January 11, 2012 by Katie.
Project X: (n) Work in progress. Though there’s a direction, no one’s quite sure what the end will be. Requires additional input.
In the past few weeks, and maybe months, there’s been a ruckus over at Good Men Project. The ruckus really encompasses all the fundamental issues I believe GMP – and anyone who studies, participates in, or cares about these discussions – holds dear: feminism, men’s rights, gender, race, privilege, classism. In short, some really foundational issues.
A vast majority of the articles over at GMP – and particularly the comments they garner – really seem to stick to superficial arguments and massive logical fallacies that, frankly, I thought we’d all moved past. Apparently we haven’t.
I feel these articles, the publicity they’re receiving, and maybe more importantly, the cultural viewpoints from which they are clearly born and reinforce, are severely detrimental to the progress made in the last 30-50 years (yes, people, it’s only been that long) toward equal rights and a more democratic humanism.
On a more specific level, I’m appalled at the lack of theoretical research in these articles (there is years worth of feminist & race scholarship available; some readily accessible) and the even greater lack of deference to scholars in those fields who try to shed some light on the issues. Many scholars have been through this many times – why should we, out here in blogosphere – reinvent the wheel? There’s nothing wrong with taking issue with the scholarship – it’s the heart of healthy debate – but, let’s actually *read* the literature, first!
So, Nikki & I came up with a project to respond.
We’re going to being by defining some of the key words we’ll be using & discussing throughout the posts. As Nikki also states (see below), too many discussions are derailed when people get stuck on semantics. By opening in this way, we hope to get that discussion out of the way, make adjustments as necessary, set expectations, and move on.
Next, we’ll discuss some of the narratives that surround these issues, particularly regarding feminism. Here is where we’ll try to draw on the available scholarship, get to the heart of the issues at hand, and recommend readings. Through this – albeit limited – attempt we hope to provide a better understanding and nuance to what are, admittedly, sticky & complex issues. We hope that our readers will add their own experiences and perspectives to these discussions.
Lastly, we want to discuss discussing! How do we have these conversations; how do we encourage productive conversations; how do we include everyone, both those who are marginalized & those who aren’t? Discussion & information are the vital pieces of change —- so how do we affect change?
I think everyone involved at GMP, everyone writing on these issues independently, and everyone thinking about them on their own time in their daily lives ultimately wants to make this world a better place. To allow for all people to have their voice heard, for all people to be respected, and for all people to be treated fairly and allowed the space to reach their full potential. But, it doesn’t begin with misinformation and it doesn’t begin with shutting down. These are complicated issues, no doubt. But we MUST talk about them. TO do so we must put aside our own discomfort, be hugely self-critical, and above all be self-aware and CAREFUL.
So, here is Nikki & I’s small offering of voices we think have bestowed a little wisdom to help us along the way. Happy Discussing & Happy Reading!
Ms. Nikki Brown — or you can read it at her blog: Women Are From Mars
I recently got into a brief discussion (if you can call it that – it was over FB comments) with a friend regarding Ron Paul and his view that we should do away with the Civil Rights Act. I’m not going to get into that here, but my friend immediately 1) took issue with “playing the race card” and 2) gave evidence for the fact that we shouldn’t act like black people have it worse because hey, she lived in the “ghetto” (her quotes, not mine) and was a poor white chick once.
Again, I’m not here to discuss that particular dialogue. But all of that felt a lot like the discussion that happened in December, and is continuing to happen, over at the Good Men Project.
Is also brought to mind my most recent post over there about sexual expression, and that straight women can experiment, but straight men cannot. The idea that, yes, I have absolutely experience discrimination due to my sexuality, but that I can’t imagine what it must be like for a dude. I could easily say, “hey, so, all that girl stuff was pretty fun but I’m straight” and people would be cool. If a dude tried anything even near that? Yeah right.
Other examples? Well, everything from white, feminist women thinking they can use the N-word to the importance of addressing the intersection of the environmental movement with class and race.
While all of these things are very different and issues in their own right, they do have underlying themes – and they do all connect to this little project my friend Simone and I thought up in December.
Yes, we are going to focus on feminism, because that is what we have in common, and that is what got this whole thing going. However, I for one thing the lessons that come out will have much deeper implications to how we as a human community discuss thing Society dictates for us in terms of gender, race, sex, class, etc. And that, really, is the point: to learn how to have this conversation in a more constructive way.
To get us going, we’ll start with a post about definitions and terms that we will use from here on out. In my limited experience, many a constructive discussion was completely derailed due to people’s attachments to words over content. In an attempt to avoid such inability to see the woods for trees, we want to have that conversation first, to determine what things mean, and hear back from readers with their thoughts. Out hope is to move forward on the same page in terms of words.
From there, we’re going to explore some more specific narratives within the discussion around feminism. The point is to bring the long history of feminist theory and academic study (thanks, Simone!) to bear on the conversations happening far outside this in the blogosphere. See, one of the massive problems we’ve both noticed in the blogged conversations is the lack of background. We want to start there, and, yes, there will be recommended readings.
Yes, the hope is to provide better understanding, to educate, and to open hearts and minds, but it is also to stimulate discussion on other perspectives and experiences.
Finally, we will wrap up with discussion on how to move forward and engage these kinds of conversations in a constructive way, one that allows for people outside marginalized groups to talk about how ‘isms, and anti-‘ism movements affect them. For example, how I might go about discussing race or class, since I am white and middle-class. We hope that by starting everyone on the same page in terms of vocabulary, providing a background in theory and research, and then engaging how to move forward, we might really get somewhere.