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August 25, 2004

Feminist Issues, Feminist Men, and Female Representation

Update: Inspired by Barry's post, A Wicked Muse asked the question, "can men be feminists?" I know they can. Some excellent examples are Michael Kimmel, Michael Flood, and Gerry Orkin. These men tend to call themselves "pro-feminist men." Their work and writings include helping men become aware of and accountable for the privilege they have in modern society. Their work also relates to societal attitudes about masculinity and how those attitudes harm men and boys. Quite of bit of their work is related to violence against women, especially in making men accountable for the violence they commit. If readers are interested in reading articles written by pro-feminist men, I highly recommend visiting XY Online. Here are three good articles on this very subject:

Three Principles for Men, by Michael Flood

Tools For White Guys Who Are Working For Social Change ... And Other People Socialized In A Society Based On Domination, by Chris Crass, who "outlines practical strategies for minimising everyday domination."

Can Men Be Feminists? by Michael Flood.

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Barry Deutsch from "Alas, A Blog" recently appeared as a guest on Air America Radio's "The Majority Report." He debated the female-male wage gap with libertarian blogger Megan McArdle of "Jane Galt." I cannot listen to the archive because my Mac software won't support the link Barry provided. I'll try to futz with the thing later and see if I can kick-start it.

I sometimes listen to Air America Radio, when I can get the signal to stay on without blitzing out after five or ten minutes. I have very poor reception out here in the coastal boonies. Most often, I listen to "The Randi Rhodes Show." I like her a lot. Barry and Megan appeared on Janeane Garofolo's show - "The Majority Report." Barry had received some criticism about his appearance on the show; namely, that a show about feminism should have had a female feminist rather than a male feminist appear speaking on the behalf of the feminist point of view. Barry had also belatedly noticed that the regular bloggers featured on "The Majority Report" were men. He also noticed that "The Majority Report's" blog wars segment included only two women bloggers out of eight. He and Megan were the first segment.

I have mixed feelings about all of this. I know that there are plenty of people who will disagree with what I am about to say. I have no problem with that. It's my opinion. It's also an opinion that I suspect other feminist women have held as well, so at least I don't feel completely alone.

I have noticed with a little touch of irony that the most popular feminist blog out there happens to be run by a man - namely, Barry. I certainly don't have his traffic or his number of comments. I don't know how many feminist blogs run by women do. I haven't aimed for that sort of thing. I wish I had more time to devote to my blog but I have been very busy with off-blog writings and other endeavors, especially lately. I've noticed my interest waning in the blogosphere since I returned from Mysterium last month. I have no desire to shut down my blog but I don't have the interest in it that I used to have. Maybe it's just a writer's block. I've been extraordinarily busy off-blog. I'm working on several articles and I'm slated to speak at two conferences. It takes a lot of time and energy to keep the hit count high. I don't want to take time away from my other projects to devote what I feel will be necessary to my blog, at least for the time being.

I'm glad that Barry had the opportunity to speak on "The Majority Report." He definitely deserves it. That said, I wish the feminist point of view had been expressed by a feminist woman instead of a feminist man. If more feminist women were in a position to air their views in an atmosphere that didn't resemble the center circus ring of right-wing radio, I might feel differently. The feminist point of view is not out there much in radio, and when it is, it tends to be up for ridicule or condemnation. I've turned down requests to be a guest on various shows because sometimes I get the feeling speakers are being set up. I also don't like the idea of competing with barking heads. I know none of that would have been the case with "The Majority Report."

There's a novelty appeal hearing positive feminist views come from a feminist man. Because of that, I feel that more people may be likely to listen. A feminist man airing views most often heard from a woman catches them off guard. On the other hand, they also may wonder why a man is speaking in support of women's rights and tune him out. The feminist men's community is very sensitive to the idea of men speaking on behalf of feminism, especially in place of women, because feminist men are aware that they do not want to step on feminist women's voices. They are aware of the priviledge that being (most often) white, middle class, and male has accorded them. They know that they don't have to work as hard as women to make sure their views are heard or to be taken seriously. Being aware of the privilege of being white, middle class, and male is something that alert feminist men grapple with every day. Feminist women have been silenced, marginalized, ignored, and ridiculed for too long. The lack of feminist (or at the very least, progressive) female representation in the media is especially notable in the blogosphere, since women bloggers have in many respects been rendered invisible. That includes the vast number of feminist women bloggers. It isn't very often that one sees an an opportunity for feminists to express their views in a supportive atmosphere such as "The Majority Report." While Barry is an excellent blogger, I personally would have preferred such a spot to go to a feminist woman. While I value the input of feminist men, feminist women have been doing most of the hard work of the feminist movement. I think the chance to speak out about the work they have done and continue to do should belong to them as well.

Despite the frequent "where are all the women bloggers" debates, Barry noticed that only two women bloggers were part of "The Majority Report's" blog wars segments. He didn't notice it right away, either. It took a second look. During the last women bloggers firestorm in June, during which I and Ms. Lauren at Feministe were viciously attacked by right-wing bloggers, I had commented that this debate resurfaces approximately every three months. Well, it's three months later now. This time there certainly isn't the venom that came with that last hideous firestorm. It's a point that needs to be stressed, though. Women bloggers comprise half of the blogosphere. They need more fair representation, and Air America Radio is in a prime position to do that. I'm sure that there will be more feminist discussions in the future. I have contact information myself for "The Majority Report." I had decided against contacting the show in the Spring because it turned out that the issue I wanted to pitch to the show wasn't one that should have been aired publicly at the time. Pitching another show in the near future isn't out of the question.

I've always been very impressed with Air America Radio. My opinion of it has not changed at all. I hope that the producers of "The Majority Report" have taken Barry's e-mails about the lack of female bloggers into consideration. I have a feeling they might. I wish the lack of women bloggers on the show had been noticed earlier though. It just seems to me that, as usual, women are invisible. This time around, though, the feeling is a bit different. I have faith.

Posted on August 25, 2004 at 10:59 AM | Permalink

Comments

I think that what informed their decision more than anything was that the two hosts, being comedians, probably thought having a male feminist and female anti-feminist was the most shcoking thing, and therefore had some humor value. I can see their point.

Posted by: Amanda at Aug 25, 2004 5:44:28 PM

I agree.

I'm also a little bugged by the way that the comments (and, to tell the truth, Amp's own post) seem to be focused on Amp as an individual--his merit or lack thereof as a feminst--rather than on the larger issues. To some extent this is just what happens in blogland, I know; but there is also a whiff of the way that feminist men always get an awful lot of attention and praise for being so wonderful as to declare themselves feminists. Sort of the inverse of the "wow, you're not like most women" bullshit that comes up whenever a woman says something intelligent in mixed company.

Posted by: bitchphd at Aug 25, 2004 5:49:27 PM

Yes, Bitch ( LOL - just remember, that I am "beeyatch." That should allay any confusion. ;D ), I was amused by Funnie's comment that the "based on merit/individuality rather than sex" coming from likely feminist commenters sounded more like a libertarian than a feminist argument. I think she was right. I've always liked commentary by feminist men like Michael Kimmel. He has often talked about how feminist men need to be aware of how they have benefited from male privilege. He also talks about how male privilege can play out in the feminist world in that (white, middle class) men's opinions are still valued by both men and women more than women's by virtue of them being (white, middle class) men. It would be easy for feminist men to overshadow feminist women in a group setting. It sounds to me like the lack of attention to those issues - and the belated attention that had been paid to them - is what bothered Funnie so much.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Aug 25, 2004 7:28:51 PM

Amp vs. one of the female conservabloggers he regularly corresponds with was a matchup suggested by me when asked by a producer at the show if I could recommend candidates for a debate format. That's pretty much, afaik, why he got picked.

Posted by: natasha at Aug 26, 2004 2:09:07 AM

Trish, I opened this to thank you for your post (as well as your comments on Alas), and now I'll thank you for your comments regarding me as well...I'm so glad you get where I was coming from.

Bitchphd, I agree with you, too; I'd frankly rather not talk about Amp as an individual - it's just that the striking nature of this particular occasion combined with the fact that he is someone to whom I have access made this a case study/talking point for me. And one reason I'm disinterested in discussing Amp as an individual is that virtually anything is justifiable for an individual from an individual's perspective, and evaluating ethical questions with such narrow and specialized tools leaves class analysis out in the cold.

And regarding the attention and praise heaped upon men for being feminists (which, to be completely reductive, amounts to doing little more than deciding one shouldn't actively perpetuate a murderous and oppressive system as a perpetrator...the definition of fabulous, heh): yes. And related to that, Trish, I would quibble with you slightly regarding how sensitive feminist men tend to be about their privilege and about speaking for women...as *individuals,* though they freely admit to such things on a class level. I think what often happens with feminist men is that OTHER men's actions are perceived as having a sexist dynamic that their own personal situations routinely lack...this is nothing new or particularly surprising. But I think that it works against feminist men even having a "community," since the measure of being a feminist man becomes pointing out the flaws in other men, not repeatedly going over one's own gender privilege with a fine-toothed comb and discussing with other men the nits one comes across.

The only other thing I'd disagree with you about is Air America, but that's a different topic. ;)

And to all four of you commenters so far (Amanda, bitchphd, Trish, natasha) and any other female bloggers reading, thanks very much for doing what you do.

Posted by: funnie at Aug 26, 2004 10:50:47 AM