Cover of "The Will to Change: Men, Mascul...

Cover via Amazon

To this day I hear individual feminist women express their concern for the plight of men within patriarchy, even as they share that they are unwilling to give their energy to help educate and change men… These attitudes, coupled with the negative attitudes of most men toward feminist thinking, meant that there was never a collective, affirming call for boys and men to join feminist movement so that they would be liberated from patriarchy.  Reformist feminist women could not make this call because they were the group of women (mostly white women with class privilege) who had pushed the idea that all men were powerful in the first place.  These were the women for whom feminist liberation was more about getting their piece of the power pie and less about freeing masses of women or less powerful men from sexist oppression.  They were not mad at their powerful daddies and husbands who kept poor men exploited and oppressed; they were mad that they were not being given equal access to power.  Now that many of those women have gained power, and especially economic parity with the men of their class, they have pretty much lost interest in feminism.

bell hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love

This is an expression of another side of the dominant masculinity in the United States today.  It is the masculinity of a numbed, disconnected, shut-down man, alone, even if there are others around him.

If my options as a man are being part of a mob that is on the edge of violence or being cut off from myself and others, I desperately want to choose something else.

I choose to renounce being a man.

I choose to struggle to be a human being.

Robert Jensen, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (185)

If pornography is increasingly cruel and degrading, why is it increasingly commonplace instead of more marginalized?  In a society that purports to be civilized, wouldn’t we expect most people to reject sexual material that becomes ever more dismissive of the humanity of women?  How do we explain the simultaneous appearance of more, and increasingly more intense, ways to humiliate women sexually and the rising popularity of the films that present those activities?

As is often the case, this paradox can be resolved by recognizing that one of the assumptions is wrong.  Here, it’s the assumption that US society routinely rejects cruelty and degradation.  In fact, the United States is a nation that has no serious objection to cruelty and degradation.  Think of the way we accept the use of brutal weapons in war that kill civilians, or the way we accept the death penalty, or the way we accept crushing economic inequality.  There is no paradox in the steady mainstreaming of an intensely cruel pornography.  This is a culture with a well-developed legal regime that generally protects individuals’ rights and freedoms, and yet it also is a strikingly cruel culture in the way it accepts brutality and inequality.  The pornographers are not a deviation from the norm.  Their presence in the mainstream shouldn’t be surprising, because they represent mainstream values: the logic of domination and subordination that is central to patriarchy, hyper-patriotic nationalism, white supremacy, and a predatory corporate capitalism.

Robert Jensen, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (17)

1 Response to Pro-Feminist/Anti-Patriarchal

  1. Andy Rogers says:

    “The feminist movement must use Patriarchy and Chivalry as much, if not more, than the Complementarians.”

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