Archive for the ‘Masculinity’ Category

Explaining rape culture to a man named Kyle

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

 

TW:  rape culture, victim-blaming

 

Today’s post is dedicated to Kyle, a fellow who recently left a comment on a SlutWalk themed-post that was first published in 2011. That piece was called “To our male allies: a challenge,” and if you follow the link you may read his thoughts in their entirety; I will only quote from it here. Be warned that the original post is triggering as hell!

 

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Dear Kyle,

Thank you for your interest in my blog. I don’t know what brought you here, but it’s obvious that you are exactly the sort of man that feminists like myself are trying to reach when we talk about rape culture.

This is one thing about feminism that rubs me the wrong way,” you wrote, “what do you all mean when you say that you want the right to ‘walk down the street and exist and not have to fear assault? I really don’t understand that.What are you saying? Do you not feel safe when you walk down the street?”

From your defensive, almost unbelievably naive viewpoint, I assume that you are the sort of person who has led a pretty charmed life. I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet my Replacements tickets  that you are a cis-gendered straight white male who is about to run to Google to research what the hell “cis-gendered” means. You haven’t met many people likely to challenge you on your rosy view of the world, but when you do, you say what you wrote in your comment to me:

“That sucks, but what exactly do you want me to do about it?” 

This is such a common reaction that it has its own meme. Several, actually. I like this one:

 

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You continue: “What do you want? More police on the street? Ankle tracking bracelets on all men? Is this even that big of a problem? Is there really an epidemic of rape going on, or are you all just sensationalizing a story and getting worked up into an irrational fear of the outside world?”

Kyle, this is the part of your comment that really breaks my heart. I’m totally serious. You can sit at a computer screen, with THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD at your fingertips, and still believe that rape and sexual assault might not be “even that big of a problem.”  But let me be clear: my heart does not break for you, Kyle, but for the women in your life.

Because, Kyle, you know women who have experienced rape and sexual assault. The Joyful Heart Foundation quotes a 2010 CDC study that found one in five American women are raped in their lifetime.

Think about the last time you gathered with your family, Kyle. Maybe it was for Easter, for a Passover seder, or just a birthday party. Were there five women in the room? Grandma, aunts, cousins, nieces? Maybe you were there with your wife and your daughters. One in five of those women is keeping a secret from you.

Why? Because you are an insensitive creep who would dare suggest that rape is not “even that big of a problem.” It’s not a problem to you, Kyle, because the stigmatization of survivors prevents them from telling you that they are part of you family, part of your community, part of your world. That’s what we mean by rape culture. If your daughter were robbed, no one would tell her that the theft was her fault, but the same would not be said if she were raped, especially if she were raped by someone she knows, which happens in 60 percent of cases.

You end your comment with this statement, the caps yours:

“If you want to feel safe, then YOU NEED TO STOP FEELING AFRAID.”

This is rape culture, Kyle. A statement like this makes sexual assault an issue to be resolved by victims, not perpetrators.

You say you don’t rape. That’s great. Now allow me to quote MYSELF from the 2011 post, the point of which you totally missed in your clumsy attempt to absolve yourself of any blame for sexism in America:

Help us end [rape culture], guys. We can’t do it without your help. We need you to speak out against this warped view of the world. You are not dogs, and we are not meat. We are all human beings who deserve respect, safety, and freedom.

I hope you’re listening, Kyle, and that you’ll allow compassion for the survivors in your life to soften your angry, defensive heart.

Sincerely,

The Radical Housewife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manuscript Monday: “Patriarchy and our sons”

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Hi readers!  Sorry I haven’t posted much lately, but it’s sorta hard to type when you’re hiding under your thickest blanket, scared to death not only of the bizarro Minnesota weather (nine inches of snow last week, eight inches more expected tonight) but also of the United States Senate.  And that thing that happened in Boston.

 

 

I can’t get over how young and vulnerable the boy in this photograph seems.  He’s a baby!  What the hell happened between the moment this picture was taken and the moment he decided to drop a bomb in a crowd full of people?  

As this face flashed across my television and computer screens myriad times over the last five days I flashed back to the intense, white-knuckled terror I felt in 1999 when, within weeks of each other, the Columbine tapes were released and discovered the sex of my first child.  

 

 

Since [my] angst-filled first pregnancy, I’ve become convinced that the greatest challenge of the 21st century women’s movement is to raise feminist boys who become feminist men.  I chanted this mantra to myself in 1999 to build up my confidence, to be sure, but the reality is that no part of our culture will change until men make it happen.

If you’ve forgotten, we live under patriarchy.  Men make the world go ‘round.  Women like Indira Gandhi of India, Golda Meir of Israel, Margaret Thatcher of the UK, Michelle Bachelet of Argentina, and our own Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are exceptions, but not the rule.  A 2007 report from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) discovered that  “women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the [world’s] food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property.”

Successful civil rights movements acknowledge that power can’t be shifted without the consent of the powerful.  Women got the vote by appealing to the consciences of their menfolk.  How will we upend patriarchy?  By raising a generation of boys who reject the rigidity of gendered society in favor of a balance of power that will ultimately benefit everybody.

Deeper minds than mine have probed the motives and psyches of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold; I cannot claim to improve on their work here.  But would these broken children have expressed their frustrations differently in a world less accepting of testosterone-fueled violence?  Could some gender flexibility instead of ingrained machismo have allowed Klebold to ask for help with his suicidal ideation?  Perhaps suicide was an inevitable outcome of his mental illness—chronic depression has as high a fatality rate as cancer—but where does a boy get the idea to kill others, too?

The prevailing wisdom is that Harris was an irredeemable psychopath.  Where does such a lack of empathy for others begin?  In the cradle, where boy babies are less likely than their sisters to be held when they cry?

Is it too radical to suggest that feminism could have prevented Columbine?  I don’t think so.  Feminism asks that we critically examine the interconnections between gender roles and social behavior, and there’s no better starting point for such a discussion than in our persistent, almost intractable, culture of violence.

 

 

So why the hell are you so angry, fellas?  Why, with virtually all the power on the planet, do you still need to hurt others?  Why do you, yourselves, hurt so badly?

Would you like to talk about it?

 

 

What a “family man” looks like

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Dear New York Times,

I would like to introduce you to a family man who loves football.  His name is Matt, and he is my husband and my kids’ father.

 

New York Times, I know that you will hide behind the fact that your source, Ruben Marshall, is the one who called a man who just committed a domestic homicide  “a good man. A good, loving father, a family man.”  You will say that you are merely repeating the, er,  “facts” of the case.

Hmm.

Let’s take a moment and look at the adorable little girl in this photograph, my daughter.  Isn’t she cute?

Back to you, New York Times.  If we move forward with the idea that you presented the story of a murder-suicide in all its complexity, then why didn’t you interview Becky Gonzalez?  You could have asked what she thought about the man who killed her daughter, Kasandra Perkins.  Though Jovan Belcher was the father of Gonzalez’s three-month-old granddaughter, Zoey, I HIGHLY DOUBT she would call Belcher a family man.  She might call him a sick fuck. A perpetrator of domestic violence and terror.  A murderer.

But you didn’t ask her, did you?

I quote my friend, the fab freelance feminist Erin Matson: “Imagine your sister, mom or friend being murdered by her boyfriend with their child in the next room and the newspaper story ending by calling him ‘a family man.’”

Once again, New York Times, I must ask that you look into the eyes of my cute daughter.  Perhaps your perception of any act of violence against her would be colored (pun very much intended) by the fact that she is very young, very blue-eyed blonde, and very much a football fan, not a football girlfriend.

Football girlfriends must subsume their cuteness and vulnerability to the service of their lovers.  Football players are HEROES, amirite?  Which is part of why you used heroic apologetics to describe the football player’s sudden and shocking death as if it were a bizarrely random tragedy, rather than what it really was: part and parcel of the seemingly intractable culture of violence that happens every day, to daughters, mothers and wives from all walks of life.

New York Times, you know that journalism does not occur in a vacuum.  Each writer and editor brings his (YES, HIS) perspective to his writing.  When you trot out “family man” tropes like these about men like Jovan Belcher, you trivialize the seriousness of domestic violence–and worst of all, you erase the stories and voices of women like Kasandra Perkins.  You contribute to the problem.

As a small act of repentance for your part in this culture of silence, I suggest you interview Perkins’ family and friends for their perspectives, then gather your editorial board to issue a strong statement in support of reauthorizing the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. VAWA has stalled in Congress due to political dithering that reflects the cultural myth that domestic violence is something weird, something “other,” something not worthy of our Congress’s time and energy, when the truth is that domestic violence impacts 24 people in the United States every minute. 

And if you need a family man to profile for an upcoming issue of the Sunday magazine, my husband’s schedule is WIDE OPEN.

xoxo,

The Radical Housewife

 

 

Guns, tears, and American manhood (again)

Friday, July 20th, 2012

I wrote this essay for the Minnesota Women’s Press in April 2007, but they didn’t use it, so I published it on my old MySpace blog (remember MySpace?) on May 2, 2007.  I reprinted it on Blogger on January 11, 2011, after the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  Now that our country is reeling from YET ANOTHER MASS SHOOTING, I figured it might be time to run it again.

GUNS, TEARS, AND AMERICAN MANHOOD

by Shannon Drury

I am happy to admit it, totally honestly, without a trace of irony: I’m a Fanjaya. That is, an honest to goodness fan of Sanjaya Malakar, the 17-year-old American Idol contestant whose wacky hairdos and wobbly vocals made him a target for derision from the web to the grocery tabloids to network news. I participate in pop culture silliness as much as anyone (I still have my Spice Girls dolls, mint in their boxes!), but I genuinely love this kid. In fact, I’ve had a mom-crush on him ever since his first audition in Seattle, long before he shocked the nation with his pony-hawk.

Shall I break for another pop culture definition? A mom-crush occurs when an adorable kid provokes a powerful desire to pinch the object’s cute cheeks and serve him or her homemade cookies. In common usage, one might say: “I hope they never recast the stars of the Harry Potter movies. I have a mom-crush on all three of them.” And Sanjaya definitely had the toothy grin and the goofball charm to win over the stoniest mom in America. When he wept openly after his older sister was cut from the competition, I felt a bit teary myself. Who sees a boy cry on television at all, much less out of genuine tenderness and emotion? I loved it. He was my Idol pick, no matter how he styled his hair.

But fellow moms and Idol geeks like my friends Pam and Liz thought I was nuts when I confessed that I was dialing for Sanjaya. “Are you serious?” Pam squawked. He was terrible! Liz e-mailed. These are sensitive, loving women who are both capable of serious mom-crushing. But eventually, I realized what made them immune to Sanjaya’s charms.

Neither were mothers of sons.

Now someone else’s son is in the news, and for something far more disturbing than off-key singing: on April 16, 2007 Seung-Hui Cho opened fire on his university campus in Virginia and killed 32 people before turning the gun on himself. Media coverage after the massacre followed a predictable pattern, with a parade of pundits expounding on gun control laws, why students ought to own guns, pervasive mental illness, the civil rights of mentally ill persons, violence on television, violence in video games, the logistics of campus lockdowns, and more. All that changed the day NBC announced it had received a package from the killer himself, containing videos and photographs of himself decked out in his murderous finery.

In one image, Cho brandishes two firearms, holding them from his ammo-clad body at right angles, his face glowering with rage. It’s too perfect. It could have easily come from any grindhouse movie; hell, it could have come from the movie Grindhouse. This is not to blame Hollywood, but to recognize the image’s brutal allure. In America, we love power. We need it; we feed on it. The power that comes from violence is the cheapest and easiest available to those who are the weakest among us.

I was pregnant with my first child when the home video footage made by the two Columbine killers was made public, to be shown 24/7 by news outlets in a desperate attempt to understand what these boys had done.

Not long before, a fuzzy black and white ultrasound revealed that I was going to have a little boy of my own. Two television screens, showing two separate images of boys in America. My typical first-time mom jitters gave way to full-blown panic. There was no chapter in What to Expect When You’re Expecting about this. What on earth was I going to do with my American boy?

Fast forward seven years and I still don’t know. No one else seems to either. Seung-Hui Cho, despite a youth spent in South Korea, idolized the Columbine killers as “martyrs.” I adore my boy, but I fear for him. No talk show or how-to book is going to sort this mess out. But maybe one boy’s spontaneous tears on the country’s most popular television show will help.

I know I had best not pin all my hopes on this one American boy, a reality TV star at that. Of all media icons they tend to have the shortest shelf lives. I have a lot of difficult, ugly parenting work ahead of me, and Sanjaya will be busy just growing up. I thank him for the courage he displayed on the show week after week—and I’m not talking about the spectacularly funny hairdos. It takes guts to be yourself in America these days. It takes strength to take chances, to stand up to criticism, and to cry when it’s all over. That’s a kind of power that is neither easy nor cheap, but it will last him a lifetime.

I hope his mother is proud.

 

After I posted this piece to Blogger in 2011, I received the following comment:

I am Sanjayas mother and I am very proud of him. To raise a sensitive, compassionate, grounded young man in our culture was not easy. It made me cry to hear another woman facing the same challenges to raise a boy within a culture that glorifies violent,macho images of young men. Sure Sanjaya was called gay and teased for his love of baking and knitting. One day,
I’m sure he will make a woman very happy, and most likely will raise his own son,the next generation of conscious, balanced and sensitive men.

Was it the real deal?  I sure hope so.  In the meantime, I’m gonna check in with the rest of the Fanjayas over at www.sanjayamalakar.com.  He’s even selling Team Sanjaya t-shirts, bless his heart!!

 

 

Against Daddy Dearests, biological or mythological

Monday, February 13th, 2012

On February 3, George F. Will published a column called “Lifting Up the Fatherless,” which at first glance looks like so many other “boo hoo, poor boys without fathers” handwringers until you get to the fifth paragraph.

Born to an unmarried, mentally ill prostitute, [Robert Lewis "Sugar Bear" Jackson] acquired his interest in driving from his grandfather, who would drive around the block with Sugar Bear in his lap. Not until Sugar Bear was 25 did he learn that his grandfather was his father, too, having had a sexual relationship with Sugar Bear’s mother.

Don’t you love the nimble use of the euphemism “sexual relationship” to define incest, an act that rarely occurs between consenting adults?  Especially not when one of them is already identified as having a mental illness?  I suppose the word “RAPE” is too unsettling for a guy who wears a bow tie.

Sugar Bear grew up mostly on the streets, episodically drifting into and out of the care, such as it was, of various female relatives.

Will doesn’t state that Sugar Bear would have been better off in the care of his rapist father/grandfather instead of “female relatives,” but I felt the correlation was strong enough to say so on my Facebook page.  A couple of readers thought I went a bit far in chastizing Ol’ Bow Tie, and perhaps they’re right.  I’m just very sensitive to the assumption that children suffer without a dude in their lives, for that assumption leads us down this stupid path:

Rick Santorum Dwells on Gay Marriage: he suggests to a New Hampshire audience that an imprisoned father is preferable to a same-sex parent (Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2012).

!!!  Emphasis mine!!!  Because any time I get even the faintest whiff of the suggestion that my friends Morgan, Mia, and Margaret are somehow not being loved adequately because neither of their parents has a dick, I want to scream!!!!!  And explode into a fiery ball of exclamation points!!!!!!!

Happily, a Facebook reader recognized that the fault lies neither with Will, the editor who crafted his column’s headline, or with Frothy Mix, for that matter.  We remain such a grossly sexist society that whenever something goes wrong, we’re quick to assume that a MAN ought to be able to fix it–in the case of Will’s column, a closer reading reveals that MAN not to be Sugar Bear’s bio-dad after all, but MAN some folks believe is The Good Lord Himself™.  As this reader so brilliantly wrote on my FB wall: “I object to the insinuation that biological or mythological fathers are the only options for good role models.

Right on!  Sugar Bear was failed by much more than his father/grandfather/heavenly father.  Social problems as tough as entrenched poverty and mental illness aren’t going to be fixed with a Dad shaped band-aid.

(Confidential to the rad mom formerly known as Spike Laird: please don’t start a blog.  I have enough competition already.)

Interested in the thoughts of an actual honest-to-gosh cis-fella, I turned to the Radical Hubby.  “Oh whatever,” he huffed.  “People tell themselves that crap all the time.  I’m a good father, so I’m the reason that my kids aren’t in prison.*  When the truth is we are all a mess of nature versus nurture versus all the other bullshit the world throws at us.  Kids need people who love them.  Period.”

Yep.

 

 

*Matt is a wonderful parent, by the way.  He’s a great believer in quantity time as well as quality time.  Still, when my son was old enough to realize that his best buddy had two moms, he whined: “WHAT? Mo has two moms but I only get ONE? That’s not fair!”**

**True story!

To those who would accuse me of misandry

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
…I give you one of my favorite scenes from “Some Like it Hot.”

Googling TOM HACKBARTH (and other misogynists)

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

I noticed an unusual amount of traffic on Ye Olde Blogge lately, most of it centered around my November post about Minnesota representative Tom Hackbarth. Remember him? He’s the exurban pro-lifer who was caught packing heat in the parking lot of St. Paul Planned Parenthood, then defended himself by admitting that he was stalking a woman he met online (an alibi that Scott Roeder’s attorney regrets not dreaming up first). Here’s what Tom Hackbarth looks like:

Nothing too interesting there–just the typically smug expression of an entitled white dude, (amirite, Cackle of Rads?). He lacks the clearly cuckoo-bananas visage of alleged murderer and admitted misogynist Jared Loughner. Ahh, I get it now! Journos, looking for a fresh angle on the Loughner story, are digging for stories about other well-armed men who get crabby when women tell them NO.
Loughner: “Its funny….when..they say lets go on a date about 3 times…and they dont…go….”
Hackbarth: “She gave me some line of baloney, and I thought, ‘well, she’s fibbing to me.’ You could tell, and I thought ‘well, I’m going to check it out.’ And I went there to see if she was around and her vehicle was not there. And I was just checking on her.”
When Googlers remembered ol’ Tommy and revisited his case, they found ME! To my delight, my blog post ranks just above Tom’s Wikipedia page on a Google search. At last, I have found how to increase my readership: TOM HACKBARTH! TOM HACKBARTH! TOM HACKBARTH!
Welcome, new readers! I hope you’ll return to my site in the future, as my goal of redefining family values includes exposing what Amanda Marcotte calls “anxious masculinity” and its part in perpetuating violence against …. everybody. Men, remember: this is your problem, too. Three men were killed when Loughner attacked. A man named John Green buried his nine-year-old daughter; other men lost loved ones, too. Sexism hurts everyone. Google that if you don’t believe me.