Call For Submissions: Men Speak Out

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I got this in my e-mail box recently, from a friend of my girlfriend. I'm still ruminating over whether I have anything that I could contribute, especially since my approach to feminism tends to be that of the loyal opposition. I emphasize loyal.  Anyway, whether I wind up contributing or not, I thought it looked like a worthy enough venture to promote for anyone else who might be interested.

 CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

Men Speak Out: ProFeminist Views on Gender, Sex and Power
Deadline: September 15, 2006

How can we better understand and imagine new possibilities for men and feminism?

Are you a guy who hates sexism? Do you call yourself a feminist? Have you spent hours over coffee (or beer) thinking about issues of gender, power, race, class, and sexuality? Are you involved with social justice activism? If so, then you have stories to tell and I'd like to hear what you have to say.

I am collecting essays for a book tentatively titled Men Speak Out: ProFeminist Views on Gender, Sex and Power. I'm interested in first-person accounts of growing up male and identifying with – or questioning – the ideals of feminist movement. There are so many directions your essay could take, but I am NOT looking for an academic essay. No citations, no footnotes. I AM looking for stories written in your own unique voice using language you actually use when you talk with your friends.

You can use personal stories, things that happened to you, things that people said to you, or that you said to them (or wish you had). I am looking for a wide range of experience and perspectives on men, masculinity, and feminism.

This book respects the risk involved in being willing to critically investigate gender and power, especially when this isn't what some people expect from guys. There are lots of good books written by and about young feminist women. Men Speak Out is written by, for, and about men and their experiences with and thoughts about culture, society, masculinity, feminism, women's studies, social justice, or anti-sexist movement.

Your essays and stories may reflect on growing up, they might focus on a day-in-the-life vignette, they might explore experiences with racism or homophobia, or they might pose questions that you've asked yourself about not power-tripping as a man in a sexist society. These questions might not have answers and this is entirely okay. This is your story in your own words and only you can tell it. Ultimately, the focus, content, and tone is up to you and based on your own thoughts, experiences, concerns, fears, hopes, struggles, and surprises. I've included themes and ideas below to get you started.

Feminism

  • Do you call yourself a feminist? What does this mean to you?
  • Have you been questioned or challenged for your feminist beliefs? Have you been supported in your feminist perspectives?
  • Do you support gender equality and social justice, but reject the term "feminist"? Why?
  • Do you incorporate feminist ideals into your work, relationships, or activism? How do you do this? What does this look like?
  • Do you want to ally feminist movement, but you're not sure what you as a male can do? Are you wondering if you're even entitled to be part of it since you're not a woman and don't quite know how it feels?
  • Do you question or doubt the foundations and/or goals of feminism?
  • What does it mean to you to be a feminist guy? Or a profeminist? Or a feminist ally? Do you think you have to claim a title to be opposed to sexism?

Masculinity and Identity

  • How are concepts of "man" and "masculinity" changing? What is your engagement with masculinity from transgender, transgressive, and/or queer perspectives?
  • Are you male-identified? How does this take form in your life? How do gender-queer perspectives shift our understandings of sexuality?
  • Do you love sports and reject sexism? How do you negotiate being part of a masculinist culture while rejecting the patterns of domination and sexism that can go along with it?
  • Have you had a specific experience with gender, race, class, sexuality, or feminist issues that left a lasting impression? What is this story?
  • What does it mean to invite questions of race and men in relation to feminism?
  • Have you experienced sexism as a man? Do people expect you to be a certain way because you are male?
  • Have you experienced prejudice as a gay or transgender man? Do you think there's room in feminism to address these issues?
  • When did you first start noticing masculinity, sexism, and feminism? Was there a pivotal event that got you thinking about these issues? Was there a series of events? What did you do once you started noticing sexism, racism, and social injustice in our society?
  • Is your girlfriend, partner, or wife a feminist? How does this affect your relationship?
  • What does class have to do with how you define gender or feminism?

Women's Studies/Gender Studies

Have you taken women's studies/gender studies courses in college or high school? What was this like for you?

  • If you've taken women's/gender studies courses have you:
    • confronted or changed your beliefs about yourself, your relationships, society?
    •  had to explain your choice to your teammates, family, or friends?
  • Do you think you are or you will be a different sort of boyfriend, partner, husband, father, or co-worker because of your feminist perspectives, from taking women's studies classes, or from other life experiences?
  • What would you want to tell a guy who's thinking about taking women's/gender studies? What should he know? What did you wish somebody had told you?

Demanding Change

  • Have you had it with sexism, racism, classism, and homosexism? Do you demand change now? How do you envision this change?
  • How the personal is political. How does your personal life have political meaning? How are your politics personal?
  • Are you involved with social justice activism that you see as linked to feminist movement? Describe your activities and perspectives on these issues.

Intergenerational Dialogue

  • Were you part of the women's movement in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s? What are your recollections about your involvement?
  • Do you have experience in social justice activism? What can you tell others about what you've learned about the process? What works? What doesn't?
  • Do you want to dialogue with younger or older men about challenging "isms" in a sexist, racist, homosexist society? What do you want them to know?
  • Did you grow up in a feminist household? What was this like?
  • Are you a younger man who has questions for profeminist men who have gone before you? What do you want to ask them? What do you want them to know?
  • Do you think you are a different sort of partner, father, or co-worker because of your feminist perspectives? How have you navigated these commitments?

Feel free to pass this call for submissions to friends you think may be interested in this project. Although submitting an essay does not guarantee it will be published, doing so early in the process definitely gives you an advantage, and it does ensure that you have a pivotal role in shaping this book.

Men Speak Out: ProFeminist Views on Gender, Sex and Power will be published by Routledge in November, 2007.

DEADLINE: September 15, 2006

LENGTH: up to 6,000 words

FORMAT: Essays must be typed, double-spaced, and paginated. Please include your address, phone number, email address, and a short bio on the last page.

SUBMITTING: Send essay electronically as a Word document (format file with a .doc extension) and email to MenSpeakOut[at]yahoo.com.
I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Best,
Shira Tarrant

Shira Tarrant is a writer, activist, and professor. Her work has appeared in Genre, Off Our Backs, and Women's Studies Quarterly. Her book When Sex Became Gender (Routledge, 2006) explores the social construction of femininity in the post-World War II era.

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5 thoughts on “Call For Submissions: Men Speak Out”

  1. I just forwarded this on to another blogger, and had to laugh. Your post, “Call for Submissions” is probably going to show up in the search results of hundreds of lovelorn sexual submissives. Get your inbox ready, Chris. 😉

  2. Hi Chris,

    Kochanie just pointed me to this post. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity to think about my position: hating sexism in all its permutations on the one hand, while not considering myself a feminist on the other.

    Whether I submit an essay to her project in the end I think I’m going to put some serious effort into answering Tarrant’s questions.

    Thanks so much for posting about it.

    figleaf

  3. I’m not sure what you mean by loyal opposition, but I bet it would make a very interesting article/post. Go for it.

    Hm. Well, let’s see if I can explain what I mean.  I tried this once last night, but lost all the text before I finished.

    I suppose it can be summed up as I get real pissy when people or movements that I believe in don’t live up to my (admittedly high) standards for them. So much so that if you’re not paying close attention, you can mistake me for an opponent of said movements.   I’m most pro-feminist locked in a room with a bunch of rabid fundamentalists.  Locked in a room with a bunch of feminists, I’m likely to spend all my time tweaking as many sacred cows as I can find.  It’s true, a lot of this comes from the fact that I’m just an argumentative fellow.

    One of my favorite definitions of feminism is that it is “nothing more than the radical proposition that women are human beings.”  Being a little bit of a misanthrope and cynic, though, I don’t find this to have particularly ennobling implications for feminists or women at large.  Coming down off the pedastal is remarkably liberating, of course, but it also means that you get your feet dirty.  People, in short, are a problem.

    So, I bitch a lot about feminists, but there’s a difference between my complaints about feminists and, says, my complaints about fundamentalists.  My ultimate goal for the latter-day heirs of Billy Sunday and Charles Coughlin is to utterly destroy their ideology.  I want to burn down the tree, rip the stump out of the ground, and salt the earth from which it has grown.  In the case of feminist thought, I see it as essentially a beneficial thing, but one that needs care in order to grow.

    I think that one of my major criticisms of modern feminism can be summed up this way: feminists have done a very good job of presenting men with a lot of questions about gender and what it means to be a man, but haven’t done very well at helping them to find the answers to those questions.  It might be objected that that’s men’s problem, and that women have their own issues to work out.  And that’s true, except for some practical issues; there are thousands of men out there, feeling unmoored from any solid conception of what being a man means, and there are people out there willing to help them with answers that are simple, easy, and wrong.  These people range from the scary (e.g., Promise Keepers) to the stupid (Robert Bly’s Iron John and related bullshit).  But part of the attraction of these people is that there is a vacuum within progressive gender politics for men to do anything other than act as the Gentlemen’s Auxiliary.

    It’s hard for people my age and younger to really appreciate just how profound are the changes that feminism has made in our lives within the last thirty years alone, never mind the last hundred.  We still haven’t reached the hundredth anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.  It isn’t that long ago that rape within a marriage was considered a contradition in terms.  And there are dozens of smaller, subtler differences, such as the fact that “Help Wanted” ads used to be divided into Men’s Jobs and Women’s Jobs.  I think that feminism has helped us grow as a society, but I do think that our dialogue on gender remains horribly polarized, as if both genders consider themselves to be playing a zero-sum game. I don’t think it is a zero-sum game, and I would love to see us evolve into something more complex.

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    It&rsquo;s hard for people my age and younger to really appreciate just how profound are the changes that feminism has made in our lives within the last thirty years alone, never mind the last hundred.

    That sentence entitles you to a special award. I haven&rsquo;t figured out what that award should be, how much it should cost, or how to deliver it (recommendations from award recipients will be given special consideration). However, so many men and women consider the gains brought about by feminism to be inconsequential, that I am grateful when I do not have to explain again what those gains are.

    Since I am 53, I can still vividly recall &ldquo;the good old days&rdquo; which were not good for a major portion of the population. I became a feminist because it was the only political and social agenda that advocated a better way of life for all people: men, women and children. And by better way of life, I mean measurable improvements, such as wages, childcare, and healthcare.

    I do agree that the dialogue on gender has become horribly polarized, as you expressed, and that polarization is attributable to both feminists and their critics. For instance, I remember the effect of reading Susan Griffin&rsquo;s classic text, Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her. A poetic examination of man&rsquo;s relationship to nature and to woman, it is interspersed with excerpts from scientific treatises, such as Johann Kepler&rsquo;s Astronomia Nova, juxtaposed with an account of the interrogation of Kepler&rsquo;s 73-year-old mother on charges of witchcraft. From instruction manuals detailing the harvesting of timber to surgical removal of the clitoris (to discourage self-abuse), the image of man is that of oppressor and violator. Such violent images, be they accurate or distorted, have remained in our consciousness, making open dialogue difficult if not impossible.

    Thank you for your explanation of loyal opposition, and I hope you will expand this concept for the anthology.

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