And What If We Like It?

February 2nd, 2010 by Pelle Billing

One of the key findings of the men’s movement is that defining feature of the male gender role is disposability. Throughout history, men have been expected to sacrifice their lives in wars, accidents and dangerous jobs. The influence men have had on society has invariably been coupled to this willingness to take on dangerous, heavy and dirty tasks that nobody really wants to perform. Helping men realize that being disposable is no longer necessary in modern and postmodern societies is a big step forward, and enables men to let go of the learned helpnessless that characterizes many men when they sacrifice their own life without knowing why. In some ways, there is a direct parallell here to the women’s movement helping women realize that they do not need to be housewives; instead they can work and earn their own living, just like men.

So far so good. But what happens if liberated men continue to choose jobs that are dangerous, and liberated women choose to stay at home with the kids (part-time or full-time)? Does this mean that we’ve gotten nowhere in our struggle to help liberate the sexes?

The distinction that needs to be made here is that truly realizing what options you have, and what choices you actually make, are two completely different things. If I know that I as a man do not have more of a responsibility to be a police officer than a women has, then I have been liberated from my gender role, regardless of whether I choose to actually be a police officer or not. Similarly, a woman has been liberated from her traditional gender role if she knows that she has every option to prioritize her career-even if she then proceeds to focus most of her time on having a family.

In my opinion, the reason that we even focus on the actual choices of the sexes to determine whether we have reached some sort of gender equality, is due to the fact that mainstream feminism has repeatedly taught us that we aren’t equal until women work as much as men do outside the home. This narrow focus on making the sexes identical, has very little to do with gender liberation. Gender equality need not mean gender sameness, regardless of what we have been led to believe.

There is a lot of work still to be done for the men’s movement. Men are still committing suicide far too often, most of the homeless are men, boys are performing badly in school, men are removed from their children after divorces, etc etc. But as we are working to change the conditions for men, let us not make the mistake of telling men how to behave, or what kind of lifestyle is “approved”. Feminism has already walked down that path once, and it simply doesn’t work.

3 Responses to “And What If We Like It?”

  1. hopeless_case Says:

    Very nicely done, Pelle.

    One thing that distinguishes your posts is how you often focus on gaining perspective (identifying issues and weighing their relative importance) instead of trying to make the most persuasive case for alarm. I think that sort of writing is very rare.

    I also like the way you keep returning to your understanding of the root causes of restrictive gender roles (men are expected to take risks and women are expected to raise families).

    Feminism has already walked down that path once, and it simply doesn’t work.

    If by “work” you mean achieve liberation from gender roles, then point taken.

    I think some people have very different definitions of “work”, though, having more to do with the shifting of resources around and the creation of various priesthoods to govern society. By those definitions, feminism has been a smashing success.

  2. Danny Says:

    This somewhat ties into your “Womena and Children First” thread.

    Over on that thread our fellow commentor John stood firmly on his high horse to declare that any man that does not give his life up for a woman is slime. Now if he chooses to do such a thing great and I’m sure he will be remembered well. However I still say that if he (or anyone for that matter) chooses not to do such a thing that is NOT grounds to question their manhood or insult them. (On a slight relation I ask how fair is it to call a woman’s womanhood into question because she has an abortion or chooses not to have children?)

    And speaking of being remembered well I was under the impression that people who make the ultimate sacrifice such as that were remembered and honored in such a manner because they CHOSE to go beyond standard expectation. People in the military that go off to fight for our country get all kinds of respect from me because they are doing something that I know I could never bring myself to do (and that is to willfully put myself in a life or death position of “its him/her or me”). Same thing with disasters. The people who give up their lives are honored because the chose to do so.

    But to call going above and beyond a standard used to weed out the “slime” from “the real men” pretty much serves as a way to cheapen the sacrifice of those that make that choice by shaming those that don’t into doing what is supposedly not expected of them.

  3. hopeless_case Says:

    Danny:

    But to call going above and beyond a standard used to weed out the “slime” from “the real men” pretty much serves as a way to cheapen the sacrifice of those that make that choice by shaming those that don’t into doing what is supposedly not expected of them.

    Exactly.

    I’ve been reflecting on our back-and-forth with John in the other thread with and I find it interesting what a powerful technique it is to keep returning to your basic assumptions and to continue to state the ones the other side refuses to acknowledge.

    John keeps switching back and forth between the idea that ethics matter and the idea that questions of ethics are no more important than how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    It reminds me of something Benjamin Franklin once said. I am probably not reproducing it exactly, but the gist was: Even between divines, arguments always reduce to one side saying “It is so” and the other saying “It is not so”.

    I have noticed that a lot of dishonest discourse consists of obscuring the list of assertions you are really making while still asserting them. Backhanded assertion, you might call it.


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