Hey everyone. Besides being interested in progressive politics in the United States, I have a keen interest in issues of sex, gender, gender relationships, and how our society views all of these things. In my (admittedly limited) experience attempting to get men involved in issues of violence prevention and in discussing these sorts of issues, I find that men are extremely resistant.
I have some theories on the problems of feminism, specifically regarding its failure in communicating its ideas, whatever they may be (and it means different things to different people) to men. Below the break is my attempt to summarize my thoughts on feminism, and how a social movement for men can be constructed.
What is “Manism”?
Manism is a social movement: by men, about men, and for men. Although the word is new, its concepts are not. It is a simple and practical movement. Its first primary purpose is to develop a vocabulary of self-expression for men. It provides a vocabulary allowing men to discuss many issues and problems we are intensely aware of internally but are unable to articulate.
It acknowledges several points:
One: men are sexist. From the most to the least chauvinist of us, we have privileges over women, biases against women, and take our gender role for granted (I am sure that this article contains at least a few instances of these of which I am unaware). Being a “manist” is like being a recovering alcoholic: to solve the problem you must recognize the manifestation of your sexist beliefs and consciously change them. This process is gradual, and never complete, but you know that it makes you better. Because men have these biases against learning about “women’s issues” and such, the most effective way to communicate to men is for men to talk to other men. Feminism is a movement for all of us, and so is manism, but women have been teaching and talking to women about feminism, and now men need to teach and talk to men about manism.
Two: men and women are different. No, no, we have no inherent mental differences—none of that sexist argument! It acknowledges that in our society there are different norms, expectations and experiences for each gender. Manism gets through to men by discussing shared experiences between men while acknowledging our differences (racial, ethnic, class, etc.).
Three: Men, young and old, don’t have this kind of a social movement yet. It just doesn’t exist. Yes, there exist academics who study and write about the male half of those gender issues, but their works and idea are not out in the mainstream conscious of most men in society. At an even more basic level, the common man is hindered by the fact that there is a social impetus not to talk about men’s issues, and thus men do not have the vocabulary of self-expression to begin to discuss these issues.
Feminism exists, but the overwhelming body of literature in feminism is written by, about and to women. This is hardly a bad thing, and every man should be aware of these issues from the feminine perspective. Since feminism is primarily written to women, male feminists (as opposed to manists) have a difficult job, as they must understand a movement and then translate their own experiences to those common to the movement, i.e. a woman’s. That is hard! It is difficult to understand what it is to be in another person’s shoes when you scarcely understand yourself. Men are discouraged from understanding “emotions” or deconstructing gender. Manism and its ideals are basic and fundamental to man and should be understood. After a man becomes manist and can understand himself, feminism can be understood better and more effectively. How can a man begin to learn feminism, or the deconstruction of the female gender, if he has no understanding of his own gender?
Manism is the second-to-last wave. Manism and feminism complement and complete each other. Feminism allows women to understand themselves physically, politically and societally. So too, must manism. But ultimately, the goals of each are twofold and sequential: to educate their primary audience, and then to educate the other sex.
Feminism tries to educate men before men themselves are fully self-educated. At this stage, feminism should be about self-educating women, and manism about self-educating men. This is not a critique or a failure of how modern feminism is taught (to men), but instead an acknowledgement of a premature strategy. When a man is manist, and a woman is feminist, the mutual education and synthesis can begin. But teaching men feminism before they are manist is difficult, as I have outlined above.
Manism is not the same as feminism. Men are subject to different societal, political and physical expectations than women. Men have, in earlier times, maintained an unabashed and unapologetic command over women, and in modern times, a more subtle advantage over them. Feminism empowers women to overcome these disadvantages and to alter a system that has traditionally not shared its power with women. Manism must take a different view and encourage men to understand the system which we have controlled and from which we have benefited. The perspectives of men and women are fundamentally different, and although the movements may have similar goals, a difference of perspective makes strategies of self-education profoundly different.
For women to teach oppressed women that they have been oppressed is different than teaching men who are oppressors that they are oppressing.
Ultimately, manism begins as a dialogue between men. Women have had a vocabulary of self-expression for decades—ways to describe and deconstruct themselves. Men do not have this vocabulary, and we have just begun to develop it.
This is only a beginning, hopefully one of many. Welcome, men.