I had an argument on twitter yesterday – call it a discussion- about gender and power and ‘oppression’. My position, that men do not have ‘more power’ than women, and that women are not ‘more oppressed’ than men, as a group, was laughed out of town. I was told that I was ignoring the ‘facts’ and denying the ‘objective’ truth of the situation.
I also chatted to a friend online who told me he’d received Warren Farrell’s The Myth Of Male Power as a Christmas gift. When I was still a feminist, I remember a working class man I worked with talking about this book. It was the first time I’d heard the word ‘misandry’ spoken out loud. I’m ashamed to say that I dismissed the man’s points, and went home to look up Farrell – deciding he was a misogynist and anti-women, anti-feminist, without even reading his book!
I still haven’t read the book but I am a lot more sympathetic to its themes, and the way it describes some of the injustices men face in a gendered society. For example, as regular reader stoner has pointed out, the selective service for men in America:
”In post offices throughout the United States, Selective Service posters [reading "A Man's Gotta Do What A Man's Gotta Do] remind men that only they must register for the draft. If the Post Office had a poster saying “A Jew’s Gotta Do What A Jew’s Gotta Do…” or if “A Woman’s Gotta Do…” were written across the body of a pregnant woman…” 28
I am also reminded of Mark Simpson’s work. In fact, I think he mentions Farrell in Male Impersonators. In that book he also includes an incredible chapter about the miners’ strike in the UK in the 80s and its aftermath in the early 90s. He writes:
‘But it is a Star leader that makes explicit the reduction of ‘the workers’ to the ‘real men’. In a crude style not without resonance on the left, it jeers: ‘If Labour cannot do better for the miners, the founding fathers of the movement, it will prove conclusively that the party is now fit only for polytechnic lecturers, leftie lawyers and twittering* women teachers – NOT the workers’.’
The bitter irony is that media eulogies of the miners have only been possible because they are now so weak, and traditional masculinity so enervated. The Mirror offered a poster of an attractive, exhausted young miner slumped on a bench in a locker-room,posed in a sweaty singlet with a ghostly winding tower super-imposed, emerging from his leg as a kind of hazy memory of the phallus. In inviting pity, this male image also invites the gaze in a way that would have been impossible without the very changes in gender roles that it seems to lament.’
I don’t have a BIG POINT to end on. I am probably left with Foucault, as usual, and the idea that ‘power is everywhere’ and much more complex than we allow for.
Thanks to stoner and White Mischief for input.
*twittering has another resonance now which brings me back to the start of this post!