It's all about perspective

It’s Roller Derby time boys and girls. Yet while I waited patiently for that 7pm whistle last sunday which started the rekindled sport my mind wanders to thoughts of gender equality. I know, boring, but hear me out. I’ve been noticing an upswing in articles related to the oppression of men and this all-women sport has rekindled my interest in the subject. Now before you go off laughing about how its impossible for men to be the subject of oppression based on their gender, I would have you stop and think about this for a moment.

I am, due to my own history with the state and childcare, an unflinching supporter of Father’s rights. In this instance I am absolutely convinced there is a biased view of parenting in this country which favors the mother. Does this happen all the time? Not hardly. Does it happen enough that it should be investigated? I say a resounding “yes.” While going through the custody process myself I encountered several avenues of assistance that were available to the mother, that were not available to me, which were based solely on her gender. Furthermore, the prevailing child development model at the time was one that claimed children were developmentally disadvantaged when separated from their mothers. This standard was absolutely biased against fathers and thankfully is beginning to change.

In part, I believe it is changing because of the drastic difference in education based on gender. Last year I read several articles and blog posts about how the current model of education; one that many believe is detrimental to boys’ learning, is not being studied on that basis of gender [1]. In my own recent attempts to join the K-12 teaching ranks, I have found a great emphasis on race and class, but no one is talking about gender. For this reason alone I feel there should be an open discourse about it.

Now, it appears this may actually happen. On April 8, 2010, an announcement was made at Wagner College in Staten, NY that trumpeted the creation of the Foundation for Male Studies. This foundation claims it wants to “examine the declining state of the male, stemming from cataclysmic changes in today’s culture, environment and global economy.” I’m truly interested to find out what the “declining state of the male is.” Is it the narrowing of the margin between our pay and our female cohorts? Is it the so-called decline of boys’ performance in school? Is it the state of the “mancession?” [2],[3] Or is it something else? Furthermore, what are “cataclysmic changes” in our culture, and which culture are they talking about?

So what will the Foundation’s goals be? Well, I lifted this verbatim from their website:

“A new academic discipline, male studies, explores the male as male, masculinity, and the lives of boys and men. This consortium brings together eminent scholars representing a range of academic disciplines, including anthropology, education, history, medicine, politics and psychology. Panelists together with teleconferencing scholars with take a fresh look at the male in history and a rapidly changing global culture. The male as male will be permitted to appear in all his complexity as new values are being forged and traditional values that have proven the test of time are affirmed. The consortium will set the stage for additional conferences and academic programs at institutions of higher learning and will support optimal conditions in which boys and men can thrive in all areas of their lives as male human beings.”

Lets break this down. “[…] explores the male as male, masculinity, and the lives of boys and men.” Alright, I’m on board for that. “Panelists […] take a fresh look at the male in history.” Fight the good fight, brother! “[…] and a rapidly changing global culture.” Oh, wait, what? No, that’s not right, which culture? I certainly hope you boys aren’t trying to say there is a global male culture, because that’s crazy. (Much like the idea that there is a global women’s culture is just as nuts.) You have anthropologists in this club and nobody told you about cultural relativism? Males in the United States are not the same as males in China, Iraq, England or anywhere else. Ethnocentric much? “The male as male will be permitted to appear in all his complexity […].” Back on the horse again, sweet! “[…] traditional values that have proven the test of time are affirmed.” Well fuck, you just lost me again. Just like a male not to ask for directions or look at a map when driving.

This is not good research. You’re providing answers before you even ask the questions. Who’s “traditional values” are you going to be using? What will the archetype for male be? Will homosexual men be included in the discourse on what masculinity is? Will women? This Foundation feels reactionary and not in a way which actually leads me to believe that we’re lacking the male gender in gender studies. It feels hostile in a way that some veins of feminism turn me off. It’s making too many assumptions and not asking enough questions.

As a male this whole ordeal concerns me. As a feminist the idea intrigues me. As a sociologist it makes me want to /facepalm. I believe I am a feminist of the variety which says “everyone should be equal to the eyes of opportunity” regardless of ethnicity, gender, or age. This means, rather simply, that when in the pursuit of anything, only your talent/ability/skill should be taken into account. This is what I think of when I hear “feminism.” This is obviously not what the Foundation thinks of when it hears the same word.

No, males and females are not similar. I agree with the Foundation that much of the gender scholarship already available deals too much with the differences between males and females, but not enough with the differences among males and females. I would love to see some real scholarship done (and would like to do some myself) about the reality of masculinity as compared to its myth. However I feel that this Foundation, based on its remarks in the news article “Male Studies vs. Men’s Studies,” will not only be far too confrontational, but will likely detract from the larger issue; that of equality between the genders. We already know the genders aren’t similar, but that knowledge still bleeds into the concept of equality and poisons it. When did equal become the same as similar?

For a successful woman’s opinion on topics similar to these, check out this op-ed piece at the New York Times: The Mismeasure of Woman.

[1]System needs changing, not boys

[2]It’s not a recession it’s a mancession.

[3]The Mancession

Comments on: "Similarity is not Equality" (5)

  1. Purely myopic, and weak. The lot of it. Your article, that is. Not male studies.

    Take a look at male suicide rates, declining presence in higher education, the multiple areas they face discrimination. I could go on but won’t, because you don’t want confrontation.

    Good think no other group listened to crap like this and waited for permission to address their problems openly. Oh, but I take those other are fine to confront the problems they face.


    • Myopic? Really? Are you even aware what myopic means? You wish to educate me on my breadth of scope when the Foundation’s own description of its proceedings borders on the vitriolic and close-minded. Then you run out the same tired points male studies people always trot out. Further you have the utter hubris to throw out the discrimination card, while being part of a “men’s movement” and trashing me, and refer to us as “they.” Are you not a male as well, Mr Elam? Do you not count yourself as one of the male masses you so vehemently defend? Sir, take off your blinders.

      If you had actually read my work, instead of summarily dismissing it as crap, perhaps your horizons would have been broadened. Instead, you dismiss rather than engage, which is exactly what I talk about in my article, and exactly why this incarnation of male studies will stumble with the weight of science. Even with saying that I hope they succeed. I hope they introduce some real scholarship on the subject of males. I just hope they leave their biases about what they think males should be at the door before attempting to answer those questions. Their own words, and yours, leave me with the feeling that you believe you already know those answers; that’s just bad science, and I can’t abide that.

      Lastly, you think I “don’t want confrontation.” I would ask if you are just dense, but the answer is pretty obvious as I posted this on a public blog, on the internet, and asked a boatload of questions in the article. The only way I could have asked for confrontation better is by saying “I double-dog-dare you” to the whole Foundation.

  2. Yes, really. My-fucking-opic. And I did read your “work,” which is why I used the word in the first place.

    The nit picking drivel you “worked” on here amounts to nothing more than a petulant diatribe of redundant semantics, obviously employed because you have already dismissed the valid concerns articulated by the foundation, and now me, as “tired.”

    This is why I knew not to bother with a longer list of concerns. You are hard-wired deaf to the problems, unless, apparently, the affect you personally.

    Women’s studies major?

    Before you go off again expounding on the in-depth knowledge you gained about the discipline from a one page FAQ, let me suggest you get some of the basic facts straight. One, there was no announcement on April 8th, but there was a two hour symposium on April 7th, in which an panel of academicians spoke to and fielded questions about the new discipline. It was broadcast live as a webinar. Did you watch, or did you just pick up some after the fact info from some news article, go read half the FAQ, and then set out to prove your abject ignorance in front of your audience of dozens?

    It is too bad for you that the FMS is not putting the discipline together the way you would envision it, but perhaps they don’t see a need for “me-male” studies, and just maybe they will be busy dealing with the things you are tired of, despite forty years of gender, women’s and men’s studies that have never touched on any of it.

    • Oh you got me there sir. Your playground-era attacks in an attempt to belittle and demean me have worked. I swoon at your almighty manliness. I’m so glad my little corner of cyberspace has really gotten under your skin, because if something this small (by your words), can do that you have some massive chinks in your armor. I called your arguments tired, not theirs, and continue to do so. Also If you think your arguments are the foundation for the “movement,” then that’s a level of hubris bordering on the psychologically imbalanced. I am also supremely impressed by your ability to completely ignore what I’m saying, and what I’m asking, in the face of your own personal anger at how the system is keeping the man down. It would almost be an impressive display if it wasn’t based on some antiquated idea of the alpha-male. A little tip: real scientists ask questions and let the data answer them, not the other way around.

      But hey, I’ll answer some of those arguments. Yes, I have looked at our suicide rates, our showing in higher education, and the few areas which we face discrimination. I’m not saying these aren’t valid arguments, in fact, I said the exact opposite. Several times. What I did say was that I disagree with how they are going about the scholarship as it seems too exclusive and not inclusive. Yes I have some personal experience with all of these things, and according to you that means I should be dismissed even quicker. Interesting. Like I said, exclusionary. You don’t want anyone to be a part of the “movement” that could even remotely disagree with you or disprove anything you’re saying. I’ve also looked at how homosexual males are largely excluded from the scholarship on what masculinity is, I wonder why that is? Give me some scholarship that shows causation between feminism and any of the issues presented at the symposium and I’ll gladly dance the dance and sing the song of how feminism is some kind of social evil. No one can do that though.

      Oh no! I got the date wrong. Therefore everything I’ve said is irrelevant. And you call me nit-picky? As a male I have every right to question their tactics. I am not questioning the issues they bring up. You, however, have no right to attempt to exclude me from the discussion. Since your own words are making you out to be the kind of close-minded person you’re attempting to make me out to be, let me be crystal clear here; I’m not dismissing the discipline or those people who are legitimately attempting to answer some of these questions, at this point I’m dismissing you. Keep up.

      Thanks for sharing, bye.

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