Feministing: On doing the emotional work of being a male feminist

By MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH

Be a male feminist. Prepare yourself to be held accountable.

I appreciate pieces like Lauren Rankin’s “Feminism Needs Men, Too” over at PolicyMic and interviews like this one Brittney Cooper (of Crunk Feminist Collective) did with The Feminist Wire because they force me to consider more deeply what it means when I identify as a male feminist. I come into this space with a set of privileges (cis, male, hetero) that are in constant need of interrogation, so it’s important to take some time to reflect on that a bit.

I’m deliberate about saying I’m a feminist for a couple of reasons. I believe in equality and tearing down the systems of oppression that stand its way, so identifying as a feminist signals my dedication to radical change. But one can be invested in that work without applying the label. I choose it because I always want to be held accountable.

The line that struck me the most in Brittney’s interview is when she said: “The thing that we aren’t saying about male feminists is that they have to do the emotional work.” Relatively speaking, the politics is easy. The emotional work? That shit is hard, but is some of the most important work we’re charged with doing.

Because after the dust has settled, the reproductive rights have been won, the pay is equal, and there’s equal representation in Congress, the mission is only half complete if sexism still dominates our social spaces. You can say the structural stuff is more important, but it’s the everyday stuff that reinforces the structural stuff that adds up to a clusterfuck of mind-numbing oppression. And so many of us are guilty of allowing ourselves to perpetuate it without ever taking a moment to see the damage we’re doing.

It’s when you’re kickin’ it with your boys and you don’t speak up (or maybe even join in) when the one dude is being called a “bitch” or a “pussy” because he didn’t hit on the girl you saw…

To read this piece in its entirety, visit our friends at Feministing.com

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The Feminist Wire: 10 Ways Men Can End Violence Against Women

As I checked my Twitter feed on the morning of Tuesday, April 30, 2013, I expected to find mostly depressing news, as I follow folks who speak out about Violence Against Women. What I found was even more disturbing than I had anticipated.  I read several tweets about an “Ex-Girlfriend Target” that bleeds when shot.  I clicked links to articles written about this and what I read was deeply troubling.

As I continued to read more responses to the target, I found myself moving from total disappointment towards anger, an emotion that I’ve been intentional about not expressing in unhealthy ways since entering the Men’s Anti-Violence Movement.

This target that was being sold online is obviously terrible for many reasons. Ultimately, it supports a hierarchy where men are in power and use women as target practice to keep our stronghold over them.

Zombie Industries, the producer of the “Ex-Girlfriend Target,” is encouraging men to take out their anger with actual guns on targets that look like women while they imagine their ex-girlfriend’s body in one of the most overtly violent acts. Preparing oneself to feel pride, relief, maybe even happiness as a simulated human is bleeding after it’s filled with bullets encourages femicide, domestic violence, and a hatred for women and girls.

Due to severe public backlash, Zombie Industries recently stated that it will redesign its shooting target to have green skin to differentiate it from a real woman. But this minor alteration only demonstrates their inability to recognize the gravity of gender violence. According to The Huffington Post, CEO Roger Davis said that Zombie Industries is sorry if the company offended anyone with the target and disappointed that “people’s feelings were hurt.”

As Monica Casper, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona, noted, “Hurt feelings are not the problem here; structural violence is the problem.”

If it isn’t clear yet, violence against women directly hurts men, too. We are trained to allow our bodies to be tools to perpetuate cycles of violence and contribute to a system that not only remains silent about, but actually celebrates and makes games out of killing women. Living in a culture of violence produces men and boys who can’t express real emotions other than anger, stripping us of the full potential of our humanity.

So I’m going to offer some advice based on a novel thought: Most men and boys are not okay with violence against women. Though some might not be at the stage where they regard this particular “target” as “bad,” I’m willing to vouch for the majority that are ready to do something. Step one, of course, is to never buy something that encourages gender violence. Outside of that, I’ve put together a list of ten more tangible things men can do to actively take a stand against violence against women. It’s time we put an end to all forms of violence and step up as a community.

10 Ways Men Can Prevent Gender-Based Violence

1. Communicate. One of our largest problems is that we do not talk. No one is a mind-reader. If we talk with our partners, we can understand each other’s wishes, thoughts, and desires. Consent should never be assumed.

2. Educate Yourself. There is lot of information on Domestic Violence that we ought to learn and understand. “1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime,” “1.3 million women are physically assaulted each year in the US,” and “every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted” are all undeniable statistics, and need acknowledgement and continuing press coverage.

3. Contribute. We ought to give our time, thoughts, and even monetary donations to helping stop all forms of violence against women. Assistance is always needed, and there are many ways for us to get involved and support the cause.

4. Support Victims/Survivors. We can be there for those who have been victimized by domestic violence or sexual assault. This might mean driving someone to the hospital, accompanying a victim to court or the police station, or even just sitting and listening to the survivor.

5. Organize. As men, we can create or join a movement against DV.

For the rest of the top ten list, check out the original blog on The Feminist Wire 

UNC Student Newspaper Takes A Stand Against Sexual Assault

MasculinityU simply wishes to show our support to the incredible men and women of UNC who are taking a stand during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Check out their powerful words below.

(Excerpt crossposted from The Daily Tarheel)

Rape is a violent crime.

At UNC and colleges across the country, it is treated as an infraction.

Something so fundamentally wrong demands a principled solution.

This means undertaking a complete overhaul of the way the University deals with cases of rape. And it means forgetting for a moment the problematic requirements of federal guidelines, and instead creating a system that realizes the University’s responsibility to protect its students. A culture of false justice lies at the heart of a broken system, and should be replaced with a focus on:

1. Support for survivors;
2. Education for all students on the consequences of rape; 
3. Deference in the pursuit of justice to trained law enforcement.

For years, universities have played an inappropriate role in the aftermath of incidents of rape involving students. At UNC, the Honor Court, a quasi-judicial board made up entirely of students, heard and adjudicated cases of sexual assault until last year. Similar models were used across the country, becoming the object of intense scrutiny as to whether they could effectively deal with such a sensitive crime.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education issued what is popularly referred to as the “Dear Colleague” letter. The letter included a set of guidelines for making the ways colleges dealt with sexual assault compliant with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, landmark legislation aimed at preventing sex discrimination. During the last two years, UNCand the rest of the nation’s universities have implemented the changes demanded by the letter: lowering the standard of proof required to determine guilt in rape cases and the hiring of an individual to oversee the processes, among others…

To read the rest of the editorial visit The Daily Tarheel

WATCH: Jai Cunningham takes a stand against violence

One of my colleagues pointed out this recent story to me.  I think it is a powerful message and wanted to share it with the rest of you. What are your thoughts?

(As posted on KHON2.com)

KHON2’s Jai Cunningham is taking a bold stand against domestic violence.

The recent death of a former Hawaii resident apparently at the hands of her husband touched Jai deeply, as he knew the victim personally, and he himself was also a victim of domestic violence.

CLICK HERE to watch and to hear Jai’s emotional statement, and find out what he’s doing to protest acts of violence.

 

Reblog: Surviving, at Amherst College

Surviving, at Amherst College.

This is a crucial read for all of us. Full credit to author Dana Bolger.

via Reblog: Surviving, at Amherst College.

Still think rape jokes are funny?

*Trigger Warning*  Please reblog and share 

Guest post by Sister Storm


The twitter and blog world is buzzing right now with the story of how a “comedian” made a joke about an audience member being gang raped because she did not find his previous rape joke funny and (rightly so) voiced her opinion on it.  I am inviting anyone who thinks rape jokes are funny to read this and see if they still think jokes about sexual abuse and assault are so hilarious.

The reason I am doing this is because I am getting increasingly sick of telling people I hear making flippant comments and jokes about rape that IT ISN’T FUNNY, so I am hoping that visually I may be able to educate them as my words and clearly the words of others seem to fall on deaf and ignorant ears.

Have you ever seen someone a few minutes or hours after they have been brutally raped?

Have you seen the look in their eyes as they desperately try to escape the thoughts of what has just happened going around and around in their head?

Have you ever seen their torn clothes, dried blood, cuts, bumps, bruises and defense marks they received for putting up a fight?

Have you ever had to tell someone who has just been raped that they are safe now and the people around them are just trying to help them?

Have you ever tried to comfort someone who has been so badly assaulted that they cower and flinch at your touch?

Have you ever helped someone rebuild their life and trust in the human race after they have been so horribly violated?

Have you ever watched the tears stream down someone’s face as they recount every little detail of their ordeal to a police officer or doctor carrying out their medical examination?

Have you ever had to sit up with someone all night because they were too afraid to go to sleep or be alone?

Have you ever had a conversation with a survivor of rape or sexual assault to try and educate yourself and understand what they have to go through?

If you have never had to do any of those things then you are very lucky.  There are just two more questions I want to ask you…

How would you feel if the person I was just talking about who was viciously beaten, repeatedly raped and gone through utter hell was your mother, grandmother, sister, girlfriend, wife, cousin, daughter or close friend and you had to look them in the eye?

Do you still think rape jokes are funny now?

Live, laugh, love and educate,

Sister Storm

Surviving Rape: What I Want Other College Students to Know About Title IX

Originally Posted on June 21, 2012 | NWLC.ORG
Posted by:  Dana Bolger, Outreach Intern


After-rape is to be consumed by emptiness, isolation, fear, shame, and anger.

And after-rape at college is to be confronted by my rapist every day—on the quad, in the library, at breakfast. It is to be ceaselessly reminded of the moments in which power and control were stripped from me, in which I had no option but to let go and resign myself to the fact that this was really happening.

I was raped my sophomore year of college by a male student at my school. In the weeks after the assault, he followed me around campus, physically blocked me from going up the steps into my dorm, and threatened my friends. One Friday at three in the morning, he tried to break into my room while I sat terrified inside.

The rape and harassment changed everything for me. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I stopped studying. School was no longer on my radar screen. I was just trying to make it from one day to the next. I considered dropping out.

I found out about Title IX by chance, through a lawyer friend. She told me, “Title IX is not just about sports. It says your college can’t make you leave school because you were raped and feel unsafe. They’re supposed to make sure the campus is not a sexually hostile environment.”

It seemed so sensible once she’d said it, but I’d never heard anything about my supposed right to a safe educational environment ever before.

Turns out, Title IX grants survivors of sexual assault a number of rights, by requiring schools to:

–READ MORE —

People for the Ethical Treatment of Anyone but Women (Crosspost from Ms Magazine Blog)

The piece below, People for the Ethical Treatment of Anyone but Women, is crossposted from the Ms. Magazine blog. Our co-founder Sacchi Patel was interviewed (see his quote in bold):

by 

PETA’s at it again, pissing people off with their latest “Boyfriend Went Vegan” adcampaign. BWVAKTBOOM (Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom Out of Me) presents the supposed sexual side-effects of a vegan diet as a mock syndrome women may suffer from. The featured video depicts a half-dressed woman in a neck brace returning to her apartment with vegetables in hand as her boyfriend patches a hole in the wall–presumably where her head hit it during sex. It is but one part of the PETA-offshoot website parodying domestic violence awareness campaigns with the subheads “people’s stories,” “playing it safe,” “this is your support system” and “we can help.”

Intentionally slated as a Valentine’s Day tie-in on PETA’s website, the video also launched hot on the heels of the Chris Brown-performing-at-the-Grammys brouhaha, causing much discussion in activist communities. Said PETA’s associate director of campaigns, Lindsay Rajt,

We saw Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to highlight one of the best-kept secrets of a vegan diet. Many men report having more energy and stamina after switching to a plant-based diet. Consuming less cholestoral and saturated animal fat promotes freer blood flow to all of the major organs. Many people don’t know this.

PETA’s use of nudity and sexuality has long been criticized as being exploitative of women, but many feminists say the new campaign crosses a line by trivializing domestic and sexual violence, further injuring an already-fragile demographic. Stephen Montagna, a violence prevention communications coordinator with the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault and a vegetarian of 15 years, was appalled:

[It’s] bad enough that we have a culture which frequently does not believe survivors of sexual and domestic violence, often insisting that it was just ‘rough sex’; now, PETA has taken the very heart of this argument and served it to us as the tongue-in-cheek ‘punch-line’ (literally) of its new ad campaign.

Kit-Bacon Gressitt, a feminist writer and activist, agrees:

The ad egregiously normalized intimate partner violence, which is demonstrated by the use of violence as the ad’s story line and by the characters’ ready acceptance of the woman’s abuse; in particular, the male character’s inanely sheepish delivery, asking if the female is feeling better, which suggests the typical repentant ‘it’ll never happen again’ phase of the cycle of violence.

In response to the criticism, Rajt encourages people to watch the video in its entirety. “They can see the woman is still smiling after having fun, adventurous sex with her boyfriend.”

The neck brace? “It’s a humorous spot,” Rajt insists. “The ad is hyperbole. We’re trying to paint a picture of what the result of vigorous sex might look like. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but some people are choosing to fixate on certain things.” Rajt said she posted it to her own Facebook wall, asking, “Can we all agree to have a sense of humor?”

Sacchi Patel, a social worker and co-founder of Masculinity U, is not laughing. He created a Change.org petition to “tell PETA violence against women is never okay.” As a vegetarian of four years, he says he’d been considering a PETA membership recently but is glad he didn’t purchase it in light of this new campaign:

PETA failed to recognize who may be suffering by their approach. Women are seen victimized by domestic and sexual violence, yet are portrayed as consensual partners ‘asking for’ violence. The reality of relationship violence and the serious consequences that go along with it shows us that it is not something to joke about. PETA has clearly missed the mark here and needs to terminate this program.

Marianne Radley, a sexual assault victim advocate, does not see the causes of animal welfare and ending violence against women as mutually exclusive:

I wish that we didn’t have to promote one cause at the expense of another (because even though sexual assault and healthy relationships may not be at the forefront of PETA’s radar, it is at the forefront of many others who view this ad as a huge set back). We must remember that the treatment of one being reflects the treatment of another, and we’re all connected.

Inga Muscio, author of Cunt: A Declaration of Independence and Rose: Love in Violent Times sees PETA’s “by any means necessary” approach as a part of a larger trend of “shock” marketing:

PETA is trying to appeal to the cynical irony young people have collectively embraced in order to survive in this brutal culture. I understand why PETA creates videos of animals being mistreated, and I understand why they made this ad as well. I do not hold PETA to a different standard than Mountain Dew or the Komen Foundation.

To stop the endemic exploitation of shock and violence, Muscio says, “our entire culture must go through a painful reckoning.”

Considering the campaign never aired via prime-time media but launched from a nonprofit’s website into viral video status, advertising agencies must admire the reach, if not the ire it inspired. While PETA president and founder Ingrid Newkirk fully admits PETA leaders to be “press sluts,” meaning that articles and blog posts like this very one play right into their pleathered hands, their modus operandi begs the question—what does “cruelty-free” truly mean?.