The Feministing Five: Michael Kimmel

michael-kimmel.jpgMichael Kimmel is an author, teacher and activist, and is widely acknowledged as America’s most prominent and prolific scholar on masculinity. Kimmel is the author of a staggering number of books, including Men Confront Pornography, The History of Men, The Gendered Society and Manhood in America (noticing a theme?). Most recently, Kimmel’s book Guyland examined the lives of young American men. To write it, Kimmel interviewed hundreds of men between the ages of 15 and 25, using their words and his expertise to draw a frightening picture of young American manhood today. Luckily, Kimmel has a one-word solution to the problem: feminism.
Kimmel lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Amy Aronson, with whom he frequently co-writes, and their 10-year-old son Zachary, a budding male feminist. He is a Professor of Sociology at SUNY Stonybrook, where he teaches on gender and masculinity, and has taught and lectured all over the world. He is also a frequent contributor at The Huffington Post. And as if all this wasn’t impressive enough, last year he was brought in as a consultant on gender politics during the production of Feministing’s favorite TV show, Mad Men.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Michael Kimmel.


Chloe Angyal: What led you to become involved in studying gender and feminism, and specifically in studying and writing about masculinity?
Michael Kimmel: I became an activist to engage men in gender equality over thirty years ago, when I was part of the group that founded an organization called Santa Cruz Men Against Rape. And that was my first actual political engagement. But even prior to that, I had had some involvement with people who worked in the anti-violence community, particularly working in shelters, and some of the experiences that I had just touched me so deeply that I felt I had to do something about this.
When I was in graduate school, my partner was working at a shelter. We had a car that didn’t have an automatic transmission; it had a stick-shift, and she didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. So what that meant was that occasionally, when women had to go to the shelter, or go to the hospital, or get their kids out of the house, I drove them. Growing up on Long Island, I had lived a very comfortable, very – pun not intended – sheltered life. And I really had no clue of what was going on, until I was driving these women, and one woman was there with broken limbs and a fractured jaw, and through her fractured jaw, she said, “Sometimes I deserve it, but this time I didn’t.” And that really does something to do.
So I announced to my partner one day that I was going to come and work at the shelter, and she said, “Well you can’t. The only reason you even know where it is is that I don’t drive a stick-shift, and you can’t possibly come to work there.” And I said, “I really want to do something about this.” And she said, “I have an idea: Why don’t you go talk to the men who beat the women up?” And looked at her, like, “Are you out of your mind? I don’t want to go talk to them. I don’t like them. They beat women up; they’re bad guys.” And she said, “Look, you have a natural constituency of half the human race. Go talk to them.” So that was the moment that I committed myself to working with men. I worked with men who were court-mandated batterers for a while, and when I moved to Santa Cruz, I was a part of the founding of this organization, and then a few years later, I was part of the group of men who founded the National Organization of Men Against Sexism.
So I started my work on this as an activist, not as a scholar, and not as a teacher. And then when I got my first teaching job, I was an activist and teaching my nice, normal regular classes at Rutgers, and then one day I gave a talk at a Take Back the Night rally, and one of my students heard me and said, “That was really interesting; have you ever given any thought to teaching a course about masculinity?” And at the time, no such course existed, and I thought, well, maybe I’ll do that. So I went to my Dean and my Chair and told them I wanted to do this and they thought it was a great idea, and so, I developed this course. And it struck a nerve on campus, because there were hundreds of students who wanted to take it. And when you want to teach a new course, you have to go find readings for it, but in 1983 for the first course ever in the state of New Jersey on men and masculinity, there were no readings. That first semester, we were reading things out of newspapers and magazines. We read Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche as one of the required texts. We read anything we could find. So it was through that that I began to develop a pedagogical interest in teaching about masculinity and finding work that could be appropriate for teaching. And it was through that that I identified the holes and gaps in scholarship that I then proceeded to try to fill.
Since that time, I have maintained a foot in each camp – I’m an academic researcher, and I write books and articles about masculinity, and I’m also trying to build a subfield of Gender Studies called Masculinity Studies, and so I founded the premier journal in the field, and books series and things like that. But at the same time, I maintain my work as an activist. I still work with NOMAS and with other organizations. I worked as the organizer for this conference that’s taking place in November, for campus-based gender equality and anti-violence groups, that will have groups coming in from all over the country and will also include representatives from all the major organizations that work with men on campuses like VMen and Men Can Stop Rape and MVP and the White Ribbon Campaign.
CA: Who is your favorite fictional heroine?
MK: I like Dorothea from Middlemarch. I like Emma. I even like Madame Bovary. Anyone who bumps up against the constraints of traditional femininity has always warmed my heart. Those are the first few that come to mind immediately, but so many great novels are about women who are straining against and trying to break through the constraints of traditional femininity, and those are the women I’ve always been drawn to.
CA: Who are your heroines in real life?

MK:
The first one that comes to mind is Charlotte Perkins Gilman, because as a sociologist, I think she really saw some of the problems with the over-psychologized, individual, simply-overcome-the-situation model. She touched on everything that, as a sociologist and an activist, I wrestle with all the time. So she’s always been a heroine to me.
Gloria Steinem, for sure, and not only because she’s been the figurehead for American feminism for fifty years. But also because of her unbelievable grace in the kind of vilification that she’s gotten from the right and from anti-feminists over those fifty years. She’s an amazingly gracious and emotionally available person, and she’s deeply respectful of women, so I’ve always admired her.
And my wife, who is another heroine of mine, is writing a biography of Crystal Eastman, who is a real heroine. She understood how the Peace Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement and the movement for free speech were all intimately connected, as they were in her life, and how you can’t really answer one without addressing the others.
CA: What recent news story made you want to scream?
MK: Well, of course, Roman Polanski. The kind of weasely equivocating going on among artists, particularly among people who have traditionally been astute enough to understand the dilemmas for women in speaking about rape and sexual assault. People like Whoopi Goldberg; her behavior was truly shameful. The coverage of the story has been so much about how the artistic community has rallied to his defense, and how you can do anything you want if you’re a good film director. And the notion that, because it was a long time ago, he’s somehow exempt from prosecution. It’s truly amazing that, this is a guy who raped a 13-year-old girl, and the artistic community is saying, “Yeah, but it was a really long time ago,” and, “Yeah but, he’s a really great director,” and, “Yeah, but he’s paid his dues.” In what way?
CA: What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge facing feminism today?
MK: I think there are two. One is the simple maintenance problem, and I think here that the news is rather good. When I say “maintain,” I mean this: After an onslaught of forty or fifty years of determined efforts to shift women’s lives backwards, from court decisions and congressional efforts to rein women in, despite that, women’s lives have improved markedly. Women have shattered glass ceilings, even as they continue to bump up against others. Women’s lives are truly safer, because we have problematized and made illegal things that we used to take for granted, like marital rape and date rape and sexual assault and sexual harassment, so that these things are now actionable and illegal, rather than simply how people are. I think it’s undeniable that women’s lives have improved, despite an onslaught of backlash against it, which has really been concerted, well-funded and quite vitriolic. So the problem for feminists today is to simply maintain, and to keep their eyes on the prize, and not be seduced into conversations about false issues with people who really don’t care about women’s lives at all.
For example, gender symmetry in domestic violence. I think we have to arm ourselves to have those kinds of conversations so that we can engage with people who say things like that, and somehow move the conversation elsewhere. So take the assertion that women hit men as often as men hit women. Rather than quibbling about it – and anyone who really looks at any data knows that’s really not true – but let’s just say it is true. You make that argument to me and say, “You know what, women hit men just as much as men hit women,” and I’d say, “That’s exactly right. And that’s why we need to double all the funding nationwide for spousal abuse. We really have to double it, and we should campaign together. Especially because, if we have a whole bunch of better-funded programs for people who have been beaten by their spouses, then more of those men who you think are victims, who are so ashamed to come forward because it so damages their masculinity, will come forward because we’ll have a place for them.”
It is sort of weird and a bit discomforting for me to offer advice to feminists as a group, being a man, but what I would say is that the group that feels that it has nothing to gain from feminism, and that feminism has nothing to do with them, is men. And I think that that’s the reason that women are faced with such draconian choices between opting out and balancing work and family, because men haven’t stepped up and aren’t doing as much housework and childcare as women need them to do in order for women to be able to balance work and family. And my argument here is that the group that has to be embraced by feminism is men – although, I hasten to add that it’s not your job. That should be our job. We should be doing that.
The biggest mistake we make is to assume – and men often think this – that gender equality is a zero-sum game. That if women win, then men are going to lose. And I think what we have to do is to show people that feminism is a win-win. I think we can do that at the personal level in terms of the quality of our relationships with our children, our partners and our friends, and also in terms of public policy.
CA: You’re going to a desert island, and you get to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
MK: I can answer the last one easiest. I would take Amy, my wife, because we would never run out of things to talk about. She’s the smartest person I know, I always learn tons when I talk to her, and plus, I enjoy looking at her, so I’d never get bored with the scenery. And she’s warm to cuddle up to at night, so it’s a perfect solution to the desert island problem. That’s the easy part. And if I get to take Amy, then I think we’ll live on pasta and Pellegrino.

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82 Comments

  1. Toongrrl
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    “Guyland” was a great book!!

  2. TD
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s ignorant to say “but all feminists hate this” or “feminism is a zero-sum game” when you’re only going by your own personal experiences, without taking into account that feminism can mean many different things to different types of people. Don’t assume that because one person defines feminism a certain way, all feminists follow it as gospel.
    This injunction works both ways, that is to say when viewing the negatives of feminism and when viewing the positives.
    Many of the people who are skeptical of feminism are that way because they’ve been exposed to some of the most virulent and hostile extremes of feminism. The type who if I relayed my personal experiences of them would come off as a fictional account of a straw feminist. Even though I simultaneously know many sane feminists, some whose politics are closely aligned with mine.
    I have difficulty believing that embracing feminism will solve all the worlds problems, or that feminism is offering a inherently positive sum game, when I’ve seen many offers of zero sum, or even on occasion, negative sum solutions.
    I won’t attribute to you all the negative qualities I’ve seen in feminism, but at the same time, understand that I don’t believe that feminism is a solitary force for good either.

  3. Mike M
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I was recently enlightened by what is feminism the fundamentals are simple it is about Freedom. Freedom of choice, Freedom of expression, Freedom to be what you want to be these are sound virtues but what any individual choses to do in the name of feminism is totally different they have to be separated it makes things more simple one will embrace feminism but will not accept if its used for “virulent and hostile extremes” and I never had the impression by reading about feminism that it pretended in any form that this would cure all conflicts but eventually we will all have to accept this as a part of modern living if we truly believe in Equality.

  4. TD
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Strictly speaking that’s not feminism, that’s liberalism, a political theory which includes large parts of feminism, but by no means describes it

  5. Mike M
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    I am learning all the time thanks

  6. TD
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you about the current state of a majority of the MRAs, and I don’t think that they are indicative of the majority of the feelings of men.
    That said, you cannot expect any hypothetical mens movement to be just another extension of feminism, as some expect it to be. I think people not only underestimate the extent to which men have been exposed to actual man-hating feminists and to the extent they have become some of the loudest voice of modern feminism.
    You cannot tell men to stand up for themselves and to form their own movements, but to never say anything bad about feminism. That’s just asking us to be your lapdogs. There are a lot of things where feminists and (what ever they might be called) will conflict with each other or engage in outright fights.

  7. brendan_McHugh
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN?
    Please the woman was a flaming racist! Her work is mired with the white supremacist thinking! let me explain.
    I find it suprising that Michael Kimmel has not ever read Gail Bederman’s book Manliness and Civilization. It’s a cultural history of the U.S. during the early 20th century when “manliness” morphed into masculinity. She examines how race played a huge role in creating different gender roles for men, primarily for white men and black men.
    One of the key figures examined in this book is Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I find it more suprising that Kimmel finds her to be one of his feminist heroines. First of all the woman was a flaming racist. Well, let me say it more nuanced. She was a eugenicist who was infatuated with bring about white civilization to it’s millenial potential. It’s all in her writings and personal writings.
    In reference for her desire to bring white civilization to the brink of modernity she writes, “The dominant soul-the clear strong accurate brain, the perfect service of a healthy body-these do not belong to sex-but to RACE!”
    another wonderful fact about this feminist sociologist, in a 1908 article in a academic sociology journal she wrote that the government could “solve the N***** problem” by forcing all African-Americans who had not achieved a certain level of economic attainment or livliehood should be put into a quasi-militaristic army where they would be supervised, trained and compelled to perform menial labor. Any African-American’s who did not reach these heights of civilization should, according to her, be “taken hold of by the state.”
    -Why do I bring this up? Well, for one it makes me sad that Kimmel would say a clear IMPERIALIST feminist would be one of his heroines. People who still admire works by the likes of Perkins Gilman and various other imperialist feminists must really question why they are upholding such people whose work is quite…well…white supremacist…this might be part of the issue that affects not just the feminist community but the united states as a whole. I hope that makes sense. I feel that it is important to reread works by women such as Chandra Tolpade Mohanty, her seminal piece “Under Western Eyes” is still very pertinent for today. The way Mohanty analyzes imperialistic texts and thinking is key to the way I first reacted to Kimmel’s statement. I am not saying he is a white supremacist but I think it is important to note that Perkins Gilman is still given some form of celebrity in literature and theory. A place that should be questioned by both women and men.

  8. Callipygian
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    Andrew,
    Thanks for your response.
    The example you present as a “win-win” is a zero-sum game. I.e. in that situation, men as a class lose.
    There are 100 positions, 100 men fill them and women are kept out. Women are then allowed to compete. Say 100 women compete and they take half the jobs. Women, as a class, gain 50 jobs and men, as a class lose 50 jobs. Without more, this is not an example of men gaining from feminism.
    I’m not saying that there is no way to imagine a win-win situation, but I can’t think of one, and I have never seen anyone give an example or explain how feminism does not provide a zero sum game based on the assumptions it makes. It is strange, because I think it is clear that questioning gender roles in society has helped men and women. So, loosening gender roles seems to be helpful, while based on feminism’s assumptions, it should be detrimental to men.
    The only way I have been able to make sense of this, personally, is to reject the ideas of male privilege and patriarchy, and thus reject feminism. I agree that women have unique gender specific problems and that society imposed gender roles are harmful. But if these roles hurt women much more than men, getting rid of these roles would have to harm men relative to women, as a class.

  9. Callipygian
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Adag87,
    Perhaps it is ignorant for me to say that feminism presents a zero sum game to men. However, I do think that male privilege and patriarchy are basic bedrock tenets of modern academic feminism. Most feminists believe they exist. If you self-identify as feminist and don’t it would seem to be like self-identifying as Christian but not believing in Jesus.
    Instead of just calling me out for my ignorance, could you instead cure it by explaining how feminism as popularly defined, does not present a zero sum game, or point me to a source that explains this?

  10. cpinkhouse
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I’ve been working for a full year for a domestic violence organization, in an amazing prevention program that allows me to engage young men. As a man, I have discovered the immense opportunity – and I believe responsibility – that well-meaning men and feminist allies have to help shift our culture from it’s path of oppression and abuse against women.
    It is a DAILY conflict to face my privilege with honesty and openness. I still am in the confusing process of figuring out where my pivilege ends and who I REALLY am begins.
    It is a continuous struggle to recognize the placating messages that are being broadcast throughout our society that tell me I don’t need to struggle and that all is well – that I’m a good man and I love women, I don’t choose to abuse them and that’s enough. It’s not enough. It’s not enough to decide that you’re not one of “them”. I’ve come to realize that “they” are not very different from me. Whether I choose to believe them or exercise them, I have been taught and led to think that us guys are the shit. We get to do all the fun stuff, we’re strong and dominant and the ladies, well, they just don’t have what it takes. We’re told that men are just INHERENTLY better at all kinds of things. Who can argue with evolution? Who can argue with the way it’s ALWAYS been and the way it’s always gonna be. NATURE dictates… balh blah blah…
    I am given reasons EVERY SINGLE DAY to reinforce the idea that men are awful, dispicable, rotten evil bastards. It makes me hurt. The truth is; men CAN be. The nature of power and privilege is that of the minority of men who choose to act violently and abusively toward women, a miniscule percentage of them are ever held accountable. It may be unhealthy for me to bear a burden of guilt. Or perhaps it’s important that I stay aware of my culpability?
    The rest of us – especially men – ARE implicated.
    I can’t pretend that my relationships – or my friends’ or my fathers’ and uncles’ and sons’ – happen in a vacuum.
    How many times have I – or you – been with buddies when the conversation inevitably turns to talk about “bitches” and all kinds of ignorant, misogynistic banter that seems all too ordinary.
    I’ve learned some strategies for calling out my friends respectfully. It used to be that they’d say things like: “Awww man. Don’t start up on that stuff again. I’m only kidding. I didn’t really mean it. Have a sense of humor. We’re guys – c’mon. It’s what we do.”
    But now, they know that I don’t stand for it. Maybe they have those conversations elsewhere. I don’t want an award. It makes MY quality of life better and I’ve made it known that there is a belief out there that women deserve more respect than most of us give them.
    There are things we can do everyday that don’t vilify men, but simply hold us to a higher standard. That’s a step along the path.

  11. Alessa
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    “I think people not only underestimate the extent to which men have been exposed to actual man-hating feminists”
    Whoa. Wait. That doesn’t sound very pro-feminist. In fact, that kind of sounds like a perpetuation of the stereotypes that feminists fight against. There are so many men out there who may have that misconception, but by you throwing your hands up you are implying that feminists really are that way. You do realize a lot of these stereotypes were created by the media as a means to try and make us shut up? To try to tell us to “calm down”? To make us look like crazy bitches?
    “You cannot tell men to stand up for themselves and to form their own movements, but to never say anything bad about feminism. That’s just asking us to be your lapdogs. There are a lot of things where feminists and (what ever they might be called) will conflict with each other or engage in outright fights.”
    Like WHAT? What on earth would two equality minded people fight over? Unless of course your view of feminism is so skewed that you don’t understand that it is a fight for equality! Asking you to be our lapdogs? What the fuck? Do you not realize that you have plenty to gain from feminism? That men have plenty to walk away with, plenty they could get from it? No, it sounds to me like you’re a troll who hates feminism and is just coming in here to mess with the discussion. It’s a pity because you clearly don’t understand what you can get from it.
    Please, pray tell what feminists and “(whatever they might be called)” have had conflict with each other over? I need some examples if you really expect to be taken seriously.

  12. Alessa
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    “I think people not only underestimate the extent to which men have been exposed to actual man-hating feminists”
    Whoa. Wait. That doesn’t sound very pro-feminist. In fact, that kind of sounds like a perpetuation of the stereotypes that feminists fight against. There are so many men out there who may have that misconception, but by you throwing your hands up you are implying that feminists really are that way. You do realize a lot of these stereotypes were created by the media as a means to try and make us shut up? To try to tell us to “calm down”? To make us look like crazy bitches?
    “You cannot tell men to stand up for themselves and to form their own movements, but to never say anything bad about feminism. That’s just asking us to be your lapdogs. There are a lot of things where feminists and (what ever they might be called) will conflict with each other or engage in outright fights.”
    Like WHAT? What on earth would two equality minded people fight over? Unless of course your view of feminism is so skewed that you don’t understand that it is a fight for equality! Asking you to be our lapdogs? What the fuck? Do you not realize that you have plenty to gain from feminism? That men have plenty to walk away with, plenty they could get from it? No, it sounds to me like you’re a troll who hates feminism and is just coming in here to mess with the discussion. It’s a pity because you clearly don’t understand what you can get from it.
    Please, pray tell what feminists and “(whatever they might be called)” have had conflict with each other over? I need some examples if you really expect to be taken seriously.

  13. knitgirl
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    People who accuse Kimmel of being anti-male obviously haven’t had the pleasure of hearing him in person. I had a chance to listen to him talk for about an hour, answer student questions and even engage him in a brief chat myself this fall, and he is most assuredly not anti-men. In fact, a large part of his thesis seemed to be that society does a disservice to men by pigeon-holing them, making them feel that they are being viewed as “bad guys” and generally portraying them as animalistic. He said something along the lines of “Saying ‘boys will be boys’ should be offensive to men” because it implies they can’t do any better (apologies to Kimmel for the paraphrase).
    He does seem to believe that male privilege is real – for example, the privilege to walk down the street at night without trembling in fear at the approach of every stranger. But his general approach, or at least what I took away from hearing him talk, seems to be that a system that alienates men and women from each other sucks for everyone, and the world would be a better place if neither men nor women felt constrained into tiny little gender-defined boxes.

  14. TD
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Whoa. Wait. That doesn’t sound very pro-feminist. In fact, that kind of sounds like a perpetuation of the stereotypes that feminists fight against. There are so many men out there who may have that misconception, but by you throwing your hands up you are implying that feminists really are that way. You do realize a lot of these stereotypes were created by the media as a means to try and make us shut up? To try to tell us to “calm down”? To make us look like crazy bitches?
    This is what I’m getting at. The media did not inform my opinion of feminists. In fact in my formative years I had a very positive view of feminism. What informed my negative view of feminism was my experiences with feminists.
    It’s a misconception that all feminists are like them, but simultaneously its not a myth that some feminists are. The guys who have that misconception were not given it by the media by and large, but by dealing with the loudest and most vocal feminists, while more moderate feminists were drowned out.
    Like WHAT? What on earth would two equality minded people fight over? Unless of course your view of feminism is so skewed that you don’t understand that it is a fight for equality!
    For one, the ACLU and Feminism are both highly invested in equality and a belief in rights, yet throughout the 1980s and 1990s they engaged in a series of high profile battles over what should be enshrined as law.
    This is true for almost any movement. You state that your for a particular good, many other people are for that good but everyone has different approaches, takes, and opinions. This inherently means conflicts.
    Asking you to be our lapdogs? What the fuck? Do you not realize that you have plenty to gain from feminism? That men have plenty to walk away with, plenty they could get from it?
    Alright lets use an example. It has been widely noted by divorce lawyers that restraining orders have become just another tool for them to secure a superior settlement. Yet many feminists argue that if we made the burden of proof higher or engaged in any specific action to curtail this use it would ultimately deny deserving women of the restraining order they need. Instead they argue that restraining orders need to be made easier to obtain with increased consequences for the person it is taken out against.
    Personally I don’t think the two positions can be reconciled, and that this problem will inherently lead to conflicts between two groups who are both interested in ‘equality’ but disagree on what that means in this specific case.
    I mean political parties in almost every democratic country are interested in ‘whats best for the nation’ it doesn’t cause them to work together, because they have different opinions on what that means.

  15. TD
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    In fact, a large part of his thesis seemed to be that society does a disservice to men by pigeon-holing them, making them feel that they are being viewed as “bad guys” and generally portraying them as animalistic.
    But another part of his thesis is that they are all of these things because society made them to be. That is the part people have a problem with. He isn’t simply claiming that people view guys with this negative attitude he is simultaneously claiming that the guys actually are all of the things that the negative attitude expects and then some.
    It isn’t just about the media’s portrayal of guys, its also about claiming that society has been successful in turning guys 16-26 into monsters.

  16. Americahater
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Imagine a 100-employee company that does not allow women to compete for jobs. Then one day it allows women to compete and half of the male employees are replaced by more competent women. While the 50 fired men lose, the company wins by employing a more competent workforce, 50 women win by landing good jobs and the their 50 male coworkers win because they no longer have to compensate for the poor productivity of 50 former coworkers who had only held their positions because of male privilege. This is not a zero-sum game unless you identify more strongly with the 50 incompetent men than with the 100 competent men and women. You are correct that the concepts of patriarchy and male privilege are fundamental to feminism, but not like belief in Christ is to Christianity. A more apt analogy is the relationship between evolution and biology. “Most feminists believe they exist” because of overwhelming, incontrovertable evidence. For a feminist to deny that male privilege exists would be like a biologist denying evolutionary theory, and thus the scientific method itself. Debating such anti-feminists, like the intelligent-design/creationists, is pointless because their beliefs are not amenable to reason.

  17. Opheelia
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Your comment on orders of protection is a widely held but false notion. Backlash from the courts regarding protective orders and DV allegations during divorce proceedings has resulted in fewer victims speaking about their experiences to the judge.
    “In our research with 62 abused women who had navigated
    the legal system, the women reported facing great skepticism
    about the validity of their claims of partner violence and felt that
    their allegations were often perceived as strategic maneuvers to
    gain sole custody (Jaffe, Crooks, & Poisson, 2003). Furthermore,
    even when substantiated, the history of partner violence may not
    be reflected in the intervention of court-related clinical services,
    such as mediation and custody evaluations (Logan, Walker,
    Jordan, Horvath, & Leukefeld, 2002).”
    (Sorry, I suck at html tags!)

  18. KBZ
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Andrew,
    The following quote …
    “I don’t really like (or, quite frankly, respect) a very passive person who lets the world pass them by. And quite honestly, deep down, I really feel most women believe the same thing.”
    … seemed to undermine a lot of what you said about removing social stigma from a male’s failure to live up to the “masculine” ideal. On the one hand — you say a man should not have his masculinity questioned for lack of assertiveness, crying, passivity, etc. On the other, you explicitly state a personal lack of respect for passivity (when discussing the ideal characteristics of women).
    You go on to say that you believe most women share your exclusive respect for assertiveness (a trait of traditional masculinity). I think many men who buy into masculinity do so for exactly this reason — they too do not believe that a woman would respect a man that they considered “weak”. So, they attempt to eschew all outward signs of weakness … such as crying, passivity, etc.
    You make a compelling argument about removing stigma … and destroy it in one sentence with your admitted disrespect for passivity, and assumption that women share your disrespect.
    kbz

  19. Callipygian
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Right, the only way to make the zero sum go away is to fight the hypothetical and limit the scope you look at for your sum.
    Even if your company did better because of the influx of more competent women and everyone was rewarded more than twice as much salary as before because they competed better, there would still have to be a loser. Presumably, since in your hypo, co-ed companies are more competitive than single gendered or less equally split companies because of widespread and substantial male privilege, men would still lose in other companies to the same extent your hypothetical company won.
    I suppose your analogy of feminism to biology is apt, however the data supporting evolution is clearly much stronger than any supporting male privilege. Evolution is, to some degree, predictive of discoveries that occurred long after Darwin. For example, Mendel’s discovery of inheritance in pea plants before the discovery of DNA. Male privilege, does not fit the data. If men have more power than women, women should have no greater power now than they have ever had. How would women acquire quantities of this privilege controlled by men without their own privilege, and why would men ever give it up voluntarily? It would seem that a world with male privilege should be world in which feminism is completely ineffective, especially if male privilege and the patriarchy are so ubiquitous and powerful. However, feminism has been effective. Thus, it would seem that male privilege either does not exist, is not very important or is being countered by something else not mentioned in feminist dogma. Perhaps that something is a countervailing and substantial female privilege, but who knows.
    I’m not sure if you’re referring to me as an anti-feminist. I don’t self-identify as one. However, if you think it is pointless to debate me, then don’t.

  20. TD
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Your comment on orders of protection is a widely held but false notion. Backlash from the courts regarding protective orders and DV allegations during divorce proceedings has resulted in fewer victims speaking about their experiences to the judge.
    But doesn’t that backlash speak to an inherent issue of differing views which can cause conflict even if the two parties agree on fundamental principles?
    The judges are witnessing highly cynical lawyers serve their clients case by using protective orders when they should not be. But many feminists are witnessing genuine victims of abuse denied protection because of this skepticism.
    I don’t believe that the judges are attempting to deny protection to legitimate cases, and I don’t believe that victim advocates are attempting to create a bargaining chip for lawyers. But there are differences of opinion about what the result is, and what the appropriate response is.
    My point is that good, rational people who hold similar goals can still strongly disagree.

  21. cpinkhouse
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    You’re very insistent, and I think you have begun to distort Kimmel’s theories through your own lens.
    Any feminist or student of oppression theory worth their salt knows that the reality is that no one is, in fact, a monster. No one on Earth has conceived of violence against women themselves. It’s been fortified and handed down through generations, just like all the other “isms”. There are many men who do not choose to interpret the same messages that abusers do, as license to commit crimes.
    The finger-pointing and incriminating of which you are being so defensive is a bit of a figment of your imagination. The goal is not to make every man feel bad about their half of the population (although this is likely to happen to an empathetic soul). The point is to encourage men to recognize that there are wonderful and very real benefits in confronting our sexism. EVERYONE has something to learn and something to gain from feminism.
    That dirty word “feminism” that makes men bristle – and the concepts and ideals that are paramount to it’s existence, are as important to our freedom as women’s (with all due reverence to the violence and oppression that women endure everyday). Justice demands that men dissolve the idea of supremacy – not to turn our ill-gotten power over, but to erase the boundaries and limitations that have caged masculinity.
    How about a world in which you may discover who you truly are? – Enough reason for me to identify as a feminist and work everyday at being an ally to women and men alike.

  22. Shadowen
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    That is an excellent point. I suppose it might be because men are not seen as normally doing this sort of thing. It’s like the old joke of a man, say, taking out the garbage or washing the dishes of his own volition and turning it into an epic saga when he tells his friends about it or expecting some sort of sexual favor from his spouse in return.
    Same thing with feminism. A woman who’s a feminist is no big deal–even women who are anti-feminist aren’t surprised when a woman they like claims the label. A man who does so is seen as weird and/or praiseworthy, depending on where you’re coming from.
    I think it might be something as simple and unfortunate as women doing “men’s work” being seen as something they should naturally want to strive for, while men woing “women’s work” is seen as something that a man must heroically lower himself to…maybe.
    I dunno. I’m more of a dilettante. My knowledge is broad, but shallow. Not unlike myself.

  23. katie80andstuff
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Kimmel never denies any of his interview subjects agency. He’s not claiming they have been turned into monsters because of “society” (what a shallow misreading!), he is critiquing the very real damage such a narrow conception of masculinity has on everyone, male, female or in between. Obviously, everyone is compelled to follow gender norms (indeed we punish severely gender deviants), but Kimmel is arguing for a broader interpretation of masculinity. This is a positive thing. I’m sorry you feel personally wronged by the book, but remember, if it’s not about you, then… it’s not about you.

  24. Andrew_Bruskin
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    KBZ,
    I think you may have misunderstood the latter part of my argument, however, I probably was not clear enough.
    I never said men should be more “passive.” Being passive is different from opening up emotionally/not having to be macho. On a societal level (due to our upbringing and what we are expected to do), more women than men are passive. On an individual level, of course, there are exceptions..
    PASSIVE (adj)
    Definition:
    1. not actively taking part: tending not to participate actively, and usually letting others make decisions
    2. obeying readily: tending to submit or obey without arguing or resisting
    Passiveness is an acquired trait that is learned. It is a fear of doing something or performing a task because of rejection/embarrassment (etc.) It is an inhibition. The analogy to passiveness is an active, ambitious person who is willing to take charge/lead.
    I truly believe, in our natural state of being, we (both men and women) have all of these positive traits, such as wanting to learn, to lead, to initiate, and to discover. These aren’t just male traits, but universal traits. It is our environment, however, that takes this away from us and gives us certain inhibitions that often holds us back, such as the fear of starting interactions with people, the fear of speaking in public, the fear of speaking out, etc.
    What I am arguing is that men can still be successful while retaining the emotions they have been taught to reject (because it is deemed too feminine…SUCH AS not being willing to talk when you are feeling upset and not being willing to be a present parent because filling the wallet with money is seen as more manly..)
    I am NOT advocating, in doing this, men will be less successful in business/life (because by taking on these traits they will be acting more passive…)
    You can still lead, still be active, still be ambitious and still be in tune with your emotions…
    Of course, how do you define a ‘ambitious’ and a ‘passive’ person. Aren’t these traits subjective? How do we rectify this in an objective manner? Here’s one possible way of seeing it..
    An active person can be someone who doesn’t run from their problems (i.e. turn to alcohol/drugs), a person who sets realistic goals and doesn’t give up on them, someone who isn’t afraid to face rejection, someone who isn’t afraid to speak their mind (etc) are some indicators of being active.
    It’s not about turning one gender from one role to another. It is about incorporating beneficial universal traits so people can have fulfilling/successful lives and feel good about themselves..
    If a man strives to raise his children right by partaking in their lives (and even willingly cuts his career short in order for that to happen without regret), then I would label that an active person. If a man who did have a drinking problem (or was abusive to his significant other) decides to fundamentally change the way he behaves, then I would consider that an active person too.
    It’s someone who changes their environment (and themselves) for the better. It can go both ways, depending on the situation…
    To conclude, I’m not advocating women act more like men by being “macho.” I’m saying they can incorporate the universal traits that have made men successful (if they choose to have a career.) And I am not saying men should be more “passive.” Like I said earlier, being in tune with your emotions and being able to discuss your problems freely does not mean that a man is passive.)
    This is what I mean. Do you understand what I am talking about?

  25. TD
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    he is critiquing the very real damage
    Which inherently means I am damaged.
    He talks about all this damage, portrays it in the worst possible manner in its manifestations and then states that its a univeral effect which means, that all that damage he inherently believes is demonstrated in me and every male I know of the same age group.
    That denies me agency. That claims that I have had no impact, that I am nothing more then what he claims society made me, and in this case he claims that society made me a monster.
    if it’s not about you, then… it’s not about you.
    But its very specifically about me. It is about my age group, and the majority of guys I know personally. It states that in the press copy, on the jacket of the book, in the reviews, and in the book itself that it is talking about all men (although primarily Caucasian men), ages 16-26. Since I am a Caucasian male age 16-26 it is therefore, about me.

  26. TD
    Posted October 19, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    The problem is you start with assumptions about who I am merely on the basis of my genitals. For example.
    No one on Earth has conceived of violence against women themselves.
    This statement presupposes a variety of things. Now you are saying that men are not individually responsible for violence against women but society is. Now this statement only makes sense if you think I have committed violence against women.
    The thing is I haven’t. Nor have I ever condoned, given quiet approval to, or allowed for violence against women. Thus I didn’t merely not conceive it alone. I didn’t conceive it full stop, not in unison, not in isolation, not by acquiescence.
    although this is likely to happen to an empathetic soul
    This is the same logical fallacy which Kimmel uses. If I am empathetic I must also see that men are evil, if I don’t view men as evil, I must not be empathetic. Just as in Kimmels logic, I must be either a human, or a man, but I could never be both in modern society. Its a false dichotomy. I can be manly, I can be humane, and I can live in modern society, none of those things contradict themselves. Just as I can be empathetic and not view men as evil. In fact I do all of those quite well and they are quite compatible.
    How about a world in which you may discover who you truly are?
    This is nothing more than condescension with the implication that I don’t know who I am, but that you, or Kimmel knows better about who I am, having never met me.

  27. mascmag
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Kevin,
    we’re trying to do just that over at http://www.mascmag.com
    Check it out and let us know if you wanna be a part of it!

  28. mascmag
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Hey folks, I see a lot of guys here challenging Kimmel’s approach and questioning the win-win nature of feminism for people of all genders.
    Over at masc magazine we’ve been asking the same questions and trying to have a non-academic dialogue about what it means to be a man today. Check it out at http://www.mascmag.com

  29. cpinkhouse
    Posted October 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    More and more defensiveness…
    I believe one of the most important steps I can do to free ourselves from our isms, is to identify as the socialized beings we’ve grown into.
    As a white, heterosexual, middle-class, male I find it inordinately helpful to examine my privilege constantly and openly. Part of that process is to recognize that I am a racist, heterosexist, classist, sexist. I don’t like it – but nonetheless it is reality.
    I can strive every day to be an ally to the oppressed classes, but it does not erase my privilege that has been given to me by an unjust world. If I were to expend loads of energy denying that, it would all be a fruitless venture.
    Clearly you take issue with being made to feel as though you are part of an oppressive class. NEWS FLASH, dude! You are. Period.
    Interestingly that this is an excuse for you to pull out the “you don’t know me” card. Michael Kimmel talks about sociology – dynamics of culture and society. If you feel you are an outlier, so be it. Don’t defend the ideas that “if you’re not diectly involved, it’s not your issue”.
    Are DV and sexual assault only a women’s issue? Is racism a people of color issue? BLAM!
    ALL men must see this as our problem too! No buts about it.
    As a non-violent man, you more than anybody, should recognize the power you have to set a tone, and influence others in making good decisions. You have the opportunity to shift the conversations that involve derogatory and misogynistic attitudes into a statement of intolerance toward sexism and respect toward women. Maybe you already do these things! I don’t know you…
    The point is: turn away from defensiveness, because the fact is that many men DO choose to follow the path of status quo and even more are ignorant of the fact that they can do something about it.
    Spend less time arguing against the tenets of feminism and more time looking at how you can use them to unify men and women with equality.
    And before you flip it, interpret the “you” as a collective “you” – meaning “y’all” and “us all”.
    No animosity, man. Just a message…

  30. mascmag
    Posted October 21, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Again,there are some who are trying to create a men’s movement that is based on positivity, gender equity and a win-win for everyone. Check it out at http://www.mascmag.com!

  31. mascmag
    Posted October 21, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    As a man who’s been doing activism, volunteering and now working within feminist circles I have NEVER met a man hating feminist.

  32. Justin
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    I read this on FB. Just recently some one on my Facebook friend’s list set the following status:
    “My house got robbed. Wish I had a cute guy to make me feel/keep safe”
    Coming to think of it, it says a lot about the state of gender equality, sexism and feminism in our world. This image of a helpless damsel in distress is all good in fairy tales but in reality it’s not helping the cause of gender equality. Even in the present society women still think of men as someone who would protect them from the evils of the world, take care of them when in dire straits, be a provider and a stronger presence the list goes on, such is the prevalent mentality that harbors and nurtures sexism that will never be completely eradicated until women make a concerted effort to be independent and self sufficient. Why does a woman need a man to feel safe? Practically speaking a man is no help if your potential attacker or an intruder is armed and dangerous. However, it’s probably not the actual presence of a man that would fend off any potential harmful violent attack but rather the feeling of comfort and years of genetic conditioning that make women feel the need of a stronger man. This is critical especially if one needs to conquer the evils of widespread domestic abuse at the hands of a physically powerful man that we see often in the news. A truly strong, independent women demanding equal rights, salaries, and opportunities will emerge only when this urge to “feel safe in arms of a strongly built football player type prince charming” becomes obsolete until then men being what they are will always exploit, be it in terms of pay, opportunities, promotions and many other aspects of life. The recent Afghan “rape” law is a classic example of this exploitation based on religious and stronger male dominance. Fundamentally it’s not so much that that men are physically stronger but that the demand for a man who is stronger gives men the undue advantage that they are so used to exploit. Isn’t it time to rethink what the true meaning of gender equality is?

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