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Men Must Stand against Male Domination

[This article was written during the last U.S. presidential election.]

The U.S. presidential election has brought into public view the intense sexism and male domination that pervade our society. It is important for men to take a stand against them.

PREDICTABLE BUT DANGEROUS

We have made some progress as a society. For example, we elected a Black man for president, and now a strong female candidate is running for that office. It’s predictable that reactive forces will try to block continued progress. The words and actions of Donald Trump and that he is supported by millions of people are evidence of this. The oppressive system is working exactly as it will when there isn’t enough powerful, thoughtful, intelligent human intervention.

The highly visible male domination and sexism in this election are dangerous. When people in leadership positions act out oppressor distress, it accelerates a similar acting out at all levels of society, with negative effects on everyone.

Part of what we are seeing on the U.S. political stage is what feminists describe as “rape culture”—behaviors and attitudes disrespectful of women that are treated as if they are normal and okay. Donald Trump has said that his comments about women are “just locker room talk” (a locker room is where people change clothes before and after sporting events). This is an example of rape culture. He acts as if what he is saying is just normal when in reality it is abusive.

TAKING A STAND AS A MAN

Taking a stand as men is different from taking a stand as fathers, husbands, or brothers. Many men are saying some version of the following: “As the father of two daughters, I am offended,” “As the husband of a brilliant woman, I cannot support this,” “As a man with three sisters . . . ,” and so on.

These stands are insufficient. In some ways they are incorrect. It’s fine that these men are trying to find their voices and stand against sexism. But, more fundamentally, we need to fight for a manhood that rejects male domination. Yes, the battle has to be against sexism, but it also has to be for a vision of maleness that is bigger and better and fuller than people may have ever seen or experienced. As men we need to say that what is being promoted as normal male behavior is not in any way acceptable. We need to speak as men to other men and communicate that being male has nothing to do with domination.

BEING MANIPULATED INTO THE OPPRESSOR ROLE

We are not stupid for having difficulty speaking up. We have been hurt. One way we have been hurt is by what actually happens in male locker rooms, especially to teenage males. 

In my experience, locker rooms are one of the key places where male domination is installed. In locker rooms stronger males intimidate less strong males. They sexually humiliate, abuse, threaten, and beat them up. Men act out Gay oppression for any real or imagined deviation from the “norm.” Older male authority figures (coaches, teachers) generally ignore this oppressive behavior. Men, hurt by other men, then create and support a culture of male domination.

When we are oppressed, most of us try to escape the victim role. To men society offers the oppressor role as the only alternative to the victim role. Any male (especially a younger one) who tries to stand up against male domination (whether directed at males or females) may be subjected to extremely cruel forms of male and Gay oppression, including isolation, humiliation, physical injury, and sometimes death. We men are almost required to become oppressors.

Schools, organized sports, and the military are among the institutions that carry out extreme male oppression. As a result, nearly all of us men “accept” the oppressor role and adopt disrespectful patterns in our relationships with women. This is not to excuse us of responsibility for our role. It is to clarify that we are manipulated into an oppressor role by a larger system of oppression that hurts us and then requires us to hurt other people.

Donald Trump is a clear example of what happens to a man who has endured a certain kind of oppression, been manipulated into moving fully into the oppressor role, and been made to believe that it’s the best possible way for a man to be.

ACTING DECISIVELY DESPITE OUR STRUGGLES

It is in everyone’s interest that we men act, and act quickly, against sexism and male domination. We have been hurt, so of course we are scared, unsure, hopeless, and passive. But a lot is at stake. We need as many of us as possible moving our brothers in a good direction. One way to do this is to (without delay) stand up as men against the current expressions of oppression, act decisively despite our struggles, and then discharge, get smarter, and share what we are learning with each other.

What do you think? What have you tried? What have you been learning?

Chris Austill

Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of men

(Present Time 187, April 2017)


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00