Required Reading: Deconstructing ‘Masculinity’


One of the important roles for male feminists is to use our male privilege as a means of cutting through some of the most cynical dismissals of feminist positions. When anti-feminists can’t say “well she’s just saying that because women are trying to oppress men”, they have to find more convoluted (and increasingly less probable) explanations for their reflexive dismissal. By providing obvious counter-examples to the meme that feminists are just women who hate men, male feminists have the opportunity to ‘signal boost’ the messages from other feminists.

But a role that I think is increasingly relevant (or, at least one that I am becoming more aware of) is that of providing male critiques of the way in which masculinity myths fail to serve men. There are no shortage of harmful myths about how women ‘should’ be, and we should be combatting them vigorously – they often place women in situations that are disempowering and often dangerous. At the same time, there is room in feminist discourse to turn the analytical tools of gender critique on all constructs of gender. Today I want to walk through two examples of doing just that:

What it felt like to me was warfare. It was a holy war, in fact. These people who said they loved me, and could only demonstrate that love by humiliating and torturing me, often reminded me that they were acting on behalf of the divine, making right the crookedness that I seemed to be bending into. Like all zealots, they were insusceptible to reason. They were acting on what appeared on the surface to be instinct, but was actually something far more insidious: directives that they believed they were getting directly from Allah/Yahweh/Jehovah/Jah, his name changing as the text did.

The goal wasn’t merely to make me tough so that I might be able to handle myself in a world where the color of my skin marked me as a target. The conditioning was also employed so that I could meet some standard of being that suited the heteronormative objectives of my captors. After all, it was my white eighth grade teacher who called my mother to tell her that she should be concerned that I was a little bit light in the loafers and that, perhaps, some rigorous athletic activity or bullying from other students might straighten me out before it was too late.

(snip)

I have been told that I have to understand that since white men won’t let black men be Men, it only makes sense that straight black men are sickened by the sight of queer black men, particularly those who are demonstrably feminine or otherwise make their queerness known. Always, the definition by which Manhood is ultimately defined is not some objective, pre-existing, immovable, biological, scientific standard (although they will attempt to convince you that it is), but rather some constructed, limiting, shifty, suspicious, patriarchal paradigm that defines Manhood as one’s ability to control, dominate, and exercise punitive power over those deemed “weaker,” and those deemed weaker are always those who are female and/or feminine. It is an inherently misogynistic foundation upon which this construct is built. Queer men are bothersome reminders of submission and castration because empowered women are bothersome reminders of the exact same thing.

The problem is patriarchy.

The language in this post reinforces my conjecture that religion is every bit a social justice topic as gender, race, or sexual orientation. Understanding the intersections between these things is crucial to understanding any one of them individually. We cannot, as atheists, properly critique religion without understanding how it behaves in a non-uniform way when it oppresses different groups. Similarly, we cannot understand gender or race without also understanding religion, despite the many self-identifying anti-racists who try to do exactly that.

Read the above, and compare it to the following:

My hometown is like hundreds of thousands of others dotted across the American West.  About 10,000 people, working class.  When the show “Ax Men” came on The History Channel, I was fascinated.  Here were the people I grew up with, western men who do dangerous work for not very much money.  The landscapes are stunning, the Cascade Mountains from which the logs were being extracted are green year round and drop precipitously to the sea. And the men out there, logging, are brave and hard working, spending great lengths of time away from their families in order to provide.

(snip)

These were not things that boys back home were supposed to do, and yes, I took shit for it later that day.  Boys weren’t supposed to cry (men are strong, not weak), we’re not supposed to need support from anyone, in particular not our mothers (men are providers, supporters, not those in need of support).  And on top of all of that, I baked, I sewed (men are supposed to work, not concern themselves with matters of the home), I played sissy upper-class sports (real men play football, basketball, baseball), I worked really hard at school (real men use their bodies, not their minds), and I cared about it all enough to cry in public.

(snip)

Losing his job meant losing his role in his family, in his society, in his country. If a man is by definition a worker, provider, protector, what does he become when he fails to provide or protect?  I watched my friend’s father become consumed by his apparent failures.  I watched a lot of men struggle to redefine themselves as logging and farming and building things with their hands become no longer profitable.

Because when masculinity gets conflated with personhood, to challenge masculinity is to challenge humanity.  No wonder so many men respond so violently to those that dare question their manhood.  No wonder so many men respond with such despair when economic systems violate their ability to provide. No wonder so many men who feel dispossessed respond with fists or guns or acts of sexual violence or words that bludgeon and bruise.

The above pullquote is incredibly long, granted, but it highlights the contours of a crucial facet of this discussion: rigidly-defined gender oppresses men as well. I had a disagreement with an audience member over this issue in Chicago, but this is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of. Patriarchal masculinity hurts women, absolutely, and also those who are non-normative men – gay men, black men, men who simply have divergent interests – but it is vital to understand that it hurts normative men too. The author describes the way in which failure to provide for a family (often through no one’s own fault) is not just failure to be a provider – it is also failure to be a man, and therefore a failure to be a valid male person.

The task falls to male feminists to learn to identify and advocate these ideas, pulling from our own experiences as the above authors have. Like religion, the entire philosophical edifice of gender needs to be critiqued and pulled apart in order to rob it of the power to hurt us in the many ways it does. Not in exclusion to discussions of how patriarchy hurts women, but in addition to it.

If you missed it, I teamed up recently with a panel to do exactly that.

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Comments

  1. badgersdaughter says

    Because when masculinity gets conflated with personhood, to challenge masculinity is to challenge humanity. No wonder so many men respond so violently to those that dare question their manhood. No wonder so many men respond with such despair when economic systems violate their ability to provide.

    Even women react with despair when they become unemployed, because to be effective on the job, at least in the corporate world, is to adhere to a masculine ideal of a productive human, and to lose the job means failure to live up to the ideal they bought into and tried to emulate. Is there a feminine way to be productive and effective in a corporate setting, without demoting yourself to “one of the secretaries”? Not, I hasten to add, that secretaries are ineffective or unproductive at being secretaries, but that is not what is usually meant when the words are used in the corporate setting, in my experience.

  2. says

    This is a really important aspect of patriarchy that is too often overlooked. The harm to women is so brutal and so pervasive that I think most feminists become overwhelmed with the sheer urgency of the plight of women (especially in the developing world) – I think if we can also give some thought to the damage that patriarchal culture does to boys and men (and to all persons who identify as such), we may unlock the elusive key as to why patriarchy is so firmly entrenched and why – even with growing numbers of men embracing feminism – we continue to see such agonizingly slow progress on equal rights for all humanity.

  3. says

    Excellent post. I see my own brother struggling with this. My parents were fairly egalitarian, especially with the experience of my mom going back to school when we were young and my father taking over the homemaking as a result. My sister and I have thrived, but my brother has struggled a lot to build an identity as a, I guess, a “valid male person” in today’s world. He has a strong attraction to uniforms and guns, and it’s my supposition that this is his way of attempting to achieve that impossible ideal. Even though that impossible masculine ideal was de-emphasized within our family, that couldn’t make up for the fact that he was bullied constantly for not living up to it at school.

  4. says

    SallyStrange, this really breaks my heart. As a mom to grown/nearly grown boys, I can empathize with you and with your brother and parents. This garbage has to stop. I sometimes think the biggest driver of the patriarchy is the threat to boys who do not (or are not seen to) participate in its enforcement.

  5. says

    And I will posit that while this kind of thing is evident and non-controversial to most feminists, it’s not exactly a common topic for discussion. Or maybe it totally is, and I’m only now finally seeing it.

    But I would suggest that it’s a conversation that male feminists ought to lead, in addition to lending our voices to those of women feminists.

  6. says

    “And I will posit that while this kind of thing is evident and non-controversial to most feminists, it’s not exactly a common topic for discussion.”

    I think it is fair to say that. I do think that feminist parents of (forgive me I cannot find a better word at the moment) non-conforming boy and girl children may always have been speaking about it – I know I was – but I think you’re right that it hasn’t been discussed enough by the larger community of feminists.

    Perhaps if more people considered that solving one set of problems is probably going to require solving them all, then maybe more people would pay more attention to how patriarchy hurts boys and men.

  7. says

    Excellent post, as always. This makes me think of the recent rash of articles talking about the rise in men who still live with their parents after graduation as if it were some sign that the “real American man” was disappearing. Because being hit with a recession right after you graduate from college is a sure sign that your balls aren’t big enough. Many feminists (rightly) criticized these articles as adhering to the same sort of provider/protector gender roles that you talk about here.

    As to your point about your recent acquaintance with examining masculinity in the context of gender studies (damn, that was a tangle of clauses), I feel like I’m starting to hear more of it than I used to as well. But I’m not sure if that’s because I haven’t been looking in the right places or if it really is a new-ish thing, although I do know that formal gender studies on masculinity are not very common but are, in fact, increasing. I think more people are realizing that you can apply the tools of feminism to examine other points on the gender continuum as well.

  8. smhll says

    And I will posit that while this kind of thing is evident and non-controversial to most feminists, it’s not exactly a common topic for discussion. Or maybe it totally is, and I’m only now finally seeing it.

    But I would suggest that it’s a conversation that male feminists ought to lead, in addition to lending our voices to those of women feminists.

    I’m a cis white woman. And I’ve been kicking around the idea that many women who see the major status categories of race, gender and class, may underestimate how much men struggle with other men for status within the band or grouping they are assigned to. It’s not as simple as ~ everyone treats you great/better because of your apparent gender ~.

    But this is probably a reasonable opportunity for me to post fast and then shut up and give the men a chance to express themselves.

  9. zhuge, le homme blanc qui ne sait rien mais voudrait says

    I definitely agree with a lot of this, especially the crying parts. However, I do feel like one major difference, to me, is that there are startlingly different grades of masculinity that I don’t think are tied up in intersectionality exactly but seem to still drive on contradictory stereotypes and norms.

    Mainly I am thinking about the sort of masculinity that says, say, “Real men play sports, drink, and don’t think.” that was addressed in the second quote segment above. This is clearly a normative belief that people have and act on. (I myself remember being called a ‘homo genius’ because I paid attention in science class when discussing homogeneus substances, say.)

    But at the same time, there is also the standard of masculinity associated with knowledge and competence:” girls aren’t good at math or science”, the chilly climate in academica, the absurdly sexist behaviours of many “nerdy” people, etc.

    In some sense, I feel like this might be a difference between how women are “seen”. It at least seems to me that there are fewer types of femininity that are acceptable.

    On the other hand, there definitely seem to be lots of harmful aspects of masculinity that cross across all groups.

  10. says

    It’s a conversation that started to be had in the early 1970s. I wonder whether the sustained attack on unions and the decline of the blue-collar, living-wage job made the parts of that conversation having to do with men’s identities as wage-earners impossible to have during the decades when they were happening.

  11. says

    This is another great article, and I’m learning a lot about these social justice issues (I still don’t know what cis means, and I’ve been to busy/lazy to google)

    There is one point I would like to add in about the feminism/masculinity topic

    I tend to get the feeling, when talking about this, and people making comments like “Real men do this….”, while I understand this is to try to get a point across, I think it can also be harmful. What about the guy, who accepts feminism, who works towards change and equality, but enjoys doing the “real man” stuff? What about the woman who is a feminist, and works towards change and equality, but enjoys doing “real women” stuff?

    Now for the anecdote to try and fully explain my point. I have a range of hobbies, some of which include what would be called “real man” stuff. I have had several jobs that were typically considered a “mans jobs”, not because I felt like I had to do these things, but because I really truly enjoyed doing them. My wife is a stay at home mom, not because that’s the typical female role, but because she really wants to spend the time with our children, and she really enjoys it. Now, I would say our situation is typically one that you would speak out against as each of us being in the typical gender roles, even if it’s what makes us happy. Because of this, my wife tends to feel very uncomfortable at feminist events, which she would like to attend.

    So, we both work for change and equality, but I feel there is a bit of a tendency for the community to look down on us for our choice of roles that make us happy.

    I guess the tl;dr of this would be, I don’t believe there is “real man” jobs or activities, just like I don’t believe there is jobs or activities that a woman should do.

    I hope I’ve been clear enough in my writing, as this is still a fairly new topic for me to be really thinking about, it tends to be difficult for me to get my thoughts clearly into a written form.

  12. Yoyo says

    Skeptic dad, I think what is sad is that our ideas about gender roles are so circumscribed that it is almost necessary to apologise for liking “traditional male or female” things. Yet we are all bounded by these tropes. My husband and I are both feminists and raised by feminists, until recently I was the major wage earner in our family and yet when I became sick I was also ridiculously angry that he couldn’t step up to the plate and support our family. I think this is what the MRAs miss gender roles hurt everyone.

  13. jonathangray says

    Crommunist:

    myths about how women ‘should’ be … often place women in situations that are disempowering and often dangerous.

    Doesn’t the fact that women are generally physically weaker than men mean they are already in a disempowered and dangerous situation? And couldn’t the traditional male role of protector and provider be seen as a cultural attempt to compensate for this inherent imbalance? Who else but the strong can protect the weak?

  14. says

    Skeptic Dad

    What about the guy, who accepts feminism, who works towards change and equality, but enjoys doing the “real man” stuff? What about the woman who is a feminist, and works towards change and equality, but enjoys doing “real women” stuff?

    I, and I think most feminists agree, think that people should be able to enjoy whatever the fuck they want and nobody thinking twice about it. Personally, I had some severe issues with “femmephobia”. The idea that, as a feminist woman, I’m going to do all the guy stuff because the woman stuff we’d been pressured into for centuries was obviously the short end of the stick. And I felt guilty for the “womanly things” I obviously liked. Until I came to the conclusion of fuck that shit. That’s still misogyny. That’s still putting men and “male things” at the top. It still hurts women, and it still hurts men who don’t fit the pattern.
    We should be conscious of our choices and of the example we set. Because your kids are not very much going to believe you if you pay lip-service to certain things but show another thing. There’s one thing to enjoy shooting as a sport and to frame it in terms of relaxation and winding down (personally I prefer a longbow, but I can relate to fascination of aiming, concentrating and then being good at it) and another thing to frame it as a power-trip and something “manly”.


    Generally speaking I think it’s a very important discussion to be had, especially in the light of MRAs who are trying to dominate the discourse by pointing out to legitimate issues of men and then go on to blame it on feminism.
    The fact that fathers are often seen as the default secondary caregiver and vaguely incompetent is not because feminists posit female superiority. It’s because of Patriarchy and patriarchal ideas.
    While patriarchy hurts women whether they comply with their given gender roles or not, it hurts those men the most who don’t fit the norm. By being a SAHP, by being gay, by being of a different race than the default man.

  15. says

    Who else but the strong can protect the weak?

    Yes, it’s true. Men need to be physically strong to protect women from bear attacks, which, as we all know, are more frequent now than ever before.

  16. says

    Yes, it’s true. Men need to be physically strong to protect women from bear attacks, which, as we all know, are more frequent now than ever before.

    Yeah, you can laugh. You live in Canada. I live in Germany, do you know the horrors of wildlife I have to fear upon leaving the house?

  17. says

    So, that’s the “no true bears fallacy” then?
    On a more serious note:
    Have those people who go for the “natural provider” hypothesis ever picked up a history book? Who do they think was the “provider” in times before working outside of the house for a wage was common? Do they actually split farmwork into “providing” and “not-provoding” the way they totally disregard the unpaid reproductive work nowadays?
    I’m also wondering how much my grandpa would have “provided” for his family with his wages without my grandma growing their food, sewing their clothes, washing them as well…
    The idea of the “provider” and the “housewife” are deeply Victorian ones. And it’s a typical example of bad evo-psych: Take the current state of affairs, disregard large parts of history, make up a story about the stone-age.

  18. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    If only there was something that might, in a sense, repel these bears. But I guess you would still need a real, manly man to pull the trigger.

  19. says

    Have those people who go for the “natural provider” hypothesis ever picked up a history book?

    It also assumes monogamous relationships rather than communal ones. I would put it to you that if there actually WAS a situational need for “the strong to defend the weak”, it would be the GROUP that defended people, not the stronger of a pair.

  20. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    Great post. I see these sort of gender role things pretty often. I was laid off a year ago but my wife makes enough to be the primary bread-winner with me just working part-time, making small $ with paid music gigs and working towards teaching lessons while doing much of the housework/shopping/dog-walking tasks to make things easier for my wife. I often get quizzical responses from men about “who wears the pants” and silly stuff like that. It’s pretty strange to me that these people find a situation where the female makes more $ than the male, and/or the male doing more of the housework that any home requires. I mean it is 2013. It doesn’t really bother me, personally- having worked in the business world for 15+ years and endured many shitty bosses, thankless jobs etc., I don’t envy my bread-winning friends, no matter how more masculine they feel. But I’m probably pretty lucky in that I’m very secure about my masculinity, or more aptly, not very concerned about it.

    That’s not to say that I’m totally exempt from cultural gender role influences. In grieving the loss of my Mom I have noticed that I still struggle with crying in front of other people. In the intensive care unit when dealing with her passing as it was happening, there was no stopping it, but if I’m talking with my wife or my therapist I do tend to resist really letting go. It may be less of a gender thing and more of a keep-a-stiff-upper-lip mentality that runs in my family, but I’m sure gender plays a role in that resistance even for me.

  21. smrnda says

    I think it’s important to critically examine masculinity, not just since the standards of what it is to be a man can hurt men by putting them into boxes, but it also has a big impact on how men interact with and relate to women. A lot of attributes that are considered ‘manly’ don’t really translate into assets that will help a man establish a long term, intimate relationship, and the idea that men think of sex as conquest and a quest for status certainly contributes to sexism and rape culture.

    Masculinity is an area where I think you can see lots of intersections of class and race and gender. You can sell working class men an imagine of rough, tough masculinity which can give them a sort of pride but which discourages them from seeing how their labor is being exploited or how their safety and well-being is being disregarded by the higher ups. If you internalize the message that being a man is about not complaining and not thinking about your physical well-being or safety, you don’t think to complain or go on strike because your job is dangerous.

  22. invivoMark says

    “But I would suggest that it’s a conversation that male feminists ought to lead, in addition to lending our voices to those of women feminists.”

    I’d go further than that. It isn’t that we ought to lead this discussion; it’s that we must. Rigidly-defined gender denies the very existence of male feminists. It’s nearly impossible to meaningfully contribute to feminism without attacking masculinity as well.

  23. says

    I’d go further than that. It isn’t that we ought to lead this discussion; it’s that we must.

    Right. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of pointedly identifying a role, one that I think is under-emphasized, for male feminists in the discussion. A common MRA talking point is that feminism has nothing to offer men, which is a) patently absurd, and b) typically short-sighted. That being said, it does bring attention to the fact that people ‘nibbling at the edges’ of gender discussion may not see prominent feminists discussing their own issues, and that is both a PR problem and an existential one.

  24. Jacob Schmidt says

    There needs to be a class on this stuff.

    “Sociological impacts of culturally enforced ideologies

    The first law of Culturally Enforced Ideologies (CEI): When living within a culture that supports a given ideology, one can only expect to benefit from the culture if one is both able and willing to support that ideology.”

    A women, I think, can conceivably live a very happy life under current gender roles, provided she both wants and is able to. A women who does not like “womanly things” will have to fight the culture to live her life. A woman who can’t do “womanly things” will be shamed by the culture and treated as “less than”.

    The same goes for men. Once a man is unable to fulfill his role, he is seen as a failure.

    It’s true. There are no bears in Canada. Anywhere.

    Well, something keeps eating the wild blueberries.

    A common MRA talking point is that feminism has nothing to offer men, which is a) patently absurd, and b) typically short-sighted. That being said, it does bring attention to the fact that people ‘nibbling at the edges’ of gender discussion may not see prominent feminists discussing their own issues, and that is both a PR problem and an existential one.

    I think feminism is unfortunately named. The name acts as a convenient target for people who want to make the argument that “feminism is about elevating women over men”. People who want to dismiss you won’t need much reason to; they’ll simply take any convenient excuse available.

  25. says

    Sally
    [derail]

    I hear wild boars are wreaking havoc in Berlin

    Boars are damn smart. They’re living happily here in several small patches of woodland between residential areas so no stupid hunter can ever get them.
    And I bet that I’ve seen more bald-headed eagles from my balcony than any of you….
    [/derail]

    For the topic of “toxic masculinity”: it kills guys. It especially kills young guys who need to prove their manhood by speeding, drinking, drinking and speeding. Actually, once you’re 60 the life expectancy between men and women isn’t that different anymore. Lots of it can be attributed to young men disregarding saftey meassures as “being for girls”.

  26. says

    And I bet that I’ve seen more bald-headed eagles from my balcony than any of you….

    Possibly, but we get a lot of golden eagles and hawks of various kinds out in western New York, so….

    About toxic masculinity: has no-one linked to the oil rig safety methods study yet? I’ll have to look that up again. Dunno why I haven’t bookmarked it.

  27. jonathangray says

    Crommunist:

    Who else but the strong can protect the weak?

    Yes, it’s true. Men need to be physically strong to protect women from bear attacks, which, as we all know, are more frequent now than ever before.

    Bears, obviously, but I was also thinking of attacks by other men. You know, bad men. If I were a woman being menaced by a musclebound thug in a dark alley and a passerby tried to intervene, I would feel more reassured if said passerby was a strong man than another woman. Wouldn’t you?

  28. says

    If I were a woman being menaced by a musclebound thug in a dark alley and a passerby tried to intervene, I would feel more reassured if said passerby was a strong man than another woman. Wouldn’t you?

    In that extremely bizarre hypothetical, in which a single person is going to intervene against a “musclebound thug”, I would rather it be Spiderman. Spiderwoman would be equally okay.

    Your scenario arbitrarily restricts the range of possibilities to SINGLE passers-by. If this thug is as musclebound as you say, what hope does the average man have against him? Why can’t I wish for a female bodybuilder or a javelin thrower or a judo champ to happen to pass by and decide to intervene COMPLETELY BY HERSELF without getting help from others? How common do you think it is that muggings are thwarted by single hand-to-hand combat?

  29. says

    I’m still wondering how bears and comic book villains get us to “providers”
    Apart from that we know the millenia old technique of men to deal with the problem of bad men hurting women: just execute the woman and get a new one.
    Oh, and me as a woman, I’d be glad if the person who comes across that scene had the good sense to call the fucking police and scream loudly…

  30. jonathangray says

    Crommunist:

    In that extremely bizarre hypothetical, in which a single person is going to intervene against a “musclebound thug”, I would rather it be Spiderman. Spiderwoman would be equally okay.

    Um, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman aren’t real.

    Your scenario arbitrarily restricts the range of possibilities to SINGLE passers-by. … How common do you think it is that muggings are thwarted by single hand-to-hand combat?

    No idea. So let’s say our female victim is attacked by two or three or four thugs and two, three or four passersby come to her aid. Maybe these passersby are officers of the law — in which case, the question is whether she’d feel more reassured by the presence of burly policemen or comparatively slightly built women in police uniform.

    However unlikely such hypothetical scenarios strike you, the point is it’s not hard to think of perilous situations in which upper body strength could be a decisive factor in contributing towards a desirable outcome.

    If this thug is as musclebound as you say, what hope does the average man have against him?

    A better chance than the average woman.

    Why can’t I wish for a female bodybuilder or a javelin thrower or a judo champ to happen to pass by and decide to intervene COMPLETELY BY HERSELF without getting help from others?

    You can wish for that if you want; and I concede it’s more likely that there’ll be such a prodigy around than Spider-Woman. But even an extremely physically fit woman would be at a disadvantage in a confrontation with a physically fit man.

    + + +

    Giliell:

    Have those people who go for the “natural provider” hypothesis ever picked up a history book? Who do they think was the “provider” in times before working outside of the house for a wage was common? Do they actually split farmwork into “providing” and “not-provoding” the way they totally disregard the unpaid reproductive work nowadays?
I’m also wondering how much my grandpa would have “provided” for his family with his wages without my grandma growing their food, sewing their clothes, washing them as well…

    You’re right, of course. “Provider” was careless and inaccurate. I stand by “protector” though.
    For instance:

    as a woman, I’d be glad if the person who comes across that scene had the good sense to call the fucking police and scream loudly…

    A little while ago Ms Benson reported this unpleasantness. She described these men’s attitudes as “seriously scary” and one of her commentators found them “truly terrifying”. Why were they scared and terrified? Obviously because men have shown themselves capable of acting on such words with their guns, their fists and their dicks. That women should fear male violence, including sexual violence, is only natural. Men rape; women are raped.

    What puts men in a position where they can inflict violence on women? “It’s the Patriarchy, stoopid!” I hear a lot on left-liberal blogs and websites about this all-pervading control-system called “the Patriarchy” and how bad it is for women and how women must “destroy” or “smash” it. But assuming for the sake of argument that there is such a control-system and that it is inherently oppressive, one wonders how it came about in the first place and how it was maintained for so long. Why is there a Patriarchy? How did men achieve this position of total dominance? In the final analysis, it can only be because men had the raw power to enforce it and they still do. In which case, talk of “destroying” or “smashing” it is just talk. Fantasies of Tomb Raiders, Vampire Slayers, GI Janes, Supergirls, Tank Girls and even Powerpuff Girls are incapable of altering this unpalatable reality and are dangerously irresponsible to suggest otherwise.

    It follows that any reality-based relationship between the sexes must recognise this fundamental and unchangeable asymmetry, ie inequality. Bluntly, the entire edifice of feminism exists on sufferance. If all men thought like those quoted by Ms Benson, feminism wouldn’t last a week. You can only “reclaim” the night if men acknowledge your claim and the “right” of a scantily-clad woman to walk alone and unmolested down a dark alley at night extends only so far as men are prepared to grant her that right — and no further. We may all wish it were otherwise; you may think it unfair, but “which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit?” If there ever was a Matriarchy, it existed because men permitted it to exist.

    What protects women from the threat of male violence? ”The law, stoopid!” But the law is ink on a page. It depends for its effectiveness on entirely on the willingness of people to obey it. You say “call the fucking police” and Ms Benson’s commentariat say much the same thing: “Someone needs to shut this hate group down”. “I can not imagine why … our law enforcement agencies don’t track MRAs as the hate groups they are and keep their members all imprisoned and heavily sedated for life. The need is obvious.”

    ”Law enforcement, then.” Closer, but “law enforcement” is a bloodless, fleshless abstraction, like “hotel security”. The question is not “what?” but “who?” and the answer is law enforcers and security men. Not “the fucking police” but real live cops, policemen prepared to put life and limb on the line for you, Kipling’s “uniforms that guard you while you sleep”.

    Good men protect women from bad men. And nota bene, the sort of men capable of doing this will have to be as powerful and aggressive as those who would harm women. If he is coming at you, “structural microaggressions” are the last thing on your mind — you want a knight in shining armour. Who’ll it be? Not Man Boobz, that’s for sure. What you want is a posse of good strong men sworn to protect their weaker fellows. Which is to say, you want a benign Patriarchy.

  31. says

    @jonathangray – you are a walking parody of your own position. If a police officer is coming to my rescue, I don’t honestly give a fuck if it’s a man or a woman; the incremental difference in strength between the average man and the average woman pales in comparison between the incremental strength between the average man and a gun. That’s the point. You’re creating this bizarre hypothetical in which I am in a position where only arm wrestling could possibly save my life, and then saying “wouldn’t you want a big strong man to come save you?

    No. I reject the premise of your question on grounds that it is ridiculous. The world in which we live today has so little call for the size/strength advantage that you are forced to invent bizarre scenarios that bear no resemblance to reality in order to make your point. You entirely neglect the fact that human beings have always acted and exercized strength as groups in order to prop up your absurd cowboy fantasy about “good men protecting women from bad men”.

    I highly suggest that you stop getting your information from the 1940s. You’re embarrassing yourself.

  32. smrnda says

    I don’t deny that there exist menacing thugs in dark alleys who might want to attack a woman (or a man.) It’s just this isn’t a particularly common type of violence against women. Domestic violence is a lot more prevalent, and it isn’t something likely to be stopped because a passer-by decides to jump in and deal a thug a roundhouse kick.

    Something that I think people forget is that the ‘men as protectors of women’ forgets that men can be targeted for violence as well. A man walking down a dark alley can be menaced by thugs, jumped by drunken hooligans or shot because he’s the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood. For once, I feel like ‘what about the men?’ is a justified point here, since it isn’t like men in public are immune from danger and violence.Is the average man actually capable of meaningful self-defense against a violent attack? If it was up to individual men to protect themselves, most of them would be out of luck.

    Society protects people by making ‘protection’ into a very specific line of work. We have cops and soldiers who are trained and equipped to protect is. I’m going to venture a guess that a female soldier is going to be better at protecting anyone than Joe Six Pack, particularly if we consider the fact that we give soldiers all sorts of equipment The other thing is the two-unarmed-people facing off is a pretty rare event outside of sport. If there’s a dangerous thug in an alley, you send in a GROUP of people, WITH WEAPONS. A woman cop WITH A GUN is going to be better than four local tough guys without one.

  33. Poovey says

    Must admit I’m rather surprised by the relative lack of idiocy in the comment section. Perhaps it’s because it’s an article by a man about what men can do for themselves in terms of feminism, and not one by a woman writing about women? Hm, conspiracy theories shall abound.

    At any rate, it’s lovely as ever to read something like this from a male feminist. Men who see how terrible the world is for women and actually want to do something about it are a godsend, but men who truly see how much the patriarchy harms MEN as much as women are an entirely new breed of amazing. I try to explain this to my male friends whenever the ‘Ew, you’re a feminist?’ conversation inevitably arises but they seem to get too stuck on the perceived injustices against men that are supposedly inherent in feminism to actually listen to what I’m trying to say.

    The main man in my life has done a great deal for me in terms of being understanding about why I rage so much when it comes to feminism and if I could tell him I’m grateful for just one thing, it wouldn’t be that he wants to protect me against all the big, bad sexist men in the world (because he doesn’t), it would be that he expects me to be a badass 100% of the time and will only jump in to help if I actually want him to. We were having a conversation over drink-related antics on the part of local males the other day when the subject came up of what he’d do if I ever got into a fight with a guy. He’d kick the proverbial crap out of the guy if it came to it, in all likelihood, but he’d do the same for his brothers or my brother, who’s 6’2″. But before he did that he’d let me have a pop at the guy because he knows I could do some damage.

    It’s nice lately that we are seeing increasingly likeable female characters in the media who are not likeable just because they evoke traits of the ideal woman (attractive, nice, but not sexually-liberated or go-get-em because those girls are ‘bitches’), but because they are just all-round awesome and stick up for themselves. Likewise some of my favourite minor characters in games and TV shows tend to veer away from the archetypal white male hero, not because I connect more with those characters (although I probably do), but because the writers have made a particular effort to portray them as genuinely great people.

    I think I lost my point somewhere along the way when I started trying to think of my favourite fictional characters and remembered how cool Pam Poovey from Archer is. Screw it, that’ll be my display name.

  34. jonathangray says

    smrnda:

    I don’t deny that there exist menacing thugs in dark alleys who might want to attack a woman (or a man.) It’s just this isn’t a particularly common type of violence against women. Domestic violence is a lot more prevalent, and it isn’t something likely to be stopped because a passer-by decides to jump in and deal a thug a roundhouse kick.

    But as I said, ”However unlikely such hypothetical scenarios strike you, the point is it’s not hard to think of perilous situations in which upper body strength could be a decisive factor in contributing towards a desirable outcome.” It doesn’t have to be a scenario involving hostility against women. If I were trapped in a burning building, I would rather my would-be rescuers were firemen than female ‘firefighters’.

    Something that I think people forget is that the ‘men as protectors of women’ forgets that men can be targeted for violence as well. A man walking down a dark alley can be menaced by thugs, jumped by drunken hooligans or shot because he’s the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood. For once, I feel like ‘what about the men?’ is a justified point here, since it isn’t like men in public are immune from danger and violence.Is the average man actually capable of meaningful self-defense against a violent attack? If it was up to individual men to protect themselves, most of them would be out of luck.

    Even if that were true — and I’m sure there’s much truth in it — it would still leave the world divided into (gradations of) strong and weak with the question remaining of how the former should treat the latter”. At the end of the day, Thucydides’ words remain true: “The strong do what they can, the weak suffer what they must.”

    Crommunist:

    You entirely neglect the fact that human beings have always acted and exercized strength as groups

    No I don’t. ”… let’s say our female victim is attacked by two or three or four thugs and two, three or four passersby come to her aid. …”

    Crommunist:

    If a police officer is coming to my rescue, I don’t honestly give a fuck if it’s a man or a woman; the incremental difference in strength between the average man and the average woman pales in comparison between the incremental strength between the average man and a gun. That’s the point.

    &

    smrnda:

    I’m going to venture a guess that a female soldier is going to be better at protecting anyone than Joe Six Pack, particularly if we consider the fact that we give soldiers all sorts of equipment The other thing is the two-unarmed-people facing off is a pretty rare event outside of sport. If there’s a dangerous thug in an alley, you send in a GROUP of people, WITH WEAPONS. A woman cop WITH A GUN is going to be better than four local tough guys without one.

    Ah yes. Certainly firearms would even the odds somewhat. (Although in my country the police are not normally armed.)

    Can I assume you’re solidly in favour of gun ownership, then? If she were armed, our female victim wouldn’t have to rely on a posse of armed cops arriving in the nick of time.

    Crommunist:

    The world in which we live today has so little call for the size/strength advantage that you are forced to invent bizarre scenarios that bear no resemblance to reality in order to make your point.

    &

    smrnda:

    Society protects people by making ‘protection’ into a very specific line of work. We have cops and soldiers who are trained and equipped to protect is.

    Yes, modern society reduced the decisive importance of the size/strength advantage to a considerable extent. However, last I heard we had moved out of modernity and were now a state of post-modernity. From what I see of the post-modern, I expect it to revert to pre-modernity sooner rather than later. A great many people, by no means unintelligent, agree. I guess time will tell, as it always does. : )

  35. smrnda says

    Jonathan,

    If you prefer firemen to firewomen, that’s your preference, but I see no evidence that this is anything except a personal preference you have that isn’t really supported by evidence. There are people who have preferred white over Black personnel for all sorts of work, all based on supposedly ‘rational’ criterion. You understand fire departments require all firefighters to pass physical tests to check their fitness for doing their jobs, so any woman they’re putting out there is strong enough. If you’re that worried about strength, are you worried you might get a man who barely passed the physical tests rather than a hulking, strong behemoth?

    Would I be right in saying “I’d rather employ an Asian programmer” based on the fact that I *strongly feel* that Asians are better at math, science and technology and would just feel better with an Asian worker than anything else? Or could it be possible that my belief in the stereotype makes me incapable of actually determining who is qualified for a job?

    If anything, I’d feel a little bit better with female cops. Police brutality is a big problem in the States. Part of this might be the whole macho thing and the fact that, for many male cops, being a cop is a way to feel big, masculine and powerful – it’s an ego issue that interferes with the ability to pursue the goal of the job (community service) since ‘being a tough guy’ can take over as an alternate, competing goal. As a woman, I’d feel safer with more women cops since attitudes, perceptions and internal biases affect how well cops can protect a lot more than who can lift more weights.

    On guns and gun ownership, I would probably require more space than I feel okay taking up on the issue here. But yeah, one armed female is going to beat 4 unarmed males. One armed cop can handle a few thugs. I’m fairly well trained in practical martial arts, hand to hand combat and the use of certain types of weapons, and I’d feel fairly confident taking on 4 people if I had a metal rod I could hit them with (I’m female too.) It’s never come up though, which is why the hypothetical ‘dark alley’ approach to danger and safety is kind of silly to me. In fact, spending a lot of time doing stuff that would make me able to handle the ‘thugs in the dark alley’ only make me feel a little silly in that I spent so much time training to handle things that don’t happen . Then again, if I’d been playing tennis, it would be equally impractical.

    However, let’s say you’re menaced in a dark alley. A female cop with a gun shows up. You can always say “Well, I’d feel better with a male cop.” Great, I’d feel better with the National Guard instead of the police. I’d feel better with the Marines than the National Guard. Maybe you’d feel better with male cops than with female Marines. Maybe we’d all feel better if it’s Recon Marines (special forces) and heck, why not some elite ninjas? Why not a Batman or Iron Man style super-hero (one without supernatural or mutant powers?) What we need is an adequate response based on making sure people we send to protect have adequate qualifications. I’d prefer that the best surgeon in the world would operate on me (male or female) if I needed an operation, but I’m willing to accept less just out of the need to be reasonable.

    I think physical strength is becoming almost totally meaningless these days in terms of who has power and who doesn’t. outside of extremely rare situations, so it doesn’t really seem relevant except in unlikely cases. Do nations win wars because their soldiers can out bench press the enemy, or because of technology, strategy and tactics, logistical support and manufacturing ability? Does a country win a war because The General can beat up the other general? Not lending a total support to Israeli foreign policy here, but their military is full of women and they seem to fare okay. Check history – lots of women served in WWII on the Soviet side,and many excelled. I’m guessing when you’re fighting a total war your prejudices have to go out the door if you want to survive.

    Is a Black kid in danger in a white neighborhood because he’s not strong enough (in fact, if the young Black male was visibly stronger than average, I’d say he’s in more danger because of how he would be perceived) or is he in danger because white people simply have more social capital? A single call to the cops about a ‘suspicious and tough looking’ Black male is going to land the young Black male into a lot of trouble, and his physical strength is useless here. Let’s say some white kids commit a crime and the cops are called – is the Black male more likely to be considered a suspect, convicted and imprisoned regardless of actual facts because he isn’t strong enough? Is a Black kid who gets shot by a white wanna-be vigilante dead because he wasn’t strong enough? I mean, if a young Black male shot a white would-be vigilante I’d say that his strength (if you want to call it that) is going to end up doing him no good, since the real issue is social capital and power – as strong as a young Black kid or woman can be, institutions are biased against them so that, in different ways, when marginalized populations exercise strength, they are penalized for it, and dominant populations don’t have to use strength to stay in charge.

    I’ll leave you with the thought that ‘strength’ and ‘power’ are different. It’s just two words that I think the ‘Black kid in white neighborhood’ make clear enough – white people have power, so Black strength is penalized if it’s ever used, and white strength is defended when it’s used. With women, it’s less important than cops can beat up thugs who menace us and more important that cops listen when we report violence committed against us, and that has everything to do with the attitudes of the police and nothing to do with their physical prowess.

    What good are super-strong bodybuilder male cops if they don’t really *feel* like looking into allegations of rape, domestic violence, or when these super-strong guys give into rape myths that rapes are all committed by thugs in dark alleys? That renders them useless. Physically weaker cops, male or female, with a better perspective are going to be more effective in protecting women since most of the dangers facing women aren’t going to be addressed by the rapid-response heroism you’ve come up with but by the cops investigating actions that have already happened. If a cop can take out 5 thugs in an alley single-handed, but won’t investigate a rape case since it doesn’t fit the idea of the stranger-danger attack he’s got in his head, he’s useless, for all his seeming strength.

    It seems you’ve blown the dangers of the Dark Alley Scenario up, and then you’ve created your imagine of the Perfect Protector based on how they would handle this unlikely scenario, and you’ve come up with an Ideal Protector who isn’t going to be much better than the un-ideal ones we have today, and possibly a lot worse.

  36. smrnda says

    Not to post too much, but the whole ‘protection’ issue makes me think I can address it with a simple cost-benefit analysis.

    What would make women safer? Making sure cops are better at handling thugs in dark alleys though a combination weightlifting and MMA program, or making sure that more rape cases are investigated, which has everything to do with attitudes and a willingness to investigate rape adequately and provide material resources for these investigations? Would stronger, tougher cops or a ‘don’t be that guy’ style rape awareness campaign protect women more? ( Crommunist – did you blog about such a campaign in a Canadian city a while back, or am I thinking of some other blogger?) What reduces violence against women more, more men willing to take on thugs with their bare fists, or more shelters for victims of domestic violence and a more supportive legal system?

    Looking at the actual costs and benefits, I don’t think the ‘we need some tougher guys on the force” or “we need more men who aren’t afraid to take on thugs in dark alleys” approach isn’t going to translate into much in the way of results. For everything that seems likely to benefit women, women can provide these things as effectively as men can though any sort of campaign aimed at preventing rape by reaching men needs to employ some men since they can help know how to reach men probably better than women can. If we were living in some kind of stone or bronze age existence, physical strength might matter, but right now, unless civilization collapses (and I don’t really see that happening) the things that make us safer are unlikely to be being stronger and better at using violence.

    In the cost-benefit analysis, the small edge that some burly tough-guys can provide women in terms of safety are just so inconsequential as not to be much of a real help. Unless we revert to the Bronze Age, it’s probably going to stay that way, the same way that the skills of the town cobbler of blacksmith are no longer that relevant, though either trade does represent actual skill. I am not personally likely to be menaced by thugs in dark alleys, so a solution to my safety based on answering that threat is totally irrelevant to my life and addresses no real, potential sources of danger I might face. To me, it’s kind of like the media obsession with serial killers as this omnipresent danger – it’s an easy trope to pull out, but statistically, doesn’t present that much of a risk.

  37. says

    Uh, as a short, female person who is roughly average in terms of strength, let me reassure you that having a creeper leap out at you can be fairly easily dealt with by closelining him (strong throat strike with forearm to windpipe), which I’ve done. It’s hard to be menacing when you’re choking and rolling around on the sidewalk. The only reason I didn’t also stomp his solar plexus was because I was worried I may have actually crushed his windpipe.

    Let me also reassure you that, as a relatively short person of average strength, that using your mouth (talking) also works sometimes on creepers. It’s amazing how well “My boyfriend is a police officer/parole officer” works on some of those guys.

    And you know what else works? When some of those burly police officers get off their ass and actually investigate. In towns where it is known that the police department gives a shit, the ability of rapists to safely target who they view as easy prey is diminished.

    Oh, and here’s something else that works: convictions and non-lenient sentencing.

    Or, you know, the efforts of persons in authority to make their area safer.

    Or educational efforts to stigmatize the rapist and slut-shaming.

    The bottom line, however, is that a rapist is responsible for their behavior, and that having a magic muscle man is not going to cure the problem.

    PS: I knew a female firefighter while I was growing up. She was 6’3″ and could bench another human. Of course, we all know that as a female person, she couldn’t possibly have completed the requirements of her job. Womenz is all weak and shit.

  38. smrnda says

    I should probably connect my points above with patriarchy. Patriarchy is not going to lead to useful things being done that would actually benefit women, since it’s all about maintaining the myth of ‘benevolent patriarchy.’ It’s going to be a bunch of guys who think heroic guys with guns, muscles and fighting ability are the answer to the problem of dangers facing women – they’ll invest a massive amount of time, effort and resources into this ‘solution’ and then nothing will get better, but a lot of guys will feel like they’re heroes because of how they might handle the hypothetical stranger in the dark alley. Issues about men’s attitudes, rape myths, the fact that rape and domestic violence aren’t taken seriously or investigated adequately, an absence of support for people in abusive relationships just won’t be dealt with since the solution isn’t a heroic tough guy saving the day by heroic defensive violence. By ‘smashing the patriarchy’ we mean ditching the belief that men can unilaterally decide how women should be protected with no input from women.

  39. PatrickG says

    However, last I heard we had moved out of modernity and were now a state of post-modernity. From what I see of the post-modern, I expect it to revert to pre-modernity sooner rather than later.

    … the fuck did I just read? What do your gun-totin’, burnin’ building, alley stompin’, post-apocalyptic fantasies have anything to do with deconstructing male roles in our modern society? The OP was talking about traditionally “male” jobs, the expectations on normative men to be normative in toxic ways, and how male feminists probably need to be more prominent and vocal in combating those norms.

    Thanks for proving the point — these toxic norms show up everywhere, particularly when challenged. smrnda, mouthby, and crommunist pretty much all refuted your absurd argument, so I’ll just settle for pointing and laughing.

    Though it’s notable how questioning male norms always provoke suggestions that women are physically incapable and shouldn’t be let outside without a protector, complete with side dish of ‘men are by default bodybuilding ninjas prowling the streets looking for women to protect’. Self parody indeed — yeesh.

    Anyway, great post Crommunist. With the resurgence of the religious arguments for men’s “proper” role/sexuality/behavior, this really should be a front and center issue. I’d love to see this get more time in meatspace and netspace.

    * On a side note, do you identify as an MRA jonathan? You’re a few bingo spaces away by my card, but it’s really close. Or maybe you’re just a rugged individualist ready for the zombie hordes of the Apocalypse and just itching to put those women back in their approved physical place (make sure to check the expiration date on your Upper Body Strength End Time Rations!).

  40. jonathangray says

    smrnda … mouthyb, Vagina McTits … PatrickG — thanks for the thought-provoking comments — will respond when I get a spare moment.

  41. says

    Jonathangray is too busy to respond. He’s got a full schedule of rushing into alleys to see if there are any muggers he can thwart with his man-strength. It’s very time-consuming.

  42. PatrickG says

    Crommunist: That is a full-time job. If muscular men weren’t doing that constantly, civilization would have collapsed by now!

    Also, I hear excessive upper-body musculature inhibits the fine motor control required for typing. I have a source*, but you’ll have to google it yourself.

    * Not intended as a factual statement.

  43. jonathangray says

    smrnda:

    If you prefer firemen to firewomen, that’s your preference, but I see no evidence that this is anything except a personal preference you have that isn’t really supported by evidence.

    My preference is based on the assumption that men are generally more able at things like breaking down doors, heaving aside burning beams and carrying unconscious persons to safety.

    You understand fire departments require all firefighters to pass physical tests to check their fitness for doing their jobs, so any woman they’re putting out there is strong enough. If you’re that worried about strength, are you worried you might get a man who barely passed the physical tests rather than a hulking, strong behemoth?

    I would be interested to know if male and female firefighters take exactly the same physical tests or whether the standards have been lowered for women, as in the case of the United States military.

    Would I be right in saying “I’d rather employ an Asian programmer” based on the fact that I *strongly feel* that Asians are better at math, science and technology and would just feel better with an Asian worker than anything else? Or could it be possible that my belief in the stereotype makes me incapable of actually determining who is qualified for a job?

    Naturally one would want to employ the best person for the job, regardless of ethnicity. Of course, it may be that a genuinely meritocratic set of criteria would result in a preponderance of Asian employees in that particular industry. Fiendishly clever, these orientals.

    I think physical strength is becoming almost totally meaningless these days in terms of who has power and who doesn’t. outside of extremely rare situations, so it doesn’t really seem relevant except in unlikely cases. Do nations win wars because their soldiers can out bench press the enemy, or because of technology, strategy and tactics, logistical support and manufacturing ability?

    Technology, strategy and tactics, logistical support and manufacturing ability are all important of course; so are the physical capabilities of individual soldiers.

    Not lending a total support to Israeli foreign policy here, but their military is full of women and they seem to fare okay. Check history – lots of women served in WWII on the Soviet side,and many excelled. I’m guessing when you’re fighting a total war your prejudices have to go out the door if you want to survive.

    It would be interesting to know if female soldiers in the IDF and WWII Red Army were/are deployed directly in the frontline infantry or in combat roles that perhaps require less physical strength or endurance, like snipers or drivers/pilots. It would also be interesting to know if these female soldiers were/are fully integrated with their male comrades or part of separate all-woman units.

    I’m not denying women can play an effective role in the modern military (whether they should is another matter). But it will never be an equal role. You can have all-male armies; you will not have all-female armies.

  44. jonathangray says

    smrnda:

    Is a Black kid in danger in a white neighborhood because he’s not strong enough (in fact, if the young Black male was visibly stronger than average, I’d say he’s in more danger because of how he would be perceived) or is he in danger because white people simply have more social capital? A single call to the cops about a ‘suspicious and tough looking’ Black male is going to land the young Black male into a lot of trouble, and his physical strength is useless here. Let’s say some white kids commit a crime and the cops are called – is the Black male more likely to be considered a suspect, convicted and imprisoned regardless of actual facts because he isn’t strong enough? Is a Black kid who gets shot by a white wanna-be vigilante dead because he wasn’t strong enough? I mean, if a young Black male shot a white would-be vigilante I’d say that his strength (if you want to call it that) is going to end up doing him no good, since the real issue is social capital and power – as strong as a young Black kid or woman can be, institutions are biased against them so that, in different ways, when marginalized populations exercise strength, they are penalized for it, and dominant populations don’t have to use strength to stay in charge.
    I’ll leave you with the thought that ‘strength’ and ‘power’ are different. It’s just two words that I think the ‘Black kid in white neighborhood’ make clear enough – white people have power, so Black strength is penalized if it’s ever used, and white strength is defended when it’s used.

    Hegemonic power ultimately depends on physical power and the will to use it, otherwise the “dominant populations” won’t stay dominant..

    (BTW.)

    With women, it’s less important than cops can beat up thugs who menace us and more important that cops listen when we report violence committed against us, and that has everything to do with the attitudes of the police and nothing to do with their physical prowess. … What good are super-strong bodybuilder male cops if they don’t really *feel* like looking into allegations of rape, domestic violence, or when these super-strong guys give into rape myths that rapes are all committed by thugs in dark alleys? That renders them useless. Physically weaker cops, male or female, with a better perspective are going to be more effective in protecting women since most of the dangers facing women aren’t going to be addressed by the rapid-response heroism you’ve come up with but by the cops investigating actions that have already happened. If a cop can take out 5 thugs in an alley single-handed, but won’t investigate a rape case since it doesn’t fit the idea of the stranger-danger attack he’s got in his head, he’s useless, for all his seeming strength. … What would make women safer? Making sure cops are better at handling thugs in dark alleys though a combination weightlifting and MMA program, or making sure that more rape cases are investigated, which has everything to do with attitudes and a willingness to investigate rape adequately and provide material resources for these investigations? Would stronger, tougher cops or a ‘don’t be that guy’ style rape awareness campaign protect women more?

    It cuts both ways, though. A police force dedicated to thoroughly investigating rapes and adequately resourcing those investigations is impotent if there aren’t also officers capable of actually apprehending the rapists. A heart isn’t much good without muscles. Might empowers right.

    If we were living in some kind of stone or bronze age existence, physical strength might matter, but right now, unless civilization collapses (and I don’t really see that happening) the things that make us safer are unlikely to be being stronger and better at using violence. … Unless we revert to the Bronze Age, it’s probably going to stay that way, the same way that the skills of the town cobbler of blacksmith are no longer that relevant

    Every civilisation collapses sooner or later, does it not? And when it does, people had better relearn those obsolete skills fast because those who possess them will be better equipped to survive. A college degree in genderqueer studies or a connoisseurship of internet porn … not so much. That’s the one good thing about anarchy — it leaves no room for any nonsense as traditional structures reassert themselves with a vengeance..

    Patriarchy is not going to lead to useful things being done that would actually benefit women, since it’s all about maintaining the myth of ‘benevolent patriarchy.’ It’s going to be a bunch of guys who think heroic guys with guns, muscles and fighting ability are the answer to the problem of dangers facing women – they’ll invest a massive amount of time, effort and resources into this ‘solution’ and then nothing will get better, but a lot of guys will feel like they’re heroes because of how they might handle the hypothetical stranger in the dark alley. Issues about men’s attitudes, rape myths, the fact that rape and domestic violence aren’t taken seriously or investigated adequately, an absence of support for people in abusive relationships just won’t be dealt with since the solution isn’t a heroic tough guy saving the day by heroic defensive violence.

    You’re only seeing one side of the traditional Patriarchy. The “tough guy” is also supposed to be a gentleman. When I was a schoolboy, backing away from a fight in the playground was seen as cowardly; but so was bullying (“pick on someone your own size”, “you don’t hit girls” etc). Self-control and care for the weaker were an equally important part of ‘manliness’ as courage and fighting ability. Indeed, traditional Patriarchal morality was as much designed to restrain the latter as glorify it.

  45. jonathangray says

    mouthyb, Vagina McTits:

    Uh, as a short, female person who is roughly average in terms of strength, let me reassure you that having a creeper leap out at you can be fairly easily dealt with by closelining him (strong throat strike with forearm to windpipe), which I’ve done. It’s hard to be menacing when you’re choking and rolling around on the sidewalk. The only reason I didn’t also stomp his solar plexus was because I was worried I may have actually crushed his windpipe.

    If your attacker had been bigger, stronger and faster, or if there had been more than one of them, you might not have been so lucky.

    I knew a female firefighter while I was growing up. She was 6’3″ and could bench another human. Of course, we all know that as a female person, she couldn’t possibly have completed the requirements of her job. Womenz is all weak and shit.

    Such women are atypical. That’s why they’re often referred to as ‘masculine’ women.

    From “Women in the Military” by Brian Mitchell (1998): “The most common complaint heard from male cadets and midshipmen was that integration had lowered the academies’ physical standards. Physically, the women simply could not keep up. The dropout rate on morning runs during West Point’s “Beast Barracks” was 23 percent for women and less than 3 percent for men. In the seventh week of training, 26.3 percent of female cadets reported for physical “reconditioning” instead of the morning run, compared to 5.6 percent of men. Women reported for sick call an average of 6.8 times per female cadet, compared to the male average of 1.7 times. They suffered more than ten times as many stress fractures as men. Attrition during the first summer was 16 percent for women, 9.7 percent for men. Even after a year of regular physical training, West Point women in the first integrated class suffered five times as many injuries as men during field training. The following year, the injury rate for women in field training was fourteen times the rate for men.

    

“Women’s physical advantages are that they are less susceptible to altitude sickness and, normally, have a greater tolerance of cold temperatures due to their extra body fat. But by all other measures, men have enormous advantages physically. The average female Army recruit is 4.8 inches shorter, 31.7 pounds lighter, has 37.4 fewer pounds of muscle, and 5.7 more pounds of fat than the average male recruit. She has only 55 percent of the upper-body strength and 72 percent of the lower-body strength of the average male. She is also at a significant disadvantage when performing aerobic activities such as marching with heavy loads and working in the heat, since fat mass is inversely related to aerobic capacity and heat tolerance. Her lighter frame, moreover, makes her more likely to suffer injuries due to physical exertion. An Army study of 124 men and 186 women done in 1988 found that women are more than twice as likely to suffer leg injuries and nearly five times as likely to suffer fractures as men.”

    “Tests of men and women entering the West Point class of 1980 found that, on average, the upper-body strength of women was 56 percent the strength of men, their leg strength 80 percent, and their gripping strength 69 percent. Even when height was kept constant, women possessed only 80 percent of the overall strength of men. After eight weeks of intensive training, male plebes demonstrated 32 percent more power in the lower body and peformed 48 percent more work at the leg press than female plebes. At the bench press, the men demonstrated 270 percent more power and performed an extraordinary 473 percent more work than the women.”

    See also: http://www.fredoneverything.net/MilMed.shtml

    Let me also reassure you that, as a relatively short person of average strength, that using your mouth (talking) also works sometimes on creepers. It’s amazing how well “My boyfriend is a police officer/parole officer” works on some of those guys.

    “Some” being the operative word … Talk like that might not cut much ice if the guy in question was out of his skull on something that led him to fancy chewing your face off.

    And you know what else works? When some of those burly police officers get off their ass and actually investigate. In towns where it is known that the police department gives a shit, the ability of rapists to safely target who they view as easy prey is diminished.

    Sure, but like I said to smrnda, giving a shit isn’t worth shit without the burly officers.

    Oh, and here’s something else that works: convictions and non-lenient sentencing.

    A refreshingly illiberal sentiment. Personally I think rape should carry the death penalty.

    Or, you know, the efforts of persons in authority to make their area safer.

    Right. It all comes back to power in action.

    Or educational efforts to stigmatize the rapist and slut-shaming.

    I’m all for stigmatising criminals. As for “slut-shaming” … if a scantily-clad woman is raped, the moral blame clearly lies with the rapists. The victim is guilty of nothing — except perhaps reckless stupidity, eg if she was walking alone down a dark alley in a big city at night. Then again, immodest dress is by any sane criteria a sexual display, which arguably compounds the culpable recklnessness.

  46. jonathangray says

    PatrickG:

    … the fuck did I just read? What do your gun-totin’, burnin’ building, alley stompin’, post-apocalyptic fantasies have anything to do with deconstructing male roles in our modern society? The OP was talking about traditionally “male” jobs, the expectations on normative men to be normative in toxic ways, and how male feminists probably need to be more prominent and vocal in combating those norms.

    What can I say? All the best brains among the commentariat believe that particular fantasy is most likely going to become reality sooner rather than later as “our modern society” heads for the rocks of reality. Yep, the dustbin of history is being prepared for all the scowly, censorious, perpetually microaggrieved females kvetching about how oppressed they are and their whiny, caponised male camp-followers …

    Though it’s notable how questioning male norms always provoke suggestions that women are physically incapable and shouldn’t be let outside without a protector, complete with side dish of ‘men are by default bodybuilding ninjas prowling the streets looking for women to protect’. Self parody indeed — yeesh. … Or maybe you’re just a rugged individualist ready for the zombie hordes of the Apocalypse and just itching to put those women back in their approved physical place (make sure to check the expiration date on your Upper Body Strength End Time Rations!).

    I’m afraid the only parody here is coming from you. I’m no warrior and I know only too well I wouldn’t last five minutes in a “post-apocalyptic” world. This has nothing to with macho posturing on my part.

    On a side note, do you identify as an MRA jonathan?

    No, I’m not any sort of ‘activist’ for anything. ‘Activism’ seems to be the pastime of spoiled wankers who prefer indulging in moral grandstanding to doing an honest day’s work. I also don’t buy into the concept of ‘rights’, which strike me as a liberal fiction. The raw stuff of human society is power relationships and these are unequal by definition. (Put any three people in a room together and you’ll soon see a hierarchy emerge.)
    Civilisation is an effort to make this inherent inequality as humane as possible. We all want that, right?

  47. says

    No, I’m not any sort of ‘activist’ for anything. ‘Activism’ seems to be the pastime of spoiled wankers who prefer indulging in moral grandstanding to doing an honest day’s work.

    Unlike leaving wanky comments on blogs. THAT’S how you make change, people!

    I also don’t buy into the concept of ‘rights’, which strike me as a liberal fiction

    http://i1169.photobucket.com/albums/r512/shutterbird13/WTF/340x.jpg

    http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_maxacaBUH91qa0tls.gif

    We can stop pretending that Jonathan is a real boy now, right?

  48. jonathangray says

    “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem

  49. says

    “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem

    Contrary to what some seem to believe, this does not mean that everything that pisses you off is the truth.

  50. says

    johnathangray: Several things thar, fella. First, nothing is 100% effective at preventing rape. Even big, buff guys are sometimes raped (I used to date one– 6’4″ and could pick up ridiculous loads). See the beginnings of the military stats coming out on rape between male soldiers.

    However, as I hope the examples may have demonstrated, my ability to arm wrestle or not has had little effect on the outcome of the times that I did use those methods. In fact, I can’t imagine a situation in which arm wrestling a guy got him the fuck off me. Leverage, it turns out, was more important when someone was trying to wrestle me down or choke me, etc.

    The firefighter I pointed out was still a woman, asshole. Not a masculine woman, a woman. Period.

    Also, what someone is wearing has fuck-all to do with whether or not they get raped. Rapists will attack grandmothers and grandfathers, pre-pubescent children and infants, people who are not considered sexually attractive, people who are considered conventionally attractive, their best friend, etc– they don’t give a fuck because it’s not about desire, it’s about control and hurting someone.

    Asking for an actual punishment for rape, instead of what typically happens, is not illiberal.

    I find your sentiments both disturbingly shallow and displaying an unseemly delight in ignorance on the relevant issues.

  51. says

    Do nations win wars because their soldiers can out bench press the enemy, or because of technology, strategy and tactics, logistical support and manufacturing ability?

    Reminder: Physical force was never the primary determinant in conflicts past the tribal level. Unit discipline, organization, superior armament, better strategy, better tactics… but physical force? Irrelevant.

    Check history – lots of women served in WWII on the Soviet side,and many excelled. I’m guessing when you’re fighting a total war your prejudices have to go out the door if you want to survive.

    Not just total war either – women typically guarded the supply train in medieval warfare (You know, where the food is. The food that if it all burns, the enemy army almost certainly has to retreat for.) There were female ‘administrative’ knights in a lot of the holy orders, which is more or less like taking a ‘rear echelon’ MOS that still deploys you to Iraq or Afghanistan (Which, hey, women are doing now! And they still have to fight on the front lines!)

    I like how the bigoted asshole (who of course, is too important to not spend an honest day’s work working, yet argues for hours and hours here) quotes Gloria freakin’ Steinem to try to say he’s right (in denying women rights because he’s a tool). And no, I’m not wasting more of my time debunking his claims – fucker is a proud ignoramus who is probably the happiest white supremacist I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading – pity he doesn’t have any historical knowledge to be happy about.

  52. jonathangray says

    SallyStrange:

    Contrary to what some seem to believe, this does not mean that everything that pisses you off is the truth.

    Of course not. But look at Crommunist’s reaction to my comments about ‘rights’ @53. If someone offers a particularly stupid opinion that is obviously false and easily refuted, a common reaction might be pitying scorn. In some cases it could be that to hold such a manifestly absurd opinion is actually morally reprehensible; in which case a common reaction might be anger or disgust.

    Crom’s reaction seems to embody a quite different set of emotions — sheer incredulity (”How can anyone SAY that?”) followed by affronted outrage (”How DARE anyone say that!”. Which suggests that he didn’t reject my remarks because they were manifestly false and and easily refuted; rather, he rejected them because they were profoundly unpalatable.

    It makes no difference. The Dark Enlightenment is coming whether you like it or not. May God have mercy on our souls.

  53. jonathangray says

    mouthyb, Vagina McTits:

    First, nothing is 100% effective at preventing rape.

    No duh.

    Even big, buff guys are sometimes raped

    Yep — by other big, buff guys.

    However, as I hope the examples may have demonstrated, my ability to arm wrestle or not has had little effect on the outcome of the times that I did use those methods. In fact, I can’t imagine a situation in which arm wrestling a guy got him the fuck off me. Leverage, it turns out, was more important when someone was trying to wrestle me down or choke me, etc.

    So in an alternative universe in which every woman possessed such self-defence skills, would there never have been a Patriarchy?

    The firefighter I pointed out was still a woman, asshole. Not a masculine woman, a woman. Period.

    “Masculine” in this context merely means her attribute of physical strength is more typically exhibited by men. If you find the expression offensive, let’s just call her an atypically strong woman.

    Also, what someone is wearing has fuck-all to do with whether or not they get raped. Rapists will attack grandmothers and grandfathers, pre-pubescent children and infants, people who are not considered sexually attractive, people who are considered conventionally attractive, their best friend, etc– they don’t give a fuck because it’s not about desire, it’s about control and hurting someone.

    It’s not that simple. A man has to be sexually aroused physically to rape someone. It is conceivable that a rapist of children, the elderly, the unattractive etc might simply have a sexual fetish for people in those categories. (And one wonders what percentage of rape victims fall into those categories.)

    Certainly a sadistic pervert can be sufficiently aroused by thoughts of controlling and inflicting pain on someone; but even in such cases it simply doesn’t follow that the victim’s physical features and clothing are irrelevant. At the very least it’s adding fuel to the fire.

    Asking for an actual punishment for rape, instead of what typically happens, is not illiberal.

    In my experience liberals are generally uneasy with the whole concept of punishment, unless the criminal’s victim is a member of a liberal-privileged group like women, homosexuals or ethnic minorities.

  54. jonathangray says

    Rutee Katreya:

    Physical force was never the primary determinant in conflicts past the tribal level. Unit discipline, organization, superior armament, better strategy, better tactics… but physical force? Irrelevant.

    Pardon the gendered insult but that’s a load of cock. Hand-to-hand fighting requires physical strength. Long forced marches require physical strength. Wielding an axe or broadsword while wearing full armour requires physical strength. Drawing a longbow requires physical strength. Loading a trebuchet with large rocks requires physical strength. Even in modern warfare, physical strength remains important — or why do armies have fitness criteria for recruits?

    women typically guarded the supply train in medieval warfare

    Do you have a source for that? I’m sceptical, but even if it were true it would still leave the question of why women were not ”typically” present in the melee of battle.

    [Why do you think the Patriarchy got off the ground and endured for so many centuries?]

    There were female ‘administrative’ knights in a lot of the holy orders

    Do you have a source for that? I’m sceptical, but even if it were true, such administrative roles are, as you yourself admit, ”rear echelon”.

    probably the happiest white supremacist I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading

    Your bigotometer must be on the blink. I’m a Catholic dominionist, not a white supremacist.

    [Aaaaand we’re done. Wave bye-bye to jonathangray everyone. I kinda thought he’d go away on his own, but dealing with his idiocy is becoming a headache, and I’m too easily bored for that – C]

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