Thursday, June 09, 2011

On Maleness

Oxymandias has a Most Excellent blog posting entitled: “Who Cares About Men’s Rights?” at:

that is insightful, well-thought out and just incredibly good!

I’m guessing that she is a relatively young woman. Being male and 60, my vision is different I think in some small, but perhaps significant, ways.

I think that we are in agreement about most of what is said in such a clear deep way.

As a man I grew up learning that it was a “mens’ world”, but fitting in with that world was inevitably tricky. Conformity to norms I didn’t clearly understand was enforced as a relatively young boy by the threats of getting beaten up by three older boys, who probably were getting beaten by their fathers. In school there were pressures that I never understood, growing up in an atypical household and being an awkward loner. As I grew up I still lacked the social skills to see beyond the upper-middle class, White, Jewish male goals of academic achievement and intellectual success.

Some years ago I saw a small group of young girls (with several younger brothers in tow) playing in the courtyard of our townhouse complex. They were acting out together “a verbal fight”, discussing how things should go in the “play fight”. They were cooperative in a way that astounded me. My son Ben, when their age, was playing with things such as toys and balls and similar with and around other boys. He was not engaging in dialogue as part of a social world based upon active, substantive (in my mind at least) discussions.

The “community” that I’ve experienced amongst White Men largely focuses upon shared experiences relating to areas such as spectator sports and similar. Commonly we are in a world of peers where our foci generally are within our own generally narrow boundaries. As Het Men in the 1980’s we did not focus upon AIDS because it was a “Gay Issue” and thereby not relevant to us. Before we become parents (if we become parents), we commonly have little significant concern and involvement with fathering issues.

Where there are significant “men’s issues”, we care about them when they seem relevant to our lives, but otherwise have little connection to them. Most upper-middle class White Men have little connection to the issues of poor, young Men of Color who are incarcerated, killed and seriously wounded in great numbers. Support and advocacy work for male survivors of childhood (sexual and non-sexual) abuse, who are estimated to be at least one in six of us, are generally left to the survivors themselves or support services staffed and oft times aimed more at women. Prostate cancer can be a big issue for many of us as we are in our 50’s and 60’s and older, but seems ignored by most younger men.

As Oxymandias so amazingly described, we have plenty of reasons to be concerned about both ourselves and other men. What is not explicitly stated, though many causes are noted is that we men are “the weaker gender”. From birth onward, males have a higher mortality rate than females do. While it’s easy to see the differences peak when we are roughly between the ages of 15 and 30 – when “maleness” seems most a handicap to our survival, we die more readily as babies as well. (See my blog entry of November 10, 2008 at: for specific data – for the U.S.) .

While I do Not believe that most men are rapists or batterers or abusers of children, I do believe that we tend to be “infested” with “maleness” which is harmful to our general health. I think that the biological differences that we have are compounded by socialization which harms us both physically and mentally.

In terms of physical violence, we clearly injure and kill far more men, boys, women and girls than women do. Psychologically I would argue (though some might dispute this) that the pressures to conform to norms of our “maleness” come disproportionately from male peers and older males as well.

Women commonly have reminders which make denial of their “realities” difficult, if not impossible. Menstrual cycles, pregnancy and the threat of various sexist violence from male peers and older boys/men can be reality checks that are difficult to ignore.

The worlds of boys trying to fit in and grow up have their own complexities and traps. Commonly they relate to “maleness” whether it is potential gang violence or the needs to be “the best” in competition in various areas.

Some of us attempt to help other men change in positive ways through our connections to feminism (as well as through our understandings of racism, classism, heterosexism, etc.).

Despite our efforts in recent decades, the positive changes that have occurred have oft times been matched or exceeded by scary negative changes. The internet has ended the emotional isolation of many, while also endangering others’ lives and well being for example.

I find it hard to believe that Major positive change will occur in both:

1.) Ending – rape, domestic violence, stalking and other related violence of boys and men and:

2.) Boys and Men – succeeding (substantively more) in various ways spoken of and alluded to by Oxymandias

until a significant minority of men understand that “maleness” is harmful to us as men. It will then also be necessary that such men are motivated to work to change what being “a man” is for all of us men. Men will need to start seeing how we can be happier and healthier, and how we can live longer, happier lives through positive change.

IF – we can move to such a dramatic change from current reality, men are likely to really be able to take in the positive teachings of feminism (and hopefully of racism, classism, …etc.) and really relate to and support the struggles that women and girls have been through for a long, long, long time.

A far easier path which is a trap is for men to take a “best of” approach, rejecting the worst of “maleness” while being narrowly “self” focused. One example might be that while plenty of devotees of Robert Bly and the Mythopoetic Movement are wonderful, evolving Men, it is relatively easy for White, Upper-Middle Class, generally Heterosexual Men to self-segregate with their drums and rituals in a world which does little to connect them with others who may be substantively different from themselves. (Lots of White “liberals” somewhat similarly Did Not continue the Civil Rights work of the 1960’s into the necessary Anti-Racism work amongst White People into the years and decades beyond the times proximate to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr’s deaths.)

I see the problems of “gender” being primarily a “maleness” problem. Women have struggled and done a lot of excellent work related to Male Violence, gender roles and much more from the 1960’s through the present. While individual men and a few groups of men have done some incredible work, their numbers and influence have been far, far too small to bring about substantive change. While women can certainly support men in serious efforts they may make, they can‘t do the work that the men need to do (and aren’t responsible for waking us men up).

I am trying with: A Men’s Project - - to help men find useful resources to allow for easier networking and building of positive change. Other men are doing far, far, far more than I am in the actual work of helping to change “maleness” and ending the violence and pain.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Palestine - Again

from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

Bassem Tamimi, the subject of an action alert by Jewish Voice for Peace, speaks up for freedom on the 44th anniversary of Israel’s Occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, June 5th, 2011.

Tamimi’s full statement:

Your Honor,

I hold this speech out of belief in peace, justice, freedom, the right to live in dignity, and out of respect for free thought in the absence of Just Laws.

Every time I am called to appear before your courts, I become nervous and afraid. Eighteen years ago, my sister was killed by in a courtroom such as this, by a staff member. In my lifetime, I have been nine times imprisoned for an overall of almost 3 years, though I was never charged or convicted. During my imprisonment, I was paralyzed as a result of torture by your investigators. My wife was detained, my children were wounded, my land was stolen by settlers, and now my house is slated for demolition.

I was born at the same time as the Occupation and have been living under its inherent inhumanity, inequality, racism and lack of freedom ever since. Yet, despite all this, my belief in human values and the need for peace in this land have never been shaken. Suffering and oppression did not fill my heart with hatred for anyone, nor did they kindle feelings of revenge. To the contrary, they reinforced my belief in peace and national standing as an adequate response to the inhumanity of Occupation.

International law guarantees the right of occupied people to resist Occupation. In practicing my right, I have called for and organized peaceful popular demonstrations against the Occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half of the land of my village, Nabi Saleh, where the graves of my ancestors have lain since time immemorial.

I organized these peaceful demonstrations in order to defend our land and our people. I do not know if my actions violate your Occupation laws. As far as I am concerned, these laws do not apply to me and are devoid of meaning. Having been enacted by Occupation authorities, I reject them and cannot recognize their validity.

Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws which lack any legitimacy; laws that are enacted by authorities that I have not elected and do not represent me. I am accused of organizing peaceful civil demonstrations that have no military aspects and are legal under international law.

We have the right to express our rejection of Occupation in all of its forms; to defend our freedom and dignity as a people and to seek justice and peace in our land in order to protect our children and secure their future.

The civil nature of our actions is the light that will overcome the darkness of the Occupation, bringing a dawn of freedom that will warm the cold wrists in chains, sweep despair from the soul and end decades of oppression.

These actions are what will expose the true face of the Occupation, where soldiers point their guns at a woman walking to her fields or at checkpoints; at a child who wants to drink from the sweet water of his ancestors’ fabled spring; against an old man who wants to sit in the shade of an olive tree, once mother to him, now burnt by settlers.

We have exhausted all possible actions to stop attacks by settlers, who refuse to adhere to your courts’ decisions, which time and again have confirmed that we are the owners of the land, ordering the removal of the fence erected by them.

Each time we tried to approach our land, implementing these decisions, we were attacked by settlers, who prevented us from reaching it as if it were their own.

Our demonstrations are in protest of injustice. We work hand in hand with Israeli and international activists who believe, like us, that had it not been for the Occupation, we could all live in peace on this land. I do not know which laws are upheld by generals who are inhibited by fear and insecurity, nor do I know their thoughts on the civil resistance of women, children and old men who carry hope and olive branches. But I know what justice and reason are. Land theft and tree-burning is unjust. Violent repression of our demonstrations and protests and your detention camps are not evidence of the illegality of our actions. It is unfair to be tryed under a law forced upon us. I know that I have rights and my actions are just.

The military prosecutor accuses me of inciting the protesters to throw stones at the soldiers. This is not true. What incites protesters to throw stones is the sound of bullets, the Occupation’s bulldozers as they destroy the land, the smell of teargas and the smoke coming from burnt houses. I did not incite anyone to throw stones, but I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror.

These demonstrations that I organize have had a positive influence over my beliefs; they allowed me to see people from the other side who believe in peace and share my struggle for freedom. Those freedom fighters have rid their conscious from the Occupation and put their hands in ours in peaceful demonstrations against our common enemy, the Occupation. They have become friends, sisters and brothers. We fight together for a better future for our children and theirs.

If released by the judge will I be convinced thereby that justice still prevails in your courts? Regardless of how just or unjust this ruling will be, and despite all your racist and inhumane practices and Occupation, we will continue to believe in peace, justice and human values. We will still raise our children to love; love the land and the people without discrimination of race, religion or ethnicity; embodying thus the message of the Messenger of Peace, Jesus Christ, who urged us to “love our enemy.” With love and justice, we make peace and build the future.

Bassem Tamimi is a veteran Palestinian grassroots activist from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah. He is married to Nariman Tamimi, with whom he fathers four children – Wa’ed (14), Ahed (10), Mohammed (8) and Salam (5).

As a veteran activist, Tamimi has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date and has spent roughly three years in Israeli jails, though he was never convicted of any offence. He spent roughly three years in administrative detention, with no charges brought against him. Furthermore, his attorney and he were denied access to “secret evidence” brought against him.

In 1993, Tamimi was falsely arrested on suspicion of having murdered an Israeli settler in Beit El – an allegation of which he was cleared entirely. During his weeks-long interrogation, he was severely tortured by the Israeli Shin Bet in order to draw a coerced confession from him. During his interrogation, and as a result of the torture he underwent, Tamimi collapsed and had to be evacuated to a hospital, where he laid unconscious for seven days.

As one of the organizers of the Nabi Saleh protests and coordinator of the village’s popular committee, Tamimi has been the target of harsh treatment by the Israeli army. Since demonstrations began in the village, his house has been raided and ransacked numerous times, his wife was twice arrested and two of his sons were injured; Wa’ed, 14, was hospitalized for five days when a rubber-coated bullet penetrated his leg and Mohammed, 8, was injured by a tear-gas projectile that was shot directly at him and hit him in the shoulder. Shortly after demonstrations in the village began, the Israeli Civil Administration served ten demolition orders to structures located in Area C, Tamimi’s house was one of them, despite the fact that it was built in 1965.