One Link

A flat rock in a river speeding rough river with water flowing over it.

This week, rather than posting several links I’m just going to post one. Recently, I’ve started reading Ally Fogg’s Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men blog. Apparently, he’s had a WordPress blog for a while but he recently joined Freethought Blogs. His claim to fame is being a white male heterosexual. In other words, he writes critically about gender roles from the point of view of a straight white man. I think he’s British, although most of what he writes could apply to the rest of the English-speaking world, and probably much of the allophone world as well.

Recently, I’ve read quite a few times on blogs known to be feminist the acronym MRA. I written elsewhere about the pitfalls of activist bloggers using terms that will only be understood by a small number of like-minded activist bloggers from your own age cohort, your own social class, your own region and, probably, only your own narrow sub-culture. Finally, I figured out what MRA means. It means “men’s rights activists.” Actually, I’m not even certain of that because I’ve never seen the acronym defined, but those are the words that best fit the usage. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, I don’t assume that men who are interested in men’s rights are inevitably anti-feminist because I was first introduced to men’s rights in a women’s studies class by a male professor who was very obviously and actively supportive of feminism. That he realized that there were issues facing men that feminism didn’t address didn’t turn him into an anti-feminist.

Ally Fogg does not call himself a men’s rights activist, but he does write about gender issues from a man’s perspective and that does occasionally include issues that wouldn’t normally be taken up by feminists, like a recent blog post about the shadow health minister’s comments about masculinity being in crisis. At least most feminists would be unlikely to write about it in a way that would put men’s interests first. Fogg makes some excellent points about the shadow health minister’s speech. I don’t know how things are in Britain, but from the point of view of an American woman going on fifty, the “hyper-masculinity” that Abbot, the shadow health minister, discusses has gotten better than it was when I was younger. The rise of social media and the accessibility of porn has definitely changed some dynamics, but I’m not sure that pornography presents men and women with any greater distortion of gender roles than the average beer ad. Focusing in porn while not worrying about the myriad of other representations of women and sexuality is really not seeing the forest for the trees.

Fogg’s world view is summed up in a post entitled Welcome to Global, Inc. (The actual title is longer, but contains a period which presents me with a punctuation problem.) In it, he creates an elaborate metaphor of the world as a large company. That company has a binder full of its stated rules, but it also has unstated rules and each department has its own internal culture. “But so long as the department is doing well enough, meeting its targets and making profits, the hierarchy at Global Inc doesn’t really mind too much, and doesn’t interfere.”

I have concocted this grand and rather clumsy analogy to illustrate a key point of my political views, which underpins everything I write on this blog and elsewhere. Socialised gender roles are not there by accident. They are functional. Oppressive acts of sexism, misogyny, misandry, racism, homophobia, transphobia, class prejudice and the rest do not arise from individual weakness or venality but because we have all been induced to retain and reinforce them as essential components of our role within the company. Necessary social progress in emancipation, liberation and human rights will be indulged by Global Inc when it can be turned to the company’s advantage – the welcoming of women into the professions, for example – and fiercely resisted when it challenges the bottom line, such as union rights or decent parental leave entitlements.

It is simplistic nonsense to think of patriarchy, in particular, as a system in which men oppress women by choice and for our own interests. Patriarchy often requires men to do horrible things to ourselves, to each other and to women. Patriarchy imposes dominant roles on men whether we want them or not, and punishes us when we fail to fulfil them adequately.  It’s all there in the job description. It is equally simplistic nonsense to imagine that male suffering (on the battlefield and in homelessness, suicide rates, alienation and loneliness) is a consequence of women’s behaviour, choices or social liberation.

Anyway, I’ve been finding his blog fairly interesting, so I thought I’d put a link up to it.

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