men, masculinities and gender politics

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An Open Letter to Gentlemen

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Dear, Dear Gentlemen,

It has come to our attention that you harbor some misconceptions about us and our intentions, ones which we most fervently hope to dissuade you of, because these misunderstandings and falsehoods are preventing us from working together towards a more balanced society. Allow us to reassure you:

 1. We do not wish to castrate you. We have no desire to have your testicles in jars of formaldehyde on our nightstands.

2. You may rest easy. We are not asking for a complete role reversal in which we put you in the positions which we have occupied these many thousands of years; we do not want to confine you to home, cooking and cleaning, caring for the children, and bringing us a beer while we watch the game after a long, hard day at the Senate. We admit to sometimes having playful revenge fantasies about it, but not really.

 3. Some of us are lesbians, but most of us aren't. Many of us are adamantly checking out your hindquarters as you walk by. Most of us can, in fact, “get a man” if we so wish.

 4. A lot of us like lipstick and the occasional short skirt. It’s just that we don’t like to be expected to wear these items.

 5. We want you to think that we’re hot, just as you want us to find you physically attractive; it’s fine that you like our breasts. It’s just that we want you to realize that there is a fully functional brain behind our long-lashed eyes, and a human heart beating beneath those jugs.

 6. We like sex. No, really. We do. 

 7. Most of us appreciate that you’ve been opening doors for us. That’s very nice of you. But (contrary to some of the things we’ve heard you muttering) that really doesn’t make you the gender that is being oppressed and subordinated. We’re sorry, but opening an occasional door or even picking up the tab at Red Lobster does not “even the score”, and if you think that it does then you have not been paying attention. For example, we would gladly trade your chivalrous portal opening skills and the $23.45 you just paid for dinner… for equal wages.

 8. We’re not blaming you for everything (a good bit of it is our bad), and we don’t think that we’re the only ones suffering from the current state of affairs. For example, we imagine that it must suck that if you actually want to stay home with the kids instead of climbing the corporate ladder then you’re labeled a big ol’ wuss who’s been whipped. We are also aware that since sexism is largely an unconscious social construct, only a very small number of you are ever actually consciously trying to "keep women in their place” and an equally small number of you are even aware that there's a problem to be addressed. But we give you kudos when you are willing to allow yourselves to be made aware of the issue and the proposed solutions to it.

 9. The dictionary defines feminism as "the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men." Feminism does not claim the superiority of women, nor does it involve man-hating. Indeed, it is not even an all-girls club. Chicks dig feminist guys.

 10. Actually, we are not particularly angry, and we are not perpetually PMSing. We just want change and we’re starting to get impatient about it because it’s been a really, really long wait for us.

We cannot achieve equality without you. You are the other half of the equation, the other half of humanity, and we regret to assert that you are the ones in power. With power comes responsibility, responsibility which we are happy to share with you. We hope very much that you will consider dropping the baseless fears some of you hold about us, because we think of you as our allies, not our enemies. Ours is not a "war of the sexes." Ours is a war on sexism. We invite you to enlist.

Much Love,

Feminists

P.S. Please put the toilet seat down. Thank you.

First published in the Picket Newspaper, 11/2006.