masculine

PSA: feminism and wussy men are a threat to national security

I don’t know if you all knew this, but…

“American men are on the decline.”

Or so says Australian Author, Nick Adams, in the below Fox & Friends interview with infamous Anti-Womanist Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and other Faux News Douche [insert name here].

 

First off, I love that the “wussification” of American men (and I can’t even tell you how much that made-up word drives me up the wall, Charlotte Perkins Gilman style) is especially seen as a threat “given the leading role” of our country. Ah, American Exceptionalism at it’s finest! Guess what… I love this country. I am very happy to be living in the United States. But, it’s not the greatest country in the world. That doesn’t mean that I hate America. It just means that I’m very critical and very aware. (Thanks, UC Berkeley!) After all, part of my thesis involved looking at our infant and maternal mortality rates against other countries whose primary labor attendants were midwives and indeed, ours is abysmal. There are plenty of other elements factoring into the cold hard fact that we are not the greatest country in the world, and while the above hyperlink is a clip from a TV show (well, it’s not really TV, it’s HBO) that does not render the information contained within it invalid.

I also love that Mr. Adams postulates that feminism sees men as preventing us [women] from achieving our goals. Funny… I’m married to a man, yet… hmm… he actually helps me achieve my goals… OH MY GOD THIS ENTIRE TIME I’VE NEVER EVEN BEEN A REAL FEMINIST.

Ok, so clearly Mr. Adams is not really familiar with what feminism actually is, what it sets out to do, or why most of us feminists view it as a necessity. Suffice it to say that Mr. Adams clearly sees feminism in “Backlash” black and white. Not to mention right in front of his face, during that very interview, was an actual woman who strives to prevent other women’s [feminist] goals….sooo…that’s funny.

And, I’m sorry, we’ve “whitewashed” genders? When did that happen? Does he even know what gender is? And that it is not the same thing as one’s biological sex? (Which is also not binary, by the way—there are both more genders and sexes than just male/female, masculine/feminine) I can only laugh at the lack of knowledge behind such a statement.

Finally, I find it humorous that he declares, with the utmost authority and confidence, that “feminism has delivered angry women and feminine men.” I beg to differ. Feminism has made me (and my predecessors, I’d argue) quite happy. It’s really more the whole sexism bit that has delivered the “angry women,” I’d say. And as for the “feminine men,” is he talking about gay men? (Not that all gay men are feminine, of course) Because whether he is, or is not, his stance that “Weeps and wussies deliver mediocrity” is intrinsically bound up with homophobic rhetoric and ideals. After all, the very notion (or existence, really—it’s not exactly a notion, anymore is it?) of homosexuality has very much undermined the concept of traditional masculinity. Either way, this guy’s notion of masculinity is what I really find most threatening…

Says Katie McDonough, in her Salon.com article:

After listening to Adams bemoan how men once known for “wrestling alligators” have been reduced to “wrestling lattes” instead, Hasselbeck asks — in her most serious journalist voice — if feminists and wussified American men are a threat to national security.

“Do you see this affecting national security? How a nation operates in terms of being a strong presence globally?” she inquired.

“Absolutely, without a doubt,” Adams replied. “I think it has wide-ranging implications. Weeps and wussies deliver mediocrity. And men win. And what America’s always been about is winning. So I think it’s pivotal to the health of the country.”

********

Tom Hanks once said:

“I’m glad I didn’t have to fight in any war. I’m glad I didn’t have to pick up a gun. I’m glad I didn’t get killed or kill somebody. I hope my kids enjoy the same lack of manhood.”

I can’t tell you how much I have loved this quote over the years. And the so-called “manhood” that he is referring to is the very same masculinity to which Mr. Adams is referring. It is a masculinity that engenders violence. It is a masculinity that infers dominance. It is a masculinity that engenders rape, bullying, war, and oppression.

And masculinity isn’t just for men. Anybody—regardless of sex or gender—can exert masculinity. Though it is obviously an image of which is overwhelmingly expected of, and pushed upon, almost all young boys and men (if not all). In my opinion, that’s the real societal threat.

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He’s My Man, and I’m His Lady

he's my man i'm his lady

My man generally (on the day-to-day, when in conversation with others) refers to me as his ‘lady,’ (and I do indeed refer to him as ‘my man’ quite frequently) and it has come to my attention that this can, in fact, bewilder some of those who know about my feminist leanings. And it’s funny actually, because now I’ve come to see it as almost a kind of epitomizing symbol of us as a couple. It kind of encapsulates our whole dynamic. After all, we are, I suppose—when I really think about it—liberal, yet traditional. We’re like “traditional radicals,” if that can even be a thing. (Yeah, you know what, it is a thing. Because I just said so. We’re it, so there it is. Done.)

We have democratic leanings, to be sure. We engage in thoughtful political discussions and debates. We share a secular belief system as well as what some might call “radical” socio-political ideals and morals. He is, of course, aware of my feminist perspective, and moreover, he welcomed the thought of possibly becoming a house-husband/stay-at-home-dad if I was to be a full-time (i.e. working 70-80 hours/week) lawyer.

But then on the other hand:

We got married (which does, in my opinion, infer some degree of “traditional” deference). I did say I would take his last name (though I have yet to change it legally). I do, in fact, do the bulk of our domestic housework (laundry, dishes, coordinating puppy-sitting and vet visits), and he does, in fact, handle all of our finances, as well as anything that involves power tools or heavy lifting (& killing bugs).

So, does this make me any less of a feminist?

Does it mean my husband is a sexist?

I think not.

As sexist or stereotypical as it may sound (which it shouldn’t, because I am simply talking about myself here—one singular being—not the whole of women everywhere) the plain fact is, I’m just no good with numbers, I’m no good with money, I’m not skilled in the arts of fixing or building things, and you know what, I’m effing TERRIFIED of spiders. So there. And as for my husband, well it’s as simple as this: he wasn’t raised by a total neat freak like I was, he is gifted in all the aspects of intelligence of which I am not (he went to motorcycle mechanic school/ I studied feminist jurisprudence), and while I seem to be able to effortlessly oversee the “domesticity” of our household, he seems to be able to effortlessly develop amazing financial planning strategies and build things like planter boxes and a dog house for our two large hound dogs.

Is this sexist? Are we gender stereotypes? Is this offending you???

Hey, it’s just who we are.

I’m not saying it’s biology. I’m not saying these are the roles we are meant to play. And I’m definitely not saying this is the way it “should” be. It’s just how we ended up, it’s just what turned out to work for us, and trust me, the irony is never lost on me.

So in spite of the fact that I’ve referred to him as my partner for years now (& still do on occasion), yes, I like calling him ‘my man’. I mean, why not—he’s “manly”! It doesn’t mean he relies on it (being manly), or thinks it’s essential to his persona, or his being. He isn’t dictated by his masculinity. He just happens to have some very masculine attributes. Conversely, as I have mentioned in a certain previous article, I relish in my feminine side. I delight in the gender performance that is femininity. So I like that he refers to me as his ‘lady.’ It’s very old school/old-timey charm, if you ask me, and I’m into it. Why not. We are, after all, traditional radicals.

“WALK A MILE IN HER [gendered, sexist, high-heeled] SHOES”

Image source: http://unews.com/2011/09/26/walk-a-mile-in-her-shoes-men-raise-awareness-of-violence-against-women/

“Different though the sexes are, they inter-mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above. ”
― Virginia Woolf

The following was posted to the MFB Facebook page by a reader the other day:

“My school, George Washington University, is holding a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event. While I understand and support the point that this event is trying to get across, I have an issue with the high-heeled shoes part. According to the website “men will literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes (from Mid Campus Quad to the Lincoln Memorial) in order to help them gain a better understanding and appreciation of the experience of being a woman in today’s society.” High heels play a very very (very!) small part of my life as a woman, and I think that the mere symbolism of high heels can be seen as more of a sex-symbol than empowerment for women’s rights.”
http://gwsasawalkamile.eventbrite.com/

This is what I deem to be a case of “their heart is in the right place but the idea’s very half-baked.”

As a matter of fact, the idea is detrimentally half-baked. To quote the aforementioned MFB reader, “I understand and support the point that this event is trying to get across,” but the inference that wearing high-heeled shoes is somehow intrinsically, or perhaps even innately, linked to “womanhood,” or is somehow a fundamental aspect of being a woman is not helpful. It’s actually quite harmful.

In fact, it’s predicated on a very gendered and somewhat sexualized notion of what it means to be a woman. That is to say: femininity does not equate being a woman, nor does being a woman mean being feminine.

One more time:

FEMININITY DOES NOT EQUAL BEING A WOMAN / BEING A WOMAN DOES NOT EQUAL FEMININITY.

A straight woman can be masculine, a gay man can be masculine, a gay woman can be feminine, a straight man can be feminine, many of us can, and do, express both masculinity and femininity, perhaps even simultaneously, and let’s not forget the factual presence of androgyny among us humans, as well. In addition to this gendered notion of womanhood, this “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event also speaks to a sexualized (think: “male gaze“) concept of being a woman due to the inherent sexuality ascribed to the high-heel. It is, after all, a piece of sexual symbolism in itself.

I have to here stop and say, once again, that I applaud the young men that take part in these events across the country. Their hearts are in the right place, as are those of the people that created it. However, it does unfortunately propagate gendered and sexist notions that we women would do better without, and moreover, it doesn’t really accomplish anything in the way of helping young men “see what it’s like to be a woman.” But then I have to ask: Can such a goal even be accomplished? Can a man ever truly understand the experience of what it is like to be a woman?

Something to ponder, from the amazing Cherrie Moraga:

“…a gay male friend of mine once confided to me that he continued to feel that, on some level, I didn’t trust him because he was male; that he felt, really, if it ever came down to a “battle of the sexes,” I might kill him. I admitted that I might very well. He wanted to understand the source of my distrust. I responded, “You’re not a woman. Be a woman for a day. Imagine being a woman.” He confessed that the thought terrified him because, to him, being a woman meant being raped by men. He had felt raped by men; he wanted to forget what that meant. What grew from that discussion was the realization that in order for him to create an authentic alliance with me, he must deal with the primary source of his own sense of oppression.”

(Taken from Moraga’s essay, “La Guera.” Bold added by me, for emphasis)

Having my cake and eating it, too.

That’s right-

I’m a lipstick-loving, romantic comedy-watching, fashion forward, yet card-carrying feminist.

(But no, we don’t really have cards. It’s just an expression. Though if we did, that’d be pretty fun. I’d probably want mine to have a pinup on it. Actually, individual cards would be really fun, because then we would all end up having such wildly variegated cards, showing the very multi-dimensional and diverse nature of feminism itself! This woman, however, would not get one. But I digress…)

Who said we couldn’t have feminism and lipstick too?

Look, I know there have been centuries of social conditioning of women to look a certain way for the visual pleasure of men (i.e. women being socially constructed by, within, and for “the male gaze,” if you wanna get all sociological about it) BUT, there also happens to exist in this wonderful world the sociological concept of gender fluidity. That is to say, there is femininity, masculinity, and a number of other nameless categories in between. As a former professor of mine used to always say, “Gender is fluid,” meaning it is NOT, as many of us are used to thinking, dichotomous (i.e. masculine/feminine). It is not discrete, but is continuous. It is not black and white, but contains within its spectrum many shades of gray. (And no, I haven’t the read the book, so don’t think I’m trying to hint at it with that analogy!)

Here’s the deal: I, personally, delight in femininity. I spent years of my life being a self-loathing misogynist (can you say, “internalized oppression”?) and ironic as it may sound, it was a job in fashion many moons ago that ignited the feminist within me. Working for a certain eccentric but longtime established female designer, with her uber-flirty, fun, and feminine designs, in an atmosphere of female camaraderie I had never before in my life experienced (or thought possible) changed my life forever. Everything about this experience turned my once sexist perspective upside-down. It not only paved the way for my own self-acceptance as a woman, but allowed me to relish in my femininity if I wished to do so as well.

*Disclaimer: To be clear, this does not mean that being feminine equals being a woman, nor does it mean that being a woman means being feminine. Hell to the no. That’s called a logical fallacy, people, and there are tons of those out there, especially with regard to gender and sexuality, so beware!*

This designer’s signature use of the word “girlfriend” (know who I’m talking about yet?;) almost drilled the concept of sisterhood into my head in a way. It made me see myself and other women as, well, “girlfriends.” As in, we’re all women and we can be friends (and in fact are), so what’s with all the self-hatred, competitiveness and sexism anyway? Us women were, and are, so much more than the dresses we sold or the makeup we wore (or chose not to wear for that matter). We were an amalgamation of queer, straight, Mexican, White, Black, Native American, poor, and privileged women.

We loved fashion and makeup, quoted The Big Lebowski on a daily basis, and probably passed around about as many dick and fart jokes as any fraternity. (Not that that’s a great thing, but I’m just sayin’- it sort of undercuts traditional notions of femininity, does it not? A bunch of high-fashion wearing women belching loudly and talking about farts?) We did not fit into neat, discrete gender categories, in spite of our physical appearances (“physical appearances” meaning looking very “girly”).

I suppose what I’m getting at with all of this is, there can exist women who like lipstick and feminism (same goes for men, too!). You can simultaneously subscribe to fashion and feminist ideals. If you have a predilection for all things feminine, there is nothing wrong with that- you can still be a feminist, too. I am!

After all, wouldn’t it be antithetical to feminism to denounce as feminists all women who like expressing what we know as traditional notions of femininity? If they are down with the feminist cause, who cares about their sexuality or how they choose to portray their gender? And really, isn’t that a large part of what feminism is all about- accepting and loving ourselves as women and having the freedom of choice to be butch or femme, a feminine lesbian, or androgynous heterosexual, etc.?

I’m having my feminism and wearing lipstick, too.