Wednesday, 18 February 2015

On Missing Men

 By Ernest Velasquez

Whose politics are men's politics? Who does "A Voice for Men" (AVFM) speak for?

A major failing of various men's rights groups is their anti-feminist focus. But this obsession with feminism doesn’t only undermine feminism and women. For all the ink spilled in MRA's defense of masculinity, fatherhood, and men, there are a remarkable number of men missing from this perspective.

Take, for example, AVFM's odd relationship to homophobia and LGBT issues. AVFM's community, at times, is (sort of) capable of speaking out against homophobic language but just as adept at employing it themselves.

Officially, AVFM is supportive of the struggles of gay men, stating that they "regard men as human beings, regardless of their sexuality." But it's a little difficult to take this seriously considering their unwavering support for Senator Cools who has been defiant in her opposition to same-sex marriage in Canada.

Considering AVFM’s focus on fatherlessness, it’s hard to know exactly what to make of this support. Are LGTB families not families? Are gay fathers not fathers?

The site's relationship to transgender issues is even more ambivalent. Some credit is due for the relatively recent inclusion of transgender voices (well, a transgender voice). But this does little to change the fact that the physical and systematic violence that transgender people suffer doesn't seem to attract MRA attention.

If anything, rather than discuss anti-LGBT violence in detail, AVFM writers are more liable to imply that gender dysphoria comes from the existence of positive female role models.

This links back to MRA ideas about the ‘disposable male’ and ‘gynocracy’ – in essence the idea of ‘female privilege’. But to support this idea of the ‘disposable male’ and ‘gynocracy’ - the systemic devaluation of men compared to women – AVFM must insist on a shallow and static idea of masculinity and femininity.

Again, this obsession with conspiratorial feminism blinds them to another branch of men’s experience – the intersection of men’s politics and anticolonial struggle in places like Hawai’i.

The gendered aspect of the colonial relationship between the American culture and native Hawaiians, far from being the result of a ‘gynocracy’ or ‘female privilege’, comes from the colonial feminization of Hawai’i. This was the imposition of patriarchal and racist ideas of femininity onto the native Hawai’ian population as a way of naturalizing American imperialism. Far from being a gynocratic power exercised over the powerless ‘disposable’ male, colonial power is gendered as masculine as it is exercised over the feminized/infantilized population it sought to control.

As a result, the kind of men’s politics that has developed in Hawai’i, at least as described by Ty Tengan in Native Men Remade is a struggle for decolonizing masculinity. A struggle against racist notions of masculinity, and against the very patriarchal image of femininity that AVFM defends as the foundation of gynocracy.

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