Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy to Announce our New Affiliation with XY!

The Guide is topping off this year with some exciting news: much, if not all, of what you see and read here on the blog will be syndicated on XY Online! "What does it all mean?! What is this XY of which you speak?" To answer these burning questions...

In their own words

XY is a website focused on men, masculinities, and gender politics. XY is a space for the exploration of issues of gender and sexuality, the daily issues of men’s and women’s lives, and practical discussion of personal and social change.

XY is:

* A forum for debate and discussion, including commentary on contemporary and emerging issues in gender and sexual politics;
* A resource library or clearinghouse for key reports, manuals, and articles;
* A toolkit for activism, personal transformation and social change.

In my own words, XY is an Australian-based web resource for all things pro-feminist, male, and anti-violent. It offers hundreds of articles on topics like gender and masculinities, class, race and ethnicity, sexuality, health, working with men and boys toward anti-violence education and social causes, and as many more topics as we contributors can think up! (You think I'm using more than a reasonable person's amount of exclamation points? Now you know how excited I am! (Shit, there I go again with the punctuation...))

XY is a digital knowledge bank for how to change the world for the better through feminist ideals of empathy, education, and activism.

XY is a one-stop-shop for action. Ever want to do something about an issue you care about? Ever think to yourself, "I wish I could organize an event or a group successfully and really make a difference"? Well, lucky for all of us action-seekers and change-makers, XY puts at your fingertips its expansive compilation of activist how-to guides.

And, though lower-key than the vast bibliography, one of my favorite parts of XY is the Image Gallery, which features pages of feminist and anti-violent pictures.

Before I go to count down to the new year, I'll end on a note of hope for action. XY is always looking for volunteers like us to contribute to their world-class database. If you want to see what you can do with XY, click here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stuff What Boys Can Do

I've been meaning to write about one of my personal favorite blogs, Fugitivus. The blog initially gained a lot of attention from the now-classic post 'A woman walks into a rape, uh, bar' about how rape jokes sound like triggers to rape survivors.

Since then, blogger Harriet Jacobs added a new section to Fugitivus: Stuff What Boys Can Do, which really excites us here at the Guide!

The new section is a place where people can leave their own stories of things guys did to challenge minds and support women and the people around them. Tyler and I decided to add our own stories to the list. (We're waiting for them to get through the mediation process because Harriet Jacobs runs a tight ship!) And we've included them below to share with you. Check them out and be sure to take a moment and add a story of your own.

From Tyler (the Guy from the Guy's Guide):

So this is around February or March 2005, very soon after Lawrence Summers (who was president of Harvard at the time, not sure if he still is) made those comments suggesting there are less female tenured professors in the math and sciences because women do not have as strong innate abilities for these disciplines as men do.

I'm out to dinner with a group of guys. Most of the members of the group I'm with fashion themselves as Ayn Rand Objectivists, so they are obsessed with ideas of self-interest and pure capitalism.

But really they are just North Carolina conservatives and staunch supporters of Bush/Cheney Republicanism (AKA they are neo-conservatives.) But because they are young, they try and give their views a hip, libertarian twist.

Anyway, so one of the guys works for a Beach resort as part of the catering/events staff. His boss had recently been promoted, and the person they brought in to replace his old boss was a woman.

From what I understood, this woman was already the #2 to the old boss, so the promotion was pretty much a given based on the woman's seniority, experience, performance, etc.

But my friend was angry b/c he felt that i) she wasn't as capable, ii) there wasn't a full interview process (in his dreams he felt that he was qualified, though he in no way had the requisite experience to even merit an interview), and iii) he outright said that he believed his new boss got her position because she was a woman.

Though the L. Summers' stuff did not come up directly in this conversation, I had had plenty of debates in the wake of those comments a month or so before with this very same group. So I know that those sentiments played into this guy's feelings.

Obviously, everyone but me agreed with this guy. They chalked it up as another overreaction to gender inequalities and affirmative action politics that, they felt, are crippling free enterprise.

Quelling my initial reaction to just laugh and say, "You're just sexist, why not just admit it?" I decide instead to try and have all of these guys reach this conclusion through a simple series of questions.

Their love for all things capitalist and Ayn Rand related was clearly the best entry point... So I asked something to the effect of, i) What's one of the main benefits of a pure free-market economy? and ii) What is the goal of policies that look to rectify institutionalized gender or race inequalities in the workforce?

Their answer to the first question was the predictable long spiel that could be boiled down to the naive idea that if everyone acts in their own self-interest, markets will work efficiently, everyone will have the same motivation to work hard and achieve, there are no free-rides, etc., etc.

Their answer to the second question was so muddled and mean and riddled with political rhetoric that I had to prod them for an "objective" answer. Essentially, I had to ask them what they thought the philosophy behind a policy like Title IX truly is.

Eventually, through this line of inquiry (a couple of the guys were philosophy majors in college, so they at least understood my method and sort of appreciated it) I got them to admit that such measures were enacted because women (and non-whites) did not have the same initial advantages as men (whites). They also made the connection that in their free-market dream world, it is assumed that every person starts on the same level playing field. So if their dream world were ever to become a reality, we would have to work damn hard to create a workplace where everyone has the same opportunities (hence, things like Title IX and affirmative action policies).

Lastly, I asked if his new boss had any connections at his workplace that could have influenced her promotion (she's related to the owner, etc.) He admitted that she did not.

So when I asked him that, given the place where we live and the area's predominate politics (largely traditionally conservative), was it safe to assume that his new boss probably had to work a little extra hard to get to where she is b/c she probably had to endure similar biases like the ones he (the guy I was talking to) was espousing a half hour earlier...

And he admitted that that was probably the case.

Who knows if any of what we spoke about that night stuck, but it was a small victory.

From Marie (Editor at the Guide):

Well, I was a Jr. in High School and I did set construction and was a stage manager for HS plays. When new people joined up, we'd have someone with more experience show them around and explain the different jobs and how stuff worked and, literally, show them the ropes (that tied up curtains, backdrops, etc.)

So, as someone with a few years experience, I took this new freshman boy around. He was generally known as someone's weird, awkward and scrawny little brother and was definitely not a 'cool kid.'

I was almost done showing him around and as we walked out of the prop closet I saw my big, older ex-boyfriend struggling to hand-saw a gigantic piece of wood he had propped up on two chairs (our equipment was so pathetic we re-used screws and nails.)

Each time the ex tried to take the saw to it, the vibrations would vibrate the wood off the chair and fall, which is a disaster waiting to happen. So, without any conversation, I took one end of the wood and held it in place so he could saw the thing w/o chopping off his arm.

He proceeded to saw the wood (while I kept it in place) and then told me to "Fuck off." I replied that I was just helping him and his wood would have fallen off if I hadn't. He cursed at me again and I just shook my head and walked away.

The freshman was there the whole time and started to follow me out but went back in. He told my ex not to be such an asshole and that he should thank me for saving him from hurting himself or destroying equipment.

I heard my ex saying as the freshman left (something like) "You little shit," which is how I know the freshman actually got to him. ;)

I thanked the freshman and told him that took some guts. I hadn't realized how used to guys letting other guys treat women and girls like dirt I had become. I guess I took it for granted that guys don't question one another until the least likely guy did.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Review: The Good Men Project

A recent, positive development in the public discourse surrounding masculinity in twenty-first century America, The Good Men Project consists of a book of essays, a documentary film, a website and a series of events (reading, panels, etc.) held nationwide, all centered on men sharing their own stories about what they feel makes for a good man. The project takes a very “Chicken Soup…” approach. The essays are written for a very broad audience and, as such, are predictably, almost formulaically inspirational. Judging by the doc’s trailer (I haven’t seen the film), the stories in the film work in much the same manner.

Though I don’t care for this genre (self-help) or style (anecdotal personal essays meant to inspire), I don’t doubt The Good Men Project’s intentions and methods. The men behind the Project were, in their previous lives, successful executives whose savvy in the workplace could never translate to their private lives. All the contributors to the Project are like this—guys just trying to “figure it out.” Their stories are genuine and varied, and the book doesn’t feel like it was edited in calculated fashion. The “Chicken Soup…” phenomenon in the 1990s and early 2000s, and the forever popularity of venues like Oprah and Dr. Phil, show how Americans are quite susceptible to stories that tug at our heartstrings. And there are plenty of schools of thought that believe that just getting a conversation started is a victory in and of itself. If The Good Men Project gets “guy’s guys” talking about what it takes to be a good man then, hey, more power to them.

So why I am a still wary about The Good Men Project? Its goals are admirable. The guys all appear genuine. Their multi-faceted approach is unbelievably comprehensive (book, movie, web, blog, events...). Am I just cynical?

I don’t think so.

In interviews on Air America and Fox 25 News, Project co-editor Tom Matlack discussed how men typically don’t like the “Oprah approach,” which he defined as sitting on a couch a discussing one’s feelings. Instead, Matlack and his co-editors surmised that guys prefer to talk about feelings indirectly, namely in story form. More specifically, guys prefer to tell heroic stories. Matlack points out that most of the contributors to the Project depict themselves as heroes: he is a hero because he overcame addiction; he is a hero because he helped his autistic child; etc. So rather than directly confront their own feelings and insecurities, guys get to tell heroic narratives that keep them one step removed from their true emotions. In short, The Good Men Project perpetuates the myth (yes, I’m using that strong of a word) that men and women are uniquely and exclusively different in the ways in which they discuss their feelings. That’s just not a healthy thing to do.

It’s great to see collaborative, well-organized efforts like The Good Men Project. I have no doubt that it will make a positive difference for many men. But to prop up and endorse the idea that a masculine heroic narrative is just as effective as actually talking about one’s feelings—and to justify this by saying that men just naturally do the former and women just naturally do the latter—is to miss the boat entirely on what it takes to be a good man. Good men, in my estimation, actively attempt to bridge such masculine and feminine binaries. I hope that, in the future, The Good Men Project attempts to do this more proactively.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Quick Note on The Real Housewives

While none of us actually takes reality tv for reality, what's with The Real Housewives series? The women all get paid for being on the show: they have jobs.

How do they count as housewives once they're on the show?