Posts Tagged ‘gender liberation’

My Vision for the Future

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

It’s easy to point out what is wrong with the current gender roles, or to point out how feminism is incomplete and sometimes plain wrong. What’s harder though, is to be able to state a positive vision for the future, without pointing out all the negatives that can be identified in the gender debate.

So what I would like to do in this post is to simply list my vision for the future, i.e. how I would like men, women and gender roles to evolve. In the not too distant future, I would like the following bullet points to become a lived reality around the world:

  • Gender stereotypes have been completely transcended, and each individual is free to pursue the life path that he or she wants. No boy, girl, woman or man is shamed for having a certain interest, or for wanting to pursue a certain career or be a homemaker. Transcending stereotypes does not necessarily mean that men and women will make the same choices on a group level, since biological differences will still remain in the brain and in bodily makeup.
  • Biological differences between the brains of men and women will no longer be ignored, since scientific research clearly shows that such differences exist. However, biological differences aren’t overemphasized either, since everyone recognizes that each individual is biologically unique, and may not have a brain that corresponds to biological sex.
  • Feminism has been replaced by a gender liberation movement that cares equally about the well-being of both sexes.
  • It has become common knowledge that traditional gender roles arose as a reaction to historical circumstances, and that it made perfect sense at one point to have those gender roles, since they were a functional fit to the current conditions. This understanding enables women and men alike to relax, and to refrain from blaming the other sex for the negative baggage that each gender role has.
  • All legislation is gender neutral, including laws concerning military service and the draft. Gays and lesbians are allowed to get married and adopt children, just like anyone else, since there is no logical reason to uphold such discrimination.
  • Men and women recognize that a marriage is not only about love, it is also something that has a huge impact on your life as a whole. Because of this, men and women form agreements when getting married about what will happen to any children if they are divorced, and how each person will survive financially in case of divorce. Financial and social capital are both valued highly when forming such agreements.
  • Biological paternity and maternity are established on all newborns using DNA testing, and legal paternity and maternity correspond to the results of such testing, unless the child is put up for adoption.
  • Discrimination is frowned upon, as are people who try to blame their own shortcomings on discrimination.
  • Schools teach children relationship skills and emotional awareness, so that the children can grow up to use these skills in the workplace and in personal relationships. This decreases the violence that both sexes instigate in the home, and the violence that men perpetrate outside the home. It also lessens the emotional manipulation of girls and women.

What is your vision for the future?

Why Feminism Came First

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Feminism is a well-established movement around the world, and particularly strong in the most developed parts. In many European and North American countries, feminism is present in the media, in politics, in schools and in legislation. So not only did feminism manage to arise back in the 18th century, but it’s also been hugely successful at spreading its message and implementing change.

However, the masculist movement is conspicuously absent, as is a gender liberation movement that cares about both sexes. Why is this? Why did feminism come first?

The mainstream explanation is of course that women were oppressed while men were not, and therefore the need for feminism was pressing and the need for masculism was non-existent. I believe that explanation to be both simplistic and incorrect, since it is obvious that men too had a constricted gender role and very little real freedom.

I can see five important reasons as to why feminism arose first, and why men’s voices have been more or less completely absent from the gender debate:

1. The Female Value Sphere

Due to the very different gender roles of men and women throughout history, men’s and women’s value spheres have evolved very differently. I won’t describe the male and female value sphere in any detail, but what’s interesting for our purposes is that the female value sphere includes focusing on rights, care, nurturing – and dare I say it: complaining. Women have always been responsible for making sure that enough resources are available to raise a baby, and to do that you need to focus on your rights and complain when your needs are not being met.

This means that while women may not have had any official positions in the public sphere at the time that feminism arose, they were used to complaining when they weren’t happy about their situation. And to start a movement that protests against a perceived injustice, you need to be ready to complain.

2. Having Time To Analyze

In the 18th century, when feminism arose, upper and middle class women were the only group in society that had time to analyze their own situation, especially the ones with grown-up children or or no children at all. So the wealth created by men in the public sphere allowed women to start thinking beyond survival, while men were still preoccupied with performing and bringing in resources.

Similarly, in the 1960s, when feminism exploded into mainstream consciousness, the driving force was a large group of middle class women who had been well educated and also had a lot of free time to think about their own situation.

Having the time to think about one’s own situation, is obviously a prerequisite for becoming dissatisfied and wanting to implement change.

3. The Male Value Sphere

The male value sphere arose from men’s roles and responsibilities in the public sphere, and is thus very different from the female value sphere. The male value sphere focuses on getting things done and not complaining, preferably while being silent. These characteristics were essential to be efficient in the public sphere, especially when many men had to work together.

However, this means that men simply don’t have the instinct to complain, or to speak up about a perceived injustice. Men tend to know their place in the male hierarchy, and if they’re not happy about their personal circumstances, the solution has always been to work harder or work smarter, while complaining is generally seen as “unmanly” and as something that will expose one’s weakness.

4. In-Depth Analysis

The limitations of the male gender role are more subtle and covert than the limitations of the female gender role – and are thus harder to spot, unless our analysis is both wide and deep. Men have traditionally had access to money, which is something very tangible, as opposed to the more intangible social connections and social capital that women have access to. Men’s power in the public sphere has been visible, while women’s power in the private sphere has been invisible.

The feminist way of framing things has also made it harder to spot the constrictions of the male gender role, by turning the spotlight away from the plight of men. We all know about men’s dominance of the public sphere, but not men’s expendability in the public and private sphere. Men working long days away from home is considered a privilege, and not a sad story that prevents you from spending time with your children and getting to know them.

Not only did feminism come first, but once the feminist rhetoric was it place, it became very hard to even think the thought that men may be struggling within an impossible gender role.

5. Male Change Is Scary

We are so used to men building civilization and building wealth, that the very thought of changing the male gender role scares a lot of people, or perhaps it scares culture as a whole. I believe this is why the male gender role is even more narrow than the female gender role (which research indicates), and why we have so many ways of keeping men “manly” and keeping men in their performing role.

Who will take care of us if men aren’t there to risk their lives to save us from a fire, or if men aren’t ready to devote their lives to their careers for the benefit of society? We all depend on men to feel safe, and to have the wheels of civilization keep on turning.

In popular culture women are often portrayed as being dissappointed that men take them for granted. However, as a culture we probably take male sacrifice and male expendability more for granted than anything else.

What Now?

The image that emerges is one of men that are focused on performing and working, while not being used to complaining or thinking about the role they have. Women however, have no trouble complaining, and once history gave them the time to think about their own situation there were obvious examples available of how they were being shortchanged.

Furthermore, changing the male gender role is plain scary, because male expendability and male sacrifice make people feel safe. All in all this made feminism come first, before any masculism or neutral gender liberation movement.

Most men still have to pause and reflect upon their own situation, in part due to the male value sphere, but especially as feminism and the media tell them that they have all the advantages. I dearly hope that this is changing now, and that men are waking up and starting to find their authentic voices. Not only will this be good for men, but I suspect women are longing to connect to men who have this kind of self-awareness, and who can stand up for their own rights.

Men Are Expendable

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Throughout human history, and to this very day, societies around the world have tended to view female lives as more valuable than male lives. This sentiment is regularly expressed in a variety of ways. Women and children first. You should be ready to die protecting your woman and your family. A real man will fight for his country, and a coward will run off and avoid the draft.

Men have consciously or unconsciously always been considered to be the expendable or disposable sex. This may sound like a horrible stance, and it certainly is when viewed through a more modern and humanistic lens, but this way of looking at men is actually quite understandable when viewed through a historical and evolutionary lens. As I wrote in my previous post, the simplest way to understand the phenomenon of the disposable man is that women have always needed to be kept safe to ensure that the next generation is large enough for a culture to thrive, whereas it’s been beneficial to cultures to have men risk their lives in order to create wealth and influence. For now, however, let’s leave history behind and look at our own times.

If you have any familiarity with feminism at all, then you’ve probably heard (perhaps more times than you care to remember) that men are privileged. In a traditional society men are the ones who get to hold down jobs and have a salary, as well as have a voice and influence in the public sphere. Women, however, are confined to the home and not allowed to be part of the public sphere on the same terms as men. As true as this may be, the disadvantages of being responsible for the public sphere are rarely discussed in a feminist discourse.

The male responsibility to handle matters in the public sphere, comes with the expectation to risk your life or at the very least your health. Men are police officers, firemen, soldiers, miners, oil platform workers, construction workers and garbage collectors (yes, collecting garbage is more dangerous than you may have ever considered). Men do these jobs without complaining, and oftentimes without getting any special recognition for the dangers they face. Usually these jobs aren’t very well paid, nor considered high status.

Not all male jobs in the public sphere have been or are dangerous of course. However, the more well-paid jobs where you don’t face physical dangers, usually mean very long working hours and an expectation to work overtime. Having a successful career has usually meant that men have had to sacrifice spending time with their family and loved ones. So it’s actually very hard to think of a male job in the public sphere that hasn’t been accompanied by substantial sacrifice.

I think it’s perfectly OK to point out the imbalance between men and women that has existed in the public sphere, with women basically having been shut out for a very long time. However, to simply label this a form of male privilege, and not discuss the very obvious drawbacks and responsibilities that accompany men in the public sphere – is not something I’m comfortable with. If we are attempting to do a sophisticated analysis of gender roles in a traditional society, then we need to have as full a picture as possible of the situation. Pretending that men have been given a good deal at the expense of women is simply not accurate: men have paid a very high price for being responsible for the public sphere.

Transcending the notion that men are expendable, and uncovering the unconscious belief that the lives of women are more valuable than the lives of men, is something of primary importance in a gender liberation movement beyond feminism. This does not mean that men need to be stripped of their dangerous jobs, or that women should be forced to do exactly half of the dangerous jobs. Not at all! Men may actually be more prone to take on these roles and jobs due to a mixture of cultural expectations and biological traits, and we need to let men and women be free to choose the jobs they want.

What bothers me though is that the feminist agenda often pushes for equal salaries for men and women, while forgetting that every person (usually a man) performing a dangerous job should be compensated for this financially. We cannot expect men to keep on doing the dirty, dangerous, outdoor jobs while telling them that their wages are to be the same as women who do office tasks of similar qualifications but in safe, indoor settings.

It’s also crucial that we keep on improving the safety regulations in all professions where physical safety is an issue. Doing so will send a loud and clear message that we do care about the lives of men, and that no longer will men be considered expendable entities whose lives can be sacrificed in order to create wealth. If men can be considered to be intrinsically valuable, even when they do not perform, then we will have taken a huge leap towards gender liberation.

Feminism is a lousy name…

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

… for a movement that wants to create a better world by reforming gender roles.

I’ve often heard the claim that feminism is about achieving gender equality, and rectifying all kinds of social injustices that exist around the world. But there is a clear disparity between the word “feminism” and the agenda that the feminist movement claims to have. The word “feminism” implies a movement that focuses on women’s issues and women’s rights; it does not imply a movement that is working to reform gender roles for both sexes in a constructive manner.

At first glance this might seem like I’m nitpicking. After all, didn’t we need a women’s movement to allow women to enter the public sphere where they could work, vote and have their voice heard? We certainly did need (and in some countries still need) a movement that fought for women’s rights and responsibilities in the public sphere; however, I don’t believe that feminism was a good choice of name for such a movement. The intention that a name sets is tremendously important, and ‘feminism’ irrevocably sets the intention to only look at gender issues from women’s perspective, and to always assume that women get a bad deal in every situation – or at the very least a worse deal than men do. Furthermore, ‘feminism’ seems to imply that the end goal is a world where women are on top and where women dominate men.

I truly believe that a gender liberation movement was needed around the time that feminism arose, and that it has been needed ever since. What I don’t believe though is that it makes any sense to name such a movement ‘feminism’, whether we’re talking about the present day or the end of the 19th century when feminism crystallized into being. The intention to change gender roles for the better would have been much better served by calling it a “gender liberation movement” or a “gender equality movement”.

A gender liberation movement would be at liberty to look at gender issues freely, taking the perspectives of men and women as needed, thereby noticing that the gender role of men is as constricted as that of women. Men have a unique set of challenges to face, many of which are unknown or ignored by mainstream media, and as long as the word “feminism” denotes the only strong voice in the gender debate, then all male issues will continue to be suppressed. I’ll be writing a lot more about these men’s issues in coming posts, since I believe that men (and women) deserve a much more nuanced and accurate description of what gender roles really mean for both sexes, not only how women have been limited by their gender role.

Letting go of feminism wouldn’t mean any loss for women either, since a gender liberation movement would continue to look at all the issues women face, and work to improve them. In fact, I believe that a gender liberation movement would be much more effective in achieving real results, since men and women have co-created this world together, and we will only be able to change it by working together. The only thing that women stand to lose by letting go of feminism is the false sense of victimhood and entitlement that feminist theory can sometimes instill.

The time has come to move beyond feminism, and to liberate men and women alike. Are you ready to have your notions about gender issues challenged?