Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mark Greene Wonders If We Priviledge Women's Issues Over Men's Concerns

In a column over at The Good Men Project, Mark Greene wonders if we privilege women's issues over men's concerns, which is certainly something the men's rights advocates have been claiming for years. There is a lot to think about in this piece, and I am not sure I am clear where I stand on it yet.

One thing I do know is that I do not want - in any way - to see myself or men in general as victims of feminism, of patriarchy, or of anything else. I do not believe there is any power or healing in claiming a victim stance.

However, I do believe there is power in telling our stories, in fighting for equal rights for fathers, or in claiming a space in academia to study what it means to be a man. These are all valid issues, as is the domestic violence double standard that Greene raises here - I have seen it, as well. 

Regarding the Suppression of Men’s Issues

Excerpt (from a much longer article):

I want to address the question of whether or not women’s issues have purposely been (and continue to be) highlighted in a way specifically intended to disempower men, because I believe this question lies at the heart of the high level of reactivity from some men’s rights advocates.


First let me say this. It would be naive to deny that some of us have bought into the gender wars. There will be numerous examples of incidental smoking guns on all sides. Some people will focus on these kinds of “evidence” to somehow prove an orchestrated effort to suppress men’s issues. No matter what side you’re on, there will always be examples of the intention to mislead and take advantage of the larger dialogue. Especially when there are vast amounts of public money at stake. But I believe our stunted and contentious discourse about men’s issues is mostly the result of long standing male cultural norms.

Our male cultural history, the steps we took to get here, made ignoring boys and men as victims a likely outcome. Only now are we starting to talk about men as being equally in need of society’s focus and resources. Imagining such an idea even twenty years ago would have been impossible. In part, because men refused to think of themselves as needing help. Whatever we have had to endure, the over riding cultural message was, endure it in silence.

Our current living generation of men, born from the 1920s on, spent decades responding to the world in either the angry or confident-macho modes. These were the two acceptable modes of expression by men when confronted with life’s challenges.  I suppose you can also toss in blind stinking drunk. But the fact is, there was no space in which men could express fear, or weakness, or talk about the abuse in their lives. In my father’s generation there was absolutely no space to discuss men as powerless victims. If things were bad you were expected to just punch back harder. “If you are too weak or stupid to avoid being a victim then its your own fault” seemed to be the prevailing wisdom. Never mind that some of us were just little children when bad things happened. Being tough was the answer to everything. And not that much has changed.

“Shake it off, crybaby.” When I hear that today at my kid’s soccer field, I look to see if its being said to a boy or a girl. It’s pretty much always a boy.


The fact is women were culturally granted permission to weep. To show weakness and display emotions. To be victims who needed protection. (Even as they were, in some cases, victimizing men.)

But this discourse of victimhood is new for men. This space we have created in which to share our stories and our pain has no long cultural or historical roots. For men, it goes back maybe one generation and it stops. This is not a discussion I would ever expect to have with my father. These are new ways of speaking for men. New ways of being. And the stories that come pouring out are painful and angry and grief-stricken. They create rage and they cause us to lash out. In part because we are still getting a backlash when we do share our pain. The cultural rules about showing weakness are embedding deep in us and deep in those we share our beds with. Sometimes the strictest silencers are those closest to us. They prefer the old model. They don’t like scary stories and fear. Men are supposed to protect them from that.


Sharing the stories of our victimhood is a double edged sword.  A slippery slope. Focusing on a personal history of powerlessness or victimhood, although a necessary step to moving past it, can be the equivalent of drinking poison. You can get stuck there. Forever.

Victimhood is a toxic state and one has to move past it or risk being drained and weakened by the very forces you are in opposition to. And so, if we as men (or women) are now empowered to tell publicly how we have been victimized, we should also be wary of staying in that place of victimhood only. Or for too long.

Read the whole article.

1 comment:

Michael said...

No one can can go through life and not be victimized in some way. Men as a whole have been unwilling to admit this victimization. However, everyone has the power to not remain a victim and that is the position I believe men must take.

We must be willing to express our pain, sadness and anger without falling victim and becoming trapped in those emotional states.

Each of us must take responsibility to heal our own wounds and move through the antiquated paradigm that does not support us in doing so.

Ultimately our happiness is contingent upon us not remaining victims and taking full responsibility for our lives.