Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Notes from discussions
This workshop was run by Dan and Jon from the London profeminist men’s group. It was held on Saturday afternoon and lasted 1.5 hours. It took place in a fairly small room with between 18 and 25 people present throughout (as people came and left).
We went round and introduced ourselves saying a little something about why we were at the workshop.
FIRST DISCUSSION – in three small groups
How are boys and men socialized to become dominant?
- The fear of the consequences of being different.
- Families, especially parents, treating children differently. Giving them different toys to play with, dressing them differently, etc.
- Stereotypes portrayed in the media of a certain type of dominant masculinity
- The potential threat of violence gives men power/dominance
- Men are expected to “stand up for themselves” which means carrying yourself in a certain way in the street. Putting up a front of bravado.
- Men are taught to be more goal oriented which leads to them being more straightforward in their demands. This in turn leads to them getting more when they do demand stuff, such as higher wages, and this increases their dominance further.
- Social expectations in general and peer pressure at school in specific – also from looking up to and copying older boys’ ways of interacting and ways of acting out a dominant masculinity.
- The question is kind of about nature vs nurture.
- In school boys tend to be noisy and get more attention because of this. This reinforces their self-importance
- Girls and boys are praised for different things and this reinforces certain dominant behaviours in boys.
- Boys and girls are encouraged to do different subjects at school.
- Competitive sport might be another way in which boys are taught to be dominant.
- Boys and girls bully in different ways
The links between competitive masculinity and capitalism were noted and it was suggested that men become more dominant because they’re taught to be behave in a way that increases their power in a capitalist society – being goal oriented, competitive, aggressive etc.
Are men really dominant? Obviously females can also fit within the dominant role.
SECOND DISCUSSION – in three small groups
It’s possible to see there being two moments profeminist groups are going through,
1) a moment where men identify and give up their privileges.
2) a consciousness raising moment, where men think about how we got to be this way, work on ourselves and talk about our negative life experiences
How should a profeminist group deal with these two issues:
Should they give up on the second one? Men’s negative experiences of gender should not be discussed in profeminist groups because they are very limited when compared to how other groups suffer under patriarchy.
Is the second issue even a "profeminist" issue? How is it supporting the feminist struggle to discuss men's problems?
Should these two issues be treated separately, making it clear that they are two different moments, or should we talk about them together?
Could the second issue be used as a "marketing strategy" to attract men to the group? Wouldn't that be politically dangerous?
- Everyone is gendered: all forms and degrees of oppression can be fought
- Have an open group focussing on male experiences of (pro)feminism and patriarchy. Maybe call it a “gender discussion group” rather than a feminist group.
- Would men feel more comfortable in a men only space? Is most of the world already a men only space?
- The second moment is valid as a starting point for men arriving at feminism … but not as a marketing strategy?
- Challenge the understanding of the word “feminism/profeminism” and make people understand what it really is, not the cultural clichés that have grown from it.
- Moment 1) is very individualistic and assumes very altruistic men. But it’s in men’s self-interest to fight patriarchy too.
- While some men do come to feminism through altruism or a sense of injustice this might be unsustainable.
- Men “giving up power” is far too simplistic. Profeminism is not an act of charity or pity.
- Consciousness raising is very important, but we must remember the political dimension.
- Foucault said something about how the oppressions of society are inside us and we all know the personal is political so… maybe sharing feelings/being unmasculine together is political.
- Is this really feminist though? Is there a difference between challenging patriarchy (through developing a new form of (un)masculinity) and feminism? Maybe it’s not feminist but is profeminist?
- Remember, just talking about it might not lead to real changes in our lives.
- Men overthrowing their gender roles is a very important step towards ending patriarchy.
THIRD DISCUSSION – all together
What do we think profeminist groups should look like, do, talk about etc?
· should there be men only profeminist groups / Are men only profeminist groups useful for feminist struggles? Couldn't we compare this to bosses gathering together to think about freeing the workers... or white only groups working on black liberation.
· what do you think are the main dangers a profeminist group should avoid?
· what topics do you think the group should discuss?
· what actions should the group be doing other than meeting and talking with each other?
· what kind of support are feminist groups expecting from a Men's profeminist group? theoretical, practical, financial?
· what should be the goals of a profeminist men’s group?
· should a men's only group be "monitored" by women’s feminist groups?
· should a men's only group always be "attached" to a women’s feminist group?
On the first question, “should there be men only profeminist groups?”
- They are a good was to focus on men becoming feminist
- But men already have their own spaces in society and isn’t this just reproducing that?
- Depends on why the group exists, what role that group takes
- Important for the group not to take over women’s struggles and for men to take a back seat in mixed feminist organisations
- We need mixed spaces so maybe the group could link with a women’s group
- A non-judgmental space where men can express masculinity
- The group should protest outside strip clubs. A men only protest would cause a greater media stir than a mixed or women’s group doing the same. This would (rightly) piss off a lot of women who have been already doing this for years!
On the second question, “what are the main dangers a profeminist group should avoid?”
- Reconstructing (reproducing?) the fixed identity of “man”
- Getting too hung up on “men’s rights” issues
- Mainstream approach
- Condemning men who are violent/macho when they have no choice – e.g. men on a working class estate who believe they might sometimes need to fight to survive. [question: does being violent = being macho?]
- Being inactive for fear of a (real) feminist backlash from women! In other words fearing to undertake certain types of activity for fear of being told we’re doing the wrong thing by certain groups of feminists. But remember there’s plenty we can do which doesn’t involve stepping on any feminist toes.
Apparently at least one small group came to a rough consensus that a men’s only group was ok but that a mixed group would probably be better in lots of ways.
The group intends to take these comments on board, discuss them at the next meeting and decide how to change the group based on those discussions.
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Men and gender justice: old debate, new perspective
The expanding intellectual interest in "masculinities" is welcome but needs greater involvement by gender-justice and women's-rights specialists if it is to be the vehicle of progress, says Emily Esplen.
28 - 02 - 2008
The nature of men's involvement in the struggle for gender justice has long fiercely divided gender-equality advocates. After nearly three decades of disagreement this seam of tension doggedly persists, little engaged with and largely unresolved.
Even as the women's movement remains hesitant, often bordering on hostile, to the idea of men's involvement, the "masculinities agenda" is striding forwards with innovative work on men and masculinities - even though it is at times often flawed in its understanding of power and in the way it merely counterposes to the idea of women's empowerment a focus on working with men "for their sake".
The most promising work in this field is happening at the level of the personal: it concentrates on transforming men's sexual behaviour, challenging violence against women and relations of fatherhood. The pioneering work of organisations like the Instituto Promundo in Brazil, which supports young men to question traditional gender norms and promote gender-equitable behaviours and attitudes, has shown that, yes, men can change. Other organisations, like the Sonke Gender Justice Network in South Africa are taking work with men in exciting new directions, reorienting existing projects aimed at individual men and politicising it in order to promote men's broader mobilisation around structural inequities and injustices. Futhermore, organisations working with men are themselves coming together to facilitate sharing and learning, enabling a stronger, more coherent struggle, as with the recently established "Men Engage" global alliance which seeks to involve men and boys in reducing gender inequalities.
A unique opportunity
This current momentum offers a unique opportunity to advance the common goal of realising gender equality. But while the proliferation of organisations working with men for gender justice is welcome, it is notable that very few of them have close and direct relationships with the women's movement. True, some do have looser connections or networks that include people active in the women's movement in individual countries, but even these are rare. This creates a discernible danger that "masculinities" will become - or has become already - a discrete field of thinking and practice, somehow disconnected from the women's movement and from gender and development more broadly.
Indeed, a depressing reality is coming into view whereby "gender" seems - even among those most committed to the gender agenda - repeatedly to be conflated with women. As long as connections between the women's movement and those working with men remain fragile (at best) to non-existent (at worst), femininities are likely to be rendered invisible in evolving masculinities discourses. The result is that - once again - the fundamental interconnectedness of men and women and the relational nature of gendered power will be lost.
Indeed, I've been repeatedly struck at recent seminars and conferences on "engaging men in gender equality" by the meagre representation from the gender and development field: a couple of us at most, in an audience comprised overwhelmingly of specialists in sexual and reproductive health and rights. In part, this points to one of the weaknesses of the current masculinities field: the overwhelming focus on sexual health and violence, and the corresponding failure to engage sufficiently with equity issues: among them equal pay and leave entitlements, representation in politics, parental rights and benefits, and domestic work/housework. The lack of attention to such issues results in the waste of opportunities to advance shared concerns.
A false equivalence
There are other dangers in refusing to engage constructively with the evolving men and masculinities discourse. While many organisations working with men are deeply informed by feminist thinking and practice, others are less grounded in a pro-feminist framework. As the masculinities bandwagon gathers momentum, there is a temptation to slip into modes of thinking and language that (for example) regard women and men as equivalently vulnerable (i.e. women are harmed by femininity and men are harmed by masculinity), or even describe men as "worse off" than women.
This is reflected in the way that much of the discourse of men and masculinities has been expressed in terms of a "crisis in masculinity". It's certainly the case that many men share with the women in their lives similar experiences of indignity as a result of social and economic oppression. Yet it is important to recognise the real differences in power and privilege experienced by women and men on the basis of gender, and to avoid glossing over men's accountability for the ways in which they choose to act out their privilege. While it's important to engage with poor men's realities, this should be done without positing men as the "new victims".
At a symposium in October 2007 on "Politicising Masculinities", organised by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), it was noted that this issue of false equivalence surfaces frequently in discussions of men's own experience of violence. It is not uncommon to hear the statement that "men are also victims of violence at the hands of women". Such comments can be profoundly unhelpful, not least because this violence is nothing like on the same scale as the many forms of violence experienced by women from men. Alan Greig made clear at the IDS symposium that the mere counterposing of women's and men's experience and perpetration of violence is a trap; the challenge is rather to help illuminate the workings and functions of violence within the systems of oppression that organise our different societies, while holding accountable the individuals and institutions (mostly men and male-dominated) that are responsible for enacting this violence.
But to have some influence over the evolving masculinities discourse and practice in a way that avoids positing men as the "new victims" requires working in solidarity with those in the masculinities field who do understand power and the core issues of gender equality and justice. Now is an opportune time to open up the debate and advance thinking on what it would take to build bridges between the feminist/women's movement and those working with men. The eleventh Association for Women's Rights in Development (Awid) forum in November 2008 is on the horizon, with a timely focus on the power of movements; Men Engage are hosting their first global conference in early 2009 on engaging men and boys in gender equality; and the fifty-third United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will focus on engaging men in caring for people living with HIV.
These spaces offer a much-overdue opportunity for open, constructive dialogue between the feminist/women's movement and organisations working with men for gender justice. It's high time we started to have these conversations - to ask some of the questions people don't like to talk about. It's striking how little we really know or understand about women's hostility towards working with men, or indeed about men's experiences of trying to work with feminist and women's organisations. What will it take to build bridges? How can we promote dialogue and foster greater solidarity? How can we reframe our engagement with questions of masculinities and power so that new alliances can be created, bringing work on masculinities into the heart of movements for social and gender justice?
I don't have the answers - in fact, I doubt that straightforward or singular answers exist. But I do believe these are questions that badly need to be asked if we are to progress beyond the current polarisation of issues that ought to be everyone's concern. The inadequacies of focusing on women in isolation have long been recognised; if we are really serious about achieving a gender-just world, it's time for a more open debate to begin.
Emily Esplen is research and communications officer at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex
Monday, 25 February 2008
>>Women acting dumb<<
We discussed our experience of women tending to “act dumb” in conversations with us as men, when we know that they are more intelligent. We thought that this was a learnt behaviour which, among other things, played the role of bolstering men’s ego’s by making them seem like the clever one in the conversation. One gay man present said that he’d never experienced women “dumbing down” in conversations with him which made us think that about it might have to do with more than just boosting male egos.
One thing we didn’t discuss (but should have!) was how we could react positively if we’re ever aware of a woman pandering to our ego by pretending to be stupider than they are.
>>Men and emotions<<
We thought about the questions, what do we do with our feelings, both positive and negative? What is our first reaction? Is it to share them with people around us? Keep them to ourselves? We agreed that often when we don’t talk about our feelings but kind of want to it’s as if we’re waiting for someone to ask us how we’re feeling. For most of us it’s normally a woman we’re waiting for to ask us that question. We’re not used to men using emotional language, asking us how we’re doing etc. Most of us are also not good at asking those emotional questions ourselves.
We talked about the phenomenon of men hiding themselves away from the world, deliberately isolating themselves. This is something that some of us had experienced to different levels of intensity. This isolation can become a kind of comfort zone that it’s hard to escape from, and can also be very lonely. Is this about mental health, or being male? Probably both, we thought.
We mentioned how sometimes we just don’t know how we’re feeling or don’t even realise when we’re having a feeling. We’ve all been taught in different ways to become boys and then men and a key element of this is learning not to show any of our emotions. We all recognised how this happened at school and was probably mot intense in single sex schools. We also talked about how we can unlearn this behaviour and start to reveal more of ourselves to the world, be more open about our feelings and learn to feel more.
We talked about doing a radio interview for Dissident Island Radio.
Two future topics for discussion were also suggested.
1) Are all people raised as men sexist?
2) Our friendships with women.
Monday, 11 February 2008
We talked about how we were feeling and tried to answer the question “how have we experienced life as a man in the last 2 weeks?”
>>Men and Emotions<<
We talked about how the majority of men we come in contact with just don’t talk about their emotions. We agreed it’s very hard to “reach out to” these men sometimes and there was some disagreement over how important it is to try to “convert” other men to be more profeminist.
>>Learning from Women’s Groups<<
We discussed how (probably due to socialisation into a more caring and thoughtful role) women’s way of doing politics is often much more inclusive in terms of making new people to a group feel at ease and welcomed and that as men we feel we’re not taught to be good at this! This led us to thinking about whether we want to emulate women’s “way of doing politics”, following a kind of women’s lib model, raising consciousness etc. and to what extent that just wasn’t possible (or desirable) as a men’s group. We didn’t get very far on this but agreed it should be a topic for further discussion another week.
We talked about our own understandings of homophobia from an early age and how we’d all been called “gay” as an insult at school. We mentioned our various sexual experiences and fantasies about other men, and also discussed our own homophobic attitudes that we wished we didn’t have. One of these attitudes was finding overtly camp and flamboyant gay men intimidating and having some unconscious desire for other men to be “sensible”. Another was about feeling insulted when called gay.
We also mentioned (although didn’t really develop) the idea of how homophobia is a key ingredient in dominant masculinity and how homophobia supports patriarchy.
More positively we also talked about the feeling of loving to be surrounded by queer people, trans, or overtly camp gays or butch lesbians. How exciting it is being with people breaking norms. But then we questioned whether this could be a sort of “politically correct” form of solidarity, that you HAVE to like this or else you’re not a real tolerant left wing profeminist! We even questioned whether it is not a form of homophobia to even feel that we have to react or have to have an opinion about camp flamboyant gay guys, trans people etc. In response to this idea we discussed how enjoying a certain culture/atmosphere normally doesn’t represent a form of discrimination but is most probably a celebration of that culture. However, we never really know what’s going on in our subconscious, so who can really say!
This led us to talk about …
We agreed that self criticism and reflection are fundamental to recognising and starting to deal with our own sexism and that this group should foster such self criticism.
We discussed how self critical it was appropriate to be, particularly in the light of some men’s habit of being overly self critical in front of others in order to elicit pity and reassurance. We agreed that this ought to be a safe place to be as self critical as possible and that the other men could be supportive in correcting someone who was being too harsh on themselves. We then wondered if this might become a form of male solidarity with us all letting each other off the hook for being sexist or using porn or whatever, and that this might not be very helpful. Someone knew a guy who’d been in profeminist groups before who felt that the biggest pressure to change his behaviour came from feminist women telling him off quite violently(!), not from the other men in the group. This reminded us of the importance of keeping close friendships with feminists and the importance of also being in mixed gender groups. We also questioned, from personal experience, whether this “being told off” by feminist women would change attitudes and feelings as well as behaviour.
Minutes from 3/2/08
We talked about how we were feeling and tried to answer the question “how have we experienced life as a man in the last 2 weeks?”
- We discussed how the “flamboyant camp gay man” was an unhelpful stereotype to keep bringing up. It was suggested that this behaviour could, on some level, be a kind of “I’m proud of being gay so deal with it” to all the homophobes out there. We questioned why we’d focussed on it at all. We decided it’s because for some of us it was an important part of our homophobia; that we tended to focus on this particular stereotype.
- Men shaking hands with other men but kissing a woman in a social situation, this reinforces gendered behaviour (obviously) but also keeps men’s bodies apart and could be related to homophobia between men.
- We wondered whether men in activist groups could be crudely characterised by saying the more direct action focussed they are the more likely they are to be masculinist and homophobic because of it being a macho type activity.
- Male homophobia keeps men apart and they lose out on tenderness and affection. One thing suggested by Basil Elias in his article “Starting your own group for men against sexism” which Jon read on XY.com, was for the men in the group to try walking round the block holding hands together to start to break down some of these homophobic barriers. He also says (rather hilariously) “How many guys, when hugging, look like we’re burping each other?”!
Friday, 1 February 2008
Don't worry if you missed the Feminist Activist Forum events last weekend - which were totally awesome by the way, as there are plenty more opportunities for activism and politically engaging gender stuff that are open to men coming up, so get these dates in your diaries ...
1) London Profeminist Men's Group meeting - Sunday 3rd Feb @ 3 or 4pm @ Dave's place
2) Abortion Rights protest - Wednesday 6th Feb @ 6:30 @ Central Hall Westminster, see www.abortionrights.org.uk for more info.
3) Socialist feminist reading group - Friday 8th Feb @ 7:30 to 9:15 @ Lucas Arms pub, this month they're discussing what is gender and sex difference! For more info and to find the texts to read go to http://www.workersliberty.org/event/2008/01/23/london-socialist-feminist-reading-group-so-what-about-sex-differences
4) Launch of the new Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution - Monday 11th Feb @ 6:30 @ Amnesty International centre near Old St, see www.fcap.btik.com for more details.
5) FEM 08 - Saturday 26th April in Sheffield, see the website www.femconferences.org.uk for more info and to book your place now! It's a free conference on feminism and is open to everyone - should be a awesome!
6) Ladyfest London - May 9th - 11th. An Arts festival celebrating female art stuff with plenty of feministy workshops and general goodness going on across the capital! See http://www.ladyfestlondon.co.uk/
7) Also ongoing is the newly launched Fawcett Society campaign, Justice for rape victims. On the website they have options for different responses depending on how much time you have to spend on the issue from signing a letter to going to see your MP. Check out the website at http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?Pageid=599
That's all for now, do send anymore things like this our way (add a comment or email the group).
Sunday, 20 January 2008
You are invited to participate in the Feminist Activist Forum (FAF). We are having our next meeting in London on Saturday 26th January. It will be followed on the Sunday 27th by a Feminist History and Activism Training Day at The Feminist Library.
You can learn about FAF at http://www.feministactivistforu
If you can please let us know (email@example.com
- if you are thinking of coming so we can plan lunch
- and if you are part of a group/organisation/political network
- if you are going to need accommodation in London in order to attend so we can try and find you space.
- if you have accommodation - floor/sofa/bed - you can offer to any visitors.
PLEASE SEE THE ATTACHED FLYER FOR FULL DETAILS. Please help us widen our network by forwarding it to your contacts and friends. A downloadable poster is available at www.feministactivistforum.org
Get in touch, either with me directly, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to meeting you and to combining our energies, skills and experience to enrich and further our struggles.
on behalf of FAF
present: Jon, Dan, Dave
Jon (25) works for a charity
Dan (29) and Dave (50 ish) used to be biologists
we started off the meeting by asking ourselves:
- How are we feeling?
- How did we experience life as a man for the past 2 or 3 weeks? (positive or negative experiences)
Seduction, patriarchy and the hunter/prey relationship
Introduction by A
I would like to chat about our behaviors during the "seduction/flirtation" games. So I'm interested here in the first step, or even the "foreplay" of a relationship, and not the relationship in itself.
The main issue could be: how our behaviors during these moments can be part of/influenced by/perpetuating patriarchy ?
I'm not even confident enough to say that this is an "important" issue or not. Most people I talked to about it basically said: "seduction is just a game, it's fine, nothing wrong..." but this sounds so much like denial that I would like to "dig" a bit more...
maybe we can try to think about the following questions: As men, when we try to seduce someone,
- how did we "chose" this person we fancy or are trying to seduce?
- are we always reproducing a hunter/prey interaction with these persons ?
- can we escape the very stereotypical passive/active distribution of roles ?
- how convenient can it be to fit in these roles?
- how does this relate to the fear of being vulnerable we talked about during the last meeting?
To start the discussion, I will give a personal account about this issue. We thought it could be a good idea to start discussion from personal experiences, so that things don't get too brainy and non-emotional as we tend to do most of the time. In other words, if we go towards maybe more general and global politics about patriarchy, this would hopefully be from personal politics and emotions.
My experience is the one of a white french heterosexual male (evil, evil!! ;-), so I hope that people with different "backgrounds" will bring their own experiences, doubts and issues.
As I already said, I had a long and important relationship with a girl, that ended a few months ago. To cut a short story long, I went into politics during this relationship. Not that she taught me everything, but at least, in terms of gender issues and feminism, she was very important.
Another important thing to know is that my mode of life radically changed since I quit my job a few months ago. Not doing waged work, living in a squat, meeting different people etc.
I face now a new situation. I am concerned with feminist issues, I'm single, and I fancy a lot of girls around me.
Now I'm realising that I'm trapped in a lot of conditioned/stereotypical behaviors when it comes to seducing/flirting/engaging with women.
>>"choice" of who I fancy<<
well, this is something that seems obvious, but I think is really socially constructed: I fancy almost only women. Not men, or transgender etc.
this is a too big subject for here I think. Is "sexual orientation" a choice? Can you be straight heterosexual by choice, or isn’t it that you are just following the stream?
Also, I won't fancy women that don’t fit the norm: very hairy, fat, "ugly".
You'll tell me: well you fancy who you fancy, this is no problem... the question here is not "is it a problem or not", but more "how this can be part of perpetuating the patriarchy system, given that these models of beauty are a part of this system". And I think a very simple fact like: "I fancy only women that are not very fat", is just me following the flow of society...
Another point at this stage: the objectification of women. Looking at only some parts of their body, seeing women only as sexual entities. But here, how to draw the line (if there is one) between simple attractiveness and objectification?
There is this old fashioned cliché about the man that has to be active and do the first steps, and the woman who just needs to send signals saying "I'm available".
I do have the feeling that I have to be the active one (the hunter), do the first steps.
But how true is that? Is that just my perception of reality?
Is being active only about doing the talking (like, "want to meet again?") but it can also be about body language (looks, face, attitude, being touchy). I suppose a big part of communication through body language is not conscious, so how can I say I'm the active one. I might be getting signals as well that I'm simply not seeing or not interpreting, hence my feeling of being the only one sending signals.
this is the most annoying part. still related to this hunting/war mode of relationship. Always having second thoughts,
the main thing at first is:
I don't want to show her too much that I like her, otherwise I'm showing I'm vulnerable, and there will be no "escape", I'm losing control, I'm giving away something of myself to someone else, I want to protect myself from disappointment.
So here the thing is to show the other person I like her, but without really showing it, and hoping that the other person will interpret this in the way I want him/her to... so rubbish!
Other second thought include:
- what should I say/do to seduce her?
- Shall I show her what a good profeminist I am?
- if I say this or that, what would she think?
- let's not be too childish or emotional, this will scare her (or she's not expecting me to behave like this, so it will be counterproductive)
This seems to be quite convenient for me as a man:
using strategies, I'm not straightforward, I don't show my real feelings, I'm not being honest.
Here I have this intuition, not backed up by evidence yet, that between a man and a woman, when there is an unspoken situation, it generally turns out to be at the advantage of the man. But I need to think about that.
This strategy thing is where I feel the most trapped. Going to a random woman in a random place (ie, in a patriarchal context) saying: "I want to have sex with you" would be a very sexist thing to do. But the Strategy/Codes thing is also quite sexist and frustrating.
So to summarise, I'm asking myself two questions:
- Do I directly oppress women when we are playing this seduction game? I mean does the woman feels dominated at this moment.
- How are these seduction/flirtation situations part of or perpetuating patriarchy? from above, I'm thinking about:
- objectification of women (as an ensemble of specific body parts, as sexual entities)
- the man being the hunter/active
- strategies allowing myself not to show emotion and not to be vulnerable
About this intuition (when there is an unspoken situation, it generally turns out to be at the advantage of the man).
We talked in a previous meeting about how when there is an argument, the man often doesn’t speak, while the woman gets very emotional, and by shutting down, being very rational, the man gets away with it.
Also, in most cases, if feelings are not expressed, the unspoken norm of patriarchy tends to dominate.
About objectification: we have to watch out our tendencies to feel bad about ourselves.
About the seduction game: I never felt I was any good at it, always been very confused about it.
With my partner, she was going after me. It was scary.
I always hated the thing about being the pursuer, the hunter. But of course, I always wanted to be good at it
The seduction game:
Surprisingly, I feel I never wanted to be good at it. It might be coming from my evangelical Christian upbringing, a very conservative education about relationships: go out only with Christians, have a girlfriend only to marry, no sex before marriage...
I have very few crushes on women. A very big one recently, that didn't involve much of a seduction game because her cultural background prevented anything from happening (which was both very convenient and very sad).
Never had the desire to "hunt" a woman.
Even fewer crushes on men, and the main one was just as convenient - again no chance of something happening as he was straight and homophobic.
I don't feel like I need a partner because I try to fulfill my various human needs through my friends and other people; intimacy, affection, intellectual stimulation, shared interests etc.
I avoid parties and atmospheres where there are seduction games going on.
And I feel upset when I see friends preparing for parties (making up, dressing up). At best I find it sad, at worst, I find them pathetic.
- I like the idea that when nothing is expressed (unspoken) then the norms dominate by default. For example in a couple, if nothing is said, it will automatically be assumed that it is a monogamous exclusive relationship. This actually works for all kinds of situations, when nothing is expressed, the norm (capitalism, patriarchy, racism) is the default rule. Hence, in a heterosexual couple, when things are not discussed, patriarchy rules, and it is then to the advantage of the man.
- I read the blog feminist allies, (http://feministallies.blogspot.com/2007/06/on-ogling-and-appreciation.html) this guy talking about how he feels about looking at women in public spaces. I found it interesting, but I'm not comfortable with a conclusion like: ok then this is how we should behave as proper profeminists. It can be useful but I don't really like this idea of a profeminist manual of proper behavior (but I don't know exactly why I don't like that...)
- I can be attracted by men, I have the impression that seduction situations with men are much different. I don't feel trapped, I'm being very touchy, more straightforward. Probably because I'm thinking: "they know I'm heterosexual, so there is no pressure, we know that nothing's gonna happen", it's more relaxed.
- About being upset with girls preparing to go parties, I was quite shocked about what J said. But I'm also a bit paradoxical here, because I can feel uncomfortable in a club as well, with this ultra overt situation where people are clearly in the prey/hunter thing, all dressed up to fit male/female archetypes. On another hand, I have feminist and queer friends who are very keen on dressing up, putting on make up, trying to be very sexy before going to parties. What makes the difference then between these two situations? Maybe who is doing it, why, who with, where etc. the context might be important here. Dressing up in order to feel sexy, to be proud of our own bodies, to build some self confidence sounds really good to me.
Yes I'm clearly ambivalent here about the dressing up thing.
There are these feminist arguments against the whole dressing sexually thing
- it is almost always intended for the interests of men
- have to fit frustrating stereotypes
- it is not about celebrating your body or your sexuality
But on another hand, I can’t deny that my negative reaction is also influenced by my very conservative upbringing about all that (sex before marriage is wrong, one night-stands are evil...)
Our society is obsessed with sex and women are under a lot of pressure to be attractive. Sexual attractiveness seems to be one the most important things in life.
There is this thing about more and more women doing striptease classes for exercise and also, apparently, to make them feel more self confident. But there are other ways to get self confidence rather than convincing yourself that "I'm sexy".
About the objectification and the "line" between it and attractiveness:
- there is the influence of our brain being completely sexualised by society in this objectification,
- it is natural/normal to be attracted by other persons.
We are taught through our life to objectify women as sexual objects. That's why men but also women tend to do it a lot.
Yes, just see at school. Girls are perfectly ok with saying: "look how this female singer is sexy, beautiful etc." But it won't really happen having boys saying: "look how this male star is sexy and beautiful"
Homophobia among men is indeed very heavy.
Lesbophobia (?) seems to be less heavy.
It might seem to be less heavy, but isn’t that because its just completely invisible at school age? People don’t even think about it as possible.
There is also this thing about men being turned on by the lesbians thing, having two girls in the same bed (but only for the foreplay obviously!). So its more acceptable for straight women to be flirtatious with each other.
>>the following dialogue seemed important to me, so I tried to note everything down<<
to B: what do you mean exactly by "it is natural/normal to be attracted by other people" ? Do you think of a biological basis for this attraction?
Are you thinking here about heterosexual attractiveness?
Yes, I do think heterosexual attractiveness is natural, we are a sexually reproductive species.
So we don't want to give ourselves a hard time about being attracted by women. It is not by definition necessarily oppressive.
Is it not necessarily oppressive because it's natural?
Well, I guess, yes.
The oppression comes in when
- there is objectification of women
- there is no respect for a woman saying no, or for her ambivalence
If oppression comes only from socialisation, then we can change it.
So if heterosexuality attractiveness is natural, how would you qualify homosexual attractiveness?
I think it is also perfectly natural, plenty of evidence for that, documented cases in other animals.
A and J
If you're saying : "heterosexual attractiveness is natural THEREFORE it is not necessarily oppressive"
Does it mean that everything that we can qualify as natural is not oppressive?
No, I don't want to draw this link here, between nature and oppression (or non oppression).
So to rephrase it without the THEREFORE "Heterosexual attractiveness is natural AND it is not necessarily oppressive"
A link we didn't draw yet, is the link between seduction and the rape culture (which links also with what B said about respecting consent)
The radical feminist position could be: the whole mentality of prey/hunter or active/passive is directly linked to a rape culture (causing rapes, using rape as a threat to control women)
So is being part of the seduction game always part of the rape culture?
Are there other ways/alternatives to engage with women?
My first reaction here, though I'm not sure this is what I think.
In any situation with 2 people, if it goes somewhere, generally it would be one person who takes the lead. In patriarchy, the man generally does.
But inherently, I'm not sure that there is something wrong with the man taking the lead, the question is how you do it, how respectful is it?
Then: What is being respectful?
Back to the over sexualisation of the society. There is such an importance attached to the whole thing that we have to be the hunter and play the game. Because sex is supposed to be the most important thing in life.
You can find profeminist men deciding to go the complete opposite way of what is expected for men, like deciding not to be a pursuer at all, so never seducing women (it can also include not talking during meetings etc.)
I feel quite ambivalent about that. Because this is not what we want, a reversed society where women will take men's place and men women's. And it is also used by antifeminists saying that this is what women want, men to be slaves (note from the facilitator: so they admit that women are slaves in patriarchy!!).
But on another hand, this role reversal thing can be interesting and very useful.
- About the rape culture : I think it is a very interesting angle to think about the seduction issue.
- About men doing the opposite of what they are expected. Of course we don't want a reverse of the current model, but we don’t want either a men-only society, but we are doing a men-only group. I think these can be useful tools. If someone feels like being celibate is his best way to deal with this issue, I'd be completely supportive. This is also about context: at a certain period of one's life, after certain experiences, one might find specific ways to deal with relationship issues and patriarchy. And I think the idea of men being ignored during meetings, cleaning up after women etc. is quite useful and constructive actually, just as I would like to see politicians or company bosses forced to live a year on the dole. If more dominants experiment with what it is to be dominated, maybe this could change things...
- About the over sexualisation of society: this is true, there is sex everywhere. But at the same time sex is still taboo, we don’t talk about it at school, nor with our parents, we learn about it through friends, pornography, lads mags, stereotyped media etc. There is still a big mystification about it, and this paradox creates frustration and neurosis. And frustration and neurosis are important for the capitalist and sexist society to keep going. So I don't know how the paradox works, but I understand why it keeps perpetuating itself
- About "But inherently, I'm not sure that there is something wrong with a man taking the lead": I think that in patriarchy, whenever the man does something in the heterosexual couple, it is linked to the sexist system of beliefs. Patriarchy is in all our behaviors. I'm not saying that we are all evil and should stop having interaction with people in general and women in particular, but I want to admit and recognise that my behaviors are always more or less under the influence of patriarchy (and other domination systems obviously: capitalism, racism etc.) and accepting it, identifying it, might be the first step to fighting it.
(I'm not sure here if I said it like this during the meeting, but it's what I meant...)
Perhaps we have to recognise that our actions are infused with patriarchy and sexism, and condemn them as wrong but still not beat ourselves up about it. We have to make sure we can change these things a bit at a time, not start hating ourselves for being sexist male chauvinist pigs and then end up crippled by shame and not get anywhere.
I do think that even in our today society, men can do things that are not linked to patriarchy.
And my partner used to tell me: I'd rather be with a normal decent human being than a perfect brainy profeminist man behaving like shit.
Statement on "why men-only"
Dave will have a look at the last draft, and we will put it on the blog.