Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Response to Femi-Nothing: A human rights issue By Lex Reynolds Westhampton College '10 To quote: “What kills me about news reports on this issue is that they focus on what feminists think … Do people claim that the Holocaust was a Jewish issue or that slavery was an African issue? … This is not simply a feminist issue and to write it off as such is to do the human population at large a major injustice.” I readily agree with you that the Holocaust was not a Jewish issue, nor was slavery a black or African issue. However, where you err is in claiming that human populations write off violence aimed at women as feminist issues, without stopping to think about why this is done. You simply imply that society is ignorant of the effects of violence and gender issues to all and wish to disregard said issues. After the Holocaust, the Jewish people accepted the help of non-Jewish peoples. Former slaves after the Civil War, and later, black advocates during the Civil Rights Movement, recognized the help of non-blacks. This is simply not the case for gendered issues at large. Feminists often (though of course, not always) are quick to construct their counterpart as the enemy. In other words, men are not “part of the problem,” they ARE “the problem.” From this popular feminist perspective, men are not just allowing violent video games about rape to be on shelves; they are buying, creating and playing the video games. They are the rapists in the games. Thus, men are seen as a source of the problem and cannot be part of the solution. (Please note here that I do not support the inclusion of gender or sexual violence as entertainment in any form.) Feminist rhetoric in the media focuses on the separation of gender, emphasizing a dichotomy in society, and then women wonder why men seem unconcerned with “gender” issues. After you’ve isolated men, told them they are rapists, perpetuators of violence, oppressors of women, pigs and chauvinists, and constructed them as the enemy, is it any wonder they are not rushing forth to support what should indeed be considered a social issue? I’ve sat in classes and heard self-proclaimed feminists tell male classmates they had no right to comment on female genital mutilation or on issues with female body image because such topics didn’t affect them. With any other group of people sharing a common factor, be it age, race, ethnicity, etc., when a stereotypical comment is made, the offender is an ageist, a racist or ethnocentric. When comments are made about men, it is feminism or female liberation. Take the quote made popular by feminist Gloria Steinman (see Ms. Magazine): “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Now if I were a man, that would make me want to run right out and declare myself a feminist. Feminism as a whole would do better, and would gain more people willing to work for its causes, if it focused on gender issues framed in terms of how they affect both men and women, or by merely hailing concerns as social issues and downplaying gender stereotypes. Take, for instance, another traditionally female issue: domestic abuse in our society. Domestic abuse is commonly constructed by feminists as having male abusers with female victims. What about domestic abuse aimed at men? According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 835,000 men are physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner in the United States every year, and 36 percent of victims of domestic abuse are men. Yet their victimization is downplayed and often ignored in favor of the more popular feminist refrains of wife beater and justifications of female violence towards men as battered wife syndrome. When was the last time you saw a public service announcement or campaign calling for acknowledgment of or help for male victims? In fact, Ellen Pence, feminist founder of Domestic Abuse Intervention Project and a leader of the battered women’s movement, told the New York Times in an interview, “Domestic violence against men is just not a social problem”—can’t imagine why many men don’t see women’s issues as pressing social problems. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of gender equality in our society has come about because of traditional feminism. I like having the right to vote and drive, and knowing there are laws to protect my personage. But when constructing discourse on issues like rape in video games, feminist refrains do isolate men and create apathy in society in ways that mirror discussion of social issues like real rape or abuse. And this apathy, this predominantly female involvement, will continue to occur in relation to feminist issues until men are seen as fellow victims of social concerns and as having the potential to heal and help, rather than just hurt. The time for, “I am woman, hear me roar” is over, and we must move toward an era of “We are fellow human beings, roar for mankind.”

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