Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Men's Project - my website/project

A Men’s Project, my new website of web links to resources reaching men on issues of male: violence, health care, child care and other gender issues went live at: Wednesday.

I'm happy to have finally reconnected with the world of men's anti-violence work in a meaningful way after 23 years of relative inactivity. My memories of Men Stopping Rape, Inc. which I helped co-found in Madison, Wisconsin, USA in 1983 are still alive.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Privilege -- Some Thoughts

Recently I've had various experiences which have helped me reflect upon privilege and what it means to me.

In the blogosphere I've recently read parts of various self-described "radical feminist" blogs which I found through responses to Hugo Schwyzer's blog and a blog I found through Hugo's reference to it. I responded to the latter blogger's writings on radical feminism and then had brief private correspondence with him. He largely dismissed my concerns and insights as being either totally inaccurate/wrong or irrelevant to his issues with radical feminism. (I wasn't amused, though not totally surprised.)

Of far more significance was the time I spent last Friday at a conference: "Paving a Road: Removing Barriers for Engaging Men" at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Upon arrival I ran into and had a nice conversation with Michael Kimmel, a long-time leader in men's pro-feminist thought and activism, who I'd last seen circa 1985. As the day went on I met many other fascinating and significant people including the keynote speaker (I missed her speech unfortunately) Dr. Rachel Griffin of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Ben Atherton-Zeman, and Robert Jensen (who was "interesting").

Male privilege was a predominant topic at the Conference. I have long thought of privilege in terms of intersections of various areas including:

a. Gender - Male vs. Female
b. Race - White People vs. People of Color
c. Economic Status - Wealthy and Upper-Middle Class People vs.considerably poorer people

and various other factors which may include: sexual orientation, age, disability status, religion, etc.

I am personally privileged in many ways, including being: Male, White, Upper-Middle-Class, middle-aged (barely still), and predominantly heterosexual.

I have been bothered recently hearing (of) others talking in related areas including:

1. Significant, often blatant, questioning of the privilege of White People commonly with attacks upon President Obama which imply that Blacks are at worst "equal" and perhaps wield more power than Whites now, and

2. Questions of male privilege in many areas from both men and women of various perspectives.

In the past I could dismiss similar questions indicating that others were ignoring the influence of important factors most commonly related to economic status. Example: White Men questioning their power might bring me to answer readily that obviously White Women with significantly more wealth might have much more visible privilege than one did as a "White Man".

I still believe that economic status is oft times ignored or minimized in The United States particularly confusing issues relating to privilege.

I also think that we commonly face paradoxes related to dealing with privilege in general that are most important.

When one faces the privilege of another over one, one has quite common reminders of the status differences. When one is a woman and faces issues of male privilege, attempting to ignore that privilege has reminders of it that are difficult to miss.

A woman who seemingly denies male privilege may, for example, feel unsafe walking in the dark fearing a gender based assault from a male stranger. Such a woman may also face various potential business related situations where for example an automobile salesman may presume that the man she is with is "in charge" and direct his conversation initially to him, rather than her. A younger woman may be conscious of her physical appearance and where she is walking being aware the catcalls, stares or similar may common from anonymous men she may pass.

It is correspondingly different where one is from the "dominant" or "privileged" class. I, as a White Person can commonly ignore race as an issue, except in isolated situations in my life. When in a room with no People of Color, I rarely have an issue with this. Where I feel that I have been treated unfairly by someone, generally I don't wonder if why they treated me that way because I am White. Where I am in situations with a small minority of People of Color, there generally is little pressure upon me related to race from anyone else in the room.

Where we, as the privileged class face issues related to our privilege, most commonly we can deal with them in the moment and then ignore them. When I confronted a gas station attendant for his "boob" comment that I felt totally inappropriate, I had done my "good deed" and then was "back to normal". While his statement bothered and surprised me, it didn't shock me.

Where we can't ignore our privilege issues or choose not to stay "normal", it generally relates to some significant tie to the issue we have which separates us from the privileged class as a whole. Feminism became increasingly important to me 30 years ago because I was isolated as "a man" feeling torn between my love of sports and other ways in which I felt very "un-male". Racism issues have an added significance to me beginning eight years ago when I began my relationship with my Black Partner.

As a privileged person we are often must choose whether to "be normal" and go along with the flow or to be in some ways a seeming "traitor to our class". To the degree that we take the seemingly simpler approach, we can try to be "liberal" but "not radical" in what we do. Such approaches may work well for most people, though some may have issues with their conscience to the degree that they feel that they aren't doing enough towards the cause.

When privileged people act as a seeming "traitor to their class" other issues can readily arise. As a White Man if I support feminist causes in more than a token way, I can reach a point where I am seen as both a "hero" and a "villain" depending upon who I am dealing with. Within a feminist world, it is easy for men to get sucked up into the "I'm a good guy" mode which sometimes may limit them doing the work as seriously as they might otherwise do it if the praise gets to them. One can also end up socially isolated and potentially lost in such worlds as an activist. When one no longer relates easily with most men, one may need to struggle to build male allies and friends. One doesn't fit in with feminist women when they want and need "female time".

To the degree one stays close to "normal", one may seemingly have respect and potential influence with others. At the same time it is difficult to help bring about serious change when one is nudging carefully in small increments.

When one becomes "the traitor" one may easily get publicity and be visible, however it can be much harder to get people to listen to the issues and work on them seriously.

Privilege seems to me to be a larger issue, that oft times is ignored by most people. To the degree that I may live in "White Worlds" I don't need to confront issues related to being White and racism issues in general.

Sometimes we need to confront privilege issues related to fairness and integrity in our lives. Usually in such areas we don't expect to reach a lot of other people with this issue, but want to be "a good person" in doing what we do.

At other times we want to confront privilege issues because they also hurt and affect us as well as how they hurt those who are hurt by our privilege. I believe that men hurt by being men. The boxes that we are put in, most commonly by other men, make it tough on us individually and collectively.

I hope that over time we men will realize that we don't have to be an "oppressed class" or "lacking privilege" to want and need to deal with our issues. Through dealing with our issues more of us may learn how feminism and its lessons may help us have happier lives.
Through such changes we can grow and prosper without scapegoating others including both "women" (as "the other") and men who we want to be our allies and friends. Thank You!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Marjorie Reade - A Wonderful Woman

I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan almost 60 years ago. My father was a mathematics instructor at the University of Michigan until his failures to publish significantly forced him to leave (for Purdue University).

Marjorie Reade first knew me as a young baby. I remember her only from my young adulthood until 1988 or 1989 when I last visited her with my (at that time) young son Ben. She always, kind, loving, insightful and very intelligent! While I can't claim to have known her well, I always enjoyed her company.

I just learned that she died in August at the age of 92. What follows is the obituary I found of her.
Reade, Marjorie Marjorie Reade, loving spouse and mother, pillar of her church, Ann Arbor historian, Democratic Party activist, avid gardener, community volunteer and celebrated hostess, died on August 17. She was 92. Born in North Dakota as Marjorie Tibert, she grew up on a remote farm before mechanization and long before electrification. As a child, Marjorie cried when a tornado destroyed her father's crops and her 4-H winning garden. She scraped mud out of the wheels of bogged down buggies and cars, saddled and rode horses or walked five miles to get the mail, cooked for teams of field hands, swept swarms of grasshoppers from the house even as the insects ate the broom, and survived the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and tuberculosis. Yet, Marjorie went on to have Albert Einstein at her first wedding reception, to stand next to John F. Kennedy as he announced his intent to form a Peace Corp at the Univer-sity of Michigan, and to accept an invitation to meet Hillary Clinton at the Clinton White House along with her husband Maxwell. Marjorie graduated from high school in her early teens. She later joined the wartime secretarial pool and was selected as the assistant to two admirals, helping each earn another star. Marjorie was asked to join the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency but she declined. Instead, she married Ann Arbor native Charles L. Dolph, who was a naval officer completing his doctorate at Princeton. Later the couple moved to Ann Arbor, where Marjorie's husband produced ground breaking work on radar and led the Project Mercury plasma flow studies for the Atlas rocket nose cone, which carried astronaut John Glenn to the first earth orbit. Following the tragic deaths of three of their four children, Marjorie and Charles were divorced, but not before the couple agreed to deed Dolph Park to the City of Ann Arbor as a wildlife refuge. In 1967, Marjorie married Maxwell O. Reade, a U-M professor of mathematics whose work had helped end the submarine threat to allied convoys in the North Atlantic during World War II and who later received the university's top teaching award. Together they traveled around the world, cultivating their language and cooking skills and laying the foundation for an expanding scholarship program for promising mathematicians. Avid Wolverines, they held season tickets for over four decades, never missing a home game. Marjorie was active in the First Universalist Unitarian Congregation of Ann Arbor, managing the church's financial affairs and serving as a beloved parishioner and organizer. Marjorie co-authored the book Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan with Susan Wineberg and was named "Preservationist of the Year" in 1993 by the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission. Throughout her prolonged illness, her ninety-four-year-old husband Maxwell was at her side, cooking and cleaning, encouraging her to eat, reading The New York Times aloud, and working with the round-the-clock aides who also fought along side of Marjorie's children to prolong her life. Marjorie is survived by her husband Maxwell, her son, Lawrence Dolph and his wife Lynn Nybell who did so much for her during the final months; by Marjorie's granddaughter Christine Dolph and spouse Brian Wachutka, and grandson John Dolph; by Maxwell's children Michael, Tim and daughter-in-law Joy, and Allison Reade; and by Maxwell's grandchildren, Francis, Christopher and Wesley Reade. A memorial service will be held at 3pm Monday, August 23 at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Ann Arbor. Donations may be made in Marjorie Reade's name to the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 4001 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103; or to the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 South Fifth Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Central High School - Little Rock - Lessons for Today

Current issues including the:

1.) Scapegoating of Muslim Americans and other Muslims (e.g. Ground Zero Mosque),
2.) Racism directed at Barack Obama, other Blacks, and People of Color in general and
3.) The economic populism within the purported aims of the Tea Party Movement

all seem to resonate in the words of Karen Anderson's excellent book: "Little Rock: Race and Resistance at Central High School". Anderson moves from the mid-50's onwards and discusses the token integration that was fought so bitterly there amongst: the working class diehard segregationists, the "moderate" (male) business establishment, the "moderate" (White middle-class) women activists, the NAACP and other Blacks, the Federal Government and Governor Orville Faubus.

I've long loved Charles Mingus's classic: "Fables of Faubus" and known a little of the pathetic history of what took place in Little Rock, but this book illuminated much more for me.

Noted quotes near the end of the book include:

p.240 - "Segregationists and moderates alike went from claiming in the 1950s that laws were inadequate as a means to racial change because they could not change private feelings and actions to a fervent embrace of law as the only domain that had to change in order to create racial justice. The two positions ere not that far apart in their social vision, as the development of a new "race-neutral" law covertly incorporated most of the racial assumptions and discriminatory practices shared by the South's arch-segregationists and moderates. The legacies of 1950's moderate successes in fostering delay in desegregation while touting tokenism in school integration ultimately enabled the creation of white flight and of private schools that allowed white middle-class parents to isolate their children from working-class and minority children.

The marriage of the religious fundamentalism embraced by the arch segregationists and the capitalist fundamentalism embraced by male moderates ultimately paved the way for the formation of the New Right."

p.240-1: "Increasingly, any government action beyond the enactment of "race-neutral" laws, especially anything labeled affirmative action, came to be denounced as an un-American "reverse" discrimination. Indeed "race neutral" replaced racial justice in public discourse and as he normative standard for private institutions as well as public policies."

p.241: "Despite this, white Americans' sense of lost rights and opportunities has fueled the backlash against African Americans and those politicians perceived to be their advocates. This backlash has targeted successful blacks (who are denounced as undeserving beneficiaries of affirmation action) as well as unsuccessful blacks (who are viewed as parasitic dependents living off of welfare)."

p.241: "As Roy notes, 'Concepts of race are deeply imbedded in American culture, constituting a language that works somehow to explain the anomalies created by our classed classlessness.' Racism, indeed, allows whites to communicate a sense of oppression and powerlessness 'that somehow goes unexpressed in other forms.' "

Reading this history shows both common parallels and how we have evolved today in many ways. Maintaining tax cuts that are only for higher income individuals is an issue which fits into this tale. The "oppressions" that are felt by so many similarly fit in.

In the book the desires and needs of the Black residents of Little Rock were rarely heard or substantively dealt with. When Little Rock's high schools were entirely shut-down for school year 1958-9, no consideration was made for the most extreme hardships Black students and their families faced.

The "big" issues were how the closures might negatively impact the out-of-state future college attendance possibilities of middle-class, White children. As in the book's story we hear today of so many "bad things", but only rarely do we focus more than tokenly on the Real Problems of the Poor and others who are the real victims of our policies. While Davis Guggenheim talks about public schools related to poor, minority children, we rarely look seriously at their needs and how they are Not being met today.

I hope that someday more of us will read our history and try to learn from the mistakes and build more effectively towards a better future for all of us. Thanks!