digging up the roots of gender-based violence

Dustin Hoffman, Misogyny, Accolades and Crying Men

Yes, I know, we already wrote about this, but I have some continuing thoughts…….

By now many people have seen the video of Dustin Hoffman (DH) as he interviewed about his role in the movie Tootsie, where he plays a man who masquerades as a woman in order to get an acting role in a soap opera. In the interview Hoffman breaks down as he recalls the moment where he experienced an epiphany and became aware of what our mainstream narrative is telling us about womanhood, and what every woman already knows, that she has to be beautiful. He realizes that there are so many interesting women in the world that he has never met because he has been brainwashed and would never have thought to talk to them or ask them out. Huh, I find it interesting that he only talked to women in order to ask them out, although I do have respect for Hoffman and his story, not because he deserves accolade for sharing the story, but because I want other men to hear it, see it, experience it. It’s an excellent moment for consciousness-raising.man-crying

I want more men to sincerely understand sexism in a way that doesn’t frame sexism as something that can happen to his mother or sister, but as something that happens to all women, and all women have value and worth in simply existing, not merely in what she has to offer him.

I want men to truly see it and understand it, as best he can, from the perspectives of the women who experience sexism, marginalization and oppression. Rather than seeing it from the angle of what he is missing out on by perpetuating sexism through his socialization. I want him to intimately know that feeling and I want it to shake him at his core. I want the realization to startle and alarm him. I want him to feel guilt, shame, frustration and then rage. I want him to research how to be an active ally and learn how this effects us all, but women and girls in particular. I want him to take that rage and transform it into his impetus for personal growth and change. I want him to redefine his manhood and masculinity into a healthy manhood that respects women and girls. A manhood that is not framed in opposition of womanhood; however, that is framed as a fulfilling expression of his own identity. Then I want him to take that message to other boys and men.

I respect the men who are sincerely working hard to bring this message into the spaces that we unjustifiably dominate, men who work with feminists, men who embrace gender equity. I respect them the same as I respect the women who work to end violence and oppression. Yet, these men do not deserve special accolade, recognition or applause.  I was recently at a conference where a man started to cry while he was speaking, the audience applauded his expression of emotion and I’m really uncomfortable with that. When the DH video went viral he at once received compliment, praise and celebration. As a society we do this all the time, a man does a little bit of work and subsequently receives a hail storm of reward. At the conference, my supervisor looked at me and said, “I’m not clapping for that shit”. She has a way with words. She wasn’t being dismissive of the fact that men cry, or that men have emotions, or that he felt safe to cry in front of a room full of women. She was dismissive of the idea that we behave as though this is some great feat. When we see a man cry we ought not reward him with a touched expression and fervent applause. He deserves our compassion and kindheartedness, just as all people do, but he does not deserve praise and reward. He shouldn’t be admonished or told to stuff it down, nor should be told to ‘man up’. Crying should just be a thing that men do because they are complex human beings with complex emoting abilities.

I want to challenge us to look at men differently. If you see me crying, don’t call me a punk, don’t tell me to ‘man up’, don’t give me applause, don’t tell me I’m courageous, just be with me. When you see me understanding misogyny or privilege, don’t afford me special accolade or reward, challenge me to do something about it. When you see me doing work within the feminist sphere don’t praise me, tell me I’m doing such great work, that it is great to see a man doing this work or that I’m such a great guy. Instead let’s say “Hey, thats great, what are you doing next?”. Challenge me to do more. Understand that there has been countless women doing this work for hundreds of years. There have been some men doing this work too, because women are worth it.

Check this out, for one trans*woman’s perspective on sexism.

Again, I respect the message that DH sent and I hope that he has carried that message forward beyond this video going viral. I hope that he talks to more women than just the ones he would’ve liked to ask out. I hope his epiphany shook him to the point of speaking out, even if it’s simply in his own social circles or in donating to feminist organizations. I hope he remembers that deep down pain and is able to use it to dismantle this straight, white, cis, heterosexist patriarchal institution that afforded him the privilege to have a platform to speak on in the first place.

Or as fellow UpRooter Cristy put it, “roll up your sleeves and dismantle the white, cis, heteropatriarchy. Or at least get out of my way so I can. I’ll appreciate knowing where you stand, because this issue has no neutral place.”

2 responses to “Dustin Hoffman, Misogyny, Accolades and Crying Men

  1. makalove July 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    I get what you’re saying and I don’t disagree… at the same time, I think it is important to recognize that women are not the only ones oppressed by patriarchal culture. Yes, men should be able to cry because they are complex beings with complex emoting abilities. But when I use that “should,” I’m referring to the fact that society shouldn’t put them in boxes any more than it should women. But everyone in patriarchal culture has been taught that violating gender norms is dangerous and risky; it’s how patriarchy is maintained. I applaud a woman when she learns to step outside the gender box and fight for her own right to be herself without regard to societal norms. I applaud her when she begins to fight for other women’s rights as well. And I applaud men when they do the same – I applaud people of any gender finding their way out of the mire of patriarchal norms.

    • HAVEN July 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      Hi, thanks for the comment and I appreciate your thoughts and feedback. The things that you are saying are often said in conversations that we have with men and boys. I absolutely appreciate seeing men and boys thinking critically and having conversations about these topics along side women. I don’t agree with using the word oppression in this particular case though. I do think that men are impacted, affected and harmed in many ways, but I would not consider men to be a subjugated characterization within our culture. Alas, this would take me an entire blog to respond.

      You’re right that men are negatively affected by the patriarchal constructs of gender and its part of my(our) daily task(s) to address the root causes of gender-based violence, which is often the unhealthy aspects of hegemonic masculinity that is perpetuated most often by men and boys, against women and sometimes other men also. We do this for the women and girls that are oppressed in our culture in particular; however, we also do it in an effort to secure a healthier life and existence for men and boys. I feel like I addressed that in the above blog when I wrote, “He shouldn’t be admonished or told to stuff it down, nor should he be told to man up”. Perhaps I didn’t really say that clearly enough?

      As for applause. Yes, I think that we should recognize and give appropriate credit to people who brave to step outside of gender constructs and live their authentic selves. We should lend tribute to the folks who work tirelessly to dismantle the patriarchy and end oppression, while also not pedestaling these people. The problem is that we bestow this praise too easily and for very little work. We give it for the bare minimum (especially to men who do this work). I’m asking for folks to request more from people before we give recognition and accolade for simply being a decent human being.

      ~ Kristopher Kole

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