One of the many excellent things about Academic Remainders in Canberra is that I’ve been able to pick up a couple of good books on feminist and/or feminist queer studies. One of these, which I’ve just started in on, is Feminism and Masculinities, ed. Peter F. Murphy. It’s part of the Oxford Readings in Feminism series (I also picked up Feminism and Renaissance Studies, which I’m yet to read).
Feminism and Masculinities is an interesting book. I’ve read two of the articles, browsed a few more, and read the editor’s introduction. I love the concepts it explores: the relationship between patriarchal masculinity and homophobia; the ways that patriarchal masculine social structures are bound up in competition and power struggles; the common interests of gay rights activists and feminists (but also their different needs). Flicking through the contents list, it also looks like the collection is going to look at racial factors, which should be interesting.
Here, have my favourite quote from Jack Sawyer’s chapter, ‘On Male Liberation’ (quoted from pg 27):
In the increasing recognition of the right of women to participate equally in the affairs of the world, then, there is both a danger and a promise. The danger is that women might end up simply with an equal share of the action in the competitive, dehumanizing, exploitative system that men have created. The promise is that women and men might work together to create a system that provides equality to all and dominates no one. The women’s liberation movement has stressed that women are looking for a better model for human behaviour than has so far been created. Women are trying to become human, and men can do the same. Neither men nor women need to be limited by sex-role stereotypes that define ‘appropriate’ behaviour. The present roles for men and women fail to furnish adequate opportunities for human development. That one-half of the human race should be dominant and the other half should be submissive is incompatible with a notion of freedom. Freedom requires that there be no dominance and submission, but that all individuals be free to determine their own lives as equals.
Yeah. I could go on about why I like this quote, but let’s move on to the logic!fail.
This is a book entitled Feminism and Masculinities. It is a book which, in every chapter, enjoins men to work together with women to restructure the power-lines on which our society runs. It is a book which addresses other issues of oppression, such as homophobia and race.
It is a book with twenty chapters. Seventeen of them are written by men. None of them are co-written by women *and* men. The chapters written by women are bundled together at the back of the book, as sort of special guest panel.
I quote from John Stolenberg’s chapter, ‘Toward Gender Justice’:
In this model [the heterosexual model, which he is defining], men are the arbiters of human identity. From the time they are boys, men are programmed by the culture to refer exclusively to other men for validation of their self-worth. A man’s comfort and well-being are contingent upon the labor and nurture of women, but his identity – his ‘knowledge of who he is’ – can only be conferred and confirmed by other men.
Granting this fact (which I’m not sure that I do, given the number of men I’ve known to be dependent on their wives/girlfriends for validation): isn’t it just the tiniest bit counter-productive to produce a book about ‘feminism and masculinity’ which is dominated by male writers? In which none of these male authors have done what they advocate other men do, and actually worked with women in looking to define masculinity?
I’ve yet to get to the second half of the book – the half where the three chapters by women are found. But so far, it seems to me to be a book about masculinity, in the context of feminism. I’ve liked every single chapter, as a stand-alone item. But they seem to be strung together in a spirit of ‘what can feminism do for teh mens’, which, last I heard, was not what feminism is for.
Find me a book on feminism and masculinities which is co-edited by men and women, which has at least 1/3 female authors, and in which male and female scholars work *together* on co-authored articles in their respective disciplines… and then I’ll be impressed.
ed: well, hello, I don’t have a feminism tag or a gender tag. Or rather, I didn’t. Hello, new tags.