reading reflections #3

hooks, b. (1984). Men: Comrades in Struggle

Kaufmann, J. and J. O. Wamsted. (2015). White Male Privilege: A Conversation

Kimmel, M. (2015). Why gender equality is good for everyone – men included (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Gilbertson, A. (2018). Of Mindsets and Men: Tackling Masculinity, Patriarchy, and Privilege in Delhi

McLean, S. (2014). Patriarchy & Gender (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

While reading the texts, I noticed a common theme of needing support from the oppressor to free the oppressed.

The first text, Men: Comrades in Struggle by B. Hooks, delves into the fact that men need to be involved in the conversation of feminism, or nothing will get done. As a society, we believe that women alone can change their current position, but this text argues that this is not true.

This same idea appears in the second text, White Male Privilege: A conversation by J. Kaufmann and J.O. Wamsted. The white male character in the story is described to show his power and privilege. He is shown to be arrogant and disinterested in everyone around him. When he gets into a fight with the character of a different race, the white character, Jay, must resolve this conflict. It was his tapping foot that started it in the first place, and Adam, the other boy, is unable to advocate for his own cause without the support of Jay.

In the TED talk, Why gender equality is good for everyone – men included by M. Kimmel, the same idea is present. The speaker almost exclusively states that people need the approval of the dominant individuals. For example, it is necessary that men encourage feminism because everyone else will follow due to the structure of our society. This connects back to the idea originally presented in the first text of oppressors needing to become involved to help the oppressed.

In the last text, Of Mindsets and Men: tackling Masculinity, Patriarchy, and Privilege in Delhi by A. Gilbertson, we see the same idea in India. Men are feminists, however, they still feel the need to be involved in women’s affairs. This particular text shows how, when the oppressor does not support the cause, it is almost impossible to overcome the social issue.

The texts and video identify the consequences and benefits of involving men in feminist movements, as well as male responsibility in deconstructing patriarchal standards. Hooks begins by focusing on consequences of anti-male feminist policies, by addressing how these standards isolated those who identified with other marginalized groups as well.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s point of view, as a renowned feminist herself, is that it is necessary for men to be “comrades in [the] struggle” as Hooks’ piece reflects. Aside from utter demographics indicating the fact that men make up nearly half of the population, in an interview on the Daily Show, Adichie claims that women can change to an extent, but, if men do not follow suit, little change can actually be made; “we share the world,” she says. A point she makes, though, brings to mind the passages and videos I read; Adiche wants men to not feel attacked by the feminist movement and recognizes that gender equity and unlearning gender norms is beneficial to everyone. In Hooks’ reading, she believes that feminism is an inherent attacker of men, relating it to the most radical form of feminism that is alienated, in modern times, by intersectional feminism: [what is] “white feminism”. I must disagree with Hooks on a few points, as I feel they are not explicit enough, nor fair. It appears as though, from my perspective, that Hooks attempts to put oppression on a scale. She isolates two categories of people, a white, middle-class woman, and a white, lower-class man. With the sheer vagueness of these categories, leaving many questions and lacking clarity, she reaches the conclusion that the latter is more oppressed in our society. In speaking with a fellow intellect at Brown Pre-College, plagued by this unfair question, we attacked it like a math problem. We decided, no matter how trivial it may have seemed, to cancel the whiteness of both individuals, since it was something they both shared, counted the woman to be more oppressed than the man, then accounted for the fact that because the man was of a lower economic status, he was more “oppressed” in that sense. If anything, my friend said, it would be a tie. However, Hooks said the man would be considered more oppressed. From this, I can infer that she believed having a lower economic status denoted “more oppression” than being a woman. Not that I don’t necessarily agree with this point, but I do not think it is fully thought out or fair in this situation. Though I do believe the beginning of feminism was inextricably linked to a white woman’s fight against white men, rather than an intersectional approach, I do not believe it is entirely fair to assume that that is the norm today. An interesting point she does introduce, that I never truly thought about fully, is that all men do not benefit equally from sexism. Again, though I don’t think dismantling the patriarchy should be done with this approach, I can understand the point Hooks is trying to make: because of, let us say, men of color’s oppression based on race, they cannot benefit as much as a white man from sexism.

To my original point, Kimmel uses humor and his own original experiences with feminism to show how gender equality is beneficial to everyone. Kimmel, like Hooks, made valid points regarding men’s role in dismantling the patriarchy, but he lacked a grasp on the full scope of that inequality. The issue I had with Kimmel was that the basis of every argument about why men should contribute to the fight for gender equality was extremely heteronormative. Every reason given assumed a man and woman would be the parents. This obviously does not reach all men, then, as he originally intended. This is essentially why intersectionality is so necessary. To dismantle one system, it often seems, means ignoring another.

Despite my seemingly negative outlook on some of these sources, the conversation style approach that Kaufmann adopted stood out to me. Not only did it vary stylistically, but it gave a firsthand outlook on a white man’s self-reflection on his privilege. After reading ways in which men can do their part – Gilbertson describes the progressive efforts of men in Dehli forming their own group and consulting with women-led feminist organizations – it was eye-opening to see a white man’s perspective on events (that some women experience daily) and then read an analysis. At first, I thought the recollection/reaction was exaggerated, or fabricated entirely. I remember immediately thinking that this was the way most men thought of themselves, and think back to conversations with friends, acting as though this was the way all-male groups talked about themselves. If a white male ego could speak, it would say just that.

Those who were oppressed for multiple parts of their identity felt that an alliance between men and women would cultivate greater social change. In addition, Hooks and Kimmel address how men are expected to blindly follow and accept sexist ideals. Kimmel specifically then acknowledges how when men help dismantle the patriarchy, they can truly be freed, as they are also oppressed by these ideals. Kimmel’s video offers a unique perspective, as the argument is generated from a white, middle class male who acknowledges his privilege. Gilbertson also addresses the importance of including men in feminist spaces, due to the benefits of questioning the roots of male privilege in reference to female oppression. In addition, the piece written by Kaufmann and Wamsted offers a new, personalized perspective to white people infiltrating spaces for marginalized groups. The reading offers insight to how white individuals can lack understanding of the experiences of people of color, yet still speak for their experiences anyway. I felt the structure of this piece could have been organized in a manner that allowed for a clearer understanding of the purpose. Overall though, each assigned piece gives insight to the importance of acknowledging privilege, and the multi perceptivity of including agent groups in discussions on dismantling oppressive social structures.

The way I see it, separatism is an immediate reaction to sexism, and a way of finding solutions without treating the cause. Also, it only makes it for two groups trying to fight for power, whereas they should be sharing the power. An idea introduced by the first text, which I personally thought was interesting, was that male oppression of women cannot be excused by the recognition that there are ways men are hurt by gender norms – for me, it is important to acknowledge that sexism is harmful for men while recognizing that hardships faced by women are, in a way, more serious because it is structural and institutionalized oppression. The points made about class and race were very interesting, as they draw attention to the fact that all people are a multitude of things and that no one solely plays the role of oppressor or oppressed and how, even within revolutionary groups, there is still power play. I feel like it is something that should be addressed with care, as it could backfire and just affirm gender norms further – feminism is essentially a fight of women because they have been the oppressed and excluded, and so men shouldn’t be taking positions within the feminist cause that are supposed to be occupied by women. Men need to be active and understand how sexism hurts everyone, they just can’t use it as yet another instance to overpower women and make it about themselves.

Like any group project, the feminist movement must be all-inclusive in order to be the most productive and the most impactful that it can be.  Group projects lack direction when there is only one person driving the group, and they are even more unproductive when group members lack interest or feel excluded.  When this happens, the workload piles up on the one person causing them, and by default the entire group to collapse.

The feminist movement is essentially one large group project, because it takes everyone’s awareness and action towards the issue of gender equality in order to make a difference.  Early on in the feminist movement, the movement had an anti-men undertone that drove both men and black women away from supporting it (Hooks).  Black women supported black men who were excluded and they did not want to shut out one group by joining another, and it was not until the feminists changed their anti-men ideals that they were able to create change.  Now with the support of men, I think feminism will be able to foster change.  By supporting the separatism of men and women, it was actually causing the movement to move backwards by giving into the patriarchy because it separated men and women rather than recognizing them as equals.  The idea of group project lends itself to this movement because it takes more than one person to finish a project, let alone overthrow the patriarchy so it is important to involve as many people as possible.

I was also very surprised on knowing that in the case of the riddle, I did not think the mother would be the doctor-it came as an afterthought. I believe that men should assume responsibility for actively struggling to end sexist oppression and that there is no feminism without boys or men.

Across all readings, the message that finally formed for me, in the end, was the role men can play as comrades, dismantlers of their own privilege, allies in achieving gender equality, and disassemblers of the patriarchy. READING REFLECTIONS

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