Patriarchy vs Love: Time for Men to RISE

This week’s post comes from a dear friend.

Dan Mahle at the 1 Billion Rising event in Seattle, WA

Dan Mahle at the 1 Billion Rising event in Seattle, WA

Dan Mahle is a program coordinator, facilitator, and community builder living in Seattle, WA. He received his B.A. in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College in 2008. He has been involved in a variety of non-profit organizations since then, including several youth programs that he helped to launch. His personal mission is to support people in uniting across lines of difference to identify common values & goals, build culture & community resilience, and share powerful stories through creative expression. When he’s not working, he can be found running, hiking, writing music, and eating tasty bowls of cereal late at night.

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One Conversation: A Call to Men

One Billion RisingI had an incredible conversation with a complete stranger today. He was an older guy who happened to stop by the 1 Billion Rising local event that took place in downtown Seattle. As I was walking toward the small crowd of mostly women who were holding signs and dancing, he stopped me with a loud, “Hey, what is this ‘1 Billion Rising’ thing?”

When I told him that it was a global movement to end violence against women, launched by Vagina Monologues playwright, Eve Ensler, his voice softened and his eyes darted away.

He started telling me about how violence had affected so many of the women in his life. He began tearing up as he shared that most of the women he loves have been victims of sexual assault and/or abuse. He recalled spending 15 years with his ex-wife who, despite endless medications, could not overcome the depression she felt ever since the day she was sexually assaulted. I could see the hurt and sadness in his face as he told me that he couldn’t find any way to help her. His mother, he said, had also been a survivor.

Suddenly staring firmly at me, he said, “Women shouldn’t be treated this way. They are the life-givers; we owe everything to them.” He was visibly shaken.

I looked back at him and asked, “So what can we, as men, do to begin to transform this culture of violence against women?”

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Why Saying “Men Are Slaves To Their Sex Drive” Is Insulting To Men

Everyday FeminismThis week’s Change From Within post comes via Everyday Feminism:

I love my friend Nathan, but we disagree about pretty much everything.  Whether about economics or politics, religion or vegetarianism, we argue.

It’s a part of our friendship, and it’s (almost) always respectful and ends with a hug.  I love that we can disagree so much and still laugh and enjoy one another’s company.

But sometimes it gets pretty heated, like when we talk about the nature of men and women.

We fundamentally disagree about the role of biology versus socialization, nature versus nurture, in influencing the ways that men and women tend to act.

In one of the chapters from his “blogsperience,” Confessions of a Diarrhetic: Lessons of Love, Life, and the Ocean, he puts it this way:

“Women are better at commitment than men. This is because each of the sexes has a different job when it comes to the genetic imperative. Men are wired to spread their seed. We want to grow as strong and wealthy as possible so that we can have a large harem and the tribe will survive . . . So [today] men cheat. I’m not excusing it; I’m explaining it. We want to spread our seed as often as we can. This is one of the many reasons men are so drawn to pornography, you can have a new girl every time you fire up your computer!”  (Even if you disagree with him, consider giving Nathan’s “blogspierence” a read or listen. It’s definitely a captivating story).

He goes on to explain that this is why straight men and straight women can never truly be friends.

The guy is always trying to sleep with the girl while the girl thinks it’s just a friendship.  And he’s not the only dude to make this argument:

And you know what?  These guys are absolutely right.

So long as we continue to live by and construct our relationships around oppressive, patriarchal understandings of sex and gender, straight men and straight women cannot be friends, and for that matter, gay men can’t be friends with any other men. 

If men believe that they have no control over their “biological imperative” to “spread their seed,” then every friendship with a potential “mate” will be defined by a constant game where the man is endlessly jockeying for position to sleep with his “friend.”

The problem with this line of thinking, though, is that it presumes that men are not, in fact, human.

After all, whether you believe it’s divine endowment or an evolutionary outcome, pretty much every human being is capable of rational thought and will power.

This separates us from the “natural world” because, in essence, we have the ability to rationalize our way beyond simple biological urges and will ourselves to act differently.

True, there are probably lots of ways that gender norms are influenced by our hormone levels or our evolutionary biology.

But to say that we are simply slaves to these fundamental drives is to say that our power of cognition is no more powerful than, say, that of my friend’s dog who humps everything.

I find this line whole “men are slaves to their sexual desire” bit to be an insulting trope.  And the men who are reading this should too!

After all, if we as straight men are incapable of being true, genuine friends with women, it simply reinforces some pathetic stereotypes about men.

Sexual Attraction Is Nuanced

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism…

“This is My Body.” – A Feminist Manifesto

I feel like a bad blogger!  While I was able to put together a piece last week on Idle No More, the week before that I had a guest post up, and this week is similar.  It’s not because I’m not writing though!  I have two big pieces waiting in the wings as they are mulled over by a few larger publishers.  If they are not accepted for publication over there, I will publish them here.  So keep an eye out.

That said, I only have time in a given week to write one major blog post, and I put that energy this week into a piece that should be up on Everyday Feminism at some point in the near future.  So until I can share that one with my readers, check out this INCREDIBLY POWERFUL video.  It originally came out during the election campaign season when politician after politician was telling women what they should and should not be able to do with their own bodies.  Someone posted it the other day on Facebook, and I thought it deserved a share over here on Change From Within.

“Do not be afraid of a world in which women know themselves, their voice, and their power . . . That world has arrived.”

On Bitch: Hyper-Sensitivity or Resisting Oppression?

I hate the word bitch.  While I am at it, I hate the word cunt.

It sound sort of silly, hating a word.  I guess that it’s just that those words make my skin crawl.

I guess I should clarify further.  I hate when men use those words.

I used to say the word a lot.  I remember once when I was a first year in college, a female student was being kind of rude to me, so I said, “You don’t have to be a bitch!”  She turned to me, her expression exasperated, and said, “No matter how rude I have been to you, you have no right to make me less than yourself.  I am not your dog.”

That hit me.  From that moment forward, I decided I had no right to use the word.

During an rousing game of Dungeons and Dragons (yes . . . I play . . . on a weekly basis) on Monday in which all of our players are males, our characters (also all male) were fighting a female creature.  Multiple times during the game, frustration was expressed with, “That BITCH!” or victory was savored with, “Take That, Bitch!”

The first few times, I didn’t say anything.  After allowing my frustration to boil over, I yelled, “PLEASE Don’t Say That Word.”  Folks sort of laughed, and we went on with the game.  A little later it was said again, and I just shook my head.  Another player said, “Just don’t say it, if for nothing else, to avoid THAT.”  I responded, “It’s just disrespectful.  If I don’t like the word, it’s disrespectful to use it.”  The game proceeded with an air of tension.

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