I have this friend that defines himself as a masculinist or a men rights advocate. Despite of what he would say, I understand masculinism not as the ‘same for men as feminism is for women’ –once again, confusing feminism with hembrismo-, but more as:
“A straight white man who insists against all logic and evidence that straight white men are “oppressed” in a world where straight white men have a disproportionately large share of power”. [Urban dictionary]
Indeed such (self)definition sounds like complete nonsense in our patriarchal societies, constructed and sustained on (straight white) male privilege and dominance over women’s oppression. And just coincidentally, he is both straight and white.
But this is a really intelligent friend, and even though sharing ideas and political positions with someone is very safe and reassuring, I actually enjoy the company of intelligent people that don’t think like me. It’s a real challenge to see things from unexplored perspectives and it’s an opportunity to develop new insights and ideas. Therefore, instead of just deciding he’s an as*hole or a sexist pig for being so wrong, I’ve been trying to figure out where this need for ‘masculinism’ comes from. But, if you do want to find out why actual sexist and as*holes say they need masculinism, and how clever feminist (both women and men) are responding to it, read more on #INeedMasculismBecause.
Back to my friend, here are some questions and random thoughts.
Is always trauma originating (our) activism?
Which share of (our) suffering accounts for (our) activism? The way I see it, this question relates to why is so hard for privileged people to be aware of their privilege and/or do something about it.
Would he be a masculinist if his mother wouldn’t have chosen to ‘destroy his father during divorce’ (Sic)? Or if he wouldn’t have suffered 5 years of mobbing at work from his female boss?
Or would I be a feminist if I wouldn’t had experienced (or witnessed) so many sexist situations throughout my life? If I wouldn’t have been socialized in the ‘not-being-able’? If I wouldn’t have suffered sexual harassment at school, on the street or at work? Or if I wouldn’t have witness how violence against women can take so many subtle ways that you won’t even recognize it?
Or -more counter-factly and not very fructiferous thought-, would I be a feminist if I were a man?
Men don’t have (and don’t know how to create?) spaces to share their experiences.
I have had another (straight white) male friend asking me before ‘But who defend our rights?’ This friend I also respected a lot, but his situation was slightly different because he had one child, was unemployed and was going through a divorce. Once again, suffering. But I can understand that in dramatic situations people feel desperate and can have dramatic ideas.
Anyway, why would they discuss about these topics with me? Why not among themselves? I normally don’t share with men my experiences of sexism; only if we are discussing the topic in general, I might give general examples but never personal ones. I have my female (feminist) friends to put all these experiences in common, to empower ourselves, and to set strategies. It’s about sharing in a safe space, where no men will (with or without intention) question or invalidate our experiences.
I think it’s another manifestation on how gender socialization is detrimental to both women and men. Usually men are taught that everything related to feelings and emotions, including of course expressing and discussing about those feelings and emotions, are not men’s-things. Nor are they allowed to show sorrow or distress, since ‘manly’ men are strong, rational, perfect machines. They don’t have spaces to talk their hearts about things going on in their lives, how they are emotionally affected by them.
There is always a B side of every story, of every fight.
This is particularly true when it comes to affirmative action and positive discrimination. I’m a strong supporter of quotas, for example, which I know many people dislike –including those groups the affirmative actions are trying to beneficiate-. But I can see that every positive discrimination towards a specific group (let’s say, women) might affect negatively specific individuals of another group (in this case, men). Of course, the ‘affected’ group is a traditionally privileged one, but that doesn’t change the fact that my friend will still feel miserable for this positive discrimination towards women in his divorce process.
How to cope with the individual suffering when fostering the common good?
How can we talk these men into realizing that all people are born equal in dignity and rights, and that any kind of privilege is unbalanced and unfair?
How can we mainstream the idea that feminism is fighting to change those gender stereotypes, expectation and mandates that are limiting all people’s options, dreams and aspirations, and even the realization of their most fundamental human rights and not expecting women to have more rights, power, freedom, anything,… than men?