Blakely - He's a Feminist But

Blakely He's a - 48 MASCULINITY IN TRANSITION To what extent does the masculine ideal still play a significant role To whom is it important 2 What

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Unformatted text preview: 48 MASCULINITY IN TRANSITION To what extent does the masculine ideal still play a significant role? To whom is it important? 2. What does Rosenberg mean when he describes masculinity as “a myth that has turned into a comedy” and as “a joke that every— one sees through”? Is he suggesting that the “real men” of the past have become the “wimps” of today? Or that real men never existed? Or that the masculine ideal is a fantasy? What exactly, in Rosenberg’s View, has changed? How do you know? Why is masculinity a joke? What is comic about it? 3. The solution to the problem of masculine identity, as Rosenberg sees it, is contained in the statement, “Total masculinity is an ideal of the frustrated, not a fact of biology.” What does he mean? Why does he urge that “the cult of masculinity be put aside”? What is the difference between masculinity and male- ness? Why does Rosenberg prefer maleness to masculinity? Do you agree with his solution? Why or why not? EXPLORING RHETORICAL STRATEGIES 1. What is the extended metaphor that Rosenberg uses to depict the current state of masculinity in America? How many instances of this metaphor can you identify in his essay? In what ways does this metaphor help Rosenberg convey his point? How does it help unify the essay? 2. How is the title of the essay significant? Did you grasp its signif— icance before reading the essay? What did it lead you to expect in the ensuing discussion? What does the word style suggest to you? What about the word cult? How do these words transform the word masculinity in the title? 3. This essay originally appeared in ngue in 1967. Knowing what you do of the sixties and of Vogue, can you speculate on the character- istics of Rosenberg’s audience? How would you describe it? How is this discussion of masculinity appropriate for its audience? Blakely / He’s a Feminist, But . . . 49 He’s a Feminist, But... MARY KAY BLAKELY In this humorous essay from the October 7982 Ms. mag- azine, Mary Kay Blakely discusses how “Fred, the Feminist Man” represents numerous men who have changed some of their sexist behaviors toward women, yet who still do not possess true empathy for the female experience. She suggests that equality between the sexes cannot be realized until men develop a true appreciation for how women feel. nism is over. Men are rumored to have changed. Everywhere I look—newspaper headlines, conference reports, coffee- break gossip—evidence piles up: a Bell Telephone employee not only asked for paternity leave last year, but he actually used it; the chair of a men’s conference on the East Coast enthusiastically an- nounced that women don’t need to be angry any more—men are al- lies now—and declared the beginning of “no-fault liberation”; on the West Coast, groups of men are attending classes with their tod- dlers and are learning to speak in little tongues; and a friend wrote recently that her physician/husband has even “learned to pick up some of his things.” But here I am, still standing on the sidelines at halftime, still holding my unopened bag of confetti in my hand. My mind is pre- occupied with the problem of Fred, the Feminist Man. While Fred has made considerable progress on issues like violence against women and equal pay and child care, I cannot see that he has yet developed any real empathy. I dread what the next 10 years might mean for women if men continue to labor under this handicap. “Hit the ball and drag Fred,” my friend sighed, summarizing our discussion of a “nice guy” who didn’t quite “get it.” She was re- ferring to the punch line about the golfer who returned home two hours late from his game and explained to his wife that his compan- ion, Fred, had a case of sunstroke and collapsed on the ninth hole. “It was awful,” he shook his head sadly. “For the next nine holes, it was ‘hit the ball and drag Fred, hit the ball and drag Fred.’” Fred is the generous, likable man who genuinely wants the approval of the women he admires and takes pride in the label I was shocked to learn that the first stage of this wave of femi- 50 MASCULINITY IN TRANSITION “feminist.” Much of his behavior has changed, it’s true. He no longer calls the women he works with “honey” or “toots.” He makes his own coffee. Pampers do not frighten him. But when these changes spring solely from his desire to please, there’s no guarantee that actual comprehension has happened. Fred under- stands feminism only as a set of rules: Don’t call women “girls.” Let them open their own doors (sometimes). Let them have their own names and credit cards. Don’t beat them. Don’t rape them. But where Fred has managed to grasp some of the particulars of the Women’s Movement, the whole picture still eludes him. In other words, he has learned something, but still understands very little. It’s a failure of empathy. As a result, every new issue comes as a surprise. (“I can un— derstand equal pay, but why do you need your own checking ac- count? Don’t you trust me?”) Every time the allied front moves forward an inch, Fred has apoplexy and expires from the game. A “time out” must be called to revive him and explain. This Fredness is a serious drain on energy. I remember once, after a long public discussion of rape (What is rape, really, and do women like it at all, and aren’t women ever responsible for it?), there was a strong feeling of mutuality among the women and men who worked so hard to understand one another. Shortly afterward, I published a column that destroyed the equanimity. It was on sex— ual harassment. Friends reported that confusion broke out in pri— vate conversations with the significant men in their lives. These men, some of whom were in consciousness-raising groups, or be- longed to organizations with names like Men Against Violence Against Women, took serious exception to my objections to men’s commonplace behavior. The discussions, as it turned out, proved to be fruitful. The women reported that lights had dawned, comprehensions were reached. It was another good “learning experience.” At first, I readied my bag of confetti. Here, five good men had traveled through surprise and affront and hurt and moved, bump- ily, and unsteadily, toward recognition. Another victory, another hurdle surmounted, another issue set to rest. Yes, harassment of— fended women. Yes, it was a male power play. But why did it take five separate women five separate hours to convince these men of the same truth they had argued the year be- fore? The truth was cast in a different environment—from the dev— astating landscape of rape to the common fields of harassment—but the truth was the same. The whole experience left me in despair, wishing to move on to new truths-pressing, urgent truths we need to discover about Blaker / He’s a Feminist, But . . . 51 war and the earth and our places in it. Instead, we are still wallow- ing around arguing the same truths over and over and over. These men are naming the cost of liberation: few men can learn and ac- cept equality without exhausting some woman in the process. These are the terms of change. So I’m keeping my confetti bagged until I see that sign of self- learning, that glimmer of independent thought. Rather than teach- ing men “things”—details, items, facts—one simple clue should suffice: “Imagine that you are me.” Let all assumptions about women be filtered through that phrase. Think of your masculinity, your sexuality, your livelihood, your education, your relationships, through the light of that idea. Imagine yourself as your wife/ m0ther/daughter/sister/lover/secretary/waitress. This is the method that women have used to survive for centuries, the uncanny ability to divine and imagine and recognize men’s needs—from protecting their egos to memorizing their underwear size. I’d like to think that men might learn to think like a woman. My “liberation” depends on it. Imagine what life would be like if men developed that ability. Suppose the visible, external changes were to evolve into an invis— ible, internal consciousness. Fred would be able to see how every detail contributes to the whole: how harassment is a dangerous ten— tacle of rape, how language is an expression of the oppression we bear; how the way he thinks of his mother has everything to do with the way he thinks of me; how unquestioned manhood and fa- therland loyalties will lead inevitably to war. In the meantime, Fredness threatens to overwhelm us. A friend of mine has been changing diapers for years without applause, but she was recently complimented on her husband’s ability to do the same. Yes, it was wonderful, she agreed. “And next week,” she said, in a voice tellingly drained of enthusiasm, “we’re goirég to learn how to call the baby—sitter.” Hit the ball and drag re . REFLECTION ON MEANING 1. According to Blakely, “Men are rumored to have changed.” In what ways have men changed their behaviors? Who is “Fred, the Feminist Man,” and what is “Fredness”? Fred labors under what “handicap”? What is Fred’s understanding of feminism? Why has Fred changed his behavior toward women? 52 MASCULINITY IN TRANSITION 2. Blakely expresses her frustration that “we are still wallowing around arguing the same truths over and over and over.” What are these “same truths,” and what “new truths” do we need to seek? Rather than teaching men “things” or rules for nonsexist behavior, what does Blakely suggest that men need to imagine? -3. Can men ever learn to “think like a woman”? Is this question re- inscribing an essentialist view of male and female thinking? What would life be like if men developed empathy for female ex- perience? Is this even possible? How could empathy for a fe- male’s position change male behavior? According to Blakely, why isn’t a change in behavior enough? EXPLORING RHETORICAL STRATEGIES 1. What rhetorical effect does Blakely’s use of the joke “hit the ball and drag Fred” have on her essay? How does her use of the term Fredness advance her argument? Does her humorous and satiric tone contribute to the essay’s overall effectiveness? What game metaphor does she use to frame her essay? What words and phrases contribute to this metaphor? 2. Blakely begins her essay with several examples of how men have changed their behavior toward women. She then problematizes her discussion by questioning the reasons for these behavior changes. Do the examples that she provides advance her argu- ment? Why does she end her essay with the narrative about the husband who has learned to change diapers but doesn’t know how to call the babysitter? 3. “He’s a Feminist, But...” was first published in Ms. magazine in 1982. How might Blakely’s argument be particularly appropriate for this essay’s original audience? How might a contemporary audience’s response be different? How might it be the same? Chapter 3 FEMININITY AND CULTURE Woman as Other SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR In this selection, philosopher Simone de Beauvoir explores the historical oppression of women. She examines the concepts of woman and man in relation to the larger concept of humanity and concludes that women’s status is not simply a matter ofa'efinition but afundamental way of thinking that has political consequences. hat is a woman? To state the question is, to me, to suggest, at once, a preliminary answer. The fact that I ask it is in itself sig— nificant. A man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male. But if Iwish to define myself, I must first of all say: “I am a woman”; on this truth must be based all further discussion. A man never begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain sex; it goes without saying that he is a man. The terms masculine and feminine are used symmetrically only as a matter of form, as on legal papers. In actuality the relation of the two sexes is not quite like that of two electrical poles, for man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity. In the midst of an abstract discussion it is vex- ing to hear a man say: “You think thus and so because you are a woman”; but I know that my only defense is to reply: “I think thus and so because it is true,” thereby removing my subjective self ...
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This note was uploaded on 02/28/2010 for the course SOCY SOCY - 203 taught by Professor Brianhawkins during the Spring '10 term at University of Colombo.

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Blakely He's a - 48 MASCULINITY IN TRANSITION To what extent does the masculine ideal still play a significant role To whom is it important 2 What

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