Home > Gender Politics > Manism


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.

  1. josh kiok
    November 2, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    We can have one hell of a time resolving this thesis and antithesis.

  2. November 4, 2007 at 8:27 am

    I’d like to clarify part of my argument.

    A few people have talked to me about how implicit in my argument are certain sexist assumptions, namely, that men somehow need their own movement in order to understand/appreciate the goals of feminism.

    I don’t think they do. I mean, I certainly don’t. I’m a proud male feminist, but I do know that as a male feminist, it’s very hard to reach men. As an activist on a college campus, I find it extremely difficult to reach men, and the many women I talk to who are also involved in activist work also find it very difficult. My goal here is not to create a movement for men that has separate goals from the feminist movement, but to somehow create a movement that does reach men.

    Another critique I’ve been told, verbally, is that the name “manism” is sexist in and of itself. I’ll own up to that. I really don’t know what to call a male movement that is the counterpart to feminism (in terms of expressing the same philosophy repackaged differently to reach their respective audiences more effectively). Masculinism doesn’t really roll off the tongue. I’m certainly open to any suggestions as to what to call it. I think it’s important that it does have a name, just at a very practical level so that adherents to a movement can describe their movement in a word, and have some sort of ownership over the ideas, as well as find information about it.

  3. Jon
    November 7, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Number one, feminism is not some singular “women’s” movement by ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION. It is a set of social movements, philosophies, theories, and practices that you have completely BRUTALIZED. You try to pose your call for “manism” as some “counterpart” of a homogenous for-Women-by-Women “feminism” that has failed to effectively overthrow patriarchy. WOW. Read a book.. immediately, please. Even in the midst of second-wave feminism, a critique WITHIN feminism was being made against OTHER feminists. Yes, that’s right, a feminist is not a feminist is not a feminist. Namely, marxist feminists debunked liberal feminists’ focus on local and episodic grassroots activism that sought to reduce gender inequity and improve the well-being of women. Marxist feminists eschewed liberal feminism for its disproportionate emphasis on political praxis and for a big dose of tunnel vision. Marxist feminists specifically read gender inequities to be segments of large-scale structural violence and regimes of oppression. Rather than looking at discrete episodes like “women in the workplace,” marxist feminists were incorporating a sustained analysis of gender and capitalism–and more towards the 1990s, an intersectional approach that took into account race, class, and ethnicity, towards an ultimate goal of seeing how issues with “women in the workplace,” for instance, are but only one product of a larger liberal capitalist regime to extort labor from women and discard them as an underclass. This was DECADES ago. The point is that there are huge issues with making a movement for-Men-by-Men, just as there are huge issues with making a movement for-Women-by-Women (and this is NOT feminism!).. this resembles a kind of liberal feminist strategy, which I would criticize on two important points: 1) given that all people in our society are subjectivated by the same discursive regimes, namely, white heteronormative capitalist patriarchy, it makes little sense to divide up into “women” groups and “men” groups because, as you suggest, such discourses differentially affect us. Yes, they affect us in complicated and contradictory ways. But what you are missing is that “women’s issues” are not “women’s issues” but “gender issues” and “men’s issues” are not “men’s issues” but “gender issues.” And this brings me to my second point. “Man” only becomes an intelligible social concept or cultural identity in definitive opposition to “woman” and vice-versa… the problem here is not “men’s issues” or “women’s issues,” but gender as a powerful regulative discourse in our society… for this reason, we need a comprehensive effort to subvert or transform this discourse that would require ALL perspectives and ALL subjectivities coming together to discuss, for instance, gender, NOT men’s issues or women’s issues… this brings me to by second point: 2) your call for “manism” rests on the underlying assumption that men and women are distinctly different, and I would argue, stabilizies dangerous systems of oppression like gender hierarchy by essentializing their worth… though you might be attempting to coalese a bunch of men together to strategize on how to make a level playing field with women, what you are really doing is reinscribing the differences between these two groups rather than bringing them together… A classic queer/feminist piece, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, as early as 1990 shows how gender, sex, and sexuality are socially reified understandings only are given meaning by social discourse… ‘identities’ of gender, sex, and sexuality are, as Butler contends, performative.. the nature of this performance comes into being through the coersion and stylization of disciplinary regimes that intentionally give off the illusion of absolutist, essentialized, universal meaning… in short, for DECADES now, feminist theory has showed how categories of gender and sex are only rendered intelligible when state apparatuses deem them as such… thus, to argue that feminist is a “women’s” movement and men need a complementary “men’s” movement is an absolutely HEINOUS idea, lacking any clear merit whatsoever… we need comprehensive tactics of ALL peoples and ALL subjectivities working at local, episodic, institutional, and discursive levels to effectively overthrow dangerous structures of oppression like heteropatriarchy. By calling for “manism,” what you are doing is re-stabilizing the cultural coherence of gender and sex rather than attempting to de-stabilize them. Gender, itself, is a problem for most feminists today. This is why, Butler’s later book is titled “Undoing Gender.” Most feminists have been over reducing “gender inequities” for decades now, a model that “manism” relies on; instead, they would read “gender” as a discourse which serves to oppress. I would argue that any attempt to further stabilize the coherency of gender and sex, as I feel you do in your call for “manism,” is in fact COMPLICIT in such discursive tyranny, NOT “progressive” in the least.

    Beyond the theoretical issues, however, I’d also like to stress the complicated nature of what we’re dealing with here, which third-wave feminism, queer theory, and more lately, queer of color analysis, has brought to light. Most oppressed subjects have more ambivalent and complicated relationships with systems of power than your model allows for. For instance, while I am politically against white heteronormative capitalist patriarchy, in the sheets I like to get smacked around and forced to submit by hot white heteronormative capitalist patiarchs–indeed, I have internalized structures of power to the point where my desires have become interpellated in the hierarchy with my oppressors. Rather than viewing my own desires as a “not subversive” withdrawing that I need to fix, feminists, queer theorists, and others have argued that social change can be effected through transforming oppressive discourse from WITHIN the system. Rather than unrealistically pretending I am OUTSIDE the system of oppression (i.e., with my understanding of systems of oppression, I am now “OVER” this and ready to fight and counteridentify with, for instance, heteropatriarchy), most subjects are fully interpellated within the system. For instance, many women and gay men, for instance, may completely love being forced to submit in varied ways to empowered heteronormative men… I certainly enjoy it. This is not to speak to some monolithic entity of minoritized subjects, but there are a great many of them who display this interpellation. Despite being disempowered by a power hierarchy, having my interpellated little space in it (in the clearest and most concrete, condensed, example, e.g., having a white straight male aggressively make me give him head, for instance) brings about power in it of itself, as it is a space (relative to a non-space) within a system of power. Though I am oppressed, minoritized subjects find ambivalent and contradictory relationships with the structures that tyrannize them. This precludes strategies to overthrow these systems of oppression by reductive counteridentifactory tactics, that you suggest. Instead, recently, many have argued that in order to transform such tyrannical discourses, such minoritized subjects take on “disidentificatory” tactics which decode high and mass cultural fields (typically oppressive ones) from the stance of a disempowered space *within* those very fields.. this is typically brought to light in performative politics through recycling and transfiguring raw material from these fields in novel and unpredictable ways, resulting in realistic subversion of powerful systems of regulation like gender.

    Sorry, I have been kind of spewing. Last quick point is that by making a “men’s movement” to address “men’s” complicitness in patriarchy, you are forcing people who do not identify with a gender, e.g., some transgenderists in particular, the ability to join a group. To sum up my issues: 1) you brutalize feminism as some homogeneous “women’s movement” that has effectively failed to overthrow patriarchy—go read a book or take a course or something..jesus!, 2) “manism” stabilizes regimes of oppression by assenting to gender’s constitution of “males” and “females,” and essentializes these categories as truth-telling unproblematic identities—this is an issue, as has been throughly discussed for at least 3 decades now, 3) your project is tunnel-visioned, focusing too much on reducing social inequities rather than looking at social structures—this perspective would make you realize that we are ALL under the same tyrannical discourses of gender and thus we stand to benefit from working together in solidarity to overthrow this powerful regime, not work in a debilitating separatist and identitarian politics that calls for “men’s” groups for “men’s takes” and “women’s” groups for “women’s takes”—these categories have no coherence without oppressive discourse, and most feminists have realized this for, again, decades now…thus, feminism does not need a counterpart–that makes no sense whatsoever.. feminism is not about women, it is, in its various forms, typically about gender, among so many other things… and 4) you negate the complicated relationships between minoritized subjects and the structures that tyrannize them—for more on this, look to Jose Munoz’s Disidentifications, for instance… this renders such a reductive model you employ as blatantly unhelpful…

    And, lastly, if you are going to be talking about gender, where the hell is your citation to sexuality? Given that the regulation of sexuality is complicit in the regulation of gender, as almost any feminist or queer theorist could tell you, I was apalled to see sexuality go unmentioned in your call to arms for MEN… it exhudes the smell of heteropatriarchy to me… by “MEN,” you are calling for a bunch of straight men who paternalistically want to “help” women “out of” their disenfranchised minority subject space, highlighting “men’s” own empowered status, probably to make yourselves feel good by abiding to (uncritical) mainstream liberal democratic egaliatarian “progressive” rhetoric.

    I suggest you take a heavy dive into developments of feminisms (in particular, radical second-wave, and third-wave), gender studies, queer theory, and much much more… but, in its state right now, I find “manism” to not only be an unhelpful attempt at presumably overthrowing patriarchy, but also going in the opposite direction and re-stabilizing tyrannical discourses, under the guise of mainstream democratic rhetoric that wants to surface-level “reduce” social inequities… note that my critique has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that majoritarian subjects like yourselves want to “help out” in the fights—i completely welcome that… this has to do with your model… hope that helps.

  4. November 7, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Better paragraphing would be nice.

  5. November 7, 2007 at 11:49 am

    On the field of historical debate – and I don’t mean feminist history, I mean the all or most history – there is actually a movement demanding that the history of masculinity be given equal parity with “women’s history” – what do you think of that Jeff?

  6. Jon
    November 7, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    complicity* and appalled* — and if you have the time, please, feel free and edit better paragraphs of my 4am spewing… i certainly don’t

  7. Jon
    November 14, 2007 at 6:43 am

    I don’t get what you’re saying with […] ??

  8. November 14, 2007 at 6:49 am

    The blog is indicating that another source is linking to this page.

    Specifically, that source is my response to you, lol, which is at the top of the homepage right now: http://thoughcowardsflinch.com .

  9. Jason Krugar
    May 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Your wayward interpretation of manism is not only sexist against men, it is misinformed. Granted, men should learn more about men and be able to lean more on other men for emotional support but in no way are all men inately sexist or necessarily disrespectful toward woman; in fact I know many men who would challenge that and behave quite to the contrary.

  1. November 14, 2007 at 6:30 am

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