Masculinism, Feminism, and the power of labels

I was ready to explode in your face here with a rant about masculinism. I just recently stumbled across the term itself and naïve me thought “ah, yeah, I know that, that is when men join the feminist cause and challenge dominant gender roles that also oppress men.”
Except for: the website I stumbled upon (named genderama) is nothing quite like that. Expressions like “oh so patriarchal Berlin” and “femocratic German politics” are used when referring to how men are oppressed in Germany. Politically. And Socially. And Economically. Of course. What?

via wallacethinksagain.blogspot.com

Let’s just graciously ignore the fact that polemic expressions never rarely make for a good argument. That still leaves us with the notion that German politics are femocratic. Ermh, yeah, because the last 5 chancellors were women…right? And because the German parliament is famous for its female parliamentarians outnumbering the male ones…right? Because there is a long tradition of German cabinets consisting of more women than men….right? Yes, we all know the answer is no to all of these quassumptions (which is my clever combination of question and assumption, ha!), so how in the world might the author over at genderama speak of femocratic structures?
Because there are quotas to ensure female presence in political parties? Because affirmative action is pursued by actively encouraging women (and people with a background in migration or people with special needs) to not only apply for jobs, but to pick them for the job rather than a man when they are equally qualified for it?
Now mind you, of course I applaud you for being critical of affirmative action. However, we might start asking: In how far does it even work? Because let’s face it: Neither in politics, nor in the media, nor in the realm of economic elites, nor in academics (and let’s not even talk about religion, shall we?) are women OVERrepresented, let alone equally represented. Far from it. So what in the world gives the author of the-blog-that-shall-not-be-named-again the idea that all these men THAT ARE OVERREPRESENTED IN ALL OF THE ABOVE REALMS actually work against themselves and submit willingly to female domination and oppression? Okaaaaay, I admit, writing in caps technically qualifies as polemic writing, which I discredited above (but only to some extent, heehee), so I should rather say… Yeah well, what? The question I just asked is a real question: Does anyone know? Because I don’t fucking get it.
Well, yes, of course I have my ideas (who’da thunk it?), so let me just speculate:
Mr. Blogauthor feels threatened by feminism, because he feels that the power and privilege that he should actually possess based on his sex/gender/whatever, justified by conservative ideologies of patriarchal bliss, are threatened by it. I don’t think he actually feels threatened by particular women per se, only to the extent that they all act up and don’t stay in their place. So discrediting feminism by claiming all it does is discriminating against boys and really just oppress men is an easy way to construct a scapegoat, drag it to the slaughterhouse and shoot it in the head.
It’s just that the bullet misses its target. By about a thousand miles.

via gapersblock.com

The headline says something about the power of labels, and it is important. Because as much as I’d like to slam masculinism as some stoopid fuckery, that would really just be me being super immature, un-reflected and narrow minded. Because of course, masculinism, just as feminism is not one block of unitary wisdom, but a label that groups together the most diverse of opinions and agendas. So there are also those masculisnists, who really are joining a (and not the) feminist cause, in that they struggle to reveal the gender roles and assumptions that inform our lives and create patterns of patriarchy that oppress women, but also work against many things that men should care about.

via waynemellinger.blog.friendster.com

So, to end this tale, I’ll serve you the morale:
My definition of feminism is of course not THE definition of feminism, it’s really just mine (though I think a few people share it), even if I’d really love it to be The Definition. Ha. But what my definition entails, is the belief that identities are complex constructions and modes of discrimination and oppression cannot be evaluated in a hierarchical system. That means that my definition of feminism tries to incorporate both men and women, because it thinks that gender relations are (as the term itself already states) not one-sided, but work both ways, and they work both good and bad. This means that as a man I might find myself in multiple situations of oppression and discrimination, and although I am not a woman, I firmly believe that it is this brand of feminism that is able to counteract and eventually end my experiencing of oppression and discrimination. I want to make explicit that I did not write about questions of racist structures and questions of dis*ability, but they are integral constituents of my definition of feminism. I’ll elaborate on that in the future, I guess.

via novaseeker.files.wordpress.com

So: Yay feminism! And yay progressive masculinism (that really is also feminism with a different label)! Yay!

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3 thoughts on “Masculinism, Feminism, and the power of labels

  1. I think “Gender Equalist” is the most progressive label for this whole thing.
    Feminism/Masculism are only effective when they’re gender specific labels for the gender-neutral ideal. (Though each are not necessarily gender equal.)

    I decided to cut the middleman and when from “masculist” to “gender equalist.”

    Too often have a listened to body image frustration/ male bashing dressed up as “progressive/whitty/ no-nonsense feminism” it’s socially acceptable sexism is what it’s become.
    And sexism has historically been at it’s worst when it’s socially acceptable.

    1. I have to admit that I am not entirely sure what you are trying to say here, but what I think you’re saying is not something that I’d consent to right away.
      I actually think choosing the term gender equalist is the easy way out. Anyone can take up that label and apply it to her_himself. However, choosing to label oneself as a feminist makes a statement about what you think is wrong within society, what you would like to see change.
      As far as my understanding of the label feminist goes, I believe that androcentric sexism is an underlying structure to basically any human society. Changes are visible, as is resistance, but there is still a lot to be done in order to achieve equality that ensures that women (or better: all genders who do not identify as male) are not structurally oppressed anymore.
      What I was trying to say in the article is that labeling oneself as a masculist can be both: affirming that there are sexist structures that also oppress a lot of men in their conception of masculinity, but it can also be a conservative and reactionist move to deny that any such disadvantage for women actually exists and that there should be something done about it.
      And that is where I have a slight problem with your comment: the last part of it seems to be feminism-bashing for no particular reason. I am not saying that anyone applying the label of feminism to her_himself is right, a lot of people do so and say terribly sexist things, that’s true. But then again I’d like you to be more specific about what sort of feminism you’re criticising here. Because many feminists strive for gender-equality, they are trying to liberate both women and men from oppressive structures that many of us have to encounter and/or fight in our everday lives.
      and now a nice comic on the issue: http://fudgethatsugar.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/105-feminist/

  2. You raise very fair, valid points.

    “I am not saying that anyone applying the label of feminism to her_himself is right, a lot of people do so and say terribly sexist things, that’s true. But then again I’d like you to be more specific about what sort of feminism you’re criticising here.”
    Yes, I have heard people applying that label say very sexist things.
    I didn’t have specific quotes/cited examples in mind when I made the above statement, in hindsight that would have been very useful.

    My intention is not to BASH feminism, or say that they’re all bad.

    The point I wanted to raise was that “feminism” (defined as “avocation of woman’s rights/privileges), in itself doesn’t necessarily entail/endorse gender equality.

    There was a brief time I identified myself as “masculist”, but decided the movement was only progressive if it worked toward gender equality.
    (Thus deciding to “cut the middle man” and call myself “gender equalist”. The idea was to subscribe to an ideal the transcended gender.)

    You said “easy way out.”
    Easy way out of what?
    Sometimes a decision is difficult because it’s the wrong decision. (haha)

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