If on-campus men’s centers are a push-back against feminism, what exactly are they pushing back against? Let’s look at The Redstockings Manifesto.
Friday afternoon, I tuned in at BlogTalkRadio to listen to the events taking place in Toronto, where Miles Groth was presenting at the University of Toronto, and making a case for why universities need to start funding academic and social centers that consider the needs of men and boys from the perspective of …. men and boys!
I know! Shocking, right? Previous attempts to discuss the topic ended up with screaming women’s studies protesters and pulled fire alarms and riot police and it was just a huge mess! Everybody remembers the delightful serenade of “Cry Me A River” from our Big Red Friend, right? Her empathy couldn’t have been set to a better soundtrack. In anticipation of the planned lecture, the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFÉ) was forced to pay a pre-emptive security fee, as a “militant response” was promised from the Nazi feminist protesters.
I followed a few news crews on Twitter, who had posted images of themselves with cameras at the ready, waiting for all hell to break loose.
And they’re still waiting. In the face of some organized opposition, the feminist brigade surrendered unconditionally. The subsequent media coverage was pretty meek, although several reproduced a quote from a woman’s studies prof who claims that the movement to discuss men and boys is really a backlash against feminism.
Annalee Lepp, associate professor and chair in the department of women’s studies at the University of Victoria, said she believes the issue of violence on campus has broadened from a discussion solely centred on women to encompass other targets of potential attacks, such as gay and trans students.
Lepp said while she has nothing against the creation of men’s centres on campuses, she questions the politics behind it.
“I think there has been a lot of work done by men who align themselves with feminism that have been doing the kinds of work that feminism has been doing for many, many years and becoming allies of the movement — or actively calling themselves feminists,” said Lepp, president of Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Feministes.
“In some segments of the men’s movement, it’s definitely a backlash against feminism as if feminism has created a context where something has been taken away from men.”
Gee, ya don’t say, Annalee!
Has feminism created a context where something has been taken away from not just men, but women, too?
Let’s take a look at this little charming polemic, written back in 1969, that explains just what the goals of modern, second-wave feminism are, called The Redstockings Manifesto. The manifesto is in italics, and I’ve interspersed some comments and observations of my own, in an effort to reveal what we are pushing back against, and who has paid the price for this cultural re-imagining.
I After centuries of individual and preliminary political struggle, women are uniting to achieve their final liberation from male supremacy. Redstockings is dedicated to building this unity and winning our freedom.
This right here is the central reason why we need academic centers focused on the needs of men and boys outside the feminist ideology of gender studies. What male supremacy are you talking about? Which men? All the ones thrown away in countless wars? Men of color? Poor men? Gay men? Unmarried men? Infertile men? Disabled men? Homeless men? All the men dead by their own hands?
What supremacy did those men have? Over whom?
Beginning with the idea that all men experienced the untold luxuries of being born male and that all women suffered under their boot heels is exactly why feminist ideology cannot address the needs of men and boys in any meaningful way.
The rich are the ones with supremacy. Men and women alike. Confusing “patriarchy” with “aristocracy” is exactly what makes feminism so ineffective as a method of inquiry. An entire philosophy that rests on a mistaken assumption about men will never lead to any conclusions other than men are bad and get what they deserve.
II Women are an oppressed class. Our oppression is total, affecting every facet of our lives. We are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor. We are considered inferior beings, whose only purpose is to enhance men’s lives. Our humanity is denied. Our prescribed behavior is enforced by the threat of physical violence.
Again, which women? Rich white ladies? Oh, they’re exploited, are they? All those women with nannies and housekeepers are treated like so much domestic labor? In truth, there ARE women who are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants and cheap labor. Sex workers, women in fundamentalist religious sects, actual domestic servants and poor women with no job market skills.
Guess what? Male sex workers are exploited as sex objects, too. And furthermore, all sex workers can be complicit in their “exploitation”, the same way accountants are complicit in having their numeracy skills exploited. Being a sex worker doesn’t make anyone an automatic victim, and it doesn’t make them blind or stupid or ignorant or in need of special protection. Men who are in fundamentalist religious sects are breeders, too. Women don’t have babies all by themselves. Plenty of men are domestic workers, too. Gardeners, handymen, repairmen, drivers – men with few job market skills get paid shit wages to do crap work, too.
Everyone’s proscribed behavior is enforced with the threat of physical violence. Follow the rules or you will meet the police, who, if they are inclined towards gentleness at all, will most likely mete gentleness out to WOMEN and not men. Try resisting arrest as a man. The “threat of physical violence” is exactly what most women depend on not having to confront. Those protesters at UofT who physically assaulted men counted on no retaliation, and they counted on the police to ensure their safety.
Because we have lived so intimately with our oppressors, in isolation from each other, we have been kept from seeing our personal suffering as a political condition. This creates the illusion that a woman’s relationship with her man is a matter of interplay between two unique personalities, and can be worked out individually. In reality, every such relationship is a class relationship, and the conflicts between individual men and women are political conflicts that can only be solved collectively.
Men = oppressor
Personal = political
Those two untested and unproven assumptions are again the reason that feminist gender studies CANNOT honestly and accurately reflect the interests of men and boys. If you begin with the assumption that men are oppressive, you will invariably ignore all evidence to the contrary because it contradicts the most basic premise of the philosophy.
III We identify the agents of our oppression as men. Male supremacy is the oldest, most basic form of domination. All other forms of exploitation and oppression (racism, capitalism, imperialism, etc.) are extensions of male supremacy: men dominate women, a few men dominate the rest. All power structures throughout history have been male-dominated and male-oriented. Men have controlled all political, economic and cultural institutions and backed up this control with physical force. They have used their power to keep women in an inferior position. All men receive economic, sexual, and psychological benefits from male supremacy. All men have oppressed women.
All men have oppressed women. All the inventions and accomplishments and achievements of men’s work to make all our lives easier, safer and longer are in fact just tools that men use to oppress women. All men. Antibiotics, electronics, the flush toilet, washing machines, advanced cancer treatments, potable water, food, heat, houses, clothing – all just tools to oppress women.
And all the men with no power, they oppress women, too. Doing the dangerous, dirty unrewarded work that we require to function as a society, like digging coal out of the ground or hauling sewage or collecting trash – all of that is just a tool to oppress women?
All power structures through history have been male-oriented. Well, except for primary education, the aristocracy, traditional peasant marketplaces, and every informal avenue of power, which is where women’s command resides.
IV Attempts have been made to shift the burden of responsibility from men to institutions or to women themselves. We condemn these arguments as evasions. Institutions alone do not oppress; they are merely tools of the oppressor. To blame institutions implies that men and women are equally victimized, obscures the fact that men benefit from the subordination of women, and gives men the excuse that they are forced to be oppressors. On the contrary, any man is free to renounce his superior position, provided that he is willing to be treated like a woman by other men.
Men are forced to be oppressors? How about the vast majority of men aren’t oppressing anyone at all, and certainly not women specifically. And you know, it’s true that men and women are not equally victimized by particular institutions: men are generally MORE victimized.
The judiciary? Men are sentenced more frequently and more harshly for their crimes than women are.
The health care system? More money goes to fund women’s health concerns than men’s and that is on a GLOBAL scale. Of the 8 United Nations Millennium Goals, one is specific to women alone (maternal health) and all the others “touch on essential aspects of women’s well-being, and in turn, women’s empowerment is critical for achieving the goals”.
Number of goals targeted at men specifically?
Zero. Not one. The UN won’t even throw the dogs who do all the work a bone.
And that’s despite the fact that of the top ten health problems around the world, most are far more common in men. Don’t be afraid, guys, to renounce your superior position of being allowed to die. If the price is being “treated like a woman”, well maybe that’s not so bad? It would be kind of nice if the world acted like men’s health was at least as important as women’s, no?
How about the institutions of education and advanced training? How’s male supremacy working out there? Oh, boys are dropping out of school in record numbers and failing to acquire advanced training and education? Now why is that?
How dare you even ask such a thing, you evil, oppressive misogynist! You must hate women! That is essentially the response Miles Groth got when he asked that very question. Why are boys and men missing from our educational institutions? Where have they gone?
The idea that feminism, which assumes all men have oppressed women and that all cultural and political and economic institutions benefit men at the expense of women, could possibly answer this question is laughable.
There is a reason that foxes don’t guard henhouses.
We also reject the idea that women consent to or are to blame for their own oppression. Women’s submission is not the result of brain-washing, stupidity or mental illness but of continual, daily pressure from men. We do not need to change ourselves, but to change men.
Not often you see the idea expressed so boldly, is it?
The women who wrote this manifesto want men gone. The problem is men and they need to be changed.
Into what, pray tell?
And these are the women who are going to decide how to handle the challenges facing boys and men?
The most slanderous evasion of all is that women can oppress men. The basis for this illusion is the isolation of individual relationships from their political context and the tendency of men to see any legitimate challenge to their privileges as persecution.
Let’s think about this statement in context of what comes next. What constitutes a “legitimate challenge”?
V We regard our personal experience, and our feelings about that experience, as the basis for an analysis of our common situation. We cannot rely on existing ideologies as they are all products of male supremacist culture. We question every generalization and accept none that are not confirmed by our experience.
There we go. Personal experience, and women’s feelings about those experiences are what is to constitute evidence and the basis for legitimate challenge. Feminists accept no theories that are not confirmed by experience, which probably goes a long way towards explaining why there are so few them studying particular physics. Cry me a river, indeed.
Darn little quarks are so hard to see! Guess that proves they don’t exist.
Actually feminism has a big problem with empiricism and the scientific method itself, which are obviously tools of the patriarchy.
Science, it would seem is not sexless; she is a man, a father and infected too. – Virginia Woolf
No doubt, Virginia probably wrote that sitting in a comfortable armchair built by men, covered in sturdy brocade developed by men, sporting a delightful profusion of colors from a dye process invented by men, using a fancy new ballpoint pen created by men on crisp white paper produced by men.
Most feminist critiques focus on the practice of science. That is, they criticize both “the ways in which women are inhibited from entering into science professions” and the ways in which science has, and is, being used (by men) to oppress women.
Some feminist philosophers of science, however, focus on the scientific method itself by criticizing the classical desiderata of the scientific method. Special focus is paid to the notion of objectivity. Objectivity, claim some, is only “ostensibly [the] non-involved stance.” In actuality, it is the male stance. Therefore, the story goes, our respect for the scientific method is simply an outcome of our traditional (sexist, hence, male-biased) political inclinations.
They really aren’t kidding. Personal feelings are what constitutes evidence and legitimate challenge. Objectivity is sexist.
We’ll pause for a moment to bang our heads against our desks in frustration.
And it’s playing out in #rapeculture in particular, isn’t it? If she feels it was rape, then it was.
Gee. What can wrong with that approach?
Our chief task at present is to develop female class consciousness through sharing experience and publicly exposing the sexist foundation of all our institutions. Consciousness-raising is not “therapy,” which implies the existence of individual solutions and falsely assumes that the male-female relationship is purely personal, but the only method by which we can ensure that our program for liberation is based on the concrete realities of our lives.
Get together and share those feelings ladies, not just to get it all out and feel better, but to harness the collective hurt-feelings and mobilize them to affect all the institutions and organizations of the culture.
It’s kind of amazing how well feminism succeeded in making the entire culture about their own feelings, isn’t it? But I have a feeling that it worked the same way the first set of protests in Toronto worked – because the men didn’t push back.
And when they do, some “feelings” are gonna be in for a big shock!
The first requirement for raising class consciousness is honesty, in private and in public, with ourselves and other women.
Yeah, let’s base the whole program on honesty, shall we?
Being a slut is awesome! All women should be sluts!
Men cannot be depended upon. You know, for anything other than communications, transportation, the power grid, clean water, garbage collection, protective services and the financial industry. Pfft. Who needs those things anyways, amirite?
Babies suck and you will love your cubicle way more!
VI We identify with all women. We define our best interest as that of the poorest, most brutally exploited woman.
Oh, except for you women over there! Yes, you! You will need to pick up all the slack and do all the shit work caring for our kids and cleaning and making food and keeping this shit organized, so we can out to work caring for other people’s kids and cleaning and making food and keeping shit organized.
We repudiate all economic, racial, educational or status privileges that divide us from other women. We are determined to recognize and eliminate any prejudices we may hold against other women.
Oh, except for you women. Yes, you. Whores! Prostitutes are an unacceptable threat to women’s control over male sexual choices. And all you housewives? Yeah, you’re just whores dressed up in aprons and houseslippers.
It’s your body and your choice, unless it’s the wrong body and the wrong choice – then screw you, traitor!
We are committed to achieving internal democracy. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that every woman in our movement has an equal chance to participate, assume responsibility, and develop her political potential.
See how they snuck that caveat in there? Every woman in our movement. Those of you who don’t agree can go fuck yourselves.
VII We call on all our sisters to unite with us in struggle.
Hey, why not? It sounds like ever so much fun!
We call on all men to give up their male privilege and support women’s liberation in the interest of our humanity and their own.
Yes, please give up the privilege of doing all the work that makes the world go round, dying earlier than women as a reward for that and yet being blamed for everything that hurts women’s feelings, which now constitutes evidence of unrelenting male oppression. Black men in particular should be surrendering the privilege of dying way before anyone else. Black men have the lowest life expectancy in the US, unchanged since the 1950s. White men live, on average, 2 years longer than black men, and black women live about 2 years longer than white men. White women beat everyone, living 1.4 years longer than black women, gaining 5.4 years of additional life over everyone else.
Poor, poor white women. So oppressed, they live longer than anyone else.
In fighting for our liberation we will always take the side of women against their oppressors. We will not ask what is “revolutionary” or “reformist,” only what is good for women.
Exactly, Princess and that is why you should NEVER be in charge of any study that concerns what is best for men and boys. Feminism has men’s issues covered? Yeah, sure you do.
The time for individual skirmishes has passed. This time we are going all the way.
Bring it. That’s all I can say. If the “militant response” we had in Toronto is what you mean by going “all the way”, then by all means. The militant response looked a lot like waving a white flag. If you ignore it, it will go away, right? Good strategy. What else ya got?
Bring it now.
Lots of love,