The first time I read virulent online misogyny, I was angry, of course. But I also felt a very specific fear, one that included an unconscious undercurrent of shame: what might I have done to create such hatred in the eyes and hearts of men? This, my friends, is the lesson of Eve: our bodies are our selves, and our selves invoke the fear and loathing of men. The Men’s Rights Movement relies on this collective fear. Its proponents claim to be championing men, and indeed they do appeal to the frustrations and angers of men—the ones that patriarchy, via its neverending game of prove-yourself-as-a-man, engenders. Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) claim not to hate women, while blaming them for the problems of a sexist society. They believe women should pay for these problems with our bodies and minds.
In her deeply necessary book about helping boys grow into happy, healthy, productive, and honorable men, Masterminds and Wingmen, Rosalind Wiseman notes that despite the fantastic work that a slew of experts are doing on boys’ issues, “…the reality is that the impact of Boy World and boys’ social dynamics on boys’ emotional well-being has been left out of the national conversation.”
Why is that?
Last week, I published the first part of a feminist glossary because an understanding of feminist terminology is vital to addressing our cultural issues with sex and gender. I began with basic terminology; although some of the concepts in this week’s installment are also relatively basic (such as ally and slut shaming), I’ve also included some more advanced terms here, the kind that you only bandy about after you’ve been immersed in feminism for a while. I’m sure I’ll think of some more terms tomorrow, and the next day—feel free to add your own in the comments!
We are in dire need of a feminist glossary: we should print one up on a flyer or brochure and post hundreds of copies in doctor’s offices, on subways, outside of movie theaters. Why? Because feminist terminology deals with the nitty-gritty of our everyday lives: it is the language that explains why a woman is fired for being too attractive (or not attractive enough), why Miley Cyrus uses black women as props in her performances, and why a teenage boy learns to discuss how to “get some” with his friends but is hesitant to mention his broken heart to anyone. Feminist concerns are at the core of every discussion about sex and gender, from national debates about working mothers to videotaped rapes posted on Facebook, from who can get married to who can access reproductive care to how to help a child have strong self-esteem.
Jackson Katz’s The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help is a deeply necessary book, for it describes a paradigm shift in the way we view and treat men’s violence against women. Before reading this book, I knew some of the basic premises—our cultural definition of masculinity relies on sexism and violence against women (“real” men are not women/feminine/”weak” and can demonstrate their control and dominance over both weaker men and women), men bond together via sexism either actively or passively, we engage in victim-blaming and scrutinizing of a woman’s behavior when she speaks out about rape, and our media and language are steeped in this paradigm. What I didn’t understand—what this book helped me to understand—is what specific steps non-violent or formerly violent men can take to become empowered bystanders in the movement for change. As Mr. Katz states many times throughout the book, this change is good for men as well as women, for men are deeply affected by the violence entrenched in our definition of masculinity—they are affected as sons, as boyfriends, husbands, fathers, brothers, friends, and victims. Men’s violence against women is, at its’ core, a men’s issue—and Katz deals with it as such.