Monday, August 30, 2010

Putting the Men in Engagement

From Carl the Open-minded Chauvinist

So I was wondering how I could best contribute to the August theme of “masculinity” but was rather busy doing some other things, namely getting engaged. Yay!

Anyway, I was just busy getting things organized (we’re getting married in three short months) and just didn’t think I was going to have time to post something. But then something happened.

I wasn’t having ANY fun. In fact, I was having a distinctly bad time. Why? Well, you see, I had bought into the traditional idea that the wedding is HER day and that I, the guy, should simply pop the question then shut up and let her do her thing.

As a friend of mine once said, weddings are for the bride, and honeymoons are for the groom.

So as I watched my fiancé suddenly tackle all of the plans, occasionally asking my opinion but not really involving me in any of the planning, and as I watched her stress levels rise and rise and rise, and as I watched me suddenly turning into nothing but the guy who will run his hands along her back while she surfs the internet to look for invitations, or venues, or whatever, I was suddenly thinking, “Well, this is a new side to Susan I’ve never seen before.” And those 36 hours weren't that fun. I had visions of her being this stressed over the next 3 months, and I wasn’t that happy. So as she bounced around between several different windows on her computer, looking at venues for our reception, I finally asked if she would rather I run the computer and she do the talking and selecting. It would give me something to do, and maybe it would help her stress levels decrease.

So we switched spots, she leaned on my back, half cuddling with me, and I began taking a more active role in the wedding planning, ostensibly just by operating the computer. Within twenty minutes, her stress levels had decreased a lot, and I was assigned the tasks of finding a venue and an apartment for us to live in, and I was becoming heavily involved in the other wedding planning tasks.

And you know what? Sorry. This is 2010. Men, suck it up and help with the wedding planning. Once again I had bought into the culturally ingrained stereotypes, this time that men shouldn’t be involved very much in the wedding planning, and I found that stereotype to be actually damaging. So I kicked it in the teeth and moved on.

Susan has been nothing but happy and pleased I’ve taken a more active role. It’s more fun for me. And our wedding planner has been so gracious to the two of us, I think largely because we’re not Groomzilla and Bridezilla. I wonder if the other couples are more demanding than we are, and I wonder if Bridezillas are sometimes created in part by the lack of support from their male counterpart, and I wonder if that lack of support sometimes comes from buying into the myth that it’s the bride’s day so the guy should just shut up and let her do her planning thing.

But you know what? That day is going to be OUR day now, more than if I hadn’t decided to try and help. Now we’re both planning it. And it’s going to be a great day to start our life together—because we planned it together.

For more open-minded but chauvinistic writings, please visit Carl the OMC's blog, I Feel Like Schrodinger's Cat.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Which Male Crisis?

No matter where I go, every time I tell a group of men that I'm a feminist I hear the same plaintive cry: today the real minority is men. And not just men in general. No, the real victims of prejudice and discrimination are middle class white men. Proponents of this viewpoint are yet to show me any solid evidence that this is the case, and yet they cling to this argument like barnacles to a boat. 

Now, I don't want to downplay the problems that face American men today. Heaven knows the problems that face them are pretty severe, as our own Mickey pointed out last month. But I worry that when feminists and womanists say, "Men in general are struggling, and a lot of them are being left in the dust," they mean something very different from what middle class white men mean when they say the same thing. In any case, I'm worried that both feminists and middle class white men are looking at everything from a Eurocentric viewpoint. Why else would anyone think that men facing discrimination is new ? Aren't men of color, gay men, and poor men all men too?

And to tell you the truth, concerned as I am about white men who feel pressure to bulk up and act tough, I'm more concerned about generational cycles in inner cities that cut the lifespans of inner city men down to an age at which most middle class white men are still in school. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that the social problems so many middle class white men face aren't a huge problem. I just think it's an even bigger problem when our discourse about masculinity skips over men of color.

When I was in high school in New Hampshire, I took a current events course that happened to coincide with the democratic primary of 2004. In the Fall of 2003, politicians poured into New Hampshire, and our class decided to focus on the election. At one point one of Kerry's representatives came to our class to talk to us. He was a college-aged white man, and he was already adept at feeding us the lines he thought we'd want to hear. When I asked, "What will Kerry do to address inner city poverty cycles?" he gave me some line about how repealing NCLB would save the world.

I was irate, and after he left I commented on it in class. My teacher gave me a cynical look and said, "Emily, you weren't really naive enough to think a politician would answer your question, were you?"

And Ms. Perry was right. Today I would never expect a politician to answer one of my questions. Good Heavens, I can't even get BYU administrators to do that! But he should have answered that question. And Kerry should have included ideas about how to address inner city violence in his platform. As all the other candidates should have too. 

But sadly, issues that affect anyone in a lower class income bracket don't matter to most politicians. It probably doesn't help that so many middle class white Americans dismiss inner city problems by saying "Those people need to change their priorities and get their lives in order," without considering any of the empirical research behind poverty. For instance, did you ever consider that a poverty-stricken neighborhood isn't going to offer any jobs to all those people who "should just pull their acts together and get a job"? Research into concentrations of poverty suggests that breaking out of generational cycles is a heck of a lot harder when everyone you know has inherited the same generational problems from their parents.

This issue of whom we take to represent all men has been on my mind for awhile, and then I read a post by Honorée Fenonne Jeffers, a black woman who revealed some of the darker truths about Women's Equality Day and about the women's suffrage movement in general. Now, I'll admit that I'm often not sure how best to break out of my white woman perspective. I try, but I'm always wary of falling into a To Kill a Mockingbird kind of benevolent racism. "Oh, you poor helpless people of color! Let me as a wise white woman help you out!" is a racist attitude. But I know that the feminist community as a whole needs to do something more to reach out to our brothers and sisters who don't share our various levels of privilege. 

So, my fellow bloggers... any ideas?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

From Carl The Open-minded Chauvinist: Double Standards

This is a Repost from last year

Hi there. To introduce myself briefly, I’m Emily’s “open-minded chauvinist” ex-boyfriend. What’s an “open-minded chauvinist” you might ask? Well, basically, I think in stereotypically male patterns, so I think that men are smarter since they usually think like me. But I’m willing to say “I’m wrong,” hence the “open-minded” modifier. Emily even got me to say that I was wrong once.

So I had been thinking about this subject of double standards some months ago as I was in the process of a break up. I admit up front that this post is totally heterosexual-oriented. I’ll also admit up front that I have no idea whether the causes of my concern are societal, biological, cultural, or just idiosyncratic to me and probably most of my friends. Also, please note the overabundance of the term “stereotype” and its variations. I believe stereotypes exist for a reason (most men are X), but they obviously aren’t absolutes (all men are X).

Anyway, as my girlfriend and I were evaluating the relationship, I realized that I had made some changes in my life to accommodate her expectations. I don’t think the changes were bad, detrimental, or unhealthy in any way. Most of them had to do with how I spent my leisure hours—at the time, mostly by playing World of WarCraft.

I didn’t mind that I had made changes. I think most relationships require a fair degree of compromise and flexibility, and certainly the one I was in was healthy and productive. However, something disturbed me. I began to realize that while I was comfortable with my girlfriend asking me to make specific changes with regard to things that bothered her, I was not comfortable asking her to make commensurate changes.

As an example, I felt that it would be okay for her to ask me to give up my weekly guys night. Sacrificing time with their buddies is exactly what happens when guys grow up and become more serious about their relationship with their significant others, right?

So why did I feel like I would be a controlling and emotionally abusive boyfriend if I asked her to give up a weekly girls night?

As I thought about it more and more, it occurred to me that this was just one of a number of areas in which I thought it would be unacceptable for me, as a guy, to ask a girl to change. Moreover, I felt that all the things that guys stereotypically need to do when they grow up and move into steady jobs, relationships, etc. are to simply get rid of the stereotypical guy things! Sunday night football? Gone. Her book club? Not gone. Bowling? Gone. Her knitting group? Not gone. Going to the movies with the guys? Gone. Going shopping with her girlfriends? Not gone.

Now it goes without saying that ideally you would do things together. Go swing dancing. Learn martial arts. Take a massage class for couples. Something. But let’s face it. Rare is the relationship in which the couple agrees on every activity, and most human beings need some form of “me” time.

So what if the guy really likes football, and his significant other just isn’t interested in joining him to watch it? Must he really give it up? Can she ask him to give it up? (I feel subconsciously that yes, she can ask him to). If he’s not interested in her book club, and she really wants to continue it, must she really give it up? Can he ask her to? (I feel subconsciously that no, he cannot ask her to). It gets even more complicated when you realize that there will be things that don’t have a commensurate activity/desire/whatever in the other partner’s life.

In looking over drafts of this post, Erica pointed out that we are also culturally conditioned as men to be more “loners” and individual-oriented. Women, conversely, are conditioned to be more group-oriented. If this idea of conditioning is true, and it seems to both Erica and me to be so, of course in a society like ours men are expected to leave the group environment, while women are not. This rings true to me as a possible contributing factor.

I also recall a point Emily made when we discussed this issue a while ago. It was that there is a stereotype that all men want is sex. And while this stereotype is a myth, in both my opinion and Emily’s, I fully understand where it comes from. In this view of what men want, the man is already getting what he wants if the relationship includes sex. So he can’t ask for more. Yet since she isn’t getting what she wants (since she wants more than sex), she can ask for more. This stereotype about what men want also rings true to me, as at least a contributing factor.

In short, I think there’s a double standard that states that men have to stop being boys when they enter a steady relationship, yet that women don’t have to stop being girls. It’s very subtle, possibly even subconscious. I know that I didn’t really notice it until this last relationship. Yet in looking back I feel that it was present in all my previous ones to one degree or another—both from me and from my (now) ex-girlfriends. All I know is that if I asked my girlfriend to give up similar things that I felt morally obligated to give up, I would feel like I was beginning to match the warning signs of an abusive boyfriend. And that just seems wrong.

Feminism at its heart is about equality between the sexes, and as someone who considers himself a feminist (but open-mindedly chauvinist about it, ha!) this strikes me as something that needs to be fixed. We recoil in horror from women being pigeon-holed because of gender expectations. Shouldn’t we do the same when it happens to men? Gender stereotypes and expectations can cut both ways.

I am also open to the possibility that this double standard is just in my mind. But having said that, I have asked a few other men this question, and so far they seem to agree with me in a non-statistically valid fashion.

Anyway, this is just one example of ways I think double standards hurt men. This article points out others.

Comments 95 and 105 in this Feminist Mormon Housewives thread especially show how we men are in a bind with regard to the issue of communication and consent in sexuality. Also, I feel that there is plenty of discussion these days about women, homosexuals, African-Americans, etc. but none really about “men” as their own category. “Men’s Studies” programs are not nearly as ubiquitous as their counterpart, though there is an American Men’s Studies Association.

Nor is there a National Association for the Advancement of Caucasian People. There’s a pretty classic essay called “The Men We Carry In Our Minds,” that notes how disparities even among white men can very much color how we view issues of double standards. So while some of these other double standards don’t affect me personally as much (as an active Latter-day Saint issues of sexual consent aren’t going to arise until I’m married), the main one I have focused on with regard to relationships does.

What’s my point? I’m not sure exactly. It just seems to me that the advent of feminism, however one defines that; along with civil rights for various groups; the sexual revolution; and some stereotypes (which again, as I argue, exist for a reason), have put men in a bind sometimes. I’m absolutely sure women are put in binds as well, as Emily and Erica can attest better, and in more specific detail, than I.

All I know is that asking a significant other to give up something seems to be a double-standard wherein men get the short end of the stick. As one who believes in equality for the sexes, I believe this should not be the case. In short: it’s not all roses and hugs and puppies on the male side of the divide either.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Many congratulations are in order from those of us at NAW. This weekend I saw a cousin get married (he's not a contributor), I watched a dear friend and contributor get married to someone who has often commented on the blog (I'll leave the happy couple anonymous unless they want to reveal who they are), and I even learned the exciting news of Carl the OMC's engagement. So, here's to romantic relationships that triumph and last.

* Clink * Clink *

(Don't worry, I toasted with sparkling grape juice)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fine, I'll Admit It...Not All Men Are Evil.

Since we're trying to break away from stereotypes, here's one for you: not all feminists hate men and not all men are evil. Hard to believe, I know, but there you have it.

In one of my previous posts, Caught Between an Angel and a Prostitute, I talk about the binary opposition women are caught between: prude and slut. In August's posts, we have explored the ones men feel the need to operate within, here's a few: manly/gay, tough/weak, sex driven/pathetic virgin. Although it seems like a lot of male culture focuses on getting laid (how many coming of age movies make this the defining goal?), there are men out there who, like women, are evolving and can't be defined so easily.

In our (or maybe just my own) quest to become independent women, we tell ourselves we don't need men to be happy or live fulfilled lives. While I still argue that to a certain extent this is true, I must add one amendment: men can shape us feminists into better people just like we can shape them.

Much of who I am I owe to the men in my life, whether they were a negative or positive influence. I think because we women get hurt by men and the damaging aspects of our patriarchal inheritance, we tend to define ourselves more by the bad than the good. Sometimes that makes it infinitely harder to accept the good when you find it.

My dad always taught me to chase after my dreams of being an astronaut, paleontologist, tomato-cooker,biologist, zoologist, rock-star, actor, and, now, writer. He always treated me as an intellectual equal. Some of my favorite memories of him are when he read me and my brother The Hobbit, acting out each character's voice to make the pages come alive. Perhaps the greatest thing he taught me has been to question, to use reason and divine inspiration to seek truth and then to fight for that truth, whether it's an easy battle or not. He has taught me integrity, to stand by my principles and what is right even if it doesn't make sense to others.

My two younger brothers, who are 20 and 7, have both taught me not to take everything in life so seriously. They've taught me how to play, have sharpened my reflexes from rough-housing, and expose me to elements of culture (like comic books and video-games) that balance out my intellectualism. My 20-year-old brother is my best friend. I know there are people out there deluded with the notion that nurturing is exclusive to women. Growing up, this brother was always better at sharing than me, teaching me to be less selfish and more giving. And my little brother blows me away with tender moments on a regular basis.

There is a problem that can arise with feminism. By becoming so focused on redeeming the value of womanhood, we can lose the ability to trust men. We are in danger of confining men to binaries and belittling them to worthless. I owe feminism a lot. It's what made me realize that being a woman is worth celebrating, that women have power too, and penis envy is for wussies. However, at the end of the day, has it become a label whose expectations can be just as restricting as they are liberating? After yet another conversation with my father, I've come to realize that feminism can be more than a label: it provides tools to pick and choose from that can enable me to more fully be myself.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Men Can be (and Are) Victims and Survivors

Is this video funny?

Not if you believe that there are women out there who abuse men. Not if you believe that domestic violence should be taken seriously, no matter what social demographic the victim fits into.

The following material was originally posted September 26 2009, under the post title, For the Men:

So, the other day I'm walking home from campus, and I hear this girl shout out to a nearby guy, "Hey! My friend likes your butt!!" 

It wouldn't be such a big problem, except that this was at Brigham Young University. And, let me tell you, most BYU girls would freak out if a boy yelled that at them. I think a lot of women would - it would seem obscene, rude, and utterly inappropriate. Some might even label it "sexual harassment," since it took place on campus. The guy just shook his head and kept walking, but I was irate on his behalf. I don't know where people got the idea that there's no such thing as a man being abused, raped, or harassed,  but I think men deserve just as much respect as women. Nobody deserves to be objectified.

And you know what else? I think we're in a culture that unfairly stereotypes all men as either pathetic losers or promiscuous, testosterone-driven, emotionally dense slobs. Is that true for some men? Of course! But certainly not for all of them, and probably not even for a majority of men. In fact, a few years ago I was in a class where our teacher tried to demonstrate something about the difference between men and women by having us play a game, girls against guys. He said the point of the game was to get as many points as you could, and that there was no competition between teams. You had to choose either "yes" or "no" in each round, and what you chose compared to the other team determined how many points your team earned. If both teams chose "yes," you'd both end up with a high number of points - however, if one team chose "yes" and the other chose "no," the team that chose "yes" would get fewer points, and the team that chose "no" would still get the highest possible number of points.

Well, I wasn't stupid - I knew exactly what the men were going to do - they were going to lie to our faces, act nice, and then stab us in the back in their desire to have the highest possible score. So I talked my team into choosing "no," since I thought we'd get more points that way. (if both teams chose "no," they got more points than if only one person chose "no"). Turns out the guys had chosen "yes." So, the guys told us they wanted to cooperate and both choose "Yes" in the second round, but I still didn't believe them, so once again I talked my team into choosing "no." And once again, the guys chose "yes." Again, they offered to choose "yes" along with us. So, we finally chose yes, driven by guilt more than anything else.

Our teacher had been using this experiment for 10 years, and he had never once had a class where the girls chose "no" on the first round and the guys chose "yes." NEVER. It almost always worked out that the guys said they wanted to cooperate, and then they didn't. I recently learned that the teacher is still using the activity, and my class is still the only class to defy those stereotypes.

So, what does this say about me? Am I more masculine than BYU guys since I'm from the East? I sincerely doubt it. Do I have issues with trusting men? Eh, yeah, I kind of do, as all of my exes can attest. Am I unusually competetive for a woman? Probably. But I don't think I'm just an anomaly. I think there's simply a lot of deviation within each gender, and a lot of overlap between genders. Even in a predominantly heterosexual environment like BYU.

Now, I'm not trying to say men consistently get the short end of the stick. I don't believe that any more than I believe white, heterosexual, Christian, middle class Americans consistently get the short end of the stick. But I really do feel for men, whatever life situation they may be in. Men are sometimes told to suck it up and accept injustices in their lives that most people would never encourage a woman to accept in her life, and they're also fed stereotypes about themselves that simply are not true.

So, although I tend to focus on the injustices and problems women face, I don't forget what men have to put up with too. Maybe some day we'll all just treat each other with decency and respect.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Stud: Compliment or Insult?

Photo Source: Wikipedia entry on Stallions

A guest post from Jon


1 an establishment where horses or other domesticated animals are kept for breeding : [as adj. ] a stud farm | the horse was retired to stud.
• a collection of horses or other domesticated animals belonging to one person.
• (also stud horse) a stallion.
• informal a young man thought to be very active sexually or regarded as a good sexual partner.

2 (also stud poker) a form of poker in which the first card of a player's hand is dealt face down and the others face up, with betting after each round of the deal

Is there anything negative here? It sounds all pretty complimentary to me. I have always loved being called a stud! It meant I was a man. Like Clint Eastwood, Buzz Aldrin, or Buzz Lightyear–"to infinity, and beyond! Only last week did it really don on me what stud meant. This is how I connected it. Kjerstin called me a stud. I thought of a song called "Tennessee Stud" by acclaimed blue grass artist, Doc Watson. I thought about my sister Jenn and how she had talked about the breeding of horses and the part the studs play. And that was when I realized that I had been really called a highly sexually active breeding machine!!

Now,  Kjerstin didn't mean to call me me a highly sexual, active breeding machine. I am sure that like all other girls that have used this compliment to describe me, she was just trying to be nice and help me feel like a worthy part of the community. I was a stud. Strong, dependable, worth-while, and I guess unbreakable. But what is the female equivalent of a stud?

 Here comes WIKI!! The word mare, meaning "female horse," took several forms prior to A.D. 900. In Old English the form was mere or mȳre, the feminine forms for mearh (horse). The Old Germanform of the word was Mähre. Similarly, in Irish and Gaelic, the word was marc; in Welshmarch; and in Breton mar'h.  The word is "said to be of Gaulish origin." The word has no known cognates beyond Germanic and Celtic. Some derived terms are a mare's nest, an expression for "excitement over something which does not exist"; and nightmare, which began as a term meaning "an evil female spirit afflicting sleepers with a feeling of suffocation." 

However, "nightmare" may not be directly etymologically connected  with the word for female horse, but rather connected to homophones that meant "incubus" or "goblin."

So not exactly complimentary, but not really understandable anyway. Think about some of the names given to males and females. Ask yourself, which ones are positive and which on es are negative? Would it be ok if someone referred to me using this term? I am sure there are some that come straight to mind. I can't think of any woman appreciating the terms heifer, cow, sow, or a.... I guess if you called someone a Jenny they might not mind as long as that was their name. 

Why is it that it is so hard to find an equivalent to the word stud that is not degrading? And why is it right for men to be applauded in there sexuality while woman are only degraded? But on the other hand, why is it that men allow themselved to be defined by their sexuality? Is that a win or a loss for men? Does it mean we are better than women just because words of equivalent degradation have opposite connotations?

Here is an interesting list of the names used for male and female animals of the same species. 


Jon is a recent but enthusiastic member of the feminist world. For more of his work, go to Depthful Thoughts.