Anyway, when I noticed them, I put out a tweet saying:
"It appears I am being followed by a MRA group. *waves cautiously at @RiteOfManhood* I'm a feminist!"
They then responded, and we entered into a bit of a dialogue (which can be viewed here):
@RiteOfManhood: "*waves back enthusiastically* We like to hear all opinions including the redheaded feminists"
Me: "I'm sorry, but I can't agree with your fundamental message - that of essential binary gender differences"
Me: "I also disagree with your message of what makes a 'real man'."
@RiteOfManhood: "I've been scrolling down our tweets and our page. Can you tell me where abouts it says what ur refering to?"
Me: "On the front page of your website and your 'about' page. People are people - no such thing as 'real' man or woman."
Me: "Also, I find your organisation worryingly heteronormative and cisnormative."
@RiteOfManhood: "I'll bring up ur comments to our Director"
@RiteOfManhood: "Hi Natalie. I gave ur comments 2 our director and he wrote a brief response do u have email so i can send it over?"
I was quite heartened by this, and appreciated them both listening to me saying why I couldn't support them, and for taking the time to email me. Here's the email I received:
Hi Natalie. I sent your comments over to our Director and here is his response.
I know that sex and gender are two distinct and disconnected yet connected forms of masculine and feminine. Yet, as we are separate, we are also together. To bring everything together in one blob saying we are the same and equal is not possible, hence the conflict and problems we face in todays society. Men and women are not equal we are both just very different, and without the new feminist paradigm we can do something together that creates unity, but also celebrates our differences without a divisive collision. What is your definition of a real man?
If you have any further questions, comments, concerns, ect feel free to email us and we'll be happy to answer you.
Have a good day,
Social Media Consultant
So, bearing all that in mind, I'd like to take this opportunity to explain why I disagree with Rite Of Manhood in a form that is not 140 characters or less.
The Rite Of Manhood website can be viewed here. Their tag-line is "Building men, with men, for men". Their home page says: (My comments in red)
"Mankind is at a crossroads of a new revolution. As human beings the male gender as whole in our western culture has been fundamentally shaken. There is no longer a real separation between boys and men, and many women are desperate to find even one man in their personal or social environment If by 'man', you mean 'someone to go out and kill something for dinner while we stay home barefoot an pregnant', then no, we're not. The children and youth are expressing a longing for real family, and a healthy social connection with men in their lives, but look at our school system, our day cares and pre-schools, what has happened? You can't blame feminism for men not wanting to go into teaching - in fact, it's quite the opposite. If you promote the idea of 'real men' and 'real women', why would you be surprised when men don't want to do a job that is traditionally seen as 'female'?
What can we do but to develop something real, something strong that can build and untie the care of men by building real relationships between them. Men and women are not equal, they are different, and the rite of manhood wants to celebrate those differences and to bring together something new that is beating in the heart of real humanity and real unity, which is a brotherhood of real men. My problem is when you say that differences between men and women mean that they are not equal. Yes, there are certain biological differences - I have XX chromosomes. Men have XY chromosomes. Even that is not a given constant though, there are people with XYY chromosomes, there are people who identify as women but have XY chromosomes. There are people who identify as men who have XX chromosomes. But I digress. My actual point is - why should difference = inequality? Surely people with differences should still have the same equalities of rights, opportunity and consequence?
Let us clear the slate so we can both stand as men and women, before we are crushed by a social ideal that is not working, and which is controlled by only a few."
The page about their director says:
Just call me "JD". I live in Hope,British Columbia, and I was called out by some elders several years go to make men. "How am I to make men," I asked? "One at a time, and by building relationships."
I have a small video studio and am focusing my efforts in the area of social media. Rite of Manhood.com and .org will be a call to men and women to support making real men. I remember an elder sitting me down and letting me know, women are much more intuitive in being a real woman when a man can be a man, (quick interruption to point out that this phrase MAKES ME WANT TO VOMIT WITH RAGE) but there are no real role models, there are no rites of passage or groups that people can connect with, he thought. Well there are! This site is intended to connect groups, individuals, and men wishing to nurture a flame that is resident somewhere in all our hearts, being real men.
Now, here's my problems with this, as I said in my tweets, explained in a fuller manner:
- It promotes binary gender differences and biological determinism. This is essentially saying that men and women are wired differently. You know, that men are pre-programmed to go out shagging and killing things, and women are pre-programmed to stay at home cleaning and baking ickle cakes. My first problem with this is that it's bullshit. If there were hard-wired differences between men and women, there would be an inter-gender consensus on at least one thing, and there's not. There would also be no homosexuals or trans people (a point I will return to later). This article takes down biological determinism pretty effectively. My second problem is that it always seems that men get the best things to do. Women can't be scientists or stunt drivers, because our feeble minds and bodies couldn't possibly cope with it, but we're damned good at scrubbing an oven! If an MRA group showed me a list of 'female activities' that included doing one thing I enjoy, or even wasn't all about 'home making' I might be prepared to hear the theory out for longer than 0.5 seconds. I am not naturally a home maker (as anyone who has ever lived with me will testify). I don't cook. I have to push myself to clean. I'm slightly freaked out by small children. I'd much rather spend my time discussing politics and drinking beer. I'm not even comfortable being around other women for the sake of being around other women ("Girl's nights out"? Ugh). My idea of hell would be to be someone who is defined purely by how many children she can pop out and how fast she can get through a pile of ironing. I know I'm not anomalous, most of the women I speak to feel this way. We have brains in our heads, and we'd much rather use them for good than for figuring out how to snare ourselves a 'real man'. Which brings me on to...
- What is a 'real man', or a 'real woman' anyway? Look at what I said above - by the base stereotype, I'm not a 'real woman'. I don't think I know any 'real women'. I don't think I know any 'real men' either. 'Real men' and 'real women' seem to be anti-intellectual constructs where the main aim is to secure food and shelter, and that's it. Well, newsflash. We're out of the caves now (and have been for quite some time) - we don't have to do these things. We can concern ourselves with higher matters, and it doesn't stop us being 'real people'.
- It's heteronormative. Heteronormativity is the implication that the only 'true' relationship is between a man and a woman, and fails to take into account the spectrum of sexualities. You can't just ignore them and pretend they don't exist, because they do.
- It's cisnormative. This means that it only takes into account people who identify with their birth gender, and fails to take trans people of any type into account. Again, you can't just ignore them and pretend they don't exist, because they do.
And that concludes why I can not support Rite Of Manhood. People are people. They are not arbitrary labels to be told how to behave on the basis of what is in between their legs. If you want to be a 'real man', who goes out cutting down trees and killing mountain lions with your bare hands, go for it (although I must point out that I condone neither activity, but as long as it is legal, I fully support your right to make a choice about whether to do it or not). Just don't tell me, or my friends, how to behave. OK?
I would also like to encourage everyone, especially Rite Of Manhood to read this excellent post from The Good Men Project, which explains why the solution to most MRA problems is actually more feminism.
The wonderful @JennieSue has also written to Rite Of Manhood:
You say that you want to create unity rather than a divisive collision, but by talking about men's rights and denying equality you are being divisive.
I don't think that men and women are fundamentally different. Our abilities, our needs and our ambitions are all parrallel. For a society to function well, all members of that society need to be valued and given equality of opportunity.
I think you are asking the wrong question when you ask "What is your definition of a real man?".You talk about wanting to solve the conflicts and problems we face in society, and a better way to do this would be to promote equality.Asking "What makes a good member of our society" would be much more useful. By asking simply about "real men", you are excluding women from both the problems, and the solutions of society.
You also talk about wanting to create unity, but without the "new feminist paradigm". Unity can't be created without equality.If women are excluded from the solution, if women aren't part of your discussions, then how can your solution to society's problems be unified?That isn't to say you can't celebrate individuality and people's differences. But if you start on the assumption that all men are somehow one thing, and all men somehow another, you are dismissing individuality.
You say that equality is a source of conflict in society, and this does prevent you working towards a unified society. Women earn lower salaries, are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse, risk their careers if they choose to become parents, make up just a tiny proportion of directorships, board members and politicians. Worldwide, the UN figures show that women do two-thirds of the world's work, produce half of its food yet earn 10% of its income and own 1% of its property.If you really want to work towards a better society, you would be working as a feminist to help promote equality. If women were treated as equal members of society, then we could all work together towards unity.