masculinity: The importance of feminism to men
School of Journalism
University of Texas
Austin, TX 78712
work: (512) 471-1990
fax: (512) 471-7979
copyright Robert Jensen 2002
ZNet Commentary, February 22, 2002
by Robert Jensen
Feminists hate men. How do we know this? Because it is repeated over and
over in the media and by right-wing politicians and other so-called guardians
of the moral values of the society.
If feminists hate men, then it stands to reason that men should stay clear
of -- or do their best to attack -- feminism and feminists.
I have been involved in feminist politics and scholarship for more than a
dozen years. I have known a lot of feminists, many of them radical and many
of them lesbians. One thing is true of all the feminists I have known:
None of them hated men.
These women want to hold men accountable for their behavior. They often are
critical of patterns in male behavior, especially sexual behavior. They want
to change society to eliminate men's violence. But none of them hated me.
None of them hated men.
Why not? Because feminism is about the liberation of women, not hating men.
And in the liberation of women, feminism offers men a shot at being human
Men often talk tough and try to be masculine in the way the culture defines
it -- competitive, aggressive, dominant. But underneath all that, I believe
that most men yearn for something less masculine and more human, for a different
way to connect to others and be in the world.
I believe the best route to abandoning masculinity and claiming our humanity
is feminism. Men can start by reading what feminists say about feminism.
Marilyn Frye's essays on "Oppression" and "Sexism" in THE POLITICS OF REALITY
are a good place to begin.
Read also what feminists have to say about men. Andrea Dworkin, a radical
feminist writer and activist who has spent her life working against sexual
violence, is often portrayed as the most man-hating of feminists. But listen
to what she said to, and about, men when she addressed a men's conference
and asked them to work for 24 hours without rape. In her book LETTERS FROM
A WAR ZONE, she writes:
"I don't believe rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no
reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than
it is. Have you ever wondered why we are not just in armed combat against
you? It's not because there's a shortage of kitchen knives in this country.
It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence."
Dworkin is called a man-hater not because she hates men but because such
slurs are a way to marginalize her work. In that same speech, she went on
to challenge men to take responsibility for themselves:
"[Women] do not want to do the work of helping you to believe in your humanity.
We cannot do it anymore. We have always tried. We have been repaid with systematic
exploitation and systematic abuse. You are going to have to do this yourselves
from now on and you know it."
We do know it, and it is time to act on that knowledge, not just for women
but for ourselves.
Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at
Austin, a member of the Nowar Collective, and author of the book
Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream
. His pamphlet
“Citizens of the Empire”
is available at http://www.nowarcollective.com/citizensoftheempire.pdf.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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