Far too often, critical responses to prevailing gender arrangements have entailed a narrow focus on women. Efforts to bring about female freedom and empowerment generally have only consisted of responses to women’s lives and opportunities for women. These women-only approaches are inadequate. We cannot effectively support women with these narrow strategies and perspectives, which also have prevented us from bringing about gender arrangements that would better suit the vast majority of humanity—including women.
To pursue these greater opportunities we must set our sights beyond the lives of women (and thus beyond the approach which generally has been encouraged through uses of the term “feminism”); we must also challenge prevailing masculinity—including traditional masculine aggression and callousness, as well as traditionally masculine pretensions to omniscience. While challenging these and other prevailing masculine behaviours—by confronting traditionally masculine men as well as traditionally masculine women—we must oppose this masculinity in capitalism, in bureaucracies, in militarism, and in industrialism, as well as other areas of societies that are saturated with traditional masculinity. Such greater goals and projects would better serve women, men, and everyone else. All of us live under the violence, exploitation, and authoritarian designs of traditional masculinity.
Of course, women are—and long have been—far more oppressed. On the whole, men certainly do have more power. Yet, opposition to these injustices usually has been limited to a divisive rallying of women against men—an approach that has not and will not receive significant male support. Many women also will continue to refuse to segregate themselves in this woman-centred camp. A sub-set of females—with the occasional male supporter—cannot dramatically remake gender arrangements on their own. Nevertheless, critical responses to standard gender positions and inter-relationships usually have consisted of these antagonistic conflicts between women and men. While some female unity and some attention to women’s lives certainly will be necessary to effectively challenge male predominance, significant gender transformations only will be reached through female-male unity—in the pursuit of shared visions and values. Everyone must be drawn toward more desirable and fulfilling forms of gender. Thus, while we address women’s lives, our interventions in gender arrangements also must include critical responses to traditional masculinity.
I’ll be extending and revising this piece and then re-posting it. Any comments posted here will be taken into account as I’m editing what I’ve written above.
The above writing was published in the August 2008 issue of The F-Word.