The negative impact of feminist discourse on men's perceptions of masculinity and male sexuality.

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Post by JP McBride on Fri Feb 13, 2015 5:36 pm

fakely mctest wrote:That's a semantics argument.  Obviously he knew there was enough of a problem to help his friend by running interference and, ultimately, by stepping in to shoot the guy down in a public way (even if, per Dr. Light's recounting he didn't meant for it to be so cutting).  And, personally, I find that entirely appropriate.  Having been in enough similar situations (thankfully none as consistently creepy as the one described) I know it can be hard for outsiders to know when to step in.  Going in, guns blazing, to defend another person when things are at a certain level would be excessive and patronizing.

One of the truly great things about being a man is that you can go in guns blazing for NO REASON AT ALL. I've gone off on people for far less, and I've never needed to justify it in terms of defending someone.

Enail wrote:I would say that since the Spot the Question story focuses more on understanding women's experiences around harassment and doesn't discuss how well-meaning men can avoid making women feel uncomfortable or unsafe when approaching them, it's not really an apples to apples comparison. It doesn't seem like the one could always be usefully swapped in for the other if it did have less chance of the problematic interpretations we've discussed in this thread. But perhaps looking at the differences between them, if there are differences in effect, could help us figure out if there are ways we could craft messages to do less harm to anxious men while still conveying needed messages.

I think a lot of it comes down to the notion that approaching women is an inherently threatening act. I find it impossible to reconcile that message with the notion that I should approach women as long as I do it in a safe and respectful manner, and I think that many of the guys who freak out about it have the same problem.

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Post by Caffeinated on Fri Feb 13, 2015 6:02 pm

JP McBride wrote:I think a lot of it comes down to the notion that approaching women is an inherently threatening act. I find it impossible to reconcile that message with the notion that I should approach women as long as I do it in a safe and respectful manner, and I think that many of the guys who freak out about it have the same problem.

Hmm, interesting. Do you think it might help if some of the behaviors were outlined in a more gender-neutral way?

For example, I would say it's a general social rule that when a larger person corners a smaller person in such a way that the smaller person would have trouble escaping if they wanted to leave, that's an inherently threatening act.

Another example, I would say it's a general social rule that when a stranger moves inside of someone's culturally expected bubble of personal space, that's likely to make that person uncomfortable and possibly worried for the security of their person or belongings.

Or, when a stranger ignores culturally normalized cues that someone doesn't want to have a conversation (for example wearing headphones while reading a book and not making eye contact with anyone), then the person being interrupted would be expected to feel annoyed and uncomfortable.

Or, it's a common social rule that there are places where strangers expect to meet each other and become acquainted, places where it's not unusual to meet and become acquainted, and places where it's expected that everyone mind their own business, and that talking to a stranger in the first location would be always ok, the second location probably ok, and the third location never ok.

I'm sure there are more general social rules like this but these are the ones that occur to me off the top of my head. I think those rules apply no matter what gender either person in the interaction is. Thoughts?
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Post by Enail on Fri Feb 13, 2015 6:41 pm

Caffeinated, those rules make sense!

Another thing is that it's a question of degrees. I actually think approaching strangers is an inherently threatening act in general - but it's only a really tiny amount threatening by default, and different factors (which can include gender and size that are not controllable, but also things like where you approach and how you act) make it go anywhere from "a faint hint of wariness" to "woah, really fucking scary."   The low end of this scale is okay! People feel a faint hint of wariness when they meet a stranger, and they accept that as a normal part of living in a society where you encounter strangers and where not all strangers are safe, undemanding, and totally inobtrusive. That amount is normal and accepted and okay!

All of us trigger that lowest end all the time. It's just our job to keep the level of threateningness in that low end by limiting the contexts we approach strangers to ones that are more agreed-on as okay and less cumbersome (and thus less threatening - someone who doesn't care if they're bothering you is less likely to be safe than someone who doesn't want to bother you unduly) and by acting in low-threat ways when we do so.

So, I see Schrodinger's Rapist-type guidelines as basically just there to help people who have inherent factors (such as being on average physically larger than the person they're approaching) that make their starting threat level higher - but still in the acceptable low range - figure out what kinds of contexts and behaviors will help keep the threat level in the acceptable range.

For an awkward metaphor, I think of it kind of like: drinking water makes you have to pee. Pretty much always true (barring unusual medical conditions). But it doesn't mean you can never drink water if there isn't a toilet right there (again, barring unusual medical conditions Razz). If you take a little sip of water, it's technically still contributing to you having to pee, but the amount is minimal, and usually acceptable. You have to adjust how much water you're drinking to match the context so that your 'having to pee' level doesn't rise uncomfortably high for the activity you're doing and when you can next use the bathroom. Does that make any sense?
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Post by JP McBride on Sat Feb 14, 2015 5:16 pm

Caffeinated wrote:Do you think it might help if some of the behaviors were outlined in a more gender-neutral way?

No.

The cultural expectations and values behind threatening and being threatened are deeply and profoundly gendered.

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Post by Caffeinated on Sat Feb 14, 2015 11:52 pm

JP McBride wrote:
Caffeinated wrote:Do you think it might help if some of the behaviors were outlined in a more gender-neutral way?

No.

The cultural expectations and values behind threatening and being threatened are deeply and profoundly gendered.

Hmm, that's rather discouraging. I would hope that just telling people not to approach others in ways that are against the social code would not be a thing that would be a problem. But if even saying "follow common social rules when interacting with women" is enough for some men to find it harmful, then I don't know if it's possible to say anything to those men that they wouldn't find harmful.
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Post by JP McBride on Sun Feb 15, 2015 5:43 pm

Caffeinated wrote:
JP McBride wrote:
Caffeinated wrote:Do you think it might help if some of the behaviors were outlined in a more gender-neutral way?

No.

The cultural expectations and values behind threatening and being threatened are deeply and profoundly gendered.

Hmm, that's rather discouraging. I would hope that just telling people not to approach others in ways that are against the social code would not be a thing that would be a problem. But if even saying "follow common social rules when interacting with women" is enough for some men to find it harmful, then I don't know if it's possible to say anything to those men that they wouldn't find harmful.

I think the thing that most of them are finding harmful is the message that approaching women is inherently threatening.

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Post by Enail on Sun Feb 15, 2015 6:05 pm

JPMcBride, do you feel that approaching/being approached by a stranger (of unspecified gender for approacher and approachee) is not inherently threatening at all, then, like not even a smidgen?

 If that's correct, I wonder if that's where some of the disconnect in this conversation is happening - I'm a 5'1, fairly delicate-looking woman, and I still assume that when I approach a total stranger, even one who's much bigger than me, they evaluate it as having a teeny hint of threat (if not physical danger, then social discomfort or the like). And I assume that I need to act in certain ways if interacting with a stranger, to show that the threat is low - using socially accepted cues to seek permission to engage them (to show that I will respect it if they attempt to stop the interaction), keeping to neutral/situationally appropriate topics at first in conversation (to show I will try not to make them uncomfortable by becoming overly personal or bringing up points of likely conflict) and so forth.  ETA: and in the (very rare for me) situations where I might be perceived as a physical threat by the person I'm approaching, I adjust my behavior to show that I mean them no physical harm as well.

Folks, could there be a gendered difference on this, perhaps, where women tend to see approaching a stranger (regardless of gender, personal qualities and intent) as always having a small element of threat and men not? If that were the case, I could see how a man could find it quite adversarial and hurtful to be told that they are a threat for talking to someone.
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Post by Caffeinated on Sun Feb 15, 2015 6:34 pm

Enail wrote:JPMcBride, do you feel that approaching/being approached by a stranger (of unspecified gender for approacher and approachee) is not inherently threatening at all, then, like not even a smidgen?

 If that's correct, I wonder if that's where some of the disconnect in this conversation is happening - I'm a 5'1, fairly delicate-looking woman, and I still assume that when I approach a total stranger, even one who's much bigger than me, they evaluate it as having a teeny hint of threat (if not physical danger, then social discomfort or the like). And I assume that I need to act in certain ways if interacting with a stranger, to show that the threat is low - using socially accepted cues to seek permission to engage them (to show that I will respect it if they attempt to stop the interaction), keeping to neutral/situationally appropriate topics at first in conversation (to show I will try not to make them uncomfortable by becoming overly personal or bringing up points of likely conflict) and so forth.  ETA: and in the (very rare for me) situations where I might be perceived as a physical threat by the person I'm approaching, I adjust my behavior to show that I mean them no physical harm as well.

Folks, could there be a gendered difference on this, perhaps, where women tend to see approaching a stranger (regardless of gender, personal qualities and intent) as always having a small element of threat and men not? If that were the case, I could see how a man could find it quite adversarial and hurtful to be told that they are a threat for talking to someone.

What's funny to me is that when I was writing my little list of social rules up there, I was actually thinking mainly of non-romantic types of approaching strangers. Salespeople, panhandlers, religious evangelizers, political petition-gatherers, and so forth. When a stranger comes up to me, I tend to have that inward moment of thinking "oh god, what do they want from me?" And that is generally a stronger feeling when it's someone approaching wanting money or to sell me on something.

When it's a romantic approach, I feel more positive and less apprehensive, because it's more clear that the person is looking to offer something pleasant, not trying to try to get me to give them something I don't want to give (money, a sale, time listening to their pitch, etc).

My personal experiences in life have included some very nice romantic approaches, which felt flattering, exciting, fun, etc. And my experiences have included some much less pleasant approaches by pushy salespeople, aggressive panhandlers, and religious and political evangelizers who just couldn't take a hint that I was uncomfortable and didn't want to talk to them any more.

I guess my list of rules would ideally be a little guide on making sure that people approach each other in the flattering, exciting, fun ways, and not in the aggressive and unpleasant panhandler/salesperson/evangelizer ways.
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Post by InkAndComb on Sun Feb 15, 2015 8:23 pm

Going off of this being inherently gendered and funding ways to deal with the " always a threat element", Iwas raised in the stranger danger era, so before I remember it being gendered, a stranger approaching always carried that element of wariness. Personally, it became more gendered when I started getting feedback in public. Was this not shared by guys too?

I don't think my reactions to this were influenced in feminism, at least I didn't have exposure to much of this in a coherent form growing up. To me, it's a confidence of if you can handle a threat from the approaching party (size, intent). I wonder if men make feel differently and thus add to a gendered aspect? But I don't believe this can't be overcome, there has GOT to be a way to have this kind of discourse without making a party so upset or personal recoiled that the message is lost. I thought caffeinateds post was very succinct, ftr. But I can't help but wonder if there is a personal defensiveness that is similar to when workshops are held on diversity; Ive heard often the target sample is separated (say, one race) because it keeps them from derailing activities by becoming guiltridden, apologetic, or unreasonably angry. Basically they stay on task better regarding the actual analysis and discussion of their behavior because the source of guilt isn't present.

Sorry if that is sort of a tangent
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Post by LadyLuck on Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:32 pm

Ive heard often the target sample is separated (say, one race) because it keeps them from derailing activities by becoming guiltridden, apologetic, or unreasonably angry. Basically they stay on task better regarding the actual analysis and discussion of their behavior because the source of guilt isn't present.

I can actually kind of see this. Suppose I, a white woman, was in such a workshop with a person of color, and had a question or comment. I would definitely be worried about phrasing my thoughts in a way that wouldn't come across as ignorant/offensive/racist, since I wouldn't want the person of color to hear it and either 1. Be offended by my words and/or 2. Have a lower opinion of me because something came out wrong. It's kind of like being the kid being afraid to raise their hand for fear of having the wrong answer and subsequently looking dumb in front of everyone else.

Unfortunately, this has an extremely shitty side effect - "I can only learn not to be racist from people who haven't suffered from racism! (aka white people)" Which uhmmm...about not wanting to offend people...yeah who the fuck are we kidding that sentence sounds racist as hell. To relate it back to the topic - It wouldn't shock me if gender issues had the same problem. Dudes might sincerely learn gender issues better from other dudes, since they aren't constantly in fear of being judged and branded a sexist asshole while they're still learning. That still is really hard to sell without coming across as just not wanting to listen to women (or PoC, or gays, or <insert marginalized group of choice>).

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Post by JP McBride on Mon Feb 16, 2015 12:34 am

Enail wrote:JPMcBride, do you feel that approaching/being approached by a stranger (of unspecified gender for approacher and approachee) is not inherently threatening at all, then, like not even a smidgen?

Being approached isn't threatening to me, and if it was, I would consider it be a personal failing on my part. I've been threatened with physical violence and it was less scary than you guys describe a stranger making eye contact with you.

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Post by Enail on Mon Feb 16, 2015 12:49 am

Given that I used words like "teeny," and "faint hint of wariness," I'm not sure it's possible to have something be less scary and still be in the emotional category of fear as opposed to, say, happiness or longing for cookies Razz    

I can see why we have a different response to the Schrodinger's Rapist post, then - but does it change the tone of the post a bit for you to know that for at least some people who would link to that post, a feeling of wariness is is a standard response to being approached by any sort of stranger?  The thought process explained in SR is part of a continuous range of reactions rather than something totally apart from peoples' other social thought processes, if that makes any sense.
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Post by Guest on Mon Feb 16, 2015 1:06 am

JP McBride wrote:
Enail wrote:JPMcBride, do you feel that approaching/being approached by a stranger (of unspecified gender for approacher and approachee) is not inherently threatening at all, then, like not even a smidgen?

Being approached isn't threatening to me, and if it was, I would consider it be a personal failing on my part. I've been threatened with physical violence and it was less scary than you guys describe a stranger making eye contact with you.

Semi-related: Some crazy homeless guy crossing the street growled, barked and came towards me while I was sitting in my Jeep at a stoplight. Neutral With the light on red. In broad-fucking-daylight.

>ohshit.jpg
>mfw
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Thankfully, the light turned green before he could get close and I booked it. I was legit frightened and weirded out by such an odd encounter.

And enail, could we also make up Schrodinger's Perpetrator too? I dunno, just an idea I had because growing up in the ghetto made me extra aware of just crime in general. When I was 12 years old, some seemingly older kids wanted to take my money for whatever fucking reason other than a quick buck. I put my hands up and said, "I got nothin'" and he replied "OH I THINK YOU DO!" I kept walking forward and I didn't know if him and his friend were gonna come up behind me and strike the back of my head and steal my Metal Gear Solid 3 money. So, I was terrified for awhile and I never told my mom or anyone about that either. :\

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Post by kath on Mon Feb 16, 2015 5:34 am

JP, do you have strategies you could share for building that level of comfort with dealing with strangers?

I get more uncomfortable than I'd like being in spaces that aren't "mine" / habitual (IE, work or home), and I would love to get advice to reduce that. It's not like I don't go out alone or whatever, but I'm certainly not confident when I do it, and I don't feel like ... comfortable. And I do feel threatened just like, in that situation in general.

If you do have strategies let me know and I'll make another thread, or if it's just sort of how you approach the world and you couldn't go about telling someone how to build it, that also makes sense.
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Post by Bumble on Tue Feb 17, 2015 10:39 pm

I was going to make a new thread for this post but I guess it belongs in here.. Sorry if this has been done to death.

I have never been a masculine guy. It's not in my nature nor was it part of my upbringing. So you can imagine my relief when the enlightened feminist discourse of the Internet told me that traditional masculine gender roles were chauvinistic anachronisms, and that the most important qualities a man could have were empathy and respect. "Oh great," I thought, "I can continue being the quiet, sensitive type, crying over my favorite stories and pursuing my middling aspirations."

The world isn't ready for this type of guy. Heck I'm not even sure feminist women are ready for this type of guy. I know lots of guys who have meaningful relationships with women, and along with the vast majority of men they are all keen to maintain traditionally masculine qualities. I don't care to dig them up, but I've seen comments by some feminist women who are troubled by their attraction to traditionally masculine men. I honestly think such an attraction is perfectly natural.

I think what's happening here is that feminist discourse, in attempting to reign in the excesses of toxic masculine culture, is feeding unhelpful advice to men who go outside and don't have enough masculinity to interest most women to begin with. I don't really have any solutions. Is it too much to ask for a voice? We've got like Arthur Chu but I don't even like him. Then there was that MIT guy who everyone hated. At any rate I'll be at the gym.

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Post by eselle28 on Tue Feb 17, 2015 11:41 pm

I'm not sure if it's as black and white as that, Bumble. I don't think that all expressions of traditional masculinity are chauvinistic anachronisms, nor do I think they're necessarily incompatible with empathy and respect. It's certainly true that some women, including feminists, find those traits attractive. I don't think it's been all that helpful to spread ideas that no women do, or that those ways of being masculine are somehow bad.

I would say there's a place for guys who don't identify much with those traits as well, however. I do think that they probably need to be expressed in ways other than responding emotionally to media if they're to be an asset in attracting partners, and I sympathize with men who are struggling to figure out ways to do that. I don't think there's necessarily much good modeling in that vein.

As for Scott Aaronson, the MIT guy, I found him to be rather lacking in either empathy or respect. I think that's something that sometimes gets left out of these discussions - there are guys who don't identify with traditionally masculine virtues who also don't do a great job of embodying other sorts of virtues, either.
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Post by kath on Tue Feb 17, 2015 11:52 pm

I'm not sure you can make a judgement about what "the world" is ready for based on your personal dating success, or even the anecdotal evidence of people you know.

Also, criticizing the strict masculine-feminine gender dichotomy is about how our society is structured, not about what turns the crank of individual women (and not that liking a good beard is bad, or admiring the qualities that are positive that are associated with men is bad - it's just bad they're just associated with men, and that other ways of being a man are denigrated, because anyone who identifies as male is manly - and vice-versa). So I can't see how it's surprising that not being traditionally masculine isn't going to automatically mean people are throwing themselves at you. Primarily, I would say that criticism of toxic masculinity is, in fact, not actually about the dynamics between two people in a relationship or in a potential relationship. That's one facet of the interactions that toxic masculinity (and femininity) impact, but they also impact the entire rest of everyone's life and interactions.

Additionally, criticizing toxic masculinity and its detrimental impact on society and the lives of men and women is not equivalent to arguing that being the "quiet, sensitive type, crying over my favorite stories and pursuing my middling aspirations" is the sufficient case for being in a relationship (or the typification of the true sexy), and I'm not sure how that would follow.

(also, rock on eselle)
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Post by Bumble on Wed Feb 18, 2015 12:39 am

Clearly I saw criticism of toxic masculinity as some kind of personal salvation and read too much into it.

I don't really know if I can make a sufficient case for being in a relationship (the requirements seem higher if you are already struggling), but I have a lot of qualities beyond the ones I mentioned, and it does rankle that because I'm a guy certain benign personality traits become a liability. (Risk aversion.. that's another good one)

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Post by kath on Wed Feb 18, 2015 3:45 am

Has someone here said that benign traits are a liability? I disagree with that as a general statement - though of course some particular people will find some particular traits that are generally "benign" to be unattractive. In general, though, Eselle discussed how, while the traits you listed may be "benign", they may not all have a lot to do with qualities that are an asset in a relationship - or, in your list, weren't expressed in ways that sounds like the have a lot to do with being an asset in a relationship.

What I meant when I said that those traits were not "sufficient" was that that particular set of traits does not encompass "all that is necessary for you to get a relationship" - because there is no set of traits that is "sufficient" such that you will get a relationship if you have all of them, like getting into a particularly academic program if you meet all the entry requirements. That's obviously not how relationships work. So, I certainly believe you have plenty of wonderful traits, and the fact that you aren't in a relationship doesn't speak to your good or bad qualities either way.
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Post by reboot on Wed Feb 18, 2015 11:37 am

Maybe we are thinking about this in the wrong way? All the good qualities of traditional masculinity (e.g. integrity, directness, honor, emotional resilience) and femininity (e.g. empathy, emotionally supportive, nurturing) are good qualities for everyone to cultivate and should not be gender specific. Perhaps masculinity and femininity should be primarily external rather than internal qualities and more linked to whatever physical presentation one chooses?

So, for traditional masculinity, what are the good qualities that should be cultivated?
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:00 pm

I struggle to find anything that doesn't have a clear female equivalent. Dapper suits, muscled wifebeater look, slick dandy...these can all suit dudettes just fine.

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Post by reboot on Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:25 pm

BasedBuzzed wrote:I struggle to find anything that doesn't have a clear female equivalent. Dapper suits, muscled wifebeater look, slick dandy...these can all suit dudettes just fine.

Women did get the long end of the stick as far as diverse fashion goes and it would be nice if a man in a cocktail dress was as unremarkable as a woman in a dapper suit.

My point was more that if someone wants to flash their masculine/feminine side (no matter their actual identification) external markers are preferable to behavior since the good qualities of femininity/masculinity are good qualities for anyone and should not signal a specific gender.
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Post by Conreezy on Wed Feb 18, 2015 5:28 pm

Women did get the long end of the stick as far as diverse fashion goes

Interesting. I've viewed it the other way: that it kind of sucks that women are pushed into trends that don't stick around, whereas menswear from fifty years ago could still fly today (more or less). I think that pressure on women has eased, though, since it's much less unusual for a woman to wear men's style clothing, but there's still a lot of clothing advertisement aimed at women's concern with their looks.

Not to derail things.

My point was more that if someone wants to flash their masculine/feminine side (no matter their actual identification) external markers are preferable to behavior since the good qualities of femininity/masculinity are good qualities for anyone and should not signal a specific gender.

I thought of that old song, "Detachable Penis."

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Post by Bumble on Wed Feb 18, 2015 10:38 pm

Hey, I appreciate everyone's thoughts. I gotta say there's a real disconnect between what people in feminist-friendly spaces like this say about traditional gendered masculinity (risk taking, dominance, strength, stoicism) and its importance versus what everyone else in my life is telling me. Maybe my life is an anecdote.. a data point.. but it's my truth and it's telling me I've got to find it within myself to change--for the manlier.

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Post by reboot on Wed Feb 18, 2015 11:36 pm

Interesting. I personally value risk taking and stoicism in people (not just men) but do not see them as particularly masculine traits. Perhaps it is because I tend to associate stoicism more with the women I have encountered in my life (e.g. refugees, aid workers, miner's wives) and risk taking seems gender neutral?
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