This session will provide a forum for community participants--members of Divisions 35 and 51 as well as others interested and involved in gender related interventions and research-- to share and explore their views and concerns. Although a panel of representatives from both divisions will supply focus by having provided brief abstracts/position statements ahead of time (on-line and as a handout for attendees), no one will actually present a paper. A brief, experiential stimulus exercise will be used to actively engage all participants. The goal of the session is to reaffirm the ties between the two sponsoring divisions and to serve as a reminder of the common commitments and foci shared.
My professional interest in the psychology of men and masculinity began more than 20 years ago when I first began teaching graduate courses in the psychology of women. It quickly became obvious to me that society was not going to become more fair toward and nurturing of women until we also examined companion gender-role socialization issues for men. These gender-role messages functioned as two sides of the same problem. As I pursued these two interests, I began to see them as inseparable and viewed feminism as aimed toward freeing all people from the limitations of gender roles. Hence, I view feminism as a pathway for both women and men to free themselves from restrictive role expectations. One goal is true gender understanding of each other's perspectives and experiences.
In this paper, I will examine the common ground between feminism and men's studies, as well as common misconceptions that are held about both men's studies and the men's movement (especially the mythopoetic branch). I will argue that men's studies and the men's movement complement women's studies and feminism, and that both genders gain in understanding the consequences of traditional male sex role norms for men, and for interactions between the genders.
When we talk about perceptions about Men's attitudes towards feminism there is a wide range of views. Some men speak to the debt they owe to feminism and acknowledge the importance for men to take responsibility for how males have traditionally oppressed women. Some men have expressed a view that feminism has oppressed men by supporting an unfair legal system in which women have been allowed to have advantages over men in divorce and custody situations My view is that I support true equality between the genders. If feminism can be defined as simply the notion that both genders are equal and should have equal opportunities then I am willing to be defined as a feminist. I can also be labeled a masculinist if that same operational definition is used. What I do not support is either gender seeing themselves as being a victim of the other. There were advantages and disadvantages to both genders prior to the Women's movement of the 1960s. What I want most is for compassionate and respectful relationships between genders which are facilitated by sensitive and respectful communication.
Sometimes men and women do not, cannot, or will not hear each other. Not hearing can lead to misunderstanding and difference. In this presentation we hope to get beyond these differences, differences created by gender, by really listening to and understanding each other.
Feminist women and pro-feminist men clearly share many values and assumptions about gender role development and behavior. At the same time, our professional forums are somewhat separate--separate Divisions, newsletters, research journals, and so forth. Have we arrived at a time when we might begin to join forces in advocating for some of the views we share in common? If not, why not? If so, what issues might we jointly pursue in the public marketplace? If we were to do so, what processes might help us define these issues and messages?
My own interest in the psychology of men and masculinity--in a cultural context--was sparked by a women of color at a feminist conference who lamented to me, "Why don't they [White women] get that to help me they have to help my race, including my fathers and brothers?" I have been most fascinated by the intersection of gender issues and race issues since then, and it is from this perspective I will share my views. When the politics seem to be so divided between race and gender, I struggle, as a woman of color, to decide on which "side" I will participate. Sometimes, choosing both sides is also a struggle. I believe, though, that this choice will help bring about necessary changes for men and women of all races and ethnicities. I teach this "choice" to my students as well. There is no "other" in my psychology of women and multicultural classes. In my classes, men find they are responsible for changing sexist environments just as my students of color learn that to stereotype and discriminate against white people is to perpetuate the cycle of oppression.
My professional interest in the psychology of men was fueled in the mid-1970's when I began research for a book, Expectant Fathers (Dutton, 1978; Ballantine, 1980), which I co-authored. My initial interest was spurred primarily by my commitment to enhancing the rights and status of women and the conviction that unless there was real equality in the home and in parenting roles there could never be substantive, meaningful, qualitative and lasting gender role change in society. The particular focus was on nurturing roles and the book was based on the belief that men needed to use the pregnancy period as a psychological transitional period into fatherhood, that men rarely did this because male roles discouraged introspection and the open communication about concerns and dreams for parenthood, and that there was little support for doing so. In doing this research for the book, I learned through men's voices the price they pay for privilege as well as their unwillingness to give up privilege and power. One of the most remarkable things about the men's movement as it is represented in Division 51, is the willingness of the men to give up privilege and power. This willingness, although born from a commitment to support the liberation of women, is also routed in the conviction that only by giving up this power and privilege will men, themselves, be liberated from the unhealthy restrictions of gender roles. We have seen other liberation movements and all of them have had (and have) majority constituents fighting for the rights and liberties of an oppressed group, but I believe this one is unique. In contrast to other social movements, there is a strong commitment to personal as well as social change. I believe that by listening to the voices of these feminist men we may learn something about the process of meaningful and lasting social change.
Conventional historians and anthropologists tell us that the so-called "battle of sexes" has always been and will always be dominant model of male-female interaction. Evolutionary biologists tell us that men and women are essentially different because of their competing survival needs. Those pushing the idea of women and men as being from separate planets see peaceful co-existence as the best hope for women and men. Despite their professions of good will, the purveyors of these views offer a model of inter-gender relations that is disappointing at best and destructive at worst. There is an alternative and far more hopeful point of view that views women and men as far more similar than different. The gender role strain paradigm, the underpinnings of this presentation, views women and men as jointly constrained by overly narrow gender roles and considers women and men as having a common mission of increasing role possibilities for all.
As men and women, our separate gender experiences are tied together in that we all participate in a larger system that limits how much of ourselves is acceptable. Because historically women have advocated for relief from these oppressive systems some have viewed women's "gains" as somehow taking away from men's lives. However, I believe we need a new way of doing business where men and women are allies to support and advocate for each other to lessen the suffering that both men and women feel.
A group of 18-year-old college men are sitting in a room waiting for the workshop on Date Rape to start. As the facilitator of the workshop your firmly believe that rape is an act of violence, with its' roots developed and reinforced by the culture of sexism. As a pro-feminist male you may also believe that most, if not all men, are perceived as potential rapists and subsequently women's pervasive fear of being raped limits their human potential. In summary, you concur with the feminist analysis that views rape as a behavior and attitude that stems from sexism (objectification of women) and systematically acts to keep women from achieving equal power with men. As the facilitator, you also know that 18 year old men (and most men) become quite defensive and closed to learning, when they are asked to accept some responsibility for the harm done by sexism and patriarchy. You organize a workshop that allows men to "save face" and motivates them to question their attitudes and behaviors that hurts others and often gets them into "trouble". The ultimate goal of the workshop is reducing rape and rape-like behaviors. A tension of ideology and practicality may show up, raising several questions. Is it fair and good enough to help prevent rape, without the men fully buying into notions of patriarchy and sexism? Is there enough trust, "good will" and tangible advances in the principles and ideologies of feminism to allow men to first talk about their pain without first acknowledging their privilege and power? Is empathy for men's pain and confusion a way of letting them "off the hook"? Or is empathy an invitation to "dig" deeper to understand the complexities of their sexist attitudes and behaviors? And on a larger playing field, the question emerges as to how feminist theories about power and privilege can "make room" for the empathic understanding of men's pain?
When discussing gender issues the tendency is to make comparisons--who has what and why. This process can lead to a zero-sum-game mentality--if one group gets, the other group loses. No good can come of this game. Whatever has occurred is irreversible, part of our history. However, influences can be introduced to change these patterns in which we find ourselves mired. We need to talk--to communicate even when the dialogues are difficult--if we are to call the game off.