Friday, July 19, 2013

The solution to your problem is more feminism

I wrote an essay on being a straight white male feminist for the Good Men Project. If you're reading this blog, you probably already knew that.

I'm proud of this short essay and would like it spread far and wide. If you are willing to share it, please do so. I'm also willing to engage in debate and discussion about.

If you wade into to comment thread, you'll see a few, "right on!" comments. Then there are a few thoughtful commentaries or questions. My favorite was asking me whether I found my "male" self ever at odds with my "feminist" self. I talked about the ways that I instinctively buy into purity culture in terms of parenting my daughter, a subject I may return to more fully later. Then there were the men's right's folks.

I've never argued with them, and in my experience, arguing requires practice. I know how to argue about history, about disability, about Catholicism, about voting rights, about the needs for regulations, about all kinds of subjects. This was a new one and I'm not sure I did as well as I should. The laments are well known - it's so hard to be man; so much is expected of a man; men always lose in divorce courts; boys are having more trouble in school; men are doomed; men can be abused too; gender discrimination runs in all directions so feminism isn't relevant; patriarchy doesn't exist. The MRA folks have a litany and they quickly showed up.

On advice from a friend, I started reading Amanda Marcotte. This 2011 essay in particular worked well for me: The Solution to MRA Problems? More Feminism.

Here's the key piece:

They’re so wrong about everything, they’re wrong even when they’re right. Some of their observations of the world correspond with reality, but when they attempt to analyze it through the “blame feminism” lens, they get all turned around. Usually what annoys them stems not from feminism, but from sexism, especially when it comes to inflexible gender roles. Ironically, then, the solution to the problems they manage to correctly identify is … more feminism. I pulled together a sampling of examples to show how this works.

This is the challenge, some of the gripes from MRA are, in fact, true. But they fail to assess causality or the pathways out of the morass. In almost every case, the solution according to Marcotte is ... more feminism.

In my comment thread, one particular poster (and Good Men Project essayist on the topic) talked about divorce court. It's probably true that men have a tougher time getting custody than women, although I've been reading some counter evidence. It's probably true that the "tender years" doctrine that once automatically assigned custody to women (with men having to pay support, which is what irks the MRA), filtered through the second-wave feminist movement. The alternative was seeing women either isolated from their children or abandoned by their children's fathers. But if you want to solve this problem, the solution is not to rant about how those feminist courts are oppressing men, but to advocate for more feminism.

Courts see mothers as the natural primary parent because of rigid gender norms that associate child-rearing as women's work. Take the feminist position that child-rearing is gender neutral, make it stick, and this changes. Advocate for universal gender-neutral parental leave at birth or adoption. Make sure men who want flex time are not seen as un-manly and discriminated against in the workplace. All of these are feminist positions.

So I'm grateful to Marcotte and ready to wade back into the fray. And if you have a problem with that, well, the solution to your problem is ... more feminism.