I hear statements like: “Don’t feel sorry for men who batter.” and/or “We men have it better than women do.” and/or “Because of sexism we need to work to help women and girls.” and similar.
I agree with much in such statements. I also find them problematic. It is easy for me to live with such beliefs, while I do little more than building up my own ego. I certainly have male privilege. I also have White, upper-middle class, het, abled privilege.
I potentially am in a “Pro-Feminist Cocoon”. Many others live without my opportunities. Others with privilege live unpleasant, difficult lives self-destructively (as well as being destructive).
IF we really care about ending male privilege, we have a basic responsibility to significantly reach other men in ways which help move us towards a better world.
Some amongst us work significantly with men. Much of what I hear though seems little different than the persistent ridicule of individuals such as Sarah Palin (or Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh).
It is great when we use our insights and anger to build something positive. It is self-defeating when we use our insights and anger only to feed our egos. Ridiculing the Palin’s around us alone does not counter their dangerous efforts.
Few amongst us haven’t hurt others through sexist and racist actions. I hope that few are also blind to the miniscule male involvement in the work to end sexism.
It is great that The White Ribbon Project reaches so many men. It seems problematic that few of these men then begin serious efforts to reach other men. Jared Schulman and his allies in COMPASS at Michigan State University do great anti-sexist work. When he and his fellow leaders graduate and leave MSU it remains to be seen if the work will continue and grow. Past similar efforts elsewhere make me rather pessimistic. There are far too few efforts similar to COMPASS.
Looking back at pro-feminist men’s efforts to end male violence over the past 30+ years, I’m left with the conclusion that we’ve failed and continue to fail. This does Not mean that we should give up! Where progress has been made, mostly it has been despite a lack of significant male involvement, not because of our good work.
I’m left concluding that we need to figure out better ways to reach men. Feminism certainly is important to us. Ending men’s violence work remains vitally important. At the same time I think we need to significantly begin to reach men where they are at, rather than where we want them to be at.
We talk a lot with each other (including with female friends and allies). When we venture beyond our “cocoon” we generally talk at men not with them.
There are plenty of masculinity related issues we can explore.. Male socialization doesn’t explain why boys die at higher rates than girls do beginning in our first year of life. Sexual abuse of boys and bullying should be seen as critical “male issues”. The issues raised by father’s rights advocates should be of concern to us.
I hope that we will increasingly look at efforts such as The ManKind Project. It reaches many, many times as many men in North America as we reach. Should we join such MKP? Should we initiate new efforts ourselves?
I’m happy to dialogue privately and hope others share my concerns. Thanks!