Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Feminism - and Being Male

Being Male is something that I've had issues with since I was a boy. Feeling "different" being bullied by three boys two years older then me, being a loner and various other things isolated me from the worlds of: "country club cool boy", "stud", "star athlete", and other images I remember faintly from my distant youth.

Several days ago I read another rant of a long-time seeming activist to me saying that - many, many famous men and women have come from households without a father, and that "needing" a father is well over-rated. The tone and words that he wrote of strongly pushed a feeling that: "men are bad" and that "I don't identify with being a (real) man". (He's written similarly over the past 20 years.)

I agree that "needing a father" is not critical in being a healthy person. As children we need nurturing and love from adults - who may be of either gender and not necessarily simply our parents. I also recognize that the failures that I've had as both a son - feeling sad and angry thoughts related to my own father who died when I was 13 and more importantly as a father and now step-father are important to me. I believe that most men have issues related to their fathers, if they have them, as well as related to their children when we are fathers.

In the feminist male blogging community there are differing perspectives from one who works with young men and women both through teaching and his Christian youth groups (and generally says mostly quite insightful things), a young caring father, a blogger who speaks insightfully of being of Color and Male, and others who often write a lot about both what is bad about "maleness" and in some cases how they see us needing to do better as men to be the allies of women and more whole people.

Where there is a lack of what I think most important, it feels to me like it is a connection to other men in more than token numbers. Activists such as Steven Botkin, a most wonderful man, build community with men in important ways. They find male allies and talk through their issues and deal with their issues as men over many years, not relying primarily upon women for their emotional support and growth. They also build programs which work with men and deal with our issues relating to dominance and control in areas such as domestic violence and rape as well as working in areas where men are - such as being athletes. Such men confront men where they are at as both allies and men challenging their beliefs.

It is far, far easier to talk at men and talk with women. Seeking and getting the praise of many women is relatively easy when one can show that one is "different" from "those men". It is much, much harder to realize that while we as individuals may feel "different" - we are still men (primarily). For most women we are still different being male. For most men we are still one of them in important ways.

Men who work with men and connect with men can really be true allies and friends of women in ways that can be much harder absent such connections.

I was in my first men's group in about 1981, when I was 30 years old. Now I'm trying another time to connect and re-connect with men in my life. Several evenings ago after much effort four of us met in our first meeting as a men's support and consciousness raising group. I'm also working on an effort to have regular meetings with other men to do outreach work related to domestic violence and "our maleness" as part of a men's group that deals with domestic violence.

I've made my share of mistakes as a man in my life as many of us have. I'm ashamed of things that I've done and wish I had done better. I wish that more of my life as a single male and before I became a parent had had more of a focus towards helping others. Often it's easy to simply try to "have fun" and "fit in" and similar. One of the things I admire in many women is how they help others - their children, others' children, their parents, their closest friends and many more in their lives - reaching well beyond what is necessary.

As a man - I think it most important that we Do More rather than Say More! There are of course many other paths where we as Men can do good and help others. In speaking of working with men I don't want to sound like it's not equally important to work with children, the elderly, disabled people, in racism related areas and in many other important areas.

Thank you!

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