Sunday, 10 February 2013

What about teh menz?

I don't know about other feminists, but I have very little patience with people who want to undermine equity driven responses to women's oppression by insisting instead that we focus on men.
"Why isn't there a men's refuge?"  "Men should be able to go on Take Back the Night too, we experience violence on the street as well."  "Women are just as violent as men."  "Men can be victims too."
My lack of patience is not because I don't care about men.  In fact, paying attention to masculine people's experiences has been and continues to be vital to feminist aims of gender equity.  No, it's more that I believe the vast majority of people who raise these issues are just interested in obscuring gender oppression.

There are women's refuges because in the 1970s and 1980s, women started opening their homes up to other women who were being beaten by their partners.  We took over empty houses, and they were filled with women and children not happy at home.  The state responded, eventually, by providing cheap and mostly nasty state housing for us, and Refuges sprung up all over the country. 

Those Refuges, forty years later, are still busy.  The state's response has improved and women and children are now more able to stay at home - but there are still times when a protection order is just a piece of paper, or the only way to get some sleep is to leave the place he dominates, or there is literally no where else to go, for far, far too many women.

We don't have men's refuges because men have never organised in this way to keep other men safe from violence or the threat of violence.  Of course, in New Zealand, a woman is murdered every four weeks by her male partner or ex-partner.  For men, murders by female partners happen just under once a year, usually in self-defence.  So it's no surprise men have not set up men's refuge - just somewhat surprising we still have to have this conversation.

I could go on about this ad nauseum, but instead I'd rather point to when asking "what about teh menz?" is genuine.  The sexual abuse of boys is heavily under-researched and poorly understood.  When Ken Clearwater started talking about the sexual abuse of boys, it was pretty lonely.

Now, Ken is the "self-appointed National Manager" of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust.  He has supported the set up of seven support groups for men around the country, travels regularly to talk about male sexual abuse internationally, and continues to do extraordinary work with male survivors, literally saving lives.  The Male Survivors Trust is linked into national sexual violence networks, and Ken continues to challenge sexual violence understandings by describing the blocks to men talking about sexual abuse and/or being victims.

He is, quite simply, an extraordinary man, who in asking "what about teh menz?" actually meant it.  His advocacy for male survivors extends feminist understandings of sexual violence, because it pushes us to pay attention to power, rather than use gender as shorthand.  The men Ken works with often come to him after experiencing sexual abuse in institutions where as boys, they were targeted because they were vulnerable.  In asking "what about teh menz?" Ken Clearwater pays attention, in vital ways for feminism, to the ways masculinity norms damage men.



So there's my challenge - next time you hear or see this question - tell the person concerned to do a Clearwater.  If their concern is real, we might just see some further exploration of power and gender which is good for all of us.

19 comments:

ChundaMars said...

Hi LJ, where to begin on this post? I'm writing this on a break at work so I'm unlikely to get very far through my thoughts in this one comment anyway, so apologies if my comments are sporadic or seem half-formed...

I see quite a few accusations of "what about teh menz" on the internet, many justified and many not. It's certainly irritating to constantly have a discussion derailed, there's no argument there. I've seen plenty of examples of what I guess you could call "what about teh womenz" on male-focussed sites also, so it's certainly a river that flows both ways.

I'm actually finding myself more and more interested in how discussions are conducted and less so in who is "right" these days - looking at logical arguments, ad hominem attacks etc. etc. And it's really amazing how often the pot calls the kettle black. We humans really have an amazing ability to apply "do as I say, not as I do" to our lives!

While the intention is good, an Ken Clearwater is clearly the sort of man we need more of, don't you think you may be setting the bar a little high? The next time someone mentions, say, female-perpetrated violence on this blog, is the response really as simple as "if you cared, you'd do something about it"? Because that's how it comes across, and is it a standard you'd apply to a woman in the same position?

"I don't know about other feminists, but I have very little patience with people who want to undermine equity driven responses to women's oppression by insisting instead that we focus on men."

Instead? Or as well as? That's often where I think people run into problems in these discussions, seeing everything as a zero-sum game. Asking why there isn't a Men's Refuge is a perfectly legitimate question, and doesn't in and of itself detract from the need for a Women's Refuge.

I've read many feminists insist that feminism is for men too - but then (as you've done here) go ahead and say if men have a problem, men should fix it themselves. Is it any wonder that many (most?) men don't feel as if feminism is for them? And then some men, after being told to go away and organise amongst themselves, turn to Men's Rights groups and blogs, and then are automatically lumped in as misogynist by all feminists so never have their voices heard either.

Anyway, that's enough ramblings from me for now - I'd love to be more coherent and take time to construct my thoughts more but back to work for me!

LudditeJourno said...

Hey Chunda,
Interesting thoughts and I completely disagree :-)
I'll be interested to see what others think - for now, let me just say there is no obligation for any oppressed group to make fighting that oppression ok for the group that is doing well out of it. End of. Of course feminism is threatening for some men - it reshapes our social, economic and political world in ways which undo male privilege. The ways traditional views of masculinity harm men are related but separate - and changing those would be good for most men, as Ken discusses.

ChundaMars said...

Haha, thanks for replying, we're off to a good start LJ! :-)

I'm interested in what, specifically, you completely disagree with - especially considering my post was a jumble of thoughts with no real "point". I did warn you!

I had to read your comment a few times to get it straight in my head, but I'm pretty sure I agree with you - there certainly is no obligation as you describe it. What about my post led you to think I was suggesting there was that obligation?

The "feminism is threatening for some men" thing is certainly true in many (again, most?) cases, but I've also seen it used to disregard legitimate complaints or disagreements from men about some aspects of feminist theory. Much in the way that "check your priviledge" is sometimes used in lieu of "shut up, white boy" :-)

I haven't actually watched the video you linked to (can't access it from work) so I'll do that now.

Anonymous said...

Subjected:

Firstly ChundaMars, when you say that you've seen plently of examples of "what about teh womenz" on male-oriented sites, what sites are you talking about?

The Hand Mirror is a feminist site - it promotes womens rights. The only relevant comparison, would be women asking men at mens rights sites why they are not also focusing on women's rights. The situation of sites in which (mainly, but not exclusively) men discuss a other issues is not analogous. For example at a site devoted to sports in general, it would be quite appropriate to question an emphasis on men's sport to the detriment of women's sport, if women's sports were being sidelined or ignored.

Suggesting a feminist site devote it's energies to men's rights is more analagous to asking a cancer-sufferer support site to promote smoker's rights. I think there are legitimate grounds for smokers to feel discriminated against, but it would be inappropriate to expect a cancer-support site to promote the interests of smokers, legitimiate or otherwise.

Secondly, last week, on a thread devoted to male violence against women, a commenter did say he was the victim of female-perpertrated violence. He received three comments in reply, one was explanatory, and two were supportive. This despite the fact that the comment was likely, in my opinion, to have been disingenuos and a deliberate derail. From my point of view, I wouldn't want to assume that anyone complaining of violent victimisation was trolling. If there is a chance that such a comment is genuine, it is worthwhile offering support. However, his complaint that a post about male violence against women, implied that women were never perpetrators of violence against men, was, in my opinion, spurious and derailing.

Also, briefly, the idea that feminist groups should champion men's concerns, lest such men turn to misogynist groups is insulting to all concerned.

ChundaMars said...

Hi Subjected, thanks for replying. You write very clearly by the way - much more so than me, who spits out a collection of half-formed thoughts while on a 20 minute break at work!

No, I'm referring specifically to male-oriented sites that have a gender discourse - a good example is The Good Men Project (http://goodmenproject.com/). Although probably dominated by men, I doubt there is much discussion on "maleness", masculinity and gender happening on sports sites :-)

Your next paragraph is one of the points I was trying to bring up - is feminism for men too? I've often read that it is, and that more men should be involved. But then if feminism is only about promoting women's rights, does that mean men shouldn't be involved? In which case, where should they go to discuss these topics, and discuss masculinity?

There are certainly some voices in feminism that declare that men cannot, under any circumstances, be considered feminists - at best they are "feminist allies". But then if the definition of feminism is simply believing in the equality of the genders, how can this be so? If I believe women and men are equal (and I do) but I'm a male (which I am) am I a feminist? What if I question certain aspects of feminist theory, such as patriarchy?

As for your final sentence, put that down to a rushed and poorly explained stream of thought from me - I most definitely did not mean to imply that feminist groups should take up men's rights "lest they turn to misogynist groups". If anything, I meant to say that some good men, who are interested in these topics, find themselves pushed away from feminist sites and turn to other sites that (unfortunately) have their fair share of misogynists present. Again, The Good Men Project is a decent case - it's been called a "misogynist hellhole" by some (loud, screechy) feminist voices, but at the same time the real MRA sites declare that it is full of "manginas", so they seem to be getting it from both sides (unfairly, in my view).

And.... back to work!

Simoon said...

"Asking why there isn't a Men's Refuge is a perfectly legitimate question, and doesn't in and of itself detract from the need for a Women's Refuge. "

I think "why aren't there any Men's Refuges?" is a perfectly legitimate thought to have for someone who doesn't know the answer. Lots of things might prompt that thought, including reading a discussion about feminism or Women's Refuges.

However, I think it's worth thinking about who should be obliged to answer that question. I can google things like "history of women's refuges" and "why aren't there men's refuges" and, with a bit of time and effort, get a fairly clear answer to the question. LJ's post above, which gives a nice concise answer, is one of the things I could find.

Instead, I could post in one of the aforementioned discussions, and expect someone else to give me the answer. This requires time and energy on the part of whoever's answering, and means they can't use those limited resources for something else - like furthering the discussion they wanted to be having.

ChundaMars said...

Fair point Simoon, and I agree. I really shouldn't post while on work breaks - I clearly don't convey what I mean very well!

That comment from me was meant to be regarding "zero sum" thinking in many gender discussions I have read, that is, we shouldn't help women with a particular problem because many men have the same problem, or vice versa. It seems to pop up quite often: someone will advocate for, say, male victims of domestic abuse, and someone else will proclaim that there are far more female victims of domestic abuse therefore we shouldn't be talking about the male victims i.e. speaking on one detracts from the other.

With regards to that specific question ("Why is there no Men's Refuge?") I completely see what you're saying and I guess it comes down to how that question would be shut down if it were asked: a polite "That's certainly an issue worth discussing but this is not the time or place to discuss it" is very different from saying "But there are so many more women who need help so who cares about the men"

Also it should be said, I've seen LJ use the former several times but never the latter - so kudos there.

Daz said...

Unlucky timing that this post pops out stats of just under 1 man a year killed by female partner just before these two articles show up on stuff;
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/8287055/Woman-charged-over-fatal-stabbing
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/8285580/Wife-accused-of-Christchurch-murder

The problem I have with feminisms focus on females (I know, it's kinda the point of it but still) is that by fighting against violence towards women, female genital mutilation, rape against women, domestic abuse against women etc etc it gives almost implicit consent for the same things to happen against males.

Would it really be so hard to have domestic abuse sufferers shelters that cater to men and women? (limited to one partner from each couple obviously). Taking a stand against child genital mutilation of either gender (while letting consenting adults do what they want) seems the rational non-sexist thing to me and surely we should end violence against everyone.

One of the effects of feminism (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong) that has slowly changed things is getting people noticing more when they use gendered pronouns, not refering to all secretaries and nurses as "she" while pilots and doctors get a "he" for example. It would be good to see this remembered by some of the group that started it, I think that every now and then flipping the genders round (in ad/awareness campaigns) would help the guys (and girls) abused/raped etc by a female partner deal better and be accepted more by others.

Sorry for the rambling nature and spelling/grammer mistakes btw, I'm not much of a writer.

Acid Queen said...

@Daz: Notice the women are 'charged' and 'accused'.

I'm pretty certain both these cases will be dismissed as self-defense.

LudditeJourno said...

Daz:
"The problem I have with feminisms focus on females (I know, it's kinda the point of it but still) is that by fighting against violence towards women, female genital mutilation, rape against women, domestic abuse against women etc etc it gives almost implicit consent for the same things to happen against males."

No, it doesn't.

Daz said...

@Acid Queen, Yes I did notice.
They very well could have been acting in self defence but there is nowhere near enough information in the articles I read for me to put money on what the outcomes will be.

@LJ, Feminism is a big movement with a wide variety of adherents but the vast majority seem to have no problem with people cutting off a chunk of a male childs genital containing 60% of the penis's nerve endings but if anybody wants to make even the smallest ritualised cut to a female childs genitals then feminism collectively slaps them silly (no disagreement from me there, I just males had the same protection females enjoy under nz law http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1961/0043/latest/DLM329734.html#DLM329734 )

Daz said...

*I just WISH males had the same protection
Like I said, writings not my strong suit

LudditeJourno said...

Daz, you are providing a wonderful example of the blog topic. I do hope you are doing a Clearwater - and ask you not to comment anymore on this post please, unless you're not simply reiterating the title repeatedly.
Thanks, LJ

Arouet said...

I think Chunda raised a very good point which hasn't been answered, so I'll repeat it.

"While the intention is good, an Ken Clearwater is clearly the sort of man we need more of, don't you think you may be setting the bar a little high? The next time someone mentions, say, female-perpetrated violence on this blog, is the response really as simple as "if you cared, you'd do something about it"? Because that's how it comes across, and is it a standard you'd apply to a woman in the same position?"

I'm guessing LJ wouldn't apply it to a woman in the same position, but if not, why not?

Anonymous said...

"What about teh menz?"

You title for this post effectively set a patronising tone for the rest of you article. As a feminist you may not be concerned with issues that affect men, you may find them tiresome, but you should not be belittling them.

Your very first sentence contains a level of dissonance that has become familiar to those exposed to feminism's peculiar interpretation of egalitarianism.

I don't know about other feminists, but I have very little patience with people who want to undermine equity driven responses to women's oppression by insisting instead that we focus on men.

If you're not interested in making an "equitable" response, why are you then characterising it as such. Is this another case of "men can't be victims of an inequitable system' because patriarchy!!!

You would do well to learn the history of domestic violence shelters and the excommunication of their founder Erin Prezzy from the feminism movement for the audacity to suggest that men could also be the victims of domestic violence.

Your cherry picked statistics addressing domestic partner murder fails to mention the wider occurance of domestic partner violence rates which approach equity between the sexes, they also fail to mention the higher rates of child abuse rates perpetrated by women. Are your domestic violence shelters interested in protecting children from their violent mothers?

You suggest that men should be taking the initiative in addressing these inequities, I assure you they are. In the meantime can you keep your "What about teh menz?" to yourself. It's childish.

Anonymous said...

Subjected:

Anon at 11.04pm

I hope you are being consistent in demanding that all groups that are working on addressing a particular set of problems - from those concerned with famine relief to those trying to rekindle the folk-dancing movement, also allot plenty of time and resources to working on matters of concern to you.

You must be very busy on the interwebs, so many groups neglecting you and your mates, and insisting on thinking for themselves rather than adopting your world view.

How dare they belittle you and treat you so unjustly.

Anonymous said...

@Daz - where are all these feminists who support penile circumcision? I'm a feminist and definitely find it barbaric and horrible. It's obviously not the same as clitoral/vulva circumcision but it's the same spectrum. And it's certainly part of the "don't harm/mutilate anyone's body that isn't your own" that every feminist believes in. Well at least every feminist I've ever encountered.

me.

Anonymous said...

"The problem I have with feminisms focus on females (I know, it's kinda the point of it but still) is that by fighting against violence towards women, female genital mutilation, rape against women, domestic abuse against women etc etc it gives almost implicit consent for the same things to happen against males."

Also that is the most ridiculously unfounded and ludicrous suggestion ever. Since when does criticising something for X group mean you think it's okay to happen to Y group? For example, when I criticise Islamophobic phobic politicians I'm not implicitly saying "well it's okay to be racist against Asian people" or something like that. Seriously. Think about what you're saying before you type.

me.

Anonymous said...

"Your cherry picked statistics addressing domestic partner murder fails to mention the wider occurance of domestic partner violence rates which approach equity between the sexes"

1. The rates of domestic partner violence are in no way equal. 1 in 4 New Zealand women reported that they "had been a victim of an offence during their lifetime" in 2009, as opposed to 1 in 8 men.

Here is the link for my source:
https://www.msd.govt.nz/documents/about-msd.../scale-and-nature.doc

I'd also like to highlight that only 18% of family violence is reported in New Zealand.

https://womensrefuge.org.nz/WR/Domestic-violence/Statistics.htm

Perpetrators of family violence can be of any gender, however statistics irrefutably emphasize that the majority of victims are women.

Danny