By Vliet Tiptree
We feminists have promised men, at least the toilers who also suffer under the elite, better conditions after Revolution XX, but these conditions have remained vague. Will they really benefit from feminism?
Let me begin by saying that What About Teh Menz has not exactly been Topic Numero Uno for Radfems. However, it has been important to mainstream feminists to hasten to reassure men that feminism benefits everybody, including right-wing reactionary men. Radfems should weigh in on this topic. Why? Because we should weigh in on every topic.
Let me also add that I speak only of post-industrial countries. In the rest, discussing these topics may get one shot in the face, so I will pass for now.
We feminists have promised to support men’s ideal of classlessness, and it is true, we know class divisions and inferiority must be abolished so long as the shame of being low on the totem pole of male hierarchy causes so much male violence. We plan to put a stop to that, especially when directed at women and children. But men may say that all that will happen is that they will lose a time-honored likkered-up tradition of lashing out, because we can’t deliver on the classlessness. It’s fair to say that we’ll try, but if men themselves insist on keeping their male hierarchies, there isn’t much we can do about it, we can only prevent them from hurting women and children when they feel inferior and can’t get at the elite. So working men may lose their scapegoats and battering-objects and still be stuck with their elite. We can’t do that alone, and shouldn’t pretend we can.
We have promised a caring new world in which social welfare, rather than death and destruction, will become the norm. We say that old and disabled men in particular will benefit. True, we will have excellent hospitals and social services after Revolution XX. There will be food, clothing and shelter for all. No one will be homeless or commit suicide because she or he is being evicted. But this caring labor won’t come free. No longer will there be a daughter or wife to do the daily grunge work for such men out of ancient servitude rather than a living wage. And there will be no prostitutes to make up for the difficulty of finding voluntary sex partners. Further, all this caring will divert the money traditionally spent for war to life-affirming stuff, and the old guys are proud of their warrior pasts and support war in general. Therefore they may take this new caringness as a net loss.
We say men need to cry more and deplore their lack of emotion, empathy, tears, and other expressions which are currently denied to them. We want to make it perfectly acceptable for men to weep. However, it appears that testosterone is the main reason men don’t cry much, and male anger would have to give way to make room for the less, shall we say, virile, emotions. What man wants to give up his anger? I am not sure men will choose this option even when they are free to do so. Is squeezing out the occasional tear ever as fun as a mantrum?
All feminists explain that equal women are much more intellectually interesting (radfems agree heartily). However, painting ourselves each morning and wearing crippling accessories and suffocating clothing items would have to go. We are not actually sure men would prefer us to be discussing the possible return of the drachma if we insisted on doing so in the same well-worn sweats and trainers they’re wearing.
We all know it’s not a win-lose situation. But there are only 100 U.S. Senators, and it must be admitted that we women would insist on being 50 of them. The men eased out from the apex of world power would be a considerable number, but we offer them the new privilege of becoming elementary school teachers and correcting feminist bias against boys. It does cross our minds that individual men like Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Donald Trump might feel they were losing a privilege or two, even so.
Rape, too, would no longer be an outlet utilizing either men or women. The prisons will just have to muddle along without their main correctional device. The same goes for the most popular method of harassing lesbians in South Africa. These methods will be replaced by ameliorating poverty, supporting education, making liberal use of severe social stigma, and punishments more suited to the crime (see, A Clockwork Orange). Most men would agree that rape must go and applaud its disappearance in prisons, but may perhaps feel it is a deprivation to also, in consequence, get rid of the two social institutions which most strongly support rape culture, namely, prostitution and pornography.
We also promise that men will be able to see their little ones grow up, if they so choose (and whether they want to or not as regards the concomitant housework). Yes, they will have equal parental leave when a new baby comes. Yet I see a certain shrinking back in many men from the prospect of leaving their outside jobs and staying home to maintain the household and sacrifice their time 24/7 to a squalling bundle. Perhaps this benefit we promise is not really something they will rush to take advantage of.
In addition, with women’s equal sexual freedom and control over our bodies, we invite men to imagine a world of sexual access that was previously denied them. Of course, many more women will immediately turn lesbian or celibate or vow never to have PIV intercourse again, once they figure out it’s not what men held it out to be. So this may be less of a benefit than it appears.
But wait. Look what we have been holding back, a huge and beneficial change! Women will no longer be economically dependent on men! We will make our own money. We will cease our devious ways of finagling money from men’s wallets, we will stop marrying hypergamously, we will no longer be gold-diggers, we will not provoke and frustrate because we will no longer need to dress like hookers — we will abjure all those annoying stereotypes that drive men mad! We will become people who buy dinner! Then again, nothing will now compel those of us who unfortunately remain het to become involved with a man, other than the man’s merit as a companion and lover, but we’re sure men will rise to the occasion.
As for those family courts in which ex-wives get custody and spousal support, with women’s moneymaking parity, spousal support will become a non-issue. Both sexes will get to contribute to their beloved cheatin’ lyin’ ex! As for child custody, all divorcing men will be encouraged, delivered, even, kicking and screaming, to insisting on equal physical custody rights. We are sure they will break down the doors of family court and we will be there to cheer them on!
Then there are men’s inflated images of themselves. Little girls will no longer have any reason to be jealous of little boys’ genitalia, making the Oedipus Complex an anachronism. Men will be reminded, all in good humor, that not only are women as competent in the public arena as they are, we give birth. The re-valuing of women may be taken as a loss to a few, a very few we are sure, egomaniacal men.
Virginia Woolf was reflecting on such benefits to men upon the liberation of women, when she ran across another example of the gazillions of historical pronouncements of women’s natural inferiority, a rather vehement pronouncement by a distinguished (male) professor, one with a familiar rancor (now called misogyny) detectable in it. Her thoughts ran this way:
“Possibly when the professor insisted a little too emphatically upon the inferiority of women, he was concerned not with their inferiority, but with his own superiority…because it was a jewel to him of the rarest price. Life for both sexes…is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything…it calls for confidence in oneself.
” …And how can we generate this imponderable quality…most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself.”
“…Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size…Whatever may be their use in civilized societies, mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action. That is why both Napoleon and Mussolini both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of women, for if [women] were not inferior, they would cease to enlarge.
“That serves to explain in part the necessity that women so often are to men. And it serves to explain how restless they are under her criticism; how impossible it is for her to say this book is bad, this picture is feeble, or whatever it may be, without giving far more pain and rousing far more anger than a man would do who gave the same criticism.
“For if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgment, civilizing natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and dinner at least twice the size he really is?”
Well, we believe and say that women can enlarge without men having to shrink. But we may be dissembling as still-not-fully-liberated women do, we aren’t sure. Perhaps we can all come together and find some inferior, non-human creatures who won’t be harmed, to enlarge both sexes, to praise us and witness our bravery and need us and curry our favor and scrub our toilets and suffer our blows. Maybe zebras will do, if they are still around.
If not, we must admit: men will shrink to meet our enlarging. They will deflate like one of Tom Brady’s footballs. They will be eyeball-to-eyeball with their equals, and that, as Gertrude Stein no doubt said, is that is that is that.
Or, as Simone de Beauvoir probably put it, tant pis.
Originally posted at Feminism XX
Coming Soon: Rebecca Whisnant on Pornography and Humiliation.