Feminism & healthy gender identity

Questions and discussions about gender, gender roles and identity.
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Feminism & healthy gender identity

Unread post by chickpea19 »

Hi there! I’ve been reading Scarleteen for a couple of years now and I really enjoy your perspectives, especially on gender/gender roles.

My question is this — how do you acknowledge male privilege and real problems with widespread misogyny while not falling back on stereotypes about men and women?

I’m a 23-year-old woman and I’ve noticed that sometimes there’s a lot of overlap in beliefs between my (somewhat anti feminist) parents, sexist guys I’ve known and feminist female friends.

For example, all three of these groups seem to believe it’s nearly impossible — or at least really difficult for (straight) men and women to maintain friendships and as a result they don’t have any close, emotional friendships with people of other genders, unless they’re somehow romantically, or at least sexually involved.

I agree that these friendships can be fragile — but I’ve also had a lot of close male friends, both in high school and at a somewhat conservative religious college. While sometimes one of us did develop feelings, we were able to handle it maturely for the most part and after some space, go back to being friends, if the feelings weren’t mutual. At the same time, now that I’m out of school, I’m finding it much harder to make male friends.

I’ve also heard a lot of comments about how men suck, especially when it comes to dating because they’re afraid of commitment/lack emotional maturity/only want sex. While I do know that perpetrators of sexual assault do tend to be majority male, and that many men can be sexist towards their partners, I think that some of the more mundane behaviors largely attributed to men (fear of commitment, leading someone on, not communicating) are things I’ve seen people of other genders do, too (not to mention all genders are capable of abuse and upholding gender roles). And I’ve known straight men on the receiving end of these behaviors.

Yet I sometimes feel like when I push back against the attitudes I see among family and friends that I’m saying “not all men” or acting like a pick-me.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is, how can I move toward a more healthy feminism that imagines good relationships between people of different genders and makes room for healthy masculinity? And how can I find people who share similar beliefs and values in real life?
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Re: Feminism & healthy gender identity

Unread post by Heather »

These are awesome questions and observations. Welcome to the boards! I'm happy to pick this up and start talking about it with you.

When I take in what you have said here, one thing that a lot of this sounds very informed by for me are heterocentric and binary ideas about people, and especially about men and women. It's probably also a big thread running between those people in your life you mentioned, too, (and yep, even if not everyone is heterosexual or themselves identifies as binary).

Without a belief that gender is binary, ideas like that men are like X and women are like Y just fall apart. With an understanding that gender is a spectrum, and that plenty of people don't identify as men and women at all, or do, but not on the binary or not in ways that "match" heterocentric and binary ideas of gender, thinking about men and women as people who can somehow only co-exist in ideal ways when they're sexual or romantic just make no sense, you know?

It's heteronormativity and heterocentricity that also do things like put out there that men and women can't be friends ( a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one), and also things like that only men engage in abuse and assault, and dismiss or diminish the whys when it comes to how much more often straight, cisgender men do assault, for instance (hint: it has a whole lot to do with heteronormative programming about masculinity).

I think literally just doing what you can to be like, "Oh, this -- let's say, the high rate of sexual assault perpetrated by cishet men -- is real. But it also has a whole lot to do with the ways in which men are socialized in our culture and the kinds of power dichotomies our whole culture holds up, very much including rape culture. Not to mention that even when we're talking about how many more men are perpetrators of sexual violence than women, that doesn't account for the fact that most men still are not and those stats are influenced by how men who assault are typically repeat offenders NOR does it consider sex and sexual violence outside that lens, which means that assault done *to* men or by other genders often goes unaccounted for..." et cetera.

In other words, I think you do what you're asking about how to (and how not to) do, by bringing nuanced and intersectional thought to the table, and by being sure that in your critiques of misogyny by bringing other kinds of bias in. Do you know what I mean?

A world of sound bites often delivers us this stuff without nuance, but it's just not the kind of thing that can ever be simply put, explained with something basic or on the surface, or...well, be easy.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
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