MenWeb logoMenWeb   

Confronting Feminism

Editorial from Everyman

Copyright © 1997 by David Shackleton

This aricle first appeared in Issue #28 (Nov-Dec 1997) of
EverymaN: A Men's Journal


I often worry that we in the men’s movement in general, and Everyman in particular, concern ourselves too much with the positions taken by the women’s movement. Perhaps half of the articles in every issue with a political theme (like this and the previous issue) are answering, in one form or another, a feminist thesis. Friends sometimes challenge me (as they have the right and the responsibility to do) whether this points to my and men’s unfinished business with women, the projection of our mother stuff. While in the background, the feminists’ claim of a male backlash, with their twisted, ‘heads I win/tails you lose’ logic that all arguments against feminism are simply proof of male guilt, confuses and distorts the issue further. This editorial is my attempt to penetrate this question.

The basic task of the gender movement is to facilitate society’s journey to gender equality. As with any journey, one must know where one wants to go, and where one is starting from.

Where we are going can be simply stated. We seek a society in which a person’s gender does not set limits on their life, where all options and behaviours that are open to men are equally open to women, and vice versa. This goal of equality is worthy because there is no question that many if not most people’s lives have been stunted and constrained (even ended) by role expectations placed on them because of their gender. It is complicated (ie. equal means something other than identical) only in areas where there are significant differences in male and female biology—for example, reproductive rights and responsibilities. Even in these areas, however, I am sure that workable balances can be achieved.

That’s where we’re going. But where are we now? There is little doubt that feminist theory—that men, in general, have greater power than women and that they use it to dominate and oppress women—has captured our cultural perceptions and is considered by most to be beyond question. As a result, we have created a host of gender-polarized laws, policies and social programs which attempt to compensate and re-advantage women in comparison to men, and none at all which do the reverse. Which would be fine if feminist analysis were accurate. Unfortunately, it is not.

It is becoming increasingly clear that men, in general, do not have greater power than women, but merely different forms of power. No other explanation, actually, can account for the fact that feminists have been able, in a supposedly free society, to manage the public perception of gender issues and to suppress massive contrary evidence, except that women have the unique role and power of being the socializers of men (and women). This power entails the ability to shame men (within limits) into saying, doing and even believing what women assert to be true and appropriate.

Let me summarise. Our goal is to have power and opportunites be the same between men and women. Where we are today is that power and opportunities are equal but different, but people believe that they are unequal in favour of men. What, then should Everyman and the men’s movement be doing?

Clearly, actions taken on the basis of an incorrect diagnosis are unlikely to heal the patient, and could well be harmful. We must attempt to correct the flawed but vigorously defended feminist theory, and replace it with an accurate model. This is a major part of the outward or political focus of the men’s movement, and I am personally very encouraged by the integrity that I see there. I rarely receive (and have never printed) any writing from men’s rights advocates that argues for anything other than the simple, basic equality of a level playing field. Check it out in this issue: this is no backlash, but earnest entreaties for an end to gender favouritism. I believe that this work of confronting the errors and hypocrisy of contemporary gender politics is both appropriate and essential, and I am proud to feature it in Everyman.

The other aspect of the men’s movement is the inward or internal focus. As men, we clearly need to let go of our addictions to performance, to success, to approval and to the favours of women. On this journey, we can greatly assist each other with emotional and psychological support and by telling each other the truth about our lives. In this area of men’s internal focus also, I am proud to see the courage and integrity with which we are doing our work. The men and women featured in the pages of Everyman are genuine pioneers and voyageurs of this deep soul journey.

Let me end by acknowledging that confrontation carries great responsibility and it is easy to get lost. The moment that I feel I have the answer, that my ideology is beyond doubt, then hubris and its cousin arrogance enter in, and I begin to insulate myself from refutation, from reality. I then become, tragically, not part of the cure but an aspect of the sickness. I can imagine nothing more dreadful than to discover, in a moment of insight at age seventy or eighty, that the causes and beliefs to which I had dedicated my life were in fact facile, self-serving and hypocritical. The only protection I know against this possibility is humility: the constant awareness that I might be mistaken, the genuine willingness to open myself to doubt and the confrontation of others. Let us in the men’s movement remain willing to do the work of self-examination and soul mining that alone accredits us to confront others. But having done so, let us also be willing to speak out, to confront with humility and with power that which is hypocritical, whether it is the product of male or of female minds. In this way we will move closer to our goal of a world in which gender ceases to be a difference that makes a difference.—Ed.

Help us help men
Every $20 helps!

Articles | Men's Stories | Poetry | What's here? | Home Page | Search MenWeb | E-mail MenWeb

Press the "Back" button on your browser to return