Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Behind every successful Feminist is a man

I was pleased to see Katrin Bennhold's 'Feminism of the Future Relies on Men' in the NY times, and I continue to be surprised the point of view she put forward isn't more common, as it has seemed damn obvious to me for sometime. It seems commonly acknowledged that previous feminist movements 'pushed women into the world of men' (as stated in the piece), which would seem to imply the logical question 'Where do the men go?'. If feminism has failed in achieving the equality it had hoped for, it is surely because it made the men's world very crowded, and didn't give the men there anywhere else to go. In her booked 'Stiffed', which I must admit I never finished reading, Susan Faludi interrogated the 'crisis' in modern masculinity, which is surely a result of the lack of progress in redefining the role of men in a society in the wake of attempts to redefine the role of women.

While for the mainstream of many liberal-democratic societies, it has become socially acceptable for a woman to be a bread-winner or a home-maker (to over simplify the dichotomy), in fact, she is empowered by having this choice of two equally valuable roles, men are still stuck with only bread-winner. If they aren't, they gain little respect or value in the mainstream perception. Is it any wonder some men still push back on women entering 'their' realm, when there is nowhere else they are legitimately allowed to go. While there is a desire for men to be better fathers, more nurturing, stay at home dads, those men are still perceived as novelties, as somehow exceptional, rather then being embraced as the norm, or standard that others should aspire too.

There is an episode of Sex and the City from a few years ago where Charlotte seems to find the perfect man, caring, intelligent, good-looking, sensitive and understanding, yet he squeals at a mouse, just like her, and reveals he doesn't like killing things. Charlotte had to dump him then, revealing that the only true value of a man is to be fearless, take charge, even brutal, and any other qualities are merely accessories. The essence of the problem of redefining and mutually valuing different ways of being a 'man' is highlighted perhaps best in that male dominated action genre. In the past the protagonist was usually a man, and in the end he got the girl, usually after saving her. In today's films, while there are still plenty of old school male leads (although the girls are perhaps a bit feistier), it seems men and women also enjoy watching female protagonists kick ass, but if she is going to get the guy in the end, she has to be really careful not to save him. Why? Because no-one, male or female, could possibly like a guy that needs to saved, that's just pathetic. How could a kick-ass woman be attracted to that? Until a mainstream audience can root for a non comedic male lead who is saved by a woman, feminism will sadly find it difficult to progress further.