What would life look like FOR MEN if feminism succeeded? Liberal doods have a brand-new book that purports to reveal the mystery: The Guy’s Guide to Feminism by Michael Kimmel and Michael Kaufman. The Michaels – known for Guyland and the White Ribbon Campaign, respectively – have written “a fun, quick read that makes the case that feminism is as good for men as it is for women.” An excerpt:
FIND OUT IF YOU’VE CAUGHT FEMINISM!
Do you believe that women should have the right to:
• Go to college?
• Drive a car?
• Open bank accounts in their own names?
• Enjoy sex?
• Work in whatever occupation they might choose, and get paid the same as men when they do the same work?
Did you answer yes? Then you better lie down…You’ve probably caught feminism.
Well, no. Believing these things doesn’t make you a feminist. It makes you “not totally batshit,” or “not the leader of a fundamentalist splinter cult,” but I don’t award cookies for that. Giving a shout-out to basic human rights in a democracy doesn’t make you a feminist, because that’s not all feminism asks of you.
Feminism asks more. It asks, for example, that you consider the risks PIV poses to women: disease; pregnancy; mandatory childbirth. That if a woman cannot choose the manner and timing of her own reproduction, she is not free. That you can’t become a woman if you weren’t born a girl. That porn – even the fair-trade, free-range, shade-grown “female-oriented” variety – has devastating consequences not only for the girls and women in it, but for the girls and women who live in a world where female bodies are commodities to be bought and sold.
A small voice in my head is wavering: Just be happy that men are writing about feminism at all. They’re on your side, right? It’s Seal Press! They’re having a launch party at Bluestockings! The White Ribbon Campaign is great! Why not focus on honor killings; female genital mutilation; fertilized eggs’ Mississippian legal status? And maybe I should, but I smell something funny right here in mainstream feminism’s vegetable crisper. Even if Gloria Steinem did write a blurb for The Guy’s Guide, calling it “a relevant, inclusive, funny, and straight-to-the-point explanation of how and why feminism improves life for the male half of the world, too.”
But. Read the book excerpt again, carefully. Do you smell it? The ironic, aren’t-we-clever-boys funk that seeps in sometimes when men “ally” with us? Do you smell it in the tone; the way they’re making the fight for our lives fun and accessible and optional and toothless? Do you smell the insinuation that, if it’s good for men, then it matters? That we need men to sign off on our Full Human Status permission slip? Or is it just me?
Sitting there in the middle of it all, of course, is the “enjoy sex” part. There’s the bait, low-hanging and ripe for liberal doods. And liberal doods do not disappoint, as illustrated by this comment from this Feministing thread (bold type mine):
The big thing that turns men off from feminism are the extremists that hate all men. That is a very common stereotype with guys I know and they think if a guy is a feminist then he is giving in. I believe in equality but still don’t say I’m a feminist because there are so many unofficial definitions. As a young guy that loves to have fun I am thankful for feminism because women are more comfortable in their sexuality. When I was in Montreal, Canada and Stockholm, Sweden I was amazed at how open girls were to sex. In Stockholm they would approach me at the clubs. That is extremely rare here in California or most of the US for a girl to approach a guy. I admire Swedish girls and the French Canadian girls for taking action instead of waiting for a guy to make a move, there is no doubt feminism allows women to not feel “slutty” because she wants sex. Also Swedish girls wouldn’t let me buy them a drink! Growing up in the US that is a typical thing to do at a club so it was awkward for me when they would not accept me buying them something even though they wanted to hang out. They will not be “bought” so to speak. I have so much respect for them.
Yeah! They won’t be “bought.” Not like those American whores who accept a glass of wine at a bar. Mad respect to the Swedes and French Canadians! This guy’s Feminism to Liberal Dood Dictionary is obviously in good working order –“feminist” translates to “sexually available.”
Anyway. The Guy’s Guide premise, while great-sounding, is disingenuous: Feminism is NOT as good for men as it is for women. If it were, women’s status in every inch of the world – from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe — would look drastically different. Patriarchy serves men well; ergo, they have a vested interest in it. That’s why feminism has to be made palatable and fuckable for men, with cool graphics and ironic hipster tone. That’s why men will never get on board with real feminism — any gains they’d make would be dwarfed by their losses. What, exactly, would be different FOR MEN AROUND THE WORLD if feminism succeeded? Some would lose a little (“my wife now does half the housework/childcare, instead of the 90% she did before”) or a lot (“I’m no longer allowed to sell my daughter as a child bride or rape with impunity”) but all. men. would. lose. Conservative men, liberal men, straight/gay/bisexual men, single men and married men, men in Brooklyn and San Francisco and Karachi. They’d lose a little or a lot of our labor, our time, our focus, our support — because that energy would then be spent on WOMEN. On OURSELVES.
We’ve got to stop being so invested in men’s participation in feminism. Is this where 10+ years of pomo fun-feminism has led us — focusing on men? Worrying about what men think and what they do? Asking them nicely to stop treating us as second-class citizens/members of the sex class, and hoping they’ll be generous? Taking the hard political parts of feminism out so we can sweet-talk them into cooperating with the interpersonal, domestic stuff?
Today, an e-mail conversation with easilyriled started my thinking in a new direction. She wrote:
‘…What the fuck is this whole ‘feminisms’ thing — we don’t have ‘capitalisms or ‘socialisms,’ and feminism is no less a political movement than those, but if we add an ‘s’ to it, we can make plain the disintegration and diffusion of the movement and the ideology. It’s a capitulation to neo-liberalism and to patriarchal domination. We can’t have our own fucking movement, we have to have feminisms, each of us sitting there, separate from each other, fiddling around with performances of gender.”
Yes. THAT. I think we can have our own fucking movement, without so much disintegration and diffusion and masturbatory, circular academia-speak — as long as we focus on women. While some men are willing to make some changes, their idea of what a just and equitable world looks like is VERY different from ours. And when more women realize that, when their realization hits critical mass, we’ll have an opportunity to re-focus again. On women.
Feminism is only good for everyone if everyone values what feminism values; if everyone wants an equal power structure where half the human race isn’t obliged to do most of the crap work; if everyone agrees that sex trafficking shouldn’t be a 32-billion-dollar-a-year industry, that “the second shift” sucks, that breast implants are bullshit and that women’s Olympic lifting is better than pole-dancing.
We don’t all share that vision. Not even close.