to explore most of the topic, or at least dip our toes in most of the places where I felt toes needed to be dipped. Obviously I would have loved to have this go on indefinitely, but there’s a point in time where things stretch out too long and I felt like 90 minutes was that point.
The title of the panel is not accidental, and I think there is a useful double meaning within it. There’s the obvious way of reading it – “if you talk about misogyny then you are not a real man”, but there’s also a way of parsing it that suggests that hyper-masculine “real” men are unequipped to talk about or deal with misogyny. The first is dismissive, but the second one also reflects reality in my opinion – there’s a need for men to unpack these gender issues, but pressure to conform to an arbitrary standard of “manliness” prevents us from doing that.
One thing we didn’t get to explore as much as I might have liked to is the idea that Robert raised of black hypermasculinity, and what kind of effects that has on the way black men are seen under casual scrutiny (and particularly how that leads to violence against black men). I was also hoping to talk about the consequences of failing to model ‘proper’ masculinity and how that informs bullying and victimization of men, but the conversation didn’t quite get there. Finally, I was hoping we would address the “Men’s Rights” arguments, but that may be a subject suitable for another panel.
All in all, I am very pleased with how the panel turned out, and I am looking forward to putting another one together. I am certainly open to topic suggestions.
Suggested further reading:
- Edwin’s piece about “toxic masculinity”
- Learning To Be Appropriately Male by Robert
- Twitter and the the Privileging of Feminist Black Men, also by Robert
- Anti-Intellect’s pieces on patriarchal masculinity
- “On Detransition” by Natalie
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