Celebrating Different Roads to Changing Men
I find much to agree with and celebrate in Frederick Marx’s essay “Defining Masculinity in Our Own Terms,” (Fall 2011) especially with my “movement” lenses on. He finds that feminist men who are doing the important work of standing against the domination of and violence against women too often “end up speaking to only half of why we as men should join these worthy battles.” This seems right to me. Many more males will join in the transformation of gender relations when they know by example and from experience that their lives will improve with that change. This is the promise of liberation for males from the confines of conventional masculinity and patriarchy.
It is a path subject to wrong turns, in part because it is so easy to rationalize new ways of performing privilege. Michael Kimmel (in his sidebar response) is correct to point out that “opting out of systemic privilege is … not an option.” The systemic is not a personal choice. Yet, each individual must make the personal choice to join in (“political”) action with others to change the system.
I believe that more men will join in feminist action and in changing their performance of masculinity when they know what is in it for them and they opt for those rewards over privilege and domination. It is good to hear Frederick Marx’s story of how he has moved from reacting to feminism in his family as a young man with some internalized guilt and shame to fully identifying with the changes in his mature masculine identity that includes feminist values and commitments. Each man who gets that far will do it differently. His masculinity is different than mine… and I celebrate his journey. I want and need many more men to take to that path. Then we will have movement and a chance for systemic change.
Our son-in-law showed me the Fall issue of the magazine thinking I would be interested. I was. The Anita Hill story gripped my attention at once. I have been married for 52 years, raised one son and two daughters and was a teacher and later a librarian for many years. It is obvious that the shift in the culture has brought considerable disorientation to both sexes. Your magazine addresses these issues very well.
Voorheesville, New York
Go Far, Go Together
My previous work at a rape crisis center in San Diego allowed me to work with a community of allied men that included representatives from the military and [antiviolence activist and Voice Male national advisory board member] Jackson Katz, on an annual Valentine’s Day Men’s Leadership Forum. At that time (2001) it was groundbreaking and exciting to see a conference room full of men working to end gender-based violence and consciously creating a paradigm shift with the existing social constructs of masculinity. Thank you for your work in engaging men in ending gender-based violence and as allies in the movement.
As the African proverb goes, “If you want to go quickly go alone; if you want to go far go together.” We have much to do together.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.