Bigsley the Oaf

Towards a New Masculism

Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on November 19, 2012

“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.” – Bell Hooks

It is time for men to take a stand. We must become complete creatures, again. We must take back our emotions – we must take back our softness, our prettiness – we must arrest our completeness from the hands of masters who desire to enslave us.

First, a word about Feminism. I have previously defined Feminism as “a discourse by women about women.” By this definition, I have no place in Feminism. I have no more right to tell a woman how to be a woman than I have to tell you how to be you. We must commune in our interiors, and the female interior is not one to which I belong. I do not give Women the right to Feminism, for it is not mine to give. I do not relinquish control over this discourse, because any idea that I ever had such control was an illusion. I stand by, acknowledging a space in which I simply do not belong. I stand in solidarity and support of my Sisters and their struggle to free themselves from the forces which would diminish or drown out their inner fires.

As a natural extension, Masculism must be a discourse on the subject of Men, involving only Men. Our Sisters may support and encourage us, but we are to decide who we are. We have access to knowledge of ourselves which only we can ever know. Just as the redness of the apple belongs only to me – and thus only my internal and personal world can be involved in discussing it – so does the interior of manhood belong only to Men. That which is real, shameful, and joyous about manhood can be only flat, conceptual, and abstract to non-Men.

What are some of the subjects of Masculism? To the extent that it is a practical discourse, I believe these are the main topics that men must discuss at this time:

Their relationship to violence against themselves and others:

  • Sexual violence by men towards women and other men.
  • Power structures that steal and enslave men in our society – e.g. the draft and the effective draft stemming from economic disempowerment.
  • Patterns of abuse by men towards women, men, and themselves. This includes alcohol and substance abuse.

Their relationship to various levels of consciousness (intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual, etc.)

  • How can we prevent our male children from becoming emotionally and spiritually disempowered/dead? What roles enable men to live complete lives? How does global capitalism render men into production machines?
  • What is the influence of various modes of disempowerment on male violence?

Power / History

  • How does Male Privilege manifest itself in power structures? What is the cost of this privilege to others and ourselves?
  • How can the Male Gaze be removed from the media? To what extent can the media exist without representing such a gaze uniquely?
  • How are Men manipulated from an early age to desire/strive for power?

I believe in Men. I believe that men are strong, vibrant, beautiful, and good. I also believe that Men have stood by too long and allowed their Brothers to enact violence towards themselves and others. I believe that such violence is bad for everyone. No one benefits from rape – no one – the rapist is no benefactor.

To achieve any sort of spiritual balance, we must strive for a world without murder, rape, and theft. We seek a world without fear. The law is not any sort of answer. We must step up – each of us – and begin doing the right thing.

To give you an idea of why Masculist discourse must involve males exclusively, I begin with a personal anecdote. 

I have viscerally felt the desire to rape. I have been in situations where I was horny, I was with a woman, and I could have raped her, probably without getting caught. In such situations I became aware of the potential to rape. Such awareness did not present itself as an abstract possibility to be speculatively considered; the desire was strong and unexpected. It was not a calculated, rational thing. It was an irrational movement – a thrust. To escape it I had to actively resist. I had to exert willpower to escape its call. I left the room. I didn’t rape.

This is no defense of rape. This is a personal account of the feeling of the drive to rape. How does this account make you feel? Does it make you uncomfortable? Do you think I am any sort of bad person?

I believe that any discourse which involves concepts of “good person” and “bad person” is ultimately alienating and anti-human/anti-man. There are no bad people or good people. We do not prevent our brothers from raping because they are bad men. We do not punish them for their offenses because they are evil. We do these things because we desire a world without fear. We do these things because we believe in a standard of action that does not include the use of force.

(Men must exclusively participate in a new Masculism because we must find a balance between judgment and effectiveness – and such a balance is unlikely if it is to involve the victims of male crimes. Of course there should and must be discussion of rape which includes men and women – such a discussion must also include acknowledgement of the judgment of rapists by women. However, it hurts no one to have a space in which rapists are treated as human despite their crimes. This is a fine line and I am wary of treading it. Rape is completely unacceptable. However, the rapist is still a man – he was still born – he had a mother and a father. There must be a discourse in which the rapist is still treated as a human being with dignity. I feel so worried about writing these words. Can I not feel rage at a man and also compassion toward him? Why is such compassion a crime? It is compassion oriented towards preventing him from raping again – oriented towards preventing him from raping in the first place. It is compassion directed towards the feelings that caused him to rape and the self-hatred he might bear because of these feelings. ANYWAY, do you see how nervous I am writing all of this? This fear of female judgment is part of the reason that I believe Masculism must include only male voices.)

We desire to connect – to live with rather than above – we wish to be accepted as human and to accept as human, to see the naked humanity of our brothers and sisters. Such vision is impossible within the confines of a powerful Patriarchy.

We must relinquish our control. We must admit the power structures that we have control over. We must be only us – naked, human, honest, open.

Though we fear we may not be forgiven, we must have faith that there will be love for us. We must face our own fears and overcome them – for our Brothers and Sisters.

I hope to write a series of posts on what it is like to be a man and the personal challenges I face in attempting to overcome the damage that the Patriarchy has caused me – successes that I have had to this extent – and my vision of a way that I might fit into the world without holding power over those around me. Wish me luck.

“You’re a human being
You’re a human being
You’re a human being
You’ve got a right to scream when they don’t want you to speak
You’ve got a right to be what you want and where you want to be
You’ve got a right to breathe
To breathe
You’ve got a right
You’re a human being
You’ve got your own voice so sing
You’ve got two hands, let’s go and make anything
We all got rules we all have to break
We all have to make those mistakes

– Human Being by Cat Power

3 Responses

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  1. emmajolin said, on November 19, 2012 at 1:22 am

    I liked your essay (even though I’m a woman).

    I was intrigued by the question “What is the cost of privilege?” I think the dynamics of this question likely extends beyond “male privilege” into things like “race privilege” as well. How do we account for the fact that people with privilege are often lonely and unhappy despite their privilege? What does it mean that unhappy people with privilege are in a unique position among unhappy people to *impose* their unhappiness upon others?

    I would also ask, what is the role of shame and status in the upbringing of men in American society?

    And, why do you think it is that a “masculinist” movement hasn’t occurred (in the mainstream, anyway) already? What are the social barriers associated with such an idea?

  2. bigsleytheoaf said, on November 21, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Thank you for saying you liked the essay! I appreciate the support. This is very scary, for me. A very wise woman once said “Actions never conquer interpretations.”

    A difficult point for me in the discourse surrounding privilege is that it is often discussion of material privilege. What other types of privilege are there? Spiritual privilege? Emotional privilege? Etc. Connection to old ideas? Connection to new feelings? Connection to motions? Educational privilege? Etc. Etc.

    I think that it’s best to talk about privilege entirely in a context of interactions. We’re not interested in privilege in the sense that I have a mountain full of gold – we’re interested in privilege in the sense that I can force others to mine that mountain for me. Privilege is defined w/r/t relationships involving domination and subservience, yeah? The problem isn’t that one person is better off than the other – the problem is that the fact that one person is better off than the other basically allows the former to tell the latter what to do.

    This is why it’s interesting, as you note, that unhappy people in privilege are able to impose their happiness upon others. Two ideas spring out of this:

    1. This might mean that, counter-intuitively, the best idea is to make those in privilege happy/loved.

    2. However, perhaps this is materially impossible. Perhaps too many people (or the wrong people) are in privilege. I think this is the real idea underlying discussion of privilege, for me. Why should it be a bunch of stupid white people?

    To answer your question: “what is the role of shame and status in the upbringing of men in American society?”

    I’m going to answer this question in a lot of the posts following this one. I got shit to say on this one!

    I do want to say that it’s really hard for me to generalize about “American Society” (esp. since I’d necessarily be talking about American society for people around my age/white people/etc.) E.g. I have basically nothing to say about shame/status for young black males, young asian males, young trans males, young gay males, etc. Everything that I’m saying stems in my own experience. Hopefully people will find it interesting/applicable enough that they’ll contribute some of their own stories. I’d eventually like to expand this to include a diversity of sources and divest myself of “control” of the movement.

    “And, why do you think it is that a “masculinist” movement hasn’t occurred (in the mainstream, anyway) already? What are the social barriers associated with such an idea?”

    I actually don’t know if a successful masculinist movement has occurred. From the Wikipedia page it looks like most masculinist movements are kinda pro-man, whereas my Masculinism (and the Masculinism that I hope will in some sense “catch on”) is decently anti-man. I think that we (men) have resources which we must divest ourselves of. I believe that we control others and must relinquish our controls. I believe that we must break our swords, etc. It seems like many Masculinists are actually very insecure and are somewhat worried about man’s fall from the top of the power structure. My Masculinism desires this fall in order to restore harmony to society/civilization/the world.

    Obviously this isn’t going to be too popular with men. They have it good. The difficulty will be figuring out ways to convince men that it will really be better for everyone if they stop being such violent dicks (explicitly and implicitly). I think that a lot of arguments can be made to this effect. E.g. suppose that there were far far less rape – maybe then it would be easier for men and women to interact in a fearless way. Clearly there are problems around bias/data, here, but come on. 1/3 women are sexually abused in the U.S. If we can bring this number down then maybe women won’t be so afraid of us.

    There are also questions around fundamentalism/essentialism. What is a “man?” What is mutable? What could possibly be changed? What are the loci of the power structures that men have and how can these structures be decoupled? What will replace them?

    A self-destructive Masculism must embrace the three great virtues:

    Great Doubt – let’s remove pillars of “maleness” but be sure not to remove a pillar that is essential to the existence of men as such.

    Great Faith – we must believe that our self-destruction is ultimately good for us and everyone else. Just as doing more coke isn’t a very good way to recover from doing a lot of coke, continuing to be men in the way we have been isn’t a very good way to recover from the long history of violence and destructive we’ve sewed. We must also believe that women will not totally fuck us over once we render ourselves helpless (which I wouldn’t really blame them for).

    Great Courage – we must be willing to go forward and do what is right. We know what’s right in our hearts. It’s hard to listen to your heart when the rest of the world is telling you to use your mind/your dick

    In fact, this last point is probably the crux. To be successful, a Masculinist movement must be compassionate – but compassion is one of the many values that modern man is deprived of by his Patriarchically-imposed emotional self-castration.

    So maybe there’s no hope.


  3. June Gorman said, on December 1, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    There is so much to respond to here (and in your subsequent blogs on “Masculinism”), that I am a bit overwhelmed. Let me first just say that as a woman, thinking along these lines for my entire life, I have never found another “man” able to think about and articulate these ideas in such a similar way to how I have thought about it, nearly all my life. I was beginning to think, because of the early deep power of the masculine (or feminine) role socialization (the examples you give of how we are first taught how we are supposed to be and act like in order to be who we are and survive in our world as a “boy”, a “girl”), it was perhaps as a result of this very socialization process an emotionally impossible risk for a man to try to actually deconstruct this training in these ways, this honestly.

    Yes, I bet that can be scary in the deepest most vulnerable ways and I heartily appreciate the emotional courage you have exhibited here to do so.

    And you NEED that support from me and my appreciation of the deepest courage that takes, to question masculinity and its patriarchal correlates and results at these levels. You need that response, to validate these deep risks, my knowledge that this would then be the truest of ‘masculine’ courage — to attempt this rethinking. Though I agree with the premise that on some level “Masculinism” is no more experientially accessible to me than “Feminism” is to any man raised as a man in a patriarchal society, the emotional intelligence and empathy that is absolutely necessary to understand either discourse at its most essential levels, means that we absolutely must form this bridge in language and understanding with each other.

    “Can I not feel rage at a man and also compassion toward him? Why is such compassion a crime? It is compassion oriented towards preventing him from raping again – oriented towards preventing him from raping in the first place. It is compassion directed towards the feelings that caused him to rape and the self-hatred he might bear because of these feelings. ANYWAY, do you see how nervous I am writing all of this? This fear of female judgment is part of the reason that I believe Masculism must include only male voices.)”

    That’s the wrong conclusion. The only way to actually alleviate this fear of this female judgement is to take that risk, be vulnerable in the way you have been here, teach me to hear and understand what it is to be a sensitive, intelligent man and still admit to knowing the visceral feeling (momentarily) of wanting to rape and deconstruct how that was scaffolded within you. You have to take this chance with me and trust that I can hear the massive emotional vulnerability and risk of shame to expose that to me, and admire you for that courage and feel deep solidarity and compassion for the risk you just took. Because I do. And because it is, as you suggest, the only way to heal this wound and ‘self-hatred’ and reclaim the full hearted humanity that was in all of us, murderers and rapists included, before the wounding and destructive socialization began.

    In the end, we are going to need to risk this dialogue with each other — to have any chance of seeing that underlining “human being” we both, and the rapist, still are — in order to heal this divide. In the same way that we need the reciprocating vulnerable discussion about my internal wounds, my resultant shames as a socialized “woman”. We are going to NEED to construct this bridge to each other, to listen deeply and with compassion to exactly these cognitively ‘unknowable’ socialization experiences, to understand them emotionally and with empathy — the only way out of ALL these traps of power and pain in our society.

    It’s the conversation we HAVE to have, to get together to a different place of ‘human-ness” that I believe our entire world needs to go, to triumph in any of the truly existential battles we are facing today at their deepest levels.

    Thank you truly from my heart for risking it, despite your fear.

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