men, masculinities and gender politics

Authors

What Men Can Do To Help End Male Domination of Women and Girls

By Julian Real, 2007, with invaluable input from Celie's Revenge

Here's a list of what men can do:

First, recognize and accept that the personal is political, and that interpersonal behavior is part of your political work as a responsible humane being. Stop either/or'ing the private and the public, the personal and the social, the interpersonal and the institutional. All are breeding grounds for male domination of women and children.

Given the above:

1. Ask all Women's Liberation humanitarians (anti-sexxxism, anti-racism feminists) you know: what can I do that would be helpful to your struggle for human dignity and respect?

2. Stop using (consuming or looking at) all adult and child pornography, stop using women and children, including teenagers, in prostitution, and stop using women or children as pornography, in any way, at any time. If you do not understand why this is necessary for women's and children's liberation, just remember that most women and children in pornography and prostitution have been and/or are being sexually abused. If seeing images of sexually abused people is a turn-on for you, humanize yourself to the point that it isn't. Learn about the atrocities, the normal anti-humanitarian activities that go on in the racist sexxxism industries.

3. Deprogram your head/body to be sexually responsive and/or predatorial to pornographic and other dehumanizing images of women, and to women who look like those images. Stop objectifying women–period. No exceptions. Pay attention to how you feel before you want to objectify a woman, and stay with that feeling, rather than going on to objectify her. Note the common need for an addictive objectifying "fix". This is culturally learned, not genetically encoded or hormonal behavior, regardless of what other men or women tell you. I can't tell you how many males I know who are "inexplicably" drawn to women who look like what whitemale supremacist societies promote as "what women must look like in order to be considered attractive". And usually those women turn out to be not a good emotional, intellectual, spiritual match because the man was only interested in her because he visually turns himself on by fetishizing that "genre" of appearance. Find women as friends (first or only) who you share common interests and goals with. Don't approach women for sex, anywhere. If a woman is interested in you, she can approach you.
If she doesn't feel capable of it, you approaching her isn't going to teach her how.

4. Read "Deals With The Devil, and Other Reasons To Riot", by Pearl Cleage (it contains the best definition of sexism I've ever seen), and "Only Words", by Catharine A. MacKinnon, "Black Sexual Politics", by Patricia Hill Collins, and "Beauty and Misogyny", by Sheila Jeffreys, for contemporary writings on how men and male supremacist institutions treat women, and how men dehumanize and degrade women, in words and other actions.

5. Boycott all misogynist cosmetics and misogynist fashion products, and other "beauty" products which maintain and profit off of a racist-sexist dehumanizing standard of what corporate pimps call "beautiful" and "sexy". Boycott all products that objectify women and children in the advertising of those products, and write letters to the companies explaining your boycott.

6. Choose feminist women (who deeply understand and oppose the harm of racist sexxxism) to be involved with, as friends, allies, colleagues, activist partners, etc., as long as you have done your homework, but don't drain their energies bringing you up to speed on feminist issues and practices. It is not women's work to humanize patriarchal men.
Seek out anti-racist, anti-sexist men for advice of how to humanize yourself.

7. Stop complimenting women on their appearance who strive to live up to a standard of beauty that racist patriarchal industries mandate.
Compliment them on other attributes other than appearance-connected ones, such as on their intelligence, humor, wisdom, athletic abilities, etc.

8. Hold every man around you accountable to every sexist-racist-homophobic thing that comes out of his mouth, and hold him similarly accountable to any other sexist-racist-homophobic action, hopefully in ways that are meaningful and useful to him "getting it". But do something rather than nothing, EVERY TIME.
Practicing this (daily) is the only way to learn how to do it effectively.

9. Life a principled humanitarian life: do not allow pro-porn women and men, and pro-prostitution women and men, and pro-sexxxism women and men–and trans and intersex folks who promote or buy into racist-sexxxism, to determine your stance on these issues. Hold your ground, respectfully. Learn how to respond to women who say such things as "But I LIKE stripping–it makes me feel empowered." (One set of questions is: "What does it mean that we live in a society that will pay women more to take off their clothes for men, and have sex with men, than to do anything else?" "Why is your sense of power determined at all by unknown men and what they think of you?" "Doesn't that make your sense of empowerment dependent on men? Isn't that a central component of women's disempowerment in patriarchy: that women have to live up to sexist men's standards, and do what sexist men most enjoy women doing?" "Please explain how it's good for you, to be reliant on men for your sense of self-worth or attractiveness?")

10. If any woman you know is in or is considering being in the sexxxism industries, please do your best to talk her out of it. One approach might be to ask her: "Is this the life you'd want for your daughter?" Or, "Is this the best activity that you can do, to fulfill your dreams?" "Why have your dreams for yourself been reduced to titillating men?" Or to tell her, "You are a unique, spirited being, and what makes you unique and special is not your ability to look like all the women in pornography, and learn all the moves strippers learn, to turn on men who don't give a shit about your spirit, your uniqueness."

11. Stop having sex, if the sex you need or wish to have is objectifying, dehumanizing, degrading, or humiliating to a woman.
Never have degrading or humiliating sex, regardless of what a woman wants you to do sexually. Stop calling heterosexual vaginal intercourse "sex". Sex can be any number of erotic activities that may have nothing at all to do with your penis. Never accept a blow-job if you are not going to perform oral sex on the person pleasuring you.
Never let a woman perform oral sex on you if she isn't welcoming of you performing oral sex on her too. Play safe: use barrier methods of STD and pregnancy protection. Always take 100% responsibility for where your sperm goes. Never leave it up to a woman to plan and use birth control. Use your own. If you cannot have intercourse while using a condom EVERY TIME, don't have intercourse. (You'll live).

But, given that the world isn't perfect, and some condoms break, always have "plan B" or emergency contraception available (that can be used after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy). Always leave the final decision to a woman about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, and don't bully her or coerce her into making the decision that best serves your interests. If you absolutely, never, ever, want to have children, do one of two things as soon as possible: get permanently sterilized, or, never have heterosexual vaginal intercourse. If you do not get sterilized, and do have heterosexual vaginal intercourse, be prepared to be responsible (financially and
emotionally) for raising a child. Never self-servingly "allow" a woman to have heterosexual vaginal intercourse with you if you are not wearing a condom, even is she is fine with it. Never coerce, bully, pressure, intimidate, harass, or shame a woman in order to get her to do things with you sexually. Never give a woman a hard time for deciding to stop engaging with you sexually, no matter how much time has gone by. She doesn't owe you anything, especially not an orgasm.
Don't habitually propose "new ideas" that are only your idea or sexual fantasy. Examine where your sexual fantasies come from. Usually they have been produced and sold to you by the racist-sexxxism industries.
Boycott racist-sexist sex, and make sure the men around you do also–hold them accountable if they practice sexist-racist sex. Be willing to end friendships with men, including family members, who use or abuse women sexually.

12. If you have real institutionalized choices in the matter, and the women in your life do not need marriage to survive or fight racism or heterosexism, please seriously consider boycotting participating in the white Western institution of marriage.

All people who have white, ethnic, economic, and heterosexual political privileges and social status (allowing for some exceptions such as sudden economic, medical and immigration necessities), should consider boycotting marriage as an institution of gender inequality, which promotes men having sexual access to women institutionally, and, often enough, harmfully, in part by holding onto male supremacist ways of doing gender and sex. These forms of interpersonal oppression are currently central to many people's expressions of love, affection, and commitment.

The institution of marriage, as it exists in Amerikkka, has a grossly racist history, including of exclusion during the time of racial slavery in the South, and violence and discrimination against mixed race couplings. Other non-dominant ethnic groups have had their ways of being together intruded upon, violated, and denigrated, by white European settlers. These newer standards of unequal partnership and community formation became mandatory for social acceptability and legal status.

The predominant U.S. marriage institution LEGALLY makes women into men's nurses, cooks, housekeepers, and sex-workers which, necessarily, benefit heterosexual men-as-men disproportionately.

Most women of any color suffer structurally and systematically in "partnership" or marriage to a man, and are often MORE lonely than when not married. Being married AND lonely, or married and violently abused, or married and raped, or married and otherwise mistreated, is a particularly difficult condition to endure.

One way of being in the social world should not be privileged and promoted above all others: this is discriminatory against people-as-friends, roommates, people choosing a life of solitude, people with other than Western/European-American (State-legalized) marriage traditions, people who do not wish to involve the State in their relationships, as well as humane people who prefer to have house pets around them and not humans, people who are too traumatized from childhood to be able to be in compulsory or chosen romantic Relationships, and those who choose to live in caring community, rather than partnered up.

To put it simply, the white Western institution of marriage is deeply racist, heterosexist, and misogynist.

A sincere "Thank you" goes out to Celie's Revenge for calling on me to change the original text of item # 12.

13. If you become a parent, give children the last names of their mothers, or let them to choose their own last names.

14. Boycott all products that use and or abuse women, and children, in the production of them.

15. Organize with other men to practice being a humanitarian, daily:
learn about feminism together, learn how to confront other men's misogyny together. Relieve women of the burden of having to call men
out: doing it BEFORE the women around you do it. Do it when the women around you won't or can't do it. Make your body and the space around it a "misogyny-free zone".

16. Don't tell your daughters you'll kill (or otherwise hurt) any man that touches her wrong. This will help ensure she will not tell you about being abused. Instead, tell her you will love her always and comfort her if anything confusing, scary, or horrible happens to her that makes her feel confused, ashamed, dirty, or scared. Tell her predators often threaten to kill the parents, and that it's a common lie they tell so they can get away with abusing her and other kids.
Give her clear guidance that it is fine to be rude to adults, including yelling, kicking, and punching, who mistreat or demean her in any way. (Same advice for sons too, and intersex kids.) Get advice from rape crisis and domestic violence service groups on how to help your child, or spouse, or friend, if they have been sexually, physically, verbally, psychologically, or emotionally abused or assaulted. Learn what all those things are, and to look for the signs of someone who has been or is being abused.

17. If you have children, make sure pornography is not in your home, or accessible through the television or computer, including in your own computer hard drive. Never let your child have a webcam, ever.
They are a tool for sexual predators to turn your child into child pornography, without you even knowing it.

18. Don't be in abusive and highly dysfunctional relationships—no matter who is being abusive. Get help from domestic violence organizations if you are in an abusive relationship, whether you are the abuser or the abused.

19. Regularly do the dishes, wash the floors, and vacuum the carpets.
It isn't "women's work".

20. Do at least half of all child-care in your home, and don't physically strike your child ever. And don't put them down, ever.
Never tell a child "You're bad!" Always discipline them humanely in ways that let's them know you are upset with their behavior, not with them. Back up any discipline by reminding them that you love them. If you don't know how to parent in healthy ways, in ways that support your child having self-esteem and a sense of security with you, learn how to. There are people that know how to, so seek out their advice.
Never make your children feel afraid to be around you. This includes not yelling around them, not belittling or insulting their mother or other parent or guardian, not being drunk around them, stoned, or high on other drugs. Never drive your children anywhere if you are under the influence of any substance that reduces your ability to drive as effectively as you can when you drive most responsibly. Don't "scare"
your kids with your driving, "as a joke". Scaring kids isn't a joke, it's abusive. If you tickle children to make them laugh, when they say "stop", STOP. It's cruel. (Did you ever like it when someone tickled you beyond the time you wanted them to stop?)

21. Don't tell children, of any gender, not to cry if they are frustrated, hurt, sad, angry, or afraid. Encourage them to cry and to otherwise express their feelings, verbally and non-verbally. Teach them how to know what they are feeling, and that they have a right to their feelings, whatever they are.

22. Don't regulate or control your children's behavior based on the shape of their genitals. Don't dress your children only as a gender-stereotype.

23. Report all incidents of adult sexual assault, and domestic violence that you are aware of to the police, and make sure they are trained to know how to help, rather than harass, blame, or further hurt or disbelieve women who are in trouble. Report your best male friend, father, brother, son, or any relative you know, who is harming women or children. If possible, remove siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandkids from abusive homes. Call the department of human services and the police, if you know of any child who is being abused or neglected. And make sure something is done about it that is in the best interests of the child/children.

24. Report all incidents of child neglect and abuse, even if it is your spouse, relative, friend, or neighbor who is doing it.

25. If women work for or with you, treat them with respect and dignity, always. Never comment on their appearance. Ever, unless it is strictly related to the duties of her employment. Don't set the terms of women's employment so that they are required to wear clothing men wouldn't wear to work.

26. Give up all "chauvinist" AND "chivalrous" behavior. It's patronizing and condescending to women. Hold the door for men and women equally, for example. Allow women to hold the door for you, without feeling like you're "not a man" for letting her do so.

27. Never threaten to kill or harm a rapist, if a woman reports being raped to you. Instead, ask her what she needs from you, and encourage her to make contact with a rape crisis center, and to not blame herself. Encourage her to go to a hospital as soon as possible and have a rape test done to gather evidence and assess her level of injuries (emotional and physical), and later to prosecute, if that is an option. (Make sure steps are taken within 72 hours of a sexual assault to administer medical treatment and collect forensic
evidence.)

28. Love women-as-humans, not as feminine objects.

29. Don't fuck drunk, and don't let any woman around you go home with a man if she's drunk or altered by drugs, or if you know the man to be someone who uses and/or abuses women.

30. Stop controlling women's behavior in small or large ways. Never hover over or around a woman in a controlling way, regardless of your reason for doing it. Never isolate women you are with from their social circle. Learn how to deal with your jealousy in ways that do not make it seem like she is responsible for your feelings. Own your own feelings. Don't ever strike a woman, ever. If she strikes you in an unprovoked manner, back off or leave the situation, and break up with her.

31. Don't sexually touch your children or anyone else's children. If you feel the inclination or desire to do so, remove yourself from the home or area, and seek out adequate professional help or take yourself to the police station and say "I need help–I am in danger of harming a child."

32. Never "trade" sex for money. This means any form of sex, and any kind of money (including bartering with alcohol, drugs, dinner, presents, gifts, etc.). The typical male assumption that "I gotta get some" is sexist bullshit. If you're horny, go jerk off, alone.

33. Strive to be a humane being in the world, rather than a gender.
Stop worrying about "being a man" and instead continue taking responsibility for being a humane being, including when around other men.

34. Never call a girl or woman any of these names (you can fill in the missing letters, in the case of some of them–I will not write them out, as many women who experience them regularly as hostile have seen and heard them about 1000 too many times, at least). This is not a complete list, but you'll get the idea from the terms listed here:
b*tch, sl*t, wh*re, sk*nk, hook*r, h*e, tr*mp, sl*g, tw*t, sn*tch, beav*r, p*ont*ng, h*ochie, g*ok, squ*w, g*sh, c*nt, p*ta, p*ssy, d*ke, n*gga, nigg*h, nigg*r, sp*c, ch*nk, k*ke, or j*p.

Women are not what men call women: misogynist and racist terms reveal what men think of women, how men perceive and treat women, not what women are. Women are human beings, deserving of respect and dignity at all times. Don't call a woman any derogatory term that applies only or primarily to women-as-a-negative-thing. Don't call women derogatory terms that refer to their ethnicity, whether or not these terms are also used against men of oppressed ethnicities. Don't use the excuse "Women call each other b*tch all the time!" So what? That doesn't entitle you to do the same.

35. Don't call women terms that men use to control and put down, insult, and silence women, primarily: crazy, unstable, irrational, hysterical, out-of-your-mind, f*cked up, stupid.

While some of these terms are used against men too, they are disproportionately and distinctly used against women by men who do not agree with the way a woman is communicating or being. There's no law that says she has to communicate in ways that you approve of. Learn to hear her on her own terms. (She probably has to do that with you, after all.)

The way men communicate is often irrational, crazy, f*cked up, histerical, and unstable. Women are told and/or forced to endure men's dangerous behavior, including verbal behavior, in and out of marriage, in and out of relationships, on and off the streets, in schools, at work, in public places, and in private places.

In the words of the feminist activist Celie's Revenge: 'I've been called these things by men and I've heard other women branded like this when they dare to speak their minds, especially if their ideas challenge liberal men on their shit. Angry men are sexy, attractive, living up to their manhood as defined by a patriarchal culture. This culture celebrates and congratulates aggression in men. Movies like The Hulk celebrate the idea that one man can get so angry he can destroy an entire city and white rappers like Eminen make their careers off of his anger at women and gay men. But women are expected to be warm, accommodating and repressed when it comes to our feelings of hurt and rage.'

The expectation that women will and should communicate the way you want them to, is sexist and dehumanizing. Learn to listen to women's anger and hurt, even and especially when it's expressed in ways that make you uncomfortable, as long as it isn't physically violent (unless she's defending herself against your physical or sexual violence).
Learn to be present to it, not to move into a defensive or violent posture. Work to understand women's experience in patriarchy. Learn to empathize. Don't tell a woman "I understand" if you really don't.
Learn to tell women: "Wow. I had no idea what I did was so hurtful to you" and "I hear your anger. Please keep expressing what you need to express to me. I'm listening."

One strategy men use as a conscious or unconscious strategy to control, regulate, and silence women is to claim to understand them better than they understand themselves, or to politely (or not) request that women rephrase or tone down what women say and express in tones and manners that are comfortable for men, and distorting of what women need to say. The way women express themselves when hurt and angry is PART OF what you need to hear and listen to. She doesn't need to "calm down" or "speak more quietly" or "stop crying" to suit your needs. She's expressing her needs and feelings, after all, not yours.
Stay present, and listen, and be respectful. You can speak your experience too, but not in ways that obliterate or demean hers, or make hers "wrong" and yours "right". That's sexist, demeaning, and disempowering, and damned frustrating and annoying as hell.

36. Don't ever apologize in order to shut a woman up, or to end a discussion. Don't ever apologize if you don't fully understand what you are apologizing for. Don't ever apologize if you don't intend to make sure that behavior will not be repeated.

37. Men tend to put down in women what males were put down for as kids. Pay attention to this connection, and use it to re-humanize yourself. Because you were made fun of or ridiculed for crying when a boy, for example, doesn't give you the right to put women down who cry. You don't like being shamed, so don't shame women or children.

Some women and men are mentally unwell, unstable, and/or seriously mentally ill. No one who is needs to be called those names to know that. Speak with women respectfully and non-patronizingly about your concerns for their well-being. That is, speak WITH them as you would your best male friend (unless you verbally abuse your best male friend). Calling a woman "a cr*zy b*tch" is not accomplishing that.

In the words of the feminist quoted earlier: 'I feel that whether or not it's true, whether or not a woman really is "mentally ill" any man calling any woman crazy or unstable is wrong and sexist. He should try to help her, understand her, not ever label her. I think more women should be crazy living under this system of patriarchy where you can't walk down the street without feeling eyes and sometimes even hands invading your right to an autonomous space and being. Where you are expected to flirt back with every creep who finds you attractive unless you want to be called a bitch or dyke. Women who get angry over sexism or even a perceived slight by a man should be understood within the context of living in a patriarchy that forces us to second guess our gut feelings, betray our interests and feel nuts every time our "true-true" selves tell us something isn't right. The oppressor does not have the right to tell the oppressed when or how to express our anger. There's nothing I hate more than a white person or a man telling me to calm down or how I should feel or respond to an injustice. Women just like people of color are entitled to every ounce of our anger, our hatred, our pain.'

Celie continues: 'Men should encourage women to trust their feelings, their passions, their pain even if these feeling cause that man discomfort or even fear. Men should encourage women to be angry.
Men should understand why a woman would feel enraged or hurt or confused by something he's done, take responsibility and stop trying to make us believe everything that happens is "all in our heads."'

The problem in Western society, historically and institutionally, and also, often, interpersonally, is white men's hatred, not white women and women of Color's rage, and not men of Color's anger. White men can easily forget this, or never realize just to what extent their values and ways of being are normalized and accepted, so that anyone else's values and ways of being are seen as "abnormal" and "unacceptable".
That's f*cked up, to say the least. White men need to learn, too often from women of Color, white women, and men of Color, that there are other ways of being that are just as human and healthy and appropriate as white men's ways of being.

As a feminist, Wilma Scott Heide (1921-1985), once expressed (and I'm
paraphrasing): Privileged and powerful men sit around in corporate board rooms, making decisions that cause death and destruction to many people they will never see, and they call what they are doing "rational". Privileged men, who are in political and military positions of power, discuss how many nuclear bombs it will take to curtail a war, and call it "sane".

Look at who really has institutional power in this world–look at who controls what happens in the world, economically and politically. It isn't women, especially women of Color.

38. Get used to not being taken care of emotionally by women, especially when they need to express themselves. The burden on women to always be understanding, loving, devoted, kind, deferential, compliant, submissive, subordinate, apologetic, etc. is a burden no human should have to bear, especially women in infuriating, degrading, brutal, and dehumanizing patriarchal societies.

39. Be aware of your own expectations that women are supposed to be the reconcilers in interpersonal conflicts, and also be aware of, and call men out on, their tendency to use being loving, "sexy", sweet, suddenly kind, begging of forgiveness, deeply apologetic, sad, pleading, and desperate as tools for keeping women in abusive relationships. If a woman wants out, don't keep her in. She doesn't belong to you. She is free to go.

40. Learn all you can about male privilege, and how it operates in intimate and group settings. For example, if at an activist event, notice how many non-feminist men are in leadership, or "hold the microphone" so to speak. Interrupt such non-feminist male-led events, calling on them to get feminist voices to the stage. Work to make sure an organization you are part of has anti-racism, anti-sexxxism feminist women in leadership. Don't ever think that "feminist" men are more knowledgeable about what sexism is than a woman who has lived in patriarchy. Don't take Women's Studies courses at a college in order to "score" with feminist women. (It's all too common, unfortunately.)

41. Learn that growing your humanity is much more important than protecting your socially learned "male ego". Don't lie through your teeth, be evasive, or deny a truth that a woman is calling you on.
Admit to being wrong when you are wrong, and own what you have done if you've done it, right away. Just because a behavior of yours may be fine when around other men, it may have a very different effect on the woman or women you are with, privately or publicly. Be sensitive and respectful of those feelings. And be aware of your tendency to allow and participate in sexist banter when just with men. Interrupt it. And don't ever talk about the sex you had with a woman, unless it's one to one with a trusted, humanitarian friend, and you are being vulnerable, not exploitive.

42. Finally, once again from the feminist writer and activist, Celie's Revenge: 'Another thing the oppressors, both men and white folks are guilty of is arrogance and self congratulation once they feel they have worked on themselves or towards equality on the behalf of the oppressed. They will trot out the few people of color or women who agree with them and celebrate them and use them to manipulate and silence anyone who does not. When a man believes he is progressive, even feminist, and has paid his dues publicly to the cause of gender equality suddenly he believes he can teach women more than he can learn from us. Suddenly not only is he the expert on gender but he will allow himself to use women as cheerleaders for his ego around his supposed enlightenment. Just because some women think you are great and another woman thinks you are a pig does not give you the right to patronize and silence that woman's feelings. A man who thinks he's worked on himself, "recovered from his misogyny", developed gender consciousness and sensitivity would not call a woman crazy under any circumstances nor would he resort to any number of typically misogynistic manipulations to silence and hurt a woman. The eagerness of so many so-called feminist men to become the spokespersons for feminism is nauseating, especially when time and time again these men prove they still have not learned how to listen to women. A man who has not learned to listen to women, ALL women, hasn't learned much.
Listening only when it strokes your ego is not listening. Listening when it is difficult and uncomfortable is a part of the struggle and reflects real enlightenment.'

[To post a comment, please click here. Celie's blog, like her name, is called Celie's Revenge.]