No, it’s not my job to teach you

“It’s your job to teach me about feminism. Now do it.” is a square on the sexist-bingo card, and it’s a trope that pops up in just about any other subject of the culture wars, be it racism or evolution (think of all the e-mails PZ and other famous atheists get that basically demand that the whole universe be explained to the writers of the emails, personally)or any number of other topics. When being a n00b, the attitude of feminists/atheists/etc of linking to previous discussions, suggesting reading material, or just flat-out refusing to get into the discussion can be frustrating*, and look very arrogant, cowardly, and generally off-putting. But it is a necessary tactic, since one’s free time is a limited resource, and having the same conversations over and over, for the benefit of just one individual, is neither an enjoyable nor an efficient use of one’s time.

For that reason alone, places like Pharyngula are so very precious and important. It might be the culture of valuing evidence-based discussion, or the knowledge that the discussion there is read by many people (so that any argument can inform more than just that one individual being adressed), or something else entirely, but a place where many knowledgeable people are willing to share their knowledge in personal discussion, and where these discussions are archived for posterity, is a very valuable resource. Similarly, places like the feminism101 blog, or the TalkOrigins Archive make it possible to shortcut many conversations by simply referring the person to already existing, laboriously collected, answers to their n00b questions.

What I really wish we had were similar repositories for links to, and summaries of, various scientific papers that support many of the feminist points (the name-on-resume study, various scholastic achievement studies, etc.). I used to have a vast collection of links to such studies, but I misplaced a lot of them, and sometimes finding them again is impossible, or at least very time-consuming. A nicely alphabetically sorted archive of feminist causes and the science to explain/support them would be epically useful, and linking to the whole archive would be a nice little “I’ve got science, what have YOU got” Fuck You to those who insist that feminists argue from emotion alone.

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*I admit freely to feeling that frustration as well. For example, I would not be opposed at all if SC just stopped doing anything else and taught me everything she knows. But unfortunately, I’ll have to do it myself, and just be grateful for the book suggestions :-)

Toxic Masculinity (part two)

Ok, so this is gonna be finally that essay on Toxic Masculinity and sex that I said I was gonna write.

Sex and Toxic Masculinity are an idiotically complex, convoluted and messy topic. This is because Manly Men are supposed to have lots of sex; in order to do that however, they have to be involved with those horribly deficient and nasty creatures called “women” (because having sex with men is what women do*, and is therefore feminine and therefore must be avoided at all costs by Manly Men). Prolonged exposure to these “women”, and being seen in their company, and worst of all enjoying their company could lead to ball-shrinkage and possible loss of penis, and therefore must be avoided at all costs. So, how do you have lots of sex with women, but still avoid being contaminated by their womenness?

The answer usually is to treat sex as something you take from and do to women, as opposed to something you do with and for them. Once women become the antagonists in the sex-game, sex not only stops being feminizing, but becomes actively masculinizing because it means having men “conquer” and “vanquish” women; when sex happens, it means the man won.

This has several effects on people. For one, the constant need to keep sex antagonistic requires a vast amount of toxic sludge being poured onto women, and relationships with them. Once upon a time, being married was considered a must for a gentlemen and properly established man. Now it’s a trap existing solely for the purpose of “taming” the man-beast, which men are taught to avoid. It still isn’t actually true that men don’t want relationships and commitment, but the culture teaches them that they aren’t supposed to want them, and in the most toxic environments are pressured into either avoiding them completely, or twisting them to their benefit (i.e. reducing the partner to a domestic slave and incubator either verbally or in fact; cheating; pretending that it’s not a relationship, but rather this crazed chick chasing after you).

Two, the interpretation that sex is antagonistic puts rape on a continuum with actual sex. When sex is not ever considered to be actually mutually consensual, but rather something that a man tricks or pressures a woman into doing(learning how to lower her defenses by various means is the premise of this nasty little book, which is a prime example of the antagonistic interpretation of sex), rape simply becomes the most extreme form of “getting sex from a woman”; and the concept of date rape becomes invisible altogether, since without the concept of true consensus, the only difference between sex and rape is physical force.

Three, toxic masculinity shapes the way women who grew up with it learn to interact with men, and with other women. This ranges from a form of self-hatred (similar to the self-hatred exhibited by black kids in the doll tests) and hatred of other women that causes some women to prefer being “one of the guys” rather than make friends with other women, to extreme territoriality in relationships (i.e. if your boyfriend tries to devalue you and your relationship by demeaning you and cheating on you, your only defense becomes keeping your man on a very short leash, and keeping all other women (except those “loyal” and “subordinate” to you) as far away as possible from him; remaining single is not an option), to accepting the role of evil harridan, because it is the only way you can get cooperation out of a toxic male**. IOW, toxic masculinity creates toxic femininity. And this in turn validates and strengthens Manly Men’s low opinion of women. A fucking vicious cycle.

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*no, I have no idea how lesbians figure into this, precisely.

**all of these are situations I got to personally witness in this glorious place called ND. Seems almost the only exception were the religious folks, where the guys treat the women like precious, pure and fragile dolls, and the women acted this angelic role out *facepalm*

Toxic Masculinity (Part One)

Toxic Masculinity (Part One)

This was supposed to be a single post, but then that sex conversation broke out on Pharyngula’s Endless Thread, and issues from that kept invading this as I was writing it. Since it was all rather tangential to my point here, I cut those bits out and will make a separate post about toxic masculinity and sex some other day. This post is about toxic masculinity and environmentalism.

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Toxic Masculinity is one of those “patriarchy hurts men, too” things; the “patriarchy” part is the part where men are better than women; the “hurts men” part is where having your dangly bits between your legs rather than on your chest is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being a man. For that, you must under all circumstances and at all times avoid accumulating women-points by doing or saying things that are considered feminine; best is to do the opposite of “feminine”, which of course then would be “masculine”, and gives you man-points.

Now, what precisely is considered feminine (and therefore having its opposite considered masculine) is almost completely arbitrary, but it’s one hell of a long list. It starts at such relatively harmless things as peeing while sitting down, but it also includes things that have real consequences to men (hence the “hurts men, too” part), like the weird belief that going to the doctor is “girly” unless you’re bleeding to death (and even then, you’d probably get extra man-points if you just sew your wound shut with spiderwire), so men miss out on a lot of preventive care because it’s not manly, and they end up suffering health consequences. This goes double for mental health; men are still more likely than women to commit suicide, and toxic masculinity is a main reason for that.

Toxic Masculinity has other, broader effects as well. Something I hadn’t much considered before, but am starting to notice more because it touches on issues I find important, is that it affects how far and how fast progressive changes to society can be advanced. Toxic masculinity seems always at the forefront of every imaginable backlash to progressive politics, most obviously of course in terms of women’s and LGBT rights (because they clash with the very basis of patriarchal thinking). But it also clashes with efforts to become more environmentally sustainable.

I’ve recently read this article from my free monthly trial of Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture (because I’m dirt-poor, and can’t afford subscriptions to these kinds of things :-p ) about meat consumption and masculinity. It talks about three commercials (this and this, and a third one I couldn’t find on youtube) which show manhood attacked by “chickfood”, i.e. small portions, veggies, tofu, et cetera. “Chickfood” stands in contrast to “manfood”, which in the first commercial are giant slabs of red meat, and in the second one it’s a ginormous, fatty burger. Now, why precisely healthy food is chickfood I don’t know (it’s probably some weird hunter-gatherer pretension where meat=manly, greenery=womanly), but it being “chickfood” means men must avoid it in order to avoid turning into girly-men. Now, the first problem is simply that this manly food is unhealthy, so being forced by the rules of toxic masculinity to eat it or else turn into a girl is already bad for men, on an individual level. On a societal level though, this also means that shifting away from highly processed foods, giant slabs of red meat and other highly inefficient forms of food threatens toxic masculinity, and as such is being actively hindered by this “eating less meat will turn you into a girl” peer-pressure/backlash. At the same time, the words “sustainable” and “organic”, and “vegetarian” are considered essential chickfood labels. And god forbid you actually go to a farmer’s market! On a Saturday morning, when every self-respecting manly man is recovering from a proper hangover!

And the same goes for transportation: the humvee AKA Hummer is most “manly” vehicle; a Honda Civic or a Toyota Prius already makes you pretty girly; a bicycle turns you immediately into a “bike fag”. And for saving electricity (what sort of man doesn’t have a ginormous entertainment center?! or wears a sweater, like that girly-man Carter?!), and for recycling, and for recreation (ATVs are manlier than biking and hiking), and for a whole bunch of other things.

So, the big question is: how do you move forward in creating a healthier, more sustainable society when men are being told that doing so will make their penis fall off?

Toxic Masculinity (part two)