Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Rediscovering Something Very Old

Reading Hugo Schwyzer's post on the book Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex and Power, I'm struck at how blind to human nature some leftist ideology is. When you spend years learning the secret ways to discern the ghost of Patriarchy that stands behind every social exchange, it can come as a shock to discover that men are human beings. That they actually have emotions - just like women! That they have desires far deeper, and far more nuanced than the brutish need for sex and power. Wow!

All that is happening is that some feminists are finally realizing how shallow their views of men have been all along, and they are trying to garner credit for the "discovery."

Hugo is a big fan of Robert Jensen. In my view, which I've written here, Jensen is an extraordinarily shallow thinker who has made a career of shuffling and regurgitating radical leftist nonsense that he doesn't have the talent to originate. Hugo quotes Robert Jensen's essay in the book, saying it serves as the best summary of most of the other essays:
We live in a time of sexual crisis. That makes life difficult, but it also creates a space for invention and creativity. The possibility of a different way of understanding the world and myself is what drew me to feminism. I was drawn to the possibility of escaping the masculinity trap set for me, and the chance to become something more than a man… I was drawn by the possibilities of becoming a human being.

There is willful blindness here. Blindness that supposes that the only way to be a respected man among men in society is to mimic some "macho" caricature of manhood. Jensen needs to realize that there is a group in society that benefits from this caricature - Feminists. "Toxic masculinity" is the best marketing tool for the feminist agenda. Feminist outrage seems justifiable when you focus your attention exclusively on insecure adolescents, rapists, predators, and manipulative, violent sociopaths. Feminists have long claimed that women's experiences have been marginalized and women's voices have been "silenced." But the truth remains that the vast majority of men, who neither kill nor rape nor exploit, but spend their lives avoiding trouble and providing for their families - play only the smallest of roles in feminist discourse. So Jensen and other feminists take an adolescent toxic social dynamic and pretend it is the locus of experience for most men throughout their adult lives.

Ideologies need a hard, uncompromising view of an immoral enemy to survive. If any sympathy for that enemy seeps in, the whole edifice comes down. So feminists promote the belief that most men are stuck in that phase, when most men move beyond it as they mature.

Hugo continues:

Of course, men do have feelings — and not just the familiar ones like anger and lust. Reading through this anthology, I felt again and again that sense of relief that comes with realizing “No, I’m not alone in this. Other men feel as I do.” In our hyper-masculine and confused culture, we rob men of the chance to speak about their pain early on; “boys don’t cry” becomes an internalized message that most men carry to the grave. But we make a terrible mistake when we assume that because men seem to lack the same vocabulary for their emotions that women have, that they then somehow lack the emotions themselves. We give men the chance to develop that vocabulary by exposing them to male role models who are comfortable with strong emotion, and comfortable too with rejecting the straitjacket of traditional masculinity.

Did James Joyce lack a vocabulary of feeling? Duke Ellington? Eugene O'Neill? Is Robin Williams shy? When Hugo says "we make a terrible mistake when we assume" I don’t include myself in that "we." I don’t include historians - who have studied men and their motivations - in Hugo's "we." I don’t include police, who see the rawest of emotions each day. I don’t include wives who know exactly what their husbands are feeling, and why. I don’t include nurses, who see men suffer. I don’t include soldiers, who watch men die. The "we" are academic feminists, who need to relearn what most children learned from their fathers.

Only some men remain in the straight jacket; Feminists claim that most, if not all men are still trapped, and feminists hold the key. Nonsense - a man needs to get himself out, as part of growing up.

Hugo speaks of his students views:
So many of us, particularly women, despair about men. So many of us have had been left bewildered and hurt by the ways in which the males in our lives live out the masculine credo. I can’t count the times my female students have said something along the lines of “You know, I don’t really believe men have feelings the way we do. Maybe a few rare ones do, but it just seems like men don’t think, don’t hurt, don’t engage in anything emotional. I think men just play at having emotions to string us along, displaying whatever they think we want to see, whatever will get them laid or shut us up.” And when one student says something like this, others nod their heads vigorously. Some of those nodding are men.
I guess William Shakespeare just couldn’t "engage with anything emotional." Walt Whitman just couldn't find the right words to express how he felt. Frank Sinatra couldn't make sense of emotion. Beethoven was deaf to human feeling. Maxmillian Kolbe lacked empathy. Firemen don't understand fear. Husbands and fathers don't understand love. No - the reason that Hugo can’t count the number of times his female students generalize like this is because they are never corrected - they are never told: "Go study some English literature if men puzzle you. Study some ancient drama. Read the wartime letters of soldiers. Listen to Arlo Guthrie. Watch Seinfeld for God's sake!"

And that nonsense about men living out the "masculine credo." Perhaps to Hugo and Robert Jensen that credo means little more than getting laid, and kicking the ass of anyone who gets in your way, but in doing so they willingly and purposefully market an adolescent phase as if it was the full measure of what it means to live life as a man. As if it represents the full range of choices men have today. The vast majority of men lead lives far deeper than that, and survival dictates they must navigate the same emotional waters women do. Jensen's view of men doesn’t see men as having artistic urges, or religious impulses. No - Jensen sees himself as the lonely pioneer leading the way in that area.

All through history, any "masculine credo' that existed was roomy enough to include artists and saints, in addition to warriors. And true, non-tyrannical leaders too. Look at some of the most famous, successful men of the twentieth century:

Charlie Chaplin
Muhammed Ali
Pablo Picasso
Pope John XXIII
Charles Lindberg
Bill Gates
Martin Luther King
John Lennon
Neil Armstrong
Billy Graham
Fred Astaire
Ernst Shackleton
Irving Berlin
Walt Disney
Thomas Edison
Albert Einstein

Can you find a common "masculine credo' that they share? Ali is the only one I'd want on my side in a barroom brawl, but he'd be no help in combat - because he went to jail rather than to go to war. I'm guessing the men in this list weren't strangers to emotion, and that they had some crude ability to express it - yet they were highly respected for what they accomplished. So what is this "masculine credo" that our society enforces as the road to wealth, success, respect and admiration?

So when Hugo's female students vent in the classroom, they are venting about a straw man "masculine credo" that has been deliberately constructed for them - by feminists - as an effigy that will fire their anger. A straw man that deliberately lacks some of the "traditional" masculine imperatives like hard work, dedication, perseverance, creativity, self-sacrifice, courage, honor, and integrity. Adding those to the effigy might muddy the waters, because in some circles they might be seen in a favorable light. So those qualities are excluded, in order to make venting easier. And the more the (female or non-heterosexual male) students vent against the silly effigy that feminists desperately point to, the more the teachers feel validated in their own narrow views.

Hugo quotes an essay from the book on a male sex abuse survivor:
one out of six boys wil experience sexual assault by the time they turn eighteen. By comparison, though, one in three women will be assaulted in her lifetime. What this means is that we need to include men as victims in conversations about sexual assault without decentralizing women’s experience and without taking away from the leadership of women and gender-variant survivors. We must recognize that while sexual assault affects everyone, it is also a tool of the patriarchy that specifically and disproportionately targets those assigned less social power.
That's an essay I'll skip. To paraphrase: Yes, we know men have feelings, and we will graciously give them a hearing - as long as they don’t disturb our settled certainties about whose suffering is really important. Men "can be included in the conversation" - but purely as a marketing effort, not because we really care. So men, please express your feelings - so I can chivalrously focus on other, more deserving victims.

So here's another answer to give when Hugo's students start to vent about men they know who "don’t think, don’t hurt, don’t engage in anything emotional." Maybe men don't express their feelings to woman like you because they have the emotional insight to realize that you don't really care about their feelings. The more feminist you are, the less likely you are to care about men's feelings, despite the empty "patriarchy hurts men too" rhetoric you were taught to use.

Hugo concludes by summarizing one of the essayist's experiences with feminist academia:

Gently, firmly, Brillante makes the case that academic feminism must be open — in theory and practice — to men, just as those men must also be open to rethinking their deepest beliefs about gender and sex.

Notice that it is men that must do the rethinking as the price of admission to these rarefied circles of academic feminists. Yes, men do need to rethink their roles in society, but they'll find fallow ground for that at the feet of feminists.

Anyway - are there men that want in to feminist academia? I sure don't, and it pleases me that my children show not the slightest interest in Women or Gender Studies. Then again my daughters don't need a place to vent - they do plenty of that at home.



Pete said...

It is the whole foundational premise that his whole argument rests on, isn't it? If that goes, all the rest of the blather is just wind.

Which is why - no matter how he rationalizes it - Hugo Schwyzer will never have a debate, or allow to be posted on his blog a viewpoint, which does not a priori accept his flawed premises.

You can call that what you will. I don't think I need to break out the crayolas; his feminist keepers over the past couple of year have browbeaten and whipped him into that position.

And if that is an example of "manhood" according to Hugo, I wish no part of it.

Sweating Through fog said...


Thanks for vising, and for your comment. I read Hugo's blog because he does encourage debate and he engages respectfully with people who disagree with him. This is in marked contrast to the more popular feminist blogs, which I see as little more than hate sites. He doesn't engage in debates on the fundamentals of feminism, and I don't begrudge him that policy.

I don't see him as browbeaten. I credit his views as being genuine, even though I disagree with many of them.

Pete said...

I'll throw Hugo the bone that he doesn't insult people overtly, unlike Feministe.

I'll grant he lets those who oppose his views post - ulike, say, RedStateFeminist (Who, hell, anymore doesn't allow you to even view without "approval.")

I allow he will squelch an acrimonious debate, though I am amused that after some feminist calls you a "Pencil-dicked latent queer" and you respond with a "Was that necessary?" it's not her, but you, who gets "corrected."

And, unlike some feminist blogs, at least your posts aren't edited to make you look illiterate. Though I have noticed incidents where key arguments or supports of a central thesis have been excised so as to remove central supports so that the end result appears disjointed.

I remember, though - after he first appeared on Glenn Sacks' show back when, it was a lot different. You could question premises. A lot more exploration of issues. He bothered to explain fundamentals in a non-condescending way.

The one day the usual suspects of the gaggle of strident and shrill femibloggers descended on him, accusing him of consorting with the enemy, heresy, threatening to pull his feminist card as being "insensitive" and "inauthentic" and "privileged" and "not being a safe place anymore" and Ol Doc Hugo, he rolled over on his back, showed his throat, and pissed all over his belly.

It's not been the same since.

I can apply many adjectives to the debate over at Hugo Schwyzer's. However, when one has to stipulate that 2+2=5 before you can go it ... "Intellectually Honest" isn't one of them. When I travel the internet at many MRA sites and see the "Bring it!" mentality there, where vigorous debate is invited and encouraged, I am forced to ask "Why isn't it among feminists?"

And I think the question answers itself. If intellectual honesty and scrutiny were applied to their philosophy, they wouldn't be feminists.

The Chief said...

The thing about Hugo is that once he has been Corrected by a woman, that's it, the argument is over. Somewhere about this time last year--around the time of Jessica Valenti's book and Amynda Marcotte losing her job with the Edwards campaign--some women Corrected Hugo about allowing any questioning of the basic premises of feminism, socialism, veganism and all his various other isms. So that's that, no more substantive debate over at his blog.

Anyway, in regard to his post and the book as a whole: The thing that most hard left feminists in general and this book and it's contributors in particular seem to want is for men to change--into something women would find more acceptable, or at least think they would. Among the many problems with this is that it just wouldn't work. If men as a whole swore to never again leave the toilet seat up, to forsake the beer, the chicken wing and the "Monday Night Football" for latte, tofu and an evening of "The Vagina Monologues," if we promised to start wringing our hands over All Important Feelings the way some women seem to want us to...

...those very same women would eventually become irritated and bored with it, wanting us to Man Back Up again.

In short, it's impossible to give women what they want, largely because they don't know what they want themselves and frequently change their minds about it anyway.

Now if you'll excuse me, off to get a big burger. I always make a point of eating a big, meaty meal after reading something particularly annoying from Schwyzer.

Sweating Through fog said...


Actually I don't find Hugo's policy that restrictive. There are plenty of men who are sympathetic to the male POV that comment there, and threads are often pretty contentious and pointed. There s a level of respect between adversaries on Hugo's site that I don't find elsewhere.

I view feminism as a religious matter. Despite all the academic pretensions, feminism is a religion. You can't engage with feminist true-believers on fundamentals - it is a waste of time.


Thanks for commenting. Yes, there is often a bias against men there, but it isn't all that pronounced. Good discussions happen, and I don't know of anywhere else where they occur with such regularity.

The reason I find Hugo's posts so interesting is that he is trying to balance 3 agendas that are often irreconcilable.

1) feminism
2) Christianty
3) men's issues

And he pretty much sticks to that hierarchy. While he is sympathetic to mens issues in many respects, they always give way when they butt up against the fundamental perspectives of feminism. He often tries to use Christianity as the bridge between feminism and men's perspectives. There are lots of posts where he uses Christian ethics to promote new ways of relating between the sexes. Enthusiastic consent, don't hit on younger women, don't use porn etc. There are many posts about the right way men should treat women. There are plenty of posts about the right way men and women should treat each other. There are many posts about how women should treat each other. I have never found a single post that advises women on the right way to treat men. Or even a
single statement as far as I can see. That is because feminism admits of no ethical imperatives on how women should treat men. Men have the Original Sin of Patriarchy - it assumes that woman's moral essence has never been corrupted by power, so they need no ethical guides on how to treat men.

And Chief, you are right about feminism vs. what many women really want in practice. Lots of women want "real men." It's funny that feminism has constructed all these silly rhetorical amulets to guard against things that most people see quite directly. Thats all they learn in school. Feminists would file away what you said, and discount it entirely, in the drawer of "Nice Guy(tm)" bitterness.

Pete said...

As far as whether you may speak, no, it is not as restrictive, comparatively, as other feminist blogs.

I just question whether any discussion can be truly honest when certain assumptions and premises must be stipulated to before the discussion commences.